Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Reformed Convert

I'm about a year late on this one but I'd like to point you all in the direction of Epigone's Eloquence, the blog of a young Dutch student of philosophy that entered the Catholic Church about a year ago. Here's his pithy account of the decision to convert.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

John Kincaid's Conversion Story

Called to Communion's latest member, John Kincaid, who is now pursuing his doctorate at Ave Maria university, shares his compelling conversion story from broad Evangelicalism, to Calvinism, and finally to the Catholic Church. Read the text here:

Contours of my Conversion

Or listen to the podcast where he interviewed by former PCA pastor, Tom Riello:

Called to Communion - Episode 5 - John Kincaid

The Podcast is about 55 minutes long but well worth listening to. It's not just a conversion story - it's a peek into John's solid theological reasons for converting to the Catholic Church. John and his wife were welcomed into full communion last year but be sure to give him a warm be-lated welcome home all the same!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aquinas For Kids: 2

Now that Faith Formation classes are over for my son Miguel, I decided I will take it upon myself to teach him something new each Wednesday at approx. the same time that he would be in class. I haven't planned out a solid curriculum yet... I'm playing it by ear so far. What follows is an accurate recollection of our first session.

Me: "Here's something I want you to learn - Grace does not destroy nature it perfects it. Lets talk about grace first" (explanation of grace with examples) "Ok now lets talk about nature. When we talk about the nature of man, it means things that are natural to men. So lets think of some things that are natural for man."

Miggy: "Oh you mean like hands and arms and hair and poop?" (Remember, he's 9)

Me: (pause) "Yes. Yes all those things are natural to man and those are good examples. But they're all physical things, things you can touch."

Miggy: (Breaks out in laughter)

Me: "Whats funny?"

Miggy: "So you're telling me you can touch poop?"

Me: (Frustrated) "Well you can but you shouldn't. Youre making this difficult. Ok now remember that those are physical things but lets think of some non-physical things that are natural to man. " (We came up with examples, one that I stuck on because it was being exhibited throughout this exchange was laughter). " So laughter is in man's nature. So based on what we've learned and have been talking about grace not destroying nature - do you think grace will destroy our ability to laugh or make us no longer want to laugh?"

Miggy: "No."

Me: "Thats right, it wont." (more examples, more repition to drill it into his head) "Ok so I just want you to remember that grace doesn't destroy nature - it perfects it."

Miggy: "Dad the thing I'm going to remember most about this is that you can touch poop."

Gotta love the brutal honesty. Actually he has done a good job of remembering it and he's repeated it several times since then. The grace part I mean - not the other one. :)

Maybe its a weird place to start teaching a kid, not sure. I'll see where it goes. Kids are natural Thomists - they haven't learned the silly skepticism of the world yet. This should be fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Augustinian Soteriology

St. Augustine, God rest his soul, can’t be happy about how Western Christians have been fighting over the rights to his theological legacy for the last five hundred years. This in-fighting notwithstanding, a few issues make Augustine stand out as decidedly Catholic. Recently we discussed the issue of the canon, and Augustine clearly supports the books now called ‘Deutero-Canonical’ as Scripture, but it’s also important to point out his views, which stand in such sharp contrast to the Protestant worship, on the sacrifice of the mass. I won’t be dealing with those here but I’m sure, at some point, we will. This is merely a brief and inadequate survey of Augustinian soteriology.


Growing up Reformed, I took it for granted that Augustine belonged to us. In a sea of obscure Christian history, possibly clouded with pagan influence, Augustine stood towering as a great beacon of the true gospel. Everyone else may have missed it, but daggonit - Augustine got it right. If he were alive today, he just might be another R.C. Sproul writing books which would find warm reception amongst the PCA faithful.

In our featured articles on Soli Deo Gloria and Sola Gratia, Sean Patrick and I argued for the Catholic (and Augustinian) understanding of our cooperation with God’s salvific grace. I brought out this point forcefully here:

And so it does no good to quote the Catholic Catechism saying, “Our justification comes from the grace of God,” or “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us,” if Christians in the Reformed tradition object on the ground that the Catholic Catechism also says, “Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us.” But this is not a quotation from the council of Trent or Vatican I or even Aquinas; this is St. Augustine! At this fateful point where Reformed theology and Catholic doctrine collide with uncompromising force, the Catholic Church unambiguously preserves the ancient and precisely Augustinian doctrine, and this should not be lightly dismissed by anyone who claims that the Bishop of Hippo was a forebearer of Reformed soteriology.

I also supported it by a quote from Protestant scholar, Alister McGrath:

“it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly faithful to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, where the Reformers departed from it,” and later, “The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum.”1

McGrath also says: “Luther erected a specific understanding of justification that departs significantly from Augustine at two points of major importance-the notion of justifying righteousness as alien (rather than inherent) to the believer, and a tendency to treat justification as involving two notionally distinct elements. This late trend eventually led to the development of forensic notions of justification in the writing of Melanchthon and others.”2

Now Calvin is a bit trickier. Calvinism certainly shows some strong points of congruency with Augustine’s predestination and this sometimes leads Calvinists to believe that Augustine would be ok with their soteriology. Not so. The Calvinist would insist, I think, just as strongly as the Lutheran on the forensic/alien nature of salvific grace and Augustine would reject that as shown above.

The point I want to draw out is that the Reformation’s favorite early saint sharply disagrees with the Reformers on what they called the central issue. The other points where Reformed thought diverges from Augustine are important too; but let’s start here.

If it is true, and Augustine, the supposed proto-Reformer, holds the Catholic view of cooperation, then what does that mean for the case of the Protestant community? After all, notice above that the Catholic Church doesn’t quote Augustine in support of the Catholic view, she simply quotes Augustine as the Catholic view itself.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

  1. Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 1.185-187 (1986) (emphasis in original) []
  2. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/lutherletter/web/ll.0303.html []

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fr. Jeffrey Steel Jumps Into the Tiber

Well the news is making the rounds pretty quick and it's probably not a huge surprise to anyone who's been following him but Fr. Jeffrey Steel, an Anglican priest, has announced on his blog, De Cura Animarum, that he will be swimming the Tiber along with his family.
My PhD studies really set me on my Catholic journey in a deep theological way though I did not realise it at the time. I have been looking at Bishop Lancelot Andrewes as a catalyst for ecumenism with the Catholic Church in the area of Eucharistic sacrifice. Andrewes was in regular dialogue with S. Robert Bellarmine SJ and it is in this dialogue and Andrewes’ other writings that I saw how Catholic he was with regards to the Eucharist being the Christian offering which consisted of more than a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It was and is propitiatory as well as other things. Read More...
There is one hope for Christian unity and it lies just beyond the banks of the Tiber.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On Twitter

Well I've resisted as long as I could. I'm on Twitter now. It will be largely related to my charity but some of you may be interested in it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Mixed Cup

I spoke recently with a friend regarding the mixing of the wine with water at the Eucharist. This symbolizes the divinity of Christ and His humanity. Additionally, St. Cyprian compares the mixed cup to the Church being assumed into the life of Christ.

The mixture of water and wine is an ancient custom that even predates the Catholic Church. At the Jewish meals, it was customary to do so.
Water was customarily mixed with wine for drinking in any case, and unmixed wine was reckoned more suitable for washing in than drinking. In the case of the cup of blessing this addition of water was so much the custom that the rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (c. A.D. 90) reckoned it a positive rule that the Thanksgiving could not be said over it until it had been mixed, though the majority would not be so absolute.(1)
And that word "Thanksgiving" is, of course, Eucharistia in Greek. It is evident that not only does the practice extend to the apostlic era, but Christ Himself would have been using a mixed cup at the Lord's Supper.

1) Dix, Gregory "The Shape of the Liturgy" pg 57 (with footnotes)