Sunday, March 30, 2008

Transubstantiation & The Early Church

While those who reject even “Real Presence” are so wrong on this critical issue that we can call them Christian only on account of their baptism, those who accept a modified version of “Real Presence” while rejecting Transubstantiation are considerably more reasonable.

I intend to demonstrate here however, that their viewpoints are still unreasonable in light of sacred tradition. To ensure we’re all on the same page, Real Presence without Transubstantiation is, in various forms, the belief that Christ’s body is truly made present during the act of receiving the Eucharist and the Christian truly receives Him body, blood, soul & divinity but the bread itself remains bread. Before I get into proof-texts (as Steven at Wedgewords showed in his post on "Bishop" Ridley arguing that the Church fathers rejected Transubstantiation, two can play at that game) I will argue from an ecclesiological stand point.

To accept this patently impotent doctrine (Real Presence without Transubstantiation) we would first need to reject much of what we know on the development of doctrine. Cardinal Newman explained in his essay on the same topic: as the bible should first be interpreted by light of the early Church fathers, the early Church fathers themselves should first be interpreted by the light of the later Church fathers. In other words, sacred tradition is a continuous, uninterrupted phenomenon (of divine origin). Breaking the chain of development in the interest of preserving your personal doctrine or private objection to the teaching of the Church cannot be seen as a valid. While the early Church fathers do not spell out the doctrine of Transubstantiation as clearly as the council of Trent, neither did they spell out an even more critical doctrine, the Trinity, until the council of Nicaea. Rejecting the final refinement of what we now call Transubstantiation is as invalid then, as rejecting the Nicene version of the Trinity. Because it is entirely responsible for such absolutely vital developments in Christian doctrine, sacred tradition must be fully trusted (as divinely guided) if we are to trust the Christian faith at all.

These attempts to reinterpret the Church fathers according to 16th century heresies are perfect examples of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too (they want to feel connected to the early Church without actually adhering to their doctrine). But believing that Christ is made fully present only in receiving the Eucharist is worse than wanting to have your cake and eat it too; it’s wanting to eat your cake without actually having it.

And now for the proof-texting (which I will keep short). In regards to the quotes from the fathers in the above link, I can say first of all that even if it really were true and the fathers he quotes from didn't believe in Transubstantiation (even if they actually understood it fully and rejected it) it would not discount the doctrine. (The "mere Real Presence" doctrine would have a bit more credibility than it does presently if such were the case but Rome has spoken and the timeless voice of the Church is more authoritative than one's personal interpretation of a given Church father - or even the actual beliefs of an isolated Church father).

That being said, it is clear he (Ridley) reads the fathers very selectively. I suspect that he does the same with the Scriptures like many others of his persuasion. He quotes Chrysostom against Transubstantiation but I didn't see him mention the following quote:

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
He (Steven at Wedgewords) says that Ridley briefly mentions Ambrose. I'm sure it was quite brief since of the early fathers and their understanding of Transubstantiation, Ambrose has among the clearest. I've quoted him here in this post and here again (found in the Catholic catechism directly following Chrysostom's quote above):
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
He also did not bring up this argument from Chrysostom:
Let us then in everything believe God, and gainsay Him in nothing, though what is said seem to be contrary to our thoughts and senses, but let His word be of higher authority than both reasonings and sight. Thus let us do in the mysteries also, not looking at the things set before us, but keeping in mind His sayings.

For His word cannot deceive, but our senses are easily beguiled. That has never failed, but this in most things goes wrong. Since then the word says,"This is my body," let us both be persuaded and believe, and look at it with the eyes of the mind.

For Christ has given nothing sensible, but though in things sensible yet all to be perceived by the mind. So also in baptism, the gift is bestowed by a sensible thing, that is, by water; but that which is done is perceived by the mind, the birth, I mean, and the renewal. For if you had been incorporeal, He would have delivered you the incorporeal gifts bare; but because the soul has been locked up in a body, He delivers you the things that the mind perceives, in things sensible.

How many now say, I would wish to see His form, the mark, His clothes, His shoes. Lo! you see Him, Thou touchest Him, you eat Him. And thou indeed desirest to see His clothes, but He gives Himself to you not to see only, but also to touch and eat and receive within you.

Let then no one approach it with indifference, no one faint-hearted, but all with burning hearts, all fervent, all aroused. (Homily on Matthew 82:4)
As for Tertullian, keeping in mind that he often referred to the Eucharist not as bread or as a symbol of Christ but as "The Body of the Lord", a particularly strong quote of his is of course:
The Sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord commanded to be taken at meal times and by all, we take even before daybreak in congregations... We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries.... We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground.
This isn't to say that Tertullian didn't have his fair share of errors...and his contemporary Origen (not a complete stranger to theological error himself) did similarly say:
You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received The Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish....how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body? (Homilies on Exodus 13:3)
So it makes me wonder what kind of scholarly dishonesty could overlook such things. I am by no means pulling out a great litany of proof texts on this subject. If you want one, here is a good list of Church father quotes on the Eucharist. On the other hand, I think Mr. Ridley's list of anti-transubstantiation is nearly exhaustive. There is just barely anything that one could twist or misread enough to think the fathers rejected this doctrine.

On a similar note, Dr. Francis Nigel Lee argues in this piece entitled "Two Hundred Theses Against Transubstantiation" that:
2. Some of the stranger attempts of Rome to defend this view (first doctrinally determined at the Fourth Lateran Council of A.D. 1215f), include appeals to Exodus 7:9-12 and various Johannine pronouncements that Christ has come "in the flesh." In the first passage, however -- where God predicts the staff of Moses would turn into a serpent -- Rome forgets that, after it occurred, this staff had lost its 'accidents' and really looked like a serpent – and that it gobbled up the de-staffed serpents of the sorcerers. But after consecration, the Romish Mass still looks like bread and wine!
Now, wait a minute. Did the fathers teach this doctrine and defend it or didn't they? Because what Dr. Lee sees as "Rome" defending a heretical doctrine by poor reasoning was first brought up by St. Ambrose (see the link above) defending this doctrine in the 4th century. You may read his piece and see how far one is willing to stretch historical credibility to deny a basic Christian dogma, but I would sooner recommend Dave Armstrong's discussion on the same subject (specifically on Calvin's Eucharistic theology versus St. Cyril of Jerusalem's).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

True Feminism

In response to Brekke from my previous post on the 'Ideal Woman':

Brekke - thanks for the comments - you're not being a bother. I can see where you're coming from.

"True feminism" though, could hardly be a more relative term. The term 'feminism' is tossed around so loosely these days that we can barely pinpoint what we're talking about when two of us use the same word.

Feminism at its best - that is, the sort of 'feminism' ideal that more than a few Christian women openly aspire to is primarily about justice. There's certainly nothing wrong with seeking justice (and even fighting for it using ethical means).

But we must be extremely cautious in this endeavor to draw a sharp line of distinction between seeking justice and promoting egalitarianism.

In the real world, instead of a search for justice - the feminist movement has for some time been promoting a doctrine of mere egalitarianism (and not just economical but also idealogical). Our culture has bought it hook, line and sinker. You can see it in our movies and hear it in our songs.

Still, when I refer to feminism I'm not talking about the idealogical Christian-feminism (if such a term isn't a contradiction) that merely wishes to end unfair treatment of women. Such a ideology is perfectly noble and it is for that reason that I do not refer to it as feminism. In the real world, the percentage of ideology labeled feminism which is averse to the true gospel approaches 100%. That is why, to me, feminism is a highly negative word while I do recognize that what some refer to as "feminism" is morally acceptable - even laudable.

Now on the subject of stereotypes - there's nothing wrong with generalizing. We do it all the time and will continue to whether we like it or not. I don't have time to examine every individual feminists' viewpoint on each subject so I generalized. Pointing out an exception or two would, of course, fall far short of proving my generalization inaccurate.

Thanks again for the comments.

Friday, March 28, 2008

All Stereotypes are Bad

I hope you caught the contradiction above – most people don’t seem to. We think generalizations and stereotypes are bad things. It’s actually stereotypical to say stereotypes are bad and so the concept (like many other liberal ideas) is self refuting. I’m not sure why it’s a particularly liberal idea but I generally see the hard core left most adverse to this wonderful gift we humans have of being able to categorize things for easy contemplation or decision making.

I think we’ve all heard such nonsensical clich├ęs as: “Generalization is a weak mind’s refuge”… Well that’s sort of a general thing to say there isn’t it?

It’s akin to the liberal who always pulls out the “judge not card” – in doing so, he is guilty of the same behavior which he thinks the Scriptures forbid. Likewise, the next time you hear some fool bemoaning generalizations and stereotypes, remind them that they’re lumping all of us who like to stereotype into a group and pronouncing their stereotypical (judgment) on us.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Regarding Old People

Old people these days… By “old” I mean those who act and think old – namely those who think they are young at heart. I’m speaking of Baby boomers – the oldest generation I know of. Their parents (on the other hand) truly are young at heart.

The baby boomers have been dreading old age since they were smoking God knows what at Woodstock. In a strange twist of fate – they have become (as people often do) the very thing which they fear/hate the most: old. I don’t mean just physically old – they’re actually mentally old (not mentally mature) - I mean old as in tired and washed up.

Funny, the generation before them have both the wisdom of age and the spirit of youth. Boomers have neither and never will. Now before I continue – don’t be offended if you’re a baby boomer – this isn’t an exhaustive statement. It is not true (and cannot be) of every single baby boomer. It’s a blanket statement concerning the generation. I know full well that I have (maybe now I should say had) readers in this generation.

Once upon a time, it was considered rude to refer to an older person by their first name. This silly generation whose mantra was “never trust anyone over 30” considers it rude to be addressed politely. How dare you prefix my name with Mr. or Mrs!!!

They don’t want to become what they never respected. The problem lies not with them not wanting to become it, but not having respected it in the first place.

Boomers pretend to envy my generation for being young. What’s funny is that at the same time they make fun of us for being young. They’re not sure now if they want to be young or old. While they were young, they detested their elders for being wise and when they became old they detested the young - not for being foolish (because the boomers never learned the wisdom to recognize foolishness) but for... not knowing a certain tv show (for example) because it was before their time.

Maybe I’m guilty of the same spirit the boomers had in the 60s (never trust anyone over 30)… Well I’m nearly 30 myself now so I don’t think that’s the case. I have a lot to learn from various individual boomers – but as a whole, their generation has as much to learn from mine as mine has from theirs. I think my generation has recognized the folly of their parents and are aiming to remedy it. I hope so anyway. My two cents – for what it’s worth. Boomers – did you feel this way about your preceding generation when you were my age?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Salvation Outside the Roman Catholic Church

Andrew's post pondering various aspects of ecumenism inspired me to jot down this concept that I've meant to write for a while.

In response to the question (is there salvation outside the Church) Catholics have, in ages past, responded unequivocally in the negative. The Second Vatican Council and more recent ecumenical endeavors have, of course, asserted that non-Catholics may too end up in Heaven.

Without ignoring the apparent contradiction here, I would like to call to mind the very day of resurrection at which point, by faith in Jesus every man has the opportunity to be saved - right? (I'll assume evangelical theology for the time being).

Before Christ rose from the dead, was salvation possible? We could rightly say no in a certain sense. Salvation was made possible by His resurrection therefore it was not possible until calvary. In the same way - salvation is made possible by the Church and no one is saved until they enter the Church.

It is important here to speak of the exceptions. We know by divine revelation (if not raw common sense) that at least the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets made it to Heaven. How could they without calvary? They didn't believe in Jesus Christ --- per se. They never said the sinner's prayer and made Him Lord of their life. But how could they? Christ had not yet come. Could/would God require of a man something he was literally not able to produce?

Ok, we shall make an exception for those who came before Christ. Yet, on the same day Christ rose from the dead, hundreds or maybe thousands of people died. Where did they go? Christ had already come yet they had not believed in Him. I think fairness would dictate that we label them unable to believe as well. You should see where I'm going with this. Even today, there are those who are unable to believe in Jesus for whatever reason. For these, if they are literally unable to believe in Christ, we must allow exception (according to God's divine mercy which we ought not pretend to know the extent of). It no sooner means that all those who are unable to believe now go to Heaven than it means that all those before Christ ended up in Heaven.

In spite of all this, we affirm without hesitation that Christ is the only means of salvation (it is, after all, sort of a Christian dogma if ever there was one). Therefore in a perfectly analogous way, the Catholic Church retains her dogma "there is no salvation outside the Church" despite the exceptions (which we pray are numerous). It is absolutely no more difficult to assert one than the other. In fact, perhaps the former is even a bit more of a stretch.

I should mention, if even as a footnote, that the Reformed branch of Christianity particularly seems to have no problem with placing all who don't literally pray the sinner's prayer in Hell (post-calvary of course). Then again, the Reformed Christian will rarely assert such a thing. It has been my experience that they would preface the statement with: "the Reformed theologians would say..." as opposed to merely stating it as their personal belief. Strange.

Obama's Website Removes Link to Black Panthers

The removal by the Barack Obama campaign from its official website of an endorsement from the black supremacist New Black Panther Party, or NBPP, was decided upon for "understandable political reasons," according to the party's national chairman.
Here's the story. (Who you endorse is sometimes less telling than who is endorsing you). This removal is akin to Obama's lame excuse for his pastor's horrendous beliefs. Especially since he's a Protestant, where he goes to ecclesial community services is especially telling of his personal values. In addition to his pastor's hatred for America, the 'church' has published the Hamas Terror Manifesto.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Caricatures Left & Right

The funny thing about ‘right’ caricatures is that they’re all wrong. I’m speaking of politically-right. Catholics especially are inclined to think of right wingers as though they are strong on pro-life issues (that’s good) but weak on issues of poverty – as if they don’t care about poverty. This over-simplification of the issues might work on college students – but it has yet to convince me.

It’s not that the left don’t have well grounded reasons for wanting to end poverty, I’m sure some of them do… it’s that they have really dumb ideas for how to go about doing it. Right wingers rightly remind us that the poverty level is approximately the same now as when we initiated the welfare program half a century ago. It is at least conceivable then, that someone might support welfare reform or even not have a high opinion of the program to begin with while at the same time not hating the poor or even being indifferent at all to their needs.

For some odd reason, we also think right wingers don’t care about the environment as much as the left. I’m not sure which right winger wants to see littered highways and smog filled skies over blue skies and clean forests but if you meet one, let me know. It seems to me - not in the least an exaggeration to say that everyone (yes even the right) would prefer cleanliness to pollution.

On immigration, right wingers say that what is done illegally should be punished and if not then it shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. I for one, think it should much easier to immigrate here and that there should be some penalty (perhaps short of deportation) for breaking the immigration laws.

I realize that some right wingers do have a tendency to carry these three issues to the extreme. Some of them almost approach the cold-hearted caricature that the mainstream media routinely paint as the typical right winger. But what I’ve also noticed is that right wingers are (without exception) more teachable and reasonable people than their left wing counterparts. A simple twist on the poverty issues and even the most stubborn cold hearted old grinch will likely concede the floor a bit. The same can hardly be said of the left. (Try suggesting something even a mere inch or two right of where they stand and see what happens).

On the other side, the left however, are even more unfairly caricatured (but fortunately for them it’s in their favor). They are seen as genuinely caring for the poor more than the right when in reality they merely propose socialistic solutions that will at best do nothing to help and more often than not will actually make the problem worse. I assume for their sake that many of them do have good intentions, but they always have dumb ideas on how to implement them.

They think the final solution for education merely involves spending more money per student and anyone who disagrees with this solution, they label as one who doesn’t care about education. They think ending poverty means massive wealth redistribution. They think that the answer to illegal immigration is to ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

On abortion and some other issues, they don’t merely have dumb ideas on how to implement good intentions, they have dumb reasons to justify their bad intentions.

So enough with the false caricatures. At worst, the right wingers just have bad ideas on how to affect the changes they wish and the caricatures are unfair.

*Also note that I'm not talking about Republicans & Democrats here. I even avoided the terms liberal and conservative.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Ideal Woman

The ideal woman has the heart of a servant. She is humble. She puts others before herself. She is chaste.

A feminist would be angered at such a description but only foolishly so. The ideal man is exactly the same.

The ideal man has the heart of a servant. He is humble. He puts others before himself. He is chaste.

Our culture accepts one and rejects the other. Women have an especially hard time in our society - what passes for feminine "virtues" are promiscuity and bitchiness (pardon my French).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Galileo & The History of Astronomy

Here's a great post by Doc Rampage on the history of astronomy and the History Channel's goof up on the same subject. Most notable was his fair handling of the Galileo controversy:

Galileo's trouble wasn't that he liked Copernicus's theory, but that he claimed that the heliocentric model was not only a good functional model, but that it was physically true. He claimed that the sun actually was at the center of the universe. Although this wasn't really his problem either. As the show said there was no trouble over Galileo's first tract (the show stipulates that this was "surprising", assuming that their viewers share their own prejudices). In fact, Galileo's first tract was well-accepted by many leaders in the church, including the man who would soon become pope. According to the show, the Church only objected to the second tract because Galileo tried to interpret scripture. There is something to this, but an honest account would also mention that Galileo was abrasive and arrogant and had a habit of making powerful enemies. And that the second tract was personally insulting to the new pope, his former supporter. The Church was certainly not innocent in the Galileo affair, but this was not the one-sided courageous open-minded pure researcher against the evil dogmatic church.
(BTW, Doc Rampage is a Protestant) Check out the whole post if you get a chance.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Father Euteneuer Calls For Ouster of Notre Dame President

Father Euteneuer is pleading for something I think all Catholics (especially in America) are yearning for: real leadership. Priests and bishops with spines and the moral clarity to lead the Catholic Church in America.

FRONT ROYAL, VA — The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, STL, president of Human Life International, (HLI) today called for the firing of University of Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., for his approval of the presentation of the play The Vagina Monologues on campus. Father Euteneuer is a Notre Dame alumnus, Class of ’84.

Euteneuer said today, “This is really getting tiresome. For forty years Catholic university presidents have been intimidated and afraid of ‘offending’ ideological feminists and others who have undisguised contempt for the Catholic Church. These groups have been welcomed to Catholic campuses and have been spitting in the eye of the Church ever since. They cannot be pleased or placated.”

Euteneuer continued, “Father Jenkins has been given several chances to take a truly Catholic position on this heinous piece of ideological propaganda and has consistently voted against the pleas and well-reasoned arguments of students, faculty and alumni alike. He needs to step down from his position or the ND Board of Directors needs to dismiss him. A Catholic priest just does not endorse this screed.”

In the March 10 statement, Father Jenkins said: “Notre Dame's policy on controversial events rests on the conviction that truth will emerge from reasoned consideration of issues in dialogue with faith.… [I]t is, in my judgment, the action that best serves the distinctive mission of Notre Dame.”

Father Euteneuer responded, “The distinctive mission of Notre Dame is to communicate the Catholic Faith. There is nothing inherently truth-producing about ‘dialogue’ or controversy, especially on immoral issues.

“Catholics deserve better from a university named for Our Lady.”
Church militant - keep up the fight.

Book Review: G. K. Chesterton's "Heretics"

I just finished listening to this book via librivox.org. I had already read its sequel, Orthodoxy as a young Protestant. (I'll have to read it again now that I'm... well orthodox).

Chesterton is the prince of paradox. He surprises you with every phrase. I highly recommend this insightful book (and its sequel)... I mean seriously, if you haven't read Chesterton... get to it.

Here are a few concepts from the book which I thought were particularly profound. I have just re-worded/quoted from memory so these are not exact quotes:

Reasonable men always have comedy in their mind and tragedy in their heart.

Great minds are delighted by small things. Mediocre minds are bored at big things.

Only the weak can be brave.

It is only when hope is unreasonable that it becomes useful.

It is only acceptable to be proud about something that is not creditable to yourself. And the more valubale the thing (creditable to yourself) which you are proud of, the more unacceptable it is to be proud of it. It's bad to be proud of having money but it's worse to be proud of having intellect (which is of more value than money). It would be worst of all to be proud of being good. And of course, goodness itself is to be cherished above money or intellect. (I talked about this in my post on Fatherhood. I should have read Chesterton first!)

Those who think they are progressive, think individualistically which is the anti-thesis of progress. The invidualist starts at the very beginning and by all probability can go no further than his father before him. True progressive thought not only studies the past but assumes it in order to build on it. How much less progressive are those who seek to destroy tradition!

Men talk with the greatest solemnity and at length over the least important things in life - sports, weather etc... but they always joke and talk profanely about serious matters - getting married, getting hanged and religion.

We are miserable rationalists and moderns. We do not merely love ourselves more than we love duty - we love ourselves more than we love joy. (He says what I clumsily tried to convey in my post on fatherhood, I said "We've pushed selfishness to its limits - we've become so selfish, that we don't even care about ourselves - only our immediate pleasure.")

Unless a man is in part a humorist, he is only in part a man.

It is more dangerous to have ideals which are practical than those which are lofty. In practical terms - wordly ideals are more dangerous than otherworldly ones. With wordly and practical ideals, we are in greater danger of deluding ourselves and thinking that we have achieved them. It may be an evil to mistake a cloud for a cape and the cloud which is easier to mistake for a cape is the one nearest the earth.

Our modern idea of intellectual growth and progress is often expressed in terms of breaking boundaries and exceeding limits - doing away with dogma. If there is such a thing as growth - it should be growth into more definite convictions - produce more dogmas and actually reach conclusions. When we hear of a man who is too clever to believe, it is almost a contradiction in terms. It's like hearing of a bolt which was too strong to hold a door shut. Destroying dogmas is the process of sinking backwards. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad minded.

Truth becomes dogma the moment it is disputed.
Chesterton says all this and more much better than I could.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Octavius on Building Temples & Altars

When responding to the accusation that since Christians didn't have temples or altars, they must be concealing what they worship, Octavius (as recorded by Minucius Felix) responds:

But do you think that we conceal what we worship, if we have not temples and altars? And yet what image of God shall I make, since, if you think rightly, man himself is the image of God? What temple shall I build to Him, when this whole world fashioned by His work cannot receive Him? And when I, a man, dwell far and wide, shall I shut up the might of so great majesty within one little building? Were it not better that He should be dedicated in our mind, consecrated in our inmost heart?
I, myself am quick to point out to critics of high Church liturgy that the early Church met in home Churches not out of preference but out of necessity. Christianity was illegal for its first 300 years of existence and so they couldn't exactly build "temples and altars". Yet, this apology doesn't seem so obvious to Octavius' accuser and certainly not to Octavius himself whose response hearkens back to Christianity's first martyr:
"the Most High does not live in houses made by men." Acts 7:48
So then what are we to make of all this? First, whatever the immediate context of this particular engagement is, we do have sufficient evidence that not only was the early Church liturgical and solemn (as opposed to supposedly Spirit-driven and relaxed) but that her liturgies were understood in a sacrificial sense. I argued here, if somewhat abstractly, that liturgy is the beginning, climax and destination of redemptive history.

The earliest liturgies of the Church were in perfect continuity with the Jewish liturgies they intended to fulfill! In fact, we know from Scripture that Christians regularly worshiped in Synagogues for a decade or more after Christ's resurrection. From Mike Aquilina's book, The Mass of the Early Christians:
Sofia Cavaletti observes that the synagogue service closely parallels the early Christian Liturgy of the Word, roughly the first half of the Mass, while the sequence of prayers in the Jewish Passover meal closely corresponds to the order of the earliest Eucharistic prayers.
Why then, doesn't Octavius recourse to such an obvious response as I listed above? He doesn't say anything negative about temples or altars - just that the Christian religion shows that God doesn't need them.

I think my apology makes more sense in retrospect than it would from the lips of an early Christian. If I could place myself in his shoes, I might easily see myself replying in a similar way. You (worldly men) look for temples and altars and you have them with your religions but you don't have the truth. What good is an altar if you make sacrifices to false gods?

After Constantine legalized Christianity, it became possible for Christians to build temples (churches) and altars. But even before that - we do have record in fact, that the earliest altars were sarcophagi of Christian martyrs. That tradition is honored until today - Catholic altars are regularly built with the relic of a martyr or saint inside.

So, from Octavius' response we ought not come away thinking negative of temples or altars. God ordained both in the Old Testament and never abolished them. We certainly shouldn't come away thinking that the early Church didn't have them because they represented some sort of religious vanity. As soon as the early Church was able to build them, she did. Even before she could have official altars, she used underground ones - set among the bones of the martyrs.

Yet it would be a similar shame to walk away without grasping Octavius' underlying message (and again St. Stephen who quotes from the Psalms) - God's first temple is our body - and our heart His altar. He neither needs our sacrifice nor is the beneficiary of it. Rather, we receive life from His sacrifice which must be re-presented first on the altar of our heart which He built and in a tangible way in the Eucharist which we receive at the altar we build by our hands.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ben Stein's Movie on Intelligent Design

H/T Sonitus Sanctus:

Octavius: No Blood in our Food

Continuing with my examination of Octavius' apology (as recorded by Minucius Felix), this passage reminded me of a question I've always had:

To us it is not lawful either to see or to hear of homicide; and so much do we shrink from human blood, that we do not use the blood even of eatable animals in our food.
Fair enough. Christians did not eat blood at the time. This would be consistent with the decision of the Jerusalem Council:
Acts 15:19-20
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
While Jesus had declared all foods clean(Mark 7:19), this part of eating Kosher (abstinence from blood and improperly killed animals) remained infallible dogma for Christians.

I've always wondered why this teaching has all but completely disappeared from Christianity. Perhaps again we would find the answer in Mark 7:14-15
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' "
Still, the disciples who heard Him say this were the same ones who, by the Holy Spirit, pronounced the prohibition against eating blood to be consistent with this 'baptizing' of all foods.

We must remind ourselves that Peter (at the time) did not interpret Jesus' words to constitute an abolishment of the Mosaic dietary laws as is made quite clear by his dream in Acts 10:13-15:
Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
And even after the dream, Peter does not yet seem to acknowledge it having anything other than a metaphorical meaning. St. Mark, Peter's interpreter and by widespread patristic witness, the author of the gospel bearing his name (ratified by Peter himself) wrote the above passage - the only explicit allowance for eating unclean animals anywhere in the New Testament. As Patristic witness and some modern scholarship assert, it may have actually been Peter's very words recorded in the gospel of Mark (a summary of Matthew & Luke). Though this theory is not particularly popular among scholars (Pope Benedict I know for one does not believe it) it still has a lot of explanatory power and is quite feasible.

If the above is indeed true, then perhaps the Markan passage represents a later tradition on interpreting this saying of Jesus and just how all encompassing the meaning of Jesus' words were. The council of Jerusalem (15-19 years ahead of the gospel of Mark by almost anyone's estimation) would be perhaps an initial decree of the Church on this issue, and later came the liberalization of eating blood. The "spirit of the law" expounded by Mark (Peter) superseded the "letter of the law" as declared by the Jerusalem council. (It is also helpful to remind ourselves that Peter presided over both the Jerusalem council and the writing of the gospel of Mark).

However, it still leaves us with a problem. The early Christians (as attested to by Octavius above) apparently continued following the Jerusalem council.

At any rate, I'm not sure of the answer - I'm just thinking out loud. One thing I know for sure, the law has been liberalized and no Christian today thinks twice about rejecting that part of the Jerusalem council and ordering a nice, bloody fillet mignon at their favorite steak house.

2008 Conversions

Matthew at A Catholic Life has a list of blogs from those who entered the Church in 2008. Check it out!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Octavius on Pro-Life Issues

In response to the charge that Christian initiation rites included the sacrifice of an infant, Octavius responds in the negative and points out that the pagans actually do murder children (while not in the context of a sacrifice presently):

And I see that you at one time expose your begotten children to wild beasts and to birds; at another, that you crush them when strangled with a miserable kind of death. There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth.
The point I wanted to bring out here is that for her entire existence, the Church has been aware (and dealing with) not merely abortion but also contraception. Some seem to think that Humanae Vitae was the first time she dealt with it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Octavius on Intelligent Design

No this isn't the satirical Octavius of Hierapolis I invented some time ago. This is a real Octavius - namely the companion of Minucius Felix. I found these quotes to be interesting, especially given that there was no evolutionary theory to be arguing against at the time - merely atheism.

Octavius says:

There is no member in man which is not calculated both for the sake of necessity and of ornament;
And later:
Britain is deficient in sunshine, but it is refreshed by the warmth of the sea that flows around it. The river Nile tempers the dryness of Egypt; the Euphrates cultivates Mesopotamia; the river Indus makes up for the want of rains, and is said both to sow and to water the East. Now if, on entering any house, you should behold everything refined, well arranged, and adorned, assuredly you would believe that a master presided over it, and that he himself was much better than all those excellent things. So in this house of the world, when you look upon the heaven and the earth, its providence, its ordering, its law, believe that there is a Lord and Parent of the universe far more glorious than the stars themselves, and the parts of the whole world.
Of course, this should only ring familiar to Christians in light of Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Just passing it along for what it's worth.

Friday, March 07, 2008

On Fatherhood

Last year, I dove into the deep end in the pool of fatherhood. If you want to learn to swim they say... Luckily, I haven't grasped how enormous of a responsibility I have - otherwise I'd live trembling in fear. For those of you who don't know, I married in September and instantly became a first time father of an 7 year old step son.

A man has one primary responsibility above all others in his fatherly duties - instill the love of God in his children. (Not that a mother doesn't also have this responsibility - yet I think it does fall somewhat more squarely on the shoulders of the father).

Our culture's idea of parenthood is depressing. Our idea of fatherhood can even bring one to despair. Fathers have more to learn from their children than children from their fathers - we think. We must scoff at the primitive cultures in which fathers and grandfathers are actually the ones teaching! What a strange idea.

We whine about education and even build political platforms on it. Those who scream the loudest have the least educated children. They merely want to coerce organizations to spend more money on education - God forbid they should actually spend their own precious time in educating their children themselves! When the average Joe graduates with a bachelors degree, he scarcely has the education that we might have reasonably expected from an 8th grader in former days.

I'm far more concerned with religious education than with academics of course. I know my son is getting a religious education - I have no doubt of that. He goes to public school because I can't afford anything else. He's learned all about various religions (nothing Christian of course) and their holidays. Approximately half of his math assignments made extensive use of Jewish religious symbolism during December (They had to think of something since we can't have anything related to Christmas on it).

What baffles me most is when parents say (almost as if they were proud of it) "my child is spoiled" or "I'm going to spoil my child". I wonder if they know what that word means. They use it as if it were a good thing or even an acceptable thing. We call it "spoiling" for a reason. Because you end up ruining the person's life by doing it!

We, as a culture, have lost all reverence for the incredible responsibility of raising children. We think children are burdens - they suck up resources which are rightfully ours. How foolish of us - no resource is rightfully ours but all are trusted to us in order to do God's will.

The young people these days have absolutely no intention of having children - even in marriage and it's largely because the generation before us viewed us as burdens. There was a time, I think, when people rejoiced not only as a ceremonial response to the birth of their child - but rather lived a life consistent with that rejoicing.

We have lost the concept of children as our legacy. The culture of the ancient Mediterraneans in this respect may have been less than purely selfless. They viewed children as the way to immortalize one's self. In our original creation story indeed, procreation came about because we were going to die and needed heirs to keep our lineage alive.

How have we gone from that, to complete indifference to our progeny? We don't care if we have children or not. The Mediterranean idea above might be called self-serving but what then shall we call our attitude? There is a certain necessary selfishness built into us. Jesus didn't deny this in His message. He didn't say don't be selfish by storing up treasures, He said be smart about your selfishness - store them in Heaven!

Self interest is a necessary survival skill - but what about this business of being so self centered that even our own long term interests are compromised? Isn't that a peculiar behavior? We've pushed selfishness to its limits - we've become so selfish, that we don't even care about ourselves - only our immediate pleasure. We don't care about humanity, we care for this individual human's immediate wants. The reasonably selfish thing to do would be to have children to extend your own legacy - meanwhile serving God's purpose and fulfilling His commandment - 'be fruitful and multiply'.

We also see an acceptably reasonable level of selfishness when a father is proud of his son. I don't think this sort of pride is the wrong type (although it can certainly be carried to an extreme rather easily). C.S. Lewis spoke of this issue - but I can't remember what he said! Nowadays, we should be so lucky to fall into the trap of being too proud of our children or proud to the point in which pride reflects more of one's self than of the child. At least then we'd show some humanity! At least then we could say we were raising children. Hell at least then we could say that we bothered to have children in the first place! We don't have any children to be proud of!

Fathers let the children grow up by themselves these days. First the moms take care of them, then school does. Then TV, video games and finally their friends. Still, they retain some reverence for God because we take them to Church and have a loosely churchish moral code in the home... but what happens when they hit 18 and enroll at a secular seminary (any University)? Guess what, a few liberal professors later and they're questioning the faith. One minor crisis in their life - even a prayer unanswered can suddenly make Christianity look more like a burden than a real help. Are you surprised? How will their children be raised? How about their grand children? This is the story not merely of America but of Western civilization in the last few decades.

So we vaguely recognize there's a problem in our culture with the detachment of fathers. What do we do? We make it worse! So many of our children's movies have the hero (the child) the bad guy and then the pseudo bad guy (usually the father). The father is either a bumbling idiot throughout the movie merely for comic relief or he is the emotionally detached - too busy with work to deal with kids - father. In the end, he'll come around on hearing a few words of wisdom from his child. Do you see that? Remember what I said in the beginning? We think that fathers have more to learn from their children than children from their fathers.

This is no solution to the problem - only a recognition (even in the secular world) that it exists. I think this manner of recognizing it though, is making it worse (or at least not helping). Now children think its their job to teach fathers (or merely laugh at them). Fathers start to think they need to wait patiently to hear 'wisdom from the mouth of babes' (or merely entertain them). I see this happen constantly. Now the answer isn't merely to go out and play baseball with your son. That's our culture's answer. You see how well that is working. You think playing catch with your son is the extent of your fatherly duties? You need to invest your life in your children if you want dividends.

There was a time when men passed on wisdom to their sons from generation to generation. There was a time when sons wanted to please their fathers and gain their approval (actually, they still do but the fathers don't want to be pleased!) The sons react by acting out - gaining independence. They become their own men - on their own and on their own terms. The problem is, they haven't learned any wisdom from their fathers - how will they pass it on to their sons? They are all but doomed to repeat their fathers' errors - they will stand aside and watch life happen. Actually they should be so lucky - in fact they don't even watch life happen. They are too busy looking for temporal pleasure while life passes them by.

The mothers, of course, know something is wrong. But their fathers didn't model correctly for them and so they don't quite know what it is. We assume hyper-dysfunctional families are normal and acceptable simply because they are so common. That's fine. We'll get divorced and try a second time - a third if need be.

So what is to be done? Culturally, nothing - just wait for judgment. Individually - we need to look to more advanced cultures than ours (I speak of cultures which we would otherwise call primitive). The aborigines are a good place to start I think. See how the fathers pass on wisdom to their children. If the mantra of real estate is "location, location, location" then the mantra of fatherhood might be "wisdom, wisdom, wisdom" and of course, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.

If you thought you were preparing your children for battle, wouldn't you train with them each day to ensure their survival? How about if you were preparing them for spiritual battle? What would you do?

I am lucky to have a great father. Many people I meet weren't so lucky. God, grant us more fathers to lead the next generation into loving You!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Patristic Carnival IX

I'm honored to be hosting the Patristic Carnival again. This is the ninth one and hopefully we'll have many more to come as the world of Patristic blogging continues to grow. Phil Snider is the founder of this carnival so first of all - thanks Phil! If anyone is interested in hosting one of the carnivals, be sure to let Phil know.

Those interested in the Patristic Carnival are doubtlessly also interested in the Biblical Studies Carnival so be sure and check out their latest installment.

I had originally intended to make a video introduction for this carnival. I had a pretty cool idea for it - I just forgot that I had a family and don't have time to do silly projects like I used to. Maybe next time! As always, please respond in the comments with additional posts that I should have included!

Finally my disclaimer: The reader doth hereby agree to understand that my endorsement only applies to that material, herewith linked, which is true and shall utterly refuse to associate "The God Fearin Forum" with subsequent material which is false. By having read this paragraph - the reader has affirmed his or her full consent. :)

Let's begin shall we:

Prior carnival host Weekend Fisher examines the internal evidence for the authenticity of the gospel of John. Great post!

Singing in the Reign has this excellent post regarding the Greek word "hupomnemasin" or "memoirs" (as used by Justin Martyr) to justify viewing the gospels as biographical in genre.

Mere Muslim argues that the NT texts cannot be substantially pieced together by early Church father quotes here.

The blog "Walking Together" examines Ignatius to the Philadelphians here. Whereas the Orthodox blog Ora Et Labora has a different spin on this early martyr's writings. Meanwhile, Archaic Christianity Blog continues its examination of Ignatius to the Ephesians in part four. He also considers some of the particulars about the Greek text here.

Thomas Smith discusses in brief, the early fathers on poverty issues and ponders which ways modern Christians may be similar or dissimilar.

TheBibleGeek posted a new (or updated) info page for Pope Clement I and for the Didache.

Puritan Lad argues that Athenagoras preached amillennialism.

Lutheran Pastor, William Weedon, posts a collection of Lutheran-friendly Patristic quotes here. (I'm sure the proof texts will prove useful to any Protestant polemicist).

Lutheran seminarian, Christopher Heren, bemoans this awful podcast about the ancient mysticism of Christianity and its potential to harm the modern evangelical "church" here.

From my heart, Out of my mind ponders the rise in evangelical interest in the early Church here.

Phil Snider, (founder of this carnival) reviews the book "Getting to Know the Church Fathers. An Evangelical Introduction" and continues his ongoing translation work for "Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin".

Wedgewords remarks on Bishop Ridley's Brief Declaration arguing that the Church Fathers did not believe in Transubstantiation here.

An Orthodox student, Esteban Vazquez responds to April DeConick and offers this insightful response to the question of the relationship between 'Athens and Jerusalem'. Additionally, see his comments on this video re: St. John Chrysostom's contribution to Orthodox worship.

Mike Aquilina's contributions are as follows:

A review of Michael Geisler's Christian-Historical fiction, "Marcus"
A discussion (and prayer) of 3rd century martyr, St. Agatha
A brief discussion on the Church Fathers' skill at Scriptural interpretation as explained by Father Kruz.
On the ancient practice of receiving Christ on the tongue.
A discussion of the Church fathers on fasting.
On lighthouses in Christian art.
On early Jewish-Christian relations.
On Pope Benedict XVI's address on St. Augustine here and here.

Thoughts on Antiquity remarks on the recent discovery of the missing 5th century page containing a list of Christian martyrs here.

*Addendum*

From the same blog, Chris Weimer notifies the blogging world of two new bloggers - at least one of which, Peter Kirby, will likely be of high interest to patristic bloggers. Also from the same blog, Roger Pearse continues discussion of the translation work he's been doing on Eusebius and the Arabic Church fathers (specifically see this post regarding the Al-Majdalus Commentary on the Nicene Creed). For Eusebius, see translation parts zero, one, two, three and four.

Sorry for missing these!

*End Addendum*

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean has a podcast on early Christian portraits of Jesus here.

EarlyChurch.org posts Arthur Klem's article on Tertullian here.

Dave Armstrong at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism posts a resource for Mary as the Ark of the Covenant in the Church Fathers. He also posts on Origen re: faith, works and judgement.

Thos at Ecumenicity reviews the book Mary and the Fathers of the Church.

Andrew Preslar, Former Traditional Anglican seminarian who was received into the Catholic Church only last month reflects on Cardinal Newman's essays on development and the pagan sources for various Christian traditions. Welcome to the patristic blogging world Andrew!

Jeff Pinyan at TheCrossReference begins his series on five different homilies from Pope Leo the Great: Intro, First, Second and fourth. (I'm not sure what happened to three) He also compares the Eucharistic Prayer II as it is used today with the prayer it is based on from Hippolytus. Finally, he begins a review of the book, "Pagan Christianity" which makes (as I understand it) some fairly hefty claims about the ancient Church.

Tentmaker posts a video on Godtube regarding the early Church's beliefs on hell here. (Reminder, do not consider this an endorsement!)

I had three humble contributions this go-round. All three on St. Clement of Alexandria. First, on his views of Sexuality in the Old Testament and second, on his comments regarding the discrimination against the celibate in the secular world of his time. Finally, I posted on 'sola scriptura', Church unity & authority here.

Apocryphal Corner:

Tim4Christ argues here that Irenaeus and other fathers were aware of the same gospel of Judas as was recently re-discovered and April DeConick argues the opposite (or rather an agnostic standpoint at best) here. Jim Davila reviews her book on the gospel of Judas here.

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean has a podcast on sex & salvation in the gospel of Philip.

Ok that's all folks. I wish I had more time to work on this - there's really much more that could be done.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Catholics & The Iraq War Policy

Opinionated Catholic has an insightful post on the Iraq war (rather the continued US. Presence in Iraq) and what the Catholic Church is actually saying about it.