Saturday, January 31, 2009

Observations In The Church of Rome (Pt.4) - The Mysterium Tremendum

In a world religions class I took at Brock we had to study what the definition of a religion was. I tended to argue that worldviews and religions were the same thing but others argued differently. One answer a Lutheran Theologian came up with is that Religion is about the Mysterium Tremendum the Tremendous Mystery (I guess the Latin was pretty easy to interpret there...) and that what makes something a religion is the fact that it involves this grandiose experience of the great mystery and awe for the incomprehensible. That's not a great answer in my opinion, but there were many other answers as well. Another scholar said that The Sacred is the key to what religion is, but she defined the Sacred as: not the profane. ...? ... itès a wonder academics are still looked up to. But all this to say that these two definitions come in handy here, I mention them because Catholicism has explained these two keys to me, whereas my Baptist faith didn't.

The Mass was called by the Reformers the greatest travesty and blasphemy ever created on earth. Many times I agree with the Reformers but I cannot agree with that statement. For me, the Mass is a miracle. When I walk into a Catholic Church there is a sense of Gods presence in a really unique way I had never felt before. I wish it wasnt there sometimes because then I wouldnt sound so triumphalistic in describing it, but it IS there. Whenever I go back to Protestant churches, despite the fact that the people there actually know the gospel and welcome you warmly, the building seems empty. It is a Christian gathering, but it is still a gathering, like a school play, or a concert. But the Roman Catholic Church taught me what the Sacred is, and the Eucharist is the Mysterium Tremendum to me. I was always taught in the Baptist church that these things are bad, they are dead rituals, and base idolatry. Thats why I was so shocked when I experienced the Real Presence of Christ. It was not something I expected at all. I didnt think i would walk into a Catholic Church and Suddenly I would feel something - I might have thought I would feel disgusted. But I never expected that feeling of the Sacred, the desire to actually get on my knees before a Holy God. The mystery of the good gift, the blessed sacrament, the mysterious miracle of the Mass... I think despite all of the pragmatic and practical flaws of Catholicism, the everyday apathy and ignorance, over and above all of that, I think the Mass will keep me there, the Mysterium Tremendum, the Sacred.

I love this line from Tolkien even if it is a bit harsh, I find it very true, and it is another thing keeping me Catholic:

"(Tokien says in a previous line that basically if Christ says this is my body, rejecting him is telling him he is a liar to his face, he then says): I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him (God) without grave blame. (however, He (God) alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.) The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by excercise."

And in my Missal it has that quote from Chrysostom that it is right to believe that the Last Supper and the Mass are "in no way different"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Discovery on Martin Luther

Wow I read this article and thought it was published by a Traditionalist Catholic group because the evidence against Luther was so mean-spirited, but it's the Guardian (a huge newspaper in the UK, I saw it every day I lived there). Here it is:

It's completely irrelevant to the man's theology and historically speaking 'circumstantial' evidence, and unless they can prove he was actually lying about the monk thing, then it's not that big a deal. I just found it interesting.

Observations In The Church of Rome (Pt.3) - "Unam Sanctum?"

Ok so I totally cheated about the last post in that John Wesley basically wrote it. But this one will again be actual observations. And I know I threw in that arbitrary one on American History, but whatever, I should be writing an essay right now anyway.

OK. So, I was attracted to Catholicism at first because it seemed perfectly united in everything, the Catechism spelled out almost every detail, so I figured that would be the case. Well... there's one observation that might not be shocking to many, but has become a pro and a con of Rome. That is the fact that nearly no one is unified. ... The only people who know doctrine are SSPX who are pretty much renegades now, despite what our wonderful German Shepherd (papa bene) is trying to do with them. But the vast majority of Catholics hold fairly divergent views. Now this isn't really a criticism of Catholicism as much as it was just a correction to my understanding of Catholicism. For example, one of the critiques a presbyterian friend who I shall only refer to as Jay Bennett had with Catholicism is that it was Latitudinarian in it's definition of doctrine. My first thought was: What the hell does Geography have to do with this?!. But then he explained that the Church has for th most part merely denounced heretical ideas on far ends of the spectrum. So they've taught that legalism is wrong (a LONG time ago) and they've taught that antinomianism is wrong (daily), and we rest in between....ok that was a really bad example. Um. Here we go, this is better: They've taught in Unam Sanctum that No one outside the Church can be saved, and then they've taught in Vatican 2 that maybe people from non-Christian religions can even be saved. Wow that actually just sounded more like a contradiction than a broad scope, but I'm not worried, there's probably canon lawyers and theologians who've found a loop hole for that somewhere. Anyway, I guess my memory is foggy this morning but the basic point of this now ridiculously long paragraph was that many people can hold many views, and that Catholic thinking isn't monolithic.

My other Presbyterian friend said in a facebook message once that Rome is much divided with competing views like Molinism and Augustinianism and thus was not really united. Well to my relief and despair no one in Catholicism actually discusses Justification, BUT if they did, i'm sure none of them would know what either term meant. But I must say that Trent, the destruction of the Jansenists, etc, have pretty much killed the Augustinian tradition...Jesuits I'm looking at you....gah molinism, and I thought Arminianism was bad.

I was also talking to a Catholic friend I have who studies theology and is doing a great amount of work on Martin Luther. I started to wonder how a Catholic could view Martin Luther, as I still really admire him, and she said that she loved him and thought he was a great reformer for the Church. And I thought I was angry at the Jesuits, GAH POPE LEO!! why did you have to excommunicate him. Let me explain, I have a history professor who does his work in Luther's early writings and doctrine and the early Lutheran movement, and he told me alot. His argument was that Luther's entire theology was based on his reading of St. Augustine's doctrine of "Sola Gratia" and that he just saw grace as divine favour rather than a substance metaphysically distributed by the Church/by God/by Mary (mediatrix of all graces)'s confusing there's alot of slashes. ... Anyway that might be true, I've read a very small portion of Luther's early writings and many of them according to these people I talked to could've got a nihil obstat. Apparently it was only later in his life, after he'd been excommunicated that he started to teach sola fide and view himself as an eschatological figure from Revelation, and write entire books cursing Jews, etc...that's 'crazy' Luther, but I'd like 'devout' Luther.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that, you are actually free to hold many views as a Catholic (within the confines of Tradition's definitions ie. the Catechism). Like Catholics quoting Luther, like the continued existence of Hans Kung (who I'm sure the Vatican has tried to assassinate), like the Donut Man, there is diversity. The best illustration of this is a glance at Pope Benedict's view on Purgatory and Karl Rahner's view on Purgatory and the Medieval view of Purgatory. I figure give it another 50 years and Purgatory will be chisled down to a few seconds. stoked, I guess i won't need that plenary indulgence.

I'm not trying to be cynical or blasphemous I just think there is so many more important things that these issues now that I sometimes make light of them. I will spend a year becoming a Roman Catholic, but I will spend my life becoming a Christian, that is, becoming like Christ. And in the words of St. Paul/God the Holy Spirit,

"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way...For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." -Romans 14

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

American History and Christianity

I got in a fight with someone about whether or not America's founders were Christian, in the 3 courses I've had on American History, all my professors have said that the founders were either Deists, Atheists, Agnostics or Unitarians. But apparently in the American South they still teach that they were Christians....kind of like the Ku Klux Klan were the heroes in post civil-war reconstruction.

George Washington

"Gouverneur Morris had often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than did he himself." -Thomas Jefferson’s private journal, Feb. 1800

"Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society." - letter to Edward Newenham, 1792

Historian Barry Schwartz writes: "George Washington's practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian... He repeatedly declined the church's sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary... Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representative." [New York Press, 1987, pp. 174-175]

Thomas Jefferson:

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."- "Notes on Virginia"

“It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the book of Revelation], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”-Thomas Jefferson, letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825

Benjamin Franklin

"I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works ... I mean real good works ... not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing ... or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity."- Works, Vol. VII, p. 75

"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."-in Poor Richard's Almanac .
"I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no signs of them."
"In the affairs of the world, men are saved, not by faith, but by the lack of it."
". . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."
James Madison (4th president and author of the Federalist papers)

“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." - "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."-letter to Wm. Bradford, April 1, 1774 .

John Adams:

"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"-letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved-- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"-letter to Thomas Jefferson
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity."
"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it."
Tom Paine (Called the Firebrand of the Revolution)

"Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."
"What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."
"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

"The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion."
1796 Treaty of Tripoly written under George Washington and signed under John Adams states that America was “in no sense founded on the Christian religion”

In a sermon of October 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said,
“Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism.”

Abraham Lincoln (not a founding father, but an influential president):
“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession”

An interesting note I also learned this year is that Lincoln got elected with only 40% of the popular vote, Adolf Hitler got 41.3%.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Observations In The Church of Rome (Pt. 2) - "Primitive Christianity"

I experienced a rare blessing last week as I sat down with my Evangelical friends and we discussed theology, I realized that after reading parts of Isaiah, Galatians, and 1 John that whenever we talked about what the Scriptures were saying to us, or what they meant originally, we were in agreement. It may have been because they took a Wesleyan approach to their Protestantism - I've always called Wesley the 'half-Catholic' - but I think the heart of it is that when it comes to the main points of theology (outside Justification), we tend to agree. I read this letter of John Wesley's called "Letter to a Roman Catholic"
(it's in this list of letters and it reinforced this point. One of the best churches I've ever been in has been Mount Zion Independent Methodist Church in Cliviger, England (where I gave my first sermon, and where John Wesley preached once). I've always loved the practicality of Methodism and how appealing it was to the common man. Wesley talks in this letter about "primitive Christianity" which we can all agree upon and which if we follow, we can both be sure of our future destination.

Wesley's ecumenism is absolutely unique in this era of downright hatred between Protestants and Catholics, but this letter has alot of sentences I love which are all about their common ground in the faith. Here are a few:

"You have heard ten thousand stories of us who are commonly called Protestants, of which, if you believe only one in a thousand, you must think very hardly of us. But this is quite contrary to our Lords rule, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'; and has many ill consequences, particularly this -- it inclines us to think as hardly of you. Hence we are on both sides less willing to help one another, and more ready to hurt each other. Hence brotherly love is utterly destroyed; and each side, looking on the other as monsters, gives way to anger, hatred, malice, to every unkind affection, which have frequently broke out in such inhuman barbarities as are scarce named among the heathens....

I do not suppose all the bitterness is on your side. I know there is too much on our side also -- so much, that I fear many Protestants (so called) will be angry at me too for writing to you in this manner, and will say, ' It is showing you too much favor; you deserve no such treatment at our hands....

But I think you do. I think you deserve the tenderest regard I can show, were it only because the same God hath raised you and me from the dust of the earth, and has made us both capable of loving and enjoying Him to eternity; were ~ only because the Son of God has bought you and me with His own blood. How much more, if you are a person fearing God (as without question many of you are) and studying to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man!...

(Wesley goes through the Apostles' Creed emphasizing the continuity of doctrine) ...the third day He rose again from the dead; that He ascended into heaven; where He remains in the midst of the throne of God, in the highest power and glory, as Mediator till the end of the world, as God to all eternity; that in the end He will come down from heaven to judge every man according to his works, both those who shall be then alive and all who have died before that day.

I believe the infinite and eternal Spirit of God, equal with the Father and the Son, to be not only perfectly holy in Himself, but the immediate cause of all holiness in us; enlightening our understandings, rectifying our wills and affections, renewing our natures, uniting our persons to Christ, assuring us of the adoption of sons, leading us in our actions, purifying and sanctifying our souls and bodies, to a full and eternal enjoyment of God.

I believe that Christ by His Apostles gathered unto Himself a Church, to which He has continually added such as shall be saved; that this catholic (that is, universal) Church, extending to all nations and all ages, is holy in all its members, who have fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that they have fellowship with the holy angels, who constantly minister to these heirs of salvation; and with all the living members of Christ on earth, as well as all who are departed in His faith and fear....

Now, is there anything wrong in this? Is there any one point which you do not believe as well as we?

But you think we ought to believe more. We will not now enter into the dispute. Only let me ask, If a man sincerely believes thus much, and practices accordingly, can any one possibly persuade you to think that such a man shall perish everlastingly?

...this alone is the old religion. This is true, primitive Christianity. Oh, when shall it spread over all the earth? when shall it be found both in us and you? Without waiting for others, let each of us by the grace of God amend one.

Are we not thus far agreed? Let us thank God for this, and receive it as a fresh token of His love. But if God still loveth us, we ought also to love one another. We ought, without this endless jangling about opinions, to provoke one another to love and to good works. Let the points wherein we differ stand aside: here are enough wherein we agree enough to be the ground of every Christian temper and of every Christian action.

O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way! I hope to see you in heaven. And if I practice the religion above described, you dare not say I shall go to hell. You cannot think so. None can persuade you to it. Your own conscience tells you the contrary. Then, if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike. Herein we cannot possibly do amiss. For of one point none can doubt a moment, -- ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.’

In the name, then, and in the strength of God, let us resolve first, not to hurt one another; to do nothing unkind or unfriendly to each other, nothing which we would not have done to ourselves. Rather let us endeavor after every instance of a. kind, friendly, and Christian behavior towards each other.

Let us resolve secondly, God being our helper, to speak nothing harsh or unkind of each other...Let us, thirdly, resolve to harbor no unkind thought, no unfriendly temper, towards each other....Let us, fourthly, endeavor to help each other on in what­ever we are agreed leads to the kingdom.
...O let you and I (whatever others do) press on to the prize of our high calling! that, being justified by faith, we may have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may rejoice in God through Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement; that the love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Let us count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord; being ready for Him to suffer the loss of all things, and counting them but dung that we may win Christ.

--I am Your affectionate servant for Christ’s sake." - John Wesley. Dublin July 18, 1749

May we all recognize what brother John has pointed out here, what unites us is bigger than what divides us, and as the great Charles Spurgeon said, 'may our hearts be smarter than our heads'

Observations In The Church of Rome (Pt. 1) - The Gospel

This last week I was very frustrated as I tried to explain to my Evangelical friend why I was still becoming Roman Catholic. She asked me if the Church was energized about evangelism. No, was my honest answer. Do they understand they're saved by Grace? No, for the most part. Do they preach Christ above all else? Not at my current Church (The city Cathedral) but in my parish Church, more often than not. All this to say she was quite confused as to why anyone would remain in such a place. I also told her that I couldn't use any of my spiritual gifts of teaching and preaching there, and that because of these classes I'd been unable to receice the Eucharist for almsot a year now. I tried telling her about the indivisibility of the Church, I tried to explain Transubstantiation and Eucharistic Adoration, I tried to explain the infallibility of the Church/Pope. It wasn't as substantial. For the Protestant mind - especially the Evangelical mind, it's a living faith that matters, it's evangelism even if there's no depth in what is evangelized, as long as people are reached for Jesus. So I decided to put my observations of the Roman Catholic Church up here, more for myself probably than anyone (I think only 2 people read this blog anyway these days).

The Gospel
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" - Galatians 3:26 NIV

Throughout my life as an Evangelical Protestant the most important thing in the world was spreading the Gospel. The Gospel was humanity's only hope, and salvation came by hearing the Gospel preached and the word proclaimed, as St. Paul said "faith cometh by hearing" (Rom 10:17). So when I went to the Catholic Church I wondered what the gospel would be like. To my surprise it was actually there in part being preached. "Swimming in God's Abundant Grace" was a homily given by Fr. Peter at my parish and it was a lovely Lutheran understanding of justification (Trent would've anathemized it). It was good to see some of the message there. When I read my Catechism I found it much more clearly with sections like:

"Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life" - CCC 1992

... for the most part that sounded right to me, it was different than Imputed Righteousness -but in my Baptist Church I was never taught Protestants believed in the Trinity, let alone Imputed Righteousness - so it wasn't as shocking to me. For the most part things sounded ok... until baptism came in.

Well the first verse I quoted was Galatians 3:26, a verse I'd heard alot: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus", but then I realized I had never read the next sentence with much thought. "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Gal 3:27) ... Uh Oh , Regenerative (Saving) Baptism, not good, Lutheran and Catholic alert! I always got angry with the Catholic Church because of their emphasis on the 'dead works of the law' like Baptism, but then I realized that the gospel is twofold, it comes by faith certainly but grace is also conferred sacramentally.

One East Orthodox blogger I read said "Protestantism makes salvation a mental exercise, the sacraments make salvation possible for all, even the mentally handicapped, and go beyond the sort of gnostic salvation whereby knowledge merits grace"... or something to that effect.

So the reason I will sometimes tell people the Church of Rome needs to get real and start preaching about Justification, I keep forgetting that in their theology all of it is linked together, and that whenever a priest reminds us of our baptism, or exhorts us to partake of the sacraments he is simply echoing the other side of grace.

The 2-Lane Road to Redemption
If Salvation is a two way highway I would say that the lane on the right is Salvation by Grace alone, through faith, producing good works, it would have signs saying things like "Believeth on the Lord Jesus" and "Trust in God, trust also in me" (Jn 14.1). But I would say the left lane could be the Sacraments, it would have signs like "baptism that now saves you" (1 Pet 3:21) and "If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (Jn 6:51 - Eucharist).

So yes, there are many 'lost' Catholics who without understanding take the good gift each week without a full understanding of Grace and Justification, but maybe in some way God glances on it as the Quakers profess their faith in God and refuse to baptize or break bread together. Maybe God is leading people through the Word and the Sacraments - as the Reformers taught.

Or maybe I'm totally wrong. (*Presbyterians Nod Enthusiastically*)

In all my frustration with the Church of Rome I perpetually repeat my Augustinian Mantra, "The Church is a whore, but she's my mother"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Personal Relationship With Jesus

I spent the last 5 days with my friends from Capernwray who are some of the most genuine evangelicals (in every good sense of the word) I know. They've re-taught me alot about the faith and the importance of the Bible and the necessity for a personal relationship with Jesus.

I hope I never forget the first time I ever went to Mass, I just sat in the back row the whole time, I refused to kneel, there were no songs, and I didn't know any of the prayers, but I remember the homily. It was on the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus and that it is the centre of a living faith. I'm not for a second pretending that the Roman Catholic Church I go to actually teaches what Wesley would call "true Christianity" or Schaeffer "True Spirituality" - that is, a faith based in the grace of God and the finished work of Christ on the Cross, rich in good works flowing from the power of the Holy Spirit. But it must have been an off night. I'm Catholic because the Christian tradition, Logic, and Scripture oblige me to, not because it does anything near a good job in actually preaching or practicing the gospel. But enough complaints.

I wanted to write about my personal walk with Christ and how it has strengthened this year. I've been reading the Bible again with an open heart and praying that God will teach me things. Starting with 2 Corinthians, a bit of Romans, and 1 Samuel I feel that God has re-inforced the most important parts of salvation to me. He has shown me that he has unlimited grace and love for me as long as I am in Christ. He has taught me about the significance of my baptism and faith in Christ. But most importantly God has reassured me in what my Catholic friend Philip once said in an email, that becoming a saint is not only possible for those in Christ, but it is an inevitability. I still find that the most difficult dogma to believe. The infallibility of the Church/Pope wasn't that difficult, the immaculate conception was difficult, but the complete Regeneration of a Christian in this life and the next (purgatory) - that seemed impossible.

I've learned alot in the past year about my sinfulness and as I sit here writing I find it humorous. My Atheist and Humanist friends always talk about the "freedom" from Relgion and Morality and how they can do whatever they want. Well I've been home 2 days and I've fought through God's grace, and my cooperation (which is still a grace) the temptation to fall back into the sin which has been a 'thorn in my flesh' so to speak. I'm pacing around and stressed out and at that moment I realized that in sin I'm not free at all. As one Protestant theologian said "the most free you will ever be is as a slave to Christ". I tend to agree with that alot. So now I pray and read my bible and read the words "Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the Flesh?" (Gal 3.3) and trying to have faith in the power of the Spirit. And so I wish always to be an Evangelical Catholic who is given grace through faith and the sacraments, and who is fed by the word of God and the Eucharist, and is always seeking to become what Christ is.

I close with St. Augustine's words which a friend gave me and which will annoy all my Reformed friends:

"God, oh Lord, grant me the power to overcome sin. For sin is that which you gave to us when you granted us free choice of will. If I choose wrongly, then I shall be justly punished for it. Is that not true, my Lord, of whom I indebted for my temporal existence. Thank you, Lord, for granting me the power to will my self not to sin." - St. Augustine

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chesterton for the day

"I have another far more solid and central ground for submitting to it as a faith (Christianity), instead of merely picking up hints from it as a scheme. And that is this: that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one. It not only certainly taught me yesterday, but will almost certainly teach me to-morrow. Once I saw suddenly the meaning of the shape of the cross; some day I may see suddenly the meaning of the shape of the mitre. One free morning I saw why windows were pointed; some fine morning I may see why priests were shaven. Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture to-morrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare to-morrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before. " - G.K. Chesterton "Orthodoxy"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Today's Glimpse of Pop Culture and Religion

So today I turned on Daily Mass and heard this prayer:

"I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise for men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for
but everything that I hoped for. . .

Almost, despite myself,
My unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed."

I then turned on Sex and the City (I know I'm a sinner) and wrote down some of the lines pertaining to religion. It was the episode where Miranda dates a Catholic who showers every time they have sex.

“If I knew he was a Catholic I never would have dated him, they should make them wear a sign or something.” – Miranda
“Sure all religions are sweet till they get to that shower after sex phase” – Miranda
“’That Presbyterian Church is a really good Church’ – Charlotte, ‘What are you doing rating Churches now? Good bread, poor wine selection’ – Miranda”
“Lighten up this isn’t a Catholic Church it’s Presbyterian’ –Carrie. ‘Catholics, Episcopalians, Buddhists, Quakers, Shakers, all the same, all out to ruin our sex lives’ – Miranda”
‘Come on don’t lie you’re in a church’ – Carrie
'later that night in the church of disco...(some gay guy has a party in a church) to introduce his new boyfriend Milan' - Carrie
'Isn't this fun? It's like hell with a cover-charge' - Gay fashion guy
'I stayed up all night questioning my faith in faith' - Carrie

In the show Charlotte is an Episcopalian, Mr. Big and Miranda are Atheists, Carrie is an Agnostic, and Samantha is a whore (the rough equivalent to So luckily except for the most attractive one, they're all going to Hell...but then again Charlotte converted to Judaism in another episode, so they're probably all going to Hell.

An interesting mix of different influences that one sees in everyday Canada.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obama - An Arian, Pelagian, Universalist... or maybe just a Deist

In Canada I vote for the Conservative Party, and I am I guess a Right Wing guy - but just barely, more of a Centrist. Anyway, I'm Conservative in Canada which according to my friend from Arkansas makes me a liberal in the US. In this last election I thought both candidates were unworthy to lead the American Republic, but I was vaguely rooting for Barrack Obama. I'd read some of the Audacity of Hope and it seemed idealistic enough to maybe do some good things in Washington.

Anyway, Obama claimed to be a Christian, but I would call him a Deist after this interview: He never affirms the Deity of Christ and merely calls him a teacher. He believes all paths lead to Heaven. He denies the doctrine of Hell. He denies the need for evangelism or certainty about faith. He also talks about 'doing our best and being rewarded' which sounds like some post-Trent pelagian B.S. to me. so I'm labeling him an Arian, Pelagian, Universalist. Really he's a deist no different from Lincoln - except Lincoln said he was in no way a Christian, and Obama says he is one (though he denies every tenet of the historic Christian faith)....only in America.

This interview actually made me with Barrack Obama was a muslim, at least then he'd believe in a personal God and objective morality as well as an afterlife. As well most Muslims revere Christ more than Obama. heh.

The Just Condemnation of Humanity (Romans 1)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art" - Romans 1:16-2:1a King James Version

I was listening to Charles Price preach on this today, he was a former principal at Capernwray Hall where I studied for a year in the 'simple precepts of the gospel'. He really preached this morning and I really listened to the message of Romans 1, even if some areas of scripture are very confusing, I've been listening to Romans my whole life, and I think I get the just of the message.

I love how St. Paul writes in this Epistle with his Rhetorical style. He makes it clear that the world has made manifest the existence of God, and here appeals to what we call Natural Theology (in Catholicism) or Common Grace/Common Revelation? in Reformed theology (i think I got that one wrong).

Price quoted Abraham Lincoln who was not a Christian but once said

"I never behold them (the universe filled withstars) that I do not feel I am looking in the face of God. I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist - but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say 'There Is No God.'"
- And as much as I believe the Confederacy was right (just my historical/political view), I still have to say that honest Abe seems to make my point well for me.

I used this passage three times today when talking with people. Two of the discussions were on Homosexuality and I had to say that I thought it was immoral, and I must say that St. Paul makes it abundantly clear here when he writes, "burned in their lust one toward another; men with men" - no matter what the liberal commentators in my NRSV say about Judaic understandings of Idolatry leading to immorality, it seems clear to me right here that St. Paul is painfully spelling out the fact that homosexuality was a sin. There's too much theological gymnastics I would have to do to get out of it, and I'm going to need all the theological gymnastics I can muster to dodge Romans 4:5 like the plague to make my Catholic hermeneutic fit.

Anyway I just thought it was good to remember that under God's declaration all stand guilty and sinful. This is the first precept of the Gospel, the sinfulness and just condemnation of mankind.

God is just, and justifier. If it were not for the grace of his unconditional election, we would have no hope.

Monday, January 5, 2009

St. Ignatius of Antioch again

I already read and went over another one of St. Ignatius' letters and his strong Ecclesiology shone through. A friend is meeting me tomorrow because she is Catholic and dating a Reformed Protestant and wants to show him the proof of the Real (physical) Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the Early Church. So I quickly thought of the Apostolic Fathers and it amazes me how overwhelmingly Catholic they are. I just began reading St. Ignatius' letter to the Trallians and he writes almost immediately:

"without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ" Ch.2

"In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church. Concerning all this, I am persuaded that you are of the same opinion" Ch. 3 - here he even links the Episcopate to an assembly of Apostles verifying the doctrine of Apostolic succession and he says apart from the Bishops there is no Church. Wow... this man was quite possibly St. John's Disciple. Theodoret writes that St. Peter himself appointed him as bishop of Antioch. He says here that there can be no Church without the bishop and that we are to obey them as we would Christ. Fairly strong attack on Presbyterianism and Congregationalism...

mmmm.....apostolic authority....nothing more delicious (just joking St. Ignatius)

" continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience." Ch. 7 - he says that obeying these things will cure the 'poison of heresy'

Then I read part of his epistle to Polycarp and he writes again:
"Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God!" Ch. 6

Wow he really isn't budging on this submission to the Church bit. I really am having a hard time understanding where this divine mandate of broken communion and 'reformation' comes into play. If the "Reformation" saught to restore early Christianity where is the Ecclesiology which St. Ignatius can't seem to get rid of.

Finally I moved onto his Epistle to the Philadelphians, and he opens with:

"to the Church of God... which I salute in the blood of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal and enduring joy, especially if [men] are in unity with the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, who have been appointed according to the mind of 'Jesus Christ, whom He has established in security, after His own will, and by His Holy Spirit." Greeting

Man this guy doesn't shut up about Christ's establishment of the Bishops and their security and authority etc. But then here comes the icing on the cake:

"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.]" Ch. 3

Wow... if anyone follows a schismatic they are damned. . . St. Ignatius is like a 1st century John MacArthur. These are strong words against denominations outside of the historic episcopate *cough - non-Anglican/Orthodox/Catholic cough*.

Moving on he continues to stress Ecclesiology but also throws in some Real Presence stuff:
"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons" ch. 4

" Yet it is not I, but Jesus Christ, for whose sake being bound I fear the more, inasmuch as I am not yet perfect. But your prayer to God shall make me perfect" Ch. 5 - Completed Sanctification anyone? - a little purgatory proof as I call it. He seems to be under the 'delusion' that sanctification must be imputed righteousness here.

"But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father." Ch. 7 - Man now he's saying that the Holy Spirit is proclaiming his message "DO NOTHING WITHOUT THE BISHOP" - we get it St. Ignatius, shout it at the people talking about a Priesthood of all Believers.

" For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. " Ch. 8 - Again in the Early Church division is a HUGE sin. There isn't alot of Ecumenical dialogue, just the orthodox and the heretics.

ok there were even a few more references to honoring bishops, presbyters, and deacons but I spared you.

Thus in conclusion as I read the faith of the Apostolic Fathers I am once again reaffirmed that no man has the authority to go against the Church Christ established and there is no 'invisible' body theory for the ancients, just a visible communion under the bishops. Lord have mercy on everyone else, and on those beneath the bishops. This is the catholic faith, once delivered to the saints.

Moses before the Call (Exodus 1:8-3:1)

So as I read Exodus 1-3 prior to Moses' burning bush experience, a few things stuck out as interesting:

"But the midwives feared God...And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families." 1: 17, 21 - I never realized till I looked in the notes of my "Scholarly" study bible and saw that the Midwives weren't Hebrews, they were Gentiles/Egyptians and they feared God and he blessed them.

"The daughter of Pharaoh" 2:5 - I never realized that this was Pharoah's actual daughter, not like Moses was pharoah's son. I always thought she was one of the hundreds of adoptee's but I guess she was actually his daughter, meaning that she was closer to her father and probably more likely to report the child to be killed.

"He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand" 2:12 - I remember Mr. Franz a teacher I had in High School (I went to a Mennonite High School) teaching us that this verse should be a key in our morality. If you have to look around before you do something to see if anyone is watching, it's probably a clear sign you shouldn't do it. I still think of that.

"Who made you a ruler and judge over us?" 2:14 - this hebrew who says it to Moses would've stung greatly as Moses later DID have to rule and judge them as a deliverer and leader in the wilderness. It probably rung in his ears as God called him to leadership in the burning bush.

"When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses." - 2:15 - I never knew Pharoah actually wanted to kill him, my version of this story is tainted by the Prince of Egypt in which the Pharoah's son / his (step?) brother isn't angry with him. So Moses actually had to flee.

"seven daughters...came to draw water...[b]ut some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defence and watered their flock." - Moses has a bit of a Jesus complex and jumps in to help again and this gets him 'in' with the Priest of midian (Jethro) and he gets to marry one of his daughters.

The whole story ends with this line - which is so beautifully a human way of viewing God:

"The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them."

And then we end with Moses an exile, working for his father-in-law and a murderer doomed never to return. And after all those years finally God was ready to say something. I need to contemplate this further.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Monergism and Romans 3:23-28

I was reading my Grandpa's Bible that was given to him in 1946 when he married my Grandma. It's an old King James with all his written notes. I was also listening to Tony Evans tonight who I love, what a great Protestant Preacher. And I've been at the point where I constantly think 'i'm going to hell' so I opened up at Romans. I read this passage:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." - Romans 3:23-28

The phrase "That he might be just, and the justifier" utterly clashes with all of modern Catholicism. It is complete Monergism. The idea that God does EVERYTHING and humans do NOTHING. This is what St. Paul seems to be making abundantly clear. There is no simpler way of putting it apparently. It would seem that God is just, and that he justifies those who believe in him. They don't justify themselves. It's not that they believe and are justified, it's that God justifies them and they believe. It's almost like he predestined them or something crazy like that, almost as if they had no say in the matter. This doesn't mesh with my Theology

I picked up Calvin again and he echoes this theme well, he quotes St. Boniface saying: "Human beings are the work of God insofar as they are human, but they are under the control of the devil insofar as they are sinners, unless they are rescued from there through Christ" (Bondage and Liberation of the Will pp 40-41)

And then Calvin adds of his own "the godly, being thoroughly emptied of all misplaced confidence in themselves, [an attitude] which is true humility indeed, make room for the grace of God, from which they may draw strength. Therefore in issuing commands and exhortations God does not take account of our strength, since he gives that very thing which he demands and gives it for the reason that by ourselves we are helpless." (Bondage and Liberation of the Will pp 41-42)

Interesting thoughts on the passage. If only they were right. Calvin may claim to be an Augustinian, but his Ecclesiology is entirely un-Augustinian. Thus I shall continue in Catholicism, for as St. Augustine said, "The Church is a whore, but she's my mother". God never gives us the choice of making a new church. So Ecclesiologically I must remain Catholic, but I still enjoy Calvin. He makes me feel redeemed even though I've done nothing Christ-like for probably a year. In my mind sola fide + election = apathy and sin = Calvin/Luther. But I'm glad some folks like Jared and the many Presbyterians I know can get a great deal from it. For me I doubt anything will work.

God bless my friends.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Church Against the Nazis

I've always been taught that Hitler was a Catholic and that the Catholic Church practically smiled upon the Holocaust or at least mindlessly acted as a puppet signing agreements with the Reich government. But I was reading today Pope Pius XI's Mit Brennender Sorge - "With Burning Concern" and it's very interesting to realize that it was the last message of the Pope read in all the Catholic parishes in Germany before their persecution by the Nazis (which was of course minimal in comparison to other religious persecution - Jews, and shared by Protestant Christians as well - see Confessing Church, Barmen Declaration, Bonhoeffer and Barth). I just found a few passages interesting that debunked what I'd been taught.

Against Racism
"10. This God, this Sovereign Master, has issued commandments whose value is independent of time and space, country and race. As God's sun shines on every human face so His law knows neither privilege nor exception. Rulers and subjects, crowned and uncrowned, rich and poor are equally subject to His word. From the fullness of the Creators' right there naturally arises the fullness of His right to be obeyed by individuals and communities, whoever they are. This obedience permeates all branches of activity in which moral values claim harmony with the law of God, and pervades all integration of the ever-changing laws of man into the immutable laws of God."

Against Deism and Spinoza
"7. Take care, Venerable Brethren, that above all, faith in God, the first and irreplaceable foundation of all religion, be preserved in Germany pure and unstained. The believer in God is not he who utters the name in his speech, but he for whom this sacred word stands for a true and worthy concept of the Divinity. Whoever identifies, by pantheistic confusion, God and the universe, by either lowering God to the dimensions of the world, or raising the world to the dimensions of God, is not a believer in God. Whoever follows that so-called pre-Christian Germanic conception of substituting a dark and impersonal destiny for the personal God, denies thereby the Wisdom and Providence of God who "Reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly" (Wisdom viii. 1). Neither is he a believer in God. "

Against Racism
8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.


On the Cross of Christ:
"26. The cross of Christ, though it has become to many a stumbling block and foolishness (1 Cor. i. 23) remains for the believer the holy sign of his redemption, the emblem of moral strength and greatness. We live in its shadow and die in its embrace. It will stand on our grave as a pledge of our faith and our hope in the eternal light."

Against "Secular" Morality/State Ethics and the banning of Catholic/Christian Education:

"29. It is on faith in God, preserved pure and stainless, that man's morality is based. All efforts to remove from under morality and the moral order the granite foundation of faith and to substitute for it the shifting sands of human regulations, sooner or later lead these individuals or societies to moral degradation. The fool who has said in his heart "there is no God" goes straight to moral corruption (Psalms xiii. 1), and the number of these fools who today are out to sever morality from religion, is legion. They either do not see or refuse to see that the banishment of confessional Christianity, i.e., the clear and precise notion of Christianity, from teaching and education, from the organization of social and political life, spells spiritual spoliation and degradation. No coercive power of the State, no purely human ideal, however noble and lofty it be, will ever be able to make shift of the supreme and decisive impulses generated by faith in God and Christ.... A merciful God, who as Legislator, says - Thou must! - also gives by His grace the power to will and to do. To let forces of moral formation of such efficacy lie fallow, or to exclude them positively from public education, would spell religious under-feeding of a nation. To hand over the moral law to man's subjective opinion, which changes with the times, instead of anchoring it in the holy will of the eternal God and His commandments, is to open wide every door to the forces of destruction. The resulting dereliction of the eternal principles of an objective morality, which educates conscience and ennobles every department and organization of life, is a sin against the destiny of a nation, a sin whose bitter fruit will poison future generations. "

I love my Church.