Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Enlightenment Deism & The Church Fathers

For history I've had to read some of the advocates of Enlightenment Deism, and I've had to say that they make the most reasonable case. I've been a Deist before (with a kind of Christian tinge of course) but I was thinking about it today and how it fit with Ancient Christianity.

Deism is the belief in one God who is revealed by reason, experience, and nature. Not scripture. After nightmarish exegetical fights with Protestants and Catholics alike I ended up realizing how problematic Scripture was with it's multiplicity of interpretation, ambiguities and contradictions (mostly numerology and historically, as well after fighting about it so much I think maybe Rom 4:4 and James 2:24 are a contradition in a matter of faith and morals). It also was funny to me the other day when I was talking with Lance a friend and theology student who brought up some issue with the divinity of Christ and the gospels and I said "ya some days I trust Church Tradition more than Scripture" (I truly am Catholic I guess) and we both laughed.

Traditional Theology after Nicea said that God was understood two ways. The ousia and kergyma (my greek is terrible) but it was explained to me that the character of God is explained through his kergyma or persons and those are his actions which we understand him by The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. BUT they also taught (as Plato and others did) that God's essence was a mystery, and unknowable, his ousia was incomprehensible. Many Eastern Theologians said that the best way to express the essence of God was silence.

St. Gregory of Nyssa said of Moses' journey that God was most present in absolute Darkness on Mount Sinai. St. Augustine said “We can know what God is not, but we cannot know what he is” (On the Trinity). Likewise St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "In this life what God is is unknown to us by the revelation of grace; and so we are joined to him as to something unknown." (Summa Theologica). "No single thing of all that is created has or ever will have even the slightest communion with the supreme nature or nearness to it" - Gregory Palamas.

So I'm thinking that we've become tricked into thinking that we some how perfectly understand God and can say what he thinks or his opinion from everything to who he would vote for, to what he thinks about birth control.

I'm starting to think that he is much more incomprehensible than I even imagined. I also heard this quote from a desert father "The sin of humanity is but a fistful of sand thrown into the ocean of God's grace". I always thought I was just hopefully unregenerate, but I'm starting to think that our own egotism makes us think God is really sitting there with a checklist to write down our actions everyday. I think that kind of just gives meaning to people rather than it being logical. So maybe Enlightenment Deism and Ancient Christianity are closer than I thought.

Counter-Arguments against my post:
Presbyterians will say: "you are an unregenerate sinner who wants to live in sin and thus are trying to advocate this heresy which you were probably taught in that false Church by Satan himself"
Baptists: "Stop thinking! all thinking is vain philosophy, read your bible!"
Anglicans: "I agree"
Catholics: "who are the Church fathers?"

Intelligent Conservative Theologians: "Hebrews 1 says that Christ is the exact image of God, he has given us an interpretable revelation which says things which are at odds with your quotes, and you probably just quote farmed those things and haven't read them in context"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why I Request Conditional Baptism

I've asked the instructor of my RCIA classes 3 times if I could receive a conditional baptism - which every convert had to have before the Second Vatican Council, though only out of practices not teaching, Protestant baptisms have been declared valid since Trent- and every time I request one immediately, before I can even say why they reject it.

Well as such tomorrow is my 'rite of acceptance' an interesting liturgical innovation by which we stand at the front of the church and 'receive'? the sign of the cross/signum crucis. I was supposed to be a 'candidate' rather than a 'catechumen' because I've been baptized already (in a church which Rome has declared a defective false heretical group) and apparently it would be 'offensive' to say their baptism wasn't real (even though it somehow isn't offensive to say that everything else they do is wrong).

The problem: I forgot to pick up my 'baptismal record' (which I doubt my church even has, why would you record an event that is merely symbolic and entirely ineffectual?). So it's too late now and I don't know what to do as tomorrow morning I need it. SO i've turned the problem into a final attempt to receive conditional baptism and be accepted as a Catechumen - I've written this document on it. If they don't let me in and continue to show that they can't even understand their own theology - that's it. ....seriously ... there's no way God's true Church could be that idiotic. (Though that may not be true, I've read some medieval church history). In any case, I've already said I'm becoming Anglican if they refuse or it becomes an issue (because I KNOW that the CofE isn't God's true church and so at least I'll have certainty - aka I'll have certainty I'm wrong).

Here's the document I wrote:

Catholic Declarations on Baptism:
Canon 4 - “If anyone says that the baptism which is given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism, let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent on Baptism

1213 “1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."

Baptism is Regenerative (saving) and is done with the intent to bring the baptized individual into the Church.

1284 “In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."”

On February 16, 2004 I was baptized by full immersion at Harbour Fellowship Baptist Church in the proper Trinitarian formula, but it was not done with the intention or understanding that the Catholic Church has of baptism. In almost no ways is it possible to link the Baptist understanding of Baptism with the Catholic position.

Fellowship Baptist and Baptist Declarations on Baptism:

Baptism, which is the immersion of the believer in water, whereby he obeys Christ’s command and sets forth his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

Even if the Baptist Minister did intent me to enter into ‘the church’ the Baptist definition of Church is:

“The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. In Him… is vested in a supreme and sovereign manner all power… The Pope of Rome cannot in any sense be head of the Church, but he is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, who exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God, who the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” – London Baptist Confession (1689) 26.14

The Catholic Encyclopedia says:
“the only two sacraments, or ordinances as they call them, which Baptists generally admit, are not productive of grace, but are mere symbols. Baptism does not bestow, but symbolizes, regeneration, which has already taken place.”

Therefore, I would like to ask for a conditional baptism, not out of stubbornness, but out of genuine belief and study of the documents of the Catholic Church.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Alluring Call of Lutheran Anti-nomianism

"2 Cor 3, 5–6 Paul writes:
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves;
but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New
Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the
spirit giveth life."

The apostle speaks of this apostolic activity. Preachers of this Christian era must bear in mind that they are preachers, not of the Old Covenant, but of the New. That is the reason why the apostle refers to the letter, that is, the Law, which kills, and to the spirit, this is, the Gospel, which gives life. A New Testament preacher as such has to preach nothing less than the Gospel. He is really discharging an alien function when he preaches the law. It is due to the horrible blindness that papists assert that in the Scriptures two doctrines must be distinguished, the old Law and the evangelical law. The latter term is self-contradiction. How can there be glad tidings in a law? Add to this that the Antichrist goes so far as to contend that the evangelical law is the more grievous of the two: for the Mosaic Law had been satisfied with external obedience, while the evangelical law lays its injunctions on men’s innermost heart." -C.W. Walther "Law and Gospel" Lecture 39

I remember reading Matthew after reading the Old Testament at Bible School and being horrified as I listened to Jesus and talked with my dad. I said to him "I was just getting used to the rigorousness of Jewish law - I could live with taht - but now Jesus is saying we have to be perfect and putting the heaviest yoke we've ever had on us", and I remember talking with Lance about the question: Didn't Jesus just make holiness harder for us, as God now judges everything according to the letter AND the spirit of the law? Oh anti-nomianism, how appealing you are sometimes. Until then, back to the rigorous rules of Rabbi Jesus 'be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect'

I think Walther's idea is neat but not backed up by scripture, the truth of the matter is that New Testament morality is a high bar, much higher than Old Testament. But I just like Walther's thoughts because being a Lutheran would be so easy - it's like the Utopia of religion, you don't have to do anything, you don't even have to be good and God still loves you, which sounds like a whole religion altogether. Didn't Luther say something about Religion and Gospel? ... ah nevermind, back to mass, rite of acceptance this week...

If God So Loved The World...

I have been haunted by Rob Bell's question in his video "the gods aren't angry", and it's emotional but powerful critique of Anselmic Atonement theology (Christ satisfies God's wrath in his suffering) and the Protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution (Christ died in our place). He says "Does your God need to hurt something to love?...Does your God say 'oh if I could only get more blood I would be so happy'...Does he think 'oh you killed that animal, now I love ya!...'"

I realize that all of our orthodox systems in Christian theology focus greatly on merit - even if it is hidden. Obviously for the Catholics, it is: belonging to the right Church, and doing the right motions, and the Priest saying the right words, and you having the right intent. This is the Catholic system of merit which has long been attacked and ridiculed etc.

BUT - the Protestant system equally relies on merit - though they try to hide it. I would argue that the Protestant system actually focusses more on Human merit than the Catholic one, in that the Catholic one actually shows grace to those who don't deserve it at a few points whereas the Protestant system shows grace to those who don't deserve it not even once. Let me explain this possibly ridiculous claim.

For the Protestant you have to have sola fide - faith alone and THEN you are Justified. You have to understand the gospel, accept the gospel, and decide. Just ask most Evangelicals (excluding the usual suspects: Lutherans, True Calvinists/Presbyterians, Anglicans) what they think about infant baptism. Chesterton says that men who wish to become Baptist ministers do so out of the 'horror that an infant could unconsciously come to Christ'. In Catholicism a baby who doesn't understand anything can be baptized and said to be unequivocally 'saved'. For Protestants (at least the modern ones) this is high heresy. The idea that someone could be saved without earning it by believing and having knowledge and rejecting false heretical papist versions of the gospel - that is terrible!

So we have the Catholics who are fighting their way through earth and purgatory by faith and works and sacraments to reach Heaven and the Modern Protestants who are preaching a sort of Gnostic idea that knowledge will save you and that if you say the sinners prayer of believe the "right" theology then you'll be saved (See Sproul on believing the "right" (Reformed) theology for salvation). Each equally trying to earn their way into Heaven or at least to point the finger at those around them to try and prove that they're more deserving than their neighbour.

There was once a man named Martin Luther who taught alot of things - but aside from his theories on driving the Jews our of Germany as dogs, he had one interesting idea (which Hitler didn't later advance). It was the reinterpretation of Sola Gratia - Grace Alone, and imputed righteousness. He was wild enough to propose that humans actually didn't have to do anything to be saved, that they were freely justified by grace alone and predestined by God to go to Heaven no matter what they did. (Luther was a Calvinist/Classic Reformed in this view but later Lutherans changed him) He wrote to Sin boldly with confidence in Christ. He was a grace-high psychopath who actually believed God loved people even when they didn't earn it.

But, I began to wonder something even MORE crazy, something heretical, something unorthodox... what if God actually loved people unconditionally.


Seriously, like REALLY unconditionally.

Like if he loved Richard Dawkins. Like if someone cursed God and spit on him and God still loved that person.

Clearly that's not the biblical view of God as he says that those who keep his commandments will be loved by him (Jn 14:21) and that we will be judged by our works (Mt 25:44, Rev 22), and that he hates the proud, and obviously hates the Canaanites as he ordered their genocide. And obviously God hates Idolaters as they were killed by the Levites after Moses brought down the 10 commandments and the people were worshipping the golden calves..

What if God loved people who worshipped golden cows...

Well philosophically I'd then have to say that God would not be Just or Holy or a bunch of other good things that he is, and apparently there's no loophole for him to get out of his obligation to hate sin. But it boggles my mind that someone who can see everything and upholds all existence would be so shocked and appalled by sin. It kind of reminds me of when I watch Lord of the Rings and I KNOW Boromir is going to die, but Boromir is my favourite character and I get angry and sad and cry every time I watch it. Does God do that every day as he upholds our existence and sees the endless sin of humanity, does he cry and lament our every sinful and human mistake which he consequently knew would happen and even allows to continue to happen.

Even if Deism does show us an uncaring God, at least it makes sense in that God can deal with the consequences of his creation, it's almost like the God of theism created a sandcastle on the beach and then freaks out and blames the castle for being knocked down by the waves.

But ya, I'd have to be some kind of wild non-Christian Episcopalian to believe nonsense like God actually loving people who don't have the right religion. What was I thinking.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jesus - A Message Worth Teaching

I was talking with one of my old Baptist pastors on friday night about my conversion and why I'm becoming Catholic. It was actually ironic because I explained to him the logical arguments and why I felt I was obligated to become Catholic whether I wanted to or not and then I started complaining about the Church and about how no one actually knew Jesus or the gospel in it to the point that he started defending it lol. I found that ironic. Again today in RCIA we spent the time discussing papal infallibility (which is important) and we still haven't even covered the question the bible addresses in every page 'teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?'

I was reading about my 'hero' Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams and his views on Jesus and the Apostles Creed. He said he thought "(Jesus)who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary" was an intentional metaphor...



This man is in charge of the souls of 70 million worldwide in the Anglican communion and he thinks the gospel is a metaphor... What is the point of liberal theology? It's just vague moral platitudes and empty ritual. (as opposed to clear legalistic morality and meaningful ritual - which is Catholicism j/k). I no longer have any desire to become Anglican, and I have no more respect for the Archbishop.

I was listening to John MacArthur on the radio the other day and he was preaching about Jesus - a topic of his which I prefer to his previous series 'Evolution: Fact or Fiction' in which he claimed all proponents of theistic evolution or old earth creationism were heretics. But Johnny Mac was preaching like Spurgeon on the centrality of Christ. He was talking about how the Christology in Colossians says that Jesus created the Aeons (i hope that's the right greek word) and he explained it as:
'Jesus created every age, and the framework for ontological
existence, every second that the world continues to function it does so by his will and power. I often find it ironic that as Jesus walked the earth he was upholding not only his own existence but that of the entire universe'
- John MacArthur (paraphrased by my memory)

Wow. And he didn't mean that metaphorically.

In mass today they read aloud: "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 3:11), and I opened my missal to a hymn in the back and read:

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet
sorrow and love flow mingled down
did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offer far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.

Jesus. YWHW is Salvation. "and on that cross where Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied". That is a message worth teaching.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Billy Graham and John Paul II

This is an amazing article worth reading:

Why I Fear The Emerging Church

What happened to Classical Evangelicalism? Oswald Chambers? Charles Spurgeon? Billy Graham?

I was reading this post: , and feeling very glad that I'm still becoming Catholic. It is a great image of the destruction that happens when you abandon ecclesiology - the doctrine of the Church - (Catholic and Traditional Protestant alike). At least if you're a Baptist you can accept what the Baptist Church has decided and accepted (like the Trinity), if you're Emerging, suddenly everything can be thrown out. I love Rob Bell and lots of self-described Emergents, but I don't like this theological liberalism. In my opinion, when you ask the hard questions of theology you can do one of 5 things:

1. Become a Liberal, doubt everything and have no faith at all.

2. Stop asking questions, reject all philosophy and logic and base everything on feelings and emotions.

3. Become a Presbyterian/Calvinist.

4. Become a Catholic/Orthodox/Traditional Anglican/submit to apostolically succeeding bishops and Tradition and actually believe the catholic faith.

5. Stay Evangelical