Thursday, July 31, 2008

Development of Doctrine

Cowardice & Liberalism

We have the honor of living in an age of prosperity and the shame of living in an age of cowards. When I was younger, bravery seemed a trivial virtue and maybe not even a virtue at all. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate just how important this virtue is. Only the weak can be brave so we are told (and of course, cowardice abounds in both the weak and the strong). Today you may just as well run across a strong man as a weak one, yet rarely will you find anyone of courage.

My appreciation for bravery has been born, I think, not from admiring the brave (sadly I have few to admire) but from being appalled at the cowardice of the average man. I might not know precisely what I want to be; I do know precisely what I don’t want to be and that is a coward.

Cowardice is largely to blame for those wet-behind-the-ears, mad at mom & dad young men and women who go into secular universities with some loose standards and come out four years later convinced of liberalism. (They’ll go on to vote for Obama I can assure you). Cowardice is also to blame for would-be scholars like Jim West. I said “would-be” not because of incompetence on his part but because cowardice and liberalism reduces competence (no matter how great) to utter incompetence. So I wasn’t too surprised to see Ben Witherington defending Obama on his blog first saying he wasn’t a Muslim (fair enough) but then going on in the combox to say that he (Obama) was innocently ignorant of Rev. Wright’s appalling doctrines. To what else can we attribute this unbelievable lapse of judgment on Witherington’s part? What sane Christian would take a stand with someone like Obama? I told Witherington that I wish Obama were a Muslim, at least then he’d know the difference between murder and a woman’s natural right.

These are the days we live in. In this time of relative peace the world itself makes war on rationality and cowardice makes war on bravery. Who cannot see the cowardice on the part of a man like PZ Myers? He desecrates what is sacred only to those who he knows cannot / will not harm him. Is that bravery? Is it reasonable in any way?

The time is rapidly approaching where the need to separate the men from the mice reaches a critical point. For Christians these days think that unity is to be desired above truth and friendliness above Godliness. We will defend those, like Obama, who support infanticide if only we may brush aside partisan differences in the interest of being nice to each other. But as Christians, we have one ultimate model of behavior and He wasn’t a “nice guy”. Nice guys don’t get crucified. I’m not a nice guy when it comes to cowards and liberals or scholars who distort the truth delivered to us from the fathers. (In a day which saw much braver men than our day, they called those men “heretics”).

We wonder if certain cowards like Myers would desecrate a Koran if he is so offended by “superstition”. Then do not let yourself be deceived by Ben Witherington. Would he defend Nietzsche like he defends Obama? If one accused Mussolini of being a Muslim, would Witherington rush to his aid like he did for Obama?

It requires bravery in this age to call evil evil and cowards do not possess the will to disassociate themselves from every taint of idolatry and wickedness.

Am I guilty of partisan politics? Divisive comments? When one side supports murdering the innocent and the other side doesn’t – you’re damn right I am.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Child Like Faith & Christianity as Divinely Revealed

Christianity is a revealed religion. God reveals it to us. This anti-establishment non-sense that pop culture American Christians are so in love with is a man made attempt at knowing God. It is the profound opposite of what they think it is. For they say "religion is man seeking God. Christianity is a relationship in which God seeks man". Divinely revealed religion (Christianity) is precisely the opposite. God seeks man by establishing religion, Law and liturgy so that man might know how to conform to God. Man invents an imaginary relationship apart from divine revelation so that he might conform God to himself.

No man has ever been as strict as God when it comes to regulations of worship. The Catholic Liturgy is revealed just like the Old Testament liturgy was revealed.

Certain individuals have their own versions of "trusting in Jesus" as a replacement for divinely revealed truth but only the simple minded and double hearted can be fooled into such things.

We are called to be simple at heart not in thought. To have the simple child like faith in Christ is to believe and to obey His Church (which can be as simple as our hearts desire or as complex and theological as our brains can handle). Simplicity of faith is not a reversion to individualism and heavenly teddy-bearism.

If we establish a subjective "trust in Jesus" which exists apart from the Church then we have done nothing but deceive ourselves. We wouldn't be any better than the atheists accuse us of then: we WOULD be guilty of believing in a God who is nothing but an imaginary friend.

I know many evangelicals who mean very well and seem to have incredible devotion to Jesus. But it's only to find out upon more interaction that they have only a devotion to an imaginary Jesus. He's the "my Jesus" they always sing about. He's the "wind beneath my wings" Jesus. He bears no more resemblance to the historical Jesus taught in the gospels than does Santa Claus.

These same sentimentalists couldn't articulate some of the most fundamental truths about Jesus of Nazareth - the Jewish Messiah. They naively think that Jesus came to bash the "mean ole' Pharisees" and forgive everyone else and in this child-like conception of the gospel message they are guilty of a subtle antisemitism. In fact the Pharisees were at odds with Jesus not for following the OT Law too closely or for being too strict, but for breaking the Law and for not living according to the true principles of Torah (which transcend mere rubrics).

Yet transcendence is not the same as abolishment and therefore following the "spirit of the law" neither requires nor intends to break the "letter of the law". In fact, all things equal, the spirit always desires to follow the letter (that's why the letter is there to begin with). The letter exists to reveal the spirit.

And that's why we have a divinely revealed religion - because the spirit of the law which originates in our imagination cannot compare to the spirit of the law which was handed to us by the Scriptures and by the holy mother Church. These are God given not man-made. Much less then does our devotion to an imaginary Jesus permit us to turn our noses up at the Letter of the Law which we find in the divine Scriptures, in the divine liturgy and in the infallible voice of the Catholic Church (again, how much less then the spirit of that same law).

God did not leave us in a sea of ambiguity to "follow our hearts" because the hearts of men lead each one of us in a separate direction but to a common destination: hell. We conform our hearts and consciences to the infallible guiding light of the Word of God and only in that way will our compasses point to true north. We have only one hope of eternal life and that is Jesus Christ. But this cannot be a "simple trust" in an imaginary Christ, it must be an objective faith in the true Christ which can only be known by revelation.

Simple, child like trust is great when a child trusts his mother; it is another thing altogether when he trusts a stranger with candy. Yet child-like trust is perfectly involved in both. Child-like faith of itself isn't helpful - only child-like faith in what we objectively know to be the truth is good.

The individual who is caught up in a simple trust of a personal Jesus aside from the Church is like a child who accepts the candy from a stranger and goes along on a ride in a white van.

The man who believes everything the Church says about his heavenly Father is like the child who trusts in his mother.

This post was my comment on JP Manzi's recent post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book Review: Jaroslav Pelikan "The Christian Tradition" Volume 1

This is a review of Volume 1 of 5 "The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)" by Jaroslav Pelikan, the famous Lutheran historian who eventually converted to Eastern Orthodoxy before passing away in 2006.

I began reading this book over a year ago and to be up front, his style is, in the words of a certain friend of mine "dry". It's not so much the dryness that bothered me as it was the uninterrupted streams of thought. Some may prefer that style and he does have a talent for it but I found it very cumbersome to read since I don't usually have long stretches of time to devote to book reading during my normal week (except when on vacation which is where I read most of this book). I usually prefer books which can be digested in smaller chunks (like a few pages at a time) but this one requires you to read for long periods of time to really grasp the train of thought.

For most of the material, especially the earlier centuries I was already pretty familiar with the patristic writings but I felt at a disadvantage when he covered material which I was not already well studied on. This isn't a book I would recommend for anyone hoping to dive into patristics for the first time. You can still learn quite a bit from him if that is the case, but I would suggest that the book is most useful for someone who already has a strong grasp on the patristic literature of the time period. What Pelikan does is draw a long line of doctrinal development moving seamlessly between the fathers.

My quarrels aside from the style are limited to his dismissal of the papal development as not belonging to the "history of doctrine" but to "Church history and the history of canon law". It certainly belongs to those as well but the preeminence and jurisdiction of the papacy was in fact developed along theological lines during this time and would have deserved a chapter of its own. In fact, a large theological development (whether it was right or wrong) belonging to the first five centuries of the Catholic Church was left to a few pages in the interest of down-playing a school of thought which might lead to conclusions other than his own (Lutheran at the time of this writing).

That being said, he deals quite fairly with most issues and is a good read for Protestants, Catholics or anyone interested in those early centuries of the Church. This is not a book on Church history but on the development of doctrine. I do not intend to read the others in the series because my interest lies mostly in the ante-Nicene era.

I have reviewed his book entitled "Mary Through the Centuries" here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

If Heretics Like Kung Hate Him...

These days I have more and more respect for President Bush. When the heretic Hans Kung came out and blasted him (and Pope Benedict XVI), I feel vindicated for my respect. No, I haven't agreed with everything that Bush did, I was initially against the war in Iraq for the record. But say whatever you like about President Bush, he is a man of courage in an age of cowards. And the cowardly don't like that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Development of Papal Jurisdiction Amidst the 3rd Century Roman Political Climate

My previous two discussion (here and here) on the controversy surrounding Paul of Samosata in Antioch examined the various synods against him which occurred in the mid to late 260s. While the final synod had pronounced him excommunicated, he refused to give up his see and the Church was powerless to forcibly evict him since he was under the protection of queen Zenobia, who had recently ascended to the throne of the Palmyrene empire following the assassination of her husband.

When the emperor Aurelian re-captured Antioch in 272 AD, eviction became possible. Eusebius relates for us that the bishops then petitioned Aurelian:
and he decided the matter most equitably, ordering the building to be given to those to whom the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome should adjudge it. Thus this man was driven out of the church, with extreme disgrace, by the worldly power.
If he had only mentioned the city of Rome, it would be easier for "Romanists" to show how this edict closely parallels the theological argument behind Rome's primacy yet we are faced with additional difficulties in doing so since he felt compelled to mention the other bishops of Italy since no theological argument whatsoever can be made in defense of their sees having legitimate influence in matters outside their jurisdiction.

Yet since a theological argument can be made in defense of Rome's primacy, one cannot reasonably dismiss the development of Roman primacy as if it were purely secular or political in nature. Not only can this argument be made and powerfully defended until this day, it had already enjoyed notable use by Roman bishops for at least 50 years by the time this edict had been issued. That is, starting with Pope Callistus if not earlier, Rome had already been explicitly arguing on the grounds of Matthew 16:18 that she was entitled to the promises which Christ addressed to St. Peter so it would be an utterly incompetent argument to claim Rome's ecclesial primacy developed solely as a result of her political primacy.

Furthermore, as in our previous discussion, we must again state that in order for us to have a sensible discussion on this development, we must first admit that hierarchical development itself is not necessarily corruption and then admit that there is a possibility that this development occurred not out of arbitrary human intervention but out of legitimate necessity guided by the Holy Spirit. Or put another way, the possibility, (however unlikely we decide it to be), must exist that this development which is here seen to be visibly aided by a secular force not only could have been divinely protected but may even have been a direct expression of divine providence.

In fact, supposing for a moment that one adjusted his or her perspective and entertained the possibility of this edict being providential instead of detrimental, it slowly begins to make perfect sense fitting neatly into an uninterrupted line of hierarchical development stretching nearly 2,000 years, occurring for various reasons and addressing a broad range of issues.

If we can admit, (and we can), that it was divinely appointed that the political force of the Roman empire be used to accomplish God's plan under Caesar Augustus, Pontius Pilate and much later under Constantine, then why not under Aurelian? If we insist on arguing (again ipso facto) that Aurelian's edict demonstrates that Rome's primacy developed purely because of secular influence... oh how much trouble we would find ourselves in when we find that certain doctrines which we all hold to be orthodox have been visibly protected by secular authorities! My meager defense here certainly does not prove that since it happened in this particular way that it was necessarily God's providence, only that one must find other grounds on which to attack than merely asserting that political forces participated in the development of this element of Church hierarchy and therefore it is corruption instead of organic development.

Having established as insufficient the aforementioned argument that the development of Rome's primacy was a corruption and having proposed understanding it within the framework of divine providence rather than worldly corruption, we can proceed in examining the text. Secular governments have always had a vested interest in the peace of their citizens and few things threaten peace like religious discord (and I needn't bring up any modern examples to prove this point). So, while humanly speaking, we owe a great deal to Constantine for the precision and unanimity by which Christianity can speak of the Blessed Trinity today, we can say something similar for Aurelian in the development of the papacy because of this edict which occurred some 50+ years before Nicaea.

It is also worth noting that the in the text itself, particularly in the last sentence, we see evidence that the bishops immediately interpreted this action from Rome as God Himself using a "worldly power" as a tool to accomplish good ends. It is also paramount in this discussion to point out that we learn of no theological objection whatsoever and we would well expect to had this been seen as a corruption. The bishops of the Church had a strong handle on that which was genuinely developed tradition and that which was corruption or novel doctrine. In our day, no one for a second could miss the crucial theological implications of such a proposal how much less those bishops who were immersed in a world where separation of Church & state was unthinkable? Arguments from silence may typically be the weakest, but when the silence is deafening, they can be powerful.

We know for certain that the theological argument for Rome's primacy based on Matthew had already been in use for over a generation; it is also clear from the fact that nearly every major event which threatened Church stability has until this time involved Rome in some capacity that some sort of argument which demanded communion with Rome as a test for ecclesial legitimacy had also enjoyed wide circulation.


So then, I have argued first that the hermeneutic of continuity not only allows for but demands development of doctrine. Secondly, I have attempted to demonstrate that hierarchical development was also simultaneously theologically justifiable and necessary in my examination of that development up through the mid third century (with painfully brief summaries of significant developments up until that time). Next I have argued that certain developments of that hierarchy must be refuted on grounds other than the "ipso facto" argument that hierarchical development equates to corruption and finally, I have argued here that the development of the papacy (the pinnacle of hierarchical development) cannot be dismissed on the mere grounds that it was influenced or aided by secular policies.

Therefore, it is not a stretch in the least to state with confidence, as I do, that these developments occurred squarely in the context of divine providence especially when we consider the hermeneutic of continuity keeping in mind that great quotation from one John Chrysostom (regarding Pentecost):
the apostles “did not come down from the mountain carrying, like Moses, tablets of stone in their hands; but they came down carrying the Holy Spirit in their hearts… having become by his grace a living law, a living book.”
Because as the Church was already well aware, genuine development hereof demands that this "living law" did not and could not end with the apostles - it continued on through the controversies of the early Church and continues on until this day. Thus, the "living law" delivered to the apostles on Pentecost was delivered to their successors. It enabled them to deal authoritatively with the doctrinal dispute at Antioch in Acts 15, it allowed the bishops of the third century to deal with Paul of Samosata in the same city "by divine direction", it allowed the Catholic Church to accept the development of papal jurisdiction (however God's providence saw fit to bring it about), it allowed her to say no to evils like contraception and abortion in our day and when further questions arise, it will allow the Church to be ready and willing to deal with them by divinely appointed authority.

Development of Papal Jurisdiction in the Third Century

Previously I discussed hierarchical development in the third century and now wish to follow that discussion up focusing more directly on the bishop of Rome in this particular instance (the dispute over Paul of Samosata).

There was more than one synod held in Antioch over him and the final result was excommunication. While there were many "illustrious" bishops in attendance of the various synods, two in particular were not: Maximus, bishop of Alexandria and Dionysius the bishop of Rome. To them the conclusion of the synod was written:
To Dionysius and Maximus, and to all our fellow-ministers throughout the world, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and to the whole Catholic Church under heaven.

...{reasons why Paul was a heretic}...

Therefore we have been compelled to excommunicate him, since he sets himself against God, and refuses to obey; and to appoint in his place another bishop for the Catholic Church. By divine direction, as we believe, we have appointed Domnus.
Let us take notice of three things:
  • The fact that a synod of bishops presumed to have authority to depose of another bishop and replace him.
  • The fact that they believed that what they were doing was divinely directed.
  • The fact that they felt the need to report this to Dionysius, Maximus and the rest of the Catholic Church.
Development of Bishop Selection

Today, there is no deposing of or establishing new bishops without direct involvement from Rome. We are confronted here with an episode clearly showing that this was not always the case (and we have plenty more if we need them). Rome's involvement in selection of bishops has been labeled a corruption of hierarchical development by some and an arbitrary addition to necessary Church government by others (even among those who accept the one bishop structure as a genuine development such as the Eastern Orthodox).

Indeed, this entire ordeal seems closer to Eastern Christianity than of Western. Yet three things will need to be pointed out here: first that they did not act alone, Western bishops were in attendance and they did report their actions to the two most preeminent western bishops of Rome and of Alexandria. Finally, while Catholics must admit hierarchical development here and elsewhere, development itself is not necessarily corruption. I will follow up more on this with the third point.

So to return and briefly conclude the point at hand, we have taken note that while Bishops now are appointed by Rome, the early Church had no such practice in place.

Divine Prerogative

The bishops also make it clear that while they are making this decision democratically, it is not merely the solution which pleases the greatest number of people. They have understood their actions as by divine prerogative and even divine direction. We are encountering an underlying theme which often remains hidden amidst early Christian writings and reasonably so since it was most often taken for granted. That is that the Church is under divine protection.

In the past I have discussed Cardinal Newman on the infallibility of the apostles. Almost no one outside of Marcion has ever been able to imagine Christ leaving a group of men to establish the first generation of Christianity without also keeping (divinely) from teaching doctrinal error. The Paraclete had increasingly been understood by the early Fathers as fulfilling this guardian role. The fathers of the Church went right on believing that the Church herself enjoyed the same privilege. As Newman points out, what good is infallibility if it was only available in the first century? The fathers clearly took this point for granted and rested in the conviction that God "would not allow His Church to become an instrument of destruction for the Word".

Thus in summary, the bishops saw their role as divinely appointed.

The Letter to the West

If our present aim is discussion of the development of papal jurisdiction, surely we must ask why the letter wasn't addressed to Dionysius alone (even if we already agree that the papal role in selecting bishops could conceivably develop later without corrupting the hierarchical structure). And again we must ask ourselves, what do we intend to prove or disprove by the question. Assuming we can agree to the various post 3rd century developments of the papacy as potentially legitimate, what is it that could be learned in the fact that the letter was not addressed to Dionysius alone?

Admittedly, if it were addressed to Dionysius alone, we would not receive this as sufficient evidence to submit to the pope's authority. Furthermore, that it was addressed to both does not disprove that the present papacy could have legitimately developed from a period in time at which (given the exact details of this particular situation) it would have been quite customary to address such important matters not only to the bishop of Rome but to her little sister Alexandria (as long as we allow for the possibility that legitimate hierarchical developments exist at all). But if we do not allow that legitimate development of hierarchy is possible at all, then this discussion has already progressed far beyond common ground and is completely futile. For one who does not already assent to God's ability to preserve the integrity of His Church even through significant development of structure and refinement of doctrine, we must begin the conversation at a more primitive starting point.

In short, the only concession I ask of the reader is that God has the ability to protect His Church and even guide her as she grows in wisdom and in stature. If we can admit this, we know it is at least possible (doesn't mean that it's true) that these developments legitimately belong to the deposit of faith thus ruling out any argument which audaciously claims that these developments are ipso facto illegitimate. I for one have encountered no other argument against hierarchical development than this (that they are ipso facto corruptions since they don't align precisely with the 1st century Church or even some arbitrary date). For how could one claim that the modern papacy is an illegitimate corruption of 3rd century hierarchy when the only objective hierarchy agreed upon is that one directly instituted by Christ since it required development from 1st century hierarchy to reach that of the 3rd?

We would then have admitted legitimate hierarchical development from the upper room to the bishops of the Catholic Church by the end of the 1st century, some sort of honorary primacy of Rome beyond that and finally the power of bishops to convene and act authoritatively as the Church. Yet we have no reasons for allowing those developments which would not also allow further developments and in fact, insist upon them. Thus we have chosen an arbitrary point in time at which we say "here is what the Church is supposed to look like" not realizing that the Church stands in front of our very eyes and we don't recognize her because she has continued developing just as she always has.

To be continued when we examine the development of papal jurisdiction particularly in relation to political influence within the Roman empire.

Eastern Orthodoxy & the Immaculate Conception

Orthodox blogger Eirenikon has two excellent posts (part 1 and part 2) on the differences (or rather similarities) between East & West on the Immaculate Conception and the doctrine of Original Sin. As Jaroslav Pelikan, the famous convert to Orthodoxy argued, the debate in the middle ages was never over whether Mary was sinless or not, the Church already insisted that she was free from actual sin. Some modern Eastern Orthodox theologians, as I understand, have followed Protestants in charging Mary with sin but this is a relatively new idea. Anyway, check out his posts they're well worth it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Former COC Turned Calvinist Turned Catholic

I'm a bit late on this one and I'm sure many of you already know about her but here is one woman's story of a journey from denomination to denomination until she finally ended up in the Catholic Church (received Easter 2008).

Hierarchical Development through the Third Century

By the end of the first century, a one bishop hierarchy was in place as proven by the Ignatian epistles and from Clement's epistle to the Corinthians, we know that the Church at Rome felt it her duty to intervene in conflicts in other cities under separate bishops.

In the second century, bishops all over the known world were summoned at Pope Victor's request to hold local synods regarding the Easter controversy. When the Eastern bishops decided under Polycrates to continue their tradition of celebrating according to the Jewish calendar, Pope Victor assumed the authority to excommunicate the entirety of Asia (yet was persuaded against doing so by bishops such as Irenaeus).

In the early third century, Callistus defends (against Tertullian and Hippolytus) the inherent right of the Church to grant absolution even for post-baptismal mortal sins and argues thus based on the primacy of Peter as awarded him by Christ in Matthew 16:18. And later in the same century, the bishops of the Catholic Church began to develop systematic methods for handling conflicts as they encountered a growing need for stricter definition of hierarchy as orthodoxy became more difficult to defend.

When two parishioners disagree with each other, the solution is simple: let the pastor decide. Again, when two priests under a given bishop have a disagreement the solution is simple: let the bishop decide. But what happens when bishops themselves (inevitably) start teaching heresy? The early Church answered following the pattern of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 and the synods held at Pope Victor's request a century earlier: let the universal democracy of the bishops dictate orthodoxy. But in the eyes of the Church, as we shall see in the text here (by Eusebius), this wasn't democracy as if it were merely the safest route to take since it would please the greatest number of people, it was divinely protected (which meant Church infallibility).

When Paul of Samosata succeeded Demetrianus at Antioch around the year 260 AD, he resurrected some old errors: he taught that Jesus Christ was "in His nature a common man". In fact he forbade the singing of hymns to Jesus and is reported to have lived luxuriously and likely immorally (having beautiful women with him every where he went). Ah the olden days when luke-warm Christians were rare and luke-warm heretics even rarer.

So a great number of illustrious bishops from the entire Catholic Church assembled in Antioch to deal with this problem. Before progressing any further we should examine this. Would this have happened in the post-apostolic first century? Something similar happened with the Jerusalem council. The most illustrious leaders of the Church gathered in one location to decide an important doctrinal issue. Yet I would contend that this sort of synod would have been unlikely or perhaps impossible in the first century aside from the apostles (who were probably already in Palestine anyway). It would have even been difficult in the first half of the second century. This does not mean that its development is illicit though.

We cannot return to the immediate post-apostolic era of Christianity and expect that we have found the proper hierarchical structure of the Church (before the bishop-presbyter-deacon structure was neatly defined). On the contrary, such a system would have stripped the third century Church of her ability to deal with Paul of Samosata which is why in addition to doctrinal development, hierarchical development is a necessity. We must then follow this development and if ever we determine the development has gone astray, we must be able to point to an exact point in time at which it went from legitimacy to illegitimacy. If we insist on the bishop-presbyter-deacon system of being illicit (as some of the younger Protestant denominations do) then we must revert to a phase in Christianity which would have doubtlessly been unable to preserve orthodoxy until the present age. Development occurred out of necessity and not of worldly corruption.

So much here for the development of the magisterium and the universal democracy of bishops. This is to be continued in an examination of the same subject with emphasis on the bishop of Rome and the development of his hierarchical role in the third century.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Beheading of Marinus

In the mid third century, persecution had been fluctuating in intensity under Valerian. At first he was friendly, next hostile and once more friendly towards the end of his reign.

Eusebius transmits this fascinating account of a Christian solider in the Roman army named Marinus who was about to receive a promotion when another soldier objected that it was not lawful since he did not sacrifice to the emperors. From Church History 7.15:
Thereupon the judge, whose name was Achæus, being disturbed, first asked what opinion Marinus held. And when he perceived that he continually confessed himself a Christian, he gave him three hours for reflection.

When he came out from the tribunal, Theotecnus, the bishop there, took him aside and conversed with him, and taking his hand led him into the church. And standing with him within, in the sanctuary, he raised his cloak a little, and pointed to the sword that hung by his side; and at the same time he placed before him the Scripture of the divine Gospels, and told him to choose which of the two he wished. And without hesitation he reached forth his right hand, and took the divine Scripture. Hold fast then, says Theotecnus to him, hold fast to God, and strengthened by him may thou obtain what you have chosen, and go in peace.
The imagery here is powerful whatever the actual details of the event may have been. First, there is a church building with a sanctuary. This demonstrates the historicity (also confirmed by recent archeology) of public buildings designated for Christian worship (not just living rooms and catacombs) well before the edict of Milan.

It is also a potent image of Christian piety in that the Scriptures were not brought out of the Church to him, he was brought into the Church to embrace the Scriptures. This is demonstrative of the fact that the divine Scriptures belong to the Church and can only be properly received from her.

It is also worth noting that Theotecnus doesn't just ask him "which do you believe?" but told him to choose and in doing so implied that he ought to make a physical gesture corresponding with his choice. His embrace of the Scriptures reminds me especially of the Eastern veneration of the gospels during the liturgy when the faithful go up to the altar after the gospel reading and literally kiss the book. This external veneration is a physical affirmation of the devotion Christians ought to have towards the Word of God as if, in the divine liturgy, the priest is asking "choose now which of the two (the world or the Word) you wish".

Marinus wisely chose the sword of God rather than the sword of man and in doing so forsook his rank in the army of Rome and was drafted into the army of martyrs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ave Maria

At my first mass a talented lady sang Ave Maria and I couldn't help but admire the beauty of it. At this time in my spiritual journey when I still squinted my eyes at the very sound of the word "Mary", somehow the beauty of this song in this particular context transcended my ignorance and gently moved my soul. I had a feeling of nostalgia listening to the words of that song though I had no reason to. I didn't grow up hearing it, I didn't associate it with anything and I had only heard it once or twice before and never thought anything of it.

But here I was struck with a certain beauty that I doubt I could properly verbalize and it was one foreign to me. My world did not know this beauty whatever it was. There is something mesmerizing about the song even if you don't understand the lyrics. It communicates, by melody and word, not only of one's love for mother but of mother's love. Somewhere inside, I knew simultaneously that this strange element was missing from my faith and that my faith was hindered thereby.

These days we view beauty with suspicion as if it were usually a way for Satan to trick us into doing evil. We have forgotten that Satan is actually ugly and that he hates beautiful things. Good is the most beautiful thing there is and evil is the ugliest thing. What "beauty" Satan displays is always temporal and shallow but after the initial indulgence one finds himself in a world of bitter ugliness. "Ave Maria" is not only beautiful on the surface (as if it were just a catchy melody) - the song itself is deeply beautiful both in tune and lyric. So in a quiet meditation, listen to the song if you haven't lately (I recommend Il Divo's duet) and ask yourself if something so beautiful could be idolatrous.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a particular version they recommend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dionysius of Alexander to Popes Dionysius & Sixtus

As recorded in Eusebius Church History 7.7-9:
His [Dionysius of Alexander] fourth epistle on baptism was written to Dionysius of Rome, who was then a presbyter, but not long after received the episcopate of that church. It is evident from what is stated of him by Dionysius of Alexandria, that he also was a learned and admirable man.

His fifth epistle was written to Xystus, bishop of Rome. In this, after saying much against the heretics, he relates a certain occurrence of his time as follows: For truly, brother, I am in need of counsel, and I ask your judgment concerning a certain matter which has come to me, fearing that I may be in error.

Besides these there is also extant another epistle of the same man on baptism, addressed by him and his parish to Xystus and the church at Rome. In this he considers the question then agitated with extended argument. And there is extant yet another after these, addressed to Dionysius of Rome, concerning Lucian.
Now I won't make too much of this account. While the bishop of a Christian center like Alexandria writing continuously not to one but to two successive bishops of Rome isn't to be lightly shrugged off, it would not have been unusual at all for two bishops of perfectly equal status to ask one another for advice. In the second passage quoted above, Dionysius refers to him as "brother" and I bring this up to be fair in regards to my earlier posts regarding the use of the word "father" in reference to the bishop of Rome during the early centuries of the Church here and here. As I said then:
"Calling another bishop "brother" would certainly not amount to Gaul denying the 'honorary primacy' of Rome (if one were to argue such a point)"
And here is one example of such a thing happening. I have yet to run across any bishop referring to any other bishop (other than the bishop of Rome) as "father" yet. I would be interested to learn if there were any instances of that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Name & New Design for My Blog

Last week, for the first time in my life I won something of value. When I was 12 I remember opening a bottle cap and winning 10 cents. I suppose I won a few 20 oz Mellow Yellows as a teenager, but I simply don't win stuff. Until last week that is - when I won a free blog design by Tekeme Studios.

So here it is folks along with the new name for my blog - "Army of Martyrs". (If you link to me, I would appreciate a name change in your links, the address is obviously the same). I started "The God Fearin' Forum" as a place to defend the Church with what little knowledge a simple RCIA candidate could muster and in doing so, help myself learn more about the Christian faith. Over the last 2 years or so, the blog has had a tendency to drift towards patristics following my current study. This is the direction I would like to take it from here on out.

I've always like the powerful imagery evoked by the phrase "Army of Martyrs" found in the ancient Christian hymn "Te Deum". A name like this might land you on the watch list of the Department of Homeland Security but I think my readers will know I have something different in mind!

So I hope you like the new look & the name & thanks to Tekeme Studios blog for the awesome design!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On Development of Doctrine

Many of the disagreements between Catholics & Protestants on proper reading of the Early Church Fathers stems from a disagreement on development of doctrine. Many Christians have little to no awareness that doctrine develops by necessity.

Sacramentum Vitae posted a thoughtful piece which I recommend on the "development of development of doctrine" quoting St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Vincent of Lerins and Vatican II - Dei Verbum to examine this principle.

If we can first agree that the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity developed over time and that it is infallibly binding, then we must agree that Transubstantiation is also infallibly binding. True, we can find some language in the early Fathers which is inconsistent with Transubstantiation but we would find inconsistent Trinitarian language even easier. Therefore we can no sooner reject Transubstantiation on the basis of inconsistency among fathers before its dogmatization than we could reject the Nicene council on the basis that some of the fathers before the 4th century wouldn't have been able articulate its findings.

So then, if we wished to deny the dogma of the Immaculate Conception for example, we'd have as much of an issue on our hands as if we wanted to deny the Nicene-Trinity. We must give a very precise reason why this dogma of the Church is not infallible while the Nicene-Trinity is. This reason must include an exact time and place at which the Church of Christ lost the authority to pronounce doctrines infallibly. The Orthodox & at least some Anglicans would point to the great Schism. Since the Church was no longer one in their estimation, she could no longer authentically continue the "hermeneutic of continuity".

This solution raises more questions than answers. Where is the continuity of development itself? For if the Church could not leave the Scriptures and the very words of the Apostles to speak for themselves, at what point could she say "the doctrines have been refined enough". So it is no surprise then, that the Anglicans and Orthodox both have a tendency to deal with difficult doctrinal questions with the weapon of ambiguity.

It is not merely her Western sensibilities that encourages Rome to continue doctrinal refinement; it is her divine prerogative, nay her duty. If the Church is the ark which saves mankind, it would be her duty to protect men from the evil which endangers his soul more than anything else - heresy. Unless we are to somehow believe heresy ended in the 11th century, we would be forced to admit that the Church, by her divine duty, must continue developing doctrines. Therefore, if we wish to find the Church - we need only look for the institution that is developing doctrines and refining dogmas in continuity since the time of the apostles.

Of all the doctrinal developments which we think belong to the Church's duty, we often forget development itself. The Church must have a living voice or she doesn't have an ancient one. If we say the Church still exists and yet can't point to her now, how could we point to her in history? No one can say "the Church says thus in antiquity" who cannot also say "the Church says thus now". As Cardinal Manning pointed out, it is not only because antiquity belongs to the Church but also because the voice of the Church is divine. Of those who appeal to antiquity outside of the Catholic Church Cardinal Manning writes:
the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine.
And as Chesterton explained in his book "Heretics", it is to be naturally expected of any (truly) progressive man to build on the traditions of his forefathers (anyone who did not would, on average, be no better than his predecessor and thus not "progressive" at all). For the world, (and this is to some extent mirrored by Anglicans and Orthodox), progressive men or institutions would tend to be more "open minded" and to have less dogmatic certainty on various issues. Thus we have the Anglican & Orthodox tendency to leave unrefined certain doctrines (like Transubstantiation). But Chesterton points out that movement in the direction of ambiguity and "open mindedness" is not progression at all but regression! "Trees have no dogmas and turnips are singularly broadminded".

So we should not be surprised that the Catholic Church has continued refining dogmas. In fact, we should expect nothing less. We must associate Christ's visible Church with the commonly called "Roman Catholic Church" unless we can think of a good reason why development was no longer necessary after the 11th century (for example, we'd need to show that it really didn't matter whether you believed in Transubstantiation or mere "Real Presence"). The objector could argue that it was never part of the divine plan for the Church to split and had she not, she may well still be defining dogmas in continuity with the earlier Church.

Yet, we must still account for God's divine protection of His Church. If the Church is Christ's bride which He sent into the world to rescue the lost, on what basis could we say that the Holy Spirit had left her to her own devices as it were? If we assert, and we must, that it was God's divine protection that enabled the Church to articulate the Trinity, correctly select the books of the New Testament, reject Arianism & Nestorianism, Pelagianism and other heresies, then how can we say "God's protection is no longer needed" as if no serious heresies would arise after the 11th century?

The objector will doubtlessly assert that God's protection is now evident in other ways. This is a theological short cut which doesn't really help the problem though. Because when it all boils down, for us to deny that the Catholic Church is the only one in continuity with the early Church, we have to simultaneously say that God didn't think the Church really needed to infallibly address the issue of Transubstantiation, the Old Testament Canon, Infallibility of the bishop of Rome or the Immaculate Conception or even modern issues which divide so many Christians today: contraception, abortion, women's ordination etc.. Christians in modern times need to know for sure what God says (through His Church) about these things.

Therefore we have established a necessity not only for the hermeneutic of continuity but of doctrinal development.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Kneeling Before Christ - A Scandal to Unbelievers

Father Cassian Folsom of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute relates this short story of his days as a substitute chaplain in snowy New England:

As we approached the door of the girls' dorm, two of the students happened to be coming out at the same time. They weren't expecting us, but as soon as they saw that I was carrying the Blessed Sacrament, without a moment's hesitation, they knelt down in the snow in honor of Christ present in the Eucharist. That gesture made a profound impression on me.

In these our days, when the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is often very weak -- when there are some people who don't even know what it is that they receive -- it is imperative that we show by our gestures the faith we believe. Actions speak louder than words! So let us kneel. Flectamus genua. Carefully, deliberately, reverently. That will reinforce our own belief in the Real Presence of Christ, it will teach our children by example, it will inspire our fellow Catholics, and it will scandalize a world that does not believe.
On my mind this week is "active participation" at mass because that's the topic at Friday's upcoming Liturgy & Lager. Father Folsom's article on active participation is worth reading in its entirety. What it made think of is that when the "spirit of Vatican II" Catholics think of "active participation", they immediately think it has something to do with lay readers, Extraordinary ministers of communion and sing along hymns that "celebrate our diversity". But active participation begins first with the actual rubrics of the liturgy and doing what you're supposed to do and knowing why you do it.

Though what struck me here in this passage was the last line: it will scandalize a world that does not believe. How often do our words scandalize unbelievers? In this age of timid men not often. How much less often do our actions scandalize unbelievers! ("Unbelievers" here includes anyone who denies the Real Presence of Christ in the transubstantiated Eucharistic species). It is a scandal to them for anyone to adore what they think is mere bread. For the Protestant, it's idolatry and for the naturalist it is superstition.

Now we don't cause scandal for scandal's sake obviously; but just as an sinful man scandalizes the upright by his evil, a devout man will necessarily scandalize the sinful and the unbelieving by doing what is right.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Response to Mary Curtis From Charlotte Observer on the Tridentine Mass

Mary C. Curtis at the Charlotte Observer has recently attended a Tridentine mass and posted some fairly negative comments on it here. My response is in red:
The Latin Mass retains a sense of mystery at a time when little in life offers that particular quality. And it restores a sense of community with Catholics of every race and region.

Yes. That's a good thing.

The Mass has become more convivial of late, with lay readers and ushers and Eucharistic ministers. Someone or other is always marching up and down the aisle. Lay people – and altar girls – get to play a part.

I missed that.

"Convivial" should never be a word used to describe a liturgy, especially a sacrificial liturgy such as the mass. Sacrifices aren't "convivial" and when the mass becomes such, the sacrifice is lost. But still, I wonder what it is about ushers walking up and down the aisles and altar girls that you missed. Why would you miss those things? I can understand missing the English or missing the familiarity of the liturgy, but altar girls and ushers? Lay readers? By the way, there is no such thing as a Lay "Eucharistic minister", there is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. "Extraordinary" is the key there, they are only supposed to be used when absolutely necessary. They're not "ordinary" even in the Novus Ordo. I am sure, like most of us here in Charlotte, that if you attend mass at a Novus Ordo parish you are accustom to abuse and novelties in the mass to the point where you don't know certain things aren't supposed to be done: holding hands during the Our Father, removing water from fonts during Lent, washing women's feet on Holy Thursday etc... This is the precise reason why the Pope liberalized the Tridentine mass: because the average Catholic no longer understands what the mass is because the Novus Ordo has been so widely abused.

I've also gotten used to the priest facing the congregation, drawing us in.

Drawing us in to what? The Eucharist - the Real Bodily Presence of Jesus Christ should be what "draws you in" not the priest facing you while he re-presents the non bloody sacrifice.

When he turns toward the altar, the feeling is just the opposite.

In the Tridentine Mass, the priest faces the congregation when he's speaking to them. In the Novus Ordo, the priest always does so "drawing people in" to the illusion that he's always talking to them. The priest facing liturgical East along with the congregation is an objectively and immeasurably superior way of communicating to the laity that together with the priest, the people of God are offering up themselves and re-presenting the non bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ during the mass. I suggest reading Pope Benedict's book "Spirit of the Liturgy" for more on that.

It seems less inviting and more like a secret society, one I'm not sure I'm good enough to join.

I'm not sure what makes it seem like that to you. It might be that it's at an awkward time, 8 AM Saturday morning and there is less attendance than would be on a normal Sunday mass. You should also understand that we "traditionalists" are somewhat marginalized within pop-Catholicism and the McMass and that may come across as "secret society"-ish but that's not our doing. Furthermore, we don't like alerting God to our wonderful presence by singing "Here I Am Lord" (to the tune of "Brady Bunch" mind you) - see we're not sure if we're good enough to sing that.

The Catholic Church was once more exclusive, the one true faith, we were taught.

It still is. Have you read Vatican II documents or have you just heard about them? The first thing we must understand about Vatican II is that it negated absolutely no doctrines which came before it. The Catholic Church can never change any of her dogmas. If she changes even one, she disproves herself. From Vatican 2, Lumen Gentium:

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

And from the Declaration "Dominus Iesus":

it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God"

It would be helpful for you (especially as a journalist) to read these things firsthand instead of relying on hearsay (even from the mouths of priests unfortunately). The Church has only clarified herself on this issue in Vatican II, she never denied that she was the true Church or that Christianity was the one true faith.

The one thing it wasn't about was dialogue.

True ecumenism doesn't just seek for "dialogue" as if it were an end, it seeks institutional unity under the Catholic Church. Anything short of that is false ecumenism. Jesus prayed that we would be "one" not that we would talk to each other.

The sermon – about being vigilant in your faith – is fine, but a little muscular, a little Mel Gibson.

I didn't hear the sermon so I'd have a tough time commenting on this directly. But your choice of words betrays you a bit I think. Mel Gibson is a sedeprivationist and so dropping his name here just because you associate him with traditional Catholics is not only unfair, it's uncalled for.

I'm curious though, what is so "muscular" about being vigilant in your faith? And I'm not even sure what's wrong with "muscular" in the first place... See when men complain or make a remark about something being too "feminine", we're accused of not being "secure" with our masculinity. I wonder if that makes you insecure about your "femininity" that you are upset with the testosterone in his homily. Now, I don't mean this to be an attack on your character so please don't take it as such. I'm just asking an honest question. I don't have the full context of his homily or what you mean by these words. I hope I'm misunderstanding what you're saying. But for the record, we could use some "muscle" in our homilies here and there.

And I missed that dialogue at the Latin service.

Also remember that this is a daily mass not a weekly one. It is a shortened version. There is a "dialogue" Tridentine mass that is celebrated sometimes. The irony of this whole tension is that the mass I've seen the most dialogue and participation in ever was a Tridentine mass in Greensboro in January. The "active participation" of the congregation absolutely dwarfed the pale, forced and lifeless "participation" of the unenthusiastic, denim wearing laity we typically see at a Novus Ordo.

We've grown up a lot since the days when the watchword was silence and the priest had the last word.

Have we? What exactly is "growing up" in your opinion? Do we know the faith better? As I think we've already seen here in this article, the average Catholic isn't even aware that Catholicism IS the faith much less do they understand it.

The clergy still have the authority and always will. Vatican II was not intended to turn the Catholic Church into a Protestant ecclesial community. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church always has been and always will be "top down" because Jesus Christ founded it. It can never be "bottom up" as say, the United States of America or the Lutheran ecclesial community because they were founded by ordinary men.

Secrecy can be suffocating and mystery just an excuse not to ask questions.

What questions do you want to ask? The answers are all there and readily available to anyone who wants to learn and they have been for the entire existence of the Church. Laziness has more often been the culprit than "secrecy" for the ignorance of the laity. I mean, here we are with the most secularly educated laity in history, the highest level of literacy and the most transparency the Church has ever known. We have Google for crying out loud! And yet the laity knows next to nothing about Catholicism. We know less now and are less biblically literate than 100 years ago when everything was supposedly so secretive. So I think what most people really want when they say "I want to ask questions" is that they want to "question things" or more bluntly, they want to dissent. I don't accuse you of that, I assume that you have only good intentions. It has just been my experience that those who use those words have typically meant something other than what they really said.

Openness is not heresy. As the lay organization Voice of the Faithful says: “provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.”

Laity do have a role in the Church but governance (at least in the immediate sense of the word) is not part of that. For the record, there is very little "faithfulness" in the dissenting group "Voice of the Faithful". While I can and do support their desire for the Church to respond and act appropriately to the sex-abuse scandal, I cannot condone this group at all. From their heretical rejection of the Catholic Church's stance on women's ordination to their abominable choices in speakers for their convention, this group represents precisely why those who make the choices in the Catholic Church are not the uninformed laity but the ordained clergy in succession from the apostles.

If the Latin Mass provides a clearer path to faith for anyone, it is worth having the choice.

That's really all we're asking. Just toss us a bone. There are probably more than 3 dozen weekend Novus Ordo masses in Charlotte; we just want one Tridentine. (Sat 8AM is a start but we need one that fulfills our Sunday obligation).

But I see the world differently now. You can't go back. I don't want to.

Well, that's fine. There's nothing innately wrong about the Novus Ordo for sure. My sincere hope is that the liberalization of the Tridentine mass will help correct some of the abuses in the Novus Ordo that are widespread at this point. There is no better catechesis on the Eucharist than a properly celebrated liturgy. Hope my reply has been received in the spirit it was intended.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Patristic Carnival XIII

This month's carnival has some heavy reading and lots of it. In fact, it's massive. There are over 100 posts! The average reader doesn't have anywhere near the time to wade through all of that so I've tried to assist the selection process in a few ways. First, I've introduced the "Hall of Fame" where I've hand picked three posts (or series of posts) that I particularly recommend. While they are lengthy, I'd say read those first. Next, I've (very loosely) arranged what I considered the more significant contributions at the top of each category. This doesn't mean that they are precisely ranked by a long shot (even according to my opinion)! But as readers tend to start from the top and go to the bottom, I tried to place the better ones towards the top (this doesn't mean that the ones at the bottoms are the 'worst'! I didn't include 'the worst' in this carnival! All these posts are good). Under General Patristics, I've surrounded certain interesting posts in asterisks which should be some of the more interesting ones across a broad audience.

If you're new to the fathers, I recommend starting with the Introduction section. Otherwise, start with the hall of fame and then work your way down from "General Patristics". As always, thanks again to Phil Snider for allowing me the privilege to host this carnival. Here is last month's edition. Finally, if you're interested in hosting one of these, let Phil know.

Hall of Fame:
My hand-picked recommendations.

David Waltz at Articuli Fidei discusses the development of the Trinity. Was Subordinationism the orthodox Christian doctrine before Nicaea? Did anyone get the Trinity perfectly right before St. Augustine? These are the questions answered by this former Jehovah's Witness. 40+ comments in the combox, excellent read.

Did Marcion mutilate the gospel of Luke as the Church fathers claimed or is the canonical Luke-Acts as we know it a second century doctoring of the original? Neil Godfrey at Vridar argues for the latter in these next seven posts: Following Joseph Tyson, he argues that the first two chapters of Luke's gospel were added as a response to Marcion here and that chapter 24 (the resurrection chapter) was added here. He argues the same thing for the introductory address to one Theophilus here. Next, he mentions several passages in the body (ch3 - 23) of Luke which he believes to be additions in the canonical version of Luke along with a nice summary of Marcion's omissions in this post. Finally, he lists his conclusions on the matter and follows it up with a comparison of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew & Luke (and asking how an anti-Marcionite agenda might help explain the discrepancies) here. Not content to leave it there, he summarizes the Lukan Achievement.
Ben C. Smith starts a thought provoking thread on the same subject: Which Came First, the Gospel of Luke or that of Marcion?
Dr. Michael Liccione at Sacramentum Vitae discusses the Filioque at length and then follows up with an brilliant essay asking whether or not this "amplification" of the creed went against the intentions of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed and why it would be inadvisable for the Catholic Church to consider removing it here.

Introduction to & Biographies of the Fathers
New to the fathers? This is the place to start.

Check out this quick intro at Musings From a Catholic Book Store.

Tiber Jumper at Crossed the Tiber introduces readers to St. Irenaeus on his feast day.

Ancient Christian Defender links to a long list of introductions, citations and other info on the Church fathers.

On St. Justin Martyr, see Reason & Revelation's bio here and the Wittenberg Door's short commentary here.

Candy W presents a lengthy post outlining the biography of St. Athanasius.

Loyal to Rome has a bio of St. Ephrem the Syrian.

Episcopal Cafe posts and comments on a portion of the Epistle of Barnabas.

Dom Donald presents an introductory post on Irenaeus & Cyril of Alexandria with a list of links to Pope Benedict's Weekly Addresses on the fathers going back to May 2006.

On St. Cyril of Alexandria's optional memorial, Mike Aquilina posts this short collection of links.

On the same topic, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam posts here.

General Patristics
Posts surrounded by asterisks are especially worth viewing and should have broad appeal.

Crimson Catholic presents a portion from Fr. Giulio Maspero's Book "Trinity and Man: Gregory of Nyssa's Ad Ablabium" on *the Filioque*.

Sister Macrina at A Vow of Conversation discusses *truth, being and historicity in the Greek fathers* and reports on her attendance of the recent colloquium on the Syrian fathers: Title Page.
Towards Catholic - Orthodox reconciliation, Eirenikon presents a weighty essay entitled "The Fathers Gave Rome the Primacy". He also posts the "Filioquextravaganza" (funny my spell check didn't have that word yet) which I take is an impromptu blog carnival on discussions of the Filioque. This patristics carnival already links to a couple of them but you should check his out if you want more.

Rob Bradshaw at Early Church UK links to an interesting seven page essay by Frances Young (1977) entitled *"Christian Attitudes to Finance in the First Four Centuries"*.

Dave Armstrong at a Biblical Defense for Catholicism argues largely from Patristic sources that receiving the Holy Communion in hand has a "serious liturgical history" here.

R. E. Aguirre at Regula Fidei presents an essay by the same name, The Regula Fidei, examining the consensus among the early Church fathers on various doctrinal issues. Next he has a brief commentary on Irenaeus regarding "true Gnosis". Then he argues from Eusebius and other sources that Jesus' prophecies refer mainly to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD *here*. He reflects on Tertullian: first on Baptism and next on the Nature of Confession. He compares the patristic interpretation of John 3:5 with modern interpretations here. Again following the theme of his blog's title, he comments on Protestant patrologist, Theodore Zahn and his take on the "Regula Fide" (specifically in contradistinction to "sola scriptura"). Finally, he finds an answer to the "hard saying" found in Philippians 2:12 in the work of St. Augustine here.

Wei-Hsien Wan at Torn Notebook closes out his excellent commentary on (then) Cardinal Ratzinger's analysis of Church fathers within Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism entitled "A Place for the Fathers" in part 4 and *the conclusion*. He also has an interesting essay entitled "The Filioque Debates: Thoughts of a Bystander".

Phil Snider at Hyperekperissou (founder of this carnival) continues his insightful commentary on Origen's "On Prayer" with this installment contemplating modern reactions to the very ancient association of *vows with prayers* (specifically here in the account of Jacob). He also continues his translation work on the Life of St. Martin.

Taylor Marshall at Canterbury Tales presents a discussion on Holy Chrism in Aquinas and pseudo-Dionysius and follows it up with a post entitled "The Origin of Holy Oil in the Catholic Church". Elsewhere, he argues that Dionysius the Areopagite found in Acts 17 could not be the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum here. He also comments on Constantine's mother using one of the nails from the cross as *a bridle for her son's horse*. He also reacts to the Eastern St. Maximus the Confessor's affirmation of the Pope's universal juridiction.

From Thoughts on Antiquity, Roger Pearse announces an online English version of Eusebius' Chronicon Book 1. He goes on to comment on his ongoing translation work of Eusebius "Questiones" here in progress 12 & progress 13. Finally, he comments on a possible lost English translation of St. John Chrysostom's "On the Priesthood" here. Ben C. Smith on the same blog
has an interesting commentary on the *Canon of the Carthaginian Synod* (his 11th in a series on canonical lists).

Reason & Revelation posts a nice summary of the events leading up to the *first ecumenical council at Nicaea*.

Steven W at Wedgewords argues that St. Augustine was not a Neo-Platonist or at least that he is classified as one too easily and he follows this up with a post entitled "The Developing Pro-Nicene Method".

The Pope Podcast released episode VIII on first century bishop of Rome, Pope St. Sixtus I.

The group blog Ancient Future has an interesting post on Baptism according to Justin Martyr.

Baptist Pastor Stephen J Bedard finds evidence for the orthodox NT Canon in the citations of St. Polycarp.

Neil Godfrey concurs with Joseph Tyson quoting Andrew Gregory in denying that Ignatius of Antioch was aware of the gospel of Luke.

Thos at Ecumenicity ponders *the Eucharist, Episcopal Authority and Relics* in the Ignatian Epistles and the account of his martyrdom.

Humble in Spirit argues that it is futile to attempt to return to the early Church without understanding the historical and Scriptural context in which she was founded *here*.

Mike Aquilina comments on an article found in an Iranian news service on Manichaeism. He posts a translation of Pope Benedict XVI's weekly address, this time on Pope St. Gregory the Great here and here. The next address on St. Isidore of Seville can be found here. On Pope Benedict's address on St. Maximus the Confessor he posts the CNA news coverage here and the translation here. Finally, he quotes Tacitus in describing the Roman Martyrs of 64 AD on their feast day. He points to Ben C. Smith's announcement of a site offering public-domain Greek texts here. (In the combox of the same post, C.M. Woodall links to a collection of online patristic texts: one in Greek and the other in Latin). He also announces the upcoming Orientale Lumen Conference in Detroit.

Ancient Faith hosts audio files from St. Vladimir's Seminary from their recent conference entitled *"Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury. Mother Churches?"* Topics include Ecclesiology, Primacy and the Pope among others. I look forward to hearing all of these.

The Scribblings blog continues its series on the Apostles Creed in parts five, six, seven, eight, nine and concludes with ten.

Mega blogger, Father Z comments on Pope Benedict XVI & Bartholomew I *reciting the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed together* in Greek on the feast of Sts. Peter & Paul. He also posts the original Greek text and a link to listen to the podcast.

Ben Witherington discusses the growth of paganism in the early Christian era.

Andrew Gerns at Episcopal Cafe comments on Kattie Sherrod's post regarding "the faith once delivered to all the saints" here.

Kyrie Eleison presents "The Church Fathers and Counting Numbers" and St. Augustine on Pirates.

Narrative and Ontology presents the Scope of the Canon: the "Catholic" Solution and responds to Brevard Childs on the same subject here. Again he discusses the subject here. He then discusses Existential Faith and the "Regula Fidei" followed by asking what the Church fathers meant by it here and then specifically on what Irenaeus thought of it here and follows that up here with the Content of the Rule of Faith.

Alana at Free to Cover posts various Church Father quotes on women and modesty.

Jeofurry asks "Was Peter the First Pope?"

On a similar note, Chrisy58 responds to the essay "The Church Fathers Against Popery" here.

Yours truly, Tim Troutman right here on the God Fearin' Forum presents: Sacrifice in the First 40 Years of Christianity. Later I posted a comparison between the Feminine Triumph of the Early Church & the Contemporary Feminism here. Lastly, I examined the attitudes of early Christians towards forgiveness of sins and how that related to Communion here.

Book Review:
Books of interest regarding the early Church & patristic literature.

William Dembski at Uncommon Descent announces his new book "The Patristic Understanding of Creation" 10 years in the making. The preface is available in his post. Should be an interesting read.

Ben Witherington reviews "Pagan Christianity" by George Barna & Frank Viola. Let's just say he wasn't too impressed.

Aaron Kachuck at Bryn Mawr Classical Review presents a review of Jane Lightfoot's "The Sibylline Oracles: With Introduction, Translation and Commentary on the First and Second Books". From the same site, Ellen Muehlberger reviews the Italian book, "Il Battesimo Gnostico" on "the complex intersection of Gnosticism and ancient forms of baptismal rituals". (The review is in English)

Nick Norelli at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth posts a thorough review of "Reading Scripture With the Early Church Fathers" and "The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities" and "Justin Martyr and His Worlds" and "The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction".

Chad Brooks comments on the book "Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church" here and gives a full review of the book here.

Scott A. Fulks, a Baptist minister positively reviews the Catholic book "The Spirit of Early Christian Thought".

Apocryphal Corner:
You'll notice when I host these carnivals, commentary on apocryphal literature takes a back seat. There is really much more available on the blogosphere in the month of June regarding apocryphal texts if one were so inclined to search for it.

Catholic News Agency reports that "Prominent scholars have accused the National Geographic Society’s 2006 series of articles on the Gospel of Judas of mistranslation, commercial exploitation, and “scholarly malpractice.” here.

Xeno @ Xenophilia posts at length on the various controversies surrounding the "Gospel of Judas".

Patristic Obituaries:

I hope this category will go a long time before being used again but the world of Patristics and early Church history laid to rest two important scholars in late May & June 2008: Christopher Stead and Henry Chadwick.

Blog by the Sea bids the late Church historian Rev. Professor Henry Chadwick farewell and links to a few of his more prominent works here. Rob Bradshaw at Early Church UK does the same here. As does Brian Saint-Paul at Inside Catholic here. Episcopal Cafe links to a couple of articles here. Finally, Christopher Wells at Covenant Communion expresses his sadness at the loss here. An obituary can be found here.

Rev. Professor Christopher Stead's obituary can be found here.

That's all folks. The world of patristic blogging is really taking off apparently. If I missed any posts, please share in the combox.

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