Thursday, March 29, 2007

Father Euteneuer - Mini Catechesis on Contraception

Check out this video from Father Euteneuer on the link between contraception and abortion. Its a good video - a mini catechesis on contraception. Be sure to pass it along.

Also, please consider a donation to Human Life International. The Gates Foundation, The United Way and a host of other large non-profits (and even your tax dollars) are funding Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion causes. Those of us who are pro-life need to be actively supporting pro-life causes such as HLI financially. If you're not financially involved with HLI, please become involved somewhere else.

My Daily Prayer

This is my daily prayer I say each morning, thought I would share:

Thee shall I ever praise
For Thy mercy, for Thy grace
These things I ask, my Lord, of Thee
Food & water to eat and drink,
My soul to delight in all my labor
Your heart to be pleased with all my effort

And favor, my Lord, bestow on me
That I be able to accomplish these three:
My hands to do justice
My heart to love mercy
And my feet to walk humbly, my Lord with Thee.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why Mariology is So Offensive to Protestants

Like many others, my greatest hurdle to the Catholic Church was Mariology. I have thought about this for some time as I'm now reaching the light at the end of the tunnel for what has been (for me) a very slow and reluctant process; that is - coming to accept Mariology on an intellectual level.

There are a couple reasons why Mariology is so difficult for Protestants. First, its not an easy doctrine. Just like the Trinity, its a little more like trying to eat a very tough piece of meat and a little less like eating mashed potatoes -- it just doesnt go down that easily.

But the other major reason is this (and some Catholics may not like me using this language) but the real problem seems to be that Mary occupies real estate in catholics' hearts that to Protestants belong only to Christ. That is the key issue. It's less about theology and more about roles - who plays what role.

In Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto" there was a disturbing scene (to me) where a woman prayed to her mother-goddess and asked protection for 'all her children' or something to that effect. The language was clearly intended to shift our minds towards the blessed virgin.

I'm not sure Gibson's motives there, but it seems to me that he could've chosen to write these lines to show that many different cultures have a mother figure in their world of theology and Catholicism has the true mother of humanity - Mary.

Whatever his intention, I think the end result probably just opens Mariology for more criticism. The anti-Catholic is now all the more likely to accuse us of borrowing the 'motherly deity' from paganism.

Pope John Paul II's famous plea to Mary immediately upon being shot was another well known example of the very issue I'm talking about. I don't think cradle-Catholics can understand how deeply offensive this is to a Protestant. I know; I was one and I was deeply offended.

I knew I would eventually have to come to terms with Mariology, this glaring beast of an offensive doctrine. In my early days exploring the Church, I wondered how the Catholic Church ended up so right on so many issues and yet so wrong on this one...

Later I began to wonder, if there were one Church that had all the right answers to every thing, how likely would it be that I would have arrived at all the same conclusions on my own? I didn't need a calculator for that one.

So for some time, I kept the issue on the back burner. Everytime I thought about the issue or read apologetics, I was dissapointed or worse - angry at the lack of (what I thought to be) clear answers for my questions.

My questions were never - How is it possible that Mary was immaculately conceived? Are there any typological prefigurements of Mary in the Old Testament? Why is the assumption a doctrine since the Bible never talks about it? How come the Bible says there is only One mediator between God and man but Cathoics call her mediatrix? (These are all the questions answered by traditional Marian apologetics - but none of them were really what I was asking)

I think many other Protestants and former Protestants ask the same sorts of questions that I was asking and I've even heard some cradle Catholics ask them. Over time I began to understand that my fundamental issue was this- we have a certain void in our hearts as human beings - vacant real estate if you will. To a Protestant, we fill this void with two things - Jesus(and sometimes God the Father but rarely if ever the Holy Spirit) & the Bible. But Catholics fill this void with the Trinity, the Bible, sacred tradition, the saints and worst of all... Mary!

I say 'worst of all' because I later caught myself being less offended at certain involvements of other saints than I was at Mary. Example: I found myself offended when certain prayers were asking for Mary's 'protection' but later I realized that I was never offended when we prayed to Saint Michael the archangel for protection. I had to do some serious self auditing to find the reasons behind this.

Now about this real estate issue - the best illustration that I could come up with to explain the situation was to compare coming from a Protestant background to a Catholic background to coming from an Islamic background to a Christian background. To a Muslim, considering God as "Father" is a highly offensive concept (or so I'm told). Yet all of us would agree that the term "Father" is a highly appropriate way to describe God's relationship to us.

So I think it's well within reason to assume that some of the difficulties of moving from Islam to Christianity might be just as difficult as moving from Protestant to Catholicism. Likewise, if you've grown up a liberal, it may be extremely difficult and even offensive for you to accept the fact that Christianity objectively teaches that homosexual acts are immoral.

There are many other examples that we could bring up here. But the point is, the degree to which I am offended at an issue has absolutely no bearing on whether its true or not. To be sure, its difficult for anyone to change their 'center of gravity', so to speak, on theological issues.

Realizing, at least in part, why I was so personally offended at the issue of Mariology has helped me deal with the issue head on. I still have a lot of work to do - it hasn't even been 2 years for me. You can't readjust your theology overnight! But with the help of Christ (and the intercession of Mary) I'll be just fine.

Now on the issue of the complexity of Mariology, I'll have more discussion on this topic in subsequent posts but the underlying point which needs to be understood is that Mariology is inseperably linked with Christology and vice versa.

Friday, March 23, 2007

John Mallon on Contraception

I finally got around to reading the email from John Mallon that many other Catholic bloggers have already blogged about when they received it. Wow! What an awesome article, please read it if you have a chance (whether you're Catholic or not) and pass it along. Contraception, the Love Killer by John Mallon

Here is the video, absolutely unbelievable. You can just see the arrogance on Hannity's face the entire time. Clearly displaying a spirit contrary to that which he received at communion. And Hannity is a professional speaker which amounts to his low class tactics here being nothing less than bullying.

I hope this is a good wake up call for the Church. And this, from a so-called conservative! Keep HLI and the entire Church in your prayers.

Catholic - Upper or Lower Case C?

My position is that the C was capital to begin with. IE - it was never used as an adjective but as a proper noun. Here's why I think that:

The first time the word was used (that we know of) was in St. Ignatius' letter to the Church at Smyrna. I recently wrote a 5 part series on St. Ignatius (107AD) in which I demonstrated these major points (considering all of his writings as a whole):

1. He wrote to an audience which he assumed had full familiarity of a priest - deacon system under the authority of one bishop, just like the Catholic & Orthodox Churches both still have. (He wasnt writing apologetics, he wrote as if it was already accepted and in place)

Perhaps the most pertinent quote to this discussion:

"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."
2. St. Ignatius did NOT affirm the papacy (but neither did he deny it)

3. He stressed unity under one altar and one Church (the Catholic Church)

4. He stressed repeatedly the absolute necessity for obedience to the bishop.

5. He unequivocally believed in the Real Presence just as taught by Catholic & Orthodox traditions.

6. Tying 1,3,4 & 5 together, he demonstrated a mindset of :

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

And laid the theological framework from which all subsequent (orthodox) Church Fathers would more or less follow.

This mindset is: there is ONE true Church (the Catholic Church) and many false ones (Arians, Gnostics, Marcions, Cathars...) Those were the schisms and heretics of the time (all those were after St. Ignatius of course)

But it is clear, the term "Catholic" was not a term used to describe the 'universality' of the Church (as if anyone were wondering 'is the Church local or universal?') but rather, it was certainly referring to a specific, visible entity.

I believe when reading any Church father, it is imperative to understand the dichotomy presented here. Thinking in 21st century American terms of "the Church is just all true believers with Jesus in their heart regardless of denomination" is very anachronistic here.

It is imperative in this discussion to start, therefore, from the earliest writings available.

Sometime ago I responded to an anti-Christian new testament scholar at a university. She wrote that the early Church "did not think in modern terms of orthodoxy/heresy" which is more or less what the "catholic with a lower case c" argument amounts to. But she is badly mistaken, they certainly DID think and write in those terms. In fact, that was the central driving force of nearly every early Church writing! (And Im sure you will agree with me there)

My point is that by trying to deny something which is inconvenient for a person's world view (in her case the notion that the early Christians were honest - accurate historians and in Protestants' case the notion that the early Christians were Catholic) certain historical facts are being systematically misinterpreted.

There are inconvenient facts for Catholicism in history as well. It's inconvenient for us that St. Ignatius didn't write anything about the Roman bishop. He didnt even mention him! Not even in his letter to Rome! Thats very inconvenient for us, but its historical fact.

Same with the word Catholic. They wrote to distinguish the one true Church from all others.

Today, we still use the word "Catholic" to distinguish us from all other groups that have broken off from us - Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican etc... It is used in EXACTLY the same manner as the early Church used it.

If there were no other Christian groups, we would stop using the term 'Catholic' as there would be no need.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Saint Augustine on Sola Scriptura & Tradition

Emphasis added:

"I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the AUTHORITY of the CATHOLIC CHURCH."
Against the Letter of Mani 5,6, 397 A.D.

"But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture BUT FROM TRADITION, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept either by the Apostles themselves or by plenary COUNCILS, THE AUTHORITY OF WHICH IS QUITE VITAL TO THE CHURCH."
Letter of Augustine to Januarius 54,1,1, 400 A.D.

"I believe that this practice comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices NOT FOUND IN THEIR WRITINGS nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commended and handed down by the Apostles themselves."
St. Augustine, Baptism 1,12,20, 400 A.D.

"What they found in the Church they kept; what they learned, they taught; what they received from the fathers, they handed on to the sons."
St. Augustine, Against Julian, 2,10,33, 421 A.D.

"Since by Christ's favor we are CATHOLIC Christians:"
St. Augustine, Letter to Vitalis, 217,5,16, 427 A.D.

"By the same word, by the same Sacrament you were born, but you will not come to the same inheritance of eternal life, unless you return to the CATHOLIC CHURCH."
St. Augustine, Sermons, 3, 391 A.D.

"This Church is holy, the one Church, the true Church, the Catholic Church, fighting as she does against all heresies. She can fight, but she cannot be beaten. All heresies are expelled from her, like the useless loppings pruned from a vine. She remains fixed in her root, in her vine, in her love. The gates of hell shall NOT conquer her."
St. Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens, on the Creed, 6,14, 395 A.D.
From Catholic Treasure Chest

Pro-Life Groups Seek Black Support

Notice how the left wing frauds in this article keep using the term "anti-abortion" to describe the pro-life movement. I wonder if they would refer to the other side as "anti-life"... For some reason I have a feeling that they wouldn't put such a negative spin on the liberal side of it.

A single statistic underlies all these efforts: Blacks make up 13 percent of the population but account for 37 percent of all abortions in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In other abortion related news, the South Carolina House just passed a bill that would require women to see an ultrasound image of the child they are about to murder before having an abortion. It would be the first of its kind in any state.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mathetes - On Christian's Behavior

Early Christian quote for the day:

They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
- Mathetes to Diognetus (130AD?)
I know a liberal Jesuit or two who could benefit from learning a bit about how Christians have lived historically.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Does the Catholic Church Look Like the Early Church?

I have a habit of making responses that are too lengthy. (It's to discourage anyone from challenging me on any point.) Just kidding. Here's my recent response to a Protestant who raises some good objections with my recent link to the 'When Did Your Church Start' page:
(His words in green, other quotes in blue, mine in black)

>>>>

Thanks for the comments Kenny.

The great schism is a fairly objective schism of the East & West. The year 1054 points to a most pronounced climax of the (not merely recent) tensions that had existed between the East & the Western parts of the Catholic Church. Congregations did break off and rejoin the Catholic Church prior to 1054 but that year is accepted among historians as when we can semi-officially point to a split.

Now as for who broke off from who, sure thats debatable but remember, the Church split. This is very different from the reformation. The Church did not split during the reformation, the reformers formed a new tradition. Eastern Orthodox Christians still have valid sacraments whereas Protestants do not (according to the Catholic Church) therefore it is a much different situation than the Reformation.

The Orthodox, like Catholics maintain... well.. orthodoxy. We differ only a few very small issues (outside of Church government) and the split was over government and not over theology. In other words, no one started teaching a new doctrine like Martin Luther.

Lastly, as James Likoudos (author of "Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism" and former Greek Orthodox (now Catholic) says, there is no such thing as the 'Eastern Orthodox Church' as you called it. There are only churchES, as the different churches and patriarchates disagree on various issues between themselves. Also, the Orthodox churches (and dont get me wrong I love them) have a strong tendency to nationalize. You cant remove the "Russian" from the Russian Orthodox churches. But the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church whether in Charlotte, NC or in Quiapo, Philippines (I know, I've been to masses in both places)

Now as for whether the Roman Catholic Church is the same as the one started by Jesus is not up for discussion. It is an objective fact that the Catholic Church extends to Christ. If you talk to an Eastern Orthodox person, they will tell you they split from the West because they 'wanted to stay the same' and Rome 'wanted to change'. But the changes in the Church which developed over the centuries can all be historically monitored. Did the Church at one time lack a modern day understanding of the papacy? Sure they did. Doesnt prove a thing. The Church didnt always have a modern day perspective of the Trinity either!

What did Christ say? 'the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants'. If you were to find a church that looked like the early Church, you could rest assured you've stumbled into a group of heretics!

The early Church was entirely (not mostly) Jewish, they kept Torah, they didnt believe in the Trinity (not like we do anyhow), they barely understood Christ's divinity, they had no official structure, they had no official canon, they operated on word of mouth etc.. etc...

But instead of staying in the ground, a seed grows. Likewise, the Church, the new Israel, the bride of Christ grows as well.

So yes, it could be argued that the hierarchy of the Eastern churches more closely resembles the Church (of about 90AD - 350AD) the question then comes down to interpretation of key Scripture passages (namely those in Matthew 16)

"If, however, we were to study it on the basis of organizational continuity as objectively historically verifiable and nothing else, the Eastern Orthodox Church would almost certainly score higher than the Roman Catholic Church, because there is no evidence whatsoever that Peter ever claimed the type of authority the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years"
I appreciate your points but this statement could hardly be any more false. From Bruce Shelley (unambiguously anti-Catholic Protestant historian) on page 133 of his book "Church History in Plain Language:
"the concept of papal rule of the whole church was established by slow and painful stages. Leo is a major figure in that process because he provides for the first time the biblical and theological bases of the papal claim."
Aside from the objective fact that Mr. Shelley is entirely wrong on that point, even if we take his anti-Catholic position, it still puts the beginning of unequivocal papal claims no later than 460 AD. Much much too early for your above statement to be true. Even if we use that as a starting point, the Catholic Church has claim to nearly 600 years of uninterrupted, papal rule and Church structure acting in almost exactly the same way as it does today. Again, there were many "papists" before this including the Protestant's beloved Saint Augustine (yes there's a reason why he's a saint):
"[In] the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should.... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me.... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church." (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus [Contra Epistolam Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti.)
and his predecessor, Saint Ambrose:
"It is Peter himself that He says, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.' Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal." (Commentaries on Twelve of David's Psalms 40,30)
Both of these predating Mr. Shelley's attempt to discredit the orthodox of papal authority. This of course speaks nothing of Saint Clement (1st century) and his letter to the Corinthians in which he demands obedience to the Church at Rome (and this while St. John is still alive!)

So now there are plenty of resources you can go to on this discussion. Here is a Orthodox vs Catholic debate.

Now I have spent much more time on your comments about Eastern Orthodoxy because, they're a lot closer to the truth.

Born Again - Im not sure what he's referring to when he says that. Its obviously not a denomination that I know of, but side note; in the Philippines they call evangelicals "Born Agains" ... So we're probably talking semantics here.
"If you could argue that the views represented by some church do not predate some particular era, that would be a claim that mattered."
Thats like taking candy from a baby! EVERY (not some or a few) but EVERY doctrine which distinguishes Protestants from Catholics extends no further back than.. when they were invented. Sola Fide was invented by Martin Luther. This is plainly admitted by even pro-Luther scholars such as Heiko Oberman who said that it can be certain that this doctrine is found no where in writing before Martin Luther.

There is only a sliver of evidence that anyone ever believed in such a thing. That would be in James' epistle where he explicitly condemns the heresy. (We would assume some are believing in it since he mentioned it but we have no written evidence of anyone teaching such).

sola scriptura obviously originated with Luther. Such a belief would be anachronistic to the extreme at any point in time preceding Guttenberg.

Rejection of infant baptism, rejection of real presence, rejection of regenerative baptism, pre-trib rapture, once saved always saved etc.. all of these are objectively young beliefs.

It is historically verifiable that infants were baptized as early as the second century and we have very good reason to believe that they were baptized in the first as well. It is absolutely undeniable that the Early Church believed in the Real Presence and in a regenerative baptism. The early Christians werent unanimous on all things, but they were certainly unanimous on those two things. This is just a historical fact and most Protestant scholars will openly admit that.

Now, on Apostolic Succession, from a 21st century, American Protestant perspective, it might not seem very important. But to the early Church, this doctrine was of extreme importance. (Literally life and death since they lived and died by the gospel that they received). Their only means of authority was 'apostolic succession'. Its impossible to overestimate the importance of this doctrine to the early Church (especially the pre-nicaean Church which is what I am most interested in)

Anyway, loved your comments, they really got my gears turning!

>>>> Second post>>>

Sorry let me correct myself. I misread your statement;
"there is no evidence whatsoever that Peter ever claimed the type of authority the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years"
I thought you were saying that the early popes didnt claim the authority that the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years. Still my points stand and you'd have to extend your range from 1000 to at least 1540 (by the most anti-Catholic standards)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cardinal George - Dont Deny Communion?

I found this article very disturbing and I hope that what the Cardinal said is not true.

As far as criticizing priests who give communion to pro-choice politicians, "maybe you should talk to Pope Benedict XVI, who gives communion to the pro-choice prime minister of Italy. You have to look at a lot of things. It's not all that simple.
I dont see what could be any simpler - some politicians actively campaign to make it easier for women to commit infanticide and yet call themselves Catholic. They objectively defile the Body and Blood every time they receive and do damage to their own souls. The Church is here to protect the souls, not to allow sinners to persist in their evil ways.

I just heard an awesome homily at our parish today by a guest priest. I hope we can find more priests and bishops willing to actively and unwaveringly denounce the many evils of the culture of death.

Answer Tip

Found a very cool feature on answers.com - my blog now has "answer tips" so you can double click on any word and bring up a 'tip' explaining the meaning and or encyclopedia style entry on it. I don't know how it works, but it does. Give it a try.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sacred Music

I came across a neat site for Byzantine sacred music yesterday. It has free downloads of some very beautiful chanting. Also here is one with notation and midi files for each chant. Very useful. Although it is Byzantine / Orthodox chanting and not widely used in Catholic Churches, I am going to try to implement some of this sacred music into our schola that we have recently started.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Year Was Your Denomination Founded?

Couldn't resist: Find Out The History of Your Church. (Warning, the historical accuracy of this list may cause some to accuse it of a Catholic bias)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Brownback - Moral Integrity & Courage

If we don't get Brownback in the whitehouse next year (which we probably wont), I hope we get someone like him. While the frauds in the national media have been barking their normal hypocrisy "that guy doesnt agree with our opinions therefore he's a bigot!", it's refreshing to hear that at least ONE person with a potential to run for presidency has some sort of moral compass. From this article:

"I do not believe being a homosexual is immoral, but I do believe homosexual acts are. I'm a Catholic and the church has clear teachings on this."
Awesome! Now surely the leftists wouldn't deny his right to have moral standards... Oh wait, they've already denied Pace's why should Brownback's be any different?

I'd vote for this guy regardless of what platform he ran on. I hope we Catholics can vote for an actual Catholic this year instead of a fraud like Kerry.

I See More Miracles Than Thou

What is a miracle? I think Christianity has somewhat forgotten what it means. I love the rampant sentimentalism today that calls everything 'a miracle'. I stood by a couple years ago and overheard one man explain some various things he was struggling with to a pastor. (I wasn't eavesdropping this was done in the open and it wasn't personal) The pastor consoled him, "Don't lose hope, God still does miracles" and the man replied with confidence "Oh I see miracles every day".

So I couldnt help but think to myself, "oh really?" So I wonder, if this guy would have been standing by at the splitting of the Red Sea while scoffing "pfff ..big deal... I see miracles every day!" Somehow I doubt it.

So then when it all boils down, yea we modern day Christians see 'miracles' alright... just not like the ones we read about in Scripture. When the bible talks about miracles, we hear stories not of of unlikely events but of the ground opening up and swallowing false prophets and their followers, plant life on fire but not consumed, people being cured of leprosy and being raised from the dead. Yet, when we talk about it these days, it seems to be... getting to work on time despite waking up late, someone changing their mind and becoming a Christian and basically anything that seems unlikely even in the slightest.

Actually the funny thing is, that to these sentimentalists who seem to be everywhere these days, the less of a thing they call a 'miracle' the more spiritual they think they are.

"I see miracles every day" ... "Oh yea? Well I see miracles every hour" ... "Oh oh oh yea!! Well, everything I see is literally God's miracle of life!"

So by now, we've lost all sense of the word. If a slightly unlikely event is a 'miracle' then who the hell cares about miracles anyway?! Thats the whole point of miracles; they dont usually happen! They're special! (Just like you if you call every little thing 'a miracle' only in a different way).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Grass Roots - Improving the Liturgy

Recently I've seen a number of people complaining about the state of the liturgy in many American parishes. Some were disappointed that the recent release from the Vatican (Sacramentum Caritatis) didn't speak strongly enough for traditionalists and for the restoration of liturgy. I havent had time to read it completely yet but I was particularly fond of this paragraph:

Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).
In other words - contemporary music sucks.

But seriously, I hear a lot of people complaining that the liturgy isnt what it should be etc... etc.. and its understandable. But of course, you're part of the problem or part of the solution. Don't just complain about it, do something about it.

A group of guys and I have started a sacred music choir / schola at our parish. We had to keep pressing the issue until it got started but it finally has and has the support of the pastor. Its gonna be a lot of work but a lot of fun. We'll change by example and proactive - positive solutions not by criticism. Here's a good pdf on how to start your own schola. Its a good article even if you're not thinking of doing it.

But this is just one example of doing something positive in your Church. Remember that we are all members of the kingdom of God. Each lay person is a laborer. You're either doing something for the kingdom or you're not. Simple as that.

Not everyone is called to music, if you're not; fine do something else. Do something that is making positive change at your parish no matter how small it is just dont sit around and complain. And the parish we belong to is not a small one either, we have nearly 3,000 families.

Catholics Guilty of Spreading HIV?

Recently, I was having a discussion with a visitor on the subject of whether or not the Church was guilty of spreading HIV in Africa because of her teachings on contraception. I made a lengthy reply and I just hate putting in so much effort to something that only a few people will ever read again.

So here's the original post and here's my reply:

Michael,

Wow lots of stuff there. You have some good points and some underlying issues that I agree with.

But I did not call you a 'horrible, evil liberal' so please dont put that in quotes as if I said that or even implied it. I said you were in a minority which you are (I am in a minority too, it doesnt make it wrong).

First, you're absolutely right that the Church needs to correct the problems within her own doors. I am painfully aware of this as are all faithful Catholics. The Church is not perfect, never has been never will be. St. Augustine said that 'the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops'. And there have even been a number of 'bad' popes (Leo X for example).

Jesus told us to remove the plank from our eye before removing the splinter in someone elses'. I think you're absolutely right about that and you understand His teaching more than most do in this day in age. He spoke as much (or more) corporately than individually. This 21st century western individualism that we paint into 1st century Palestine is anacrhonistic to say the least. So Jesus told Israel (as a corporate body) just what you're telling the Church (the new Israel): clean up your act before cleaning up others.

The Church is working on it and is coming out of some painful lessons post Vatican II and post numerous sex-scandals(which you alluded to) and so naturally, there are a lot of things to fix and these things dont happen overnight.

But like the Inquisition, the Crusades and other issues, the 'Church' herself was never guilty of any wrong doing. I speak corporately not individually. There have been many priests, bishops and yes even popes (though rarely) who have done things that did not meet up to the standards of Christian dogma and sometimes even did things gravely opposed to it (such as the sack of Jerusalem or the sack of Constantinople which Im sure you're aware of). But these events (and the often grossly exaggerated incidents surrounding the Spanish inquisition) were not ordered by Popes, ecumenical councils or Vatican decrees. In fact, there were commands from the Pope NOT to do many of the evils which were done in the Holy Lands during the crusades but they were ignored. The individuals (whether priests, bishops or laymen) are certainly culpable for the evil they committed, but the Church cannot be held responsible for those who dissent from her teachings.

Now to what extent the Church is culpable (and you allude to it with the issue of the sex scandal) then the Church along with her members who are guilty should suffer due consequence. In cases where any diocese is guilty of protecting a child molester or anything of the sort, there should be severe consequences, I agree with you. It makes my blood boil even more than yours because I am a Catholic!

Now with all that said, I ask you to also be aware that there are 2 sides to every story and it would do you well, I think, to study up a little more on the Catholic side of it (and maybe you already have). But the actual guilt in the sex scandal (for example) has been overblown by the media in many cases and it is actually a small minority of priests guilty. Notice how the Protestant Churches (arguably as often guilty of the same things) have been barely mentioned. Again, not defending those who did wrong. Those who are guilty should face the consequences and the Church should not protect them (at the expense of endangering others and or failing to administer due justice).

Same thing goes for the crusades and the inquisition. Both of these are routinely misrepresented in an anti-Catholic exageration. By no means am I claiming that there was no evil involved. Far from it. Just saying that there are two sides to every story. If you havent read any Catholic sources on the subject here are a few links:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/inquisition-crusades-catholic-scandals.html

http://www.catholic.com/library/Inquisition.asp


Those are just a couple (the first will keep you reading for days on the subject if you really want to know your stuff) I dont have my links at hand because Im not at home. At any rate, all Im saying is that I hope you will at least take an honest look at the other side of the argument.

Now about condoms & HIV, it seems to me that the situation can be compared to a group of people jumping into a lion's den with a gun for protection. Another group says 'you cant use a gun against lions its immoral' The first group doesnt understand why using a gun would be immoral and says its the best protection against the lions. The second group says 'just dont jump in the first place' Now, obviously, theres nothing immoral about using a gun in self defense against a lion, but the point of the analogy is that the best solution to the problem is not to use a gun, but rather not to jump in the lions den in the first place.

Now your side of the argument (I think) is that jumping into the den (having sex) is inevitable and therefore we need to arm them with guns.

There is merit to that argument but we have to remember a couple things. First, regardless, the cause of the death is jumping into the lion's den (the cause of HIV is sex with someone else who has HIV) not the lack of protection. The group forbidding guns (or condoms) may be accused of failing to allow those people to protect themselves but nothing more. They cannot under any rationale be accused of causing the death.

You are also making a few assumptions about the HIV epidemic. It is intuitively wrong to assume that HIV is spreading because of adherance to Catholic dogma. (Theres no way you can say that these people are contracting HIV because they are afraid to disobey Church teaching. In fact they have openly disobeyed Church teaching by engaging in the promiscuous acts which 95% of the time are the cause of its spread so why would they be afraid to disobey the teachings on condoms?) In other words, if they obeyed Church teaching, they (most likely) would not contract aids in the first place and even if they did, it would end with them as they are faithful to only one partner.

Therefore, the spread of HIV would not be NEARLY as rapid if not completely non existent. So clearly, the problem is not by any stretch of the immagination Church teaching (regardless of whether it's right or wrong).

Heres an interesting post on the subject that brings up a few other points: http://regiaecclesia.wordpress.com/2006/10/22/condoms-and-hiv/

Anyway, thanks for you input and while we may never reach an agreement, I hope that we can both learn some from other view points.

Oh and about Church growth, I believe your global trend analysis is a bit off, here is an article in the LA Times that addresses the issues you brought up (the idea that the Catholic Church needs to liberalize in order to keep up)
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-allen9jul09,0,2668973.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

According to that article, the exact opposite is occuring right now. Ive seen other sources that show the Catholic Church growing (per capita) in relation to other branches of Christianity and obviously Christianity itself is growing world wide (now over 2.1 billion) and the only other group growing so quickly is Islam (now over a billion) and Islam is hardly a liberal think tank.

Anyway, hope my comments made some sense. Peace be with you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Resource For Liturgical Music in Tagalog

I have recently decided to begin studying Tagalog. I haven't fully mastered Japanese yet of course but the progress is becoming extremely slow (especially being separated from any immersion or necessity based situation) so hopefully this will be a fun challenge. I spoke with a guy last week who has a goal to learn 1 new language each year. He's on #8! I may not be able to keep up with that (I don't have a gift for linguistics but for some reason I love it) but I'm gonna try to learn at least a new language every few years.

I came across this website which offers resources for liturgy in Tagalog and this one by the same author that teaches Tagalog. I love to see what's going on in other languages and cultures.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Giuliani - Pro Abortion Fraud

Ran across this article recently, I dont think I can overstate the importance of the GOP getting a candidate who cares about morals on the ballot. Giuliani doesnt fit the bill; not by a long shot. Unfortunately he is leading the pack right now according to CNN.

Need a Silverado?

A bit of shameless self promotion albeit out of place: Im selling my 2005 Silverado. V8, towing package, trailer brakes, 6 CD changer with BOSE speakers, power everything, dual airbags K&N air filter installed. I bought it new and have changed the oil religiously. 34,500 miles (give or take depending on how long it takes to sell) Asking a very reasonable $18,500 (sticker was 33k). I'm motivated but the same truck is selling for almost 20k (with higher mileage) at Carmax so not too motivated if you catch my drift.

The Price of Apathy

Portugal, a largely Catholic country, has legalized abortion. This is the price of apathy. Keep praying, but dont just pray, vote! And vote pro-life!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Authenticity of the Gospels

NT Wright (I'm reading his book 'Jesus & the Victory of God') pointed out a great evidence for the authenticity of the gospels: the fact that many of the strongest debates known to have been in progress during the 1st century were never written into the gospels. The most glaring would be the issue of whether the gentiles needed to follow the Law or not. Other issues might have been the divinity of Christ, necessity of baptism / circumcision & salvation (by faith alone) etc...

If the evangelists were forging history, they would obviously have included wording to assert that Jesus agreed with their own agenda on these (and other) issues. They did nothing of the sort though and left Jesus silent on these issues.

Were they just too stupid to do so? If so, how did they invent a story of Jesus which so unbelievably fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies in ways that no one could have ever anticipated and wouldn't even fully be appreciated after 2000 years of study from the greatest scholars around the world?

Were they fearful to put words in His mouth because other eyewitnesses would know of their forgery? Ok, fine. How about inventing a resurrection? How about inventing numerous miracles and other sayings? If they were aware of the possibility of eye witness testimony to debunk their false history (and they were) then they must have been so on all accounts. Everything in their gospels were subject to the scrutiny of many hundreds of eye witnesses.

Conclusion: a great many modern scholars are badly mistaken and the evangelists were recording actual history with little (from the perspective of a historian) or no (from the perspective of a Christian) error.

Note: I believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that the Bible is without error. However, taking it as "inerrant" is simply a matter of faith. We cannot prove or falsify a great number of details in the Scripture. But any honest historian (miracles aside) has to take the gospels for highly accurate historical work; among the best. Frauds like those in the Jesus Seminar have destroyed their own credibility by their terribly implausible findings. As for the miracles, I think its historically undeniable that the evangelists really believed that He did them and that they were not fabricated (or metaphoric).

Whether they happened or not, is a matter of faith.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Science & Philosophy

Ok so the hotel I'm staying at has free internet and yes; I am addicted to blogging. I listened to 4 lectures yesterday and the most disturbing one was a debate on evolution & intelligent design.

Science:
Science seems to be the only field where it's professionals dont truly understand what their field is (on a philosophical level). Musicians understand music (not merely the mechanics of it, but the essence of music) and painters understand art, auto-mechanics understand what it is they're doing when they work on cars and so do computer programmers. But I believe that many scientists are highly confused at whats happening in their field if you were to take a step back from it and look at it in a philosophical sense..

Scientists observe order in the universe and then interpret this as a cause. It simply doesnt follow. Why does the hour hand on the clock move? A scientist gives a naturalist explanation: electricity causes this gear to turn and this gear to turn which causes this gear to turn which eventually turns the arm. Therefore, electricity is the cause of this clock turning.

The scientist, on a philosophical level, hasn't told us anything at all actually. We know that other processes are underway as the hand is turning, even a child knows that. Thats not the question, we dont care what other apparently 'causal' processes are happening; we asked 'why is the hand turning'. How it is possible? Evoking the word 'electricity' doesnt tell us anything. What causes electricity? What about electricity makes it work? Scientists can give an answer, I can't. But what causes that cause? and so on... Eventually, we must reach a level to which there is no explanation. I imagine in this example, it would be reached very quickly.

Imagine anther scenario where a child asks 'why does the rock fall from my hand when i let go of it?' The mother answers 'because God pulls it to the ground'. The scientist would scoff and say 'its because of gravity!' But the scientist's answer is absolutely no better than the mother's. He has simply given a name to a phenomenon that happens. We dont know why it happens, we just know that it does. The child already knows that it happens! He wants to know why and not what. Science only tells us 'what'. Just because something happens consistently (such as gravity) in all cases that we know of, doesn't even indicate (much less prove) that God is not the one causing it directly.

We ask, how does an ant have the capacity to build such intricate tunnels and how do other animals perform such elaborate tasks that would be difficult even for humans with intellect? The scientist's answer - "instinct" and the theist's: "God". But the scientist hasnt helped explain the problem at all! He's just invented a word to describe a phenomenon that we already knew was happening and already knew what its doing. Our question is how? This question is on a much 'higher' level than our previous question. The scientist would have a string of theories based on 'natural processes' to explain the ability for simple creatures to have 'instinct' but he would eventually run into a more basic principle of the universe - gravity - electrical charge whatever.

Eventually, you have to answer the philosophical question - why does natural law even exist at all? Why does it continue to exist? This is not a scientific question! No scientist could ever answer that question, but the question is legitimate. We are in a search for truth, and science can only answer a small fraction of that.

Science tells us that natural law exists. This is something that we've known for as long as humans have been around. Science is the study of that natural law. Fine, and thats good. The only reason you can read what Im writing now is because many people spent years & years studying the natural law and eventually created computers and later on the internet and then the blogosphere. Thats all great and its helpful.

But scientists truly start going off track when they forget that, science is not the search for ultimate truth. Its not even the 'search for truth'. It's merely the study of natural law.

Science moves from being 'science' and into being religion when the scientist starts claiming that his study is 'the search for truth' (an attempt to prove that all things can be explained by natural law).

The Fish Tank
It's like a fish in a fish tank. He goes everywhere he can possibly go, measures every inch of the tank, studies every rock and decoration. He discovers that it isn't 'magical' (scoffing) that he is able to move about. It's actually because there is water everywhere. He has tested that there isnt water at the top. It isnt magical that he stays alive. There are crystals that come down every day for him to eat. Its a natural process because he sees it happen consistently. It never fails. Its just part of his universe. The superstitious fish beside him says, 'but you dont know whats outside the tank, you just know what you can observe here'. The other fish scolds him 'you idiot! just because there are some questions that we cant answer doesnt mean that some magical 'god' is at work here. Thats laziness! We know that everything can be explained by natural processes'

And yet the fish is wrong, his entire world is constructed and maintained by an intelligent force. Yet the irony is, this fish is immeasurably more knowledgeable about his world, than we are about ours. The fish tank is the universe, and though he has been to the ends of his, we have barely been off of our planet.

Gaps Science
This brings me to another weak point scientists are bringing up more and more often. They accuse intelligent designers (and any theist for all of you theistic-evolutionists out there dont think that you're off the hook) of a so called 'gaps science'. That is; we dont know certain things and or cannot understand them and therefore we fill in the gaps with "God did it". The most common response is (and it's valid) 'its not that we just dont understand how it could happen, but we can deductively conclude that it couldnt have happened without an intelligent force guiding it'. That statement alone nullifies the whole 'gap science' accusation. Now whether its really true or not, that can be argued - but if its shown to be false, then what we have is a lack of logic and / or misinterpretation of the evidence and not a superstitious, lazy attempt to disbelieve in scientific truth as the scientists so disingenuously accuse us of.

But again, we have a real philosophical disconnect going on here. Even if there were no 'gaps' and we understood EVERY SINGLE natural process to the last detail, that wouldnt indicate in the slightest that there is no creator and or no super-intellect which maintains the universe.

Why Does It Rain?
The bigger question is WHY are these things happening, we know that every time certain conditions are present then it rains but we still dont know why it rains; no matter how much we understand about the physical observable conditions present directly preceeding every rain fall, we still havent answered the child's question: why does it rain? They are asking a much deeper, philosophical question than science could ever answer. The correct answer is, because God gives us rain.

This is not lazy science. Its not even science. There's nothing wrong with that. Its great to study natural processes and they should continue doing it. But scientists need to realize, they're only studying a created universe with natural laws. They are not searching for ultimate truth (and if they are, they will be dissapointed to learn that science cannot give them that).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gone For a Week

I'm out to California for a week so won't be posting anything until Saturday or Sunday.

Peace of Christ be with you all.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Was St. Clement Really the 4th Pope?

Instead of my usual post, I have created a 7 minute audio monologue discussing whether St. Clement was really the bishop of Rome or merely a presbyter of 'special honor' as some skeptics like to say. Before watching the video, I suggest reading my recent post entitled 'Is Tradition Reliable?' In that post, I discussed my basic presuppositions and the presuppositions of the skeptics when it comes to early Church research.

The video isn't all that exciting and I'm not much of a speaker, just thought I'd use it for practice. Hope you enjoy.



Here are the some of the key quotes from early Church fathers (and from Clement) that I used in support of my argument:

Philippians 4:3
Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Hermas (2nd vision chapter 4):
You will write therefore two books, and you will send the one to Clemens and the other to Grapte. And Clemens will send his to foreign countries, for permission has been granted to him to do so.

Dionysius, (According to Eusebius)
To-day we kept the holy day, the Lord's day, and on it we read your letter- and we shall ever have it to give us instruction, even as the former one written through Clement"

Irenaeus, (Probably quoting Hegesippus)
Under this Clement no small sedition took place among the brethren at Corinth and the Church of Rome sent a most sufficient letter to the Corinthians, establishing them in peace, and renewing their faith, and announcing the tradition it had recently received from the Apostles

Clement to the Corinthians:
The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

...

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. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."

...

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

...

We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.

...

If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger;

...

Joy and gladness will you afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession which we have made for peace and unity in this letter. We have sent men faithful and discreet, whose conversation from youth to old age has been blameless amongst us,—the same shall be witnesses between you and us. This we have done, that you may know that our whole concern has been and is that you may be speedily at peace.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Billionaire Leaves Fortune to the Poor

This story gave me chills. I wish I had this kind of faith.

Nassiri, who was raised in Iran but moved to the US, made a large fortune in a designer-clothing and music production business based in Las Vegas before converting to the Catholic faith. He has spent months traveling the world, on his own “peace tour,” and now says that he wants to leave his entire fortune to the poor in order to become a Franciscan.
One of the priests at my parish has a similar story. He was also a very succesful businessman (and millionaire) who left his fortune to become a Capuchin (with a vow of poverty).

And the reason why this billionaire's selfless giving is far superior to Warren Buffet's recent well publicized donation to the Gates Foundation is that Nassiri's giving is going to eliminate poverty and not the poor (by means of abortion and other 'culture of death' practices financially supported by the Gates Foundation, United Way and a host of other 'charities').

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Is Tradition Reliable?

I will be discussing St. Clement of Rome shortly, but before I do, I wanted to make an introduction concerning the reliability of tradition when it pertains to historical research.

First, much of the argument of the skeptic rests on the fact that we have relatively few remaining manuscripts from that time period. The anti-Catholic has an unwarranted distrust for tradition and it’s historical reliability. Not that this distrust is an unfair position, but because it rules out many options a-priori, it would be a little far fetched to assume that any historical research carried out with this presupposition was very accurate.

When Did the Tradition Begin?
Dating the origin of traditions can often be a very misleading task. When someone says “this tradition originated in the 4th century” for example, it is important to verify if there is significant evidence to suggest that it did not exist prior to that. Simply stating that it did not exist in writing prior to that time is hardly adequate to prove the date. It can be generally assumed, that at that time period; traditions existed long before they were ever put in writing.

For example, Justin Martyr described the order of the mass around the middle of the second century. This is the earliest detailed explanation of the chronology of a Christian service in the early Church. But the traditions of the mass most certainly pre-date that! They undoubtedly extend back to the home-churches spoken of in Acts (though they undoubtedly underwent some significant evolution). It would not, therefore, be unreasonable to assume that the basic structure of the mass (as recorded by St. Justin Martyr) was nearly the same if not identical to the one instituted by the apostles. It would, however, be unreasonable to assume that the traditional order of the mass had it’s beginnings in the middle of the second century (at least unless you were able to produce some strong evidence suggesting so from other sources).

All of the above could be stated and remain unchallenged even if all the writings of the early Church were extant today. That is, traditions pre-date their original appearance in literature (especially in that culture; no mass media etc…) But to further complicate the issue, we have only a portion of the writings which were at one time in existence!

So therefore, when we see a tradition (supposedly) not being mentioned before the 3rd or 4th century, it is a fallacy of colossal proportions to assume a-priori that the tradition originated at the precise date when we first see it mentioned. The above two premises, I think, clearly demonstrate that. 1) Traditions most likely predate their first appearance in writing by many years & 2) It is highly probable that we are not in possession of the earliest appearances of various traditions since many writings are no longer extant.

It could, however, be validly argued (albeit weakly) that the tradition does not predate it’s first mention if it can be demonstrated that we have legitimate reason to believe that the tradition did not or could not have existed before the date in question. That is, we have to have some contradictory evidence not merely a lack of positive evidence. However, even in the rare cases where contradictory evidence is present, they are almost always inconclusive; still leaving the possibility of an earlier origin for the tradition in question.

So then in much of the issues (not merely surrounding St. Clement but also of many other historical truths which would otherwise be taken as settled fact except that they are convenient for Christianity) the way we handle traditions will have a considerable effect on our historical research.

Different Approaches to Studying Tradition
A skeptic often insists that the lack of evidence indicates a lack of tradition. He is also all too eager to dismiss the claims of Christian historians because of the mere fact that they are Christian. Church historian Eusebius, for example, is often accused by skeptics of being a ‘dishonest historian’. You cannot make that claim without some pretty hefty assumptions.

On the other hand, I tend to believe the Church fathers and trust in their historical competency unless I have significant evidence to the contrary. That is; by default I believe they are correct. (The skeptic assumes by default that they are incorrect unless he sees strong evidence to prove that they are correct).

In some cases, even the skeptic is forced to submit to the overwhelming evidence that supports the claims of the early Christians. But in many cases, the evidence is simply impossible to produce. We don’t have time machines after all. So whenever possible, the skeptic will assume an error or an outright lie by a Christian historian if it cannot be reasonably proved one way or the other.

Now, lest you consider me blind to my own bias I am openly admitting that my bias is toward the other extreme (as I just explained). The skeptic has for his underlying reason his primary presupposition that there is no god. I of course have the opposite presupposition; that there is a god, but I also argue that I have valid reasons for my other presupposition when it comes to historical research (i.e. that I trust in the Church fathers by default). I have already explained that in some detail but perhaps a modern day example would be helpful.

Modern Day Tradition
This is a story of my father when he was growing up with his two older brothers. For Christmas, they all received a bow & arrow set. Eager to try out their new gifts, they rushed out to the field and set up targets. My grandfather warned them, of course, on how to be safe while using these potentially deadly weapons. He said all three of you shoot all of your arrows, and then you can all go and pick up your arrows after you’re done. It is important to make sure everyone stays behind the line before anyone goes to pick up any arrows. (You can already see where this one is going).

So the eldest brother of course, got to try his first. And after shooting, instead of letting the others take their turn, he went to pick up his arrows. The middle brother noticed that he was bending over to pick up his arrow and decided to ‘seize the opportunity’. He fired the arrow and wouldn’t you know it, the older brother stood up just in time. Luckily, he was wearing a leather cap which protected him from serious injury but it did break the skin and cause bleeding.

Of course all granddad heard was “John shot me” from a crying adolescent with blood running down the back of his head. So John got himself in some serious trouble.

Many years from now, I may tell this to my children and maybe even my grandchildren (I’m not married yet so it may be some time). So let’s say in the year 2050, I’ve told my young grandchildren and they put it in writing for their school project on family history. Here it is, almost 100 years after the original event and no one has ever written this down (forget that you just read it in my blog!) Some of my grandchildren’s contemporaries may even question whether the event really happened. In fact, no eye witnesses are alive, and even his grandfather who told him of the event was not an eyewitness.

Why would a grandfather give children dangerous weapons for toys? And even if he did, would he let them play with them unsupervised? This sounds a little more like a made up fairy tale to teach kids a lesson than an actual event. By our best guesses chronologically, the middle son would have been between 10 & 13 and the oldest son between 12 & 15. Would the middle son really have the lack of common sense to do such a thing? Would the oldest son really be crying to his dad? Wouldn’t he be tough enough by that point to suck it up? All these evidences point to the idea that it didn’t even happen (or at least has been exaggerated). To make it even more certain, no one even mentioned this event until the year 2050, some 80-84 years after the supposed event even took place. This is merely a tradition that arose in the early to mid 21st century which was created to teach kids a lesson about safety.

So the future skeptic may well reject the validity of the story. Now I can’t verify if the skeptic is right or wrong because I wasn’t there. I merely passed the story along to my grandchildren, I didn’t offer proofs for why I believed it was true. They knew I believed it was true because I told them it was and I wouldn’t lie. Now suppose I’m no longer around in 2050, there is no one around to defend the story. If I were alive, I could tell you that I heard the story many times from several sources. I sat in a room on more than one occasion with no less than 6 eye witnesses (including my grandparents) to the event as the story was told and no one raised any objections.

I have significant reason to believe that the story was true despite what parts of it may seem unlikely (I know I am exaggerating their unlikelihood and its not easily comparable to the types of claims made by early Christians but it's only to prove a point). Now the same sort of thing (I suggest) is occurring with our historical study of early Christian traditions. The earlier you go, the less extant writings there are and therefore the more room for historical speculation. I implore the student of historical research therefore, to (when necessary) offer the benefit of the doubt for the early historian (whether he’s Christian or not). Much like those skeptics in 2050 would be better off offering the benefit of the doubt to my future grandchildren, so we too in the interest of truth and accuracy would be better off I suggest by assuming that the historian of that time has valid reasons likely unknown to us why he makes the claims that he does.

For example, Eusebius mentions a number of writings which we know nothing about. Is it unreasonable to assume that he may be drawing from those traditions? How about the many writings which were undoubtedly extant and the time and not now which he doesn’t even mention? How about the ample oral tradition he is privy to which we are not? Apply the same sort of questions to all of the early Church fathers; Irenaeus, Papias, Justin Martyr etc…

Some skeptics claim that the bias of early Christians led them to fabricate history. I find that in the majority of cases, this argument has a serious problem holding water. It especially becomes difficult to fathom such a scenario the closer you get to the apostles. The second century is really key for the understanding of the establishment of Christian tradition and the continuance of Apostolic Succession.

Most of the skeptics have only a superficial understanding of the Christian religion (and indeed, most Christians do too). But the truth is, that in the first & second century, true Judaism moved from an insignificant, ethnic sect into the religion that would soon dominate the known world and became known as Christianity. How this happened (if not for the truth of it’s claims) has yet to be sufficiently explained by any skeptic.

It makes the skeptic’s argument even harder to swallow to suggest that these great fathers of the second century converted from their ancestral religions to this small but growing ethnic cult which until a few decades ago considered them ‘dogs’ because of their ethnicity, and then proceeded to conjure up lies to defend this faith.

Now I’m not suggesting that the early Church fathers never made any historical errors. To be sure; they did. But I find it far fetched to accuse them of dishonesty. And in general, I believe them to be very accurate.

So, my conclusion is that the early Church fathers are innocent until proven guilty; accurate until proven inaccurate.