Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Early Church Father Quote of the Day

Some time ago, I made a few posts on St. Clement of Rome. I did not finish commenting on his epistle but have recently picked it back up. I think some Catholics would do good to remember the words of the 4th pope:

These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things, being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.
As the early Church understood well, Jesus certainly didn't come to bring reform to Judaism in that He meant to abolish liturgy. He ushered in the kingdom of God and the new liturgy (which was the fulfillment of the old). The kingdom of God isn't the sort of internal religiosity preached by those who so vividly paint their 16th century imaginations into the gospels. The first century Church understood that 'the kingdom of God was at hand', and that the Church was the new Israel. They preached a literal, risen Christ.
The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.
Now as the new Israel, we are the royal family of God. Last Sunday's readings (the first in the season of Lent) were very much about identity. The early Church knew hers and the Catholic Church still does. Some of her members though would do well to do some reflecting on the writings of our Church fathers.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jesus And His Family Tomb

Dr. Jim West has a number of posts on the recent fuss about the supposed 'Jesus Tomb'. Check them out if you have the time.

See what all the fuss is about (Check out the link to Dr. Heiser's critique of the discovery)

Discovery Channel lists the upcoming documentary

James Tabor on the Talpiot discovery (Tabor is a liberal professor at UNC. Just another statistic in the pool of smart people with dumb ideas about who Christ was)

Christopher Rollston on the Talipot Tomb

Best comment on the tomb story yet

9 Protestant Scholars Affirm Apostolicity of the Real Presence

Check out Dave Armstrong's post on the real presence in which he quotes nine different Protestant sources admitting that the early Church unanimously affirmed the doctrine which they now reject. Good stuff.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Crisis in the Liturgy

Catholic World News reports on a recent statement from a Vatican official:

“Undoubtedly there have been positive results” from the post-concilar liturgical renewal, the Sri Lankan prelate told interview Anthony Valle. But he quickly added that “the negative effects seem to have been greater, causing much disorientation in our ranks.”

Pope Benedict fully recognizes the crisis in the liturgy, the archbishop says, and the time has now come “with the help of the Lord to make the necessary corrections.”
Thats awesome. Coming to the Catholic Church has been like coming from a diet of milk and having my first taste of prime rib tossed my way. Of course, this is only to learn that the chunks of prime rib are sparse since Vatican II and you'll be getting a steady dose of milk here as well.

Don't get me wrong, the liturgy of a Catholic Mass still makes the others pale in comparison but much unintended change has occurred since Vatican II (to the delight of the enemies of the Church within her own walls posing as theologians).

Some parishes are much better than others. And I've always said, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution. A group of guys and I are starting a sacred music choir which we hope will help add more reverence to the mass. Until we get some clear directions from the Vatican (and even after we do), I think some real grass-root movements are needed to help renew the spirit of the liturgy. Here's a great link on the topic of sacred music (including a pdf download on how to start your own 'garage schola') Thanks to Chad Is Not Enough for the link.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

N. T. Wright on Faith in 1st Century Palestine

Some of the debate in the sola fide controversy (especially in more recent years) has been semantics to be sure. The Church condemned Martin Luther's heresy of teaching that by merely believing in Christ, you were forgiven for all sins; past present and future. In his epistle, St. James points out that even the demons believe in that capacity. So faith, in that sense, is certainly not enough for salvation.

As I understand it, Calvin came along and modified the Protestant definition of 'faith'. Reformed theologians these days seem to assert that faith (intellectual assent) comes first and if it is genuine, good works will follow.

But if we are to talk about faith, in a biblical sense, it isn't to Martin Luther or to Calvin that we should turn. It is important to understand faith in it's original context. What did the average Jewish peasant understand when he heard the word faith as Jesus spoke about it? Did he understand that it meant to believe that Jesus was real? That he died and raised from the dead? That He was God? All of these seem decidedly inadequate. Listen to what N. T. Wright says on the subject:

'Faith' is thus not simply to be understood, within the world of first-century Judaism, in terms simply of religious interiority. Nor is the vital question the one which occupies so much twentieth-century writing on the subject, namely the shape of 'faith' and its role within religious experience as a whole.(1)
For all of us in the discussion, I think it is imperative to remember that faith, when left in it's proper historical context, encompassed a great deal more than we often mean when we use the word. In other words, it certainly carried more weight than a mere 'intellectual assent" or even an "emotional assent" (in case you want to bring the word 'heart' into the discussion to somehow validate this reductionism).

Therefore true faith is not merely the initial cause of good works, but is inseparably intertwined with a fruitful life of obedience to the gospel. Or to quote the Scripture: 'faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead'(2).

References:

1) Wright, N.T. "
Jesus and the Victory of God" pg 261

Friday, February 23, 2007

Window Into the Early Church Fathers

Just wanted to mention to any of you interested in studying the early Church fathers, in case you don't know about it; Phil over at hyperekperissou posts a weekly 'Patristic Roundup' in which he links to various posts regarding the early Church and other research of interest to Christianity. I only recently became aware of this valuable resource. Check it out when you get a chance.

Happy St. Polycarp Day!

On November 18th 2006, I was confirmed with Polycarp as my confirmation name. Today is his feast day. Briefly, St. Polycarp was a direct disciple of St. John. Being 'ordained by the apostles' as is written of him, he was the bishop of Smyrna which is in modern day Turkey.

Here is my earlier post on one of my favorite saints.

Saint Polycarp, pray for us that we may endure unto the end so that we may achieve salvation. Pray that we may seek orthodoxy and settle for no less than the truth handed down to us from the apostles. Pray that we may be counted worthy to suffer for Christ as you did. Amen.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No Servant Is Greater Than His Master

Showtime will be airing a new series called The Tudors based on the life of King Henry VIII, the founder of the Anglican church. Here's a preview.


Now to all faithful Anglicans, is it really going to hurt to take another serious look at Rome?

Holy Water & Holding Hands

Recently, PhatCatholic posted on the removal of holy water during lent. I read this in a few other places as well. It's really upsetting to learn that liturgical norms are being issued yet liberal parishes under the influence of VII hippies are ignoring them. Is it such a big deal that holy water is being removed? Is the holy water itself what the issue is about?

Read this post on the forum from my parish (we were discussing the fact that we were told by our bishop not to hold hands during the 'Our Father' yet our clergy continue to do it and so do our parishioners):

I just finished reading all these posts and quite honestly, it saddens me. There is so much going on within the Church and the world and the ways that we need to reach out and put our faith into action. And poverty, discrimination, abortion, social injustice, to name a few go on and I hear nothing about how you can put your faith into action for offer suggestions as to putting these into practice. All I hear is "don't hold hands,""don't renew marriage vows", "don't do this or that." How sad. I am sure the priests and deacons at St. Thomas have more important things to worry about with 2,000+ families and the struggles, crises, sacramental preparation and sicknesses that are plaguing so many and this you see as a priority. Maybe their priority should be to teach charity. Doesn't seem to be too much of that in here. There is the letter and the spirit. I think our priests and deacons are concerned with the spirit, following the words of Jesus. Let's have a discussion on how we actually put our faith into action -- live the Gospel.
If this man / woman had been around at the time he/ she would have asked "oh whats the big deal about Cain's sacrifice?! The important thing is that he sacrificed to begin with" or during Jesus' day "oh whats the big deal whether or not the cleansed leper goes and shows himself to the priest and offers the sacrifice for his cleansing? The important thing is that he gave God the glory".

The big deal is that Jesus commanded him to do it just like the bishop commanded our parishioners not to hold hands. The early Church fathers (particularly Ignatius whom I recently examined here) were adamante about the importance of obedience and unity.

This is a classic example of completely missing the point of the 'letter vs. spirit' teaching. If you act in direct disobedience to the bishop, you are not by any means following the spirit of the law!!!

The other posters in the forum did a good job exposing the fallacy of his / her logic so I dont need to reproduce that here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

St. Ignatius on the Real Presence


This is the final post in my mini-series on St. Ignatius of Antioch. I have attempted to establish a mindset of St. Ignatius through examining his writings in Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4.

To summarize, St. Ignatius views the Christian world in a clearly dichotomous fashion. (He is not an anomaly among the Church fathers of his time) There are two ways: one of orthodoxy, apostolic authority and nourishment and the other of heresy, individualism and poison.

All of his writings (I suggest) can best be understood through this lens. In his mind, the issues I have discussed from his writings (Church hierarchy, Christian unity and now the Real Presence) are all inseparably linked to this dichotomous world view. It is scarcely possible to have one without the other.

So while schismatics may today assert "well I believe in the Real Presence but I don't believe in Apostolic Succession". St. Ignatius would doubtlessly return a perplexed look at best. It's impossible to separate the two. We know the Real Presence is true because the Apostolic fathers unanimously affirmed it. We know that Church hierarchy is of God because the apostles themselves instituted it and their direct successors (like St. Ignatius) repeatedly stressed its importance. Therefore we know anyone who denies the hierarchy also denies the Apostolic truth. Anyone who denies Apostolic Succession also denies the Real Presence. Anyone who denies any of this, denies history.

To the Trallians:
For, since you are subject to the bishop as to in like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church.
I have shown clearly, that St. Ignatius holds this sort of view. Whether its true or not, you can decide for yourself, but this early martyr and disciple of St. John undoubtedly viewed the early Christian world as such. Keep that in mind as we discuss the Real Presence.
To the Ephesians:
Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God.
Again, this issue is inseparably linked with the idea of unity, and visible Church structure. He uses "the altar" as an image of the one true Church. If you are not in communion with that Church, you do not have the bread of God. This was a very real and tangible concept to his audience. There really was one visible Church started by the apostles. The last of them had only recently died off (possibly within a decade of this epistle). If you didn't belong and adhere to the Catholic Church, you were deprived of the bread of God which Jesus spoke of in John chapter 6. The alternative to the Apostolic Church, was schism / heresy / individualism. Such Christians were 'deceiving themselves'. This isn't so different from our present situation. In fact, not different at all.
Later in the same epistle:
...so that ye obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality,
Once again he links the Blessed Sacrament with his dichotomous world view.

Obedience = Unity = Christ (Real Presence)
Disobedience = Schism = Poison (Heresy)

And not only that, but he also affirms that the importance of the Bread of Life is immortality. This is in direct accord with what Christ said:
This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

And

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.
St. Ignatius, like all early Church fathers (and even the original reformers) believed in the Real Presence as taught by Christ, Scripture & the Apostles. There's really no way around that. Now if you read the discourse in John 6, Jesus speaks of faith as a necessary and salvific component of this whole mystery. St. Ignatius concurs.
Jesus (From John 6):
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
St. Ignatius to the Trallians:
For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found.
I left St. Ignatius' quote in context to show that this isn't a plug for sola fide, but rather a de fide sandwhich. That is, by faith we are saved (as according to Scripture and Catholic dogma) but not by faith alone. Examine St. Ignatius in his context and see how he also exhorts obedience to the Apostolic hierarchy of the Church. Obedience to the Church cannot coexist with sola fide since the Church has always rejected that doctrine. Furthermore, we know from the quotes above that St. Ignatius considers the Eucharist to be 'the medicine of immortality'.

As for Christ, He also spoke of several things (not just faith) which lead to immortality in the John 6 discourse. It would be a grave error to reduce His teaching to that one point.

Moving right along, is it a mere coincidence that St. Ignatius wrote the following oft quoted passage to the church at Rome?
I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.
And in my previous post on Christian unity, I explained that I had removed the following quote from it's context because we were not yet examining the doctrine of the Real Presence. Just be aware of (again) how interconnected this teaching is with his exhortations to unity and obedience (as if the quote itself weren't self sufficient).
To the Philadelphians:
Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God.
Why do we have Church hierarchy? To ensure that we do the will of God! How important is the Eucharist, how important is unity, how important is obedience to Apostolic authority? St. Ignatius considered it of utmost importance. That is why he has stressed all three repeatedly. There is only one way and only one Church.
And finally to the Smyrnaeans:
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
And so it is clear that some denied the Real Presence even in those days. It was a very hard teaching (it still is). When Jesus spoke openly about it, many of His disciples left. Here, St. Ignatius lumps those who deny the Real Presence in with the heretics and schismatics; those outside the one holy Catholic & apostolic Church. Do you see where I'm going with this?

And one final point that it is unrelated to the Real Presence but is yet one more agreement with exclusively orthodox tradition; from his martyrdom (considered by even Protestant scholars to be authentic):
Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labour, and standing by the Lord.
The early Christians had visions of Saint Ignatius praying for them after his earthly death! I hope this mini-series has been of some use.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

St. Ignatius on Christian Unity


After Church hierarchy, St. Ignatius also seems particularly interested in Christian unity. I have already discussed why Church authority and Apostolic Succession were such important doctrines of that time in my recent post, but why unity? Why is that so important? Of course, we're not speaking of 'unity' as in a bunch of hippies passing around a peace pipe. We're talking about substantial Christian unity: to be one in spirit; the same kind of unity Christ prayed for in Gethsemane:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
And so St. Ignatius is understandably concerned about this same issue. Here's what he said:
To the Ephesians:
It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience "you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing," and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.

To the Philadelphians:
Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there follow as sheep. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captive those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place.

Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.].

...

When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved.

And here, this "I dont see it in my Bible" is not such a new attitude. There is a real danger being pointed out. St. Ignatius is saying 'we have the truth (orthodoxy; Apostolic doctrine) and some disagree because of their personal interpretations of Scripture. Even though I have explained that this is in Scripture, they stubbornly refuse to believe.' Sound familiar?

Why does St. Ignatius so arrogantly assume that only he and those appointed by apostles have the right to interpret Scripture? Or is he really being arrogant? Could it be that he has a point? Perhaps it is only for the teaching authority of the Church to interpret Scripture and not for opinionated laity...

Now you may ask why I'm wandering off on this tangent since the topic at hand is Christian unity. The answer is that St. Ignatius writes in such a way that his driving points are hardly separable. If you read my previous post on Church hierarchy, you will instantly see the connection between his emphasis on obedience to the Church, insistence on only one truth (orthodoxy / the Apostolic gospel) and this present issue of Christian unity. In this particular passage, he also ties it in with his defense of his own Apostolic authority versus a very early example of a 'sola scriptura' type attitude. He actually ties it in with the Eucharist as well regarding the importance of the 'unity of the altar' which we will examine next post (I have removed that quote for the time being, just know they too are very codependent).

I think in order to understand his writings, you must first understand his underlying dichotomy of orthodoxy and heresy. Here he is calling the Christians to unity not because it feels good or because its makes life easier or any other superficial reason; but for the very real purpose of avoiding schism which inevitably leads to heresy. He is primarily interested in preserving orthodoxy (hence his calls to unity and obedience). Just before the above passage he said:
For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you. But He is my witness, for whose sake I am in bonds, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father.

I therefore did what belonged to me, as a man devoted to unity. For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. I trust [as to you] in the grace of Jesus Christ, who shall free you from every bond. And I exhort you to do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ.
In the early second century (or possibly late first), St. Ignatius said that unity and orthodoxy are found within the confines of the Catholic Church (alone). We're still saying that today.

Monday, February 19, 2007

St. Ignatius on the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff


Previously, I discussed St. Ignatius' view on the authority of bishops in the early Church. But it is of particular interest to Catholics (and anyone genuinely interested in early Church history) to ask the question, what did this early saint feel about the primacy of the Roman pontiff?

As a Catholic, I wish he spoke more directly with a modern understanding of the role of the bishop of Rome in Church hierarchy but the truth is: he didn't.

In fact, in his epistle to the Church at Rome, the only bishop he even mentions is himself. From a Catholic perspective, one might expect him to at least greet the Roman bishop (who was, at the time, most likely St. Evaristus or St. Alexander I). In most of his epistles, he exhorts the faithful to obey their bishop.

You would especially expect him to do so in his epistle to Rome but in this one he doesn't. He seems to be mainly concerned with them not interfering with his martyrdom (this is a prize he is looking forward to as is consistent with many of the early Christians). Indeed, as is recorded in the account of his martyrdom, he is widely known and revered (by the Christian community) when he arrives in Rome.

I had mentioned that St. Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna) was his fellow disciple of St. John the apostle. The two (Ignatius & Polycarp) were apparently friends though Ignatius was Polycarp's elder by at least 25 years. Ignatius is writing to St. Polycarp (who is now in his late 40s or early 50s and already widely revered as a 'holy' bishop) when he says:

Be, after the Lord, their protector and friend. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither do anything without the approval of God.
Since he exhorts the laity to 'do nothing without the approval of the [local] bishop' it would be most convenient for Catholics if he had exhorted St. Polycarp (a bishop himself) to 'do nothing without the approval of the bishop of Rome' but he doesn't. (He isn't of course denying the primacy of the Roman pontiff, he just isn't affirming it either). Later on in the same epistle he says to Polycarp:
Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God!
One way of reading this passage may be to assume he is speaking in general to all Christians and not individually to St. Polycarp. The context isn't especially clear. But if he were talking individually to St. Polycarp, to whom is he referring to since St. Polycarp himself is the bishop?

Regardless, it is clear that St. Ignatius does not view the primacy of the Roman pontiff in the same light that all Christians would come to view it in within a couple hundred years. It is true that this doctrine (the papacy) is developmental. That is, the papacy wasn't understood properly as the 'head' of the Church until later.

But before any anti-Catholics start celebrating a victory, we should remember a few things. First, this isn't the only doctrine which has yet to be fully developed. The doctrine of the Trinity hasn't even been mentioned yet in any extant writing. It would first pop up later on in this century (second) and not dogmatically pronounced until Nicea (or Nicaea) in the 4th century. By that time, the doctrine of Roman primacy will already have some substantial roots growing but that will have to wait for another discussion. Though its easy to claim that the Trinity has biblical roots, its just as easy to do so for the papacy (and of course neither would be within the scope of this post).

So we must set these two on level ground; that is, its not significant (doctrinally) that the primacy of the Roman bishop was not yet fully developed (or even partially) since the doctrine of the Trinity was not either. And of course, virtually all of Christianity now agrees on the Trinity.

The other thing to keep in mind is that St. Ignatius may not be affirming this particular exclusively Catholic doctrine, but he is by no means denying it. I would argue that it is clear from his writings that he didn't have a full understanding of the doctrine as a modern Catholic would see it but I would also argue that St. Paul didnt have a full understanding of the Trinity as well by how he speaks of it (and / or fails to). Furthermore, he certainly doesn't affirm any exclusively Protestant doctrine in any of his epistles (and only a few early writings do.. and the ones that did of course were instantly deemed to be heresy).

One final thought: the point has been made before that St. Ignatius's writings are consistent with the situation they were written in: that is he wrote them on his way from Syria to Rome to be martyred. This explains his overall lack of clear direction in each epistle and somewhat scattered thought process. In short, these brief epistles were written in a hurry. He told St. Polycarp that he didnt have time to write to all the churches that he wanted to and asked him to do it on his behalf. Whether or not St. Polycarp actually did, we unfortunately only have one extant writing now.

This fact, coupled with the obvious: St. Ignatius was a bishop not a 'Catholic apologist' . That is: he was primarily interested in keeping the flock obedient to the shepherds left by the apostles as opposed to defending the idea of Church hierarchy against Christians who say there is none or more specifically: defending the idea of a Roman papacy to those who claim that either A) Rome's bishop is merely the first among equals or B) Rome's bishop has no significance whatsoever. Presently, the greatest threat to the Church was individualism which would inevitably lead to the 'poison' of heresy.

Protestant historian, Bruce Shelley (whom I keep referring to in order to give the illusion that Im not as biased as I really am hehe just kidding... kinda) in his book "Church History in Plain Language" stated in a round-about way that the three geographic centers of early Christianity (2nd - 3rd century) were Rome, Antioch and Alexandria. I would concur that there is a lot of truth in that statement. In the 1st century it had been, of course, Jerusalem.

During St. Ignatius' time, it is likely that the disagreements that were arising were largely localized and having to do mostly with disagreements between laity and the clergy (I think this is a very fair observation based on his epistles). But as the Church grew, so did the need for clarity of doctrine and for authority.

They didn't even have a specific canon (bible) to refer to in order to make a case for their doctrines. In fact, because of the expense in duplicating written material, practical 'canons ' quickly became an issue of geographical constraints. That is, the church in Smyrna had such and such letters commonly read at mass while the church of Alexandria may have had either a partially or a completely different set of letters depending on which ones were physically available to them. (The Old Testament was most likely much more consistent from church to church as they used the Septuagint). Of course Marcion would later come and offer his canon which the Church would reject and call together a number of councils more or less deciding the issue. (It had to be revisited later at Trent).

Back to my point, even before these councils convened and the Catholic Church decided which books would be in the bible, they had already been wrestling with the issue of how to determine orthodox truth when disagreements arose between churches (and they did). With the aforementioned three centers of Christianity, certain fathers began arguing that Rome held priority because her bishop was the successor of St. Peter (the rock on which Christ would build His Church). Now it began to make sense what Christ had said.

The human mind tends to skip over what it does not understand even without realizing that its doing so. And so up until this point, Christians were doubtlessly skipping over that passage in Matthew 16 without realizing it because they didn't know why Jesus had said it or what it meant. Matthew probably didnt either but he knew it had some significance and thats why he recorded it. If he had understood, I think he probably would have explained it in more detail.

The early 1st, 2nd and even 3rd century Church may not have fully understood it either. This poses no problem to Catholic theology. They didn't yet have a full need for its implications. But as divisions started to rise, Christ's prophecy began to make a lot of sense. His so called apocalyptic prophesies began to make a lot of sense when the temple was destroyed and so His prophesies of St. Peter being the foundation of the Church started making a lot of sense as divisions started to rise and his successor eventually won the title of 'pope'.

St. Ignatius on Church Hierarchy


Throughout his epistles, the most obvious and redundant point Ignatius hammers into his readers is the importance of obedience to the hierarchy of the Church. Specifically: the bishops. Ignatius speaks of a one bishop system which Protestant historian Bruce Shelley (for example) states has developed between the time of Paul’s writings and the beginning of the second century. Of course, this is highly debatable though not crucial either way.

It is to be expected that hierarchy would develop. Who needs hierarchy among a dozen Jews in an upper room? But one thing we know is that the hierarchy developed extremely quickly. Without question, before the direct successors of the apostles died, the basic hierarchal structure became a finished product. That is; we are still using it to this very day in the Church (Catholic & Orthodox) – bishop (overseer) – priest (presbyter) and deacon.

Again, this structure can arguably be linked to the structure in New Testament times as attested to by the writings of Paul & Luke since all three offices are distinctly mentioned. Regardless of whether you take the view point of some Protestants (like Bruce Shelley) it is firmly decided that by the closing of the first century, the structure was precisely how it is today. Mr. Shelley, on page 70 of his book, ponders at how this development was possible. I find it decidedly difficult to conceive of as a ‘development’ myself. Considering that St. Polycarp (the bishop of Smyrna) was directly ordained by St. John himself (as is attested to in other early Church writings), and St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, I find it much easier to believe that this general system of hierarchy ‘developed’ more or less immediately as the apostles proselytized. And of course as stated previously in my discourse on the book of Acts, the council of Jerusalem as recorded in Scripture is of inestimable value with regards to the initiation of Church hierarchy.

Here’s a couple examples of what Ignatius said on the subject of obedience to the bishop:
To the Ephesians:
It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.

To the Magnesians:
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters.
This is more or less a recurring theme in all of his epistles. It is important for all Christians to realize that the notion of Church hierarchy did not by any means originate in the middle ages. Ignatius is one of the clearest and earliest examples of such strong Catholic language and he is by no means alone. Aside from the Scripture I have already pointed to, many other Church fathers said similar things around the same time or possibly even earlier (such as St. Clement of Rome).

If we were to paint a mental picture of the early Christian Church around the end of the first century, it makes a lot of sense to assume hierarchal authority within the Church as an important issue. St. Ignatius makes that clear with his recurring theme of obedience to the bishops.

Can't We All Just Get Along?
But why was it such an issue? Why couldn't everyone just interpret the Scriptures themselves? First, there was no widely agreed upon canon at that time. This wouldn't come around until several hundred years later. It would take well over a millennium, in fact, to be solidified.

Secondly, we know from history that humanity just doesnt work that way. Even if there was an agreed upon canon (like we have today) you would have innumerable divisions and sects (like we have today) without firm authoritative and hierarchal structure (like the Catholic Church has today). It doesnt take much imagination to see why hierarchy and obedience was such a huge issue for St. Ignatius.

Sheep need a shepherd. Christ spoke of this allegory a number of times. He established 12 of His sheep which would in turn become shepherds for other sheep. Ignatius is exhorting the sheep to obey their shepherd. And how do we separate the true shepherds from the false ones? This was another doctrine of enormous importance at that time: Apostolic Succession. I have already discussed the importance of this doctrine from the viewpoint of Church historian, Eusebius in part 1 & part 2.

Listen to what St. Ignatius says:
I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that you use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For those [that are given to this] mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine, which he who is ignorant of does greedily take, with a fatal pleasure leading to his own death.

Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience.
He is therefore speaking of not only obedience (again) and hierarchy in this passage but also making a clear distinction that fits well into a modern understanding of the dichotomy between orthodoxy and heresy. This stands in stark contrast to some modern secular scholarship which I had contradicted several posts ago which claimed that the perspective of "orthodoxy vs heresy" was a relatively modern one.

Notice he exhorts his hearers to continue on in union with Christ and the bishop and the 'enactments of the apostles'. How these sorts of things could transpire without the bible (or with it for that matter) and without Apostolic Succession (if such a doctrine were assumed to be false) is beyond me.

I think St. Ignatius is pointing out a certain orthodoxy of the Christian faith if you can visualize it. The concept is that Jesus Christ initiated a truth; we call this orthodoxy. Anything that is not His truth is 'poison'. Beware of the 'dogs' who are trying to feed you that poison. The only way you can know the difference between the truth of Christ (orthodoxy) is to be 'within the altar' or in other words, the visible Church established by His apostles and maintained by the bishops, presbyters and deacons.

Examining not only this passage but his entire work, it doesnt seem to be, in Ignatius' view, a possibility to be outside of the visible Church and yet in communion with God. That is, 'he cannot have God as Father who has not Church as mother' to quote another famous Church father. The Church, according to St. Ignatius, and her hierarchal structure established by the apostles themselves exists to defend the 'sheep' from dogs who would otherwise poison them with heresy. The Church exists to 'guard the faith' which was entrusted to her initially by Christ, then the apostles, and now guarded by the faithful living in obedience to their respective bishops (and not discerning truth for themselves apart from the Church).

It could be argued that his views on Apostolic Succession may not have been exactly as we see them today however. Listen to what he says to the Romans:
Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it,
A modern Catholic would never have written such a thing. But apparently, an early Catholic would have (because he did!). St. Ignatius doesn't have in his mind an immediate earthly successor. To him, the Church in Syria has no bishop now that he is being carried off to martyrdom. It may well have been true, they had no time to elect a new bishop. So for now, the Church at Antioch (in Syria) was without one. This doesn't really cause a problem, I just thought I'd bring it up. His language isn't ideal for Catholicism.

But just how Catholic was St. Ignatius? Of course, we know that he was the first (in extant writing) to use the term "Catholic" when he wrote to the Smyrnaeans and said:
Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
According to Protestant historian Bruce Shelley, this indicates (since he speaks of the term as if its already widely known and accepted) that the term likely originated as early as the last quarter of the 1st century). Its not difficult to conceive of the possibility of it originating even earlier though no longer in extant writing and perhaps never even mentioned before St. Ignatius.

But this talk of hierarchy surely begs another important question in regards to St. Ignatius' Catholicity. His views on the bishops' authority are now quite clear but what about the authority of the bishop of Rome? We will discuss his views on the primacy of the Roman bishop in the next post.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Saint Ignatius of Antioch - Part I

Who Was Saint Ignatius?
Briefly, St. Ignatius (like St. Polycarp) was a disciple of St. John. He was born within a few years of Christ’s death and martyred between the years of 98 and 117 AD (1) in Rome by beasts as the image to the right shows. Obviously, his writings are of extreme importance to Christianity.

There are 7 extant epistles of his which are widely considered to be authentic. Some Protestants have questioned their authenticity (and for good reason on their part since Ignatius is so unapologetically Catholic as we shall see). We also have an account of his martyrdom by an eye witness which is also accepted as authentic (though not as widely as the aforementioned epistles) even by reputable Protestant scholars (2).

There are also 6 spurious epistles believed to have developed no later than the early 5th century. The spurious letters however, shouldn’t be looked at as having no historical insight. Even though they are not trusted by scholars (Catholic or Protestant) to be authentic representations of St. Ignatius’ own penmanship, they still give us insight into the bias of a typical 5th century Christian (however dishonest that particular person may have been). The spurious letters include epistles to and from the Virgin Mary as well as St. John the apostle.

I will quote only from sources widely considered to be authentic.

St. Ignatius made a number of statements which have been used by Catholic apologists ad nauseam. The reason is, of course that his viewpoints have helped lay the foundation (as an early Church father) for what the Church believes and teaches. I can’t help but return to some of these points as they are so critical for anyone who wants to truly understand the actual history of Christianity. But I will also address a few things he said which were (in hindsight) slightly inconvenient for Catholics.

To be continued...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Five Minute Japanese Lesson

All Christians need to know about the Japanese language in five minutes.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Best Song Ive Heard In A While

Tiber Jumper just posted what is easily the most awesome song Ive heard in a year or more. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Answers to the Adult Bible Quiz

Some had asked me for answers for the Adult Bible Quiz I created a few days ago. So before you go any further and see the answers , if you haven't already, click here to take the quiz.

If you've already taken it, read on to find the answers:

3. One Israelite tribe was nearly eradicated, which one was it?

Benjamin(1)

4. What did Paul tell Timothy was the pillar and foundation of the truth?

The Church(2)

5. Where did Peter live?

Capernaum(3)

6. Who was the father of Alexander & Rufus?

Simon (of Cyrene)(4)

7. Micah said God requires us to do justice, love mercy and:

Walk humbly with God(5)

8. Where did Jesus tell Peter he was the rock on which Christ's Church would be built?

Caesarea Philippi(6)

9. Which part of the account of Jesus walking on water is exclusive to Matthew's gospel?

Peter walking on the water(7)(8)(9)

10. Which gospel explains that when Jesus said 'not what enters mans mouth defiles him' that He also declared all foods clean?

Mark(10)

11. As the most prolific New Testament writer, who wrote more than 1/4 of the words found in the New Testament?

Luke(11)

12. Which apostle is mentioned the most?

Peter (followed by Paul)

13. To which prophet did God ask, "Can these bones live?"

Ezekiel(12)

14. Who was the oldest of Jacob's sons?

Reuben(13)

15. Who said, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord"?

Joshua(14)

16. Who was Noah's father?

Lamech(15)

17. Which of these groups did not believe in the resurrection?

Sadducees(16)

18. Who wanted the head of John the Baptist?

Herodias (partial credit awarded for choosing Herod Antipas)(17)

19. Which church, in Revelation was neither hot nor cold?

Laodicea(18)

20. The Sadducees question Jesus about a woman who was married to seven different men. Which book are they referring to?

Tobit(19)

Hope you enjoyed the quiz.

Notes:

11) While Paul wrote the largest number of books in the New Testament, Luke's works (the gospel of Luke & Acts) together account for more of the New Testament. Luke's word count is at 50,184 versus Paul's 43,312 (KJV).


Monday, February 12, 2007

A Roundabout Road to Rome

A certain Christian set out on the path to the city of truth. Being warned of many false cities claiming to be this city (Mormonville, Adventia (it takes seven days to get there) and that one city with the Watchtower but worst of all the city of Rome) he made special precaution to avoid any signs which pointed him in those directions.

His mentors trained him to read the ancient map and gave him supplements to aid him in his studies. Most importantly, they warned him: never follow any direction except what you find on this map.

Along the way he saw many signs pointing this way and that but he ignored each of them as instructed. Some told him "come this way we also have the map" but clearly they were heading in the wrong direction as his map told him. In fact, he compared his map to theirs to make sure they were looking at the same thing and sure enough they were. At first, this frustrated him but eventually he remembered his original instructions "never follow any direction except what you find on this map" and so he continued on all the more fervently.

One day in frustration he threw up his hands and began to wonder if this map could even lead to the city of truth. Then he walked around aimlessly for some time, nearly giving up hope of finding it. He passed by others in run down shacks encamped around muddy watering holes saying "look we found this city of truth!" but he kept going. The city on the map looked much different.

Then one day he saw a dove flying and for some reason followed it. It led to the gates of a grand city. He went in and walked around, mesmerized by its beauty. "Where am I?" he asked. Someone answered, "You're in Rome. This is the city of the Church, the pillar and foundation of truth" And they took his map and showed him that in all his studies he had failed to understand the most basic principles behind the map. Then they gave him special 3D Early Church Father goggles..

Ok I'll stop there. Maybe the 3D goggles is just too much. Im not much for allegory unless it's real quick and to the point. I'm not sure I drove the point home and I'm sure I overstepped the boundaries of 'being quick'. But let me put this in a not-so roundabout way: it was sola scriptura which eventually led me to the Catholic Church. Had I trusted in Protestant tradition (specifically the conservative - Presbyterian one in which I was raised) I would have never even glanced at the Church.

But because I held my own interpretation of Scriptures above theirs (being true to the spirit of sola scriptura) I found that their teachings were actually not true to Scripture in many ways (according to my opinion). Now rewording this as most Protestants would say it to avoid the obvious - I found that the church I was attending didn't fully teach the Bible. The only problem was, after church hopping for some time, I found that none of them did (or at least not how I read it).

When I stumbled into some Catholic literature, I found it so surprising that the Church had already figured all of this stuff out. I wasn't inventing anything new, Christians before me had 'been there done that'. But I never would have gotten there in the first place if it hadn't been for sola scriptura which is the irony of this whole ordeal.

And so I went to the dealership and traded in my 500 year old tradition that broke down frequently for a 2000 year old one that came with a life time warranty.

Now I just need to talk to the manager Peter. From what I'm told he has the keys. (Its my blog I can be as cheesy as I want).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Catholic Life Reports on Portugal

Good news, Portugal has voted pro-life for now. Keep them in your prayers.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pray For Portugal

I'm not sure exactly when since there is no date in the article but apparently, Portugal will be voting soon on whether to legalize abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Since Portugal is over 90% Catholic(1), it should be a given that this law would fail. Of course, we all know things arent always that easy.

Supporters of the change said the existing law penalizes poor women, who can't afford to travel to Spain or go to private clinics for abortions, the BBC reported.
Funny how they didnt report anything about the other side. At any rate, when I think I have things rough I'll just have to remember the sad women in Portugal who are too poor to murder their children.

Sarcasm aside, please pray for a pro-life victory.

Friday, February 09, 2007

John Edwards Chastises The Bigots on His Staff

Oh wow didn't see this one coming: John Edwards merely chastises instead of firing the two women on his staff who openly blasphemed the Christian God. What do you think he would have done if they had openly spoke evil of homosexuals? Blacks? Jews? Muslims? Anyone other than Christians?

"They have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word,"
Ahuh...From the women:
I suspect Pope Ratz will give into the urge eventually to come out and say there’s no limbo and unbaptized babies go straight to hell. He can’t help it; he’s just a dictator like that. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly

One thing I vow here and now—you [BEEP!] who want to ban birth control will never sleep. I will [BEEP!] without making children day in and out and you will know it and you won’t be able to stop it. Toss and turn, you mean, jealous [BEEP!]. I’m not going to be “punished” with babies. Which makes all your efforts a failure. Some non-procreating women escaped. So give up now. You’ll never catch all of us. Give up now.
Those are among the nicest things they've ever said about Catholics or about anything in general. Click the link on my previous post if you really want to see some terrible words against the Church. Not only are they blasphemous but they are horribly misrepresenting Catholic dogma.

The teaching they keep asserting is Catholic is not. The Church does not teach that aborted babies go straight to hell. It has been affirmed however, on multiple occasions that baptism is a requirement of the faith regardless of age. No one will enter heaven without being baptized. So .... get baptized and baptize your children.




Thursday, February 08, 2007

Protestants, Sola Scriptura and Dave Armstrong

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong had, IMO a brilliant idea. If the early Church fathers can be grossly taken out of context in an attempt to show that any of them believed something resembling what the reformers did, why not his own work?

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/02/if-church-fathers-can-be-amazingly.html

In this light, Dave's statements seem to be stronger evidence in support of sola scriptura than many of the early Church fathers' quotes which are routinely taken out of context. Only problem is, Dave is still alive and can readily defend himself. And of course, he openly denies sola scriptura.

Just an excerpt:

It is good to read the Bible, because it is God's inspired revelation to mankind.

That it is a good thing to read the Bible more, and a lot, as a bare proposition, is indisputable, . . .

I would say, furthermore, that - all things being equal - it would be a better thing to read the Bible without "outside" guidance, than to not read it.

The Bible is God's very inspired words. How, then, can any Christian, NOT be passionately interested in it?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

John Edwards & His Blaspheming Staff

The following is from Insight Scoop. Like I said before, the war on Christianity begins not in the distant future, not 'within our life times' but rather it has already begun.

Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO wonders why Edwards, who is planning to make a run for the presidency in '08, would hire someone to run his campaign blog who pens these sort of musings about the Catholic Church:

I suspect Pope Ratz will give into the urge eventually to come out and say there’s no limbo and unbaptized babies go straight to hell. He can’t help it; he’s just a dictator like that. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the Pope’s gotta tell women who give birth to stillborns that their babies are cast into Satan’s maw. The alternative is to let Catholic women who get abortions feel that it’ll all work out in the end, which is just not doable, due to that Jesus-like compassion the Pope is so fond of. Still, it’s going to be bad PR for the church, so you can sort of see why the Pope is dragging ass.

Which all brings me to recommending this great post by Austin Cline at Jesus’ General about why authoritarian types are so damn interested in cobbling people’s sex lives and meddling around in people’s private sexual decisions, like in this case why the Catholic church is so interested in making sure that people can’t make the perfectly sound decision to limit their family size while enjoying a healthy sex life—either you’re going to have to forgo birth control or you’re going to have to feel guilty to the point where you fear you’re casting babies into hellfire, by their standards. It’s a way to disrupt people’s lives so the church can get more control.

And:

One thing I vow here and now—you [BEEP!] who want to ban birth control will never sleep. I will [BEEP!] without making children day in and out and you will know it and you won’t be able to stop it. Toss and turn, you mean, jealous [BEEP!]. I’m not going to be “punished” with babies. Which makes all your efforts a failure. Some non-procreating women escaped. So give up now. You’ll never catch all of us. Give up now.

[BEEP!]s not in original. Read the entire story here.
And this from the paid staff of someone running for president of the United States? This is who many Catholics would likely vote for?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on us and the whole world. Amen.

Morality In Politics

I was a little disillusioned on my recent trip to LA while having dinner with 5 other Christians and learning of their political hopes for the upcoming election.

One endorsed Hillary Clinton and another Giuliani saying he might "unite the country". I explained that both of these candidates were adamantly pro-abortion and no 'culture of death' politician will ever unite this country as long as there are considerable numbers with moral values.

Though seeing so-called Christians placing no value on morality whatsoever made me wonder how many are still left in this country who do place any importance on moral values. My point was completely overlooked as if it were of no consequence at all.

So after the customary round of Bush bashing, Iraq bashing and global warming punditry they changed the topic. I'd like to say I'm back in NC where at least some people have their heads on straight but... not every there was a Californian.

I came back to read the headline of this article, "Woman, unborn child die after wreck". How come when it's an outside force causing the death, the liberals call it a child or baby but when the mother murders it, we refer to it as a 'fetus'? (And trust me Charlotte Observer is very liberal though they seem to have shifted ever so slightly to the right since Knight Rider sold them).

In other news: Margaret Sanger would sure be proud of the abortion industry today. At least so says Day Gardner president of the National Black Pro-Life Union.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Adult Bible Quiz

You are 100% Scripture literate!

You are Bible scholar! If you're not teaching the bible somewhere, you probably should be. You have passed the adult bible quiz.

The Adult Bible Quiz
Create a Quiz



Well that shouldn't really be surprising since I created the quiz myself... So in light of a few bible quizzes I've seen popping up on blogs recently... why dont you try one on more of an adult level.

Take The Adult Bible Quiz

Eusebius on Millenarianism

I'm almost done with my kick on Eusebius I promise. I've said it before, heresies don't die they multiply. Its just interesting that more or less all false Christian teachings are merely regurgitations of old heresies. Here's what Eusebius says on Millenarianism:

We have understood that at this time Cerinthus, the author of another heresy, made his appearance. Caius, whose words we quoted above, in the Disputation which is ascribed to him, writes as follows concerning this man:

"But Cerinthus also, by means of revelations which he pretends were written by a great apostle, brings before us marvelous things which he falsely claims were shown him by angels; and he says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be set up on earth, and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem will again be subject to desires and pleasures. And being an enemy of the Scriptures of God, he asserts, with the purpose of deceiving men, that there is to be a period of a thousand years for marriage festivals."

And Dionysius, who was bishop of the parish of Alexandria in our day, in the second book of his work On the Promises, where he says some things concerning the Apocalypse of John which he draws from tradition, mentions this same man in the following words:

"But (they say that) Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called, after him, the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be anearthly one."
It is worth mentioning though that St. Papias, St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus all held to at least some form of millenarianism. Which also brings up another point; the Church does not affirm everything that every saint believed or taught (even such great fathers as the aforementioned). This is why 3 legs are needed to sustain the "stool" of Christian authority.

Without sacred tradition, every man is left to interpret scripture in their own way. Without the magisterium, everyone would pick and choose which early Church father beliefs were authentic traditions and which weren't. Again, the three work in unison and provide a firm foundation for authority.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Steve Ray and the Primacy of Peter

Just got back from hearing a lecture from Catholic apologist Steve Ray on the biblical evidence for the primacy of Peter. It was excellent. The night before, he spoke on his conversion (as a former Baptist) but I didnt attend.

He made several good points that I had never heard before so it was worth going to. One that I particularly liked was his explanation of Paul's confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2:11-13 in response to an audience member's question about the "Protestant apostle Paul" versus the "Catholic apostle Peter".

First when Moses came down from Sinai, he carried with him the Law (at least the 10 written and the rest to be written). But 'scripture alone' of course, was not sufficient. He sat to judge the people of Israel and as an authority, interpret the Law.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
Jesus refers back to this when He said:
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."
And the same principle could be applied to the controversy between Peter & Paul. No, their controversy does not disprove the authority of the Pope or even his God given ability to speak ex cathedra.

Jesus told the Jews of His day to obey the ruling authority of Israel but not to follow their actions. Their traditions and God given authority was in effect, carrying out the authority of Moses to interpret the sacred Scriptures. Since the birth of the holy Catholic Church, we have a new Israel. The magsterium now fulfills that role.

So as Jesus said to the Jews, Paul is saying to the early converts of Christianity, 'do as he says and not as he does'. Paul affirms Peter's teaching in this discourse but confronts him personally on his action. In our day, I hope a bishop would have the moral fortitude to confront a pope who said one thing and did another.

That wasn't the only time Paul spoke of Peter:
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.
And of this encounter Saint John Chrysostom writes:
for Paul was induced to visit Peter by the same feeling from which many of our brethren sojourn with holy men: or rather by a humbler feeling for they do so for their own benefit, but this blessed man, not for his own instruction or correction, but merely for the sake of beholding and honoring Peter by his presence. He says, “to visit Peter;” he does not say to see, (δεῖν,) but to visit and survey, (στορῆσαι,) a word which those, who seek to become acquainted with great and splendid cities, apply to themselves. Worthy of such trouble did he consider the very sight of Peter; and this appears from the Acts of the Apostles also.
I owe all of the above to Steve Ray.

Eusebius on Sola Scriptura

But of the writings of John, not only his Gospel, but also the former of his epistles, has been accepted without dispute both now and in ancient times. But the other two are disputed.

In regard to the Apocalypse, the opinions of most men are still divided. But at the proper time this question likewise shall be decided from the testimony of the ancients.
This is not the only place that Eusebius makes such statements but it is especially clear here. The authority of the canon and the authenticity of some books was still very much in dispute up until this time.

In fact, we know that even up until Martin Luther, the canon was not understood as an infallible collection. We know this because Martin Luther himself removed 7 books and wanted to remove an 8th (James) but reserved himself to writing an insulting introduction for the epistle in his bible.

Now can you immagine that sort of thing happening today? Someone starting a new Christian sect and throwing 7 books out of the canon? He would be lynched by his contemporary theologians because the canon is viewed as such an unquestionable thing these days (more or less since the advent of the printing press). However, this was not always so (as Eusebius clearly points out).

But why is this significant? With particular interest in his phrase, "But at the proper time this question likewise shall be decided from the testimony of the ancients" it becomes increasingly clear.

At this time, the Church had not infallibly declared which books were officially in the canon. In fact, only one of the three major councils which had largely settled the issue of the canon (Nicaea, Hippo and Carthage) had taken place at the time of Eusebius' writing.

It wasn't until much later - council of Martin Luther's opinion for Protestants and council of Trent for Catholics, that this issue would be finally and authoritatively settled.

Note - I am not claiming that Eusebius was intending to contradict sola scriptura. If you were to ask him about the doctrine or any other early Church father, you'd receive a 'deer in the headlights' look. They'd have no clue what you were talking about. It simply wasn't a concept available at the time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Not a Hate Crime if its Against Whites

LONG BEACH, Calif., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A black teenager was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest Friday for participating in the Halloween beating of three white women in Southern California.

Anthony Ross, 18, was also ordered to perform 250 hours of community service, the Los Angeles Times reported. His twin sister, a 16-year-old sister and his 16-year-old girlfriend received probation.

Five more young people are to be sentenced next week.
Now why hasn't the word hate crime even popped up in this article? Oh yea, the victims are white. Where's Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Surely the self proclaimed champions of racial equality are upset about such blatant hate crime...

Eusebius on Apostolic Succession - II

After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James.

They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.
We see that just as with Judas Iscariot(1), the apostle's role was seen as something to be succeeded and or fulfilled.
After Vespasian had reigned ten years Titus, his son, succeeded him. In the second year of his reign, Linus, who had been bishop of the church of Rome for twelve years, delivered his office to Anencletus.
...

In the twelfth year of the same reign Clement succeeded Anencletus after the latter had been bishop of the church of Rome for twelve years. The apostle in his Epistle to the Philippians informs us that this Clement was his fellow-worker. His words are as follows: "With Clement and the rest of my fellow-laborers whose names are in the book of life."

There is extant an epistle of this Clement which is acknowledged to be genuine and is of considerable length and of remarkable merit. He wrote it in the name of the church of Rome to the church of Corinth, when a sedition had arisen in the latter church. We know that this epistle also has been publicly used in a great many churches both in former times and in our own. And of the fact that a sedition did take place in the church of Corinth at the time referred to Hegesippus is a trustworthy witness.
Even in the first century, Rome is already being understood in her proper, pastoral role.
After Nerva had reigned a little more than a year he was succeeded by Trajan. It was during the first year of his reign that Abilius, who had ruled the church of Alexandria for thirteen years, was succeeded by Cerdon.

He was the third that presided over that church after Annianus, who was the first. At that time Clement still ruled the church of Rome, being also the third that held the episcopate there after Paul and Peter.

Linus was the first, and after him came Anencletus.

At this time Ignatius was known as the second bishop of Antioch, Evodius having been the first. Symeon likewise was at that time the second ruler of the church of Jerusalem, the brother of our Saviour having been the first.
One might begin to wonder why the succession of bishops was so important to Eusebius and the other fathers...

Eusebius quotes St. Clement:
"Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit."
Again, this is thoroughly Catholic. Apostles (and only apostles) have the ability to appoint bishops. They went around 'making disciples of all nations' and setting 'in order whole churches'. In other words, they established the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. What an interesting concept to affirm that it continues to this day and that "the gates of hell" did not prevail against it.

In the third year of the reign of the emperor mentioned above, Clement committed the episcopal government of the church of Rome to Evarestus, and departed this life after he had superintended the teaching of the divine word nine years in all.

But when Symeon also had died in the manner described, a certain Jew by the name of Justus succeeded to the episcopal throne in Jerusalem. He was one of the many thousands of the circumcision who at that time believed in Christ.

At that time Polycarp, a disciple of the apostles, was a man of eminence in Asia, having been entrusted with the episcopate of the church of Smyrna by those who had seen and heard the Lord.

And at the same time Papias, bishop of the parish of Hierapolis, became well known, as did also Ignatius, who was chosen bishop of Antioch, second in succession to Peter, and whose fame is still celebrated by a great many.

...

And there were many others besides these who were known in those days, and who occupied the first place among the successors of the apostles. And they also, being illustrious disciples of such great men, built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid by the apostles in every place, and preached the Gospel more and more widely and scattered the saving seeds of the kingdom of heaven far and near throughout the whole world.

For indeed most of the disciples of that time, animated by the divine word with a more ardent love for philosophy, had already fulfilled the command of the Saviour, and had distributed their goods to the needy. Then starting out upon long journeys they performed the office of evangelists, being filled with the desire to preach Christ to those who had not yet heard the word of faith, and to deliver to them the divine Gospels.

And when they had only laid the foundations of the faith in foreign places, they appointed others as pastors, and entrusted them with the nurture of those that had recently been brought in, while they themselves went on again to other countries and nations, with the grace and the co-operation of God.
If a Catholic apologist were to forge Church history as written in the 4th century in order to cause it to lean toward Catholicism, he might very well write something similar to what we just read. Thanks to Eusebius, that won't be necessary.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Testament a Stumbling Block to Christian History?

In a post titled, 'Beyond the New Testament Canon' Professor of Biblical Studies from Rice University April DeConick set out her hypothesis:

"the major obstacle to any historical study of early Christianity is the New Testament canon."
But she doesn't state it as a hypothesis, rather an objective truth which she is fully confident of.
I do not have to justify my conclusions to believers
Its a good thing because I'm sure you wouldn't be able to do it.
nor do I judge the texts I study in terms of our modern perspectives of "orthodoxy" or "heresy."
Modern perspective? From here on out it will be difficult to gauge her level of integrity since she's already blatantly misrepresented known historical fact; Christianity has thought in terms of orthodoxy / heresy since it's conception. We at least know by provable means that our current notion of it was widely adhered to by the second century. See Irenaeus - Against.. ahem Heresies.
I consider myself a "humanist," relying on ways of knowing developed since the Enlightenment in the discipline of the humanities and liberal arts
In other words, you're a liberal adverse to every known form of goodness or truth. Ok but seriously, this flawed line of reasoning is the same old song and dance - before the Enlightenment, men were concerned only with superstition and feelings but somehow since we've overcome those prehistoric tendencies, we are now interested in facts alone. Hence we have boldly ventured into the brave new worlds allowed by Freudian psycho-analysis, Darwinian evolution and the complete rejection of all Christian ideas. Give me a break; you may be a college professor and this stuff may very well work on college-age kids still hung over from their frat parties I dont know, but it doesn't fly with me.
Their personal religious belief in the authority of the New Testament scripture has led them to a common (and erroneous) assumption, that the New Testament texts are the only documents that tell us about the history of early Christianity.
Namely who? Tell me which New Testament Scholar believes this?
This leads to another common (and erroneous) assumption, that these canonical texts are accurate and reliable documents for the study of early Christianity.
I'm going to stop there. I didn't originally intend to pick apart this post just make a counter point on her over all premise.

First, lets remember a few points. Most New Testament scholars (not all) place the entirety of the NT Canon chronologically before virtually any other Christian writing. There are some (Crossan for example) who place other writings here and there in between the canonical NT chronologically speaking but their findings are not widely agreed upon.

Why is it then, that these liberal scholars are so intent on painting known forgeries of second century origin (or later) as more reliable sources than the NT canon? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see through the transparency here. It's like Dan Brown all over again.

She keeps talking about looking at things in a 'historical-critical perspective'. First, Christians have always done so. A passing glance at the early Church fathers (Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Eusebius) will quickly put to rest all fantasies which say otherwise. The early Christians were especially concerned with the validity of the bold (and sometimes offensive) claims of Christianity because their lives were literally on the line. Their writings spell out the logical and 'historical-critical' methods which were used from the beginning to determine authenticity of epistles and their canonicity. See especially Eusebius - Church History (which I will be posting more on shortly).

Eusebius even claimed that the authenticity of some writings (which are now in the canon) were suspect; 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, James and Hebrews to name a few.

It all boils down to this: the earliest and most authoritative writings available are those in the NT canon and for that very reason they were included. Christianity has argued this point from the very beginning using 'historical-critical' methods.

Nothing has changed since the Enlightenment.

Great minds will still continue to look back to a 1st century Jew who claimed to be a prophet. Some will look back to try in vain to disprove His claims. Some will with great effort try and assert that He never made the claims to begin with.

Most however, will continue to preach the Truth. And those who live by it will find their eternal reward as promised.

Collapse of the Episcopal Church

It shouldn't surprise anyone to see the utter break down which is occurring right now in the episcopal Church. In addition to the Californian diocese attempting to secede, eight more Virginian congregations have announced that they are breaking off.

The Episcopal Church, having ordained a female bishop, numerous gay and lesbian priests, led the fight in allowing birth control, contraception and other means of increasing promiscuity and virtually abandoned historic Christianity, is now starting to see the fruits of it's labor. You reap what you sow. I would imagine this is only the beginning.

Fortunately for orthodox Christians and conservative Protestants who still remain faithful to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the religious frauds over at the Episcopal church have been losing members (in ratio to more conservative branches of Christianity) for the last 30 or 40 years(1).

Despite the clear negative results from almost any activity that can be rightly classified as "liberal", other Protestant denominations are trying to follow in their footsteps (such as the PC USA and the United Methodist) and others I'm sure. There are many in the Catholic Church who would like for it to do the same. Here's a free tip: it wont.

Secularism Versus Religion

Here's an interesting article on the positive effects of religion. All of the findings are of course, common sense; i.e. you didn't need a scientific study to prove these things. To anyone who it's not already plainly obvious that from a factual standpoint, religion causes far more good than bad, these findings probably wont be convincing. They (Richard Dawkins for example) hold to their own "non falsifiable" superstition that religion is evil.

Now some religions are perpetually guilty of terrible things and guilty without condemning those things. We all know which one I'm talking about. However, to lump Christianity in with those religions is pure intellectual fraud. But that's not all the secularists are doing. They dont merely lump Christianity in with evil religions, but they pretend as though Christianity were leading the charge of war, violence and other evils. (Nevermind the fact that it is completely contradictory to their world view to even call these things bad) It simply isn't true.

Christianity doesnt have a spotless history, but if you compare it to any other large group of peoples in history religious or non religious, well its virtually blameless.

This says nothing of the many great things Christianity has done for the world. The good works of all other religions and peoples combined throughout history pale in comparison. Yet I am amazed at how blissfully ignorant people are on that topic. I've seen some argue that undeniable fact. But its not worth arguing someone about it; it would be like arguing with an 8 year old about which country had more people in it: Cuba or China. The child may stubbornly insist "Oh no, I've been to Cuba there are people everywhere! There are so many people you wouldn't believe it." Which he may not have malicious intent but he's just painfully wrong and there's probably no way to convince him otherwise. Its the same with secularists who try to deny the good caused by Christianity.