Sunday, September 28, 2008

Christ's Superabundant Cross

I'm currently reading through 1 Corinthians and the other day I read this verse:

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid;
that foundation is Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 3:11

St. Thomas Aquinas describes Christ's sacrifice on the cross as superabundant, it's like the famous evangelical worship song lyrics 'All of you, is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need, you satisfy me with your love, and all I have in you, is more than enough'.

This morning I was thinking about the motto of Notre Dame University, crux spes unica 'the cross is our only hope'. It was then that I learned this is from an ancient latin hymn called "Vexilla Regis" dating back to 6th century Rome written by the Bishop of Poiters. (now aside from a debate about St. Helen and the True Cross, I want to include a portion of a translation of it)

Vexilla Regis

"Abroad the regal banners fly,
now shines the Cross's mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
did purposely to wash us clear
from stain of sin, pour out a flood
of precious water mixed with blood.

Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
the wealth that did the world restore;
the beam that did that Body weigh
which raised up Hell's expected prey.

Hail Holy Cross, our only hope!
Now, in the mournful Passion time;
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner's crimes efface.

Blest Trinity, salvation's spring
may every soul Thy praises sing;
to those Thou grantest conquest by
the Holy Cross, rewards supply. Amen."

This hymn reminded me of another hymn I heard the other day, which I am not trying to commit to memory. It was written by Annie Johnston Flynt who was extremely sick and frail for most of her life, and wrote this wonderful hymn in spite of everything she endured:

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."

May you find hope in the glorius Cross of Our Lord, who provided more than enough grace for everyone to be washed of their sins in. May Grace lift us up, help us stand, and lead us on the path to Heaven. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Luther and the Refuge of God

Hey folks, this is kind of a personal post, I'm really struggling in my own spiritual life and things are incredibly busy so I can't really post alot, but I read this the other day which I think is absolutely beautiful, even a Catholic - I think - could respect this particular passage, and I think Luther wrote many great works out of his love for God that both sides of the Tiber should revere. I also included a few other quotes that have helped me lately.

"Faith is a divine work in us, which transforms us, gives us a new birth out of God (John 1:13), slays the old Adam, makes us altogether different men in heart, affection, mind, and all powers, and brings with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, it is a living, energetic, active, mighty thing, this faith! It cannot but do good unceasingly. There is no question asked whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked the works have been done, and there is a continuous doing of them. But any person not doing such works is without faith. He is groping in the dark, looking for faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, although he indulges in a lot of twaddle and nonsense concerning faith and good works. Faith is a living, daring confidence in the grace of God, of such assurance that it would risk a thousand deaths. This confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes a person happy, bold, and full of gladness
in his relation to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit is doing this in the believer. Hence it is that a person, without constraint, becomes willing and enthusiastic to do good to everybody, to serve everybody, to suffer all manner of afflictions, from love of God and to the praise of Him who has extended such grace to him. Accordingly, it is impossible to separate works from faith, just as impossible as it is to separate the power to burn and shine from fire. Accordingly, beware of your own false thoughts and of idle talkers, who pretend great wisdom for discerning faith and good works and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that He may create faith in you; otherwise you will be without faith forever and aye, no matter what you may plan and do" - Martin Luther preface to Romans Commentary

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way...The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." - Psalm 46:1-2, 11

"Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations."- Psalm 90:1

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." - John 6:37 KJV

"A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling." - Martin Luther

"Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars...I will not forget thy Word" - Blaise Pascal after a near death experience

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Funny and Good Chesterton quotes I've encountered so far.

" The nineteenth-century neglect of tradition and mania for mere documents were altogether nonsensical. They amounted to saying that men always tell lies to children but men never make mistakes in books." (On Sola Scriptura)

"A young man will suddenly become a Catholic priest, or even a Catholic monk, because he has a spontaneous and even impatient personal enthusiasm for the doctrine of Virginity as it appeared to St. Catherine or St. Clare. But how many men become Baptist ministers because they have a personal horror of the idea of an innocent infant coming unconsciously to Christ? How many honest Presbyterian ministers in Scotland really want to go back to John Knox, as a Catholic mystic might want to go back to John of the Cross?"

"What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail-foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, "This is all hocus-pocus"; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, "Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh." But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, "Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense," is sensible. To say, "Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest," is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jansenism Pt. 2 and Emphasis in Theology

Emphasis is important in theology. A church can believe in a doctrine but not emphasize it over a period of time. An example is 'sola gratia' - grace alone. Dr. R.C. Sproul is a very honest Reformed theologian and he says in his book "Faith Alone" that the Catholic Church has always fought to maintain that salvation is by the grace of God alone (though obviously not by faith alone, hence the Reformation). Louis Bouyer writes that if the Church focussed more on Grace Alone during the time of the Reformation, it is probable that the issues would have been settled. This is quite a claim of course, and easily debatable, but the general principle is that emphasis matters.

Jansenism is intriguing to me because I like it's emphasis, in only a few ways does it contradict Church teaching (possibly teaching limited atonement, and irresistible grace), but it places great emphasis on Election and the sovereign grace of God and faith in the work of Christ. It never denies that works justify or the nature of the communion or anything else like that (from the little of what I've read), but it does emphasize what I think at least is the 'best' of Protestantism and Catholicism.

Jansen himself wrote that if his doctrines were offensive to the Church that they should of course be disposed of and that he wished to be faithful to the Church, and I believe that is the point. The point is that emphasis needs to be reformed at times or shifted depending on the situation. Baptists for example believe in an eternally Hell for all believers which they will be conscious during, but I've never heard a sermon on it, because it's just alluded to briefly or like an 'unwritten law' that it exists. Thus if their churches start to doubt Hell, they should emphasize it.

Thus while I am not a Jansenist because it has been declared heretical, I definately agree with the emphasis and that the good parts of it's theology should be emphasized more. I don't know why people think Election is such a horrific doctrine, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and alot of others are in agreement that it is a beautiful thing. Active another story.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jansenism Pt 1

I've realized that I like 2 systems of Theology greatly and agree with them. The systems are Catholicism and Calvinism. The problem is that they are contradictory. Blaise Pascal always seemed like a great man and I am reading Pensees right now, so I wikipedia'd him. As I read descriptions of his theology I realized I really agreed with alot of it. It was a form of Catholicism that didn't teach the Semi-Pelagian error of Trent to believe in Resistable Grace.

It seems very good as it blends alot of the truth about the fall, the gospel, predestination, and grace together and presents a truly Augustinian theology. I am planning on reading alot more of it.

Wikipedia says it well here:

"Jansen also insisted on justification by faith, although he did not contest the necessity of revering saints, of confession, and of frequent Communion. Jansen’s opponents (mainly Jesuits) condemned his teachings for their alleged similarities to Calvinism (though, unlike Calvinism, Jansen rejected the doctrine of assurance and taught that even the saved could not be assured that they were saved). Blaise Pascal's Ecrits sur la Grâce, based on what Michel Serres has called his "anamorphotic method," attempted to conciliate the contradictory positions of Molinists and Calvinists by stating that both were partially right: Molinists, who claimed God's choice concerning a person's sin and salvation was a posteriori and contingent, while Calvinists claimed that it was a priori and necessary. Pascal himself claimed that Molinists were correct concerning the state of humanity before the Fall, while Calvinists were correct regarding the state of humanity after the Fall.

The heresy of Jansenism, meaning here its denial of Catholic doctrine, is that it denies the role of free will in the acceptance and use of grace -- that God's role in the infusion of grace is such that it cannot be resisted and does not require human assent. The Catholic teaching is that "God's free initiative demands man's free response" (CCC 2002) [3] that is the gift of grace can be resisted and requires human assent."

Even if one is not allowed to believe in Irresistible Grace and be a Catholic, at least this shows me you can still believe in Total Depravity and Unconditional Election. Augustinian Thomism still offers some hope for me yet.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

God is good - a simple observation

God is good. Among every other attribute the scriptures tell us this fact. They even implore us “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Today in mass everyone around me was doing just that (partaking in the Eucharist), and as I walked up I grudgingly wondered how much longer it would be till I was ‘in the club’ so to speak, until I got to join in, until I could taste and see that the Lord is good myself. But as I approach Fr. Peter he put down the Jesus/wafer and smiled while giving me a blessing. “The Lord be with you Andrew” and he signed the cross on my forehead. As I walked back to my pew I felt so much better, I don’t know how to describe it, it was like when I was baptized at my Baptist Church and I felt this overwhelming feeling of grace, today I felt some sort of grace. It was for me a beautiful image of a priest acting in persona Christi. I was always taught that the curtain ripping in the temple meant that we never needed a priest again, that any man who tried to claim spiritual authority was a heretic or worse a Catholic. But today I saw the beauty of spiritual fatherhood and it coincided perfectly with a verse I read in the bible.

“Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15).

I understood what St. Paul was to the Corinthians now, he was an example in faith, a Bishop who corrected their errors, but more than that, a father in the gospel who showed them in some small way the Fatherhood of God. Of course if a person abused this position (as has occurred in many sex scandals, etc) the image could be the exact opposite, but it can also be of great encouragement. I guess I was just writing this story to say that the Lord is good, and is teaching me this through his servants.

God is good, and I will live with that. In the triumphal entry in St. Luke’s gospel it describes Jesus entering the town, and the Pharisees are upset, the people are crying out hosanna (‘save us’) and other cries that anticipated the messiah, and this would probably not escape the notice of the Roman guards. Jesus has this entry in fulfillment of Jewish scriptures (Zechariah) and people are crying to them as their king. This is when the pharisses say “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Lk. 19:39) and this I guess was a reasonable request, for if he did not rebuke them he risked causing a riot and a rebellion with Roman force to crush it. But the Pharisees miss the cosmic significance, they miss the God they worship, even though he is standing in front of them (and we probably would too). But Jesus says this classic line to them, “If they kept quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Lk. 19:40). It’s as if Jesus is saying: ‘I am Good, I am God, this is the day Israel has been waiting for since God first called Abraham, but if you miss this, if you refuse to recognize the significance of this, Creation itself will speak be your witness’.

Even in the bad times of life I must always remember the simple truth I sung to kids in Church of England schools over and over again during outreach: “our God is a good God, he’s a good good good good God”.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Walking Wounded and the Wounded Healer

My Principal Rob Whittaker at Capernwray Bible School in England used to talk about Christians who struggled with sin as they went through life, he used this poem - or at least the phrase 'the walking wounded' to describe us. Here is a part of the poem.

"And crimson crosses on the dirty white...
The mist still hung in snags from dripping thorns;
Absent-minded guns still sighed and thumped.
And then they came, the walking wounded,
Straggling the road like convicts loosely chained,
Dragging at ankles exhaustion and despair...
Remembering after eighteen years,
In the heart's throat a sour sadness stirs;
Imagination pauses and returns
To see them walking still, but multiplied
In thousands now. And when heroic corpses
Turn slowly in their decorated sleep
And every ambulance has disappeared,
The walking wounded still trudge down that lane,
And when recalled they must bear arms again" - "The Walking Wounded" By Vernon Scannell

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion (splagnidzomai) for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd...." - Matthew 9:36

The Gospel is our only hope to heal the walking wounded, with the wounded healer

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." -Isaiah 53:5

"‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.’" - Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20

A Reformed/Calvinist Catholic?

I found an interesting article written by a Presbyterian Minister who became a Roman Catholic, the article is all about the similarities between Calvinism and Catholicism and how you can basically be a 3-ish point Calvinist while being a Catholic (closer to Calvin than the Methodists are). I really like the article alot, as I find myself leaning strongly Augustinian/Thomistic on views of the fall, predestination, unconditional election, and irresistible grace (even though it got killed at Trent).

Here it is:

It's nice to be reminded that of all the good doctrines Catholics can hold - even though the Church at large seems to hide quite well or water down quite a bit the doctrines of grace.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sacraments: Are They A Lie?

I think that the Reformation initially retained a Sacramental Piety, however I've come to realize once more how important the Sacraments are in the discussion of theology. If the sacraments are means of communicating grace (Catholicism) or if they are superstitious and empty rituals.

This is also not so much a Catholic - Protestant issue, as it is a more specific Calvinist & Zwinglian versus Catholic and to a lesser extent Lutheran and Anglican.

The question is not simply one of whether there are 7 Sacraments: Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Penance, Marriage, Extreme Unction, and Holy Orders, or just the first 2. It is also a question of what do the sacraments do? what is their purpose. The question after that though is one of the very character of God. Does God care about the outward and physical or is he only concerned with the inner and spiritual.

The problem is that our Christian Ethics are Ontological rather than Teleological - they are based on the motive of the doer, rather than just the outcome. Was it T.S. Eliot who said the greatest sin was doing the right thing for the wrong reason? (if not it was some other British poet). SO one has to question why God would imbue special powers to actions.

The Calvinist position as I understand it is that God works effectually outside the sacraments in that the baptism which forgives you is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurs at the moment of saving faith. The infant baptism is just a covenantal sign, but ultimately it has no purpose other than marking the visible from the invisible church, but since in Calvinistic Ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) the 'true' church is always the invisible church anyway, so there really isn't any point in being in the 'visible' church.

The Catholic position as I've argued before is that the sacraments have power. They actually are objective means of receiving grace. Every time you receive the Eucharist you are recieving the physical body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ (I don't know how one receives his soul if it's his body, but there is probably something about it in Aquinas or a Scholastic, so I won't argue it...maybe I got it wrong by including his soul, nevermind). Likewise when you are absolved and forgiven of your sins by a priest you are forgiven by God Himself.

There are many biblical and historical arguments I've already listed in favour of a literal interpretation of Christ's words about the Holy Communion, and the Sacrament of Confession/Penance, and an argument for regenerative baptism (it forgives your sins). If you wish to see more just check out one of these sites:, or

The basic question though is why God would promise such Power to the Church? Why would he give frail men the ability to bind and loose, why would he give the keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter and allow men to determine who enters the Kingdom of Heaven. In all honesty, it gives me two thoughts:
1) God has stupidly given too much power to the Church
2) The Bible must be written by the Church as a means to claim supernatural power

The third option of course is that the Sacraments actually do have power and are efficatious, that God does care about physical actions. As C.S. Lewis put it in his defense of grace through the sacraments in Mere Christianity, God has no problem with matter, he created it, and it's no use trying to be more spiritual than God.

I was thinking the other day about Rob Bell's "The gods aren't angry" and how he proposes that none of the Israelite offerings in the Old Covenent satisfied God as he didn't 'need' blood. He also asked the question "Does your God need to hurt someone so that he can love?" it sounds like a great atheistic question and I've finally come to believe (as all Christians holding to either Calvin's Substitution or St. Anselm's Satisfaction theology of Atonement should) that yes God does have to hurt so that he can Love. But in essence he hurts himself, in Christ, he provides the sacrifice, which becomes an eternal part of his nature (Christ's eternal sacrifice).

I also remembered the 2 stories of God's anger towards violations of his covenants. The Second is of course 1 Corinthians 11 where St. Paul writes that those who partook of the Eucharist in an unworthy manner 'drank God's wrath against themselves' and 'were guilty of the body and blood of our Lord' and that this misuse resulted in illness and death. The first however is more obscure, I read about it in Exodus 4 at Capernwray Bible School and it was a blessing to be 'forced' to read the whole bible so that now I am more aware of all these extra stories.

The story is about Moses going into Egypt after receiving his mission from God in the Burning Bush, Zipporah and Moses are travelling with their son when we hear this:

"On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone. It was then she said, ‘A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.’ "" - Exodus 4:24-26

It seems odd to us that God would plan on killing Moses for not performing this outward circumcision rite. We are constantly taught in the New Testament that "circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything" (Gal 5) and likewise by St. Stephen the Martyr that we are to have 'circumcised hearts' not dead rituals. However it seems that in this story God disagrees, not in a way contradictory to the New Testament but in a way contradictory to my former interpretation. What if God really does care about the Sacraments about his Covenantal signs and realities. It isn't all bad though, it's also a huge gift, for maybe God really does work through the sacraments. Maybe that is why the Eucharist means 'the Good Gift' (or at least that's what someone told me).

The real question then is why no angel killed Zwingli? but I guess 'where sin abounded grace abounded all the more' (Rm 5.20)

An interesting book on this topic which I hope to buy soon is Dr. Scott Hahn's "Swear to God: God's Promise and Power of the Sacraments"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why No One Reads My Blog & An Apology

I've realized that although I never had a big readership, now no one reads my blog. In typical preaching style I'll outline 3 main points why no one likes reading my blog:

1. Polemical and Repetitive:
Today Michael described my blog as being jerky Catholic or something to that effect. It is true that my brief stint in Anglicanism was the only religion I ever had that wasn't constantly attacking something. My Baptist upbringing was based in attacking Catholicism and Evolution, my Catholicism was based in attacking Scripture Alone and Faith Alone.

No one wants to hear a 20 something simply rehash the same 500 year old arguments for or against a certain theology, if you've heard it once you've heard it a thousand times. Everything gets turned into a 'schismatic' or 'romish' category, there is no in between, no middle ground, it's always all or nothing.

It's also hard for readers to constantly guess which side of the Tiber I'm standing on that particular day, sometimes it switches half-way through a post. There is no ground to stand on. Scripture has been undermined by ecclesiology and ecclesiology built on the Scripture it just undermined.

2. Unoriginal:
I don't have any new theological ideas to bring to the table, I'll read others and then stand on their shoulders expounding on how "I've come to study" this or that, when really I've just read something else and put it in my own words and pretending that it means I am a theologian. This reminds me of the line from Team America: World Police when a Hollywood actor says: "I think we should read newspapers and then tell people what the newspapers said but claim the ideas are our own!". In the academic world this is known as plagiarism

3. Self Depricating and Awkwardly Personal:
Many times my objection to something will be emotionalism or sentimental reasons, many times I base my theology on personal experience (geez only Methodism does that! crazy Wesleyan Quadrilateral)

4. Uses Big Words like Quadrilateral
Most times in Theology - much like any other "ology" there are ridiculously huge words used for simple concepts like "Infralapsarianism" which I believe has something to do with Calvin telling God to ordain a fall.

5. Continually Changing my mind about John Calvin
See I just made fun of John Calvin, but now you might be thinking: "hey didn't he say he was a 5 point Calvinist just yesterday? why is he insulting the man?". That is a good question. I think I consistently insult John Calvin because it is easy to invent mean polemics against him in the spirit of the #1 reason no one is reading my blog, and most people dislike him already, so I can make myself look smarter than him by insulting him.

6. Lying
I claimed at the beginning of the blog that I would only have 3 reasons, but lo and behold, I actually have 6. As Revelation 21:8 reminds us of course in the great evangelical anthem I learned at bible school: "liars go to Hell, liars go to Hell, burn, burn, burn"

This is an open apology to anyone who has wasted precious moments of their life trying to advance my knowledge of God, I am desperately sorry for all of the innumerable ways I have probably offended or annoyed you. Rest assured that you will probably not see me in Heaven. I also apologize for the previous sentence which was a classic example of #3 Self Deprecation.

Well I think I'm going to go read my Bible without the official magesterium of the Catholic Church or the Canons of Dordt, only the illumination of the Holy Spirit... look out Quakers, here I come!!!

Assurance-less Christianity

Why I would never be a happy Protestant:
-Catholic apologists have won the argument on Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura, and are loaded with patristic and bible quotes to attack with.

-Catholic Historical Theologians show that there is no scriptural way that the Church could fall into universal apostasy for 15 centuries.

-Catholics hold Protestants accountable if they know about Catholicism and choose against it, J.R.R. Tolkien said that to look at the Catholic mass and the Blessed Sacrament and turn your back on it, or call it a mere symbol is 'calling Christ a liar to his face'. (...I wonder if the apostles telling Jesus he wasn't a door, a gate, or a vine, were lying to his face)

-If I were ever to go Protestant again Philip Wilson would drive to Canada and kill me on the place where the Altar should be in said Protestant 'ecclesial community' (church?)

Why I will never be a happy Catholic:
-Protestant and Orthodox Church Historians prove that the modern Papacy is complete innovation.

-According to many Protestants for me to convert would be a rejection of the gospel and thus in becoming Catholic I would be falling into apostasy, proving myself unelect, etc.

-I believe the 5 points of Calvinism or at least something very close to them.

-My friends and family are all Protestant.

-I don't "really" believe everything about Catholicism, I stand with C.S. Lewis in saying that my problem is not their doctrine but that by joining the communion I would automatically approve of every future doctrine. And if the Pope declared that salvation was not Sola Gratia then I'd have to say he was a heretic, no matter what Matthew 16 or St. Cyprian says.

I have no idea what to do anymore, and am sure that either way the rest of my life will be terribly plagued by doubts and frustration...May God help me...

Sola Gratia - Charles Spurgeon

“. . .If you take away the grace of God from the gospel you have extracted from it its very life-blood, and there is nothing left worth preaching, worth believing, or worth contending for. Grace is the soul of the gospel: without it the gospel is dead. Grace is the music of the gospel: without it the gospel is silent as to all comfort. I endeavoured also to set forth the doctrine of grace in brief terms, teaching that God deals with sinful men upon the footing of pure mercy: finding them guilty and condemned, he gives free pardons, altogether irrespective of past character, or of any good works which may be foreseen. Moved only by pity he devises a plan for their rescue from sin and its consequences—a plan in which grace is the leading feature. Out of free favour he has provided, in the death of his dear Son, an atonement by means of which his mercy can be justly bestowed. He accepts all those who place their trust in this atonement, selecting faith as the way of salvation, that it may be all of grace. In this he acts, from a motive found within himself, and not because of any reason found in the sinner’s conduct, past, present, or future. I tried to show that this grace of God flows towards the sinner from of old, and begins its operations upon him when there is nothing good in him: it works in him that which is good and acceptable, and continues so to work in him till the deed of grace is complete, and the believer is received up into the glory for which he is made meet. Grace commences to save, and it perseveres till all is done. From first to last, from the “A” to the “Z” of the heavenly alphabet, everything in salvation is of grace, and grace alone; all is of free favour, nothing of merit.” – Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Honest To God - Part 1 - The Gospel

The very controversial book by an Anglican bishop titled 'Honest to God' was the work of famous (or rather infamous) liberal theology and a general attack at Traditional Christian Theology. I'm not going liberal (though I do like the Quakers), but I decided that instead of constantly publishing polemics, this series is going to go in favor of a more personal approach to theology. Rather than entrenching myself within Catholicism or Protestantism, I'll just state my beliefs about things from my limited reading of Tradition/Church Fathers, Scripture, Logic, and Personal Experience (Wesleyan quadrilateral is my favourite approach to Christianity).

I'm hoping to cover 3 topics:

1. The Gospel
2. The Holy Spirit
3. The Sacraments

*note: Today I signed up for RCIA at the Catholic Cathedral in town, so please don't guilt trip me about not being Catholic enough, I'm following through with it. Thus my Catholic Ecclesiology has beat my Protestant Soteriology, and Church Tradition/History has beat Scripture.

"Man is nothing but a subject so naturally full of error that it can only be eradicated through grace." -Blaise Pascal

I've heard alot of arguments on the subject, I think in the end that St. Augustine, and John Calvin are correct in their assessment. I believe that the unregenerate man can neither do good, nor even think it, as the Bondage and Liberation of the Will says. I think mankind only has the free choice to choose between sin and sin.

I believe that at the culmination of the ages, Christ came as the God-Man to reconcile the world to God and redeem those the father had given him. I believe as Scripture says that Christ died for all, and his message should be addressed to all people, yet at the same time his sacrifice was only efficient for some. I've been influenced alot by reading "Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism" by Iain Murray, in understanding the balance and historic Calvinism.

I don't know about the saints or mother teresa or others, but in my own personal opinion and in contradiction to the teaching of my church, I believe that I have nothing to offer God, and that as a begger I come to the Lord, unconditionally elected, and saved solely by his grace alone. Even my repentence is done in selfishness and fear of Hell, but trusting Christ, I believe he will lead me to Heaven.

I read this verse today which comforted me greatly "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" -John 10:14

For those of you who know theology, you'll realize I basically have a completely Reformed/Calvinistic view of Salvation (Soteriology), you are right in saying that. I just don't know how to explain the Gospel in Catholic terms, the Reformed/Augustinian way is the only way I understand.

Whenever I explain the gospel in Catholicism, I can usually convince people - it's almost the same gospel as Methodism/Wesleyan/Arminianism - but for me on a completely individual and personal level the Gospel of the Church Fathers and of the Catholic Church is terrible news. It's a requirement I could never live up to (perfection), and it makes Christ more of a legalist than a lover. The Early Church (2nd century) even taught that if you sinned after baptism you could not be forgiven, as J.N.D. Kelly points out. But I think I'll be a sinner my whole life. Simul Iust et Pecatur or something like that right?

I hope against hope that Christ loves me unconditionally and not based on my own merits or acheivements. These are the things that God has revealed to me personally in my life, as I said, I cannot provide logically indefensible proof for why I believe them, and I am branded a heretic for believing them in the Communion of Rome, please don't remind me, I KNOW.

I am still becoming a Roman Catholic, but this kind of message or Gospel -whether or not it is 'another gospel' (Gal 1:8) - will always bring tears to my eyes. If God took me back in time and gave me one request, one thing I could make to be true, it would be salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. But as I said, I don't 'really' believe it, and see tons of problems with it, etc. But again this is just at a personal level.

I really wish I was " justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith" - Romans 3:24-25

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Free Will & C.S. Lewis

I know of no argument for free-will except the bible and even there it is difficult to prove it. I daresay that Luther won the argument against Erasmus, and I'd held the Reformed view of Free Will, I think Edwards explains it well. I don't know how it can be reckoned to Catholicism or even Arminianism. However aside from this un-endable debate I'd like to address one reason why I was always uneasy about free-will. C.S. Lewis illustrates it here well, and that reason is fear. Even though Reformed theology always pins the blame on the person even if they had no choice, I always fell on the more Modern Philosophical ideas I'd been taught at school, that if you had no control then you had no blame or at least it would be taken into consideration. All I'd have to do to be justified in Protestantism is admit that I am scum and Christ is the opposite, etc. To actually have to choose Jesus every day over myself is really hard, and it shows my level of real commitment. C.S. Lewis wrote this on the subject (which I stole from Criffton's blog):

“Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature -- either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other." - C.S. Lewis

how's that for works-righteousness/works based salvation.

'...and the crowds of angry reformers dropped their rocks, as they looked upon the offender, who incidentally, had written some of their favourite books... to depart in disappointment of the now unmasked Author...oh how the mighty have fallen'.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shakespeare and Purgatory in Hamlet

“My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!” - King Hamlet's Ghost

I heard this passage the other day and thought it was amazing how I didn't at all understand this part in high school - that is, before I was introduced to the dogma of Purgatory. It is abundantly clear that this is what the Ghost is referring to. It is unmistakeable. For King Hamlet is resigned to dwell in this purging fire for a certain time because he had died in sin, and there was 'no reckoning made' - he was not absolved in the sacrament of Penance and had no last rites either. Thus he died with all his venial sins left on his soul.

In Protestantism I was always taught that Ghosts were just demons etc, and many Catholics believe that, but I found out from reading Kreeft that there are alot of theologies that are build up - mostly from Philosophy rather than Scripture about ghosts and animals in Heaven, etc. I thought this was an interesting and spooky quote and it had to do with Theology, so I put it up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pope as Anti-Christ or the Church as God's Instrument?

"Surely anybody's commonsense would tell him that enthusiasts who only met through their common enthusiasm for a leader whom they loved, would not instantly rush away to establish everything that he hated." - G.K. Chesterton on the History of the Catholic Church (critique of Evangelical theory of the universal apostasy of the Church)

"Be not deceived, my brethren: If anyone follows a maker of schism [i.e., is a schismatic], he does not inherit the kingdom of God; if anyone walks in strange doctrine [i.e., is a heretic], he has no part in the passion [of Christ]. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop, with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons" - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Philadelphians 3:3–4:1 [A.D. 110]).

"The authority of these [ecumenical] councils in the decision of all points of controversy was supreme and final. Their doctrinal decisions were early invested with infallibility; the promises of the Lord respecting the indestructibleness of his church, his own perpetual presence with the ministry, and the guidance of the Spirit of truth, being applied in the full sense to those councils, as representing the whole church. After the example of the apostolic council, the usual formula for a decree was: Visum est Sprirtui Sancto et nobis. Constantine the Great, in a circular letter to the churches, styles the decrees of the Nicene council a divine command; a phrase, however, in reference to which the abuse of the word divine, in the language of the Byzantine despots, must not be forgotten. Athanasius says, with reference to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ: "What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever." The council of Chalcedon pronounced the decrees of the Nicene fathers unalterable statutes, since God himself had spoken through them. The council of Ephesus, in the sentence of deposition against Nestorius, uses the formula: "The Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, determines through this most holy council." Pope Leo speaks of an "irretractabilis consensus" of the council of Chalcedon upon the doctrine of the person of Christ. Pope Gregory the Great even placed the first four councils, which refuted and destroyed respectively the heresies and impieties of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, on a level with the four canonical Gospels. In like manner Justinian puts the dogmas of the first four councils on the same footing with the Holy Scriptures, and their canons by the side of laws of the realm." - Philip Schaff endorsing conciliar infallibility (History of the Christian Church, Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974, from the revised fifth edition of 1910, 340-342

"With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching Apostle, and among whom it is not possible for perfidy [error] to have entrance." (Cyprian, Letter 59 (55), 14 to Cornelius of Rome, c. AD 252)

Many Protestants accuse the Roman Catholic (and every other rite of the Catholic Church) Church of giving the Pope 'too much power' and as "Anti-Christ" for he usurps the position of Christ. However what if Christ GAVE St. Peter this role. What if Christ said "On this rock will I build my Church", what if Christ said "Peter feed my Lambs", what if Christ gave him authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:23), to lead and teach the Church (acts 2)... He did say and do those things. So to put up a dichotemy between Christ and the Roman Catholic Church is impossible, he promised both of them would work together.

The Church Fathers taught and died for the Church, the ONE Church, the Catholic faith. How on earth can I desert that just because John Calvin came along and thought the Church read Romans wrong? What kind of logic is that?

Let me end with this:

"In the Church God has placed apostles, prophets, teachers, and every other working of the Spirit, of whom none of those are sharers who do not conform to the Church, but who defraud themselves of life by an evil mind and even worse way of acting. Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace" -St. Irenaeus(Against Heresies 3:24:1 [A.D. 189]).

So is the Catholic Church usurping Christ's role to distribute all grace? or are Calvinist's denying Christ's claim to establish a Church which distributes all grace? The Fathers side with Catholicism.

Why I Cannot Be A Protestant Christian (Part 3): Petrine Supremacy

I was going to write a lengthly post on Petrine Supremacy, but I found online this short essay on the subject by Pope Benedict XVI, St. Peter's current successor, and he does a much better job than I could. Here it is:

"In recounting Jesus' first meeting with Simon, the brother of Andrew, John the Evangelist records a unique event: Jesus "looked at him and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)'" (Jn 1:42).

It was not Jesus' practice to change his disciples' names: apart from the nickname "sons of thunder", which in specific circumstances he attributed to the sons of Zebedee (cf. Mk 3:17) and never used again. He never gave any of his disciples a new name.

Yet, he gave one to Simon, calling him "Cephas". This name was later translated into Greek as Petros and into Latin as Petrus. And it was translated precisely because it was not only a name; it was a "mandate" that Petrus received in that way from the Lord. The new name Petrus was to recur frequently in the Gospels and ended by replacing "Simon", his original name.

Peter's special prominence

This fact acquires special importance if one bears in mind that in the Old Testament, a change of name usually preceded the entrustment of a mission (cf. Gn 17:5; 32:28ff., etc.).

Indeed, many signs indicate Christ's desire to give Peter special prominence within the Apostolic College: in Capernaum the Teacher enters Peter's house (cf. Mk 1:29): when the crowd becomes pressed on the shore of Lake Genesaret, seeing two boats moored there, Jesus chooses Simon's (cf. Lk 5:3); when, on certain occasions, Jesus takes only three disciples with him, Peter is always recorded as the first of the group: as in the raising of Jairus' daughter (cf. Mk 5:37; Lk 8:51), in the Transfiguration (cf. Mk 9:2; Mt 17:1: Lk 9:28) and during the agony in the Garden or Gethsemane (cf. Mk 14:33: Mt 26:37). And again: the Temple tax collectors address Peter and the Teacher pays only for himself and Peter (cf. Mt 17:24-27); it is Peter's feet that he washes first at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 13:6), and for Peter alone he prays that his faith will not fail so that he will be able to strengthen the other disciples in faith (cf. Lk 22:34-31).

Moreover, Peter himself was aware of his special position: he often also spoke on behalf of the others, asking for the explanation of a difficult parable (cf. Mt 15:15), the exact meaning of a precept (cf. Mt 18:21) or the formal promise of a reward (cf. Mt 19:27).

It is Peter in particular who resolves certain embarrassing situations by intervening on behalf of all. Thus, when Jesus, saddened by the misunderstanding of the crowd after the Bread of Life discourse, asks: "Will you also go away?", Peter's answer is peremptory in tone: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (cf. Jn 6:67-69).

Equally decisive is the profession of faith which, again on behalf of the Twelve, he makes near Caesarea Philippi. To Jesus' question: "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answers: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:15.1). Jesus responded by pronouncing the solemn declaration that defines Peter's role in the Church once and for all: "And I tell you: you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.... I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:18.19).

In themselves, the three metaphors that Jesus uses are crystal clear: Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ's Church, not Peter's.

Thus, vivid images portray what the subsequent reflection will describe by the term: "primacy of jurisdiction".

Peter, first among the disciples

This pre-eminent position that Jesus wanted to bestow upon Peter is also encountered after the Resurrection: Jesus charges the women to announce it especially to Peter, as distinct from the other Apostles (cf. Mk 16:7); it is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene runs to tell them that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb (cf. Jn 20:2), and John was to stand back to let Peter enter first when they arrived at the empty tomb (cf. Jn 20:4-6).

Then, Peter was to be the first witness of an appearance of the Risen One (cf. Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5). His role, decisively emphasized (cf. Jn 20:3-10), marks the continuity between the preeminence he had in the group of the Apostles and the pre-eminence he would continue to have in the community born with the paschal events, as the Book of Acts testifies (cf. 1:15-26; 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:1-11, 29; 8:14-17; 10; etc.).

His behaviour was considered so decisive that it prompted remarks as well as criticism (cf. Acts 11:1-18; Gal 2:11-14).

At the so-called Council of Jerusalem Peter played a directive role (cf. Acts 15; Gal 2:1-10), and precisely because he was a witness of authentic faith, Paul himself recognized that he had a certain quality of "leadership" (cf. I Cor 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:7ff., etc.).

Moreover, the fact that several of the key texts that refer to Peter can be traced back to the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22:31ff.), shows that the ministry entrusted to Peter was one of the constitutive elements of the Church, which was born from the commemoration of the Pasch celebrated in the Eucharist.

This contextualization of the Primacy of Peter at the Last Supper, at the moment of the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord's Pasch, also points to the ultimate meaning of this Primacy: Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.

Thus, Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ, with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfil this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognized by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us. " -Peter, the Rock by Pope Benedict XVI

Why I Cannot Be A Protestant Christian (Part 2) Galatians 2 Response

I would like to offer a defence of the Papacy and another explanation of Galatians 2.
"...when James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship" - (2.9)
clearly St. Paul who although he had been given a gift from God, also had to have it acknowledged by the Church.
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate FOR FEAR of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel"- (2.11-14)

These are the key words. St. Peter was not TEACHING in contradiction with the gospel, but was acting in contradiction to it. And why? because of a temporary fear, he made a mistake (sin). Nowhere in Roman Catholic teaching does it say the popes will be sinless. Lest we forget that St. Paul was a murderer before his conversion, and struggled with the 'thorn in the flesh' for all his life.
"We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified* not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.* And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ,* and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." (2.15-16)

Now this is the 'nail in the coffin' of Catholic Justification in the view of many Protestants. However the great Protestant New Testament scholar and Bishop of the Church of England Dr. N.T. Wright reminds us that the phrase 'works of the law' means ceremonial jewish law observances, sacrifices, circumcision, etc. NOT good works. Furthermore I know nothing about Greek, and only know a little latin, and the question could be answered if 'faith' in verse 16 is in the Genetive/Possessive or another case. BUT my NRSV study notes say that an alternative reading can be "we might be justified by the faith of Jesus Christ" ie. Christ's obedience to God's will. NOT a personal faith in him apart from good works. This phrase 'faith in Jesus' or 'faith of Jesus' appears also in Gal 2:20, 3:22; Rom 3:22, 26; Phil 3:9, and the scholars in my NRSV commentary say that this phrase emphasizes Jesus' faithfulness and obedience to God on the cross.

In Short, nowhere does Roman Catholic theology say that Popes are not allowed to make mistakes, or to act in contradiction to the gospel. Once again Galatians 2 has been used to contradict a twisted version of papal infallibility.