Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Andrew the Reprobate - Why I can never be a Humanist

Although I've read and continue to read alot of the pagan philosophers (Aristotle, Plato, etc) and the Enlightenment thinkers (Tom Paine, Gibbon, Rousseau, etc) I have to say that there's one reason I cannot be a Humanist in the modern sense of the word. I absolutely disagree with the idea that man is inherently good or even neutral. In the words of the genius Karl Barth "Man is not good, man has never been good, and man will never be good". I know above all else that I myself am a reprobate.

As much as I've divinized these men, the Church Fathers did teach some strange things. Origen for example said, "The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.". A more simple definition of the Pelagian heresy could hardly be put forth.

As much as I've villainized the men, Luther and Calvin have taught things which resonate deeply with my Christian experience. I am disgusted with reading all this Jesuit/Molinist/Humanistic garbage about the goodness of man and his ability to triumph. I'm at the point where I'm obliged to believe that everyone is made Imago Dei and to downplay the fall to a slight mistake, so my current theology is that while I cannot apply St. Paul's, St. Augustines, Blaise Pascal's, Martin Luther's, or John Calvin's theologies of human nature to the world at large I can apply them to myself.

I know and have learned in the last year that above all I am a reprobate. I don't actually read Calvin alot anymore so i'm not trying to show off -as if I found this myself- but I found this online and liked it alot. It totally slaps Catholicism in the face, but only post-trent semi-pelagian Catholicism.

"...our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence." (Institutes, Vol. I, Bk. II, Chap. 1, Para. 8; Allen translation.)

We had to listen last week in RCIA to a lecture on not being able to sin without willing it or wanting to, which I thought was the most anti-Augustinian thing I'd ever heard, and so I wanted to meditate on some Calvin. In Catholicism we say only some actions have concupiscence or we are culpable - blameable for. Here Calvin is saying that man is NOTHING but guilt and willful sin. lol. it's sad because it's true.

I find it funny that when I discussed theology last night it was in an intense debate with a Protestant Pastor, I was challenging him with the high ethical standards of scripture when I realized that I had spent the entire day in sin, utter chosen sin, and here I was preaching. It was at that moment that I remembered St. Paul in Philippians talking about those who preach for benefit or personal glory. I myself I think do it out of habit or for the sake of argument, there is no genuine desire for real virtue or godliness, just winning an argument, or shattering someone's certainty.

A Buddhist I debated last month said to me "Are you so closed minded as to think ONLY Christians go to Heaven!?" and I actually laughed and said "Far from it, I don't even believe all Christians are going to Heaven, I don't even think I'm going to Heaven (I'm currently in a state of Mortal sin and haven't confessed to a priest and received absolution so in Catholicism I am hell-bound)". Frank Schaeffer once got alot of flak for saying "I hope God exists, I hope I go to Heaven but my faith is less certainty and more hope" - or something to that effect. Well I know God exists philosophically, I know there is a standard, and I know that I do not measure up to it, as Calvin says: "soul and body, is polluted"

Thus while I may not be able to say much from scripture without hypocrisy, on that fateful day when it is read from the pulpit "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." (Jer 17.9) I can add an "Amen".

And when I look at the world I see everyday I have to agree with the observation that: "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain."

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Utter Inclarity of Scripture

Tonight at our house a bunch of my parents friends from my old Baptist church came over for a dinner party. I was listening to my mother trying to defend the doctrine of purgatory by calling it a harmless 'extra' to the real Christian faith and that even a man like C.S. Lewis could be misled into such popery. Then someone said to me "I was reading the story of Jesus with Nicodemus and being born again and honestly it's SO simple Andrew, it's not difficult to understand". I respect the person who said this very much and so I didn't want to argue theology, my dad also covered his face in anger as we were about to hear a lecture on Redemptive Baptism and I excused myself so that I wouldn't ruin the night.

All of this pointed out to me the utter inclarity of scripture. One Protestant doctrine is "The Perspicuity of Scripture" or the Clearness of Scripture. I decided to show how ridiculous that idea is by beginning with John - which I've been told my whole life is where we are supposed to start. A professor once said to me at Brock, 'I have no problem with the Bible but you can make it say anything you want, it isn't incorrect, it's just ambiguous'.

John 1:1-14 - The Word
This passage which describes Jesus as the Word is one of the most debated passages in all of scripture. Jehovah's witnesses think that it says "and the word was A god" not "and the word was god". Aside from translation, what does 'word' or logos mean. Logos is a platonic term that carries with it lots of baggage. Does it mean 'the word of God' as in his voice in Genesis 1 or his word - like the eternal law. OR does it mean the logos -the logic of the world personified. Is it the goddess Sophia - Who knows!

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" v 14 - Enter Gnosticism, Docetism, Arianism, and John Shelby Spong/modern liberalism. Very few people believe Jesus 'actually' was God incarnate, or the rational principle of the universe incarnate etc and see it as an impossibility etc.

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." 1:18 - every world religion is wrong because only Christ has shown us God?

1:32 "John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him" - is this the moment Jesus became the son of God as Adoptionism teaches and many believe?

"I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." 1:34 - Does Son of God mean God incarnate or does it mean political leader as Dominic Crossan and others have proposed. How could God have a Son?

John 1:49 "Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." How is Jesus the King of Israel? he has no political power. Does this show that Nate thought Jesus would become a political ruler or does it mean Israel as in 'God's people'?

1:51 "He (Jesus) then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." - When did Philip see heaven open up? The ascension? maybe it's not mentioned, is this a lie? who knows? What is Jesus referring to?

John 2:4 "Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." - then Jesus performs a miracle... was he lying, how had his time not come but then he did it anyway. How does God change his mind? isn't he omniscient (all knowing) so why would he say his time hadn't come if it actually had and isn't that a lie, and how can God lie? (see Descartes). With Catholics, why is Jesus so dismissive of Mary, but then bends to her will? is this proof of Mary's greatness or inferiority?

"In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." - How isn't beating people with a whip a sin? Ya I've heard 'righteous anger'...don't think it works.

3:5 "no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" - Here's the clear verse that was clearly about baptism for over 1000 years. Now being born again apparently means going to a Billy Graham crusade. I've argued about this before but I'm tired, and I'm clearly right, it's about Baptism, give it up. And what kind of a controversial passage is this? You have to be baptized for salvation? Crazy as the thief on the cross wasn't baptized. Catholics fix this with 'baptism by desire' as the Calvinists and Pentecostals fix it with 'baptism of the Spirit'.

3:13 "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man" Does this mean that no Jews went to heaven? what about David, what about Abraham who is apparently feasting with God (see parable of the rich man and lazarus). What about Enoch, Elijah, etc? and those who ascended to heaven.

3:15 "everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" - What about James 2 which says that even the Demons believe and tremble. do they have eternal life?

this one is interesting:
3:18 "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" - So God didn't send Jesus/Himself? to condemn the world but because he came into the world everyone who doesn't believe in him (the overwhelming majority of the world) stands condemned. Quite contradictory.

I obviously believe it does have a true meaning as infallibly interpretted by the Catholic Councils and the Magisterium, but I just find the idea that any individual can fully understand the bible or that it is 'clear' in meaning, ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Marian Devotion

I have to run out the door to work but I figured I'd let St. Athanasius do the talking for me and remind us of a central (not THE central) figure in the Christmas story, that's right a little holiday Marian devotion from the Father of Orthodox Theology:

"It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him Who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born of you. For this reason you are called 'full of Grace'..." (373 St. Athanasius)

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Throwing A Bone To My Calvinist Friends

So today I was reading Edward Gibbon the Enlightenment Historian and a fellow convert to Roman Catholicism ...though he relapsed to Anglicanism and was in all honesty a Deist - making him overall a man after my own heart as he has endeavoured in all my favourite religions and pastimes. Anyway, I was reading his famous "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and I figured I'd include a quote I read of his on St. Augustine which gave credence to Calvinism.

"he (St. Augustine) possessed a strong, capacious, argumentative mind; he boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace, predestination, free-will, and original sin; and the rigid system of Christianity which he framed or restored has been entertained with public applause and secret reluctance by the Latin Church...The church of Rome has canonised Augustin and reprobated Calvin. Yet, as the real difference between them is invisible even to a theological microscope, the Molinists are oppressed by the authority of the saint, and the Jansenists are disgraced by their resemblance to the heretic. In the mean while the Protestant Arminians stand aloof and deride the mutual perplexity of the disputants. Perhaps a reasoner still more independent may smile in his turn when he peruses an Arminian Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans"

though I definately see how the modern and early modern Papacies have anathema'd St. Augustine's views on limited atonement and predestination as well as irresistible grace, Calvin is still very different than St. Augustine. Calvin doesn't acknowledge bishops, the necessity for complete church unity, the same definition of the real presence, the efficacy of relics, and the authority and infallibility of the Papacy.

Still I realize today St. Augustine got it right, and no matter what the Church says, he still got it right. So Calvinists and Catholic Augustinians rejoice together in our common teacher.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Real Presence - C.S. Lewis

This first quote was in my RCIA book and I didn't believe it was authentic until I looked it up.

“You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of the gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. … Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (From “The Weight of Glory,” pp. 39-40)

And of course:

"There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it." - Mere Christianity

...Lewis believed in the real presence.

just like luther...just like augustine... yay real presence.

I'm getting "Letters to Malcolm" by C.S. Lewis for Christmas, and I'm stoked to read it because it contains his thoughts on Purgatory etc. Oh Lewis, that crazy Anglican who was so Catholic...what a guy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Diety of Christ and Nicea

"Jesus Christ, the Son of God" - Mark 1:1 (50-80 CE, that is 20-30 years after Christ's death)

"There is only one physician - of flesh yet spiritual, born yet uncreated, God incarnate, genuine life in the midst of death, sprung from Mary as well as from God, passable yet impassable - Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:2) - St. Ignatius letter to the Ephesians (ca. 107 CE)

"Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea (325 CE)...many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon - the date of Easter...the administration of sacraments, and of course, the divinity of Jesus... until that moment in history, Jesus was viewwed by His followers as a mortal prophet...Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits" - Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code" p. 233-234 (ca. 2003 CE)

I just read that in the Da Vinci code the other day and had to laugh. I know there's about a hundred websites that attack the book but I figured I'd take 10 minutes and prove that the Deity of Christ was an idea LONG before Nicea. Congratulations Dan Brown, you read the wikipedia entry on Arianism and found out some people didn't believe in the co-eternality of Christ with the Father...but you didn't read the part where it said many Arians believed Jesus was a demi-god or God but created....

At least Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan have a working thesis "Son of God" is a secret joke misunderstood by the Church for 2000 years. That is plausible, though unlikely. The only respectable way you can debate the historical account of Christianity which include all those troublesome Church Father references to his divinity is if you claim that all of the history is unreliable....which some have tried.

So take it or leave it, as C.S. Lewis once said:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spurgeon on Catholicism

Mike Walcher sent this to me in an email I found it interesting as I like Spurgeon alot, even though he really hated Catholicism.

"In Brussels, I heard a good sermon in a Romish church. The place was crowded with people, many of them standing, though they might have had a seat for a halfpenny or a farthing; and I stood, too; and the good priest — for I believe he is a good man, — preached the Lord Jesus with all his might. He spoke of the love of Christ, so that I, a very poor hand at the French language, could fully understand him, and my heart kept beating within me as he told of the beauties of Christ, and the preciousness of His blood, and of His power to save the chief of sinners. He did not say, ‘justification by faith,’ but he did say, ‘efficacy of the blood,’ which comes to very much the same thing. He did not tell us we were saved by grace, and not by our works; but he did say that all the works of men were less than nothing when brought into competition with the blood of Christ, and that the blood of Jesus alone could save. True, there were objectionable sentences, as naturally there must be in a discourse delivered under such circumstances; but I could have gone to the preacher, and have said to him, ‘Brother, you have spoken the truth;’ and if I had been handling the text, I must have treated it in the same way that he did, if I could have done it as well. I was pleased to find my own opinion verified, in his case, that there are, even in the apostate church, some who cleave unto the Lord, — some sparks of Heavenly fire that flicker amidst the rubbish of old superstition, some lights that are not blown out, even by the strong wind of Popery, but still cast a feeble gleam across the waters sufficient to guide the soul to the rock Christ Jesus.” (Quoted in Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, 343-344).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Duns Scotus, Anselm, and Paine

"potuit, decuit, ergo fecit"/"God could do it, it was appropriate, therefore he did it" - St. Anselm of Canterbury doctor of the Catholic Church

Phrases like these make me weary of studying theology. I would prefer to be a physicist or chemist - something with empirical evidence. But I suck at science so I'm a History student who reads theology for personal enlightenment.

This is the phrase which John Duns Scotus used in the Middle Ages to 'prove' the immaculate conception (sinlessness of Mary). (for other terrible things about Duns Scotus see Jared's blog on why he isn't a Roman Catholic). To be honest that quote is a really bad argument and goes against several other Christian principles. The fact that a great philosopher and theologian like St. Anselm didn't notice it's flaws is simply another proof of the near infinite ineptitude of humanity.

First of all, 'God could do it'. I believe it was God himself/Jesus who said "with God all things are possible" (Mt 19:26). Now when you learn philosophy you actually discover that Jesus was wrong, he can't do 'all things'. He can't microwave a taco too hot for himself to eat, just as he cannot create a triangular circle (mutually exclusive statements). He is limited to logic and his character - therefore I guess reason is divine if even God can't escape it. But in any case this first phrase is a misnomer.

"it was appropriate" - This is more annoying to refute as I now reside in a communion which believes it is God's mouthpiece. However I would still argue that it is very difficult to determine what God thinks is appropriate. Especially regarding Mary whom divine revelation (Tradition and Scripture) tell us very little about already. How do you presume to know the mind of an infinite unknowable (see previous post) being? very carefully...

"therefore he did it" - Once again no proof whatsoever. Ironically an apparition/superstition of Mary appeared to many monks in the Reformation era which actually claim the Virgin told them that she was born with original sin. On a side note I have no idea why Mary comes back as a ghost all the time and does what the Holy Spirit is supposed to do - I guess he's been getting lazy or something. Anyway, once again we make a claim that God did something without empiracl knowledge or even revelation. I guess it comes down to Catholicism's: "some people look at illustrius titles for Mary and say why? I look at them and say why not".

Finally it's a ridiculous argument in that it's very possible for God to make me lose 90 pounds in my sleep, it would be appropriate, and therefore he must've done it. But he didn't... And so false logic stewed over for 500 years would become infallible dogma on December 8, 1854 (154 years to this week).

I've been reading "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine and I read a quote the other day that I liked: "Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."

This seems to be the foundation of the Anglican Church at least. But to me it's not so much that it is a lack of fidelty to disbelieve but that I think it should have certain consequences. It should never be a sin not to believe but one shouldn't take communion if they don't believe. So if you don't believe or at least see yourself believing in the Immaculate Conception then don't be Catholic, if you can't see yourself believing that Muslim Suicide Bombers have just as valid a path to Heaven as you do, then don't be a Unitarian or United Christian. And if you even consider choosing between the options I've just given you don't become a Presbyterian, because you believed you had a libertarian free will between those options and really you're totally depraved an therefore only able to choose the sinful unitarian option...it requires special grace to choose Catholicism.

Gah, I must start studying for this world religions exam and begin memorizing part of the Qu'ran... which is like a more boring and repetative Old Testament.