Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why I cannot be a Protestant Christian (Part 1): Authority

I'm not doing this to be bitter or angry, Jared Nelson has advanced my faith probably more than any Christian I've ever met before, and I'm sure he'll have alot less purgatory time than I (barring indulgences) *joke. But in reading some of his latest posts I've realized that in the same way that he could never be a Roman Catholic I could never be a Protestant.

Sola Scriptura as Heretical Authority

"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life... Yet you refuse to come to me to have life" - John 5:39-40

Here is an outline of Peter Kreeft's argument from "Catholic Christianity":

"a. No Christian before Luther ever taught it, for the first sixteen Christian centuries.
b. The first generation of Christians did not even have the New Testament.
c. Without the Catholic Church to interpret Scripture authoritatively, Protestantism has divided into more than twenty thousand different "churches" or denominations.
d. If Scripture is infallible, as traditional Protestants believe, then the Church must be infallible too, for a fallible cause cannot produce an infallible effect, and the Church produced the Bible. The Church (apostles and saints) wrote the New Testament, and the Church (subsequent bishops) defined it's canon.
e. Scripture itself calls the Church "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15)
f. And Scripture itself never teaches sola scriptura. thus sola scriptura is self-contradictory. If we are to believe only Scripture, we should not believe sola scriptura"

For these and other reasons I cannot except Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), as it is a Tradition of Men (Mk 7:7).

I have NEVER heard one good Protestant argument for Sola Scriptura, never. I'm actually sad, I've bought multiple books involving it's discussion. The most honest one I've read is "Christ and the Bible" by Wenham, an Anglican, who honestly says in the end that without the Roman Catholic Church we can't trust the bible - which of course is what St. Augustine said when he wrote: ""If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the gospel, what would you [Mani] answer him when he says, 'I do not believe'? Indeed, I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so" (Against the Letter of Mani Called 'The Foundation' 5:6).

Oral Tradition as Authoritative

"I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you" - 1 Corinthians 11:2

"...there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the Apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings" - St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23[31] [A.D. 400]).

This fact I was taught by Philip Wilson, the Acts of the Apostles contains the phrase 'Word of God' 12 times, now which passages of scripture are these phrases directed to you may ask? NONE, every time Word of God appears, it is in description of Apostolic Teaching. SOME of which is recorded in Scripture. However the dual natures of Christ, the Trinity, etc, is all in apostolic teaching. As Jared argues well in his post: that Authoritative Tradition is a doctrine of Scripture.

Nowhere does Christ say for the apostles to write down scripture, nowhere does he say that some day 'the bible' will come and it will be the Regula Fidei. You'd assume that Our Lord would at least allude to or mention it if he planned on it being the Centre (I'm Canadian it's not a typo) of our faith. Instead he tells the Apostles to teach, the apostles appoint bishops (Acts 1:20 "Let another take his [Judas'] position of bishop"). This is what the Word of God testifies to, a group of Bishops ruling, with St. Peter's successor holding Primacy.

Creeds as Authoritative
Ecumenical councils are seen as binding interpretations of Scripture and declarations of doctrine based on the bible as well as the Oral Tradition of the Church. Arguably, the greatest of the ecumenical councils and the most strategically important in the combat of heresies mentions nothing about Scripture. It's odd that once again the 'rule of faith' is overlooked. Certainly it is used, and each point is more or less based on Scripture, however the Creed itself says nothing about adhering to Scripture, and infallibly interprets many items of the faith which Protestantism denies: some phrases that come to mind are "One baptism for the remission of sins" and "one holy catholic and apostolic".

Magesterium as Authoritative

"if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. " - God the Holy Spirit (via St. Paul in 1 Tim 3:15)

"I believe that it is equally true that the authority of the Scriptures alone surpasses the united opinions of all men. But the controversy
here does not concern the value of the Scriptures: both parties accept and venerate the same books. The conflict concerns the meaning of the Scriptures. Now I hear the objection: "What need is there for interpretation when the Scripture is entirely clear?" But if it is so clear, why have such eminent men groped so blindly and for so many centuries in such an important matter, as our adversaries claim?" - Erasmus of Rotterdam

"The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189])." -St. Irenaeus

The problem is mentioned here where Protestantism is left 'groping in the dark' as St. Paul said for there are over 15 prominent interpretations / denominations and which is true. Catholics usually say there are 30000 denominations, but I would like to say that in reality there are about 10-20 main interpretations or systems. The problem is that there must be one, and only one can be accurate. Each Protestant System's interpretations (ex. Sola Fide) are foreign to the Early Church and thus I cannot accept them as Authoritative.

"speaking of this as he [St. Paul] does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures." -2 Peter 3:16

Ironically St. Irenaeus says that the heretics are the ones who back their opinions with faulty interpretations of Scripture and that the only true test of Orthodoxy is that of Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Succession.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Muggeridge vs Modernism

"In an increasingly materialistic world they [Cistercian monks] are non-productive citizens . . . By all the laws of Freud and the psycho-prophets, the monks are depriving themselves of the sensual satisfactions which alone make a whole life possible; they ought to be up the wall and screaming. Actually, . . . it is the children of affluence, not deprived monks, who howl and fret in psychiatric wards." - Malcolm Muggeridge (Jesus Rediscovered)

"The greatest artists, saints, philosophers and, until quite recent times, scientists, through the Christian centuries, . . . have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid, and that the great drama of the Incarnation which embodies it, is indeed the master-drama of our existence. To suppose that these distinguished believers were all credulous fools whose folly and credulity in holding such beliefs has now been finally exposed, would seem to me untenable; and anyway I'd rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr Johnson, Blake and Dostoevsky than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw." (Vintage Muggeridge)

For those of you knowledgable in the blogging world, yes I did just totally jack something off of Dave Armstrong's blog:

Hilaire Belloc & Ecumenism

"Those of us who boast so stable an endowment make no claim thereby to personal peace; we are not saved thereby alone .... But we are of so glorious a company that we receive support, and have communion. The Mother of God is also our own. Our dead are with us. Even in these our earthly miseries we always hear the distant something of an eternal music, and smell a native air. There is a standard set for us whereto our whole selves respond, which is that of an inherited and endless life, quite full, in our own country. You may say, “all that is rhetoric.” You would be wrong, for it is rather vision, recognition, and testimony. But take it for rhetoric. Have you any such? Be it but rhetoric, whence does that stream flow? Or what reserve is that which can fill even such a man as myself with fire? Can your opinion (or doubt or gymnastics) do the same? I think not! One thing in this world is different from all others. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized and (when recognized) most violently hated or loved. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it is the night."

I'm not trying to proselatize or start a fight, I just read this quote and thought it was very interesting, I've re-read it a few times now and am thinking about it and whether or not I agree with it... I post it only as food for thought.

Now he is being polemically Catholic, and I know that route is popular among the Traditionalists, but I don't favor that as much as Ecumenism. I want to switch gears at this point in the blog, I am glad that Catholics can be that proud of their establishments, indeed I believe them to be the truest establishments, but I have lived to long with God fearing Protestants to believe they have no inspiration or rhetoric of their own. So I want to show how this quote is a beautiful quote in part for all Christians. "Even in these our earthly miseries we always hear the distant something of an eternal music, and smell a native air". That line brings to my mind immediately one of my favourite portions of the bible, the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:

"By faith he [Abraham] stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents... For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.... They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland... they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. " (NRSV)
Scripture is our joint Liturgy and source of rhetoric, we can all rally behind that.
As the Liturgy of the Eucharist sings: "in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours Almighty Father, forever, and ever."
May Christians of all kinds find the sweet fragrance of our Lord in the miseries of life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

St. Ignatius and Bishops

St. Ignatius of Antioch (50-117AD *at the latest) was a bishop in the VERY early Church, he was the 3rd in line of succession to the apostles themselves as bishop of Antioch meaning that the church there was ruled by St. Peter then Evodius, then Ignatius, he was a friend of Polycarp (a disciple/successor of St. John himself, who lived with and was taught by Christ).

All this to say, he was in very early church history. By the end of the second century there were bishops over the priesthood/presbyteries in all areas of Christendom.

"Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself" - St. Ignatius (epistle to the Ephesians 6:1.)

"It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil." - Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 9

"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. " -Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8

In the beginning of Acts we see Judas' place in the apostles filled in with the Consecration of Matthias in his place. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Traditional Anglican teaching say that this is the first consecration of a bishop, and thus has the line of bishops proceeded until this very day, and that in essence they are the successors to the apostles, not equal in power or authority, but authorized as their successors, and as such have the authority to cast out demons (authorize exorcisms), interpret Scripture (church councils/ecumenical councils, as well as things like the Lambeth conference), discipline the church and excommunicate (see Catholic bishops and Pro-Choice politicians), and appoint priests.

St. Irenaeus said that the bishop had "charisma veritatis certum" - that is "an infallible charism (gift) of truth", and St. Cyrian... well we all know what he thought about them. And clearly St. Ignatius challenges the idea that we can have a valid priesthood/pastorate, Eucharist/Communion, or any assurance of truth without being subordinate to a bishop in the line of the apostles. So the question is -for one who respects the Tradition of the Early Church- Catholic? Orthodox? Anglican? (or European Lutheran)?

sorry Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism, you've been put on notice! (as St. Stephen Colbert would say)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Works Righteousness"

Today I had to listen to a Reformed Pastor wax theological about 'Romanism' in the pulpit. He said in typical 'Geneva-ist' style that Catholics teach 'Works Righteousness' that is absolutely nowhere in the bible. Now to be fair, even good Calvinists know that works righteousness is in the bible, after all Calvin proposed that the Old Covenant was the covenant of works. But as I sat there in church I went through the pew bible finding all the verses which contradicted his statement, there are indeed many new testament passages which show the place of Good works, or the Law of Christ - which is Love, and it's role in salvation. Remember as St. Paul says himself, the greatest virtue is Love (not Faith), and Christ said the greatest commandment was to Love, Love is a work, it is the perfect fulfillment to the law as Romans says, and as such, has a place in our salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith and works/love.

"having been made perfect, he [Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him" -Hebrews 5:9

"They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’"- John 14:21

"Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books."- Revelation 20:12

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up."-Galatians 6:7-9

"But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. " -James 2:18-26

"the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. " - 1 Corinthians 3:13-17

"To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you" - 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" - Philippians 2:12

"Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him’, but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him’, ought to walk just as he walked."- 1 John 2:3-6

"all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. " - 1 John 3:3

"You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" - Leviticus 19:2

"Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous" - 1 John 3:7

"How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him" - 1 John 3:17-19

"All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them." - 1 John 3:24

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. " - Matthew 5:48

"A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments...He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." - Luke 18:18-22

"inherit the kingdom [Heaven] prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”" -Matthew 25:34-40


"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" - James 1:17

"for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" - Philippians 2:13

"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. " -Ephesians 2:10

Thus we are saved by grace through faith - but what type of a faith? a working faith, or faith and works, or as St. Paul says: "faith working in love" (galatians 5:8)

"In Christ Alone" - Theological Fallacies

Today I was at a Reformed church and we sang a hymn called "In Christ Alone", I used to play that song for worship at my church and at bible school. It is an encouraging and uplifting song, and it is effective in teaching St. Anselm's satisfaction theory of the atonement, however, it is truly theologically inept in my opinion. As is the whole idea of "Solus Christus". It's not wrong because Jesus is bad or anything, it's just wrong because it denies the true Trinitarian nature of God and the theological understanding that Scripture and the Traditions of the Church teach.

"In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my comforter" - Actually the role of the Holy Ghost is to strengthen believers. In John's gospel in the upper room discourse Jesus calls the Holy Spirit 'the comforter', not himself. And truly without the grace given to us by the Holy Ghost, none of us would find hope in Christ. St. Paul teaches in Romans that the Spirit gives us life, and that His special role in the Godhead is this, and the evangelistic role of convicting the world of sin, and drawing people to Christ in the first place. So by singing "In Christ Alone" we're actually dismissing the role of the Holy Ghost.

Without God the Father, we couldn't have been created, and the song says "Jesus commands my destiny" and correct me if I'm wrong, but God the Father actually chooses to elect some and not others. So again it confuses Jesus' role with that of God the Father.

"in the death of Christ I live" - St. Paul says that "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Rm 6:4) It is in the resurrection that we live, we are raised with him, we are Baptized into his death (Rm 6:3).

That's about all I feel like nitpicking at for now. But basically Christians try to sound good by saying "Jesus only" but really that's not even what Jesus wanted. He said that he was only concerned with doing the will of the Father. He also said that it was good for Him to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come and be with us. So while it makes for a good attempt at appearing Christo-centric, it is really a mutation of true Christo-centrism, which grasps the real Trinitarian nature of God.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sin and Reconciliation

A friend of mine who is a Pastor's daughter once said her father was accused of only preaching the same message, and he responded that it was not his choice, but God's, and that God had only told him to speak on that issue.

In my own personal religious life, a similar situation has occured. I am unable to overcome a sin, the proverbial thorn in the flesh, and God and/or Satan has plagued me (see 1 Chron 21 vs 2 Sam 24) with this constant recognition of my great sin, and thus if I am to write theology, I should write on sin, as it is what I am being taught, through my own faillures.

"Many years ago, in the British TIMES newspaper, the editor asked for comments on what was wrong with the world. Among the many letters which came back to him, was the shortest ever letter to a newspaper editor. It read, 'Dear Sir, I am, Yours faithfully....' The writer was G. K. Chesterton, well-known author of such books as 'Father Brown'. He had put in two words what many of us took years to find out. He meant that what is wrong with the world is a problem of the human heart. The problem is - I am wrong inside. We are all wrong inside. " -(

I admire Chesterton for his honesty and the truth of the statement. Romans 3:23 reminds us 'For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" NIV (Catholics pull the Calvinist card out here and read 'all' as 'some', or 'all ... except Mary', and of course we all believe it 'should' read 'all ...except Jesus')

The real point without bringing Marian theology into the equation is that we have all sinned. Sin is a universal reality.

"For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. " - Ecclesiastes 12:14

" I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done." - Revelation 20:12-13

"I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it." - Saint Anselm of Canterbury

I've been trying to learn the 'De Profundis', an ancient monastic liturgical prayer in latin, based on Psalm 130. Thus far I have "De Profundis Clamavi Ad Te Domine" [Out of the depths to you I cry Lord]. There are other verses in the Psalm which says "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?...For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities."

Thus God gives us Christ who dies the atoning death and by his blood a propitiation is offered to the Father in forgiveness. Of course the debate is over how this sacrifice is applied to us, forensically, or actually. I again don't feel like entering into this debate right now.

I'd like to focus on 2 things in Christ's commands in the gospels and the pre-Pauline new testament. In these we see 2 ways Jesus, or the Church, describes as ways of absolving sin instantly.

1. Repentence/Confession. In the story of the Tax collector and the Pharisee the famous prayer 'Lord have mercy on me a sinner' is prayed by the sinful tax collector, and Christ says 'that man went home justified'. Likewise Christ gives to the apostles the power to forgive or retain the sins of individuals on his behalf (John 20:23).

2. Baptism. Acts 2:38, the first sermon of the Church given by Pope St. Peter, or Peter, or Simon - The guy has alot of names - but the point is when he says "'Repent, and be baptized ... for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The other day my Uncle was waxing philosophical about how the greatest sin of the Catholic Church was infant baptism, I doubt he knew that the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Coptic Churches along with every church before 1500 AD baptized infants. The ironic thing in the early church for those arguing in favor of adult baptism from those cases of people being baptized later in life, is that Constantine and others - many others - in the early church, believed that baptism forgave you of all your sins, so it was best to do it right before you died, to 'make sure' that they were forgiven. That's where the debate raged. So ironically, the people believed so strongely in regenerative baptism that they didn't want to baptize infants at first, thinking that forgiveness was a difficult thing to come by later in life - hence the growth of the sacrament of Penance (or whatever happier modern name you call it).

So I've been baptized, and I wait for Confession, it can't come soon enough.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

J.R.R Tolkien & Eucharistic Theology

I've become more fascinated with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien and in particular their theology of the gospel and myth, etc. But I started to read the other day a bunch of quotes from Tolkien about the Eucharist and how it was basically the centre of his faith (as Christ should be).

These quotes are from a letter of Tolkien to his son who was struggling with his Catholic faith.

"I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church (which for me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe any more, even if I had never met any one in orders who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call Our Lord a fraud to His face.... I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him without grave blame. (however, He alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.) The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by excercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals"

later in the letter Tolkien makes these claims about Protestantism:

"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and rearising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. 'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched – 'the blasphemous fable of the Mass' – and faith/works a mere red herring."

These are some strong words but I think it's so fascinating how Communion meant so much to Tolkien, at all the tough times, it was what kept him there. I once read that Tolkien was furious with C.S. Lewis for not including a reference to the Eucharist in the Narnia books. Tolkien said to Lewis that any attempt to tell Christ's passion narritive without mentioning the institution of the Lord's Supper, was a failed attempt.

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires...:"

Finally Tolkien writes:

"I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning – and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it. I brought you all up [his children] ill and talked to you too little. Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practise my religion...I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer (the Hælend as the Saviour was usually called in Old English) shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry Benedictus qui venit in nomme Domini. [Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord] (from the Psalms and the Triumphal entry, and the Mass)"

Tolkien attended Mass every morning (as a child) and helped out as an altar boy and later as a server, he was raised by a Catholic priest.

"...happy are those who are called to his supper..." - Liturgy of the Eucharist (Novus Ordo)

Dinner Table In Heaven

So I made a new banner for this blog, and I was just thinking, if I had one wish when I got to Heaven, it's that I'd get to sit at a table for dinner one night (if there is food, and night) with Ravi Zacharias, St. Augustine, St. Paul, John Wesley, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. They're my heroes, and have contributed so much to my faith. I also hope Philip, Jared, and I will be able to finally figure out who is right in our debate and be able to sit in fellowship as well.

There is None Augustinian - No Not Even One...

"...while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in his sight" - Council of Trent (ch.5 in the 6th session)

"The Council of Trent tried to steer a course on the razor's edge between semi-Pelagianism and Reformed thought. It is arguable that they cut themselves on that razor." - R.C. Sproul "Faith Alone" (p.113)

"John Piper is bad" - Rev. John Piper

One realizes in the Catholic-Protestant debates that the Augustine-Pelagius debates take a centre stage. Many times I greatly dislike St. Augustine - don't get me wrong, he's a great theologian, and I loved his confessions. However it seems he caused too many problems. I can see why some Orthodox don't even think him a saint and think him more heterodox or heretical, than defender of Christian orthodoxy. One Orthodox theologian I read, said the problem with Augustine is that he wasn't consistent, he changed his mind as time went on, and that's why he wrote the retractions. This theologian said that many times people on opposite sides of the debate would quote St. Augustine in their favour and disagree when in actuality, Augustine contradicted himself. This would certainly make sense in my opinion, as Augustine has been cited by people from pretty much every theological camp in existence.

On Jared's blog he has a quote from Augustine's commentary on John 6:44 and it shows that Augustine taught irresistible grace, but I could come up with other quotes from 'grace and freewill' that would probably contradict it. As R.C. Sproul shows us in his polemical - but fair- book, is that the Catholic Church originally took this position of Augustinianism in the Council of Orange, however in Trent they took a semi-Pelagian position (almost identical actually in many ways to John Wesley and Methodist theology, with the whole prevenient grace and semi-Pelagianism).

But like any good portion of history the Catholics always have a loophole, the Council of Orange was local and not ecumenical, hence it can't be seen as infallible. They always find a way...

Thus I find Catholicism not Augustinian.

The Calvinist view which Jared has educated me on, makes alot of sense, and I'd be quick to side with them if I just went on emotion rather than reason (as Total Depravity gives me a good excuse for most things). However I have shown before that other Church Fathers such as St. Gregory of Nyssa clearly contradict this narrow or limited view of free-will, indeed St. Augustine I believe is the only one near it.

Thus I find Calvinism not Augustinian.

...And once again the Orthodox win the argument as the Western Christians squabble for 1000 years about the theology of one man.

...But Orthodoxy and Calvinism lose in the catholicity test... so Catholicism wins by default, according to my arbitrary arbitration.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Incarnation (Romano Guardini)

"Revelation shows that the merely unitarian God found in post-Christian Judaism, in Islam, and throughout the modern consciousness does not exist. At the heart of that mystery which the Church expresses in her teaching of the trinity of persons in the unity of life stands the God of Revelation…Son of God become man – not only descended to inhabit a human frame, but ‘become’ man – literally; and in order that no possible doubt arise…John specifies sharply: Christ “was made flesh.” Only in the flesh, not in the bare spirit, can destiny and history come into being; this is a fact to which we shall often return. God descended to us in the person of the Savior, Redeemer, in order to have a destiny, to become history. Through the Incarnation, the founder of the new history stepped into our midst. With his coming, all that had been before fell into its historical place “before the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” anticipating or preparing for that hour; all that was to be, faced the fundamental choice between acceptance and rejection of the Incarnation. He “dwelt among us,” “pitched his tent among us,” as one translation words it. “Tent” of the Logos – what is this but Christ’s body: God’s holy pavilion among men, the original tabernacle of the Lord in our Midst…Somewhere between that eternal beginning and the temporal life in the flesh lies the mystery of the Incarnation” – From “The Lord” by Romano Guardini

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Unity of the Church

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

"[After quoting Matthew 16:18f; John 21:15ff]...On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigned a like power to all the Apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church [first edition] 4, c. AD 251)

I have recently been either progressing or regressing - depending on where you stand - towards Roman Catholicism or away from Protestantism. Ironically reading R.C. Sproul's fair explanation of Justification according to Rome, I have realized that I agree with it for the most part. (every once in a while the sudden urge to shout Sola Fide nearly overwhelms me, but I'm living with it now)

My Point:
My point basically is this Reformed/Calvinistic Protestantism offers a biblically coherent model for Justification. Catholicism offers a biblically (and traditionally) coherent model of Justification/Sanctification. Here is the difference that makes EVERYTHING when deciding on the church for me: which is the 'real' church. Obviously both sides have great manifestations of Christ such as Thomas Aquinas and John Wesley, obviously God works in both. But in the form of a question one Orthodox apologist posed to me: Which is the church that the apostles would recognize? Which is the faith for which the martyrs died? Which has protected the unity of the church and can without equivocation be called "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic". The clear answer to me is Catholicism.

While many scholars (even Catholics like Hans Kung) will show that there have been many problems in the church, there is a clear winner I think. It's not so much that I love Pope Benedict XVI or I love the Priesthood as much as it is that I love the Church, and I believe firmly in the unity of the Church, I'm siding with Erasmus here in saying that Reform is needed, but from the inside. And as St. Cyprian shows us above, the communion of Rome is the Ancient Christian church.

Monday, August 11, 2008

St. Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians pt.1

I have begun to try to study the works of the Apostolic fathers. Today I read the first 23 chapters of St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians. I went to see whether Protestantism was completely foreign to them, or which side of the justification debate they found themselves on. Now obviously it is anachronist to try reading an ancient source in order to answer a debate occuring some 13 centuries later, however it gives me a glimpse. Thus far I see Clement as supporting Luther/not teaching sanctification as a necessary part of salvation.

Interesting excerpts:

"Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; (Jonah iii) but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God." (Ch7)

"Abraham, styled the friend, was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father's house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. (Ch10)"

"Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God (Ch10)"

Another person not putting the dicotemy between Abraham's faith and works - I really wish Clement would pick a side, we're at doctrinal war here people. In the first part he says obedience, then he says faith.

"On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved" (Ch11)

"On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved" (Ch12)

"Moreover, they gave her [Rahab] a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. You see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman." (Ch12)

"For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him [he then quotes Isaiah 53]." (Ch15)

Ouch Renaissance Popes.

"let us look steadfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from the wrath He is towards all His creation." (Ch19)

"Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us" (Ch21)

"All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Ch32)"

Soteriology: The Blood of Christ

All in all Clement's Soteriology seems to be the same as St. Paul's in Romans, have faith in God and Christ's sacrifice, you will then be saved, and will be rewarded for good works. This is the Protestant interpretation basically, though nothing St. Clement says contradicts Catholicism. He also doesn't mention anything about being a Pope which probably would've helped him have alot more influence. Mary didn't get any shout-outs either. It reaffirms my beliefs that early Christianity was not distinctly anything other than Christian, they were worried about getting people to still believe in Christ and his sacrifice, rather than argue about Purgatory which I'm 95% sure would have been a foreign concept to them. Though I haven't studied it in-depth and can't be sure.

He continually mentions the Blood of Christ, as our propitiation. This reminds me of my Baptist days and the old Hymn 'Nothing but the Blood of Jesus'.


St. Clement like St. Paul (in Ephesians 2:10) says that we are to trust in God's providence. We are saved "through the operation of his will". It's this idea that I see as being alot more of a core Christian doctrine. It's as though we are to trust in God's providence and unchangeable will that we will be saved and we will rise again like Christ. Whereas I see the Lutheran doctrine of single unconditional predestination/election at work in this letter and in Ephesians. As oppossed to St. Thomas Aquinas' view of Election. I've never like Aquinas' one theory that God has predestined some to be saved and then lose their salvation. That always turned me off, and that's why I mention the Lutheran doctrine of predestination as - in my opinion - being closer to what Paul and Clement had in mind.

Scripture / Old Testament

The letter uses probably 90% Old Testament quotes and examples to prove his point. Many strange metaphorical interpretation of verses / taking verses out of context, like Paul and other New Testament writers. I'm not saying 'out of context' as meaning 'wrong' just that they must be read 'metaphorically' or anachronistically to be about what is currently happening.

An interesting thing I note is that repeatedly St. Clement says "the Holy Ghost says" and then quotes the Old Testament or New Testament, or writes 'as the Spirit proclaims:' and then quotes the bible. This shows immediately the recognition of certain Scripture as God the Holy Ghost speaking Himself, meaning it is by nature infallible (as God cannot lie). This proves quite useful in establishing the doctrine of the Authority and Inspiration of the Bible.

As well like every other theologian and Christian writer I've seen up until even past the Reformation, he quotes the Apocrypha alongside Scripture making no seperation between the two. However this is not proof it is scripture, after all St. Paul quotes Cretian poets, and I believe it was Justin Martyr who quoted in one text I read, almost exclusively from different plays and dramas of the ancient world. I guess you just use what you got. Make lemonade out of whatever resembles lemons.


All in all I enjoy St. Clement, he reminds me alot of Paul who apparently mentions him in his epistles according to Jared's blog - from which I stole alot of information. It is good to read the Church Fathers - especially the Apostolic Fathers, as I constantly hear from Catholics 'show me one Protestant idea in them' - which I now can. And I have found them truly uninvolved in later debates. No matter what Christian Tradition you are in, Clement's letter reminds us of the importance of unity, faith, and a working love for God.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Good Gift

Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Good Gift, is extremely important. For example, Christ says of it 'this is my body - this is my blood' and in John 6 Jesus says:
"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink."
As well, I read this passage the other day and was astonished again, it's St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 discussing the abuses of the Eucharist (to Protestants, no this does not mean the Corinthians weren't using Welch's Grape Juice and Goldfish crackers, and to the Catholics no this does not mean they were using a priest from SSPX)

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against
themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some
have died

To me the most amazing thing is that St. Paul or any other NT epistle rarely ever quotes Christ, there is probably only a handful of phrases St. Paul even knew from Jesus, he most likely did not ever read the gospels (maybe mark - which I don't think includes these phrases). This means that the early church had such a high view of the Eucharist that it passed on the exact or near exact words of Jesus. St. Paul says he received it from the Lord (does this mean in his vision? maybe). All in all, it goes to show me that the early christians were very reverent when it came to communion - or rather were not, and thus invoked the wrath of St. Paul.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"Romans" Catholic Justification

I've been studying Romans for the past 2 weeks and at first ironically after reading chapters 3-4 I felt the Protestants were absolutely correct on Justification by Faith Alone, now after reading chapters 5-8 I am almost certain the Catholics are correct in their explanation.

The way I understand it, the Faith alone issue is almost a misunderstanding. We have such close ideas on justification it's amazing how different people think they are. Justification for the Protestant is by faith alone, but they don't REALLY mean faith alone, if you asked a Protestant does someone have to repent of their sins? yes they would answer. Do they have to love God? yes they would answer. Do they have to love their neighbour? yes to a point (we know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another -1 Jn 3:14). So the Protestant really believes that we are justified by the attitude of our heart, by faith in God and by repentance, which is exactly what the Catholic believes.

The difference is imputed vs. infused righteousness. St. Paul argues in the beginning of Romans that by having faith we are justified by the 'free gift of God' and that 'Christ died for us' (5:8) HOWEVER in my NRSV commentary the writer says 'the verse should NOT be interpretted 'Christ died in our place' (protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution), but it is better interpretted 'for our benefit' (Catholic doctrine of Christus Victor). How could Christ's vicarious death on the cross mean the final salvation of some when St. Paul writes "just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all" (5:18) - Now unless you're a Quaker and believe in Universal salvation, then you have to accept the Catholic view that Christ died for all, and did so 'the many WILL be made righteous' (5:19). This is showing justification as a process, it is ongoing, and it is Christ's faithfullness which will be infused into us. St. Paul's whole point is that Christ died to make it possible for us to be like him, as St. Irenaeus says 'he became what we are that we might be what he is'. The next theme of Romans is life in the Spirit. St. Paul says "just as Christ was raised from the dead... so we might walk in the newness of life" (6:4). He continually warns us 'do not let sin exercise sin in your mortal bodies' (6:12), and why would he if we are justified by imputed righteousness. Next he writes "become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted" (6:17). He sums it up at the end of his argument in chapter 6 with "you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life." - The end of sanctification - being made holy - is 'eternal life'. The next verse of course we all had to memorize for sunday school, but the verse before is really the key to the argument.

For Paul the cross means the Possibility of Salvation, it is salvation from 'the law' he writes "you have died to the law through the body of order that we may bear fruit for God" (7:4). The big point is 'we are slaves not under the old written code (ie. the law) but in the new life of the Spirit" (7:6). The other big conclusion, the message of Romans as I learned today was that Christ died "so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (8:4)

This is the message of Jesus as well, that we are to love God, and love our neighbour. Finally I have a view of Romans and St. Paul that fit with the rest of scripture. The role of the Holy Spirit is justifying us/sanctifying us. The division of sanctification and justification did not exist till John Calvin in the 16th century, it is foreign to scripture as well. If God just wanted us to believe, why did Christ tell the rich young ruler 'you know the law' when he asked how he was to be saved. The purpose is that through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can be made righteous. That makes sense of all the verses that say no impure people will enter heaven etc, and also proves purgatory. This has been quite a breakthrough in the Catholic - Protestant search, and it makes alot of sense. So we are justified by a 'heart-faith' alone (Peter Kreeft's term) but we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit who leads us in love and good works, and we are then judged on our love. as Matthew 25 says, did we care for the poor, the lonely, the needy.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Constructing a Systematic Theology

I've been trying to figure out this argument to build a Protestant worldview against the attacks of Catholicism. Here is the outline of it:

1st line of Argument
1. The Gospel According to St. Matthew is a historically reliable source, it teaches at least that a Rabbi named Jesus existed and chronicles his teachings.
2. The Gospel of Matthew says in Chapter 28 that Jesus commanded his Disciples to teach everything he commanded them.
3. Peter, one of the disciples writes in 2 Pet 1:21 that Scripture is inspired, and that Paul's letters are scripture.
4. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:16 that the scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation and to perfect the man of God.
5. Paul - now seen as speaking the words of God, teaches Sola Fide
6. If Sola Fide is true then it is the main message of the gospel
7. If Gal 1:8 is true, any other gospel is accursed
8. Thus Protestantism is true and other gospels are accursed.

2nd line of Argument
1. Christ regarded the Old Testament as true, every book he quotes in the gospels can be seen to have Authority, leaving out only Ecclesiastes, Ruth, and other not quite necessary books.
2. Christ when tempted responded with 'it is written' leading us in the example that the bible has authority and is true.
3. Christ speaks of his teachings being transmitted to his disciples, his disciples write scripture.
4. Scripture teaches Sola Fide.

This doesn't give us 66 books of the bible as inerrant, BUT it does give us the Pauline Literature as the Word of God, from which I am confident, Sola Fide can be proven, and thus church history is irrelevant, and Protestantism can stand on a foundation. And then I get to be comfortable and believe what my parents want me to believe.

Faith Alone

I started reading R.C. Sproul's book "by faith alone" today. I really believe the bible teaches Sola Fide, it is the only gospel I can hope in, because I'm a totally depraved sinner, and only the blood of Christ will save me.

A famous Protestant once said that this is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, the doctrine that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Now I can't find that doctrine anywhere in church history before Luther (maybe a bit in St. Augustine), but as I re-read Romans I cannot possibly read a Catholic interpretation into it, no matter how hard I've tried. Ultimately these are just some of the verses that point to justification by faith alone, and yes I've read James 2:24, but honestly in light of all the other verses that go against it, I am obligated to believe either 1) St. James was wrong, or 2) that Calvin's interpretation of it was right, namely that the KIND of faith that bears no works, is NOT saving faith, and thus it alone cannot save a man. As Melancthon reminds us faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.

John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Rom. 3:22, "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction."
Rom. 3:24, "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;"
Rom. 3:26, "for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Rom. 3:28-30, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one."
Rom. 4:3, "For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,"
Rom. 4:11, "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,"
Rom. 4:16, "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."
Rom. 5:1, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Rom. 5:9, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."
Rom. 9:30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith."
Rom. 9:33, "just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Rom. 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Rom. 10:9-10, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Rom. 11:6, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
Gal. 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."
Gal. 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Gal.3:5-6, "Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
Gal. 3:8, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you."
Gal. 3:14, "in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Gal. 3:22, "But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."
Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."
Eph. 1:13, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."
Eph. 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
Phil. 3:9, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."
1 Tim. 1:16, "And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

Sproul argues in his book that IF the gospel is justification by faith alone, then it is an essential doctrine and any church, meaning a church that doesn't teach this doctrine cannot be truly Christian. Of course the debate is all in the IF, but I think I've finally come back to this doctrine of the Reformation. And as Luther once prayed in a courtroom in Worms... may God help me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The old tests again...

So I took 2 online theology tests again to see how much I had changed, and I did them honestly without regard for the outcome.

For the first test I got:
(100%) 1: Eastern Orthodox
(96%) 2: Lutheran
(93%) 3: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England
(83%) 4: Roman Catholic
(77%) 5: Presbyterian/Reformed

For the second I got
1. Anglican
2. Lutheran (Missouri Synod)
3. Catholic
4. Baptist
5. Lutheran (ELCA)

It'll be neat to take the test again next year and see what I ended up with.

Law & Gospel & Lutheranism

I've been reading bits and pieces of C. W. Walther's thoughts on the Law and the Gospel as well as this Lutheran way of looking at things. I remember writing in my blogs that I find regeneration more of an ideal than a reality, in that I see young Christians who believe but sin alot, I see myself who believes and sins alot, and I see old Christians who believe and sin alot. I've always wondered whether any theologian proposed a reason for why this was happening. For the Catholics it's always something like 'not enough Marian devotion' or 'Protestantism has tainted everythign', for the Reformed it's something like 'you weren't really pre-destined'. However, with Lutheranism I was reading this LCMS document the other day and they proposed that the 'old man' (See St. Paul in Romans) remains with us for the rest of our earthly life, and death is the punishment we still face for it's resumed existence, and when we die, the old nature is completely gone and only the new nature remains. That sounds alot nicer than purgatory, and it seems to make sense to me.

I love the Lutherans because they also believe in the Real Presence (consubstantiation) and have strong convictions about what a pastor is to do and be like - I'd almost call it a priesthood for them - at least in the Missouri Synod and conservative branches. The Gospel is actually good news in the denomination as well.

I was sitting in an Anglican service the other day thinking about how if I was to evangelize to someone, how difficult it would be. I'd tell them about Jesus and how new and revolutionary he was and then proceed to seat them amongst 80 year olds so that we could recite the Nicene creed, and then have to explain that 'One Holy Catholic Church' doesn't actually mean that, and that the Priest who is calling the Sacred Scriptures 'a good book, like Shakespearean literature' (it happened last week), that guy with the robes saying that is really a heretic. And then I'd have to explain heresy....

Long story short, I was just thinking, I need a denomination that can preach the gospel. As St. Paul says 'I came not to baptize but to preach the gospel' (1 Cor 1). I also like Lutheranism because it takes all the goodness of Reformed theology and removes all the stuff I dislike. Ex. Reprobation, symbolic sacraments, Mark Driscoll, etc.

They believe in predestination but only of the elect, and in universal atonement which I agree with. I also found out the other night that there's a seminary 15 minutes away from my house which is the Canadian branch of the LCMS. So that would be neat to check out.

Roman Catholic Habits.

Am I partly Catholic? I realize that there are some things I’ve picked up from this divide of Mass, Protestant Service, Anglican Service repeat cycle that I’m on. For one thing, I’m feeling a lot more comfortably Catholic. I took a quiz that Criffton sent me today and it was a ‘what kind of a Catholic are you?’. I found the quiz ironic, as I am not officially anything more that a questionably baptized Baptist, but I took it anyway. I got “conservative Catholic”, I still contend that I do go to mass more than most Catholics do, but in Niagara, that isn’t saying a lot.

The other day I had to park in a space at the airport that was way too small and I didn’t think I would make it, suddenly I found myself sub-consciously whispering “Hail Mary”s at a rapid pace, and then crossed myself once after successfully parking. I still pray the rosary on occasion, I cross myself every time I pass a Catholic Church. I used to constantly ask for the intercession of the saints, but since a few weeks ago I tried to force myself to stop. Then today, I had a horrific day, probably one of the worse days in sooo long. Long story short I needed a miracle, and the first thing I found myself saying was ‘Blessed Mary ever virgin pray for me…’ and before I could stop myself I ended up asking for her intercession. I also still pray the Catholic meal prayer and cross myself.

Sometimes when I get home late at night and I’m really tired and I don’t know what to say I just pray the “Our Father” and then kiss the crucifix on Mel’s Rosary. I’ve screwed everything up because I couldn’t make these RCIA meetings at St. Alexander’s and ended up leaving a message that said I was only interested in talking with Father Peter and not officially becoming Catholic, so that kind of closed that possibility, at least at St. Alexander’s anyway. And even though I have been re-reading Romans and find myself feeling that Sola Fide and Sola Gratia are really the message, I still find that I feel at many times unashamedly Catholic.

I am trapped in this nexus between the two realms.