Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Raymond Brown & Matthean Priority

This is a quote from Raymond Brown found here in this debate. I wanted to respond to it (my words in red).

As explained in Chapter 6, This INTRODUCTION works with the thesis that Matt and Luke used Mark. Yet for many centuries the dominant view was Augustine's thesis that Mark was little more than an epitome of Matt; and recently attention has been given to the (modified) Griesbach hypothesis wherein Mark drew on Matt (p. 113 above). It is instructive to test the theological consequences of positing Marcan dependence on the other Synoptics. For instance, Mark would have omitted the Lord's Prayer and the four beatitudes that Matt and Luke agree upon.

And John omits Christ raising the Synagogue ruler's daughter from the dead (whereas John himself was one of only three present when it happened) and the virgin birth. You can see how unhelpful this sort of reasoning is for Christians.

As for christology, if Mark was written after Matt and drew on it, at a period when the title "God" for Jesus was becoming more common, Mark 10:17-18 would have complicated Matt 19:16-17 by gratuitously introducing an objection to giving Jesus a title that belonged to God alone.

The implication present in Matthew is strong enough to shrug this point off. It’s also quite conceivable (not to scholars like Brown of course) that Peter, or Mark by interpretation is recalling wording which closer replicates what was actually said at the time. If Jesus’ words were spoken verbatim as recorded by Mark, that would make complete sense of the whole issue and would not contradict Matthew in the least.

What Brown and scholars like him never comprehend is that it IS actually possible that the gospel writers sincerely believed what they wrote to be true and weren’t fabricating details for theological purposes. Since they rule out honesty a priori, they often come up with some pretty ridiculous theories.

Mark 6:5 would have introduced the idea that Jesus could not do miracles at Nazareth, changing the statement of Matt 13:58 that he did none.

First of all, if you have any point, it’s that Matthew corrected Mark… it wasn’t that he couldn’t do miracles it was that he just didn’t – this is incompatible with belief in the inspiration of Scriptures. Secondly, I don’t know of the usage here and the linguistic argument but we often use the word “couldn’t” in non-literal ways ourselves. It wouldn’t take much to convince me that they could have done the same. “I couldn’t bring myself to look”. Well literally you could have if you wanted to.. You just didn’t want to. “I couldn’t help him with that he was being a complete jerk”. In reality, you could have helped you just didn’t because he was a jerk. “Jesus couldn’t do any miracles because of their lack of faith”. In reality, He could have regardless of which gospel came first – He just didn’t and Mark’s gospel saying the latter may have been part of a colloquial expression or happenstance as Peter recited the incident. It may have been particular to Peter’s way of talking. In short, there’s a host of reasons why this could have happened without assuming Marcan priority.

"Some claim that Matthean priority and Marcan dependence support traditional Roman Catholic positions,

It does. Have you heard of a group of guys called the early Church fathers?

but Mark's presentation of Mary and Peter becomes all the more difficult if the evangelist knew Matt and/or Luke. Mark would have deliberately omitted the infancy narratives of Matt and Luke, even the details in which they both agree, including the conception of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

So did John’s what’s your point? If it proves anything at all it proves too much. If this were evidence of Marcan priority it would be evidence for Johanine priority as well. If it proved that Mark was unaware of these facts (assuming Matthean priority) it proves John was as well (or if you’re willing to go that far I’m sure you’re willing deny Johanine authorship – we still have problems with this of course).

Mark would have consciously added two items lacking in Matt and Luke pertinent to Mary, namely, that Jesus' own family thought he was "beside himself" (3:19b-21) and that he received no honor from his own relatives (6:4).

Again, are we to rule out the possibility that these things actually happened a priori? If we assume that the gospels were only loosely based on history and mostly theologically charged, this point makes sense. But if we were to consider the possibility that, His family really was beside themselves at one time or that He really did receive no honor from his family at one point, then it makes perfect sense that Mark would have added it.

As for the Marcan view of Peter and the apostles, Mark would have deliberately omitted both Matt 16:16-19 that makes Peter the rock on which the church was built, and Luke 22:31-34 that has Peter strengthening his brothers after his own failure. (Even though those are not passages shared by both Matt and Luke, Mark can scarcely not have noticed the impact of omitting such positive passages.)

There are many things omitted in regards to saint Peter in Mark. It’s striking actually – especially when Peter is said to have delivered this gospel as a homily based on Matthew and Mark reconciled the shorthand notes with Matthew & Luke adding nothing and taking nothing away. Peter doesn’t walk on the water in Mark, several comments and actions made by anonymous disciples are actually from Peter (including the one who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priests’ servant).

But again, this kind of reasoning doesn’t get us far (at least not in the right direction). John shows that Andrew was called first, not Peter. Why, if the gospel authors were so theologically motivated would John not fabricate that Peter was called first since that would make the most sense and seems to be what the Synoptics imply.

Of course, Peter may have omitted the details out of humility. Why Mark didn’t reconcile it with Matthew may be a mystery, but no more of a mystery (in fact much less) that John – while attempting to prove the divinity of Christ omitted the virgin birth.

Mark would have deliberately omitted the promise of Jesus to the disciples in Matt 19:28 and Luke 22:29-30 whereby they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

If Mark was written primarily to Gentiles in Rome would this be so difficult to imagine him doing?

Mark 4:38 would have made the disciples more rude to Jesus than they were in Matt 8:25.

With 12 disciples, there were doubtlessly several types of reactions and Mark giving it from one perspective while Matthew giving it from another neither proves nor even suggests anything at all.

Using a book with the Gospels in parallel columns, readers are invited to test other examples of Marcan thought and procedure in the Griesbach hypothesis."
At a first glance, most of the Marcan priority arguments seem to hold water. However, on further inspection, they all seem to be as theologically motivated as their supporters often accuse the gospels themselves of being. They fundamentally assume that the gospels do not record real history (if so, only loosely) – variations must be explained by theological agendas. Out right they deny inspiration – which is the goal of historical critical examination I suppose, but at least one option must be that what they say is actually true.

If I had no other reasons, I think I would believe in Marcan priority but since the early Church fathers unanimously affirm Matthean Priority (plus the existence of his gospel in Hebrew/Aramaic up until the 5th century) and since Matthean priority can be soundly defended, I am going to stick with the early Church on this one. Now I know Pope Benedict believes in Marcan priority along with most scholars but there are good scholars (Scott Hahn for one) who believe in Matthean priority.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Black Church Tradition

WASHINGTON - The Rev. Jeremiah Wright says criticism surrounding his fiery sermons is an attack on the black church.
Ok first of all, there is no such thing as “the black church”. “Church” in any meaningful sense of the word cannot be categorized by ethnicity. Shame on you. Secondly, how is it an attack on your entire racially based ecclesial community when someone criticizes you personally?
Barack Obama's longtime pastor says he hopes the controversy will have a positive outcome and spark an honest dialogue about race in America.
Honest dialogue about race? That’s the last thing you want. You want honest dialogue about race? Here it is – this has nothing to do with race! It has to do with you making comments which would be unwelcome anywhere much less in an ecclesial building. The truth is you’re not being criticized because you’re black, you’re being criticized because you’re dead wrong. And that’s something I doubt you can come to grips with.

He said the black church tradition is not bombastic or controversial, but different and misunderstood by the "dominant culture" in the United States.
Maybe we don't understand "black church tradition" I don’t know and don’t care. As mentioned this has nothing to do with “black church tradition” this has to do with you saying something wrong. So quit trying to play the race card and just own up to your mistakes (or take a stand for what you believe if you think it was right to say it).

This reminds me of a time I caught an employee viewing pornography on work computers (at a Christian organization) and was told by my superior (white) “black men look at that differently than white men” and so didn't want to let them go. I don’t care how you look at it and I don’t care what “black church tradition” is, if you do evil or say evil then you’re worthy of being criticized.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here's the Anti-Obama Ad At Least One NC Station is Refusing to Air

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Word "Pope" in The First Century

This is the follow up to my previous post: The Word "Pope" in the Second Century. It has come to my attention that the Greek word sheds some very interesting light on this discussion.

First, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Greek word closely associated with the Latin word "papa" (from which we derive the word "Pope") is "pappas" or "papas". Neither of which appear in the New Testament. I was disheartened at first, hoping to find some Scriptural paradigms for the use of the word which the Church at Gaul used to address Pope Eleutherius.

Thanks to this awesome link though, (thank you for the hat tip Mike Aquilina), I discovered that the word Eusebius records for us is "pater" not "papas"! That's Strong's #3962 if you have a Lexicon handy. Now listen to what Thayer's Lexicon says of the word:

“the author of a family or society of persons animated by the same spirit as himself”
As used in Romans 4:11-12,16, 1 Maccabees 2:54. Reminds me of:
"The college or body of bishops, however, has authority together with the Pope as its head. The Pope is the foundation of unity, of bishops as well as of the Faithful; so that supreme authority can be exercised by the college of bishops only in union with the Pope and with his consent." - Constitution of the Church, Vatican II
Or, another applicable definition from Thayer's is of the word as used of the Sanhedrin:
“whose prerogative it was, by virtue of the wisdom and experience in which they excelled, to take charge of the interest of others” .
As used in Acts 7:2, 22:1.

Now we have some more linguistic connotation of what and how the word was used in their time and culture.

The Word "Pope" in the Second Century

Not being one to shy away from controversy, I thought I'd bring up the letter from the Church in Gaul to Pope Eleutherius (or Eleutherus or Eleutheros) which even mentions the word itself. In my previous discussion, Finding the Papacy in the Early Centuries, we had a nearly heated discussion of the historicity of the papal roots in the early centuries. When I brought up the quote from Irenaeus showing that all Churches must agree with Rome because of her primacy, the counter argument was "yea but he doesn't mention any bishops so he's not thinking of the pope". So then (knowing it was futile) I provided the context for his quote - which any student of antiquity should know includes the oldest chronology of the popes we have (probably based on Hegesippus' lost work). So naturally the counter argument was "so what if he mentions bishops I didn't see him say pope". You can see how endless and pointless arguing with such stubborn logic can be. But if it's "pope" you want, it's "pope" you'll get; I bring up the following second century text:

We pray, father Eleutherus, that you may rejoice in God in all things and always. We have requested our brother and comrade Irenæus to carry this letter to you, and we ask you to hold him in esteem, as zealous for the covenant of Christ. For if we thought that office could confer righteousness upon any one, we should commend him among the first as a presbyter of the church, which is his position.
It hasn't the word "pope" of course - they weren't speaking English. Pope comes from the Latin "papa" and of course they weren't speaking Latin either. They were speaking Greek. They use the Greek word father (someone translate for me it's been a long time since I studied any Greek). At any rate, "papa" is the Latin word for father and they used the Greek word for the same (whatever it was) *STOP THE PRESS - I found the word. Check it out*.

In this letter we see the Roman pontiff's paternal role. We needn't get hung up on words though. They didn't go around referring to "the pope" as we would today (to try and steer of some silly arguments that are doubtlessly coming anyway). But they did address the Roman Pontiff as father (or "Pope"). In other words, if one Laodicean Christian had said (speaking in Greek) to another "hey I wonder what the father's next encyclical is going to be about" his comrade would have been clueless. But in the context of a semi-autonomous Catholic Church in Gaul writing an official letter to the Roman pontiff and calling him "father", everyone would have understood what that meant.

To steer off another argument: it would be a mistake to think of this point as if it were akin to the anachronistic reading of "dynamite" back into the Greek "dunamas" which I've heard preachers do more than just a few times. This isn't what's happening here (although some failed to understand that in the previous post on the subject I have no reason to suspect they won't fail again). So here's why that is a bad argument:

First, dynamite is an invented word, pope is not; its an evolved word. In a sense, it is the same word just in a different language and in a different time. Pope is not just a word which is based on the Latin, it is the English way to say the Latin word. This point is clearer if you listen to the Italians say 'vive il papa'. They're not being anachronistic when they do so.

Second, this etymology is actually functioning more like a proper word because, well it has become a proper title. It is more akin to reading "Jesus" back into "Yeshua" or however you'd say it in Aramaic than it is to reading "dynamite" back into "dunamas". Reading proper nouns back into their variations in linguistic history is not anachronistic.

Third, (this ties in with the second) the connotations we have with a word like "pope" do not argue that reading it into the second century would be anachronistic. Using the previous example, the word "Jesus" has far more connotations now than the word "Yeshua" would have had to a first century Jew and yet we wouldn't hesitate (and we don't) to read "Jesus" back into "Yeshua" or even the Greek "Iesus". Therefore when reading the early references to "father" we should, as students of history, drop the connotations they wouldn't have had but be careful to understand which connotations they would have had.

All of this requires serious study in patristics and not merely counting the references to the Roman Pontiff as those who are of the same mind tend to do with the Scriptures - counting the references to Mary as proof of her unimportance. To learn the connotations of even a single word (especially one as important as this one) we would need to reconstruct the world in which it was spoken/written.

In closing, let me make one remark about fluency (both linguistic and cultural). It takes both to fully comprehend any text. That is one of the reasons why the early fathers are so important in properly understanding the New Testament - they lived and breathed this stuff. Our best scholars pale in comparison to even the average early exegetes. There is no way to compensate for linguistic and cultural fluency. A fluent reader/listener can discern clear and intended meaning not only by which words were used but by which words might have otherwise been used in its place. Word choice is a strong tool in conveying a lot of information indirectly (yet no less clear) without being extremely wordy or insulting the reader by explaining information he would be expected to know.

So on those lines - first we note that the Church (notice this isn't a casual letter but a carefully crafted one delivered by Saint Irenaeus in person) referred to him as "father" when they could have just as easily said "brother" (and in the Protestant world, this would have made much more sense). Calling another bishop "brother" would certainly not amount to Gaul denying the 'honorary primacy' of Rome (if one were to argue such a point). If there were no thought of primacy or even only a little thought of it, "brother" would have been highly appropriate. If not brother, then "venerable" or "blessed" or "most holy" or a number of titles would have been both honorary and appropriate. We must not ignore the word choice here.

Secondly, we should note that in this case (especially) and in many other early cases, the apologetics we are sometimes looking for simply wouldn't make sense in the context of the letters. So someone might object "Yea so he mentions the word father but he doesn't explain that the Pope is the successor of Peter and has jurisdiction over other episcopates etc...etc..." But why on earth would we expect him to say such a thing? This is the point at which we cross over from serious historical study to wishful thinking and pointless sophistry. For the Church at Gaul to explain the papacy, its foundation, and its authority to the Roman pontiff would have been far beyond insulting.

We acknowledge that the reason for the lack of apologetics in Paul's writings, the lack of reference to Christ's miracles and the lack of specific rubrics was not because Paul was unaware of these things or that he didn't believe in them. Rather, he was writing for a different purpose and writing with certain assumptions in place. Among those were the fact that the Christian communities he wrote to would have been well aware of these things. Likewise, if anyone was aware of the tradition regarding the papacy, the Roman pontiff was. He would be the last target for an explanation or defense of the papacy. Now Irenaeus was writing his aforementioned work to someone else who we would expect to be far less educated on the subject. We shouldn't have been surprised then to see him go into more detail on exactly why the Roman Church (and consequently her pontiff) held such primacy.

Now, anyone who wants to respond - keep it charitable. No condescending remarks. Do not begin sentences with a sarcastic "Uh,". Do not make a bad argument and then ask me "Understand?" and in general let's stay away from sophistry. It gets old real quick. Don't nit pick on silly details - stick with the brunt of what I'm saying.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bill Maher Slams the Pope on HBO

The always distasteful and ever cowardly liberal Bill Maher hides behind a culture of anti-Catholicism to slander the pope and the Catholic Church. You wouldn't let someone talk about your earthly mother this way - don't take it in regards to our mother the Church either. Tell HBO to Fire Bill Maher.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Salvation by Faith or Works or Both?

This is my comment on George Weis' blog. I wanted to re-post here because.. well... I have a big head:

I think it's significant that the Scripture almost always (not sometimes) uses language incompatible with the "if you're saved you'll do good" way of getting around this problem ("this problem" is the mystery of justification). As mentioned before, it says "he who stands firm until the end will be saved" not "he who is saved will stand firm to the end". Though it's much more natural to say the first, it wouldn't be difficult for the Holy Spirit to inspire the second if that is what He intended us to read.We are left with a puzzle, a mystery of salvation.

My friend once remarked that he was glad he didn't need to know how the eye worked to appreciate the beauty of a sunset and likewise was glad that he didnt need to know how salvation worked to be saved. But if we wanted to gain insight on it, the Church does have some.

Works don't save us - we all agree on that. We can't earn our way to heaven lets just get that out of the way.Salvation is God's business not ours. It is His grace that first calls us (that's where predestination fits in) and it's we who respond (again by His grace). This free will of ours is not the unbiased ability in full liberty to choose between Heaven or Hell on our own - instead it is the God-given ability to cooperate with or reject His grace (hence the comment I made which we were discussing). I think this is fairly agreeable by both Roman Catholics and Protestants so far.

Now here's the issue where the debate comes in.The Protestants say "sola fide" where the Catholic Church says "de fide". I'm sure you're already aware that the only time the Scriptures ever mention the phrase "faith alone" is James 2:24 where it says we are not saved by faith alone but by faith and works.James clearly isn't saying we have to believe and work our way into heaven.

Yet in the way which Protestants condemn "works" as if by this we intend to say we ourselves contributed something substantial to our salvation "faith" could also rightly be categorized in that group. Is faith of ourselves? No, not even that. Faith is a gift from God. We don't earn our salvation by works OR faith. We don't earn it period.

We're back to square one - God saves us by His grace - completely unmerited on our part. Protestans would say by grace (revealed)through faith alone (and then that faith is reveald by good works which necessarily follow). Catholics would skip the middle man and say salvation by grace (revealed) through faith and works.

So you can see how close our beliefs really are. I sincerely think that most of this is in the phrasing of the doctrine. If you take away all the fluff, we may have only slight variations. No one, Catholic or Protestant, believes that we earn our way into Heaven.

The word "works" is also used in various ways so this adds to the confusion. At some points in Scripture it is abundantly clear that Paul is speaking of Works according to the Law - do not do such and such on the Sabbath, you shall only eat these meats, this is what you shall do if you find a bird's nest on the side of the road etc... In this way he echoes John the Baptist's scoff "I tell you God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones". In other words, thinking you may earn your way to heaven by any means is ridiculous but thinking that following the strictures and rituals of the Hebrew Law will literally put God in debt to you (owing you paradise) is beyond ridicule.

Salvation is revealed first through faith. Good works follow (chronologically). We do not believe because we have good works but (and this is key) we also do not do good works simply because we believe. James 2 makes this clear as he brings up the point that even the demons believe (and they have not good works). Both our faith and our good works (and in this context we're not talking about works according to the law but good works according to the gospel of Christ) come directly from God's grace.

Finally, as we have looked at the word 'works' we must also look at the word 'faith'. In Latin, the word is 'fide' from which we derive 'fidelity'. This etymology is helpful. In fact in English, we base the word "faithfulness" on the word "faith". We must also remember that Jesus beckoned people around Him to faith while He was standing in front of them.

From this evidence we can safely conclude that the word 'faith', in a biblical sense, means a great deal more than mere intellectual assent. We do not simply believe that Jesus exists or even that He rose from the dead or even that He is Lord of the universe. True faith, saving faith, makes Him Lord of our lives by our faithfulness to Him and our fidelity to the gospel.Thereby we can fully comprehend what He said, "You are my friends if you do what I command you".

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Immaculate Conception in Church History

The immaculate conception is a doctrine which troubles those of us with a Puritan background like no other and to no end. My first night at RCIA (deciding whether to become Catholic or not) was on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception 2005. Hah! As I look back on that fateful evening, I remember the first question I piped up and asked: "If Jesus being born without original sin requires His mother to be born sinless as well, then for her to be born so, wouldn't it require her parents to be born without sin as well?" The answer I received: "Not necessarily".

Heh. God must have really wanted me to become Catholic. So what of this doctrine which was not formally pronounced until 1854? Surely this late doctrine has no real place among Christian history..right?

Thus also the demonstration makes the matter clear to us. Since the Saviour of the world, with the purpose of saving the race of men, was born of the immaculate and virgin Mary,


For as to a virgin bearing, this we have known only in the case of the all-holy Virgin, who bore the Saviour verily clothed in flesh.
You may be surprised to learn that was St. Hippolytus sometime around 220 AD. And from here I'll highlight a few interesting quotes from Jaroslav Pelikan's book "Mary Through the Centuries":
In a famous and controversial passage of On Nature and Grace, one of the most important treatises that he devoted to the defense of the doctrine of original sin, Augustine had listed the great saints of the Old and New Testaments, who had nevertheless been sinners. Then he continued: "We must make an exception of the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord. For from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular [ad vincendum omni ex parte peccatum] was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin" pg 191
Is it so hard to see why we say Protestants only view Augustine as a hero because they quote him so selectively?
Mary could not have been the archetype of the saved unless she herself had been saved. She had been saved in a special manner, as by now [early 13th century] almost all the theologians of the church affirmed, although it did not become official and binding until 1854 - that is, by being preserved from original sin rather than, as everyone else was, rescued from it- but saved by the same divine grace and through the same divine Redeemer as the rest of humanity. pg 149

As the controversy over the immaculate conception developed already in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it became customary to put into juxtaposition these two passages from teachers of massive authority in the Latin West: Augustine's identification of Mary as in some way or other an "exception," and Bernard's Epistle 174 to the canons of Lyons, opposing the immaculate conception. When they were lined up that way, depending on the viewpoint, the author would proceed to explain one of them on the basis of the other. Gregory of Rimini, citing other passages from Augustine that made Christ the only exception to the universality of original sin, explained that in the passage under discussion he must have been referring only to actual sin, from which everyone, including Bernard, agreed that Mary was from. But this explanation could not satisfy those who interpreted Augustine's phrase "overcoming sin in every particular [ad vincendum omni ex parte peccatum]" as comprehending both actual and original sin, so that she alone among all the saints did not have to pray the words of the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our debts." pg 194
It's interesting to note that throughout the entire history of the Church (up until the reformation of course) there was never any debate about whether Mary was sinless or not, just whether she had been born under the penalty of original sin or not.

Finally, it was interesting for me to learn that the Church had attempted to deal authoritatively with this issue long before 1854 when the Council of Basel decreed:
that the immaculate conception was "a pious doctrine, in conformity with the worship of the church, the Catholic faith, right reason and Holy Scripture." It prescribed that the doctrine "be approved, held, and professed by all Catholics," and it forbade and preaching or teaching contrary to it.
Though the council was later deemed invalid (for unrelated reasons see page 198) it was clear that:
"By the end of the fifteenth century, with or without the authority of the Council of Basel, the doctrine had become generally accepted in Western Christendom, believed by the faithful and taught by the doctors of the Church."
In other words - it didn't pop out of nowhere in 1854. In fact, as a universal doctrine, it's older than any of the Protestant ones.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do Miracles Happen?

If it were the case that miracles don't actually occur, we would never know about it. Some historians rule certain parts of history out a priori because they involve miracles and they say "we know miracles don't happen". How do we know it? By observing the world around us? The means we have to observe are all scientific so how could we measure that which intrinsically cannot be measured?

Can miracles happen? Of course not! That's what makes them miracles!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Mission Byzantine Catholic Church in Charlotte to Celebrate Mass Weekly

Saint Basil's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Charlotte will beginning offering faithful Catholics in Charlotte a weekly alternative to the "Here I Am Lord" liturgies which plague most of our Roman rite parishes.

Up until now, this mission has only offered mass once every three weeks but with the installation of a second priest, they will be saying mass every week or nearly every week per last week's announcement. Awesome news for Charlotte.

I am prayerfully considering switching rites. The Eastern liturgy is absolutely beautiful and reverent. Plus my patron saint is Polycarp - bishop of Smyrna so he's Eastern. My wife isn't too keen on the idea since she grew up in the Latin rite but I have no sentimental attachment to it. Ironically, I'm a Westerner and she's from the far East!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finding the Papacy in the First Centuries

Whenever you set about looking for something in antiquity, you would be wise to first understand clearly what you at least expect to find. So about the papacy, what would we expect it to look like in the first centuries? We understandably envision today's pope as a starting point but unfortunately, many would-be historians never progress any further.

What would we expect the pickup truck to look like in 1935? Not like they do now. Is it inconceivable that the office of the papacy would be developmental as we all agree the rest of the Church is? Who needs bishops and archbishops in the upper room?

Let me ask the skeptic a few questions (this means any skeptic).

First, if we were to prove that the papacy existed like it does today in the first century, would you become a Catholic and start praying to Mary, going to confession and drop the belief in sola fide / sola scriptura? If not, then your issue isn't with the historicity of the papacy but elsewhere. I have some guesses if you're interested. This question is more serious than you might realize. It leads us to our second one:

Do you think that this issue is significantly different than trying to convince an atheist of the historicity of the Synoptic Jesus? Intelligence and historical knowledge can only offer so much help - in fact, the more clever you are, the more reasons you can think of to disbelieve what the Church is claiming. In brief, faith is a vital element of submitting to the papacy just as it is with submitting to Christ. This brings us to our third question which is implicit in both of these:

Are you willing to submit to the papacy if you found out that he was really the vicar of Christ on earth? No one who has yet to seriously contended with that question is ready to ask the less important ones like "did the early Church believe exactly like we do about the Roman Pontiff"?

If one can argue his way out of James 2:24 in favor of sola fide, one can certainly argue his way out of St. Irenaeus explicitly stating "it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church[Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority". If one can deny the early Church's belief in the Real Presence, then one can easily turn a blind eye to St. Clement of Rome's first century letter demanding obedience to his see (while an apostle was still alive no less). In short, if Clement, Irenaeus and the other greats (not the least of which St. Augustine) fail to convince you about the early Church's fidelity to the bishop of Rome then my words will be of little effect.

There are tomes of books written to demonstrate this doctrine both theologically and historically. If one were so inclined to find out the facts about the matter, it wouldn't be difficult.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Limitless Errors of Liberalism

An anonymous liberal has apparently been pretty upset about my previous two posts - what with me claiming that the Church fathers and martyrs weren't misogynist anti-Semitic scum.

What's worse is that I think that this liberal is a Catholic (not really sure but he/she seems to have a dog in the fight). I've met Catholics like this before or heard of them. I have it on good authority that there are several of them teaching lay ministry and other programs at the Charlotte diocese.

They think they can proof-text Augustine and Aquinas to prove that they were misogynist or quote Chrysostom to show he was anti-Semitic. Now maybe they were, but that would depend heavily on our definitions of each word. If misogyny means saying anything about women that Rosie O'Donnell wouldn't say... then I suppose our anonymous friend has a point and I suppose that all of the anti-Catholic liberals are well within reason by saying such things. And if by "Antisemitism" we mean "any sort of discrimination or differentiation regarding the Jews" then I suppose they would be right as well.

If I were of the opinion of these liberals though, it would be extremely discomforting to know that these Jew hating misogynists were far more holy and full of the Holy Spirit than I could ever hope to aspire to.. After all, we are talking about not merely the greatest minds but also some of the greatest heroes and greatest champions of living exactly how a Christian ought to live. At which point if I were so against what seemed to be a glaring error in their praxis (not living up to our high Rosie O'Donnell standards) then I'd probably start re-evaluating what it really meant to be a "good Christian" or whether being a "Christian" was even a good thing at all. If our highest level of aspiration as a Christian is sainthood and those that have achieved it (like Augustine, Aquinas and Chrysostom) fall objectively short of pure goodness (Rosie O'Donnell) then maybe the Church actually got this whole thing wrong anyway. Or perhaps still I am wrong (which is the thought that has never crossed any liberal's mind which is why they remain liberals).

At any rate, I'm sure my new friend is rather upset at me for deleting his comments (if he ever comes back to see it). If you've read my blog for any length of time you'll notice that I don't often do that. In fact, his was probably the third or fourth comment I've ever deleted in the nearly 2 years I've been blogging and at least two of them were spam.

I don't pretend not to have anything to learn from him but it's pretty hard to extract meaningful conversation from in between ad hominem attacks and (what seems to be) typical liberal sarcasm. Now, I know I'm not the least sarcastic person in the world and I am prone to use it a bit too much on occasion - but there is a certain fine line I will not cross and when someone else does cross that same line - I tend to discontinue the conversation. Still, I am willing to dialogue publicly about this so if anyone disagrees with me, have at it - just leave the attitude at the door and refrain from personal attacks is all I ask. Oh yea, one more thing - please take the time to understand and respond to my argument instead of merely reading the title of the post and replying with something on topic but not directly related.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Contraception... Surprise: its First Mention Wasn't Humanae Vitae

From the early third century St. Hippolytus writes:

Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church!
Of course, in the greater context, Hippolytus is falsely accusing Pope Callistus I of being too lenient on these and other sins. I say - Hippolytus may have been an anti-pope but at least he had the spine to confront this evil head on which is more than I can say of many priests these days.

The Church Fathers - Anti Semites?

Strange that I can't remember the last time anyone pointed out the fact that it was always the "Christian" heresies (rejected by the Church) which proved to be those truly anti-Semitic. Take the following passage from Hippolytus:

(Saturnilus,) however, (maintained that Jesus) was manifested as man in appearance only. And he says that the God of the Jews is one of the angels, and, on account of the Father's wishing to deprive of sovereignty all the Archons, that Christ came for the overthrow of the God of the Jews,
This is to mention nothing of the utter and decisive rejection of Marcionism and all it represented a little later (after Saturnilus that is). Of course, these are the same scholars (I mean those who claim Christianity is anti-Semitic) who'd have us believe the fathers were utterly misogynistic. It should go without saying (but it never does) that I'm not denying the fact that there have been anti-Semitic atrocities committed by Christians (or vice versa)

Valentinians on 'Creation'

If Darwinian evolution turns out to be correct the Valentinian Gnostics were centuries ahead of their time. St. Hippolytus, silly intelligent designer that he was, criticizes them in the following passage (after accusing them of plagiarizing both Plato and Pythagoras):

For the Demiurge[replace, in this context, with 'mother nature' and see if it would fit on the lips of a Darwinist], they say, knows nothing at all, but is, according to them, devoid of understanding, and silly, and is not conscious of what he is doing or working at. But in him, while thus in a state of ignorance that even he is producing, Sophia wrought all sorts of energy, and infused vigour (into him). And (although Sophia) was really the operating cause, he himself imagines that he evolves the creation of the world out of himself: whence he commenced, saying, "I am God, and beside me there is no other".
Our enemies keep regurgitating the same errors and giving different reasons why we should believe them once their former ones are refuted. Part of their 'biblical' justification for such heresy was a thoroughly metaphoric reading of the OT (sound like anyone else you know?)
This (Demiurge), according to them, is Abraham,
How transparently can you possibly read an obviously historical account in such a figurative way for the sole purpose of denying orthodoxy? They keep finding new ways even today. Note: I'm not by any means arguing for a purely literal reading of the book of Genesis here but I'll stand my ground and say little of it (or the Christian faith in general) makes any sense aside from a literal reading.

Book Review: Mary Through the Centuries by Jaroslav Pelikan

I finally finished this book which I've been reading for something like 6 months. It's not that the book is long (or dull) it's just that I'm slow when it comes to reading books.

I thought Pelikan's writing style has improved immensely since the 70s when he wrote his famous series on Church history. There were a few chapters however, that were highly reminiscent - where I read the entire chapter and had to constantly keep my mind from wondering and then finally not being able to regurgitate anything I had just read. I can't quite put my finger on what it is but sometimes he gets going and all I can think is 'where in the name of all that is holy is he going with this' or rather 'why in the name of all that is holy is going there' or more often still 'I wonder what I'll have for dinner to... oh yea I'm literally in the process of reading the book and I'm not paying attention'. There were really only one or two chapters like that and they were ones heavily dependent on the work of others.

I would recommend the book though and I think Protestants would enjoy it as well. I believe he was still a Protestant when he wrote this but you can tell by some of his wording that he was nearing the end of that. He did observe the reformation arguments rather fairly for both sides I thought.

My biggest complaint though was his 20th century liberal subtleties which I've noticed surfacing in some other good scholars I've read. Though not dominating by any means, there were a few quotes here and there that can really put off anyone who hasn't bought into the whole "the Church fathers were misogynists" nonsense. I think this quote exemplifies the subtlety of his liberal errors best:

If we could enable the silent millions among Medieval women to recover their voices, the evidence that we do have from those relatively few who did leave a written record strongly suggests that it was with the figure of Mary that many of them identified themselves - with her humility, yes, but also with her defiance and with her victory:
With her defiance? WTF? "With her humility, yes but"?? When was the last time you heard anyone apologize for Christ's humility? When did anyone ever shy away from a full embrace of Christ's humility in favor of championing some extra-Christian ideology? There were a few moments like that where I just wanted to smack him but otherwise, it was a very level headed book. In fact, the gems far outweigh those moments. Here's a gem:
The paradox of Mary as Virgin Mother not only effectively illustrated but decisively shaped the fundamental paradox of the Orthodox and Catholic view of sexuality, which was epitomized by the glorification of virginity over matrimony - and by the celebration of matrimony, but not of virginity, as a sacrament.
See what I mean about him starting to see the beauty and truth of the Church's teaching?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

TheGodFearin' Fiddler Harassed by a Fundamentalist at Bob Hope Airport!

This week I traveled on business to Pasadena, CA and stayed at the Fuller Theological Seminary guest house. I only brought one book on the trip so I could focus and finish it rather than switching between books as I am prone to do. I ended up finishing the book about halfway to my destination and so I wanted something to read on the way back. Luckily the seminary had a nice book store and after much deliberation, I decided to find out what all the fuss was about N.T. Wright's recent book: Paul in Fresh Perspective.

I told my boss on the car ride back that it was a controversial book that had caused a lot of uh..well controversy in the Presbyterian ecclesial community.

We were flying American Airlines so if you heard any of the news something like 500 planes were grounded due to lack of inspection and ours was one of them. So we switched to US Airways and I guess that's a red flag for security so we were all searched thoroughly by the TSA. As the security guard was handing my bags back to me he said "I'm not sure if I should let you fly with that book by N.T. Wright" I just smiled assuming it to be his way to say in jest "I don't agree with his theology" but he went on to say the book ought to be burned. My boss asked him why and he said he was a graduate from the Masters Seminary (John MacArthur's). The rest then, should come as no surprise.

He never acknowledged me again in the conversation and the words he used to describe Wright's views to my boss were "blatant heresy". Blatant heresy? I just don't know what goes through some of these people's heads. When I was a Protestant who hated the Catholic Church, I never dared use that word "heresy". It was a meaningless word to me because I understood the meaning. "Heresy" isn't anything that diverges from my personal reading of the Scriptures. "Heresy" is that which dissents from an objective source - the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. If it means anything other than that, it is purely subjective and meaningless. As a Protestant, both alternatives were meaningless so I wouldn't have the audacity (or ignorance) to use the word.

I had to interject with a smile (not a smirk) just before leaving "Well, I'm a Roman Catholic" in response to which he just gave me an unenthusiastic look and walked away. I had considered pushing it a little bit further but I thought it better not to upset a TSA guard before boarding a plane.

At any rate, I really couldn't help but chuckle at the event. I hope if I'm ever in a similar situation I'll have the courage to look the person in the eye and explain politely why I disagree or perhaps it wouldn't even be my place at all to critique the book of a complete stranger.

New Patristic Carnival Up

Patristic Carnival X is up at Hyperekperissou.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Caius and the Origins of the Vatican

As recorded by Eusebius:

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

"But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church."
Caius was a Christian at the Church of Rome and while it is suggested by some, it is not likely that he was a priest. He is known for his disputation against a Montanist heretic during the reign of Pope Zephyrinus (199-217). It is interesting to see such early reference to the "Vatican". Of course, when he says Vatican it surely didn't hold all the connotations it would with us. The origin of the word "Vatican" (Vaticanus in Latin) is unknown but some claim it is the location of an ancient town called Vaticum. This area was never part of the city of Rome itself in antiquity.

Notice how the Vatican wasn't built on the foundation of paganism as is charged by some or on some power hungry, misogynistic ideology as is assumed by many but rather on the blood of her earliest martyrs - the 'most righteous pillars of the Church' as Pope St. Clement of Rome referred to them in the first century.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards

For us humble bloggers who can't compete with Father Z and Curt Jester - here's another Catholic blog awards on Crescat's homepage. It's fun! (I was nominated for "Best Armchair Theologian" - I like it!!!)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

McDonalds to Aggressively Support Homosexual Agenda

In case you still eat at this dump, here's a good reason never to do so again. H/T Thorn in the Pew.

According to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, McDonald’s will aggressively promote the homosexual agenda. In remarks on McDonald's Web site concerning the company becoming a member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), Skinner wrote: "Being a socially responsible organization is a fundamental part of who we are. We have an obligation to use our size and resources to make a difference in the world … and we do."
And being morally responsible is a fundamental part of who am I which is why (although I don't eat there except on very rare occasion) I'll certainly never eat there again.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Obama: Abortion Justifiable Means to Deal With the "Punishment" of Pregnancy

Obama, bringing out the very worst of the baby boomer mentality equates children with "punishment" for mistakes as part of his pro-abortion platform. H/T Pewsitter.