Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Cross

"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God... For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness...the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." - St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians chapter 1 (KJV)

Today in Mass we read heard the entire end of Mark's Gospel from the triumphal entry of Jerusalem, to the crucifixion to the resurrection. It reminds me of something the president of West Moorlands Bible College once said in Bible School : no matter how awful a church service is, if they read the Word, at least one part of it was inspired (ie. scriptures). The Msgr preached a very short but clear message that was mostly what I tend to call "Airy Anglican" social gospel which was to be expected. This is ok, neglect for the gospel in it's entirety is usually a fair expectation in the Catholic Church (and Anglican, and for that matter almost every church i've been to).


Then we went for our last confirmation class before everyone's baptism and my confirmation, and we watched a video. We'd been watching them all year and a theologian I liked was speaking, he had refuted the idea that Catholicism teaches "works righteousness" before, and explained how Augustinian justification avoids such a caricature. But today he was discussing the cross, and his words are almost seared into my mind and have made me sick all day. He said "there is a theology in the church (Catholic Church)- not a doctrine - but a theology of atonement, held by people like Mel Gibson and the Passion of the Christ, which says that human sin has closed the gates of heaven and that the only way for humanity to be saved was the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sake..." - so far so good - "...but I tend to disagree with this because of a few flaws it has, it first promotes a bloodthirsty God who wants to hurt people which is at odds with the scriptures (obviously he hasn't read the OT prophets), and it means that the teachings and life of Christ and the resurrection are meaningless, all that mattered was his death" ...I can't remember the rest of his sentence because of a fire burning inside of me to run up and kick the TV into the wall and the picture of Mary, but I didn't... he then went on to promote the Lombardian heresy - rejected by the Catholic Church officially via Lombard's excommunication, which smelled of the same airy anglicanism. It was the type of salvation model that apologists like Alister McGrath and C.S. Lewis use when they're backed into a corner (though I love both of them, they do this and it annoys me), where Jesus death was just a supreme picture of love and the full cost of his humanity, etc...

My mind was racing with the aforequoted part of first corinthians, and Isaiah 53, and the Nicene creed. I tried to anathemize the propogater of this heresy to our class by mentioning Lombard, St. Thomas Aquinas (who basically taught Penal Substitution) and St. Anselm (who taught almost the same thing), as doctors of the Church who should be respected above this man. But apparently our class liked the Lombardian heresy more, and the Presbyterian convert next to me (who should've known better) waved me off saying 'well the church has wrongly excommunicated many people' ...

I was outraged, I am outraged. I find the same garbage in every modern church it's not as though Catholicism is solely responsible for this view - it's been around a long time. Rob Bell teaches it, N.T. Wright semi-teaches it, and many other Protestants and Orthodox and Catholics, but man, it burns my blood. It robs the Cross of the victory, the power of God, I described the message to my parents as "Anglicized Judaism with nice feelings", it's what Michael Horton calls "Christless Christianity" (or Crossless Christianity - I don't remember), and while Protestantism has no effective way to deal with heresy, at least the Traditional Protestant Churches I've been to (Grace Reformed, Holy Trinity Anglican, my Grandma's Mennonite church) can teach a coherent biblical theology of the cross.

In the end, I feel obligated to be true to Scripture, the Nicene Creed and the councils of the Church. I don't believe Catholicism has officially destroyed the cross, but there's no question that our Parish has. When I read my catechism it is full of quotes all about the sufficiency of the Cross to deal with sin, the superabundant grace it bestows, and the patristic quote that 'there is no other ladder to heaven' than the cross. Trent affirms this, in my opinion. I think I'll just change parishes. But man, it certainly shook my faith.

May all Christians continue to confess the catholic faith
As the Nicene creed states:

"For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen."

A Presbyterian minister -who is much smarter, and much more a Christian than I will probably ever be, save by the grace of God - once had this verse at the end of an email he sent, where he accused me of trusting the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church rather than Christ, I still don't see the dicotemy (most of the time), but I will say that if I was guilty of it then, I am no more guilty of it, because I've tried to make this verse the key phrase to my entire walk with God, and I completely trust in Jesus and his work (on the cross and in my life) = "but a new creation") for salvation.

"far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." - Galatians 6:14-15 (ESV)

and may our hearts be smarter than our heads today and every day.

Happy Palm Sunday.

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