Monday, August 31, 2009

Cardinal Newman on Luther and St. Augustine's Opposition

"The main point is whether the Moral Law can in its substance be obeyed and kept by the regenerate. Augustine says, that whereas we are by nature condemned by the Law, we are enabled by the grace of God to perform it unto our justification; Luther [and Calvin equally] that, whereas we are condemned by the law, Christ has Himself performed it unto our justification — Augustine, that our righteousness is active; Luther, that it is passive; Augustine, that it is imparted, Luther that it is only imputed; Augustine, that it consists in a change of heart; Luther, in a change of state. Luther maintains that God's commandments are impossible to man Augustine adds, impossible without His grace; Luther that the Gospel consists of promises only Augustine, that it is also a law, Luther, that our highest wisdom is not to know the Law, Augustine says instead, to know and keep it — Luther says, that the Law and Christ cannot dwell together in the heart. Augustine says that the Law is Christ; Luther denies and Augustine maintains that obedience is a matter of conscience. Luther says that a man is made a Christian not by working but by hearing; Augustine excludes those works only which are done before grace is given; Luther, that our best deeds are sins; Augustine, that they are really pleasing to God" - Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (Lectures on Justification, ch. ii, 58)

An Argument For Unlimited Atonement

Jared Nelson, a brilliant theologian at this blog ( recently advanced his argument which was inspired by the Puritan Divine John Owen in this post in defense of the Reformed Dogma of Christ's Limited Atonement:

I respect him greatly, and true ecumenism must start in the spirit of love and an HONEST desire to find the truth.

I also respectfully disagree with him in this matter, and will try to provide a defense of unlimited atonement from Scripture.

1. The Will Of God & The Intention of God in Christ: To Offer Potential Salvation To All

"Calvinists contend that the Atonement was commissioned for the purpose of redeeming the number of the elect, and that it was actual in accomplishing and redeeming those people" - Jared

Catholics contend that God loves the world (John 3:16) and that Christ died for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2:2). In fact in the Bible St. Paul encourages Christians to pray for "everyone" (1 Tim 2:1), because God "desires everyone to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4). In the Areopagus, surrounded by Pagans, St. Paul describes the human race God created stating that "they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him though indeed he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27). And so Christ has not yet returned as many are daily being saved, and St. Peter the first among the apostles describes Christ as, "not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9)

2. The Limits of Election & The Rejection of the Will of God: God Does Allow Resistance To Grace

Christ's intercessory role is also described in Hebrews 7:25 as: "he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." But not all approach God, indeed God's will that all might be saved is not carried out. The prophet Isaiah describes the same phenomena, "Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin" (Isaiah 30:1).

The fact that faith is a free act and resistible means that while there is a potentiality for the salvation of everyone, not all will hear. But luckily God had predestined some to receive efficacious grace and persevere to the end (Thomism), or possibly foreknew those who would choose him freely, and created the world in which they would be able to acheive salvation (Molinism).

3. The Unfinished Nature of Salvation & The Example of Ahab

Salvation likewise is not a singular thing, purely finished and in the past. As Hebrews 7:25 shows us, those who approach Christ are prayed for by Christ. They're prayers are heard by God. The writer of Hebrews also warns us however of those who turn away from Christ, profane the blood of the covenant, and outrage the Spirit (10:29), for such people there "no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (10:26). Redemption must be reapplied to them by Christ through repentance, though the specific means of this grace is contested by Reformed and Catholic theologians. Those whom persevere to the end are indeed saved, according to Jesus (Mt 10:22, 24:13). And St. Paul warns us "So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall." (1 Cor 10:12).

A great example of this is King Ahab. "Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him...he...went and served Baal, and worshipped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made a sacred pole. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him." (1 Kings 16:30-33)

But after Elijah condemns him it says: "When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house". After this repentence, God's prophet Micaiah speaks to Ahab and Ahab says "Put this fellow in prison" (1 Kings 22:27), and Ahab is promptly killed in battle, dying in sin (1 Kings 22:34).

4. Conclusion & Why It Doesn't Matter

Thus in my interpretation, God's love is universal, he wills that all might be saved, but it is also specific for the Elect. Christ's sacrifice which potentially could be applied to them, is actually and effectually applied to them through faith, love and the sacraments.

I find it embarrassing that I've spent over an hour preparing this blog when ultimately the issue of limited and unlimited atonement results in no actual difference in God's plan of salvation. The elect are saved in both, and the unelect are not saved in both. Christ's sacrifice is made effectual for the elect, Christ's sacrifice is made uneffectual for the unelect.

This is exemplified for me in John Piper's comment to an Arminian at a Baptist convention. He said "Do you believe that Christ has died for every person that has a saving faith in Christ?" to which the man responded "yes". Piper then replied "so do I".

While this is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism solved, which is different from Calvinism and Catholic Augustinianism, the correlation still remains.

May God's Spirit lead us into all truth, through the inerrant word of truth (Bible), and the pillar and bulwark of truth (The Church), to the one who is Truth itself (Jesus).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Immutability of God & The Sacrifice and Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - Epistle of St. James Chapter 1, Verse 17

This verse was in the reading of the Mass tonight, I've been thinking about it alot ever since I read how influential it was in the catholic medieval tradition in Jaroslav Pelikan's third volume on the Christian Tradition.

I was thinking about going to the Latin mass and the way the priest opened up the tabernacle and how every eye was fixed on the inside. Then I realized how the Sacrifice of the Mass is tied to the Immutability of God.

I was reminded of Bp. N.T. Wright's book where he talks about the parousia of Christ, the second advent/second coming, and how it really seems to mean in Greek the idea of something that is already a reality being revealed. It's as if something was already there (the Kingdom of God) and suddenly everyone realizes the hidden reality.

I was thinking that the sacrifice of the mass is like that. At the consecration we are given a glimpse into the window of the changeless nature of Christ's eternal self-giving love. Christ's Spirit which is present within our souls in an invisible matter, is suddenly joined by Christ's body and blood in a real physical manner for a few moments. It's as if when the tabernacle is opened, we see through it as a window into the scene of the Crucifixion, we offer our sorrow for our sins, and the sacrifice of worship, as St. John and the Blessed Virgin did at the foot of the cross.

God's immutability and simplicity of nature are a mystery, and the beatific vision always reminds me of a beautiful painting which we'll all enjoy in perfect satisfaction forever. And the promise is from "the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"

...but maybe that's just a stupid or heretical idea...

Catholic Teaching and Limited Atonement

I don't think there's any point getting into another Limited vs Unlimited Atonement debate, so I'll just say quickly what Scripture and Tradition have to say on the matter:


St. John says: "he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." The issue here is the use of the 2 phrase "not for ours only" and "sins of the whole world". This is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of limited atonement. It reminds me of the doctrine of sola fide where Calvinists interpret "not by faith alone" as "by faith alone", and "wills that all men be saved" as "doesn't will that all men be saved". (Kind of like the Catholic case: "A bishop should be the husband of one wife" interpretted "A bishop shouldn't be the husband of one wife" - but we don't believe in sola scriptura so we at least have a reason)


In any case, I think the whole thing is just another great example of the failure of the Reformation doctrine of the Perspicuity of Scripture. As Calvinists and Arminians prove by their continued existence, Scripture does need an interpreter, Moses' seat must be replaced with the chair of St. Peter.

The Patristic evidence is also in complete opposition to the doctrine, as the classic formulation was that Christ died for those whose nature he assumed, meaning all of humanity.

"Christ Jesus our Lord, as no man who is or has been or ever will be whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered- although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion. But because all are not redeemed by the mystery of His passion, He does not regard the greatness and the fullness of the price, but He regards the part of the unfaithful ones and those not believing in faith those things which He has worked th rough love[ Gal. 5:6], because the drink of human safety, which has been prepared by our infirmity and by divine strength, has indeed in itself that it may be beneficial to all; but if it is not drunk, it does not heal." - Council of Quiercy 853 CE

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo

Happy Feast of St. Augustine. I went to two masses this morning and the one in english talked alot about him. I hadn't known that he fathered a child (according to the priest). I'll have to check that out to see if it's dubious. I hope more people are drawn to the teaching of the doctor of grace, he is a theologian who could bring unity to Western Christendom.

Here are some quotes I found of his today that I liked:

"There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future."

"Christ is not valued at all, unless he is valued above all."

"Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. "

"It is not that we keep His commandments first and that then He loves but that He loves us and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace which is revealed to the humble but hidden from the proud."

St. Augustine pray for the destruction of Pelagianism, Manicheeism, and Donatism in Christ's Church. Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catholic Novelists I Want To Read

The first Catholic Novel I want to read is "Silence" by Shusaku Endo a Japanese Catholic. I've heard amazing things and I really need to pick it up.

The second is Evelyn Waugh, author of "Brideshead Revisited" and other famous books. I want to read his book on St. Edmund Campion.

The third is Flannery O'Conner, my friend Hannah says that I should read the Habit of Being by her.

And fourthly I'd like to read some Graham Greene.

I also wouldn't mind reading some of Chesterton's novels.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Mass (of Saints and Sinners)

I've been trying to psyche myself up for the Traditional Latin Mass at 7am in the morning. I finally resolved to go tomorrow, and of course my boss tells me I'm working 8-5. I think what I'm missing in the Novus Ordo is the Catholic dogma of the sacrifice of the mass and the numinousness of the liturgy. I enjoy the Novus Ordo in the Cathedral, and I agree with Fr. Neuhaus when he said that it can be done reverently but it can also be horrifically abused. But I'm thirsting for something different. I want to find the Roman in Roman rite Catholicism.

I've found 2 problems in the Church mainly. The first is that of priests and lay Catholics not knowing or teaching the official dogmatic position of our Church. And the second is that the few I hear who do know and teach authentic Catholicism, do so in broken English (I've had great Philippino, Indian, and Italian priests but they barely spoke the language).

But even with those two critiques, I must say that the Mass and the Rosary are becoming essential to my life. If I can't take the Eucharist, I need at least to go to Mass, and if I can't go to Mass I need at least to pray my Rosary. I like what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote on it:

"It is the Mass that holds together the maddeningly ragtag and variegated thing that is the Catholic Church. Which is to say it is the Presence. Which is to say it is Christ, doing it again, just as he promised."

I think that's God's honest truth. I've been reading snippets of "The Literary Converts" by Joseph Pearce (a convert himself) and I found a quote I really liked from a Catholic convert most people don't know about:

"The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people the Anglican Church will do." - Oscar Wilde

I love this quote, I love the mass because it is such a great example of this. I like the liturgy because it puts me in my place. I am a sinner and I kneel in the Cathedral, and in the windows and statues I see Christ, Mary, and the Saints, the heroes of the faith and in the pews I think of myself and others, the sinners. And that by feeding on Christ in the Eucharist, and partaking of his sacrifice I also partake with the other saints already glorified in Heaven. And so I think: what a blessing, that sinners like ourselves are in the same family as the saints. I'm "related" to St. Thomas Aquinas and J.R.R Tolkien, and I kneel before the same altar and sacrifice which all the saints did. Thus I am reminded of Fr. Richard's words, the mass at the heart of it is "Christ, doing it again, just as he promised"

May God grant me a life filled with Masses, and by his grace may I one day be a saint instead of a sinner (though I know technically all Christians are saints, I'm referring to an actual objective increase in holiness).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mercy and Merits

The understanding I have of merit in Catholic teaching I've discovered so far is this:

1. The works are meritous because they are works of Christ through us (The body of Christ) just as his work on the cross is the meritorious cause of our salvation (Council of Trent)

2. The works are meritous because of the overwhelming mercy of God, in that as a loving father he judges them valuable despite their littleness.

"My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord's mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord's mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness." - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The ending "you my righteousness" will probably spark claims of proto-protestantism but the Catholic Encyclopedia reminds us: "It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that man before, in, and after justification derives his whole capability of meriting and satisfying, as well as his actual merits and satisfactions, solely from the infinite treasure of merits which Christ gained for us on the Cross (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi; Sess. XIV, cap. viii)."

Likewise in Pope John XXIII's writings he says: "The sense of my own littleness and nothingness has always been my good companion, keeping me humble and calm, and making me employ myself to the best of my ability in a constant exercise of obedience and charity for souls and for the interests of the Kingdom of Jesus, my Lord and my all. To Him be all glory; for me and for my merit. His mercy. This alone is enough for me."

St. Thomas More in his dialogue on comfort also says:

"Like as we grant them (Protestants) that no good work of man is rewardable in heaven of his own nature, but through the goodness of God, that list to set so high a price upon so poor a thing, and that this price God setteth through Christ's passion, and for that also they be his own works with us (for good works to God-ward worketh no man, without God work in him); and as we grant them also that no man may be proud of his works for his own imperfect working; and for that in all that man may do he can do no good, but is a servant unprofitable and doth but his bare duty..." [St. Thomas More, A DIALOGUE OF COMFORT, I, 12]

The Divide:

Some reading might think, well isn't this pretty much the same as Protestantism? Not really, it is similar to Wesleyanism but traditional Protestant Theology denies the ability of man to cooperate in any meritous way with God's grace. This is the Protestant idea known as Monergism (God does everything we do nothing), the Catholic idea is Synergism (God does everything we assent to it or cooperate with it). Thus there is a divide.


So while we can really merit because of what Christ has done on the Cross and is doing in our lives, let us not forget to trust humbly in his mercy rather than in our efforts. His mercies make our merits.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

St. Robert Bellarmine: Fasting, Legalism, and Cheap Grace

I try to read a bit of everyone to get my head around the Catholic Tradition. I've read some St. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Thomas Aquinas, and only a tiny bit of St. Thomas More & St. Edmund Campion, and some modern saints and theologians like Cardinal Newman and JPII.

But the theological era I probably know least about in the Catholic Tradition is the Catholic Counter/Catholic-Reformation. From Trent to Vatican I, I am in need of learning.

The other problem I find is that these writers tend to be the "scary" Catholics. The super-guilt promoting, super-Marian, ultramontantists. But the one thing I like is that they know proper Catholic morality. What Lutherans would call "the Law". St. Robert Bellarmine a counter/Catholic-Reformation Cardinal and Tridentine theologian. Here is just a taste of his writing on fasting:

"This is also the constant doctrine of the holy fathers: Tertullian says: “As we refrain from the use of food, so our fasting satisfies God." (De Jejunio) St. Cyprian: “Let us appease the anger of an offended God, by fasting and weeping, as he admonishes us. "(De Lapsis) St. Basil: "Penance, without fasting, is useless and vain; by fasting satisfy God." (De Jejunio) St. Chrysostom: "God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting." St. Ambrose also says: "Fasting is the death of sin, the destruction of our crimes, and the remedy of our salvation." St. Jerome, in his Commentary on the third chapter of Jonas, remarks: "Fasting and sackcloth are the arms of penance, the help of sinners." St. Augustine likewise says: “No one fasts for human praise, but for the pardon of his sins." So also St. Bernard in his 66th Sermon on the Canticles: “I often fast, and my fasting is a satisfaction for sin, not a superstition for impiety."" - St. Robert Bellarmine "The Art of Dying Well" Ch. VIII p. 21

But what some would call his legalism (even though here he just ends up quoting Church Fathers), I find to be an authentic assessment of the Christian moral tradition. The thing I find disturbing about modern Jesuit-style moral theology is that it diminishes sin to a point that promotes legalism rather than repentance or abstinence. Philip Yancey in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace" says that those who have a low view of the law actually end up having a lower view of grace and the gospel. Bonhoeffer calls a similar issue "cheap grace" where we cheapen the forgiveness and grace of God because of a moral laxity that doesn't understand how deeply we've offended him. While St. Robert here seems harsh, he also writes the solution to sin, which IS a reality:

"nothing can be imagined more useful than for those who value their salvation, , twice every day, morning and night, diligently to examine their conscience; what they have done during the night, or the preceding day; what they have said, desired, or thought of, in which sin may have entered; and if they shall discover anything mortal, let them not defer seeking the remedy of true contrition, with a resolution to approach the sacrament of penance on the very first opportunity. Wherefore, let them ask of God the gift of contrition, let them ponder on the enormity of sin, let them detest their sins from their heart, and seriously ask themselves who is the "offended and the offenders." Man, a worm, offends God the Almighty; a base slave, the Lord of heaven and earth! Spare not then your tears, nor cease to strike your breast: in fine, make a firm resolution never more to offend God, never more to irritate the best of Fathers. If this examination be continued morning and night, or at least once in the day, it can scarcely happen that we shall die in sin, or mad, or delirious. Thus it will be, that every preparation being made for a good death, neither its uncertainty will trouble us, nor the happiness of eternal life fail us." - St. Robert Bellarmine "The Art of Dying Well" Ch. VI

Repentance, true repentance is necessary. When we understand sin in it's entirety and God's mercy in it's entirety we avoid cheap grace and legalism.

Fasting is a practice I need to cultivate.

Glimpse of Luther - Humorous Church History

I'm reading Pelikan's 4th volume of Church History "Reformation of Church and Dogma" and I find Luther's contradictory nature really hillarious. I'm honestly, honestly, honestly, not trying to anger Protestants or Luther-admirers. I just seriously think it's hillarious how Luther was too "extreme" for the Lutherans.

For example, Christian Theology has always said that man in some way after the fall retained the Image of God, and has somehow allowed for a portion of free will (even Calvin did this I believe.). But Luther in his effort to completely destroy the idea of Free Will proposed in his commentary on Genesis that it was wrong to say we could even understand man before the fall (with Free Will) and:

"much less was it correct to say that the image [of God] was still present, for "it was lost through sin in Paradise."... In its place had come death and the fear of death..."These and similar evils are the image of the devil, who stamped them on us."" - Jaroslav Pelikan paraphrasing Martin Luther's Anthropolgy "The Christian Tradition" Vol. 4 p.142

But it gets better than Luther just saying Man is now in the Image of Satan.

Melancthon after Luther's death declared this view (in this case shared by Valla) to be "Manichean" (Ibid p.143) and argued his own view against those who "falsely contend" (Ibid p.144) Luther's view. So according to Lutheran Dogmatics systematized by Melancthon after Luther's death, Martin Luther himself would be condemned as a Manichee (which is exactly what the Roman Catholics were contending against him).

I also found an amazing treasure trove of quotes on Dave Armstrong's blog about the complete disagreement between the Reformers on the issue of the Eucharist. You should really check it out:

My favourite was a quote of Philip Schaff the famous Lutheran historian on Martin Luther's views on Ulrich Zwingli:

"He went so far as to call Zwingli a non-Christian (Unchrist), and ten times worse than a papist (March, 1528, in his Great Confession on the Lords Supper). . . . He saw in the heroic death of Zwingli and the defeat of the Zurichers at Cappel (1531) a righteous judgment of God, and found fault with the victorious Papists for not exterminating his heresy (Wider etliche Rottengeister, Letter to Albrecht of Prussia, April, 1532, in De Wette's edition of L. Briefe, Vol. IV. pp. 352, 353)." - Philip Schaff

lol. so the same Luther who called the Roman Church the Whore of Babylon, believes that it is a better Church than the Zwinglian churches and that God used it to judge Zwingli, and that it should've been HARSHER on him. hah, now I know why the Lutherans always feel closer to us Papists than the Anabaptists (and even the Reformed sometimes)

There you have it, another humorous episode of Church History. Tune in next time for the account of the Catholic villagers who tried to make a dog, a saint!

Friday, August 21, 2009


I'm tired of constantly fighting about this issue so I'm just going to post what I *THINK* are the differences between our 2 traditions.


God predestines from eternity past the elect and the reprobate. All men are trapped in total depravity unable to commit any good act without the irresistible grace of God. By this irresistible grace the elect have faith alone in Christ alone and Christ's perfect active obedience and righteousness is imputed to their souls. The faithful then know they are God's elect and are eternally secure (unless they fall away and the show that they weren't eternally secure - this is what I don't understand) This is justification. THEN Sanctification is the process where their actual lives/souls become righteous and holy, they turn from sin and towards God. BUT this process is not what God considers when evaluating their holiness so that in the eyes of God the thief on the Cross and St. Paul are equally righteous. Nevertheless the believer does become holy and this intrinsic personal holiness will be perfected instantly at death when all sin is killed with the body and in the instant process of glorification when the soul reaches heaven. But again, this intrinsic holiness is not what matters in terms of salvation, only Christ's extrinsic righteousness.


God predestines the elect to receive the grace sufficient for salvation. They are (ordinarily) baptized and washed of their original sin and receive the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity which works with the grace of baptism to make them holy. The elect are given grace which they cooperate with and become more just and holy. On the basis of their faith they are declared just by God and made just intrinsically by being in a state of grace and by receiving the sacraments they receive more grace. If and when they fall into wilful grave sin (mortal sin) or apostasy the grace at work in their souls making them both holy and just is killed, they are no longer in a state of grace. But this grace can sacramentally be regained through Confession/Reconcilliation. To die in a state of grace means that God will put the soul (if necessary) through purgatory where they will be perfected in holiness. This is justification and/or sanctification. On judgment day they will be judged righteous based on the intrinsic righteousness God has wrought within their souls.

"...But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God"

REFORMED Exegesis:
In the moment of new birth and justification there is in some sense a real sanctification that occurs in the believer.

CATHOLIC Exegesis:
Paul is here showing that being made holy and being made just are not two separated processes but the same indivisible process. So the verse is a useful prooftext to show not only the interchangabiity of the terms sanctification and justification, but also the way in which Catholic theology speaks of multiple justifications, or an increase of justification, or a regaining of justification.

There is a "distinction" between justification and sanctification but not a division.

CATHOLIC response:
This is a division not a distinction because you believe sanctification is a superfluous process. The thief on the cross was justified and barely - if at all- sanctified, and St. Paul was justified and extremely sanctified, and the Reformed Tradition would have us believe that God views them identically in terms of righteousness and holiness.


Now. If I screwed this up significantly on the Reformed or Catholic side, please let me know.

St. Thomas Aquinas - The Life of the Saint (1)

I started reading Jacques Maritain's book on St. Thomas Aquinas (it's FREE online!) and the book starts off with a quote I thought worthy of noting on this O-so-popular blog.

"Friar Giacomo di Viterbo, Archbishop of Naples, often said to me that he believed, in accordance with the Faith and the Holy Spirit, that our Savior had sent, as doctor of truth to illuminate the world and the universal Church, first the apostle Paul, then Augustine, and finally in these latest days Friar Thomas, whom, he believed, no one would succeed till the end of the world." (Testimony of Bartolommeo di Capua at the hearing of the case for the canonization of Saint Thomas,
August 8, 1319.)

The opening part which I am half way through is just about his life, which in some ways (very few) I can relate to. I'm always fascinated with the lives of the saints. How they triumphed where I fall and how they went on for years at a time seemingly only on the desire to glorify God. I for one would probably have 'slept' (I hate using that phrase) with the temptress rather than attacked her with the firebrand as St. Thomas did. I read on the blog of the Rector of Westminster Cathedral (Catholic) in England say that he didn't like that he was fat because to his knowledge none of the saints were, except for St. Thomas. hah, at least in that way we both fell in the same way.

I've been thinking about a religious vocation again recently. I don't think I would do it unless I could fix (by grace) some sin issues I have (here come the donatism and pelagian charges) before I feel God would "let" me be a priest or a monk, and the Evangelical parents thing seems to be an insurmountable obstacle for going to a Catholic school. But I read something in this book that I also liked on the topic:

"Later his family, severely tried after their split with the Emperor, whom Innocent IV had deposed, would in vain call him to their aid, and the Pope offer him (with permission to keep the habit of his Order) the abbacy of Monte Cassino -- later the see of Naples. He would not yield. It was at the time a question of ignoring the will of his father and mother, of braving the wrath of his own people, who were not persons of slight vigor or easily placated. As he was to write later, 'When parents are not in such want that they have a great need of the services of their children, the children can enter into religious life without the consent of their parents and even against their expressed will, because, after having passed the age of puberty, any free man has the right to dispose of himself in the choice of a state of life, above all if it is a matter of the service of God; it is better to obey the Father of spirits, in order that we may live, than the parents of our flesh.""

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Affinity For The Rosary

"Death came through Eve, life through Mary." - St. Jerome (Letter 22.21)

I used to hate the rosary, but I've been praying it alot lately and really meditating on the mysteries in the life of Christ and Mary and gained some insights into things I've never really thought about before.

One of my Mennonite friends found out that I was Catholic now and said one of the things he admired about "us" was that we really thought about the life of Jesus by meditating on the mysteries of the rosary and that Christians don't do that enough

I always liked the Dominicans but never really St. Dominic ("inventor" of the Rosary), but I'm getting to like him more and more. Meditative prayer is really important, and I rarely go places now without my rosary. Who would've thought?

As you look at the glories of Mary you realize that they are the glories Christ has bestowed on her. It reminds me of the quote from Queen Elizabeth who said she enjoyed the crown and hoped Jesus would return in her lifetime so that she could lay the crown at his feet. This is the humility of the Blessed Virgin, that even though she is crowned, still calls upon Christ as her Redeemer, the author and perfecter of faith, who has bestowed upon her these honors.

In the Assumption and Coronation of Our Lady we see prefigured the future of all Christ's faithful, to assume into heaven and meet him in the sky when he comes, and to one day receive rewards for their merits (which are Christ's gracious work in them).

ELCA accepts Homosexuality, Romans 1, and Avoiding Sin

I had written this long triumphalistic post about how much better Catholicism was than Protestantism because of this decision and how bankrupt Protestant Moral Theology was, but then I deleted it, realizing that the destruction of another ecclesial community isn't something to be celebrated (unless they're returning to the one Church).

The ELCA has joined the ranks of the Episcopal Church (with whom they are in full communion) and allowed homosexuality as a Christian lifestyle.

Lord have mercy...

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them." - Romans 1:18-32

This is actually one of my favourite passages in the Bible because it so clearly outlines Natural Theology (v. 20) and the universal guilt of humanity. Romans 1 is what the world needs to hear today. and the tradition of Catholic spirituality focuses so much on avoiding both sin and the 'near occasion' of sin because of this deep truth. It's an important part of Augustinian Christianity:

"God, O Lord, grant me the power to overcome sin. For this is what 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

Living in sin is living in falsehood, it is exchanging the truth for a lie.

May God's grace lead us to Sacred Scripture and the Church of Christ and aid us in exchanging the lies in our life for the truth of God. May God's grace turn us to Christ, lead us to repent of our sin, and follow in the grace of the Spirit the command to "Go your way, and from now on do not sin" (Jn 8:11)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hans Urs Von Balthasar on Fear

"Fear mercilessly grips the human throat. It fills the psychiatrists' consulting rooms, populates the psychiatric hospitals, increases the suicidal figures, lays blast-bombs, sets off cold wars and hot wars. We try to root it out of our souls like weeds, anesthetizing ourselves with optimism, trying to persuade ourselves with a forced philosophy of hope; we make all possible stimulants available, domesticate the nomadic urge by means of the tourist industry; we invite people to engage in every form of self-alienation.

Others preach from outside, as it were, that we should "simply" trust in Jesus, but such consolation eludes us.

The Catholic reality does not eliminate fear, it transforms it. In the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins the event of the cross becomes really present; but its fear also becomes present, its fear that gathered up and exceeded all the world's fear. This was a fear that had been offered to God, a fear on our behalf, designed to free the sinner from fear.

Jesus' prophetic words to the Church constantly alternate between terrible facts to which we can only respond in fear - "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Mt 10:16)- and words encouraging us to overcome fear because it is God-given: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me" (Jn 14:1)" - Fr. Hans Urs Von Balthasar "In the fullness of faith" p. 20-21

St. Paul screwing up the Ordo Salutis again...

In Reformed theology justification is officially distinguished from sanctification. The charge is that Catholicism and the Council of Trent especially confuses these clearly divided steps in the 'Ordo Salutis' (order of salvation - Why are the Reformed using Latin anyway? that's what I want to know). But is this "distinction" biblical? I have had a 42 page email debate with one Presbyterian minister about this before so I don't feel like rehashing it all over again, but I want to just point out one of many examples where St. Paul would be - according the Reformed charge - screwing up the ordo salutis. I'll be using the NRSV.

"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Monday, August 17, 2009

Westminster Confession of Faith (Attempt Two) - Chapter 3

Here's the link:

If you want to skip over my bread and butter critique based on a common Arminian Prooftext, just go on to "what I liked"

I tried really hard to find things we agreed upon here. But 1 Timothy 2

" I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For
there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all" - 1 Tim 2:1-6a

Now Catholics are the first people to bring philosophy into exegesis and an understanding of the faith. We see Scripture, Tradition, and Reason to be complimentary. However, the Reformed do not share this belief with us. Thus Reformed attempts to logically rationalize/attack this passage by asking about how the non-elect can call Christ Saviour while being intelligent, are outside their own recognized authority. Limited Atonement and God's active reprobation are based on logic rather than "the clear word of God" which says here that God wills that everyone be saved. And if the Reformed were true to the claim that everything infallibly proceeds from God's will, then they should be universalists.

This is my contention. Instead of starting a debate here (as if anyone reads this blog or would like to defend me in it, lol) just look at Calvinism and Arminianism debates and Jansenist and Catholic debates.

There can actually be alot of agreement between Calvinists and Thomists in Catholicism on predestination, so I'm making it clear here that the two issues only in contention are predestination unto damnation (rather than mere passing over, which is strangely alluded to in article VII after being contradicted by article V), and limited versus unlimited atonement.

What I liked:

"The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel." - Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, Article VIII

replace "Certainty" with "hope" and it's Thomistic.

Peter Kreeft and Jansenism

In thinking about Peter Kreeft, a convert (50 years ago this year), who is considered by some to be the best Catholic philosopher in America (I read that somewhere but it sounds dubious), I come to questions of his orthodoxy (Roman) and whether he is a secret Jansenist. Just reading this:

it seems like Kreeft is very much against calling Pascal a Jansenist, and seems to construct a Jansenist emphasis in soteriology while remaining faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Being in a position where I refuse to contradict the teaching of the Church and wish to be a faithful Catholic, but also love St. Augustine, I find that Kreeft is a safe bet.

I know I always drone on about it, but I think theology is 90% emphasis. For example, Catholicism still teaches the doctrine of purgatory it taught in the middle ages, but now it is only 4 pages within the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Emphasis can change alot, and I like Kreeft's emphasis.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ecumenical Starting Grounds & 3 Kinds Of Christians

As someone who lives in the realm of Catholic-Protestant (and to a much lesser extent) Orthodox dialogue and debate I just thought I should point out what we all can agree on:

Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament

Trinity and entire conciliar understanding of the nature of God (minus the Filioque). This always gets underrated, but SERIOUSLY, we agree on who God is, this is a big deal.

Prayer (for the most part, minus Protestants on saintly intercession)

Ethics (conservatives in each group all hold biblical values on most ethical issues, liberals are another matter)

Love and Social Justice

Justification by Grace

Metaphysics (I don't think Protestants or Orthodox disagree with Catholics here, but I might be wrong).

The Apostles and Nicene Creed (except for non-Lutheran Protestants objecting to "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins")

This really is alot if you think about it.

Right after discussing how divided Christendom is over prayers to the saints C.S. Lewis writes:

"I sometimes have a briht dream of reunion engulfing us unawares, like a great wave from behind our backs, perhaps at the very moment when our official representatives are still pronouncing it impossible. Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us." - C.S. Lewis "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer" Ch.3

I love this image. C.S. Lewis was such a genius. I think there are 3 kinds of Christians out there in terms of ecumenism:

1. Triumphalists. These are the people who actually enjoy the divisions of the church. They like to go on and on about how they are the only remnant left and how God is unknown to everyone else. I think they remind me of Mark Twain's joke about putting a Roman Catholic, a Presbyterian, and a Baptist in a cage and them all killing each other. Indeed those 3 seem to compete for the title of least ecumenical.

2. Compromisers. These are people who want to gloss over every difference imaginable, if they can't outright ignore it. These are the opposite to the triumphalists. But at least the compromisers do something together, whether it's social justice stuff or charity work, they do something. Along with those who know the differences and ignore them, here I'll include those who are simply ignorant of theological divisions.

3. Segregationists. These are people who understand the differences between the different churches/denominations and know why they are _______ists or ________ans but they anxiously await and seek reunion. They believe we are segregated on earth here and now because of our honest disagreement, but that God's grace and the Holy Spirit work universally and that while they may say "outside the church there is ordinarily no salvation" (WCF) but at the same time admit that ordinarily is the key word.

I hope I'm in group 3 and that if I've chosen the "wrong" church after all that He'll be gracious and merciful.

I was watching this movie "The Lilies of the Field" today with Sidney Poitier and it's about a Baptist construction worker / general labourer guy who helps a group of Nuns build a chapel. There's a beautiful scene where he rebukes the Mother Superior and asks if they ever have any joy amidst their "religion" (bad connotation in this usage). It ends with them all singing the Negro Spiritual "Amen" together and smiling as Sidney Poitier is 'lining' the life of Jesus while they sing Amen. Even though it was just a movie, it gave me hope that maybe one day God will teach us to have the Joy of black Baptists and the holiness of German Nuns in perfect harmony.

Lord help us.

Courage and the Feast of the Assumption

Today I had a very awkward (I don't think I spelled that right) breakfast with my parents. I was telling them about where I wanted to go to school for graduate studies. I suggested St. Regis College (Jesuit) attached to UofT and Boston College (Catholic & Reformed) but as soon as the word 'saint' came out of my mouth he began to talk about how I was adamant on unbiblical 'denominationalism' by wanting to attend a Catholic school, and suggested Dallas Theological Seminary or 'some other good evangelical school'.

Anyway, he said that true theology is based on "the Word" alone and that denominations which I allegedly insist on (If Catholicism is a denomination, then all the Church fathers were "denominationalists") were a sin. I just had the courage to tell him that I wanted to study "false theology" based on the traditions of men and Aquinas and Augustine and Church History. After that there was a long silence, an we spoke no more on it.

Today is the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mother. This is arguably the most offensive feast day to Protestants as it is not explicitly in the bible and because the dogma was only declared in the last 70 years as official. But there was a certain courage it took for the Pope to declare it as a feast day and a certain courage for Catholics to celebrate it. It is the affirmation that God's tradition lives on in our Church, that the bible is not the only source of God's word, and that the Holy Spirit is still guiding our pilgrim Church. May I find courage to face these obstacles in drawing from the courage of my Church and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Penitential Psalms - Part 3 (Psalm 38)

A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
"O LORD, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath!
For thy arrows have sunk into me,
and thy hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of thy indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me." Ps 38:1-4

This is so painfully true. It shows how David feels that God has shot him with arrows and crushed him with His hand. This reminds me of the Anglican prayer of confession in the BCP that says "there is no health in me". I don't know Hebrew, but I know Latin and Salvere the verb for salvation means 'to make whole', to be healthy. The burden of sin gets heavy so gradually in my life, it's not till I'm absolved that I feel how much has built up. I will go into depression as the weight builds and then wonder why it's happening, David has pinpointed it.

"My wounds grow foul and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart."

Utterly spent and crushed - it's an awful feeling. It's almost messianic because it makes me think of the passion and how Jesus suffered but for our sins, and how we too suffer temporally for the sins we commit. I like the phrase "tumult of my heart", it describes the raw emotion and lostness that overcomes us at times. It's the feeling St. James describes about the doubter who is tossed back and forth among the waves.

"Lord, all my longing is known to thee,
my sighing is not hidden from thee.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
and the light of my eyes -- it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my kinsmen stand afar off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares,
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin,
and meditate treachery all the day long.
But I am like a deaf man, I do not hear,
like a dumb man who does not open his mouth.
Yea, I am like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes."

The longings of our hearts are known to God, the inward intercession of the Spirit groans in words we can't find. That is comforting to know. "my sighing is not hidden from thee", I feel like this sometimes, even when prayers go unanswered it's enough to know that God sees, that he is still in control even if things are going badly. More messianic tones about the innocence of the persecuted one.

"But for thee, O LORD, do I wait;
it is thou, O LORD my God, who wilt answer.
For I pray, "Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!"
For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity,
I am sorry for my sin."

The honest trust in God, the confession and contrition plus the early disciplining of God make a great Penitential shape to this Psalm, all the elements are there. The writer seems to be a bit arrogant just not wanting his enemies to triumph over him, but his trust in God and his readiness to fall seem to still show humility.

"Those who are my foes without cause are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good
are my adversaries because I follow after good.
Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!"

This reminds me of a quote by Winston Churchill who says "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life". Jesus teaches us that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed, but this is a truism in Christianity, in reality it is difficult.

Finally I can relate to the last prayer of David after his confession, it's a plea, he's begging God to be near him and to make haste to save him, to make him whole.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Love: Why Traditionalism Makes Me Sick

I was just reading a blog post from a Traditionalist Catholic blog about the "horror" of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) celebrating a eucharistic liturgy in a church in Rome that was the head church of the Dominican order.

Now let me say, I get that Catholicism has declared Anglican ordinations "null and void" in 1896. But I'm also aware what Vatican II said about Anglicanism, and that Pope John Paul II preached in Westminster Abbey and called the Anglican Communion "our beloved sister church". I know canonically it is an ecclesial communion and not truly a church (dominum iesus). But again, the spirit of ecumenism isn't something that should evoke "horror". Maybe my objection is baseless and I should agree with them, but I just despise such outright hatred for fellow Christians (which Anglicans have been concilliarly defined as being, again Vatican II).

The other things I hate about Traditionalists are their neo-Donatist conceptions of sacramental validity. They seem to think that if you are receiving communion at a Mass in English or if someone plays the guitar at your church that somehow Christ can't be present. As if the tongue of the pagan Romans or gregorian chant were what Angels spoke. I get the love for aesthetic beauty, I don't get their strange ideas about Baptisms only being baptisms if the person holds your views on anything from the papal tiara to denying the holocaust. (I'm overreacting here I know).

Furthermore, Traditionalists seem to worship Tradition to the point of idolatry. If someone did something in the past it was therefore valid. The Tridentine Mass is a great example. It was a complete "innovation" of the 16th century, but after it sits around for 400 years, then it's holy. Traditionalists mock Dave Armstrong for using the Bible to defend Catholic beliefs as if teaching the Scriptures is too "protestant" a thing for a respectible Catholic to do.

Finally, completely absent is the love of Christ. Yes it sounds trivial, yes it's argued alot, but at the end of the day, love is supreme (1 Cor 13), it is the greatest.

So may the liberals stop trying to rape Tradition of any holiness, and may the Traditionalists stop destroying charity and ecumenism.

"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. " - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I love this passage, and how St. Paul says that even if you understand all mysteries and knowledge and have all faith *cough sola fide cough* but have not love, you are nothing.

One of my few proud quotes is that 'to be a theologian without love is to be a theolo-gong'... and if you think that's stupid, well... my friend didn't when I told her, so there! (note my Nietzschean logic)

Final Books of the Summer: Peter Kreeft and Rowan Williams

I ordered 2 more books yesterday to be my last for the summer.

I'm still reading through Fr. Henri Nouwen which is good spiritual water for my dry soul, but I have such a long list of books I "need to read" that I have to keep going.

Right now I've finished Jaroslav Pelikan's third volume of the Christian Tradition (Medieval West) and am on page 55 of Jaroslav Pelikan's 4th volume about the Reformation. So in the hopes of finishing his Reformation history in my two days off this week, I've ordered 2 books.

Book 1: Peter Kreeft's "The God Who Loves You"

The first is Peter Kreeft's "The God Who Loves You: Love Divine All Loves Excelling". My favourite and most respected Reformed Theologian wrote this about the book:

"But Kreeft's book “The God Who Loves You” convinced me that there were good evangelical Catholics out there. But good evangelical Catholics are often bad Catholics, and Kreeft can probably be accused of such by many hardline Catholics with what Kreeft says in appreciation of Luther in that book. Kreeft is also indebted to Pascal for his worldview, and I think he has some wonderful Jansenist tendencies (which Kreeft would deny)" - Jared (

I don't know about Kreeft being a Jansenist, he does love Pascal ALOT and calls him a Catholic constantly. Jared is alot smarter than me so he is probably right, but other "hardline" (I don't know what this means as the Roman church is far from monolithic) Catholics seem to like him, Karl Keating always gives him great reviews and speaks about his orthodoxy. In any case, I've been thinking about God's love alot as it is central to Catholic theology and I love reading Kreeft (but I too probably have Jansenist tendencies in that I love Pascal and Augustine and hate Molinism and some of the Jesuit Molinists of the 18th century).

But then again as Catholicism (and Protestantism for that matter) move onward, I think they are noticing more in each other to appreciate than they have in the last 5 centuries. After all Pope Benedict XVI while not saying Luther was correct, did actually admit this year that justification is by faith alone if this faith is not opposed to love. And then clarified his position as justification by love alone. this is basically where Kreeft lives, so technically he is an orthodox Catholic.

Book 2: "A Ray Of Darkness" by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

It is doubtful that my love for this man's theology, and pastoral writing will ever die. It was almost sufficient to make me Anglican. My continual love of Anglo-Catholicism and my own faith which is usually: the closest views I can hold to Anglicanism within Roman Catholic teaching, make it a predictable book choice.

This book is a compilation of his sermons. Williams is -like Nouwen- one of the most pastoral priests I've ever read. I picked up his book on the Lord's Prayer yesterday at Chapters and started skimming and his thoughts were completely in line with the Catholic nun he co-authored it with and so I figured a kindly Anglo-Catholic like Williams isn't really a danger to me (this claim could easily be contested, but I like to think of myself as an Anglo-Catholic who accepted Papal Infallibility and thus joined the (Roman) Catholic Church)

Monday, August 10, 2009

St. Cyprian: Treatise 1

I was reading St. Cyprian of Carthage's first treatise online ( and I found these quotations interesting:

"how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment? He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation." - Ch. 2 I find it interesting here how he describes man walking towards salvation, and calls the one church 'the way of salvation'.

"[The Devil] seeing his idols forsaken, and his lanes and his temples deserted by the numerous concourse of believers— to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious? He has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity... He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness; so that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle's word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness" - Ch. 3 it's interesting how he says "law of Christ" it goes against the Lutheran Law/Gospel divide, and shows the patristic support for the Catholic Old Law/New Law emphasis.

"If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, I say unto you, that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed my sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins you remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins you retain, they shall be retained; John 20:21 yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her. Song of Songs 6:9 Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God? Ephesians 4:4" - Ch. 4 Interesting here, definately not a modern Catholic exegesis, St. Cyprian argues for the equality of the bishops, but it's funny that in a question of the truth he says it is not necessary for lengthy debates, but merely to look to the Church where truth is taught. Again ecclesiology is the basis of everything.

"...also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated." - Ch. 5 Here St. Cyprian teaches that this one church feeds and nourishes the faithful in a very Catholic view of mediated salvation.

"Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathers not with me scatters. Matthew 12:30 He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, I and the Father are one; John 10:30 and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, And these three are one. 1 John 5:7 And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God's law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation." - Ch. 6 Again anyone breaking the unity of the Church CANNOT be serving Christ according to Cyprian. I like the phrase "celestial sacraments".

"even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and of the unrighteous are already divided, and the chaff is separated from the wheat. These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate" - Ch. 10 Again the episcopate is primary any church without a share in the one episcopate is de facto heretical

"Although there can be no other baptism but one, they (Heretics) think that they can baptize" -Ch. 11 A noteworthy point, here he contradicts soon to be magesterial teaching, Pope Cornelius and eventually Augustine in his view that the sacrament of baptism is only valid within the Catholic Church.

"Nor let any deceive themselves by a futile interpretation, in respect of the Lord having said, Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last words, and lay aside the former ones, remembering part, and craftily suppressing part: as they themselves are separated from the Church, so they cut off the substance of one section. For the Lord, when He would urge unanimity and peace upon His disciples, said, I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that you shall ask, it shall be given you by my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them; showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. If, He says, two of you shall agree on earth: He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully....How can two or three be assembled together in Christ's name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth." -Ch. 12 An interesting early church exegesis of this passage used as a prooftext by non-Catholics, again he asserts that the heretics cannot even agree among themselves (sound familiar?) and that this disunity is a mark of heresy.

"What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?" - Ch. 13 interesting that already in the mid 3rd century there was a belief in the Christian priesthood and the sacrifice of the mass/eucharistic sacrifice

"Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name, that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there. Christ gave us peace; He bade us be in agreement, and of one mind. He charged the bonds of love and charity to be kept uncorrupted and inviolate" - Ch. 14 A very harsh passage condemning heretical martyrs.

"There is need of righteousness, that one may deserve well of God the Judge; we must obey His precepts and warnings, that our merits may receive their reward." - Ch. 15 An interesting note on Merit the apparently Scholastic (or Tridentine) Dogma that somehow slipped into this ante-nicene writing.

"Yet let not the excessive and headlong faithlessness of many move or disturb us, but rather strengthen our faith in the truthfulness which has foretold the matter...Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ's priests, who separates himself from the company of His clergy and people? He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God's appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ's sacrifice, for the faith faithless, for religion profane, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile brother, despising the bishops, and forsaking God's priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord's offering by false sacrifices, and not to know that he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity by divine visitation." -Ch. 17 Very interesting passage where he again mentions the priesthood, the sacrificial nature of the eucharist (twice), and the fact that the liturgy must be authorized.

"they imitate and follow, who, despising God's tradition, seek after strange doctrines, and bring in teachings of human appointment, whom the Lord rebukes and reproves in His Gospel, saying, You reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. Mark 7:9" - Ch. 19 An interesting thought on Tradition, that every group heretical and orthodox has Traditions, but some are "God's tradition" and others are human. So much for this verse as an anti-tradition prooftext for Cyprian.

"Solomon, who, although so long as he walked in God's ways, retained that grace which he had received from the Lord, yet after he forsook the Lord's way he lost also then Lord's grace. And therefore it is written, Hold fast that which you have, lest another take your crown. Revelation 3:11 But assuredly the Lord would not threaten that the crown of righteousness might be taken away, were it not that, when righteousness departs, the crown must also depart." - Ch. 20 Here he teaches the loss of salvation, and by connection intrinsic righteousness.

"He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved, Matthew 10:22 whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained" -Ch. 21 again progressive justification and intrinsic rightousness

"God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces" - Ch. 23 So much for branch theory, Cyprian will have none of it.

The most interesting one:

"But in us unanimity is diminished in proportion as liberality of working is decayed. Then they used to give for sale houses and estates; and that they might lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, presented to the apostles the price of them, to be distributed for the use of the poor. But now we do not even give the tenths from our patrimony; and while our Lord bids us sell, we rather buy and increase our store. Thus has the vigour of faith dwindled away among us; thus has the strength of believers grown weak. And therefore the Lord, looking to our days, says in His Gospel, When the Son of man comes, think you that He shall find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 We see that what He foretold has come to pass. There is no faith in the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in labour; none considers the fear of futurity, and none takes to heart the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God, and the punishments to come upon unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed for the faithless. That which our conscience would fear if it believed, it fears not because it does not at all believe. But if it believed, it would also take heed; and if it took heed, it would escape." Ch. 26 St. Cyprian's quasi-communist / patristic view on private property (possibly contradicted by later Catholic teaching on the inviolability of private property rights). But very interesting in our modern world of Adam Smith to see this church father measuring faithfulness to the gospel with care for the poor.

All in all it isn't a completely Magesterial Catholic treatise, or Orthodox one, but it certainly isn't a Protestant one. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Evening Thoughts

Today yet another Calvinist tried to convert me on facebook (a really amateur one, who didn't even understand the orthodox Protestant theology, but was basically just a disciple of R.C. Sproul) and I felt the same normal annoyance. Yesterday night our family was out for dinner and I was told I wasn't allowed to mention religion as i would 'ruin' the evening. I mentioned politics and came close enough to doing so anyway.

People really hate me, alot. Almost every Calvinist I know, every arch-conservative/American Republican (I'm a conservative in Canada, which makes me a centrist in the states), and every optimist.

I have an incredibly easy life, and I have suffered little in it, but I was just getting annoyed with life today. I just want to live in Quebec or Rome or something, just somewhere where I can be Catholic without having to constantly listen to hellfire condemnations from Prots and just live happily.

The Anglicans and the Lutherans can be so sophisticated when dealing with us Romans, why can't the Reformed (Excluding Jared and Matt) grow up like them?

Philip Yancey wrote something I found interesting the other day. The verb "to Oppress" in English (according to Yancey - I couldn't find this onlin) comes from an English practice where Catholics were placed under a board and then heavy rocks were placed on top of the board, squishing them gradually until they died or recanted. I guess I have it pretty easy compared to my Anglo-Saxon Catholic ancestors in the faith.

I've been thinking about what Pelikan says about the B.V.M. being Mediatrix in medieval Catholic theology and how disgusted he 'sounds' when he writes. But then I realized, 'hey that's the default, that's what the church universally agreed upon, why should I feel bad for believing the consensus of the church?'

Once again I'm reading Tolkien, and a bit of Chesterton, and planning where I'll go to mass tomorrow.

And I don't care about fighting with anyone, I just want everyone to leave the reprobate Catholic alone, and for God to send me some Roman brothers in the faith...but I'm he most likely won't and I'll be writing similar blog posts for annoyed Protestant friends in a year from now.

st. mary star of the sea, pray for me, I entrust myself to your maternal care this evening, may your holiness be an example to me, and may I be reminded of the sufficiency of God's grace.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For The Love Of God

"I have loved you, says the Lord.
But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’" - Malachi 1:2 (NRSV)

Ravi Zacharias preached on this passage the other day, it breaks your heart to think that this is how we humans react to God. God says he loves us an we question "how have you loved us".

A Baptist preacher once told me that we can't love anyone at all unless we see the love Christ has poured on us and allow it to overflow. Our love for God, ourselves, and our neighbour has to come from God, and only then will we be able to love.

I was listening to an exposition of the same preacher on "Splagnidzomai" which he said was the Greek word for compassion. It was the feeling of a churning of the bowels. Jesus is said to have looked at the crowds and have "splagnidzomai". When we understand the compassion and love Christ has for us, it changes our hearts.

This is pretty basic Christianity, but I'm always amazed at how easily I forget it, and how transformative it is. A friend was smoking weed near me once and laughing at my "morality", and he said "Do you think God really cares?". I pointed to the golden crucifix he was wearing and said "he seemed to care enough to die for it (his sin)". Suddenly he was quiet.

St. John of the Cross says that whenever we have difficulty in life, we should look at the cross and be silent. I think that's true, but we should remember the cross for an important reason. Not just asceticism or redemptive suffering, but understand that we were bought at a price. That Jesus freely accepted the cross, he embraced it, because of his love for us. Where Protestantism always emphasized faith, I've found it an interesting change to see how much Catholicism always emphasizes love.

Pope Benedict writes beautifully on the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the mass arguing that the Cross while a place of punishment, should first and foremost be seen as a place of love:

"Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." - John 13:1 (NRSV)

I'm planning on reading the rest of Deus est Caritas, (God is Love) Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical.

Why Are You A Catholic?

a person who is an Anglican (and I think homosexual - in all seriousness, I'm not joking at all - though I don't know why I found that relevant) today asked me "what religion are you today?" and I told him that I'd always been a Christian but that I had joined the Roman Catholic Church. He asked why and I responded that studying history and some theology swayed me. He then asked me what the Anglican Church was and I told him it was formed when Henry VIII broke communion with Rome and that the Church of England eventually adopted Protestant views. That was it.

But I immediately regretted this opportunity and wished for the 'balls' Chesterton had.

When he was asked why he was becoming Roman Catholic he replied:

"to get my sins forgiven"

I don't think I have the courage in today's relativistic world to give that response, but maybe one day I will like the apostle of common sense, 'make the good confession'.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Joys of Catholicism (4) - Saints in Our Midst

I love the stories of great Catholics who have served Christ in ways beyond anything I will probably ever do. here is one example. He isn't a saint (yet), but Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan was a Vietnamese bishop who was imprisoned during the Vietnam war and lived an amazing life in general. When he was imprisoned he celebrated mass in the darkness by memory using 3 drops of wine and 1 drop of water in his palm and tiny pieces of broken bread. When he was transferred out of solitary confinement at one point he wrote:

"When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat, the Hai-Phong, along with 1500 other prisoners and moved us to the North, I said to myself, "Here is my cathedral, here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God's will that I am here. I accept his will". And from that minute onwards, a new peace filled my heart and stayed with me for thirteen years." -Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

here is more of his story:

When I feel like Elijah and that there is no one faithful left, I turn to the saints in our midst, the priests and modern saints of the Church to guide and encourage me that really there are thousands of faithful Catholics for Christ.

Cardinal Thuan is in the process of being canonized, it always gives me faith to hear of the love those suffering servants have and how Christ sustains his faithful even in the most desperate times. He writes that one night he wanted to share something with his captors/guards but he had nothing and suddenly the thought came to him: "You are still very rich. You have the love of Christ in your heart. Love them as Jesus loves you". And so he did, and eventually befriended his guards.

I don't think I could do it, I'd probably lose my faith in prison or in intense suffering, I don't think I'm spiritually mature enough to take that kind of suffering for the kingdom. Fr. Henri Nouwen writes in his Genessee diary the same thing as he meditates on the persecuted peoples of the world.

Cardinal Thuan pray that Christ would fill me with his love as he did with you, may I like you be granted the faith, hope, and charity to endure trials for the sake of the gospel and to love my enemies.

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" - 2 Timothy 3:12

Monday, August 3, 2009

Theological Idiot

I realize as I try to read through Aquinas on concupiscence, nature and grace, etc I am totally idiotic. All the Reformed people post mocking Protestant converts to Catholicism like me who read similar "fools" like Steve Ray and Dave Armstrong, etc.

My Aristotelian Moral Philosophy class in University has given me a bit of mileage in understanding Aquinas, but it as all so systematic and complex that I doubt I will ever fully have a systematic Catholic theology. My anti-systematic theology Mennonite ancestors might be proud of that. But I guess that's ok.

"We are fools for Christ's sake" (KJV) Saint Paul says in 1 Cor 4:10. I have an icon of St. Francis of Assisi that my friend Lance gave me, and an "action figure" or him my mom bought for me in Assisi when they went to Italy. I have it as a little shrine in my bathroom with a candle and matches which I have to hide when Protestant company comes to visit. I never really liked St. Francis as much as others I knew because he seemed so theologically lacking, but now as I realize I too am a fool, I feel more akin to the saint.

And as much as I think St. Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic tradition is extremely brilliant, I tend to like Pope Benedict's patristic and biblical Augustinian approach. I think it's because I know the bible the best out of all these sources which I seem to barely know at all. I also like reading people who are in touch with the realities of life. Aristotle, Plato and Aquinas are brilliant men, but I always feel like they lacked the normalcy and everyday reality of ministers and priests.

I love reading Chesterton because he's a man with no formal education but is a genius as well. He had such common sense and wit that I find his defenses of Catholicism, while maybe overly simplistic, to be very effective.

Reformed & Catholic Theology

As I attempt to go through the Westminster Confession of Faith and try to find harmony with Roman Catholicism, I realize how futile the effort is and how much better others are at it. The blog linked on my sidebar "Called To Communion" does just this. It is written by Reformed converts to Catholicism who are very well educated theology guys. They focus on a kind of Thomistic, closest-to-Reformed-theology-possible-within-magesterial-teaching approach and show Roman Church Teaching from a Protestant perspective. It's kind of like Peter Kreeft.

I really like the blog and it is clarifying alot for me.

Their blog on assurance was very helpful:

and I'm trying to get through their series on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent:

I find whenever I read their blogs or the quotes they have from Aquinas, it reassures me in my Catholicism to the point where I continually promise myself that one day I will force myself through all of Aquinas' theology and be better for it.

Westminster Confession (Attempt Two) - Chapter 2

It sucks doing this series on the Westminster Confession of Faith because in the first chapter Roman Catholics and Presbyterians (and Reformed Baptists as they claim a heritage in WCF) disagree upon. The second chapter I was pleased to see, is to my knowledge, absolutely in agreement with Catholic teaching on God (please correct me if I am wrong, the phrase "not deriving any glory from them" might contradict teaching on saints and merit). It is so beautiful, I will simply post the whole thing:

"I. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

II. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son."

Westminster Confession (Attempt Two) - Chapter One

*Note if you want to avoid the same sort of generic neo-Catholic criticism of Westminster which will be included here, and just see what I liked, just skip to the bottom to read the stuff under the heading "What I Enjoyed"*

I attempted to get through the Westminster Confession of Faith, long ago, but gave up after I completely disagreed with the first chapter, I'm going to try again and to get through it. I'm doing this for 3 reasons:

1. To understand the traditional Reformed doctrines
2. To possibly find some articles we are unified on (Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants)
3. To get all the Reformed people who read my blog to leave comments and give them some (false?) hope that I might eventually depart from my apostate Romanism.

here we go:

Chapter 1: a strange place to start

Articles I-III.

so it starts a bit with Natural Theology but declares that all Natural Theology can do is convict of sin and not save. It then says that God wished to declare his will unto the Church and that eventually he decided "to commit the same (his will) wholly unto writing". They use a strange prooftext from proverbs for this, and lump it together with protecting the Church from Satan, and thus get to use all the Matthew 4 Jesus against Satan "it is written" dialogues.

Articles II and III list the canonical books as inspired and the deuterocanonical books as uninspired, but list it arbitrarily and with no reason at all. The problem is, that every sola scriptura prooftext keeps point to the Old Testament, and if we were biblical literalists I suppose we would have to only have the Old Testament and not the new one. But even the Saduccees show that the 'amount' of inspiration is never agreed upon in Judaism, and thus they only believed the Law and denied the resurrection of the body which only appeared in later Old Testament Scripture.

I suppose if a Jew read Westminster he'd be equally confused that a Presbyterian was using it for proof, when the verses they cited showed that God had fully revealed his Word in the Law, and in the prophets.

But the Canon issue is the prize-winning horse of Roman Catholicism, whereas it is the bleeding sore of Protestantism.

Articles IV-V:

Articles IV and V say that it is to be believed because it is the Word of God and not based on human authority. But what would they base this on other than the "feeling" of divine inspiration while reading it. But again who feels inspired when reading Chronicles, surely Tobit is more inspiring. And what about other 'holy books' like the Qu'ran and the book of Mormon, many feel they are inspired as well. At the end of the day we're all left sitting with different books and no agreement. I guess God's "immutable will" as Westminster constantly repeats, didn't think of that. It also calls the feeling of the Holy Spirit infallible proof, but this doesn't account for the diverse claims of disagreeing Christians and non-Christians (Mormons, etc) who believe that the Spirit is testifying to them, and who seem to lead regenerate lives.

Articles VI-VII

Article VI says that nothing can be added to scripture by the traditions of men, etc. But what about Calvinism ? or Covenant Systematic Theology? or Infant Baptism based on Covenant Theology and Church Tradition? So the prooftexts are the usual suspects (2 Tim 3:15-16) which again supports a view of the sufficiency of the Old Testament (the New Testament wasn't even all written at the time, so it would be "adding" to the canon to include the later epistles of John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, and Revelation) and Gal 1:8-9 which is a much better prooftext, and then 2 Thes 2:2, the problem being that in the same chapter St. Paul says "stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter." (2 Thes 2:15) so it completely repudiates their ban on traditions of men.

Finally in Article VII we see a beam of light. "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all" very true the Ethiopian eunuch even though he had Isaiah, couldn't understand it without Philip. Then is says: "yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are... clearly propounded". If they mean here what I think they do, then this is a problem. If they're speaking of salvation by faith alone as being obvious to anyone, I would say this is a problem from Church history as they should have looked around them to see that there were Anglicans, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, and Quakers all reading the bible and disagreeing. The 3 "different" views of salvation could be summed up as Calvinism, Arminianism (sometimes Pelagianism in the Anglican Church), and Universalism. All with their own proof-texts. But yes, I will give it to them, all agreed on salvation by faith alone, and even Catholicism eventually 'realized' that it was in the deposit of faith as well lol (see Joint Declaration on Justification) so that at the end of the day we all agreed that initial justification was based on faith alone and God's reckoning it as righteousness. But of course, the Catholics and Arminians believed it could be lost, and the Calvinists and Universalists/Quakers disagreed. And the Calvinists thought that the faith meritted Christ's imputed righteousness which was actually what made the person righteous, whereas the Catholics and Arminians believed it was the faith itself which was seen as righteousness.

All this again to say, it doesn't seem clear at all how salvation specifically is obtained, but we all agree it has something to do with God and faith and Jesus. I personally think they should've started with Election/Predestination and argued fom Augustine and scripture, but that's just me.

Articles VIII-X

Describing the fact that the scriptures are written in Greek and Hebrew (they forgot to list Aramaic but whatever), they say that all people "have right unto...the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come". This is a valid point of Westminster. ...Except the Douay-Rhiems was started by Roman Catholics before the King James... so this really isn't a victory for Protestantism, except that they used better sources than us / anything but the Vulgate.

Article IX compounds the problem of perspicuity by saying that scripture interprets scripture, for if we can't understand one, how to we know with certainty we can interpret another?

On Article X it repeats this idea that the Holy Spirit teaches men through scripture. And remember only through Canonical scripture. But again, no mention of how the New Testament was arrived at.

The Work of the Spirit

If God had meant to actually preserve his perfect will in the books listed as scripture in the WCF, what would he have to have done?

2 events would have been key.

The first would've been the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the Old Testament Canon decided in the Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90) which was held by Jews after Pentecost and which condemned the Christian gospels. So we would have to believe that God partially infallibly inspired a non-Christian council to set up his Old Testament Canon.

Second, we'd have to believe that the Christian New Testament Canon was established by the Holy Spirit in St. Athanasius' festal letter (A.D. 367) which lists the New Testament Canon but gets the Old Testament canon "wrong" (according to WCF) by not including Esther and by including an apocryphal book.

So those would have to be the 2 definative moments of history where God revealed his will to the Church, both being partially wrong, and one being in an anti-Christian body. It could have happened, who am I to judge the providence of God?, but it just seems a bit unreasonable and inefficient.

What I Enjoyed

The English Protestants have something in their blood I think, it's this boldness and certainty, the reliance on God alone that stirs my soul. It's bible-centred and I think this emphasis of the Westminster Divines if not completely absent from the Roman Church, was at least dormant. The Church from Trent to Vatican II seemed to be centred on Medieval Scholasticism as if the Thomistic tradition was apostolic tradition. The birth of resourcement theology (emphasis on scripture and the fathers) and the changes, and changes of emphasis of Vatican II (vernacular liturgy, scripture reading added to confession - though they don't actually do this one) were in the same Protestant spirit I see. But as soon as a Catholic writes the words "Vatican II" and "spirit" the Traditionalist Catholic trolls come out, and the Traditional Protestants start screaming about Trent this and Trent that, violently holding onto the dogma that the Roman Church can never remove this and so they will never have to try to reunite the Church.

oh boy. In the end, I guess while I stil have a very Roman Catholic framework and while I listed all those issues, I still like the WCF and it reminds me of how Chesterton says Protestantism is like Patriotism, it just sweeps you up into these partisan emotions that are kind of fun, because you feel like the elect, and you feel like everyone else is a bug that must be squashed. This is sounding really mean, I really didn't start this to offend Reformed Christians, it just seems to happen alot, I'll try and do better next time.