Monday, December 13, 2010

The Church Fathers on Transubstantiation

Check out my latest post on Called to Communion: The Church Fathers on Transubstantiation. This post shows the patristic support not merely for the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but also for the concept that the bread and wine are changed, by Transubstantiation (substantial change), into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pope St. Clement of Rome

Bryan Cross has a great article on Pope St. Clement of Rome over at Called to Communion.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope Benedict did NOT Condone Condom use

Over at Called to Communion, I've written a brief blog post explaining why the Pope did NOT condone condom use even in certain circumstances. The liberal media is running wild with this story - claiming that the Vatican is now reversing or at least softening its stance on artificial contraception. That is not the case as I explain in the article. This isn't even a case of the pope being taken out of context. His words are being flatly and deliberately misinterpreted.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Why God Matters

Why God Matters is a new book written by a deacon and his daughter. Visit their web site at: and Watch the video book trailer here.

ARCHBALD, PENNSYLVANIA – Tribute Books announces the release of Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life by Deacon Steven Lumbert of Pueblo, Co. and his daughter, Karina Lumbert Fabian of Simi Valley, Ca. They share their stories of how God led them from casual belief to deep devotion, and offer tips and exercises to help you see God's hand - and take it.

Neither Lumbert nor Fabian had dramatic conversions. Rather, God led them into deeper faith through the seemingly minor details of life: pot of rice, a habit of prayer, a frustrating flight home, or a barefooted stranger. This father-daughter team have written a delightful, quick book about finding God in the day-to-day. With thought-provoking quotes, heartwarming stories, Bible verses, passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and simple exercises the reader can fit into his or her daily routine, they help others recognize God's presence.

Book Summary

Many times one sees Roman Catholicism explained using either closely reasoned theology or an appeal to ancient writers of the Church. While both are legitimate approaches, the average reader looking to explore the faith is often left cold. In their collaboration, Why God Matters, Deacon Steven Lumbert and his daughter, Karina Lumbert Fabian, delineate the Catholic Faith as experienced by a pair of average, everyday people like the great majority who make up the 24 percent of Americans who share this religion.

In the stories of this pair, one see both ways people come to Catholicism, by birth ('cradle Catholics') and by conversion. Their descriptions of their separate paths thankfully lack the religiosity of the all too common 'and then a miracle takes place' school of religious experience. Rather than blasts of light, fiery swords, spiritual fistfights, and angelic choirs, theirs is the long religious slog of the everyday. The effort that one must put out each day in the long trek to Heaven.

What is Catholicism really like? One would be hard-put to find a better verbal painting of the faith so many call their own.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rev. Dr. Michael Root Swims the Tiber

Rev. Dr. Michael Root, a prominent Lutheran theologian, announced that he will convert to the Catholic Church. Read the story here. H/T Chad Toney.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bank Accounts & Justification

Recently a friend reminded me of a common Protestant analogy regarding salvation and merit. The analogy is that sinners have a ‘bank account’ wherewith to ‘pay’ for their eternal salvation. The problem is that man cannot possibly have enough in this account to pay the ‘amount due.’ Faith in Christ is equivalent to having a blank check payable from Christ’s own account of merit. So in that analogy, God does not withdraw the ‘merit’ from the sinner’s account but from Christ’s account.

In referring to this analogy, my friend worded it differently than I’d ever heard. He said that in the Protestant view, Jesus makes a deposit into our “account.” I replied, “a Catholic could agree to that!”

Read the rest at Called to Communion...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homeschooling my son This Year

We have officially decided to homeschool Miguel this year. Miguel will be 11 in November. I was fortunate to find this incredible Catholic, classical homeschool education curriculum online. It was recommended to me by my Polish friend and after I fell in love with the curriculum, I noticed that their headquarters was only about 30 minutes away from where I live.

It has a great catechism course if you're looking to expand education for your children. So far, we're pleased with the results and Miguel is loving it. It is harder than public school, but well worth it. William Michael, the founder, wrote this article called "Wise and Simple" on raising and educating our children properly. I really enjoyed the read and think you will as well.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Aristotle on Individuals Grasping the Truth

Aristotle said essentially the same thing I attempted to express in my previous post:

While no one person can grasp truth adequately, we cannot all fail in the attempt. Each thinker makes some statement about nature, and as an individual contributes little or nothing to the inquiry. But the combination of all the conjectures results in something big. It is only fair to be grateful not only to those whose views we can share, but also to those who have gone pretty far wrong in their guesses. They too have contributed something: by their preliminary work they have helped to form our scientific way of thinking.
(Metaphysics Alpha Minor, ch. I: 993b 1-4 as quoted by Randall, John, Aristotle, p. 53)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Of Mice, Men, and Hindus

Suppose you didn’t know what a human was and that you had to approximate your idea of man by your knowledge of lesser beings. We could start with a chimpanzee because it is the smartest animal. But that wouldn’t be enough, so we would need to supplement our knowledge with attributes of other creatures. Yes man is smart like the chimpanzee, (much smarter in fact), but he is also industrious like the ant. He is artistic like the bowerbird, a resourceful hunter like the lion, and social like the wolf.

Now the way we learn about God, through creation, is something like this. Because he was made in God’s image, man is the closest thing we know. But as knowledge of the chimpanzee falls short of knowing man, so knowledge of man falls far short of knowing God. The difference in the latter example is of course infinite and not strictly comparable. By knowing a chimpanzee you are much closer to knowing man than you are to knowing God by knowing a man.

To learn what God is like, we use a synthesis of all knowledge. Though man is the smartest and closest to God, knowing him alone is not nearly enough. God is the source and perfection of all goodness that exists in every creature. When we observe the efficient industry of the ant, we know that God is infinitely efficient and industrious. When we see the tender care of a mother with child, we know that God is infinitely tender and caring. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” The ferocity of a lion is only a shadow of God’s wrath.

This is also true of theology, I believe. I am a Thomist because I believe that Thomism is the best of the theological schools. But even though St. Thomas was a master at synthesis, knowing Thomism is not enough to approximate the truth. After all, foreknowing the result of St. Thomas’s vision, God judged it more profitable to mankind that St. Thomas should call his writings “straw” than that he should finish his masterpiece.

Knowing Thomism is to knowing truth what knowing man is to knowing God. Just as the best reflection of God’s perfection must be used as the exemplar for knowing God, so the best doctor of the Church should be used as an exemplar for knowing true theology. If you think that man is the only creature that should be used to learn about God, then you fail to appreciate certain attributes. Likewise, if Thomism is the only theology you study, you miss out on important aspects.

Non-Western theology is certainly part of that necessary synthesis. Pope John Paul II declared that the Church must breathe with her “two lungs,” that is, with the Western and Eastern traditions.

Though man is by far the closest to God, a gorilla is stronger and better represents God’s strength in that limited way. A dog expresses loyalty better than a man, and certain other animals excel in sensory powers beyond man’s capability. The sun better represents God’s life giving light, and the oak tree better represents His steadfastness. Likewise, in spite of their theological mistakes, non-Catholics do emphasize certain truths that lack such emphasis in Catholicism. Even other faiths have some things to teach us. We do not deny that man is uniquely created in God’s image by noting that the lamb best reflects a particular attribute of God. Likewise, we do not deny that the fullness of God’s revelation uniquely subsists in the Catholic Church by noting that other faiths better reflect certain attributes of God’s truth.

Catholicity is bigger than both Latin Christianity, and Eastern Orthodoxy. When Catholicism swallowed paganism whole, she spit out the erroneous seeds and perfected the truth that was already present in classical philosophy. When and if Catholicism were to swallow the Eastern religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, Catholicism would be the better for it. The Eastern mystic religions have truths that Catholicism has not yet perfected.

Again, this does not deny the unique truth of Catholicism. Christ founded the Church just as He created Adam. But towards His perfect end, He saw fit to create lesser creatures, each having a limited measure of truth. Some of these creatures, e.g. sewer rats, do not appear to exemplify much of anything helpful towards apprehending God’s nature. Likewise, there are plenty of shameful cults, heresies, and religions that have little or nothing to teach us. Yet all things are within God’s providence. The lion was not an accident, and neither was Hinduism.

Allow me to summarize. St. Thomas said that the human intellect cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly. And while the Catholic Church is God’s fullest, most visible, and most direct divine revelation, en route to understanding God lies understanding the field mouse.

Neither St. Thomas, nor any writer, nor man’s best effort at synthesizing the whole of theology will suffice for man’s knowledge of the full truth. But short of prophetic knowledge, this synthesis of man’s best work, each facet given its proper weight according to prudence and wisdom, is the pinnacle of man’s natural attempt to know the fullness of truth. Likewise, man’s best attempt at knowing God contains a rational synthesis of all that exists.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greater and Lesser Lights

As a rule, the presence of a greater light will cause lesser lights to dim. As the old hymn goes, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.... and the things of this world will grow strangely dim.” St. Thomas writes, “The greater light dims the lesser light of another luminous body;” and “at the presence of the sun the light of the stars is put out.” (Summa 3.5.4)

But in the real world, we observe that sometimes a greater light is dimmed by a lesser light. Many of the stars are actually greater lights than the sun. And when the sun’s light is not present, the stars may be dimmed by an even lesser light. A man living in a city cannot see the stars in the night sky; a thousand voluminous bodies are dimmed by a few street lights.

From the perspective of the individual, a greater light dims a lesser light when all things are equal. But if, from the man’s perspective, the greater light is already weakened by some obstacle, e.g. the distance from him to the stars, then the lesser light may dim the greater light, not absolutely, but according to his perspective.

This is an analogy to worldly attachment. Heavenly things represent the greater light and earthly things represent the lesser. Just as a man living in the city fails to see the majestic star-scape on account of being surrounded by street lights, so the worldly man cannot see the more noble things such as wisdom and virtue on account of being surrounded by temporal pleasures. He has drawn near to the lesser light and in doing so, away from the greater light. From a man’s perspective, the beauty of higher things fades behind lesser beauty because of his distance from the higher things.

The further we go from God, the lesser of a light it will take to distract us. If you want to have an idea of how far away from God you are, consider how small are the things that distract you from Him.

How pitiful of a state we are in! There is no other light except God. The trivial things that distract us from Him are only distant reflections of His own light!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Brother is Going to Serve in the Philippines

My brother, Steve, and his wife Katy, are on a plane to the Philippines as I write this post. They will be landing in Manila shortly. This is their second visit to Manila and they have decided that God is calling them to work with my charity, the Philippine Aid Society by fighting the extreme poverty in the Philippines.

Of course, they will be taking a big step down as far as living conditions in their move from suburban America to the urban Metro-Manila. This is a sacrifice that they have decided to make in order to serve the less fortunate.

Steve, assisted by Katy, will take on the role of "Program Coordinator" for the duration of their five month stay in the Philippines. For the first two months, they will operate a soup kitchen. From there, we have not yet decided the next plan of action. Our hope is to purchase a suitable facility for a more permanent structure where we can provide food and shelter for the neediest Filipinos. We will need financial resources to do this and will begin looking into grant opportunities in the near future.

We can use your help. If you have a blog, just posting a link to our website would be helpful. If you could consider a donation, even a small amount of money goes a long way in the Philippines. We're also on Goodsearch where you can earn money for our charity (or any charity you select) by searching the internet just as you would on Google. Superdonate is a free program that sells your unused computer power to research organizations and donates the money to a charity of your choice (and we're one of the options!) Also, check us out on Facebook.

Above all, please say a prayer for our small charity if you think about it. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Century Christian Worship

I wrote a blog post and recorded a 27 minute lecture on the topic of Christian Worship in the First Century over at CTC.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Understanding the Angelic World

We (men) are animals, like the brutes, but we have a rational form, like the angels. Yet we are not angels trapped inside animal flesh, nor are we "spiritualized brutes."

We can understand the animal world, though not exhaustively. But how can we understand the angelic world? When most of us consider the angelic world, the resulting vision is a mish-mash of spiritualized non-sense. We have fond thoughts towards the angels, (they're cool right?) but we really don't have a grasp on what the angelic world is like.

Our attempt to understand the angelic world is something like a cow trying to understand the human world. A cow has frequent interactions with humans. The cow "sees" us... but not really. He sees an oddly shaped cow that makes strange noises I guess. He cannot comprehend our world. I think it must be something like that with the angels. We "see" them (that is, we see their effects) but we comprehend the angelic world about as well as a cow comprehends the human world.

A dog might live in New York City, surrounded by all the complexities of millions of rational beings doing things that are far too grand for the canine to grasp. But the height of his intellectual ambition is to find something to chew. Despite such proximity to the human world, he has no comprehension of what's happening all around him.

We are surrounded by an angelic world that is more complex that we can comprehend. And despite our proximity to such grandeur, the height of our intellectual ambition is to acquire the next thing that will bring us temporal pleasure.

Imagine if a dog was miraculously given the capacity to understand the human world. Imagine his reaction. I think if we were given the capacity to understand the angelic world - it would be something like that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Short Video on Ecclesiology

This is a short video I made to demonstrate the inherent circularity of Protestant ecclesiology.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Reformed Announce Conversion on the Same Day

The Tiber is getting crowded: Christopher Lake announced his decision to revert to the Catholic Church after years as a Reformed Baptist here.

David Meyer wrote a letter to his PCA church explaining why he was converting to the Catholic Church here.

Special Bonus: Here's another convert's website that I stumbled upon from the comments on David's site. Visit Aquinas, etc.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Why are there Prohibitions Against Covetousness?

Catholics, following St. Augustine, differentiate between coveting a neighbor’s wife and between coveting a neighbor’s goods. Protestants follow Judaism and Origen in combining both types of covetousness into the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” Now the species of a sin is defined by its object (Summa 2a.72.1) just as an action takes its species from its end (Summa 2a.72.3.r2). What does it mean for an action to “take its species from its end”? It means that one act differs specifically from another in respect to the end (goal) of the action. In the same way, one sin is specifically different from another if it has a different end. Consider this example. The species of an act whereby a doctor desires to heal a man in surgery and accidentally severs a vital artery is distinct from the species of an act whereby a man desires to kill a man and does so by severing a vital artery. These two acts differ specifically because they had different ends although the same thing happened in both acts.

Like all sins, the species of covetousness takes its act from its object, but not all objects are the same. Desiring a man’s material possessions is a distinct sin from desiring his wife because the object differsin kind. Consent to the former leads to theft, but consent to the latter leads to the greater, and specifically distinct, sin of adultery. Therefore, Sts. Augustine and Aquinas are correct in apprehending that there are two specifically distinct sins of covetousness forbidden in the Decalogue.

St. Thomas Aquinas raises an interesting objection as to whether there should be prohibitions against covetousness:

Further, murder is a more grievous sin than adultery or theft. But there is no precept forbidding the desire of murder. Therefore neither was it fitting to have precepts forbidding the desire of theft and of adultery. (Summa 2b.122.6.o4)

To which he replies:

Murder in itself is an object not of concupiscence but of horror, since it has not in itself the aspect of good. On the other hand, adultery has the aspect of a certain kind of good, i.e. of something pleasurable, and theft has an aspect of good, i.e. of something useful: and good of its very nature has the aspect of something concupiscible. Hence the concupiscence of theft and adultery had to be forbidden by special precepts, but not the concupiscence of murder. (Summa 2b.122.6.r4)

All men desire good, and every deliberate act is an act towards acquiring some good (real or perceived). Man’s pursuit of a particular good is moved by the concupiscible appetite. The object of concupiscence is a pleasurable good. Protestants generally believe that concupiscence is simply our proclivity to sin. But St. Thomas argues that there are different types of concupiscence. Some concupiscences are natural (called irrational) and some are unnatural (called rational). The natural concupiscences are called irrational because they are common to animals and men, but the unnatural concupiscences are called rational because they are proper only to rational beings. (Summa 2a.30)

Natural concupiscence leads a man (or an animal) to seek things because they are suitable to one’s nature (like food and drink). These things, because they are suitable to nature, are pleasurable. Thus, natural concupiscence does not lead to sin. The unnatural concupiscence is what leads a man to seek a thing because he apprehends it “as good and suitable, and consequently takes pleasure in it.” (Ibid., article 3)

It is an unnatural concupiscence which leads a man to covet either another man’s material objects or another man’s wife. He perceives (by coveting) that he will have pleasure in theft or in adultery. But neither of these are suitable to his nature (as are food or drink for example). So they are not driven by natural concupiscence. Therefore the sins of theft and adultery arise from unnatural concupiscence. In the case of covetousness, a man seeks the pleasure of a good rather than a good suitable to nature which is pleasurable for that reason.

St. Thomas explains that, while murder is a greater evil than adultery or theft, murder itself is not an object of concupiscence. No one can desire the “pleasurable good” of murder because murder is not a pleasurable good. Now adultery is not a good and neither is theft. But in both cases, there is “an aspect of a certain kind of good.” The aspects he refers to are sex and acquisition of material goods respectively. Both of these are aspects of a certain kind of good but killing a man does not have such an aspect of good.

The significance of the prohibitions against covetousness is the condemnation of unnatural concupiscence. This principle is foundational for many other precepts and doctrines; some of which have been abandoned by most non-Catholic traditions. It is a divine precept that underlies the prohibition of covetousness: you shall not seek mutable goods merely for the sake of pleasure. Rather, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;” (Lk 10:27) and “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)

This post originally appeared at Called to Communion.

Friday, June 04, 2010

St. Augustine on Discovering Truth

We make judgments about corporeal objects because they are below us, and we say not only that they are or are not this way, but also that they ought to be this way or ought not to be… We make these judgments according to the inner rules of truth which we perceive in common. But no one makes judgments about the rules themselves. When a man says that the eternal is more powerful than the temporal, and that seven plus three are ten, he does not say that it ought to be so; he knows it is this way, and does not correct it as an examiner would, but he rejoices as if he has made a discovery. (St. Augustine On Free Choice of the Will, 2.12)
This is something similar to the discovery of the Catholic Church as opposed to the judgments one makes, as a Protestant, of any given Protestant community. A Catholic cannot judge even a local Church as if it were something below him in nature. The local Church is the particular as the Catholic Church is the universal in the same way that a man is particular and mankind is universal. The local Church is catholic (‘of the whole’) and is therefore above the Catholic man.

Now I’ve never met a Protestant who would say “First Presbyterian Church is below me,” but then we don’t usually go around saying “this block of wood is below me.” It is our actions and our judgments that show that we believe the block to be below us. We judge that the block is square…fair enough. But then we judge that it ought to be shaped like a car, and we carve it until it conforms to our judgment. Likewise, by judging what the “Church” ought to be [in conformity with one's personal interpretation of the Scriptures] the Protestant shows that he places the Church below him as if it were a natural thing.

In contrast, the Catholic apprehends the Church as supernatural and therefore above him. We do not only say that we believe the Church is above us, we demonstrate this by rejoicing in the discovery of the Church just as one rejoices in discovering any truth. The mathematician rejoices at discovering mathematical rules, not at conforming them to his own judgment. He knows he can’t do such a thing because the rules of math are above him. Likewise, the theologian knows that God’s truth is above him, and he rejoices when he discovers the Church which is “the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

Later in the same work St. Augustine says, “In accordance with the truth, we make judgments about our minds, yet we cannot make judgments about the truth.” Likewise, the Catholic judges his mind according to the Church. He does not seek to find a Church that conforms with his judgment, neither does he try to conform the Church to his judgment. He seeks to conform his judgment to the Church just as he seeks to conform his mind to the truth.

This was originally posted at Called to Communion.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Studies in Reformation History Led Dr. Anders to the Catholic Church

Dr. Anders, who earned a doctorate in Reformation history, shares how John Calvin made him a Catholic over at Called to Communion. Interesting story! Dr. Anders has appeared on the Journey Home show with Marcus Grodi and is scheduled to appear on EWTN live June 23rd, 7:00 pm Central.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Podcast on Holy Orders

If my article on Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood was too long to read, here's the Reader's Digest version via podcast. Tom Riello interviewed me on the topic of Holy Orders for Called to Communion's latest podcast.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Convert

Check out Steven Nelson's blog "Sh'Muel"

Steven is a Jewish/Protestant convert to the Catholic faith.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Holy Orders and the Priesthood

Over the last few months, I've been researching, writing, and editing a lead article at Called to Communion titled, Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood. This is the first of a one-two punch on the priesthood and apostolic succession. It's long but I hope you'll take the time to give it a read and let me know what you think. It's divided into seven sections with hyper-links. This way you don't have to read it all in one sitting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'll be on EWTN Radio Tomorrow Morning

I'm going to be interviewed on the topic of Catholic Hierarchy on the EWTN Son Rise Morning Show at 8:50 am Eastern time. You can listen online here.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

PCA Seminary Student Converts to the Catholic Church

Jeremy Tate is a seminary student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Earlier this year, he converted to the Catholic Church. Listen to this podcast where Jeremy is interviewed by Tom Riello, a former PCA pastor who converted to the Catholic Church. Welcome home Jeremy.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Why Does Evil Exist?

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” – The Exsultet, Traditionally Sung at the Easter Vigil

A simple answer of why God allowed the Fall of man runs like this. God did not desire man’s sin but He respected man’s free will by allowing him to eat the apple. If that works for you, then I say let it continue to work for you (and don’t continue reading).

But in fact that argument doesn’t work. Imagine the parent that placed a knife in his child’s crib, hoping that the child wouldn’t play with it. The parent does not will for the child to play with it, but he will respect the child’s free will. It would be better, apparently, for the parent to avoid placing dangerous objects in the child’s crib. The parent can preveniently protect the child from evil by not allowing him access to it. This prevenient protection does not violate the child’s free will. On the contrary, it allows the free will to be even freer since it cannot make a dangerous mistake. Likewise, God could have simply not placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.

Now could God have created a world without evil? Absolutely speaking, that is possible. God could have created a world where evil didn’t exist. But for at least two reasons, God desired that evil should exist. First, so that all possible good might exist, and second, that we might know Him.

The good of perseverance and fortitude cannot exist without the evil of pain and suffering. Without evil, we would lack the good of martyrs. It was God’s desire that the good of perseverance, etc. would exist.

Another reason why God created a world with evil is so that we might know Him. Following Aquinas, as quoted in my article on the Divine Metaphor, “We can speak of simple things only as though they were like the composite things from which we derive our knowledge.” Now in God there is no evil, nor is there a hierarchy of diversity, one thing more perfect than another. God is simple, but we can only know the simple through complex things. Therefore, in order for us to know God, it was necessary to create a complex universe organized into a hierarchy of diversity.

This hierarchy of diversity, which God created, is intended to show us what He is like by analogy. The Scriptures teach us that God is like a king, for example. This is meaningful to us because a king is the highest office; in that particular respect, God is like a king. Of course, we cannot compare God to a human king in any direct sense because whatever can be said of God, in truth cannot be said of anyone or anything else. Our kingship is only like God’s “kingship.” Even the goodness and beauty of the world is only like God who is truly good and truly beautiful. God the Son, is also compared to a lion. This is meaningful for us because lions hold a place of honor among the beasts. They are mightier and fiercer than the other beasts. In this regard, God the Son is like a lion. Rather, a lion is like God the Son.

To simplify this thought, imagine that all beasts were exactly the same. God could not be referred to as a beast because He would not be like a beast. He is only referred to as a lion because lions are greater than other beasts. Imagine if there were no government. God could not be likened unto any human office because no man would be above any other man. But God is above us, and in that way is likened unto a king. This is only a simple way to conceptualize the point I’m trying to make. Imagine (the absurd proposition) that God created a world without this hierarchy of diversity or distinction. If all things were equal, we could in no way relate to God because in our finite capacity, we cannot comprehend God. We only know Him by knowing things which He has revealed to us via the material world. We understand His greatness only by understanding the greatness of kings and lions, etc. and by amplifying that greatness to the best of our ability.

Evil is not a thing that God created. As St. Augustine taught, evil is simply a privation of good as a shadow is a privation of light. But the good of a king cannot be grasped without the privation of that kingly goodness which exists in his subjects. The goodness of the lion cannot be known to us without the privation of that same goodness in his prey or in the lesser beasts. That is: If privation of good didn’t exist in this world, we would have no way to understand God’s goodness.

God could have instantly given us the capacity to see Him directly (which is the Beatific Vision or Heaven), but He chose not to for reasons given above (that the good of fortitude, perseverance, etc. should exist). Thus, in order for us to know Him at all, without the Beatific Vision, it was necessary to create a world wherein privation of good existed so that there would be a hierarchy of diversity whereby we might know what God is like. Our participation in evil, which is by no means necessary, consists in turning away from the Creator and choosing a created good. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, overcame the world by never choosing a created good over God the Creator. May we imitate Him this Easter season and until we finish the race. Amen.

Originally posted at Called to Communion: Why Does Evil Exist?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Mary and the Sorrow of the Cross

We cannot fully appreciate the sorrow of the Cross because we cannot comprehend the innocence of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to watch a man suffer, but it’s harder to watch a child suffer. The reason for this is because we know the child is more innocent than the man. When the innocent suffer, it grieves us because of the injustice done. The more innocent the victim, the greater the injustice. And as hard as it is to consider the sufferings of Christ, if we could comprehend His purity, it would grieve us all the more.

When a child sees this kind of suffering, it affects him more, relative to the degree in which he comprehends what is happening, than it does a man. This is because the child sees with a purer heart. Injustice scandalizes a pure heart to a greater degree than it does an impure heart just as dishonesty grieves an honest man more than it does a dishonest man. The difficulty or pain of seeing injustice is increased by the purity of the beholder.

Further, it is difficult to watch a man suffer. It is more difficult to watch a friend suffer, and it is more difficult still to watch a family member suffer. The more you love someone, and the more you know them, the more difficult it is to see them suffer. If you see a stranger suffer, it is painful because of your sense of commutative justice. But if you see a loved one suffer, it is as if the suffering is happening to you.

All of this has important implications for our apprehension of the sacrifice of Christ. We cannot appreciate the suffering of Christ because we cannot comprehend the level of injustice being committed. Furthermore, since we are sinful, our moral senses are dulled so that we are not as sensitive to the suffering of the innocent as we ought to be.

The most interesting implication to consider, I think, is the sorrow of Mary at the cross. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception aside, who would dare question that Mary’s heart was pure? Her purity of heart caused the suffering of Christ to be more painful for her than for the others present and certainly more than us as we consider it as a historical event. Her love for Jesus, as her only Son, further intensified the sorrow beyond what the best of us would have endured (had we been present). It is in this way that Simeon’s prophesy was fulfilled, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).

Origen was right in saying:

No one can grasp the meaning of the Gospel unless he has rested on the breast of Jesus, and unless he has received from Him Mary, who becomes his mother also. (Origen, Commentary on John, 1:6)

By entering into a familial relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive Mary as mother. If we increase our fidelity as Christians in the family of God, both purity of heart and love of Christ will increase. As these two increase, the sorrow of the Cross will become more real to us, but so will the joy of the triumph of Calvary.

This was originally posted at Called to Communion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And Another Convert

Keith Major is a former Protestant missionary who used to smuggle bibles into the Soviet Union. Now he's a Catholic. Welcome home Keith.

Another Convert Story

Lattes & Rainy Days is the name of a blog by Kirsten Michelle, a convert to Catholicism. Read her interesting conversion story part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Difference God Makes

Here's a video worth watching:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Can God Lie?

When I was younger, I used to think that God actually could lie if He wanted to, but He simply chose not to because of His goodness. I didn’t realize, and I think many people still don’t, that He literally cannot lie. Some theological errors can be avoided by understanding that God cannot lie. For example, imputed righteousness entails God saying something is true when it really isn’t. But if we knew that such a thing is impossible for God, then we would know that imputed righteousness is false.

The reason that God cannot lie is simply this. There is nothing which exists except that which God has created, and things exist solely and uniquely by God’s declaration of their existence. God did not say “Let there be light” and then subsequently create light. God said “Let there be light” and by that very act, there was light. It would have been impossible for God to say “Let there be light” and light not exist. Men can say things that are not true or will not become true, but God cannot do such a thing because God is truth. (John 14:6) If God could lie, it would contradict His very essence, which would make Him incoherent with Himself which is impossible. Further, a lie is a corruption of goodness, and no corruption of goodness (evil) comes from God whatsoever; neither can God do any evil.

This truth has a wide range of implications. Among the most prominent is the doctrine of Transubstantiation. For in the same way that a private becomes a captain by the very words of his general, “You are a captain,” so too does the bread become the Body by Christ’s words, “This is My Body.”

But while God cannot lie, He can speak metaphorically. But if He speaks metaphorically of a thing, then its result or consequence must be understood metaphorically. Obviously it was metaphorical when Jesus spoke of gathering Jerusalem as a hen does her chicks, and so if Jerusalem actually did comply, it would only be metaphorically that the “chicks” (Jerusalem) would be gathered under His ‘wings.’ Likewise, if Jesus spoke metaphorically when He said, “This is My Body,” then it is only metaphorically that we shall receive His Body. i.e. We will not receive His Body any more than Jerusalem shall be gathered under His “wings.” And if God the Father speaks metaphorically when He declares us righteous, then we shall only metaphorically go to Heaven. i.e. We will perish in our trespasses.

But clearly God cannot be speaking metaphorically when He speaks of justification. He is therefore either saying something true (you are justified) or something false (you are Simul justus et peccator). Now we know the second is impossible since God cannot lie, so it must be the case that God’s declaration of man as justified is true. God did not look on man and find him to merit initial justification by anything in him. In the same way that light came into existence by God saying “Let there be light,” grace comes (is infused) into man by God declaring Him righteous because God cannot lie.

Originally posted at Called to Communion

Friday, March 05, 2010

Mary as Co-Redemptrix

Taylor Marshall has an excellent post asking the question of whether we should call Mary the Co-Redemptrix.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why Didn't Nicaea Address the Canon Question?

Proponents of sola scriptura, especially those who would like to believe that the early Church fathers espoused this doctrine, have an important question to consider. Why didn’t the Church address the canon issue at Nicaea?

The Church gathered in 325 AD to settle the Arian controversy, but assuming that the Scriptures alone are infallible, it seems inconceivable that any council could reliably settle a doctrine of faith, especially one so critical, if she had not first settled the question of which books could be considered as an infallible basis for such a decision.

One might object that such a question is only a concern for those who believe in solo scriptura, but this is false because there is no principled distinction between solo and sola scriptura. Another objection might be that the Church, widely and by general consensus, knew the canon, at least of the New Testament. But the New Testament canon was still in question at the time as no authoritative council would consider the matter for two more generations. To use such an objection would be to base certainty on doubt, an inconsistency that simply won’t suffice.

The reality we are left to consider is that the Church gathered and under the full weight of her authority made a critical theological decision, and the question of the canon never came up. This is inconceivable if the Church had ever considered the Scriptures the sole source of infallibility.

(Originally posted at Called to Communion)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where did Lent Come From?

Most of us instinctively associate Lent with Jesus' fast in the desert, and there's plenty of Church fathers ready to back us up. But you may be surprised to learn that this penitential season did not develop as a way to commemorate or reenact that event.

As pagans began converting to Christianity in droves, catechetical schools were founded all over the Roman empire, the most famous at Alexandria. The tradition of baptizing pagans on the Easter vigil is an ancient tradition, and the catechumens would be required to fast for a period of several days before their baptism. Some pious Catholics began voluntarily joining the catechumens in their pre-baptism fast, and over time, the duration of fasting was extended until it reached the traditional 40 days.

Soon, theologians began to associate the 40 days of this fast leading up to Easter with Jesus' desert fast. The association, therefore, is post-development. i.e. The fast did not develop as a tradition to commemorate Jesus' fast. That meaning, though valid, was retrospectively attached it. See Gregory Dix, "The Shape of the Liturgy" 1945 for more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Charlotte Chant Workshop

I'm happy to announce that there will be a Gregorian chant workshop in the Charlotte diocese at St. Ann's Catholic Church in August of 2010. My schola will definitely be there, and one of the ladies who chants with us is coordinating it. Please let email me if you'd like more details. ( timatroutman gmail com ) Info:

Charlotte Chant Workshop

St. Ann Catholic Church

Dates: Friday, August 6, and Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mass Time: 6:30 PM, Saturday, August 7 in the Extraordinary Form

Registration Fee: $99.00.

More Information to Follow

which will include schedule details and registration information

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Canon Question

More than any other issue, the canon caused me to realize that Protestantism couldn't work. Protestantism simply has no answer for The Canon Question and Tom Brown does an excellent job arguing as much in the latest lead article at Called to Communion. I hope you'll take the time to read it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unity in the Ante-Nicene Church

The ante-Nicene Church was, from a political perspective, an illegal network that broke away from the tolerated Jewish religion. This underground status made Christian unity a true challenge. After the Edict of Milan in 313 AD when Christianity became legal, great strides were made towards liturgical and episcopal unity, but that unity developed and flourished from a foundation of unity which extends all the way back to the Jerusalem Church of Acts. I would like to examine three principles of unity in the early centuries of Christianity: government, liturgy, and doctrine.
Read more on Ante-Nicene Church Unity at Called to Communion.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week of Christian Unity

Happy MLK day and also note that today kicks off the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." Please keep this important intention in your prayers throughout the week.

Also, Called to Communion will be publishing a number of posts on the subject of unity this week including two guest essays.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Betancourt Crosses the Tiber

Not long ago, Norman Geisler co-authored a book entitled "Is Rome the True Church?" The book's co-author, Joshua Betancourt, has reportedly converted to Catholicism since the publishing of the book. H/T Frank Beckwith. Welcome home.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why Faith is Good

The dichotomy between good and evil is in no way arbitrary; it must be understood in terms of being and corruption of being. Now information is the basis for the decisions we make, but we have a problem. God alone posses the information necessary to make an exhaustively informed decision. All other intelligent beings, even angels, make decisions based on limited knowledge except via participation in the divine essence, i.e. the beatific vision.

This lack of knowledge is the cause of our ability to make an incorrect decision (sin). A child lacks the information to choose between candy and a vegetable. As far as he can tell, the candy is the correct choice. But unless he, by faith, trusts in one more knowledgeable than him, e.g. a parent, then he will make the wrong choice. Likewise, so long as creatures do not fully participate in the perfect knowledge of the Creator via the Beatific Vision, faith is necessary to make the correct decision.

It is clear from the above that to lack faith is an evil because creatures inherently lack perfect knowledge and to make a false choice is evil. Therefore faith is a good. As it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Essay Contest at Called to Communion

At Called to Communion, we are calling for essays on the subject of 'Christian Unity' to raise awareness for the week of prayer for Christian unity. The top two essays will be published and the winners will receive a free copy of Taylor Marshall's new book, "The Crucified Rabbi."