Friday, May 30, 2008

Abortion on Demand in Brazil? No Way! Praise God

Pro-life victories seem to be few and far in between these days. Praise God for this one:

With great joy we received the news at Vida Humana Internacional, HLI’s Hispanic Division in Miami, that a piece of legislation (bill 1135/91) which would have legalized abortion on demand throughout Brazil, did not make it out of the Safety and Family Commission. This pro-life triumph was possible thanks to the very excellent pro-life movement that exists in Brazil and in particular to the efforts of Dr. Humberto Vieira, HLI’s national representative in that country. Dr. Vieira, who is founder and president of Providafamilia, has been involved with HLI for over 18 years. He has managed to create a magnificent pro-life network throughout Brazil that is well-organized and united.
Read the whole story at HLI.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dialogue on Authority II - The Convo Turns Ugly

Let me remind everyone that while this event was inspired by an actual conversation, the characters (except Catholic) do not directly represent any real person. Some, if not all, of what they say has been said to me at different times by different Protestants and I've chosen the best of the best I think, to be fair. I did get a little carried away with this one, but if you ever read a post on my blog that doesn't go too far - you should probably suspect someone has hacked my account.

When we last left our hero: Catholic, there seemed no hope left. Objector had pulled "the Holy Spirit card". Was there any way Catholic could maneuver his way out of this one? Would he be shown to be a worshiper of Mary and false idols rather than Christ? Can he deny Objector's logic without "quenching the Spirit"? Stay tuned for this exciting episode of... D. O. A. (Dialogue on Authority) Queue theme music...

Catholic: You said that the Holy Spirit will spiral the true believer closer and closer into a perfect interpretation of Scripture. So why has the Holy Spirit spiraled you (Presbyterians) faster or more effectively than say the Pentecostals?

Objector: Come on…

Catholic: I think it’s a valid question.

(A mutual friend, Simplicio, joins the conversation)

Simplicio: Hi guys what’s the topic?

Catholic (eyes squint as he assumes a distant, and profoundly heraldic expression): Simplicio you attend a contemporary mega “church”, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

Simplicio: But I just…

Catholic: STAND DOWN SIMPLICIO!!! YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR LE…

Objector: Let him be.

Catholic: ….Fine. Where were we? Let me rephrase the question. Surely Christ left us some sort of objective measure of how we can know Truth. I don’t think your view of the Holy Spirit helping the individual achieve exegetical perfection is a supplement to your conception of “Church authority”, I think it’s a poor way of sidestepping the circular argument we’ve already demonstrated you to be using. In reality, it creates only a small circular loop within your overarching circular argument. What is a Church? - It is whichever group preaches Biblical doctrine. How do we know what Biblical doctrine is? The Holy Spirit helps us. So now here’s my question to show we have firmly returned to our circular track: how do we know whom the Holy Spirit is helping and whom He isn’t?

Objector: Well, as I said, this isn’t something that can be put in a test tube and experimented on.

Simplicio: Guys, Jesus said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life”. I don’t see where that says we need to worship the saints.

Objector: Ok I change my mind, Simplicio… you’re out of your element.

Simplicio: What? I just quoted Scrip..

Objector: Simplicio you EMBARRASS ME!

Catholic: Ok, now I’m not talking about performing scientific tests on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about knowing what Christianity is in an objective way. Your view does not allow that. It is reduced to either circular logic or a non-falsifiable subjectivity depending on how we approach it. We cannot know what “Church” is since your definition is circular. We can add the Holy Spirit to the me-Jesus-and-the-Bible trio but then we end up with subjectivity. Answer me plainly, is it possible to know the gospel objectively?

Objector: The gospel, at least the essentials, are evident in Scripture. In this way, Scripture is an objective method. We can call it “my opinion” of Scripture or “your opinion”. But we don’t need the Pope to tell us the plain meaning of the essentials of Christianity found in Scripture.

Simplicio: Yea!

Catholic: Oh really? So then per James 2:24 you agree that we are justified by faith and works and not faith alone?

Simplicio: The Scriptures do not say that.

Catholic: Yuh huh.

Simplicio: Nuh uh.

Objector: You’re taking it out of context.

Catholic: By whose estimation?

Objector: Look..

Catholic: Just answer the question. Again, your interpretation says that I’m taking it out of context. Your ecclesial community has a given interpretation here which openly mutilates the plain meaning of it according to my personal estimation (and that of what I consider to be the Church). We’re back to square one AGAIN. How can you not see how circular this is? We have seen that even in the simplest, basic fundamentals of Christianity, we cannot come to an agreement on the meaning of a text because we do not agree on an objective means by which to know the truth of it for certain.

Objector: …

Catholic: If Christ did establish a visible Church, what would she look like, or how would we know it?

Objector: I haven’t denied the visibility of the Church.

Catholic: The “Church” you call visible was founded at a specific date in time. June 11, 1936 to be precise. How can this be the one Christ founded?

Objector: I’m impressed you knew that date.

Simplicio: Objector, you wouldn’t be so impressed if you realized that you’re a mere figment of his imagination and that he paused the very sands of time in our nonexistent world while researching the matter on Google. (Squints his eyes at the Catholic)

Catholic (stunned): Simplicio, that’s the most profound thing that’s ever come out of your mouth.

Objector: Well, you have strong arguments Catholic; I’ll give you that. But at the end of the day what really matters is whether or not we are serving Christ and whether we can embrace each other in unity.

Simplicio: Yes, Jesus prayed for us to be one. And it’s like Peter said “you know I love You Lord”. God knows our hearts. He knows we are trying to serve Him the best we can.

Catholic: !!!

Objector: He also said “I give you the keys to the kingdom”. We have the keys to Christianity, Jesus promised them to us.

Catholic: !!!!!!!!!!

Objector: Catholic? Are you ok? You’re turning red!

(Ambrose Anglican takes a seat at the table. The plot thickens…)

Objector: Oh, let me introduce my friend Ambrose Anglican, his friends call him Anglo. He just flew in from Manchester.

Anglican (thick British accent): Cheerio then.

Catholic: Hi.

(Simplicio is mysteriously found to be missing…)

Anglican: Pardon my ignorance but were there not three of you lads?

Objector: He was a Bapti.. I mean non denominationalist. He must have been raptured. Too bad we’re “left behind”.

Anglican: It is rather difficult to secure a ticket on a train one doesn’t believe exists.

Catholic: Ok Objector, Simplicio quoted from John 17 and then John 21 and then you quoted from Matthew 16. These are all Catholic proof texts for the papacy! First Jesus prays that the Church will be one. Also in John 10, Jesus prophesies that there will be one Shepherd and one flock. Then in John 21 He explicitly tells Peter to “feed my Sheep”.

Objector: Well that’s reading a bit much into the text.

Catholic: Back to square one! According to you and your 70 year old ecclesial community it is, but according to mine it’s not. I need a bell to ring every time we return to square one you know. Now again, you quoted Jesus giving the keys to Peter.

Anglican: Were they given to Peter or to the disciples?

Catholic: To Peter. The Greek is singular there and the following “you” is plural “whatever you bind and loose” etc… Is it so hard to conceive that the Church which has demonstrably existed for 2000 years with provable succession from the Apostles and remaining until this day in communion with the successor of Peter is really the visible Church that Christ founded?

Anglican: If I may, it is possible to believe in the visible Catholic Church without assenting to the Primacy of Peter (I mean beyond honorary primacy of course). I am Anglo-Catholic you know.

Catholic: No. You’re not Catholic in any meaningful sense of the word.

Anglican: Oh poppycock!

Catholic: See, a real Catholic would never use such a word.

Objector: Anglican is right, reading the papacy into those verses is stretching the text beyond credibility.

Catholic (rings a bell loudly): I actually happened to have this in my pocket. Square one Objector! Square One! That’s about 17 too many return trips to square one. I know of only one way to settle this circular hermeneutico-babble. I learned this one from jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

Catholic stands up abruptly and throws the table aside. Without hesitation he punches Objector square in the jaw, knocking him out cold.

Anglican (evil chuckle): You fool. I was stationed in both Japan and China during my missionary days as an evangelical. There I mastered the art of Kung fu and later became a ninja for side money (missionary pay is terrible you know, and Tokyo is really expensive).

Catholic: A British ninja? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Anglican: Silence! Prepare to duel, papist!

Where will this end up? Will Catholic be able to repel the ruthless attacks from the anglo-ninja? Or will he be able to suit up with the full armor of Christ? Is a Catholic even able to wear spiritual armor since it was Paul who first mentioned it? Join us next time to find out the conclusion to this ridiculous mini series.

Don't say I didn't warn you. You know I can only go so far with some of these arguments on their lips while still retaining some level of fairness. If I could keep going forever, well I'd probably still be a Protestant. I run into brick walls all over the place when I think as a Protestant. If anyone wants to add Protestant arguments, just toss em' in the com box and I'll weave it into the next one (assuming I make another).






Dialogue on Authority - I

This is in part taken from a real dialogue I had yesterday. It was cut short so I didn't get to take it nearly as far as I would have liked to. Perhaps he and I will pick up our conversation again but I've been thinking about certain questions and how I think he'd answer them. Here is my fictional dialogue (again, partially based in reality). I think these answers are at least as good as he would have given if not better.

Objector: The Scripture must be the final rule of our faith.

Catholic: But only the Church has authority to interpret Scripture.

Objector: Of course. For me, the general assembly has authority over me and if I dissent then they can excommunicate me.

Catholic: But who gave them authority?

Objector: Well... If they excommunicate me I can go elsewhere.

Catholic: So do they or do they not have real authority? Of course they have authority over you while you put yourself under their care – that’s a given. It is the same way with my employer. I am under his authority but he may only order me up to a certain point. If he crosses a certain line, I can quit and remove his authority from him. Therefore in a real sense his authority over me is actually given to him by me. Returning to the assembly then, do they derive their authority from you or from somewhere else?

Objector: The Church has authority over me because they are entrusted with the preaching of the Scriptures. This authority is given to them by the Scriptures themselves.

Catholic: Two questions: 1. If they are not properly preaching the Scriptures, do they still have authority over you? 2. What makes you identify the OPC general assembly with “Church”? If they can make a licit claim to “Church”, can I assemble a group of Christian friends, properly preach the Scriptures and form my own authoritative Church? Would we have valid authority over members of our congregation?

Objector: 1. They have to properly preach the Scriptures in order to be considered a “church” 2. As I said, the assembly or “church” is that group which rightly preaches the Word of God. Any group of believers is bound by the authority of the assembly in their locality.

Catholic: Then who are you bound by, the Presbyterians or the Baptists?

Objector: The Presbyterian view of Scripture has several differences with the Baptists and so in our estimation, they are not authoritative because they do not properly preach the Word.

Catholic: So we have returned full circle. In fact, the Church doesn’t tell you how to interpret Scripture, you decide what the Church is based on your interpretation of Scripture! Then, you voluntarily place yourself under the authority of whichever “assembly” you think authentically represents the correct doctrine of Scripture.

Objector: As long as men are involved, no one will have perfect doctrine. No “assembly” has perfect doctrine.

Catholic: Ok let’s stop right here and back track because you’re not answering my arguments directly and you’re throwing us off topic. In response to my two questions above you said the Church is that which rightly teaches Scripture. That’s great except for one thing, I didn’t ask you what the Church was. I asked you if they (the OPC assembly – not “invisible Church” or any other abstract notion) have authority over you when and if they begin to incorrectly teach Scripture. Let’s just stick with this question for now. Do they?

Objector: …

Catholic: Ahem…

Objector: I see the trap you’re laying for me.

Catholic: Take as much time as you need for qualification. I’d like to think there is no question you could ask me of my faith, however loaded, that I’d hesitate to answer. If you see a trap, perhaps it reflects a reality that you’re unwilling to face. But perhaps not, I’m giving you the opportunity to prove that notion wrong.

Objector: If there was a clear, and objective violation of Scripture by the OPC general assembly, I would consider their authority over me invalid. Luther didn’t say he must only be convicted by Scripture, but by Scripture and plain reason.

Catholic: I see. Then we are again back at square one don’t you agree? It’s your personal interpretation of Scripture that holds the real authority.

Objector: I can see what you’re saying, I really can. But we’re leaving the Holy Spirit out of the equation. This is something that we can’t prove. We have a sort of fundamental belief in the notion that the Holy Spirit will lead the believer who has an open heart into the correct interpretation of Scripture. This doesn’t mean he’s going to ever be perfect, but the reformed tend to look at our interpretations as getting closer and closer to the true meaning of any given text as we draw ourselves nearer and nearer to God.
To be continued…

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Matthew 16:18 & The Scholarly Consensus

Regula Fide has a concise yet potent post on the scholarly consensus regarding Matthew 16:18 which I would highly recommend to anyone who isn't already familiar with it.

Ecumenical Dialogue With a Couple Reformed Brothers

Thos, if you're reading this you would have enjoyed our lunch room conversation today. Plate in hand and with our Calvinist-Thomist-Origenist discussion on soteriology literally ringing in my head as I sat down, my friend immediately asked me "so what do you think about salvation these days". I hardly had time to collect my thoughts. He (an elder) and the other gentleman sitting there (a psychologist) were both OPC members. "Well....ahem..." I'll spare you the details but here's where it ended up.

The Dr. asked me, if it comes down to Catholic tradition versus Scripture then which one do you believe? I said "Thats a false either or, and besides, when you say Scripture what you really mean is my interpretation of Scripture". We came to an agreement then on the fact that it was the Church's job to interpret Scripture and she held authority over the individual (no big surprises there). But this institution with authority over them in their minds was the OPC general assembly. I started going down the road of apostolic succession which they werent too keen to follow on and later he (the elder) asked me "why is it that if I go to a non-denominational mega church, as bad as their doctrine is I still feel some level of connectedness but not with a Catholic Church?" I replied "To be honest, it's because you're separated from the Church".

And does a "feeling of connectedness" indicate truth? Would a Muslim "feel connected" in a Christian community? The Dr. actually came to my aide and agreed and said it has more to do with your upbringing than with truth in doctrine.

Christianity has been done the Catholic/Orthodox way for 2000 years, if you don't feel connected with that kind of Christianity, who is to blame?

He and I are good friends and for that very reason we rarely discuss theology. We're too close in doctrine to be of much use to each other.

It's like I say about John Calvin - brilliant guy. He almost got Christianity right. The problem is that he almost got it right on a whole lot of issues. That made him a heretic.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Calvinism Refuted by Origen

Origen, along with the early Catholic Church, insists on the basic necessity for a totally free will even unto the point of cooperation with or on the other hand rejection of salvation itself whereby we can justly say that each man has the ability to either have faith in Christ or reject it. In other words, salvation is earned not by man but is given by the grace of God as a free gift; it is heretical however to say that man has no interaction in the matter. The Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity does not restrict man's free will in his ordinary course of life; only in the course of his salvation. That is, he is either granted salvation as a gift from God or he isn't and he is not able to seek God on his own. The doctrine of Irresistible Grace moreover teaches that this gift of God cannot be rejected by man - if one ends up being one of the select few chosen by God, the grace is "irresistible". Along with Unconditional Election, this doctrine flies squarely in the face of the brunt of Scripture with very few exceptions . Calvin wasn't the first to teach these doctrines though:

Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says, Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. - De Principiis 3.1.8
As I have said before, every doctrine which deviates from Catholic teaching is either a heresy already dealt with by the Church or a derivation of one. And for those of you who don't know, I am a former Calvinist who was predestined to become Catholic.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hegesippus on the Levitical Vocation of Christian Priests

Michael Barber at Singing in the Reign posted an interesting piece on the apostles and their similarities to the Levites. I responded to a Protestant in the combox and will repost a portion of it here (the post is well worth the read). In the past, I have argued briefly for the sacrificial nature of the mass from the very beginning of the Church. I also compared liturgy with music and the entire story of the cosmos which is related to this topic.

One of the earliest accounts we have of the priestly vocation of the early priests (presbyters) of the Church is recorded by Hegesippus and preserved (as so many things which otherwise are lost) by Eusebius in Church History 2.23.4-6.

He alone [James, the brother of the Lord] was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.
While the Temple was still standing in the earliest days of the Church, James is acting in a priestly manner on behalf of the people. Take note of his garments and read Exodus 28:41-43:
After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.

Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants.

The Christian priests are the descendants of Aaron; they are the Levites of the Church. Do you see how James not only entered the Temple and offered prayers on behalf of the people, he was careful to wear the priestly garments? This is significant.

We cannot remove the sacrifice from the Christian service. We do not offer new sacrifices of course, we re-present the True sacrifice of calvary. The reformers stripped the mass of its sacrificial purpose and thereby stripped their presbyters of the priestly vocation. My point in the combox there was that perhaps the Reformers were right to do this. But if we say so, how did the Reformers get Christianity right when even the Lord's kinsman, James got it so wrong? Mike Aquilina mentions this point (that the Christian priests continued wearing the Levitical vestments) on page 25 of his book, "The Mass of the Early Christians". Later, on page 31 of the same book he writes:
Some scholars believe that the first Christian liturgies were, quite simply, Jewish texts with added Christological and Trinitarian language (Bouyer 1968). Sofia Cavaletti observes that the synagogue service closely parallels the early Christian Liturgy of the Word, roughly the first have of the Mass, while the sequence of prayers in the Jewish passover meal closely corresponds to the order of the earliest Eucharistic prayers (1990:15ff)
The mass is the non-bloody re-presentation of Christ's one and only Sacrifice on mankind's behalf. We receive Him and the grace necessary for salvation in the Eucharistic species. Christ's merit is received by the partaking of the precious Body & Blood. The priestly vocation has not ended with Christianity, as the Word says "This shall be a lasting ordinance". We cannot separate the sacrifice of Christ from the mass.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Were the Letters of Ignatius Forged?

As I have mentioned a number of times, Calvin viewed the Ignatian epistles as spurious (for obvious reasons). I have also been in the habit of mentioning that he has since been proven wrong. A reader asked me how certain this really was and pointed to the book "The Ignatian Epistles Entirely Spurious" by W. D. Killen (Presbyterian minister). This book was written in response to Lightfoot whom I was mostly resting in when I said that it was an accepted fact these days that the epistles were genuine. I'm sure Killen's work has been dealt with adequately by others; as far as I can tell, Protestant and Catholic Patrologists alike take the authenticity of the seven Ignatian epistles for granted these days. But for fun, I threw together this quick and sloppy response to his book.

In point of fact, the letter of Polycarp, as a genuine production of the second century, occupies an incomparably higher position than the Ignatian Epistles. The internal evidence in its favour is most satisfactory. It is exactly such a piece of correspondence as we might expect from a pious and sensible Christian minister, well acquainted with the Scriptures, and living on the confines of the apostolic age.
This quote makes it rather clear that Killen cannot envision a “pious and sensible Christian minister” being as Catholic as Ignatius obviously was. This is an important glance into the assumptions Killen brings to the table. Throughout the book, he repeatedly refers to bishops as “chief pastor” etc.. This is more than just a bit ridiculous. A weak case may be made for the interchangeability of the terms “bishop” and “priest” (“overseer” and “presbyter” if you want to be very Presbyterian about it) in the New Testament and in Clement to the Corinthians. In the second century and beyond, the argument is utterly worthless. Following Calvin, he is apparently interested only in showing that the early Church didn’t have bishops not in whether or not Ignatius actually wrote these letters.
But whilst the internal evidence testifies against them, they are not noticed by any writer for considerably more than a century after they are said to have appeared.
I wonder if he is aware that the same could said of several of the canonical New Testament books. Killen blunders on Polycarp’s age following Eusebius saying that he died under Marcus Aurelius. He claims that Polycarp would have been 24 in 107 (using this as evidence that Ignatius wouldn’t have asked a youngster to write a letter on his behalf) whereas Polycarp was martyred at 86 years old in the year 155 (in fact it was February the 23rd). (See Catholic Encyclopedia for a discussion of this date) This would make him born in 69 or even 68 AD making him 38 at the time of the Ignatian epistles. Furthermore, it is not necessary that Polycarp follow Ignatius’ request to write letters to the remaining Churches immediately in the same year. I place his letter to the Philippians at approximately 111 AD which would make him 42 or 43. That’s plenty old enough to be writing the type of letter that he wrote. Remember, his honor wasn’t just because he was a clever guy, he was the successor and immediate student of the Apostle John. Killen erroneously places Polycarp’s letter in 161, 6 years after he died citing in a supposed mistranslation of the “Syria” in Polycarp’s letter to the small island of Psyria which was much closer to Smyrna. I have no credentials to argue the linguistics here other than the fact that scholars who translate it routinely translate it as Syria and not Psyria and that I think Killen is vastly overestimating the penetration of Christianity at this early stage. If Psyria did have a Christian community, it was most likely a very small one under the episcopate of an outside bishop. Not every fishing village had its own bishop in the second century.

He says:
That this letter of Polycarp to the Philippians was written at a time when persecution was rife, is apparent from its tenor throughout. If we except the case of Ignatius of Antioch--many of the tales relating to which Dr. Lightfoot himself rejects as fabulous [19:1]--we have no evidence that in A.D. 107 the Christians were treated with severity. The Roman world was then under the mild government of Trajan, and the troubles which afflicted the disciples in Bithynia, under Pliny, had not yet commenced.
The letter of Pliny the Younger was written a mere 4-5 years after Ignatius. Trajan himself may have been mild in comparison to Nero or Marcus Aurelius, but he still approved of the Roman law of forcing Christians to worship the pagan gods. Killen is only getting his information from the fact that Trajan replied to Pliny telling him not to go searching for the Christians (but up until that point they had been!!!!) Trajan still says that Christians should be given a chance to repent (of Christianity) or else… Now the incidence of Pliny’s persecution and the general Roman persecution under Trajan was by no means limited to the year 111 or 112 AD when Pliny wrote to the emperor. Who knows how long this had been happening? Killen apparently thinks he does but provides no source.
In the Ignatian Epistle addressed to Polycarp, he is directed to "write to the Churches," to "call together a godly council," and "to elect" a messenger to be sent to Syria (sec. 7). Polycarp, in his letter to the Philippians, takes no notice of these instructions. He had obviously never heard of them. It is indeed plain that the letter of the Philippians to Polycarp had only a partial reference to the case of Ignatius and his companions. It was largely occupied with other matters; and to these Polycarp addresses himself in his reply.
“Churches” is plural. The letter to the Philippians either represents only a portion of them or perhaps the instruction was followed out in an entirely separate incident. At any rate, we are not in possession of at least one of Polycarp’s letters, this much we can be fairly sure of. Of the entire ordeal (the supposed forgery) he writes:
In an uncritical age the cheat succeeded; the letters were quite to the taste of many readers; and ever since they have been the delight of High Churchmen.
But why would it be an “uncritical age”? If the reformers were right, then the early Church was basically Protestant. The forgery (if it really happened) happened in the early Church. So the supposed fact that it was forged in the first place together with the subsequent supposed fact that it was widely and uncritically accepted shows that the early Church was very Catholic and very eager to accept Catholic sounding writing! If the early Church was really Protestantish – then they would have been “critical” (in the sense he’s using the word) and would have therefore rejected the “forgeries” or maybe they wouldn’t have been forged in the first place. So even if we consider them forgeries, it is still telling of a very Catholic early Church in the same way that the “Proto-evangelium of James” may be a forgery (under the name of James), it gives us profound insight into the second century Church’s view of Mary. Protestants seem to think that the Immaculate Conception was invented in the nineteenth century whereas this second century forgery goes even further than any of the dogmas of the Catholic Church!

Following Ussher, Killen places the martyrdom of Polycarp in 169 AD. This would make him a young teenager in the very last years of the apostle John (which would be a stretch to call him a “disciple”, thereby marginalizing a mass of early father testimony). It would also make him alive during all the writings of Justin Martyr (and even outliving Justin) and possibly alive at the writing of “Against Heresies”. This chronology causes far more problems than it solves (and all in the interest of showing the Ignatian epistles forgeries).

He explains that Irenaeus is obviously ignorant of the Ignatian epistles since he does not directly mention Ignatius’ name (although he clearly quotes from him : “As a certain man of ours said, when he was condemned to the wild beasts because of his testimony with respect to God: I am the wheat of Christ, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God.” Adv. Haer. 5.28.4 compared with Ignatius to the Romans 4 “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”) While Irenaeus does quote from Ignatius, he does not quote from Philemon, 2 Peter, 3 John or Jude. Are these to be considered spurious? The mere fact that he doesn’t mention his name doesn’t prove anything. He may well have not been in possession of these letters but only aware of them. Irenaeus didn’t exactly have Google at his finger tips.

He points out that Polycarp (while supposedly contemporary with Ignatius) quotes the New Testament far more than Ignatius and that Ignatius stresses the episcopacy far more than Polycarp. In fact, Polycarp doesn’t mention it at all. This is a fair point to ponder but I can offer a few responses. First, one writer may more naturally quote NT writings for his own specific purposes without the other being a forgery. I haven’t quoted the NT yet in this post and another contemporary of mine may write on this very subject and quote it extensively – can we then assume mine is a forgery and the two of us can’t be contemporaries? Isn’t it possible for differences in persons to exist between early Church fathers or must they all be identical to each other in order for us to consider them real people? Secondly, they are not strict contemporaries. It is quite possible and even likely that Ignatius and Polycarp have met each other. My guess is that Ignatius traveled to Asia Minor at some point to hear St. John and may have then met the young Polycarp. Their acquaintance is not likely to have extended much further than this (even this is speculation). Antioch was a different place than Smyrna. Ignatius was ordained by Peter (according to Theodoret) and was the successor of Evodius. Polycarp was ordained and instructed by John. These represent different localities and different traditions. It is not a stretch in the least to assume that they could have had varying emphases on the hierarchy of the Church or the Church in general. We know from the Quartodeciman controversy in the second century that there were a number of differences in the respective traditions arising from the East and West. St. John quite apparently was a quartodeciman while St. Peter and the Western apostles weren’t. This is not to say the East didn’t have bishops or that the East didn’t care about bishops. Far from it. It is only to say that Polycarp’s inherited tradition didn’t necessarily have as strong of an emphasis on episcopal hierarchy as Ignatius’ did. We can assent to this without assuming the two could not have possibly been contemporary.
In these letters Ignatius speaks as a vain babbler, drunken with fanaticism; Polycarp, in his Epistle, expresses himself like an humble-minded Presbyterian minister in his sober senses.
He calls Polycarp a Presbyterian minister. Just wanted to point that out.
"He that honoureth the bishop is honoured of God; he that doth aught against the knowledge of the bishop,rendereth service to the devil" [58:6] Polycarp, on the other hand, describes himself as one of the elders, and exhorts the Philippians to "submit to the presbyters and deacons," and to be "all subject one to another."
I am utterly unconvinced here that these two are contradictory. The Church is composed of bishops, priests and deacons. Ignatius and Polycarp would both agree that we should submit to the presbyters and deacons; that Polycarp doesn’t mention the bishop certainly doesn’t mean he is unaware of their existence or that he would advocate rebellion to them or the unimportance of obedience to them. It shouldn’t be ignored that Polycarp doesn’t speak of the bishop, but we shouldn’t make too much of it either. Polycarp doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit. Do you see how far this “argument from silence” is going to get us? Again he says:
The internal evidence furnished by the Ignatian Epistles seals their condemnation.
Which is basically admitting what this is all about. The “internal evidence” is that Ignatius’ ecclesiology is radically different from Killen’s and the Presbyterian community and therefore must be wrong.
The account of his hurried removal as a prisoner from Antioch to Rome, in the custody of ten fierce soldiers--whilst he was permitted, as he passed along, to hold something like a levee of his co-religionists at every stage of his journey--wears very much the appearance of an ill-constructed fiction.
Actually, it sounds rather like St. Paul to me. Killen seems to think Pope Callistus (or according to him, Chief Presbyterian Minister of Rome - Callistus) was the forger of these epistles citing such evidence as:
Callistus, when labouring in the mines of Sardinia, must have been well acquainted with ropes and hoists; and here Ignatius describes the Ephesians as "hoisted up to the heights through the engine of Jesus Christ," having faith as their "windlass," and as "using for a rope the Holy Spirit."
It may be just a bit of a stretch to assume one could only learn of “hoists” and “engines” in the salt mines of Sardina. He makes a further mistake here:
Hippolytus tells us that Callistus was a Patripassian. "The Father," said he, "having taken human nature, deified it by uniting it to Himself, ... and so he said that the Father had suffered with the Son." [75:3] Hence Ignatius, in these Epistles, startles us by such expressions as "the blood of God," [75:4] and "the passion of my God." [75:5]
First of all, Hippolytus was wrong; Callistus wasn’t a Patripassianist. In fact, he excommunicated the arch-patripassianist (or modalist) Sabellius whom Hippolytus also criticizes. Beside that, I’m not sure if Killen understands what Patripassianism is since he seems to view Ignatius in error by referring to “the blood of God” and “the passion of my God”. However, Patripassianism is the error of ascribing the passion to God the Father, not merely “God”. Jesus is “God” but Jesus is not God the Father. God (the Son) did die on the cross, God the Father did not. Ignatius is not in error here.

Again, this is a sloppy and hurried response. I read and responded to the book entirely in this evening. Hope this has been useful if only minimally. In parting, obey your bishop!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Sola Fide Isn't Good Enough For Anyone

John 3:16 and its few parallels are the target of my present discussion. I won't even argue from the context of John 3 which is routinely ignored by proponents of sola fide. In fact, I'm going to approach this from a nearly Protestant stand point (that is, something like NT Wright does). I have argued here that there is far less division between good Protestant doctrine on the issue and the official Roman Catholic position than we typically admit so keep that in mind moving forward.

What I'm concerned with at the moment is Jesus' very command, in and of itself: "believe in Me". We could start by reminding ourselves that one must read "fidelity" while reading "fide" and "faithfulness" while reading "faith". That is to say, fidelity doesn't just naturally and necessarily follow from fide, it is intrinsically part of fide (in the Biblical usage). Faithfulness doesn't just spring from faith, it is true faith! when the Scriptures speak of faith (excepting James 2), we can nearly always read "faithfulness" just as properly in its place. Abraham didn't merely have fide, he had fidelity - which the New Testament proves from several angles. Fide didn't lead to fidelity, (true) fide is fidelity!

So now from here on, when I speak of "sola fide", I'm speaking of the heresy condemned at Worms (not whatever modification of it you may have personally or however your denomination may have improved on it). I'm talking about salvation by grace alone which is manifested by a one time act of mere intellectual assent. Even the reformed fall into this heresy on occasion using such erroneous language as "a saving knowledge of Christ". Do we see now how they have explicitly latched on to the error precisely as condemned by the Church? Knowledge (of any kind) does not save.

Then this leads to my overall point. No one seems to foster a pure "faith alone" doctrine. They say "faith + nothing" but they don't really mean it. It fails on so many levels that even its supporters don't agree with it. Suppose for the moment that it were true - merely intellectually assenting to Jesus Christ as the Risen Saviour would earn me a spot in Heaven; (tossing aside the James 2 argument that this would also merit salvation for the demons), we could rightly use Pascal's logic and say "then it's safer to be Catholic". If James 2:24 wasn't clear enough to convince us whether salvation was by faith alone or faith + works, then we could still take the safe road and say "faith + works". Those who have faith and works have also faith, therefore if faith alone is enough to save, then we'd still be saved regardless of whether faith + works is true or not. In short, if Protestant theology here is correct, Catholics end up being saved as well since they have faith. The reverse may not be entirely true however and the safer road would be the Catholic one.

The anticipated objection is really where I'm going with all this. The objection is "but they are trusting in works instead of Christ for salvation". Aside from the accusation being false, (as this is explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church), the problem lies with them now adding conditions to the "sola fide" we started with. "Faith + nothing" has now become "faith + correct understanding of salvation" (when even that particular "correct" understanding is ambiguous itself and would vary significantly from denomination to denomination and from person to person). This is why I say, sola fide isn't good enough for anyone. Even those who support it, deny it. (Again, I'm not interested in discussing personal or even denominational revisions of the doctrine. I'm just dealing with the doctrine as it was condemned by Worms. You can come up with a workable version of sola fide but only when it no longer becomes recognizable as 'sola fide'. Why do that just to perpetuate an error?)

In reality, when Jesus says "believe in Me", He simultaneously says "have fidelity to Me" and "be faithful to Me". Asking for mere intellectual assent wouldn't even have made sense in that context. The people could see Him in the flesh! They didn't need "faith" (in the limited sense of the word).

But interestingly enough, I think He was simultaneously saying what I have shown the Protestants to be contradicting themselves about - He was saying "have correct doctrine". In fact, I'd take it a step further and say that just as the Lord requires "be perfect as I am perfect", Christ, by saying "have faith in Me" is saying "have perfect doctrine". But how is such a thing possible? It's not only possible, it's easy! Because when He says those things, He is also saying "have faith in My Bride". How can you have faith in the Groom but have no faith in the Bride? If you did have faith in Him, you would have believed Him when He said, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." And if you believed His Word, you would have believed it when it called the Church: "the pillar and foundation of the truth". I will refrain from quoting St. Jerome here (on Church as mother and God as Father).

But it is in this way which it might not only be possible but even rather easy to fulfill this sort of commandment. The Fathers had no tolerance for "diversity" of doctrine in the early Church. They took a hard stand against heretical teachings because the Lord required perfect doctrine from His Church just as from the individuals. It is not enough that we each read the Scriptures for ourself and rationalize our own opinions on theological truth. Jesus is the Truth. If we are to know Jesus, we must know the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. The Church is the only means by which this can happen. That is why again, there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. She alone is privy to the fullness of Truth which she received from Christ Himself. She is His bride, and therefore faith in Christ demands faith in her.

We can accept "sola fide" depending on how broadly we use the term "fide". If we use it to include fidelity, perfect doctrine and humble submission to His Church, sola fide would be just fine. But if we mean mere intellectual assent, the doctrine fails on multiple levels - so much so, that no one actually believes it.

Before the ecclesiological question comes up, it should be abundantly clear that none of this could be true of any so called "Church" except for the visible, Roman Catholic Church. If we were to look for a visible, unified, top-down Church founded by Christ, there is truly only one viable candidate on the table. If we were to look for a Messiah for Israel, there is really only One viable candidate for that position too. If it takes faith to believe in the latter, we shouldn't be surprised in the least that the former requires faith as well. Proponents of the latter may argue of how historically demonstrable it is that Jesus is the Christ; proponents of the former can do the same of the historicity of the Catholic Church. Atheists reject the historicity of Christ without batting an eye and Protestants do the same of the Catholic Church. Protestants can see that it is a lack of faith, not an objective observation of factual data that causes the atheists to miss Christ's power, but they cannot fathom that the same might be true of their own situation regarding the Catholic Church.

The Truth is that Christ came and established a Church (He prophesied that He would do so in Matthew 16 & 18, we cannot call Him a liar). The truth is that faith in Christ must at some level require perfect doctrine and this is possible only through one type of Church. The only Church of that type with apostolic ties also happens to be the one in succession with the See of Peter which Christ prophesies it would be in Matt 16:18. We cannot ignore these facts.

Salvation is de fide. De fide in Jesus as the Christ, De fide in His Word and De fide in His Church.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Music From My Old Band - The Gray Brothers

Just for fun - here are some songs from my old rock band. We stopped playing together in 2003. I sang lead vocals and played keyboards (which included bass on the left hand most of the time). Another guy did background vocals and usually guitar but occasionally bass guitar. The drummer was well out of our league (and age range --- he used to play with Sammy Davis Jr.) This one ended up being our most popular original:



This one was kind of eclectic - we wrote it on an out of tune piano with a guitar de-tuned to the piano. (The piano playing here is in tune though, it's a keyboard):



This one was recorded live at the Double Door Inn 8/17/03.. Before this band, the guitarist and I played in a Latin rock band with 2 brothers from Panama City so we took some of our Latin influence into the new band. This song was much longer, I modified it down to fit within the 10 minute Youtube time limit (mostly cutting from the insanely long drum solo..).. I had a bad case of bronchitis that night so not my best singing and the volume on the keyboard was too low but other than that it turned out pretty good.

And yes I know I made a typo it should be "Live at the Double Door" not "Life at the Double Door".. Too lazy to fix it!



Another original from the same performance:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Do You Hear the Gospel at Mass?

This is in response to the comments over at Path of the Weis.

I don't think the gospel is hard to hear at mass. I think it's hard not to hear it.

If you sat at the foot of Calvary, would the gospel be hard to hear? Would it be hard to hear at Pentecost or in the Upper Room? The gospel wasn't written by Paul but when Protestants say "the gospel" what they really mean is a post 16th century reading of the Pauline epistles - ignoring much of the actual gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Is Billy Graham's gospel hard to hear at mass? Yes, it's very hard to hear. But who says Billy Graham has it right?

If the gospel at mass was a snake it wouldn't just bite you, you'd be biting it! If "the gospel" is hard to hear in the mass, then the gospel is hard to hear in the Scriptures and then we must ask - what actually is the gospel?

As my Protestant friend remarked to me, "You Catholics have more Scripture embedded in your liturgy than we even read in our services".. Yea, and forget the readings. If we're given 3 readings each mass and the pinnacle is always a gospel reading which is at the very center of mass and of which the homily (by canon law) must be an exposition, how can one miss the gospel?

That's only a part of it though. There's much more. The gospel is that the one time sacrifice of Christ has become the Paschal Sacrifice for us all. The gospel is that Christ instituted this blessed sacrament (the Eucharist) for us to remember and to re-present this sacrifice perpetually - thereby actually receiving the grace necessary for our salvation. Then it was by no coincidence that Ignatius of Antioch called It "The medicine of immortality" and it was by no mistake that Jesus said "Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, you have no life in you". The mass combines the Synagogue exposition of Scripture (the liturgy of the word) and the Temple cult and its sacrificial atonement for sin (the liturgy of the Eucharist) into one liturgy. The Church then, has become the Synagogue & the Temple - "a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem".

The new has replaced the old and is even better. The New Adam is better than the first Adam and the New Eve is better than the first Eve. The new Paschal Lamb (Christ) is better than the old one (the Passover lamb). The new act of eating the Lamb's Flesh (receiving the Eucharist) is better than the old way (eating an ordinary lamb). If the old way was merely symbolic, the new way is a reality. We are not symbolizing our reception of Christ - we are receiving Christ.

There is a crucifix at every mass - there has to be. Not a cross, a crucifix. As it is written, "We preach Christ crucified". The mass is literally a re-enactment of the very hours of calvary. We kneel at the altar of God in humility as Mary knelt at the foot of the Cross. At the foot did she hear "the gospel"? Did she hear Billy Graham's gospel? No. She saw it. We don't hear the gospel at Mass, we see it. It is also written - "The Messenger is greater than the message that He brings". Do we receive the good news of Christ at mass? Even better, we receive Christ Himself! "He who has ears to hear let him hear". That is the gospel.

At this point, one would be justified in wondering whether you actually hear the gospel at Protestant services. You have no crucifix, you have no sacrifice, you have minimal Scripture readings and mostly Protestant tradition and novel doctrines which were not taught by the apostles, you have no act of contrition "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy" (some do, I know) but most replace this beating of the breast with the Pharisee's "I thank you Lord that I am not like the sinners".

If you want to receive the true gospel, start as we do with the Agnus Dei - "Lamb of God You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us".

Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory Forever.

Me @ Work

This is a dinner we had for work last week. For those of you who don't know, I work at a gospel rescue mission. Hah! A Catholic surrounded by Protestants and Protestant theology all day long. God must have a sense of humor. (I was a Protestant when I started working here).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Church Infallibility & Conversions to the Catholic Church

This was my recent post in the combox over at JP Manzi's blog:

Pope Benedict said (while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger) on Church infallibility:

This doctrine obviously needs to be understood very precisely within its correct limitations, so as not to be misused or misunderstood. It doesn't mean that every word that the ecclesiastical authorities say, or even every word said by a pope, is infallible. It certainly does mean that wherever the Church, in the great spiritual and cultural struggles of history, and after all possible prayer and grappling with the truth, insists that this is the correct interpretation and draws a line there, she has been promised that in this instance she will not lead people in to error. That she will not be turned into an instrument of destruction for the Word of God, but remains the mother, the living agent, within whom the Word is alive and truly expresses Himself and is truly interpreted.
The Scriptural model for this is found in Acts 15. There was a visible Church with an identifiable location and leadership. This unity/continuity is preserved by hierarchy until this day (or so say we Catholics - hopeless romantics that we are). The Church still has an address and she still puts her reputation on the line with every decree which she claims is infallible.

One has only to demonstrate a single error to disprove the entirety of Catholicism and while in the minds of some it has been disproven, the world has failed to demonstrate an error which could convince many (if not most) of the greatest theological minds on the planet both living and deceased (and believe me, the world has been trying).

The fact that Catholicism not only retains but continues to attract the greatest theological minds itself ought to tell us something (not exhaustively of course - there are brilliant minds in virtually every branch of Christianity). Yet the brilliant minds do tend to gravitate towards a certain orthodoxy and even those who don't become Catholic, always and without ceasing gravitate towards the "Catholic-lite" denominations: Anglicanism, High Church Presbyterianism and Lutheranism. The great theologians don't tend to gravitate towards snake handling cults and emerging ecclesial communities barely distinguishable as Christian - they go the opposite direction and always - always - always in the direction of Rome (though they may only circle it).

Even if we disagree with the Roman claims, the mere fact that the Church at Rome in antiquity has ended up being so consistently orthodox (or what the "Catholic" (universal) Church considered to be orthodox) is remarkable in itself.

With the exception of some baptists, most of those furthest away from the Catholic Church hate her the least. Why is that? The "free church" shrugs her shoulders at her giant step-sister the Catholic Church because she's clueless (that is the "free/emergent church" is).

But we often see the vitriol grow as the doctrines get closer. Presbyterians, Anglicans & Lutherans all have a great deal of their identity tied up in the fact that they're not Catholic. They need to remind themselves constantly why they're not (and their theologians say so). Chesterton remarked that as soon as they stop bashing the Catholic Church, they start to enjoy her. I think they know this, and if they give her a fair look, they risk being wooed by her spell.

That is why I regularly engage with brilliant Protestants who could theologize with the best of them on certain topics but when we start talking about the Catholic Church, they sound like fundamentalists.

Then I know some Protestants who will admit with their own lips that everything the Catholic Church teaches is right... but they just can't get over the authority part and they know once they get in, there's no turning back. They're right about that, they're not a heretic now (you have to be Catholic before you can be a heretic) but if they pop in and out they would be.

Catholicism is a terribly haunting proposition, that's why no one (except those who are truly clueless) can brush it off. You have to hate or it you risk loving it and it's a big risk because it would mean so much if it turned out to be true. Fearful, fearful proposition.

But what joy there awaits on the other side!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Arrogance of the Emergent Church's "Mere Christianity" Fantasy

This is partially in response to Bryan Cross' recent post evaluating the recent "Evangelical Manifesto". He has more nice things to say about it than I would I think. I look at a rotten apple and I don't notice the parts of the apple that are still edible. To me, it's just that: a rotten apple! I throw the whole thing away.

One of my co-workers remarked "My church doesn't call ourself Catholic or Protestant or Baptist or anything... We're just Christian". Yea. You're just full of it. That's what you are.

I used to think the same thing of myself. I was just "Christian". In reality looking back, I can see how wrapped up in self-pride that statement is. It is _I_ who embody and personify true Christianity.

Christ isn't a member of Israel or one of Israel's sects: He's not a Pharisee or Sadducee etc... He is TRUE Israel. That's what we think of ourselves when we start talking like that. "I'm above being categorized into any certain systematic doctrine of Christianity. I am TRUE Christianity in the flesh." The attitude is unbelievably arrogant.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polycarp's Kitchen

The wife and I have purchased a small "restobar" in Quezon City, Philippines. Quezon City (2.5 million people) is adjacent to Manila. When we had to change the name, I chose "Polycarp's Kitchen" after my patron saint, Polycarp. If you ever happen to be in metro Manila, stop in for a beer on the house :) Just tell them you're there for the God Fearin Forum special... they'll know what you mean. Actually they wont, so don't try it.

Patristic Carnival XI

Phil Snider has Patristic Carnival XI up and running. Lot's of stuff - where does one find the time!

And be sure to let Phil know if you're willing to host the next one. It's a fun project and drives traffic to your blog.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost, Reconciliation, Popery & Tertullian

The year is 219 AD, Zephyrinus' right hand, the archdeacon Callistus had just been elected pope which led to the great Roman priest and theologian Hippolytus electing himself as anti-pope. Tertullian had already been a part of the Montanist heresy for more than a decade and had officially split from the Church some 8 years ago (Harnack) or possibly 7. The controversy was two fold. First, Hippolytus accused Callistus of following in Zephyrinus' indecisive ways concerning Monarchianism, especially Modalism. There's lots of names for various beliefs here so to keep it simple, I'll just summarize that in various forms they overstressed the unity of the Father and Son to the point where they taught it was permissible to say that the Father had suffered on the Cross. Zephyrinus refrained from pronouncing on this as their errors weren't entirely clear yet. (This is long before Nicaea had laid out the Trinity). In fact, Tertullian became the first Christian to use the word Trinitas in a treatise against Praxeas, one of the Monarchians! Callistus in return charged Hippolytus with the opposite extremity: Ditheism. The other fault that Hippolytus accused Callistus of, and Tertullian shares his complaint, was receiving those who had committed mortal sin back into communion after due penance. Tertullian writes:

I now inquire into your opinion, (to see) from what source you usurp this right to the Church. If, because the Lord has said to Peter, Upon this rock will I build My Church, to you have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom; or, Whatsoever you shall have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens, you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? On you, He says, will I build My Church; and, I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and, Whatsoever you shall have loosed or bound, not what they shall have loosed or bound. For so withal the result teaches. In (Peter) himself the Church was reared; that is, through (Peter) himself; (Peter) himself essayed the key; you see what (key): Men of Israel, let what I say sink into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined by God for you[1], and so forth. (Peter) himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ's baptism, the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, in which (kingdom) are loosed the sins that were beforetime bound; and those which have not been loosed are bound, in accordance with true salvation[2];


What is most interesting is that Tertullian proves here that the Pope was already using the argument that his authority was based on the Lord’s declarations to Peter, most notably in Matthew 16:18[3]. Tertullian advances two basic counterpoints against Callistus: 1. The keys were given to Peter alone and 2. The keys were actualized by Peter’s homily – converting Jews and therefore ‘opening the gates’ of Christianity. Tertullian’s argument fails on a couple of levels. First, he was simply wrong on the issue he was debating (and once again, the Roman bishop was right). The Church is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints. (And before any Protestants get too excited about Tertullian's response here, remember that you'd be on the wrong end according to Tertullian or to Rome - you don't even think there is such thing as mortal sin, penance or absolution!) Second, we have already seen in writers like Irenaeus that the Roman bishop was seen as the successor of Peter and that Rome held preeminence over other Churches on account of her succession. Tertullian is decidedly out of touch with the Catholic Church here (as he himself would have actually admitted by this point. He considers the Catholic Church to have fallen into apostasy). However undeveloped Ireaneus’ ecclesiology may have been here, we can safely say that it has already been the tradition of the Church to regard the bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter and to see him in a paternal role and those tendencies would only increase from here. Finally, like others who do so today, Tertullian rejects the primacy of the Roman bishop predominantly because he is in disagreement with him and not because the primacy or authority doesn’t belong to him. This would be like be disagreeing with my boss on an issue and then from there no longer considering him my boss. Now Tertullian would disagree here.. but look at how far he's come. Listen to his words more than a decade earlier:

Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood![4]


My how the tables have turned! Now on the reconciliation business...

This is all quite interconnected as I will attempt to show however clumsy it turns out. First, the prooftext for reconciliation:

First Matthew 16:18 - Peter is the Rock on which the Church will be built - he is given the keys
16:19 - Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven & vice versa

Next Matthew 18:18 - Same as 16:19

And of course John 20:23 - Doesn't get much clearer than this - (in the context of sending his apostles) if you forgive sins they are forgiven if you don't they are not.

Today is Pentecost Sunday and John 20 is associated with Pentecost (the birth of the Church) because it is in the context of sending the apostles to do His work (which including forgiveness of sins) and the promise of the Holy Spirit. So much for John. We shall focus on the Matthean passage since that is what Tertullian does.

There are two issues at stake. 1. Church authority and 2. Church power

Tertullian rightly recognizes that Callistus is presuming to have both. Both the authority of the apostles (namely Peter) rests on his shoulders and the power to forgive sins (and these two things must be seen as inseparable). You cannot have power without the authority and vice versa.

The context of Matthew 16 is fairly obvious in linking these together - Peter is the foundation of the Church and he is also given authority that extends beyond the temporal world. In fact he's given the very keys to the kingdom.

But I really want to focus on Matthew 18. Verse 18 is a pretty straight forward repetition of 16:19. First of all, when Jesus repeats Himself, we'd do well to pay close attention. But the context of 18 is more telling than the mere proof text lets on at first. Verse 14 says that God is not willing that any be lost. Similarly, 21-22 Jesus tells Peter that he must forgive a man not seven times but seven times seventy. With verse 18 at the center of this forgiveness sandwich, we should be learning closer and closer to Callistus' theology and further and further from Tertullian's strict, pretension and even prideful one (you don't sense any bias in my opinion do you?). Verses 15-17 mark the only other place (besides 16:18) where Jesus mentions the word Church. He paints a picture of an authoritative Church - one that can be used for disciplinary actions if need be. But it is important to remind ourselves again that the context is in forgiveness and the emphasis is on the Church's authority to forgive rather than punish. Hence she has the authority to loose or bind.

To summarize the context in which the authority was given to the apostles to bind or loose:

1. In the context of the sending of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church
2. In the context of Church as an authoritative institution
3. In the context of Peter as the head of the Church
4. In the context of the Church having authority to reprimand
5. In the context of the understanding that it is God's desire that none should perish (fall away from the Church/be bound/sins not forgiven) leading too:
6. In the context of God's will for repetitive forgiveness of an offender.

Folks, it wasn't a coincidence. God meant to put all these things together and Tertullian has badly missed the mark on this one. He missed it on Peter as the head of the Church, he missed it on the Church continuing on in the authority and vocation of the apostles and worst of all, he missed it on God's patience with us sinners and His unlimited mercy.

I personally thank God that Tertullian was wrong on this issue because by his theology, I'd be in Hell with no chance of reconciliation since I have committed mortal sins after baptism. For those Protestants who disagree with his ideas of reconciliation but want to agree with his rejection of the Catholic Church, I would advise you to think and pray long and hard about whether one can freely accept one and reject the other or if perhaps these issues really are inseparably linked as I have tried to show here.






[1] Acts 2:22, this passage (Acts 2:14-41) shows Peter’s speech at Jerusalem on Pentecost in which three thousand Jews converted to Christianity.

[2] Tertullian On Modesty 21

[3] Protestant historian Bruce Shelley admits this: Shelley 1996, 74 contradicting his statement on 133 at least to a degree.

[4] Tertullian Prescription Against Heretics 36

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An Old Friend Puts His Swimming Trunks On & Gets Ready to Cross the Tiber

For those of you who know him, JP Manzi has announced that he is preparing to convert to the Catholic Church. JP & I didn't get off to the best of starts.. I guess it was a year or more ago when I "met" him in the combox of another blog and replied pretty harshly on some topic I can't remember. He kept a level head about it though and after some discussion I think we realized we weren't saying such different things after all. I haven't been keeping up with his blog lately but he's been through quite an intellectual ride over the past year or however long. Glad to see the "Return of the Prodigal Catholic" (formerly the "Prodigal Blogger").

Friday, May 09, 2008

Traditionalist Order Seeks Reunification With Rome

Real Clear Religion has the story. This is thanks to Pope Benedict XVI's liberalization of the Tridentine mass. Long live the pope!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More on the Body as the Image of God

In our previous discussion on the same topic or more properly: reconciling theistic evolution with the body as the image of God, we didn't fully arrive at any definite conclusions but I think interesting points were brought up on both sides. Since then, I've had a little time to think of it and my perspective is shifting.

My thoughts were still formulating (not yet ready for a post) when I ran across this article:

CONCORD, N.H.(AP) Since they first walked the planet, humans have either buried or burned their dead. Now a new option is generating interest _ dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish, syrupy residue down the drain.
If the human body loses its dignity at the departure of the soul, then why does that paragraph strike me as an affront to the image of God? And not surprisingly:
"We believe this process, which enables a portion of human remains to be flushed down a drain, to be undignified," said Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.
But if on the other hand, the body retains some sort of partial dignity not because of what it is (a dead human body) but because of what it was (the matter of a human soul - or in other words, it has dignity by the simple fact that a human soul once dwelt in it though no longer does and thus it can no longer be called a human body) then I suppose we could make some sense out of our negative reaction to this technology. I still have a gut feeling though that my reasoning is inadequate here and I'm not sure why. So why is this technology offensive to us given our previous discussion?

On further reflection (since the last post on the topic), I realized that the word "body" wasn't used in Genesis as I had been using it. In fact, God said let's make "man" in Our image not "man's body". The first time the word "body" even appears is much later. It doesn't seem that the Scriptures ever refer to the "body" by itself as wholly containing the image of God.

Still have more reflection to do but any insight in the mean time is welcome and encouraged!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

John McCain on Human Trafficking

Opinionated Catholic has a nice post on John McCain's recent speech bringing attention to the grave evils of human trafficking often overlooked by the Western media. I'm impressed.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Anglican Arguments for Women's Ordination

This is an old post I stumbled on but I wanted to respond to a few of the errors (My replies in Red):

The priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible, and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology: “Sacramental signs,” says Saint Thomas, “represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this “natural resemblance” which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ was and remains a man.

Leaving aside the fact that women are as “perceptible” as men, this leads to a kind of sacramental receptionism (in which the believer’s perceptions are what render the sacrament valid).

I think it is self evident that women are not as perceptible as men when it comes to being 'in persona Christi'.

Your main error on this point is that you have read it to say "perception validates a sign" or even that "a sign must be perceptible to be effective" whereas it's not saying that at all - it's saying that "a sign must be perceptible to be a sign". A message must contain information. If you have a message that does not contain information, it is not considered an ineffective message, it's not considered a message at all. In the same way, a sign which is not by its nature, perceptible isn't an ineffective sign - it's simply not a sign!

This reduces the sacrament from an objective reality into a subjective experience.

This coming from an Anglican? No, the Catholic Church has been rather objective and particular about this sacrament. You folks are still hammering it out and splitting your ecclesial community at every decision. Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house.

It also puts an undue focus upon one aspect of the priestly person: his (or her!) sex. Why, after all, should sex be any more determinative of perceiving Christ — if perception were the sine qua non for the validity of the sacrament — than any other quality.

This is a fair question to ponder, but the answer shouldn't evade us for long. We must consider that sexuality is not a mere natural phenomenon that we shall soon be rid of. Sexuality is a reflection of the very cosmos itself. We will not be neutered in Heaven; if anything we will be more masculine and more feminine respectively. When God has referred to Himself in Divine Scriptures, He may have just as easily referred to Himself as an it. He may have made it clear that He was both Father & Mother and even when He was Incarnated, He may have just as easily come as a neutral being. What is important to ask is first what did He do and then why did He do it. Perhaps God was afraid of offending the mideastern macho sensibilities of the time which the Scripture was written. Or perhaps still (call me a fundamentalist but this seems a better alternative to me) perhaps masculinity and femininity and the realities each represent, exemplify and personify aren't merely beautiful (yet temporal) concepts but extremely important roles in God's cosmos.

God loves masculinity and femininity. He doesn't seem to like the in-between. God loves distinction and discrimination. Creation is teeming with it. He likes opposites, paradoxes and analogies. Why is the cosmos so analogous to itself in various ways? Why can so many analogies be made effectively of so many other things? We have no reason to assume the cosmos would be that way. But it is. And we find that few (if any) phenomena are more analogous and powerfully descriptive of great truths than human sexuality.

God's Fatherhood is not merely man's projection of our anthropological experience onto our God to better understand His role (although this is unfortunately how we often think of it). The reality is profoundly opposite: our earthly fatherhood is but a shadow and an image of true Fatherhood - God's. Likewise, Jesus' maleness, His masculinity is not an image of ours, we were made in His image. Jesus didn't just personify true humanity, He personified true masculinity. Jesus didn't have His masculinity projected on Him by us, we had our masculinity projected on us by Him.

I hope we are starting to see the importance of gender. Notice that none of this has denigrated or lessened the value of femininity in the least. If Christ personified true masculinity, Mary personified true femininity. Yet both Jesus and Mary can each be regarded as acting on behalf of humanity (male and female). Mary's "yes" to God said what none of us, male or female, could have. Jesus death & resurrection accomplished for humanity what none of us, male or female, could have. But this in no way detracts either from Jesus' masculinity or Mary's femininity.

So, in conclusion, I don't think it adds undue attention to Christ's gender at all. Why is gender so important? We may not be able to fully answer why - but we can be certain that it is. God didn't design the entire cosmos around trivial details.

And isn’t a woman more “perceptible” as Christ than a loaf of bread is as his flesh? Personally, I don’t find the figure of a paunchy octogenarian cardinal to be as “natural” or immediate a reminder of Christ as a younger and more ascetical woman.

If this point proves anything, it proves too much. Isn't a child more "perceptible" as Christ than an infant? Isn't an infant more so than an ape? An ape more than a frog and a frog more than an oak tree? An oak tree is more perceptible than a rock. If this point disproved apostolic tradition, then we could start ordaining oak trees.

It is not Christ’s maleness that is of significance, in the Eucharist or in anything else, but his humanity, which obviously includes his maleness, but just as obviously is not limited to or by it.

Christ's maleness is of significance when it comes to who He is. You could not adequately understand or represent me without understanding or representing my maleness and you couldn't (and can't) of Jesus' either. Gender is a highly significant part of who we are regardless of how liberalism tries to deny it. Furthermore, masculinity is not a limiting quality and neither is femininity. Was Jesus limited by being human? Being human itself can be rightly understood as a "limiting quality" just as much as being male or female could. He was limited to being Human in the sense that He was not a Kangaroo. And He was limited to being male in the sense that He was not a female. But in the practical sense of the word, it doesn't belong here. God is limited by nothing but even we who are extremely limited, should never refer to gender roles as limitations. That's a mistake of liberalism and egalitarianism. Masculinity and femininity are to be respectively embraced not abhorred or even lamented.

Which brings us to the serious doctrine this position contradicts. For it is taught that what is not assumed (by Christ in the Incarnation) is not redeemed. And Christ assumed the whole of human nature. Otherwise how could women be saved?

Again I think this point would prove too much if it proved anything. Why not extend it to races? Since He did not come as a Chinese man, Chinese people cannot be redeemed! But in fact, He could have come as a neutral gender as mentioned above. He didn't, He came as Man. But man isn't "human minus woman", man is human. Likewise, woman is not "human minus man", woman is human. The full image of God may be perfectly represented by man and woman together as one flesh but it makes me no less fully human as a man. And as the Scriptures say: "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man."

Let’s look at the issue more closely, by asking what relationship sex has to human nature. The nature of any class must be something possessed by every member of that class. As Hooker says, “Now if men had not naturally this desire to be happy, how were it possible that all men should have it? All men have. Therefore this desire in man is natural. It is not in our power not to do the same...” (Laws, 1.11.4) The desire to happiness is thus a part of human nature. But what about sex? “Having a sex” is natural to all human beings. But the actual quality of being male only applies to men; being female only to women. So it is part of the manly nature to be male, the womanly nature to be female. But when human nature is considered as a whole, including both men and women, the specific sex is left to one side as a quality of the individual or of the class of men or women, and only the generic quality of “having a sex” applies to human beings. Maleness or femaleness applies only to individuals [such as Jesus Christ], and not to human nature as a whole. So, the “natural resemblance” argument already having been defeated both on objective grounds and on the grounds of a proper understanding of the nature of the sacrament[I've shown above that you are far from defeating it], we are left with an assertion that there is something about maleness, as a human quality, that is required for ordination.

Yes.

And this is where the conflict with Chalcedon arises: for the Council affirmed that whatever it is in human nature that is of saving importance (since that is the object of the Incarnation) came through a woman — the Blessed Mother of God — and she could not confer what she did not possess. Ergo, the male character is not essential, but accidental. Even if Christ’s maleness was necessary for the fulfilment of prophecy, there is no natural reason to think this carries over to the ministers of the church. To do so is to attach a greater significance to maleness than is warranted.

This goes back to what I said earlier about God's masculinity not being a projection of our masculinity on Him but rather His masculinity is reflected by us (made in His image). Jesus received not the masculinity of men but the masculinity of God - true masculinity even though He fully received humanity and maleness from Mary. Jesus didn't default into masculinity and do a good job of being masculine, He defined masculinity by His character from eternity. Maleness is a reflection and an outward sign of true masculinity - God's.

They say that women may not receive the benefit of the sacrament of order. But how is this; seeing that they may receive the benefit of both of the sacraments ordained by Christ, and may be, as they will admit, the ministers of baptism, which is the prime sacrament of the church’s very being; and seeing that they may alike receive the benefits of the other sacramental rites of the church, in confirmation, penance, matrimony, and unction; wherefore then are they incapable of receiving benefit of this one only sacrament of orders?

This assumes a radical difference in the objectiveness of the spiritual world and that of the physical world. One might ask in the physical world why only women can give birth. It's a terribly unfair act of discrimination. Shouldn't men also have the right to experience motherhood if they want? Likewise, shouldn't women also be able to experience fatherhood? Men can be born which is the essential and defining act of humanity - why can they not have access to the fullness of humanity? They can be born but they can't give birth - it's simply unfair. Now transfer all of this logic into the spiritual world and we've just repeated your argument. We're making huge assumptions that God desires egalitarianism in the spiritual world when we've already seen that He doesn't in the physical world. The Physical world is not an evil deformation of the spiritual world as we learned from the apologists, but it is rather the exemplification of it. This is why, as stated before, so many things in the cosmos (especially sexuality) are analogous to other things. We describe the spiritual world using physical world imagery not solely because we have no other choice, but at least partly because the physical world is not only adequate but explicitly appropriate for doing so (and by divine decree).

Is it that they are incapable of receiving this grace, as if they were a material unfit to receive the impress of a seal? What is the grace? and what that receives it? Is there somewhat in male humanity that exists not in the female?

Yes and vice versa.

Is it not rather that male and female are qualities of the individual person, and not of collective human nature? For humanity as a whole is neither male nor female, but each individual is either one or the other.

This is part of the problem. Gender is not a quality or attribute, it is a defining tenant of your person. You say humanity is neither male nor female. You are wrong. Humanity is female (or more properly feminine) - (represented by the Church which is true humanity). It is not by accident she is called "the bride of Christ"! Notice how the Church is both "feminine" and "true humanity" at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive and neither is "masculine" and "true humanity" (as was the case in the person of Jesus Christ).

To say otherwise were an error, since we know that all that is of human nature in woman comes from man, as Eve was taken wholly out of Adam; and further, all that is in human nature resides in woman, for Christ’s humanity came to him wholly by way of his blessed mother, and she could not bestow that which she did not possess: and finally both man and woman come from God as made in God’s image. (1Cor 11.12) So if they say that either humanity or divinity is the form or image that a woman cannot possess, they are mistaken, for she has it both by nature of birth; and further by the grace of baptism whatever of the divine image is marred or obscured in man or woman is restored to its original likeness.

This assumes only one "sense" of things. There is a certain priesthood of women - that is the priesthood common to all believers at baptism. The woman is baptized priest, prophet and king (but not priestess, prophetess and queen - take note here). It would not be proper to substitute the former three for the latter three. Because the woman does not assume these roles as of herself, she puts on the roles of someone else (as likewise the man does). With man, he is still called priest, prophet & king not because he is man and he gets to keep the gender of the titles but because he happens to be of the same gender as the One to whom they rightly belong and from Whom they came. The man is no less putting on the role of Christ as the woman is though, it's just that his gender happens to match.

That point aside, there is a certain sense of all three. When we are baptized king, we don't actually get any land or loyal subjects given to us. So we are only baptized as a king in a sense. Likewise, the common priesthood of all believers is a type of the more proper priesthood which itself is a type of the true priesthood - Christ's. So then we should understand that there is a certain sense in which women do receive all of these blessings in baptism just like a man does. Because she is not eligible for the literal - full priesthood detracts in no way from the fact that she can and does receive the full grace of baptism. And returning to my point above, that woman is fully human (in itself) makes her no more eligible for priesthood in the spiritual world than men being fully human makes them eligible to be mothers in the physical world.

Finally, we hold that the grace of the sacraments comes not from the ministers who perform the rites associated thereunto, but from God; and that the lawful performance of a sacramental rite assures us of its validity and of the grace imparted thereby.

Yes and the keyword is lawful performance. Since women's ordination is unlawful, we know it is invalid. If you ask what determines lawfulness - we can only answer an authoritative institution. If such a thing exists, its the Catholic Church. In other words, no other institution would have the right to declare what is lawful or unlawful concerning sacraments.

All of this is to say nothing of the pragmatics of ordaining women. I just find it strange how the Anglican community is so sure of itself and its doctrinal errors even while its structure collapses around it due in large part to heretical decisions like permitting contraception and this one: women's ordination. It's no big secret why so many thousands of Anglicans have sought stability and truth in the Catholic Church in the last decade.