Thursday, March 26, 2009

Penitential Psalms (part 1) - Psalm 6

I'll be using the NRSV because it's more objectively pleasing to God (joke to traditionalist Catholics who think the Tridentine mass is more objectively pleasing to God than the Novus Ordo)

"O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?

Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;

in Sheol who can give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame."

3 things I've underlined about the Psalm which I think are noteworthy.

The comment about Death/Sheol being the end is typical of Old Testament thought, I was always taught that the Israelites believed in an immortal soul and Heaven and Hell, it wasn't until I started reading Plato and Aristotle and took a look at the promises in the Mosaic Law (all temporal) and read some N.T. Wright on the issue that things cleared up. At this point in revelation God hasn't revealed to the Israelites Plato and Aristotle's great arguments for the soul and it's immortality. I think it's cool that some early Christians though the 'pagan philosophers' who taught those things were 'prophets of Christ' :

"And so, too, Plato, when he says, The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless, took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more
ancient than all the Greek writers. And whatever both philosophers and poets
have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or
contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men" - Justin Martyr (First Apology, 44).

Crazy ol' Justin actually thought of Greek Philosophers as having read Moses and that they were prophets as well. Maybe I'm becoming too much of a Thomist but I think Aristotle and Plato could've been Prophets. (sorry Nominalist Protestants lol).

Anyway, this Psalm is interesting because David/the Author is just hoping to escape death.

I also like this Psalm because it is based on faith. When he says/sings that God has heard his prayer, that's more of a hope, and it says that God shall deliver him from his enemies and kill his enemies. That's future tense. Meaning that this was his hope.

I was reading the account of Benedict Biscop an early medieval abbot for history class the other day and it mentioned how the Psalms were constantly sung by the monks and that sometimes they would sing through all 150 psalms twice a day. I was amazed by that and I think in my mind of the Latin chanting and the Viking raids that were occuring and how they were probably praying for God to deliver them from their enemies as well. Just another great example of how many people have made the Psalms their prayer.

Personally the words that hit me the most are "I am weary with my moaning" - it's the image of someone crying and praying and sobbing so much that they're actually tired from it. It's amazing how weak the Psalm appears, a miserable man begging for help and yet I think of David as this great King going through all of this in a cave somewhere running for his life. In his own words "oh how the mighty have fallen". Grace is above no one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, when the St. Mary the mother of God became the theotokos/Mother of God because St. Gabriel the Archangel (don't ask me how angels are saints they just are) told her that she would be 'with child' or whatever the Hebrew equivalent would be, and she started singing what would eventually become the Beattles song "Let it Be".

But most importantly as in the case of any liturgical celebration it has become a time for the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox and others to come together and to bicker about who has the "Real" Church of the Annunciation on the actual location. I wonder if they'll be another fight like the epic Church of the Holy Sepulcher's 'battle on the burial ground' slugfest of '08 (

Anyway, getting back to the original annunciation we have this photo either taken by Nazarene Paparrazzi at the time or drawn by some Italian artist who is actually depicting goddess worship in hopes that Dan Brown might one day write a book about it. To clear things up, contrary to what the picture portrays, there is no conclusive proof that Our Lady had down syndrome but that the creator of it merely took artistic license and went with it to add some drama.
But cynicism and joking and blasphemy I'll have to be absolved for aside, here's the story according to the not-eyewitness St. Luke the evangelist:
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. " - Luke 1:26-38
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for me that God might forgive me for blasphemy, it was for humor's sake, and I'm willing to do some more purgatory for it if necessary. Amen

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Penitential Psalms

If people asked me my favourite books of the bible I would probably have to say Psalms and Ecclesiastes. To explain briefly there is 2 dicotemies in my spiritual life:

1. What I am obligated to believe (Catholicism)
2. What I honestly believe (Generally Anglicanism circa 1940/Anglo-Catholicism + some Catholic doctrine)

1. What I know about God (Thomistic philosophy and theology)
2. What I experience of God (Deism at times, and occasional moments of joy)

The reason Psalms and Ecclesiastes are my favourite is because they correspond to the #2's of both categories. I believe personally that God is somehow very distant and uncaring most of the time and thus connect with the penitential, and the depressing or 'bitching psalms' as I call them (I am able to force myself to believe my obligatorily theology ; I was raised fundamentalist it's a skill). But at other times I experience what C.S. Lewis would describe best as joy, occasional overwhelming moments of felicity that come from experiencing God. The last time I genuinely remember it was taking communion at Holy Trinity Anglican last August, or maybe standing in the Cathedral making the sign of the cross in latin at the Rite of Election.

Anyway, the Psalms are honest, they're real. Ecclesiastes is likewise honest and real, ecclesiastes was written by someone who understood philosophy, and so I can connectwith it quite easily.

The purpose of all this is that over time I eventually marked up both books in my bible alot and almost out of sheer chance I had marked up a few psalms that had a connection I was unaware of. They were 7 Psalms (I think I had favoured about 5 of them) that were called the "penitential psalms" and as I found this out in my NRSV study bible's footnote I started to pray all 7 in a row sometimes. I really enjoyed it and find myself reading them more and more often.

I read that : "St. Augustine, when dying, had the Psalms (that is the penitential psalms) fixed upon the wall opposite his bed" (

I was watching Shadowlands again tonight and thinking about C.S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms (which I haven't read) and how I'd like to write a few, so I decided to write on the 7 penitential Psalms. I'll be quite proud of myself if I make it to all 7, I have a tendency to give up on these sorts of things.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wittenberg v. Rome - what is sin?

This is a good post by Dave Armstrong: But he has an excerpt specifically which is useful:

"For Luther sin is passion, for Catholicism sin is in the will - the act of choice. In Freudian terms Luther's sin is libido, Catholic sin is ego. From this a number of consequences flow. From the Lutheran point of view the conclusion follows that, as nobody is ever entirely passionless (least of all essentially passionate types like Luther), there can be no freedom from sin in this world. Man is born and dies in iniquity. The utmost he can attain is an assurance that this won't be counted against him - that Christ's redemptive suffering covers all. Hence justice is only imputed - the Lutheran concept which became the center of controversy."

In Catholic teaching, on the other hand, the work of justification is not limited to the act of faith with which it begins. It is carried on by the use of the sacraments, the life of charity and the practice of good works, so that human nature recovers the spiritual life that was lost by sin and man becomes a new creature . . ."

Good habits make a man good and bad habits make him bad. This . . . was ignored or underestimated by Luther. It seems that there was a certain confusion in his thought on these matters. He had become convinced of the worthlessness of pious practices - that it is no use fasting or saying long prayers or making a pilgrimage or a vow. Good works, however, are not merely pious practices, they are simply what the words denote - doing good - and it is a fallacy to argue that such action has no value from a religious point of view." (5:78-79) - Christopher Dawson

You're free to disagree with the latter half and Catholic justification, but what I wanted to point out was the difference between a Lutheran and Catholic view of sin, that is extremely important for the rest of our theology. It is a prime difference and it is simply important to note.

Thomas a Kempis thoughts for today

"The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis is a great book which I utilize as I use the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, I don't read them cover to cover, but read different chapters or passages based on a certain circumstance. It is free online here:

Here are some interesting passages I found today:

On temptation:

"So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation. Whence it is written in Job: “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” (Job 7:1) Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and must watch in prayer lest the devil, who never sleeps but goes about seeking whom he may devour, find occasion to deceive him. No one is so perfect or so holy but he is sometimes tempted; man cannot be altogether free from temptation.

Many people try to escape temptations, only to fall more deeply. We cannot conquer simply by fleeing, but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies. The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before. Little by little, in patience and long-suffering you will overcome them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash ways ... The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways. Fire tempers iron and temptation steels the just. Often we do not know what we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are."

On works of charity (love/agape/caritas):

"Without charity external work is of no value, but anything done in charity, be it ever so small and trivial, is entirely fruitful inasmuch as God weighs the love with which a man acts rather than the deed itself. He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests. Now, that which seems to be charity is oftentimes really sensuality, for man’s own inclination, his own will, his hope of reward, and his self-interest, are motives seldom absent. On the contrary, he who has true and perfect charity seeks self in nothing, but searches all things for the glory of God."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rant on Karl Rahner, Modern Theology, and Vatican II

Every week I learn more and more about the utterly UN-monolithic nature of Catholic thought. I used to think that every Catholic was forced to believe the exact same thing and that each doctrine was clearly defined. While this is true in some areas, like the Eucharist (you can't budge an inch from Aquinas), there are many areas which are open to individual interpretation or at least acceptance of various different theological theories within the Church (ex. atonement models, creation v. evolution, etc). I've seen alot of very different kinds of Roman Catholics and different kinds of Churches, it's interesting to see how different the mass can be in different places now that there is more freedom post-Vatican II.

At the time of my conversion and ever since I've been reading what I call "The Polemicists" (Church Fathers, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation, and people like Chesterton or Neo-Catholic converts). But personally I feel like this kind of triumphalistic fundamentalism and scholasticism seems dry and removed from the modern world. The phrase "modern world" around most Catholics is like the phrase "works" or "merit" around most Protestants, it is horrifying, surrounded by heresy, and the opposite of everything that is good and holy.

But I and my brother in Christ Lance, who is one of my favourite people alive, have the best conversations on theology because he's studying Modern Theology (Barth, Bonhoeffer, Multmann, etc) and I am so refreshed to hear someone talking about God in language and concepts that are in any way accessible.

It's in these conversations that my thirst for more theology grows, I want to read Hans Urs Von Balthusar, Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, and Romano Guardini. People who have found an orthodox way to bring Catholic tradition into the 20th century (even though it's the 21st, 100 years is close enough). I like what Karl Rahner said in an interview I read tonight:

"we must be receptive to modern philosophy without considering it absurd or something to be opposed and criticized. What is needed is a trusting colloquium between traditional scholastic philosophy and modern philosophy. This is necessary if, on the one hand, we are to be of our time… On the other hand, we do not want to lose the true riches of tradition"-Rahner

One thing I liked about Protestantism was that even if we disagreed on doctrines, we at least all new that one of the keys to evangelism was describing the timeless truths of the gospel in modern language that people understand and using modern concepts that people can connect to. Catholicism after Vatican II-like American Politics after Nixon- has become increasingly polarized. Some are fans of Vatican II ("liberals") and want a progression in the direction it was heading, others want to forget about Vatican II (and the Holocaust) ("Traditionalists"). I feel like this categorization is unfair, because no matter what the Traditionalists tell you, the vast majority of both parties accept the general premise that what the Church says at the end of the day is final, to change the French Revolutionary slogan, we all believe 'vox ecclesiam est vox dei' the voice of the Church is the voice of God, so the dissidents - if we can call them that - are much fewer than in a group like the Anglican Communion. But let it be noted: I have a very limited understanding of Vatican II - I've read much of it, and heard people talk about it, but I don't stand in a place to judge it well or with certainty.

But I guess I'm no Traditionalist, I don't think there's anything holy about latin or making people feel bad about themselves. I find Traditionalism like "Cage Calvinism" (see Jared's blog: Traditionalists are the John MacArthur's of Rome, constantly venerating the oldest and more inapplicable theologies and practices, greatest marian devotions, and in the end you find yourself wearing a scapular around your leg bleeding in penance, thinking that your pain makes God love you more than others, and shooting Robert Langdon as he solves the DaVinci code. It's just a mess, that's why I try to stay in what I call "moderate" Catholicism, just a general acceptance of what Vatican II taught and a desire for a living faith for the common Catholic - a sort of Roman Methodism if you will. I believe the miracles, I believe the bible, I believe in the Magesterium. But I think Jaroslav Pelikan had a beautiful maxim on this subject:

"Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living"- Pelikan
Jared (like Luther in his response to Trent) was criticizing the inaccesibility of Catholic theology (in particular Justification) and Scholastic definitions (I think he was at least). While I defended the Church, at the same time I agree with him a bit, we need a basic understanding of an essential doctrine like justification. The beauty of sola fide is that it's simple, people get it, and no matter how confused Protestantism is on some areas (millenial theology, ecclesiology, etc) it at least understands it's own view of justification. The Pope (Benedict XVI) in a post the other day, explained Catholic justification simply as 'justification by love alone'. Whether you agree with that theology or not, you have to admit that it's simple. If every Catholic in the world could answer to the question "Brother what must I do to be saved" - "love the Lord your God" (the greatest commandment) at least we'd have an agreement and a simple understandable concept.

As it is if someone asks me "What must I do to be saved" I have to respond, "Well... first of all, have faith in Christ, then get baptized, then join the Church and repent of your sins and recieve absolution for grave sin in the sacrament of reconciliation (penance), and then recieve the body and blood of our Lord, and do works of charity which manifest the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, and then repeat these steps" - That's probably the orthodox Catholic theology of salvation it's the sacramental redemption according to St. Thomas Aquinas. But if you just get someone to love Jesus and join in the life of his body (the Church and Eucharist), maybe it will work just as well? I don't know.

This is the kind of theology I like, and I have great hope I will discover more of it as I read these quotes from Rahner:
"while I detest dogmatic positivism, I am a great lover of speculative theology." That is, a theology "that seeks a simple internal principle and through it sees the unity of all dogmatic thought."-Rahner

"What Christ gives us is quite explicit if his own words are interpreted according to their Aramaic meaning. The expression 'This is my Body' means this is myself."-Rahner

I love Rahner's view (that I read about on wikipedia - I'm not that smart, I just steal stuff from others) that we should understand God as revealing and giving himself to us through the Eucharist and through his grace -which is an extension of himself, so that we are slowly 'absorbed' (if the word is correct) into his very being. As we enter the body of Christ (Church) and receive the body of Christ (Eucharist) we are partaking and entering into the divine life which will be fully consumated in the beatific vision.

The final quote I saw (on a site with a list of his quotes - again I don't read alot of theology right now on my own, I just steal from others) that I liked was this:

"emptiness is only a disguise for an intimacy of God's, that God's silence, the eerie stillness, is filled by the Word without words, by Him who is above all names, by Him who is all in all. And his silence is telling us that He is here." - Karl Rahner
I love quotes like that so much, some people I think just think that people like me don't actually understand them, we just think they sound deep and pretend that they're very significant. But I honestly feel it's a beautiful thought, it explains God practically, sometimes he does seem far away, but maybe he is just like a friend who sits next to you in silence so long, sometimes you forget they are there.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Primacy of the Gospel: Jesus according to Jesus

In the Roman Catholic tradition the gospels are the centrepiece of everything (now obviously many disagree with this and think Mary or the Pope is) but it shocked me because at my old Church (dispensational) I was basically taught that we 'couldn't trust Jesus' theology' with certainty as it were, because he was in a different dispensation than us, and after all, why listen to Jesus according to Jesus when we could listen to Jesus according to Paul. Now I'm not trying to be negative, this is what they truly believe - and they have reasons for it be sure. But I still remember asking my dad in France why Jesus said things like "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" and "blessed are the (enter character trait)" if we are all viewed only as reprobate sinners or the elect who are covered by Christ's imputed righteousness. If this is the case then Jesus shouldn't be saying things like this, exhorting people to righteousness if they're incapable of righteousness - I guess it's the same reason why St. Paul exhorts us to righteousness in Romans 2 and then tells us we can't be righteous in Romans 3, I'm now starting to see it's because Paul hadn't read Luther. Anyway, again - not trying to be negative, but just saying that if Catholics were given the choice of books for theology epistles, or gospels, they'd pick the gospels.

Anyway, I just find it so much clearer now to read Jesus according to Jesus, hear him saying there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than a thousand righteous men (Luke 15). As a Protestant, I'd have to roll my eyes saying "you know those angels in heaven, always celebrating 'dead works' like repentance". So for me, it just seemed more reasonable to agree with Jesus that humans could do things with merit in his sight.

But the real reason I love the focus on the Gospels is because it focuses on this character who is larger than life itself. When I read Jesus it reminds me sometimes of reading Nietzsche - as strange as it sounds. It's so shocking and strangely ironic and poetic at the same time, and you have no idea how any of it logically connects because it's more of a story than a syllogism, but in the end it does, and it leaves you almost more with a feeling than a set of steps to do.

Jesus always pisses people off. Like in today's gospel readings (Jn 9:1-41) where he heals a blind man on the Sabbath (the day we all 'know' God doesn't work - he's unionized) but Jesus just heals the guy - as if to say "yep. I'm too cool for my own rules, I'm going to heal when I want, where I want, and you can't stop me" or as family guy would say "take that society!" At the end of the story I love this part:

"Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains. " - John 9:40-41

Basically: yep, you were doing fine, until you claimed 'spiritual authority' and knowledge, and because you did that, you're going to Hell. Uh oh - works based merit systems - somebody arrest this God-man. (joke)

And if we turn back a few pages, look at how he talks with the Pharisees. Jesus calls himself the light of the world. The Pharisees then say to him: "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid" (Jn 8.13) ... Jesus replies: "In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf" (Jn 8.16-17) - just for some quick explanation, Rob Bell tells us that a new Rabbi needed 2 witnesses to have his teaching validated, this is what they're discussing. But getting back to what he says "In your law" - I like that Jesus is speaking in this mocking way about 'their law' and he has every right to, He wrote their law. He was the Divine word, spoken and speaking. I find it hillarious how Jesus also just calls God as his other witness. As if to say - Oh ya, and God also sent me, so that makes 2 of us, any other questions? It then describes how none of the Jews arrested him because of Divine Providence, thus giving us the impression that people wanted to arrest him.

Then after that he says to them: "Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself?" (Jn 8.21-22). Don't get your hopes up Jews, it's like you can almost see their eyebrows raised. I find it funny that God became Man and Mankind's gut reaction was:
1) let's kill this guy, or at least arrest him
2) this dude is insane, I bet he'll kill himself
3) confess him as Lord => "thou art the Christ, son of the living God"
It says something about human sin and divine grace.

Finally, it is telling that Jesus says to them:
"you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word." (Jn 8.37). I think of Mary and Joseph at the inn... no room for Jesus there. I think of Jesus now among his own people, and he says in truth but in pain "there is no place in you for my word". I find it really convicting. Do I make a place in my life for his word, or am I so certain in my theology - like the Jews - so confident in my own intelligence that I have no room for God and his word.

And I'll end with one of my favourite passages John 8:51-59 the end of this glimpse into Jesus' ministry:

" [Jesus said]... Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple."

Oh Jesus you troublemaker you, we never seem to learn, but you love us to death anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI on Justification

Pope Benedict XVI's views on justification and St. Paul: and his views on Martin Luther's sola fide - which he claims is correct if it is a faith not opposed to charity/love (sadly Luther when questioned on this point did indeed say it was a faith without charity, not the traditional Catholic formulation of amor fides)

Some quotes I liked from it were:

"To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary"

"That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14)."

"Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love... It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way."

Jesus as the New Moses

Catholicism tends to focus on an Old Law (Moses) - New Law (Christ) typology. This is base heresy in Lutheranism (See C.W. Walther's "On the Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel). Scott Hahn former Presbyterian Minister now Roman Catholic explains a perfect typology between Moses and Jesus in this video, the quality is bad, but it's really convincing stuff:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things I appreciate about Calvinism

Just to prove from my last post that I am not overtly anti-Calvinist any more than I am anti-anything other than Catholicism, I thought I'd post some things I enjoy about Calvinism.

1. God-Centredness. It tries to begin and end with God which much of decision-theology fails to do. At times when I read a hymn or passage by someone of the Reformed persuasion I conjure in my mind John Calvin standing next to St. Ignatius Loyola in Heaven shouting "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam!" and Loyola equally chanting "Soli Deo Gloria!". I am comforted that even though our two factions will most likely fight for the next 500-1000 years, at least we are all fighting in defense of the same God whom we love above all else.

2. Word and Sacrament. Calvinism's ideal is a focus on Word and Sacrament. Standing in St. Giles Cathedral (I hope that's the right name) in Edinburgh, Scotland, I remember taking communion and hearing a beautiful sermon. I think back to myself how such a perfect balance of these two essential of essentials came together in revery. To the shock of many, I am a Catholic who loves the Bible and wishes we could give even more time and study to it, and so I love seeing the passion Reformation Christians have for the inspired written Word of God.

3. Holiness. I still enjoy reading R.C. Sproul, Jonathon Edwards (especially "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" - beautiful sermon), and occasionally listening to Alistair Begg all discuss the Holiness of God, though when they discuss it they do so out of teaching the imputed active obedience and righteousness of Christ, and when I think of it, I imagine purgatory and the perfection of souls into the true and unequivocal holiness of Christ. The Puritans also had a firm grasp on right living and the law of Christ/Sanctification which I greatly admire.

4. Heroes: I will always look up to in some way, Hudson Taylor, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield and others.

5. Intellectualism. Many Protestants follow in Luther's Nominalism and thereby restate his opinion "the theologian must first dispose of Aristotle", however Reformed Theology has a minor tradition of Natural Law and Natural Theology (Common Grace, etc) and many current Reformed Theologians have even ascended to a form of Protestant Thomism, and don't shy away from Philosophy.

Calvin's Heaven

I'm not attempting to be mean-spirited about this blog, I'm just responding to all the readings I've done from the Reformed blogosphere, and writing tongue-in-cheek about their grandiose anathemas to traditional/pre-Reformation christendom.

I was reading John Piper's blog/Desiring God for some reason - another Reformed blog linked me there, and every Reformed Christian I heard writing said "Roman Catholics are not going to heaven because they don't believe the proper biblical doctrine of justification" .

I've fought about this issue ad infinitum, with peace of mind and clarity of conscience I've chosen to side with St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Council of Trent, and N.T. Wright in disagreeing with Luther. I wrote a blog the other day ( with extensive quotes from one of my favourite Evangelical Anglicans - Dr. Alister McGrath, showing how clearly the Reformation strayed from Augustinian justification systems, and basically Luther was a pioneer when it came to sola fide (theoretically excepting St. Paul). Now McGrath still sides with Luther and believes that all the early Christians were wrong, but he at least gives us papists a fair defense, namely, that we're only following the false doctrines of the early church.

I also find it hillarious that our "heresies" like the real presence, sacrifice of the mass, hierarchical episcopacy, Petrine supremacy, and more were all being taught and expounded while St. John the Evangelist's corpse was still warm.

Then I actually thought for a second about the argument of the Reformation Christians. They honestly believe that God has predestined 16 centuries of apostate Christians (including Augustine, Aquinas, and all the Church Fathers remember) to Hell. And not only that, but the Calvinists I read, say that Arminians as well are going to Hell, because they attach a work -human choice- to grace. So, sitting next to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Irenaeus, Mother Teresa etc, will be C.S. Lewis (believed in purgatory, denied Protestant view of Atonement) in Hell will possibly be John Wesley, and Rick Warren and Billy Graham (when they die).

So then I kept on thinking, the (Eastern) Orthodox who do not hold a Protestant view of justification also must stand condemned. In my mind the next people to take chairs beside Billy Graham, were Bishop Timothy Kallistos Ware, Frank Schaeffer, and Jaroslav Pelikan.

So here we have it, throughout all of history only those born after the 1550s (approximately), and only those with full rational capacity (Mentally handicapped, take a seat next to Pelikan, because you can't logically adhere to the correct theology), and only those who properly understood Justification by faith alone - and only those who by Justification mean Christ's extrinsic and alien imputed righteousness, indelibly applied to the believer at the moment of faith alone in Christ alone - not a decision or choice for Jesus.

I've heard Dr. R.C. Sproul's passionate and fairly reasoned defense of such views, hey at least the Calvinists are honest about their heritage. But I just have to say that even though I'm going to Hell, maybe it won't be bad with some of the most charitable, loving, and Christ-centred reprobates I've ever read about (but it's not like I chose to go to Hell, it's God's fault for predestining me this way, and not providing me with irresistible grace, so I guess I shouldn't feel as guilty about it).

Well, Augustine, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Mother Teresa, and John Wesley (maybe), save me a seat by the fire!

"For God so predestined the world, that whosoever believeth in Calvin's Dogma of Justification, shall not perish, but have eternal life" -I think that's how the ESV will translate it for future generations.

... of course there's also the other argument provided by that trouble-making, pelagian, reprobate Peter...

"Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." - Acts 10:34-35

A Hillariously Stupid Quote From Philip Schaff

"The development of the orthodox Mariology and Mariolatry originated as early as the second century in an allegorical interpretation of the history of the fall, and in the assumption of an antithetic relation of Eve and Mary, according to which the mother of Christ occupies the same position in the history of redemption as the wife of Adam in the history of sin and death [Rom 5:12 ff., 1 Cor 15:22] . . . Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, are the first who present Mary as the counterpart of Eve, as a "mother of all living" in the higher, spiritual sense, and teach that she became through her obedience the mediate or instrumental cause of the blessings of redemption to the human race, as Eve by her disobedience was the fountain of sin and death.[Footnote: "Even St. Augustine carries this parallel between the first and second Eve as far as any of the fathers . . . "]" - Philip Schaff (History of the Christian Church, Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600)

Now Philip Schaff is one of the most reverenced Ecclesiastical Historians around (in the Protestant Tradition) but I have to say that I laughed out loud when reading this on Dave Armstrong's blog.

I mean if the early church (2nd century = REALLY early Church) fell into the 'heresy' of 'mariolatry' then just give up. Burn your bibles, throw out your crosses, sell your churches, because if God in all his sovereignty couldn't preserve the church before the new testament was even assembled, then he's the weakest god in history, or the strangest God. I could never tell a Mormon he wasn't a Christian if I agreed with Schaff, both agree (the mormon, and in this statement Schaff) to the ridiculous idea of 'the great apostasy'.

Chesterton writes on the early church that, it's strange how those who were motivated only by love for him (Jesus) would rush off and immediately do all those things he hated.

I know it's just one statement, and that Schaff is pretty solid, and I'm not trying to rub salt in the wound, but even the Anabaptists give the church till Constantine sanction, and let it not be said now or ever that the Lutherans stray further from the Christian history than the Anabaptists.

There you have it the "heresy" of Mariolatry taught by such degenerates as Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Augustine and the other so-called "Early Church Fathers".

A Daily Prayer of St. Edmund

"I have made a free oblation of myself
to your Divine Majesty,
both of life and of death,
and I hope that
you will give me
grace and force to perform.
This is all I desire. Amen."
-St. Edmund Campion

Sunday, March 15, 2009

'The Brag" of St. Edmund Campion

I'm trying to learn more and more about my confirmation saint, Edmund Campion (a fellow convert). He was killed by Elizabeth who had cut ties with Rome again after Mary, and turned the Anglican church more Calvinistic. She suceeded greatly by declaring Catholicism not a heresy but treason, and so used patriotism to enforce theology. I found St. Edmund's last speech before his martyrdom in which he defends himself:

"To the Right Honourable, the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council:

Whereas I have come out of Germany and Bohemia, being sent by my superiors, and adventured myself into this noble realm, my dear country, for the glory of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busy, watchful, and suspicious world, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.

Wherefore, providing for all events, and uncertain what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this in writing in a readiness, desiring your good lordships to give it your reading, for to know my cause. This doing, I trust I shall ease you of some labour. For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plain confession. And to the intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these nine points or articles, directly, truly and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.

i. I confess that I am (albeit unworthy) a priest of the Catholic Church, and through the great mercy of God vowed now these eight years into the religion [religious order] of the Society of Jesus. Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and also resigned all my interest or possibility of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldly felicity.

ii. At the voice of our General, which is to me a warrant from heaven and oracle of Christ, I took my voyage from Prague to Rome (where our General Father is always resident) and from Rome to England, as I might and would have done joyously into any part of Christendom or Heatheness, had I been thereto assigned.

iii. My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors-in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.

iv. I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of state or policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.

v. I do ask, to the glory of God, with all humility, and under your correction, three sorts of indifferent and quiet audiences: the first, before your Honours, wherein I will discourse of religion, so far as it toucheth the common weal and your nobilities: the second, whereof I make more account, before the Doctors and Masters and chosen men of both universities, wherein I undertake to avow the faith of our Catholic Church by proofs innumerable-Scriptures, councils, Fathers, history, natural and moral reasons: the third, before the lawyers, spiritual and temporal, wherein I will justify the said faith by the common wisdom of the laws standing yet in force and practice.

vi. I would be loath to speak anything that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man's foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet I have such courage in avouching the majesty of Jesus my King, and such affiance in his gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and my evidence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation. I am to sue most humbly and instantly for combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found: protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.

vii. And because it hath pleased God to enrich the Queen my Sovereign Lady with notable gifts of nature, learning, and princely education, I do verily trust that if her Highness would vouchsafe her royal person and good attention to such a conference as, in the second part of my fifth article I have motioned, or to a few sermons, which in her or your hearing I am to utter such manifest and fair light by good method and plain dealing may be cast upon these controversies, that possibly her zeal of truth and love of her people shall incline her noble Grace to disfavour some proceedings hurtful to the realm, and procure towards us oppressed more equity.

viii. Moreover I doubt not but you, her Highness' Council, being of such wisdom and discreet in cases most important, when you shall have heard these questions of religion opened faithfully, which many times by our adversaries are huddled up and confounded, will see upon what substantial grounds our Catholic Faith is builded, how feeble that side is which by sway of the time prevaileth against us, and so at last for your own souls, and for many thousand souls that depend upon your government, will discountenance error when it is bewrayed [revealed], and hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league-all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England-cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.

ix. If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour. I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almighty God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us his grace, and see us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten." - St. Edmund Campion (one of the 40 martyrs of England and Wales)

I think my favourite line is "So the faith was planted: So it must be restored" - meaning that as the faith was originally spread by martyrdom, so it would be restored to those countries lost to Protestantism, by martyrdom.

I really want to pick up this book and read it as well:

St. Edmund Campion, Pray for us!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Night Newman

1 year before crossing the Tiber (becoming a Roman Catholic) John Henry Newman wrote this about his thoughts of Revelation in history and to the reason why the Magesterium must be without error in it's teaching:

"The most obvious answer, then, to the question, why we yield to the authority of the Church in the questions and developments of faith, is, that some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she. A revelation is not given if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. . . . If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder. Else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties, between latitudinarian and sectarian error. You may be tolerant or intolerant of contrarieties of thought, but contrarieties you will have. By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects of England an interminable division. Germany and Geneva began with persecution and have ended in scepticism. The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter, of Revelation." - Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

You're free to disagree with it, but I rather like it. I don't perfectly understand it, but I understand about 90% of it. I also think that Cardinal Newman looks like Harry Potter in the above picture.

Pere Bouyer

Louis Bouyer was a Lutheran Minister in France, and eventually converted to Catholicism and became a Roman Catholic priest. He was a part of Vatican II (though he ended up being greatly disturbed by how it "ruptured with tradition"). He wrote a book I'm desperate to read, "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism", I've read some of it on Google books but I'd really like to pick it up. I found a good article summing it's main points up: The quote below is the introduction of the book by Pere Bouyer (Americans, that's French for Father Bouyer):

"This book is a personal witness, a plain account of the way in which a Protestant came to feel himself obliged in conscience to give his adherence to the Catholic Church. No sentiment of revulsion turned him from the religion fostered in him by a Protestant upbringing followed by several years in the ministry. The fact is, he has never rejected it. It was his desire to explore its depths, its full scope, that led him, step by step, to a genuinely spiritual movement stemming from the teachings of the Gospel, and Protestantism as an institution, or rather complexus of institutions, hostile to one another as well as to the Catholic Church. The study of this conflict brought him to detect the fatal error which drove the spiritual movement of Protestantism out of the one Church. He saw the necessity of returning to that Church, not in order to reject any of the positive Christian elements of his religious life, but to enable them, at last, to develop without hindrance.

The writer, who carved out his way step by step, or rather, saw it opening before his eyes, hopes now to help along those who are still where he started. In addition, he would like to show those he has rejoined how a little more understanding of the others, above all a greater fidelity to their own gift, could help their 'separated brethren' to receive it in their turn. In this hope he offers his book to all who wish to be faithful to the truth, first, to the Word of God, but also to the truth of men as they are, not as our prejudices and habits impel us to see them." - Fr. Louis Bouyer "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism
A-freakin-men Father. I absolutely love this quote, it sums up everything so perfectly. I love the way he says about seeing men as they are and not just going with our prejudices, and I like his reflection that Catholicism in his opinion is merely the fullest expression of all the goodness of Protestantism. (The Protestants I know will completely disagree with this naturally).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

St. Paul the Apostle in the Catholic Church

Someone asked me to clarify St. Paul's role in Catholicism and how he fits into their ecclesiology. One argument I tried to use as a Protestant was that Paul wasn't 'authorized' by the Church and yet he was an apostle, and so our churches though not 'authorized' by the descendants of the apostles (bishops in apostolic succession in communion with the bishop of Rome) we were still a valid church.

Here's an honest look at the situation. I've dealt with Galatians 2 before and Paul's confrontation of Peter and defended the Catholic view that St. Peter had fallen into sin but not false teaching: , and likewise I used Pope Benedict's biblical defense of Petrine Supremacy among the apostles to reaffirm the traditional view of Peter as prince of the apostles or first among them here:

So with those two issues out of the way, what about Paul for example in Galatians 1:1 saying "Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ "

There is infallible proof aha! some will say. Furthermore Paul writes: "I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother." But let me note a few things:

1. Paul had indeed met with Ananias and other Christians and eventually went to Peter and James and the Church in Jerusalem, so he wasn't completely alone.

2. Paul was 'merely' preaching his gospel, he didn't have any authorization from the Church that his calling from Christ was indeed true at that point, but we know from later verification by the rest of the Church that it was true, so it didn't end up mattering, there was no dicotemy between Paul and the other apostles' messages.

3. Paul was an apostle. He was appointed by Christ as an apostle, just as John and James had been. So Paul shared the same calling they had. The Catholic Church teaches that it has no authority except that which Christ gives her, and that though she is limited to the sacraments, God is not. Therefore, from a Catholic perspective, even if St. Paul didn't lack any authority, he had authority from God himself. He continually notes that "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you" (1 Cor 11:23).

4. Look what he says later in Galatians 2:1-2 "I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain." So actually if Paul was trying to empasize earlier that he didn't get any endorsement from the Church but he's an apostle, then why would he write this.

It must mean that he wasn't trying to convince the Judaizers in Galatia that he was authentically from the Church in Jerusalem, but rather authentically from Christ. This makes much more sense as a hermeneutic for Galatians 1-2 in my opinion.

In short, St. Paul is one of the most important figures in all of salvation history and the Church of Rome was traditionally called "the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul". As well it is the year of St. Paul in the Catholic Church. And to close with St. Paul's own words:

"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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cross of Christ quote by Pope Benedict XVI

"A Jesus who agrees with everyone and everything, a Jesus without his holy anger, without the hardness of truth and genuine love, is not the real Jesus as he is depicted in the Scriptures, but a pitiable caricature. A concept of "Gospel" that fails to convey the reality of God's anger has nothing to do with the Gospel of the Bible. True forgiveness is something quite different than weak indulgence. Forgiveness is demanding and requires both parties, the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven, to do so with all their minds and hearts. A Jesus who sanctions everything is a Jesus without the Cross, for such a Jesus would not need the torment of the Cross to save mankind. As a matter of fact, the Cross is being increasingly banished from theology and reinterpreted as just a vexatious mischance or a purely political event. The Cross as reconciliation, as a means of forgiving and saving, is incompatible with with a certain modern mode of thought. Only when the relationship between truth and love is rightly comprehended can the Cross be comprehensible in its true theological depth. Forgiveness has to do with the truth. That is why it requires the Son's Cross and our conversion. Forgiveness is, in fact, the restoration of truth, the renewal of being, and the vanquishment of the lies that lurk in every sin; sin is by nature a departure from the truth of one's own nature and, by consequence, from the truth of the Creator God." -Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger

I really like that. Go Benny 16! 'zing' those theological modern 'rat's out of the church.

Twice the Popery

"...and history informs us, that, on a pressing occasion, the blessed St. Peter also ordained two pontiffs under him to rule the Church at Rome..." - St. Bede's "Lives of the Abbots"

I just read that sentence, and was kind of shocked. ... 2 popes at once, that'd be cool. I think Martin Luther had nightmares about that.

I meant 2 legitimate popes, after all the Great Schism (Western Schism) saw the pope and anti-popes running around Avignon and Rome.

Are We Supernaturalists?

First of all I'd like to pronounce a damnable curse on blogger for never spacing my posts correctly and mashing them together or putting 5 lines of space where there should be'll get yours'll get yours.

I somehow ended up on this blog today: wrote this comment I found interesting:

"Well when it comes down to it Christians don’t really believe in miracles anyway. When they hear of a person claiming “God told me to kill my children” they instinctively know that person is crazy. We all do. Doesn’t matter what God told Abraham; when it happens in the real world Christians respond like anyone else. If I claimed to have literally moved a mountain with my faith no Christian would believe me. Christians go to a doctor when they’re sick. They may pray as well, but they’ll definitely go to a doctor, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy if you don’t.
Christians will wear seat belts and follow safety instructions and buy insurance and save for retirement just like anyone else. They may claim that they believe God heals and God protects and God provides, but it doesn’t tend to turn into action. So the fact that they’re protecting the pope is no surprise. They have no illusions of God providing protection, so they’ll do it themselves." - Jeremy (some random guy on this website)
I was thinking about this the other day while I was in mass looking at the Blessed Sacrament thinking "I officially believe that what he's (Fr. Peter) holding is God...that's strange". Obviously now is where the Protestants will jump in saying "God wants to kill the Pope and it's just bread!!!!' but if we could avoid that argument I'd like to discuss a bigger issue.
Are we (Christians) still Supernaturalists? Do we still believe that God intervenes in the natural world to enforce his will?
After all, if Presbyterians really believed that God predestined them and will never forsake them, then why buy insurance as the guy above said.

The easiest solution seems to be the Catholic/Arminian view of "God gave us free will and now is kind of watching the game from the sidelines...except when good things happen, those were definately him".
What is the Rationalist to do?
Spinoza would argue that God is intrinsically tied to creation (he was a pantheist) and thus miracles are unnecessary because he invented the world and everything that would happen, so his will is acheived through those worlds laws (natural) and everything that happens is thus his will. Or in the words of Alexander Pope, "All that is, is right". This kind of makes sense, until you realize how horrifying the world is. In the end you'd follow this logic and become some sort of Liberal Anglican Deist who's telling kids the red sea is only a foot deep...(I can see myself there in nightmares....).
As St. Paul says 'the righteous shall live by faith', so maybe we shouldn't get insurance, dismantle the Pope's bubble car (hello monthly papal conclaves), not worry about tomorrow as Jesus says, and sell everything and give it to the poor... .what a horrifying image - it's almost like what the early Christians did (see St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Justin Martyr, and others).
...better just return to our grotesque marriage of secular materialism and baptized capitalism. hurray for doublethink.

Historical Anglicanism

These are some of the 'great' Anglican documents I've studied in history this year.

"I, A. B., do utterly testify and declare in my conscience that the Queen's Highness is the only supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness's dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm; and therefore I do utterly renounce and forsake all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities and authorities, and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true allegiance to the Queen's Highness, her heirs and lawful successors, and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, pre-eminences, privileges and authorities granted or belonging to the Queen's Highness, her heirs or successors, or united or annexed to the imperial crown of this realm. So help me God, and by the contents of this Book." - Oath of Supremacy 1559

"I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord s Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever : and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any eva sion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever, and without any dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the Pope, or any other authority or person whatsoever, or without any hope of any such dispensation from any person or authority whatso ever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other person or persons, or power whatsoever, should dis pense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null and void from the beginning." -Coronation Oath

man they were paranoid.

And lastly a fun fact most don't know about Canterbury:

" In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books. Genesis...Leviticus...Judges, The First Book of Esdras, Four Prophets the greater, Ruth, The Second Book of Esdras, Twelve Prophets the less." - Article VI. of the 39 Articles of Religion

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Day I Checked My Inbox And Saw Peter Kreeft's Reply

So today I was reading Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft and it by far is the most valuable tool I've found at explaining the faith to Protestants, and understanding "Catholic distinctives" for myself. I've also read pretty much everything on his website, and his lecture on ecumenism is enough to make anyone convert. So I thought about it and realized that I should really email him and thank him for all that he's helped me with. I've thought about emailing McGrath as well, but I figured it'd be weird to thank McGrath for teaching me the Reformation so that I could distance myself from it.... But I'm too happy to be cynical, so anyway I finally found his school email and sent it there assuming that there was a good chance he'd never reply. But I still emailed him a very brief and probably strange story of my conversion in a nutshell and how he helped in it and thanked him. Within only hours, Dr. Kreeft sent me a reply:

Thank you for your thank you. We are all links in a long chain. The place at the banquet table has long been set for you. Welcome home.

It's 4 sentences, I know I'm being ridiculous. But it makes me really happy that in some way I got to connect with one of my theological/philosophical heroes. It's like when I talked with Frank Schaeffer....but this is about 10 times cooler.

Thank you Lord.

I'm good enough for Dr. Alister McGrath, St. Augustine, and C.S. Lewis, why not you?

I can't get the spacing on this blog to work properly at all. .. it's either 4 empty lines, or everything smashed together without space.

Anyway... so allegedly I've been becoming "Anti-Protestant" or as Michael calls it "Jerky Catholic" or triumphalistic. I don't feel like I'm any more anti-protestant than any of my Protestant friends are anti-Catholic. At least I call them Christians... So while I do not defend any outrage on my own part, I hope to at least shed some light on why I'm so very angry.

1. I'm A CHRISTIAN! - I'm getting really tired of people either telling me I'm not a Christian, or following a false gospel, idolater, etc. I cite in my defense, this man:

Dr. Alister McGrath - IUSTITIA DEI was a book written by this Oxford scholar and self-proclaimed Evangelical Anglican and in it he writes this on Catholic/Augustinian Justification (sorry to quote in full, if you trust me just skip it):

"Once justified by divine action, the sinner does not at once become a perfect example of holiness. Humans need to pray to God continually for their growth in holiness and the spiritual life, thereby acknowledging that God is the author of both. God operates upon humans in the act of justification, and co-operates with them in the process of justification. Once justified, the sinner may begin to acquire merit—but only on account of God’s grace. Merit is seen to be a divine rather than a human work. Thus it is clearly wrong to suggest that Augustine excludes or denies merit; while merit before justification is indeed denied, its reality and necessity after justification are equally strongly affirmed. It must be noted, however, that Augustine understands merit as a gift from God to the justified sinner … Hominis bona merita, Dei munera. Eternal life is indeed the reward for merit—but merit is itself a gift from God, so that the whole process must be seen as having its origin in the divine liberality, rather than in human works. If God is under any obligation to humans on account of their merit, it is an obligation which God has imposed upon himself, rather than one which is imposed from outside, or is inherent in the nature of things. … There is no hint in Augustine of any notion of justification purely in terms of ‘reputing as righteous’ or ‘treating as righteous’, as if this state of affairs could come into being without the moral or spiritual transformation of humanity of grace. The pervasive trajectory of Augustine’s thought is unambiguous: justification is a causative process, by which an ungodly person is made righteous. It is about the transformation of the impius to iustus.

Augustine has an all-embracing transformative understanding of justification, which includes both the event of justification (brought about by operative grace) and the process of justification (brought about by operative grace). Augustine himself does not, in fact, see any need to distinguish between these two aspects of justification; the distinction dates from the sixteenth century. … The righteousness which God bestows upon humanity in justification is regarded by Augustine as inherent rather than imputed, to anticipate the vocabulary of the sixteenth century. A concept of ‘imputed righteousness’, in the later Protestant sense of the term, is quite redundant within Augustine’s doctrine of justification, in that humans are made righteous in justification. The righteousness which they thus receive, although originating from God, is nevertheless located within humans, and can be said to be theirs, part of their being and intrinsic to their persons. An element which underlies this understanding of the nature of justifying righteousness is the Greek concept of deification, which makes its appearance in the later Augustinian soteriology. By charity, the Trinity itself comes to inhabit the soul of the justified sinner." - Alister McGrath (Iustitia Dei, pp. 43-44, 47-48)

Ok. So the Protestants keep saying "APOSTASY!" well if St. Augustine and those Fathers who drew the lines on the canon of Holy Scripture, upheld the Church, the doctrines of grace and Original sin - if those men were all wrong about the key point 'on which the church stands or falls', then I don't think Christianity is true. If God can't save his own Church for 16 centuries then he is either an inept or a terrible God. And if Alister McGrath is ok with my view on Justification, then I'm ok with my view on Justification.

There I said it. Leave me alone. Trent ratified St. Augustine. That is the catholic faith.

2. I only have about 2 Roman Catholic friends. Basically I'm constantly surrounded by Protestants and feel suffocated. It's like being a Calvinist and growing up in the Southern Baptist Convention. You feel like if you don't scream every once and a while, you'll wake up one morning without a voice, or worse, a desire to scream

3. I'm a sinner. I'm in counseling, and I don't have the sacraments yet, so leave me alone.

All of the below I have stolen from Dave Armstrong's "Biblical Evidence for Catholicism" blog. So let it be known I'm not trying to plagiarize anything. - I recommend reading the whole thing, I just wanted to quote part of it here:

"That the whole cause of schism lies in sin I do not hold to be certain. I grant that no schism is without sin but the one proposition does not necessarily follow the other . . . what would I think of your Thomas More and of our William Tyndale? All the writings of the one and all the writings of the other I have lately read right through. Both of them seem to me most saintly men and to have loved God with their whole heart: I am not worthy to undo the shoes of either of them. Nevertheless they disagree and (what racks and astounds me) their disagreement seems to me to spring not from their vices nor from their ignorance but rather from their virtues and the depths of their faith, so that the more they were at their best the more they were at variance. I believe the judgement of God on their dissension is more profoundly hidden than it appears to you to be: for His judgements are indeed an abyss." - C.S. Lewis (Letters: C.S. Lewis / Don Giovanni Calabria [25 November 1947], 37, 39)

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Church According to Nicea, why St. Edmund Campion died

On a bit of a mix of personal and theological I thought I'd just write a few things down on the unity, catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church as well as the development of doctrine.

I still remember reading Dominus Iesus or whatever Benny 16 put out as his encyclical that non-Catholic churches were merely "ecclesial communities" and being horrified. At the time I thought "Catholics aren't even Christians and they're telling us we aren't!?" ... I guess I didn't realize that Catholics probably thought they were Christians, but that would've saved me some confusion.

It was that document and the Catholic-Protestant Debate which I visited around that time which led me to what is (in my opinion) one of the most important points in Church History. As I looked for which Church I wanted to join I still had my unbiblical concept of the invisible church but then I read these words in the Nicene Creed, which J.N.D. Kelly, and Philip Schaff said was considered early on to be an infallible pronouncement in the eyes of the primitive Church (the Nicene Creed that is).

"We/I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" . The next line about baptism scared me as well. I knew there were only 3 churches applying for that job description and so I began studying Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism. While I still like all 3 of those, I've chosen the last because I believe it meets those standards best.

While reading the story of St. Edmund Campion the other day it reminded me of this phrase. I'm still looking for a confirmation saint and while Augustine and Aquinas have been the steady tie, 2 others have come up recently. St Edmund Campion and St. Thomas More. I want one of them because they lived in what I call "the era of complicated Christianity" (or after the Reformation). It was an utter mess, and I want to be able to identify with someone who wasn't just a Western Christian but was specifically faithful to Catholicism and was killed for his strength of conviction.

I'm really thinking it's going to be one of the English martyrs who died for the primacy of the Holy See that ends up being my patron saint. I LOVE what St. Edmund Campion said at his trial where he defended himself vehemently against all the charges of those English martyrs: His beautiful words:

"In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England -- the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter" - St. Edmund Campion

That almost gives me goosebumps. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered, which is really horrific, if you don't know what that entails, read about it on wikipedia. I think about St. Edmund and St. Thomas More and how they died for that phrase, that jewel of dogmas of Ancient Christendom "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church".

St. Edmund Campion pray for us!

St. Thomas More pray for us!

Religious Tolerance

"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions." - G.K. Chesterton

I've been trying to figure out whether it is a virtue or not, or rather, I always knew it wasn't a virtue, but whether it was necessary or not. Obviously if someone is right, then the freedom to choose wrongly is not a virtue (see Plato's Republic). But I live in a democracy-high people. So should we have equal choice? Hmmm. I think it's also a factor that the Roman Church has not been tolerated in England or America and so it makes me want tolerance, because it allows my beliefs to be tolerated. But, ideally, would I be for a country with church and state union if the church was correct.

I think there are other considerations. I lived in England and worked in the Church of England. The merger of Church and State destroyed the Church. But if Anglicanism was completely correct, then why not enforce it on everyone? We force democracy on people, so why not religion? I guess in an ideal sense the perfect state with the perfect religion would go well together, but we haven't been able to find practitioners of either, and in the words of Hamlet, "ay, there's the rub"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Things I Want To Understand In Roman Catholic Theology

Many things still utterly confuse me about the teachings of my new church, here are some I want to clear up:

1. Merit - It's a word that invokes disgust in my soul after reading so many Protestant writings against it, and I'd like to understand merit properly in Roman Catholicism (as I'm going to need it to go to Heaven now). The other day, I read this, and it made alot of sense:
But I'd like even more of an explanation. C.S. Lewis' quote makes a bit of sense:

"People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other."

2. How on earth Free-Will makes any sense - I took philosophy in University and everyone was in agreement, Free Will doesn't really seem possible logically. The Church tends to just say "God gave us free will, ergo, free will works". But like St. Anselm I seek understanding through faith and wish to understand this mystery.

3. The Biblical support for and role of Christian Priests/Priesthood and their/it's mediatorial role

4. Why we would pray to the saints, and whether or not it truly is simply a reflection of courtly life onto God.

As Lewis said: "There is clearly a theological defense for [devotions to saints]; if you can ask for the prayers for the living, why should you not ask for the prayers for the dead? There is clearly also a great danger. In some popular practice we see it leading off into an infinitely silly picture of Heaven as an earthly court where applicants will be wise to pull the right wires, discover the best 'channels,' and attach themselves to the most influential pressure groups... The consoling thing is that while Christendom is divided about the rationality, and even the lawfulness, of praying to the saints, we are all agreed about praying with them."

5. The relationship between the Old and New Testaments - This is really important as many of our Catholic proof-texts come from the Old Testament, but as a Baptist the Old Testament was pretty much unapplicable in every way to Christian life. If someone came up with an argument or thought about the Old Testament we'd simply say 'Well that was then, this is now'. Covenant Theology was also helpful, but I'm wondering what Rome's stance on this issue is.

If you have any ideas, or book recommendations about these let me know.

Lent: Prayer

"Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure."~ DL Moody

"If it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation. If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips." -St. Theresa of Avila

Changes to my Blog

Hey everyone (both of you), just letting you know that my blog will probably change a little bit. Thus far it has been basically polemics from whatever church/tradition/denomination I was in at the time. I'm finding as Socrates aptly said that "all I know is that I know nothing". I have a very limited understanding of systematic theology, an OK grasp of the Bible (Protestant Canon, I'm still reading the Deuterocanon), and I'm in the process of transitioning my whole theology from a Baptist/Evangelical to a Roman Catholic. For this reason I'm going to probably navigate alot slower and alot more personally. This will mean that my theology student friends will probably not want to read it anymore, and that is quite alright and understandable. Thanks to everyone, you've taught me a great deal.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lent: True Repentance

Today was the rite of election for Catechumens and Candidates at our Roman Catholic Cathedral. Our bishop presided and preached an amazing and passionate sermon which spoke to me powerfully. The text was St. Mark's account of the desert temptation and his sermon was all about temptation and conversion. To explain why this was anything more than your average sermon let me QUICKLY explain recent happenings in my life.
I had a Christian friend almost died and still in hospital, I got bluntly rejected by a girl I (sort of) asked out, I found out I have a dentist appointment this monday (one of my biggest fears), I had a terrible night at work, my computer got a virus and is completely destroyed meaning that I've lost all my lecture notes and school work for this year. The computer part was probably the worst as it happened while I was trying to look up the lyrics for "Abide with me" which was going to be my worship song to God in spite of my terrible week. ....and then my comp broke...and I pretty much decided to follow Job's Wife's advice: "Curse God and die". So God and I have been on rough ground recently.

SO, at mass today our Bishop was discussing how Christ is the essence of the Kingdom of God and that unless Christ is sovereign in our hearts/souls then we are denying God's sovereignty in our lives, and excluding ourselves from the Kingdom of God. He tied this to the Rite of Election which he defined as 'the process where God in sovereign freedom chose you to join the body of Christ and to turn your life to him'. Which wasn't Calvin or Augustine, but was still good. So he tied this idea of sovereignty in the Kingdom of God to sovereignty in our own lives. He also said that Satan is never so obvious as to tempt us to openly disown God and side with him (satan). But rather he said Satan tempts us with good things which we overglorify and these become the temples or idols in our hearts. He says this leads us to spiritually write a declaration of independence from God (sorry to the Americans). And so the purpose of Lent is to deprive ourselves of inherently good things to remind us that we need to destroy these temples in our own hearts and lives. As the Lord led Jesus into temptation, so he will lead us, and this is done to remind us who is sovereign in our lives. Is Christ's flag flying in our lives, or have we set up our own rule, our own independence.
I'm reading a book by Brother Andrew called "The Calling" with all these wild evangelistic stories. One of them recounts how difficult it was to get the gospel into China, and how the borders are closed, and the only book permitted is 'Mao's little red book of sayings'. He talks about how they smuggled in bibles disguised as these books, etc, and began by evangelizing the borders and gradually made their way in.

I thought about my own life this afternoon, have I declared a revolution in my heart, have I closed off the gospel and built idols to lust and gluttony and self-centredness. Is my heart more populated with 'Andrew's red book of rationalizations' or sayings that excuse me of my own sin and responsibility, than with God's Word. Is the Lord trying to penetrate the borders of my soul.
Well, today I learned a little more about true repentance, and tried to remember whose side I am on and re-declare my allegiance to Christ. Today's readings also talked about authorities and rulers in the heavenly realms, and so in the language of spiritual warfare, I realized today that maybe Lent will be a beneficial time for God's hostile takeover of my soul, for my unconditional surrender, and for the flag of the gospel to fly high once more. All of this state/warfare/kingdom language and metaphors remind me of something the Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman said in a sermon on the prodigal son:

"The most noble repentance (if a fallen being can be noble in his fall), the most decorous conduct in a conscious sinner, is an unconditional surrender of himself to God—not a bargaining about terms, not a scheming (so to call it) to be received back again, but an instant surrender of himself in the first instance. Without knowing what will become of him, whether God will spare or not, merely with so much hope in his heart as not utterly to despair of pardon, still not looking merely to pardon as an end, but rather looking to the claims of the Benefactor whom he has offended, and smitten with shame, and the sense of his ingratitude, he must surrender himself to his lawful Sovereign. He is a runaway offender; he must come back, as a very first step, before anything can be determined about him, bad or good; he is a rebel, and must lay down his arms. Self-devised offerings might do in a less serious matter; as an atonement for sin, they imply a defective view of {97} the evil and extent of sin in his own case. Such is that perfect way which nature shrinks from, but which our Lord enjoins in the parable—a surrender. The prodigal son waited not for his father to show signs of placability. He did not merely approach a space, and then stand as a coward, curiously inquiring, and dreading how his father felt towards him. He made up his mind at once to degradation at the best, perhaps to rejection. He arose and went straight on towards his father, with a collected mind; and though his relenting father saw him from a distance, and went out to meet him, still his purpose was that of an instant frank submission. Such must be Christian repentance: First we must put aside the idea of finding a remedy for our sin; then, though we feel the guilt of it, yet we must set out firmly towards God, not knowing for certain that we shall be forgiven. He, indeed, meets us on our way with the tokens of His favour, and so He bears up human faith, which else would sink under the apprehension of meeting the Most High God; still, for our repentance to be Christian, there must be in it that generous temper of self-surrender, the acknowledgment that we are unworthy to be called any more His sons, the abstinence from all ambitious hopes of sitting on His right hand or His left, and the willingness to bear the heavy yoke of bond-servants, if He should put it upon us." -John Henry Cardinal Newman (

May God show you this Lent, the heart of true Christian repentance.