Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"My Peace I Give You"

So this blog has normally been a chronicle of my theological turmoil, and so the worse things got, the more I would post. It's been 3 weeks now I think since my reception into the Roman Catholic Communion, and I must say my posts are sparse if not altogether gone. This actually is the result of an unimagined peace I've had in the theological area of my life. There is still much inquiry into different doctrines, etc, and learning all the practices (I was reprimanded on sunday for wearing a rosary which i'm apparently not supposed to do). But for the most part, the sleeplessness and frustration and fear are gone, and I am peacefully Catholic. I know it will dismay most and be a confusing end, but such has been my journey. I'm grateful for it. So the amount of posts on the blog will probably lower, though I will still post, and it will probably be less Protestant VS Catholic as it will be more of me trying to figure out the transition from a Reformed Protestant worldview to an Augustinian Thomistic worldview. God bless you all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Circle of Death - Young Earth Creationism and Evolution

I was watching "Planet Earth" the other night with my mom, we'd just bought it, and it was fascinating how everything in the ecosystem eats each other. The eagles will eat the baby foxes and the foxes will be eating the eggs of the eagles, etc and at one point I saw a fox with 4 baby birds in it's mouth at once to bring back for its children to eat. I was thinking that it wasn't so much a circle of life as it was a circle of death. But that's how nature works.

I was at my parents Baptist church the other night and we were discussing evolution and I was saying that even though I don't hold to it, it has absolute support from the scientific community, and only those crazies on the outsides who are acting out of religious conviction - which is admirable but unscientific - disbelief in it. It works for 99% of life, and Creationists are out there finding the rapidly shrinking 1% of things they haven't explained (Biology never claims a comprehensive worldview anyway) and then try to show how they are irreducibly complex. But anyone who's actually read a book by Dawkins or an Evolutionary Biologist will tell you that all of those CAN be explained by natural selection, in fact he takes 10 examples from a Creationist book of 'irreducible complexity' and shows how they could have developed over time.

I really don't have a view on Creationism vs Evolution - as an Augustinian Christian I only hold 2 propositions about the whole event. 1. God created out of sheer superabundant love and joy for his own glory. and 2. Man willfully and knowingly sinned against him, and death remains the punishment and universal phenomenon of that sin. Obviously those are problematic with scientific evolution because man would have no official starting point, it would be just one chain of matter and categories would be arbitrary. So I couldn't strictly speaking believe in a world where everything is killing each other to survive, in essence, I couldn't believe in the world that we have right now. There had to be Shalom. The Hebrew reading of Genesis is that in the beginning God created the earth in peace/Shalom, man had peace with God, man and woman had peace, and man and creation had peace. It was all in Shalom. Natural selection doesn't work with this philosophical/theological view of nature.

But I'm not dumb enough to completely ignore the fossil record, obviously the whole point of evolution was to explain why we weren't digging up fossils of dogs and cats, etc, species we see walking around on the earth right now. So at some point there had to be dinosaurs, other weird scary things, and no humans on the earth. Which still synchs up with the general order of the universe. So I guess you could call me an Old Universe, Old Earth, Creationist. I have the same view as Chesterton who said he had no problem with evolution as a science/biology but as a philosophy it cannot co-exist with Christianity. But in my view, Science and the revelation to God's people are all a part of revelation and they should all come together, there shouldn't be a divergence. I was taught this in high school by the smartest Mennonite I know who taught us about Galileo, etc, and said "If science and religion come into conflict it is because one of them has made a mistake, it is either false science or false theology" and he cited the example of "The earth is firmly established it cannot be moved" from the Psalms and the rotation of the earth, and how that was a wrong hermeneutic we had, and that we've changed our theology accordingly. And things like the scientific acceptance of the Big Bang Theory (written by a Catholic Priest) gives me hope that Christianity and Science can play nicely together in the end.

But there will always be people like Dawkins, and people like the Inquisition, constantly fighting each other, and to paraphrase Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz 'people have been fighting about it for so long that it no longer is a fight about what the truth is, but who can come up with cleverer arguments, so I stay away from it'. I obviously believe in God - Philosophically it's impossible to me to accept an atheistic universe - therefore I believe in creation, but I haven't studied biology enough to get in depth into debates, but as Chesterton says of the Unitarians and the Catholics I say of the Creationists and Evolutionists 'it's not as though we believed their doctrines which appeared strange so much as we simply believed that everyone should be given a fair chance even if they appeared strange' (paraphrased from Conversion and the Catholic Church). I just don't like the simplistic black and white dicotemies that place all anti-Christs with evolution , when many good Christian men are theistic evolutionists (like Alistair McGrath, and pretty much every Roman Catholic and Anglican theologian).

I'm at least glad that now I sit in a camp though (however weakly) of Old Earth Creationism, but even there I must laugh at myself because I think if we were ONLY studying the bible I would be a young earth creationist (John MacArthur's biblical studies on the topic are actually pretty strong that it isn't poetry - that is Genesis 1-3 - and never was considered poetry, and is literal, I just wish he'd take that approach to John 6 and 1 Cor 11 heh aka. Eucharist). If I was just going by science I'd be an evolutionist purely. So in Anglican style I'm taking the via media.

So at this church I told them basically: the problem is not over what science says - it clearly says evolution (no matter what the focus on the family video says) - the problem is over whether we should be teaching any science based on empiricism. Empiricism being essentially a non-Christian worldview and a philosophically untenable one as well. The whole venture of science is to look at ONLY the natural world, that's it's box it is closed within, obviously they will say nothing of the supernatural world, and that silence will be understood by most to mean non-existance. But if we as Christians believe that Naturalism (matter is the only real thing) is a flawed understanding of the world, we shouldn't be trying to get creationism taught in the classroom, we should be trying to get philosophy taught in the classroom, give every kid a summa theologica or Decartes Meditations, and they'll realize that the world is matter and spirit, that biology itself is flawed if it thinks it is a comprehensive worldview, etc.

But I was a Catholic so they drifted off when I included myself in the category of Christian, and just started glaring at me for not accepting their simple "Us and Them" mentality. It's amazing how Nietzschean the young earthers come off as they'd rather simply impose their will on others (including teaching children in schools) and banish any literature or idea that doesn't fit within their framework. Strangely enough it was Christendom that existed as the first self-critical worldview, welcomed debate and discussion, but apparently the sola scripturans are becoming more Muslim every day, religion of the book, fundamentalism, King James only/Arabic only authoritative. But again that's not me being anti-Protestant , that's Alistair McGrath's summation of modern fundamentalism in "Christianity's Dangerous Idea", he convincingly argues that the Anabaptist tradition of iconoclasm, etc, is almost identical to Islam. Confessional/Traditional Protestantism doesn't have such a problem, but I just have to laugh at the comment I read in history class the other day "The Saracens were quickly linked to the Protestants as they said only a Muslim or Calvin could so quickly dispose of a crucifix or desecrate a statue of the Virgin" History is funny - much funnier than I am. So ya. Ben Stein. Shut up...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mortal Sin => If God had facebook.

So I had this story all written out about what happened, but I realized by writing it for the 2 or 3 odd people who read this blog, it would really just be me letting off steam and being passive agressive, so I'm not publishing it in full. ... In short, a person who I was very close to has unfriended me on facebook and blocked me as it were from seeing her posts, etc, and refuses to answer my emails. I hadn't even talked to this friend in 6 months so I didn't know what attrocity I could've committed, though granted with our history, there's probably alot of other reasons. But I was just thinking, how awful is it to be unfriended. I mean its facebook, big deal. But it's still someone saying they don't like you, don't even want to see you or think about you. It's like being excommunicated from someone's life.

Today at confession I asked the priest for an explanation of the distinction between Mortal and Venial sin. He said that Mortal sin was fatal, and that if I was in Mortal sin I'd probably have to be dragged to confession and that in the early Church only 3 sins were mortal, he then said "a Mortal sin destroys your personal relationship with God, in 3 weeks (the time it'd been since my last confession) it'd be difficult to destroy a human relationship". I realized, venial sin is like not talking to my Capernwray friends for a few months or a year. Mortal sin is like unfriending God.

I think it's interesting that people hated God. When Jesus came people hated him soo much that they killed him. It says alot about the relationship between humanity and God. I mean imagine if you were adopted and you met your biological parents without knowing and you just hated them. That's like what happened to him. "Know that if the world hates you, it hated me first" - Jesus (Jn 15:18).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rant: Frustrated with God

Today was awful. There's no way around it. I went to a US history exam and did very poorly, and got back a paper from the class that also only got a 70 (which is my lowest mark this year). And so I came home angry and feeling that familiar feeling of Western Rich Fat Kid Entitlement, and then went to a friends and we studied for 6 hours and then I went to that exam and wrote for 3 hours. 6 hours of exams later, I came home and again felt the Western Rich Fat Kid Entitlement syndrome and decided I was going to stay up late, eat junk food and sleep in tomorrow. but then my computer froze. Fine.... Not a problem, I'll just restart it. Hmm... It's not restarting. Then I remember I've taken all of my dad's photos from his trip and put them on this computer so that they'll be safe because I just got this computer fixed not 2 weeks ago and it shouln't break. And then the computer won't restart.

So I start praying. Then I really start praying....


Nothing happens, the result that usually follows my prayers...


I start to get really frustrated. My computer has now broken for the 3rd time within a month, the rest of my life outside the last month, I've never had a virus, never had any computer trouble, but it seems like the Heavens have opened and rained down computer problems or something.

I just get SO Angry. I Beg God, PLEASE let my computer work - you can fuck up all my stuff, I just need to get Dad's pictures so he doesn't yell at me - isn't that a 10 commandment!?!@!#!@ honor thy father....trying to do that God....all it would take is less than a milisecond for you to just help me out here.....virtually no effort at all....I mean it's not like I've drastically changed my life for you or like i spend every day arguing that you are there...

Needless to say after trying God I invoked every saint I could think of, I'm considering Hindu deities now if they can get my info, all their people work in tech support for Dell so maybe...

Anyway, it's just frustrating how stupid it feels when God won't even answer a simple prayer that you've prayed for so vehemently.

There's a moment in the movie Signs where Mel Gibson an ex-priest is holding his son who appears to be dying in his arms. He starts to get tears in his eyes and glaring at the heavens he says seething: "I hate you..." ... that's how I feel with God right now, but I doubt like Mel Gibson my prayers will miraculously be answered...

There's another moment I saw the other day. In the Simpsons their church gets destroyed and the Reverend is standing there with a few congregants and says "it will cost a fortune to fix" and then he turns to the sky and shouts "barring a miracle that is ! ...." nothing happens and he mutters "fine, we'll help ourselves....again".

I just get really angry, because if God is supposed to be my 'friend' then he's a terrible friend. If I knew how to fix my friends computer in 1 second and he wanted me to, I would. No strings attached , nothing. In fact, if a stranger asked, I'd do it. But God just sits there, answering other people's prayers...

So I have a solution though, I once heard a Calvinist quote Jonathon Edwards to say God doesn't hear the prayers of the reprobates or even listen to them, and all the evidence seems to be stacking up towards my reprobation. So there we go, a man spends his life reading and talking about God and changing churches for God and in the end it's all meaningless because he wasn't elected.

I know the "right" theological answer, I'm the scum of the earth, God owes me nothing, read the end of Job, etc. But honestly, I'm just getting tired of trying to work with God if he won't help me out when I really need it...

and alone in his computer room recliner the rich white canadian fat kid getting a university education and having 3 days off is angry at God that 1 of his 3 computers broke, while 28 000 children starve to death in Africa as the sun sets on another day...

Saturday, April 11, 2009


so all my other friends did a Good Friday Post and I forgot to, so I'm just going to make a simple Easter post with my second favourite Messianic prophecy (Jared 'took' Isa 53), it explains the death of Jesus and the story of salvation well:

"For they reasoned unsoundly..." - 2:1

"‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.’

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect."
-Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-3:9


"Islam" is an interesting term, it means in arabic, submission. Submission to God. I read a play once called "A Man For All Seasons" by Robert Bolt which had a similar theme. It was about St. Thomas More, a man who acted to the direction of his conscience and convictions, a man who had criticized and questioned the Latin Church in a great deal of ways, but in the end, gave his life in submission to it's supreme authority to every other church. Ironically the church that killed him (Anglican) even canonize him as a hero today.

I have a great many problems with Catholicism still in my mind (Infant Baptism still gives me a jolt of horror from my Anabaptist upbringing, the Sacrifice of the Mass is still foreign, and the dogma of Purgatory is a labarynthine minefield), but today - the day of my confirmation - is about (in my opinion) submission to the Church.

"I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God" are the only thing I really say in the ceremony. (they've removed the abjuration of former heresy). And I find myself comforted by a beautiful phrase from Sacred Scripture "I do believe, Lord help me in my unbelief". That to me is what faith is, an affirmation of all that God says is true, whether we understand it, or not. It is the desire of the heart, and the decision of the will.

Why on earth am I entering the Church of Rome? Well as horrifying as it is, I truly believe "Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ, would refuse to enter her or to remain in her could not be saved" - Lumen Gentium. Those are terribly strong words, echoing from the patristic (and even Reformation - see Luther on this issue) teaching "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" - outside the church there is no salvation. Now there are hermeneutical gymnastics I could pull, invincible ignorance, etc, and what does "knowing" mean here, etc, but at the end of the day, for me, Andrew Cottrill, I feel obliged to submit to it.

But above Vatican II and plays by British Humanists I hold another source, the Word of God itself:

" Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah." - Matthew 16:13-20

This I hold even as a Catholic, seems like a bad move on Christs part, but God doesnt listen to me so whatever.

Before you even start typing about petros and petra, read Scott Hahns definative defense of the Catholic position here first, it answers every objection and he even cites Evangelical scholars who are now agreeing with us (only on this one interpretation, and they dont take it to the extent we do) , here it is http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp

And I close with the words of J.N.D. Kelly, a Reformed Anglican Church Historian who writes:

"The Papacy is the oldest of all Western institutions with an unbroken existence of almost 2000 years." - J.N.D. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rant: The Sacrifice of the Mass

So tonight was Maundy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper, and the Bishop just went on and on about how we have to believe in the Sacrifice of the Mass and Transubstantiation and how people don't talk about it anymore but we have to believe it. Then he lamented over the poor communities that "only" had the bible/gospel and worship and works of charity. Indeed, how sad to think of a biblical community spreading the gospel, worshipping the Lord, and loving their neighbours, what a deficient ecclesial community. Seriously man, it's communion, everyone has it, everyone eats it, and everyone agrees, it tastes like wine and bread (or in parts of the Evangelical tradition, goldfish crackers and cool-aid). He went on and on to quote Trent about the Sacrifice of the Mass, etc. But here's my beef: I think Trent just ratified the Church Fathers - see this proof text/quote mine of Roman Catholic apologetics (http://www.catholic.com/library/Sacrifice_of_the_Mass.asp)

But what does it matter that it is a sacrifice? That's my question. How does that make it any different? Because if you ask Catholics about it they have no answers, and if you look at the Catechism etc, it just says that it's not a 're-sacrificing' so what is it then. It's just a word. Sacrifice. Oblation. It's not even a 'real' sacrifice anyway because it's not taking away anyone's sins, it's like if someone took a picture of the crucifixion and said this is a re-displaying of the Sacrifice, and then everyone bowed down to the photo and we had the Liturgy of the Kodak and we all sat around talking about the Sacrifice of the Photo.

I just don't get it. For me the only reason the Sacrifice of the Mass is at all meaningful is because of the Sacrifice of Calvary. As Bp. N.T. Wright says, 'Jesus didn't give us a theological exposition to understand his death, he gave us a meal'. So I believe it's the body and blood of Christ, because Jesus says so, and if his spirit and body cannot be separated then if he is spiritually present he is bodily present, and all the Church Fathers all unilaterally agree on the Real Presence. So to me, the doctrine's full meaning is that Christ is present with us and actually dwells in us and we receive Him physically.

But what's the point of all the bowing and worship. I mean the Apostles lived with him and they didn't kneel before him / genuflect. They didn't bow down and worship him all the time. No, he washed THEIR feet - which we did tonight. Christ was trampled for our sake. In fact I think it would be a better tradition to take the host and smash it, or stomp on it. Because that's what happened to Jesus. He was pierced for our transgressions, he died for OUR sins. By his wounds we are healed. So why are we going through all of this ritual, Jesus said it himself "For even the Son of Man did not come into the world to serve but to be served and give his life as a ransom for many".

So our thoughts should be, "Jesus died for us", crucifixion, etc. The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's death, not of the Eucharist. Jesus' purpose was not to eat a meal for the sake of eating a meal. Again it, like all of his life, was pointing to the cross, and our reconciliation and communion with God.

So that's how I feel, and that's why I get frustrated when I have to say the words "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed of God" for my confirmation, because while I agree with Rome, St. Catharines is a long way from Rome...

St. Thomas Aquinas Pray that we would truly understand the Eucharist, that it would lead us to Christ and not traditionalism and sacramentalism for their own sakes.

On the Eve of Entering (Pt. 1)

I've been having some last minute cold feet - I'm doing it no matter what - and reading Protestant writers alot and questioning alot of issues I'd thought I'd finished questioning.

I realize however how fickle my theological knowledge really is. I listen to some of Calvin or Edwards' rhetoric and the false dicotemies of faith and works, Church and Christ, Scripture and Tradition, and I begin to rethink some things, it's like erosion that slowly works on you.

But what do I do to remove doubt? Read polemics from the Catholic side, and make the Nicene Creed my mantra (regenerational baptism, one church, etc). Go on Dave Armstrong's blog, read Kreeft, etc.

But I hate doing this, I'm just a Christian who feels in his conscience that it is right for him to give adherence to the Roman Catholic Church. But sure? sure about everything? I don't know if I'll ever get there.

Inclusivism, Arminianism, and other dirty words...(Romans 2-4)

I swear I'm going to die or get an ulcer from all of this justification debate / thinking stuff. ... Here we go again. So I've examined the argument for Romans 2-3

Catholics tend to only focus on "to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life" - 2:7, and the basic argument up to 3 is that good people get rewarded bad people get punished and St. Paul says "A person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter fo the heart - it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God" 2:29

So it is boastable (if that's a word). I think the fact that Paul talks SO much about boasting, it's important to gather that is an issue. So of this righteous gentile, this 'noble savage' who follows their conscience, God praises them. So they could boast, theoretically.


St. Paul quickly adds in "both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin" (Romans 3:9) and then goes on a quote parade through the Old Testament (using the Septuagint ironically after he says "the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God" - St. Paul, a Jew outside Israel would probably have used the deuterocanonicals). Anyway, the point is he says "For 'no human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin" 3:20

Then St. Paul goes on to explain Sola Fide which no one till Luther will understand or teach, but hey, he tried right?

Here's my problem: How is it that he says everyone is under the power of sin (original sin) and yet that those who act righteously are rewarded even without the law... now if all of this was just to teach Total Depravity, why Romans 2, why not just skip to 3.

Here's an additional problem when you flip through the Early Churches view of inclusivism v. exclusivism:

One of my favourite oft-quoted verses where St. Peter sees the Gentiles believe (Cornelius):

"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

St. Paul in Lystra and Derbe, where they do a miracle and the pagan priests try to offer them a sacrifice:

"turn from these worthless things to the living God...In past
generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways
; yet he has
not left himself without a witness in doing good" - Acts 16:16

And in the Areopagus St. Paul says to the Athenian Philosophers:

"While God has overlooked the times of ignorance, now he
commands all people everywhere to repent" - Acts 17:30 (had to memorize this in
Bible School)

Now it would appear that left right and centre the NT clearly affirms that there are Godly people who don't have the knowledge of the Gospel/Jesus, but are still doing good and apparently being Justified. And only Romans seems to paint this view that no one is righteous, no, not even one. ... So... How does this fit:

The Problem with Augustinian Soteriology:

The issue that all Augustinian Christians agree on (Reformed and Catholic) is that without grace, man can only choose sin. Original Sin, is the key doctrine we all hold, but here we have something completely out of the blue. People "under the power of sin" (Rom 3:9) acting righteously.

Have we been believing a sort of Augustine on steroids and ignored that the bible seems to indicate otherwise?

Are the Pelagian/East Orthodox Original sin deniers right?! Is it true as the Orthodox would have us believe that we don't really have Original Sin, but rather that man is in fear of death and that's what drives him to sin.

Are the Reformed right?

Well I'll be damned if St. Augustine the Inerrant will be scorned. The Reformed obviously hold that St. Paul was just pulling a Socrates and telling the Romans - 'sure all of you 'good people' will be saved..... oh ya... I forgot to tell you, that means NO ONE!!! ahahhaha - gotcha. So about Jesus..." , so if we're committed to the Augustinian ideal then there are a few options we have:


1. Arminianism/Molinism - Make like John Wesley/Molina and doublespeak our way out of it by saying that 'yes, man cannot do good without grace' ... did I mention that God has given grace to every person and that it's just resistible grace.

2. Resistible Sin: But the issue is, that Catholic or Protestant while we disagree about whether grace is irresistible, we all tend to believe in "Irresistible Sin" (my new phrase) whereby anyone without grace HAS to choose sin, when they open the fridge they can't choose Sunny D, but rather, always choose "purple stuff". So one option would be that even the reprobates can choose to reject sin and do good or bad, which basically is Pelagianism... ya.. I just figured that out now. So that's not really an option unless you're Episcopal.

3. Reformed Protestantism - By accepting Romans 3 as the trump of Romans 2 we are then left with the 'crazy idea' that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (where'd they get that one!?...quick don't read romans 3:23), and that apart from God's election, law or no law, you're damned. This of course would have to lead us to some sort of sola gratia & irresistible grace system without equivocation

But of course, sola fide, remains out, and if a Reformed Christian tells you to read Romans 4:1-8, tell him to read Romans 4:8-12, hand him a copy of "What St. Paul Really Meant" by N.T. Wright and ask him to explain why "law", "works", and "deeds" all seem to refer to the Mosaic covenant/circumcision. That'll keep em busy for a while.

But if you want the Patristic/Catholic account of Justification and this whole issue, just go to Dave Armstrong's post here of an entire exegesis of Romans 2-4 all in patristic commentary:http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/01/interpretation-exegesis-of-romans-2-4.html
when I read the theological gymnastics of it all, it makes my Baptist/Spider sense go off "traditions of men" "traditions of men" "traditions of men" ... man the Bible is completely confusing and unclear...

So in the end, the only coherent exegete it seems of this whole mess is Bishop Tom Wright of the Church of Henry VIII. Who woulda thunk it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Word and Sacrament Scripture and Patristics of the Day

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God." Acts 16

I was always taught this passage as a quintessential message of salvation and I still always like to read "believe on" or "believeth on" rather than "believe in" because as one fundamentalist Baptist pastor explained to me, to believe in is to refer to yourself and your heart, to believe ON is to believe on what Jesus has already done on the cross. But as a Catholic I also like to see that St. Paul also had the sacramental side as well.

St. Augustine, On Baptism, Book 5 Chapter 28 (39): "Wherefore, if those appear to men to be baptized in Catholic unity who renounce the world in words only and not in deeds, how do they belong to the mystery of this ark in whom there is not the answer of a good conscience? Or how are they saved by water, who, making a bad use of holy baptism, though they seem to be within, yet persevere to the end of their days in a wicked and abandoned course of life? Or how can they fail to be saved by water, of whom Cyprian himself records that they were in time past simply admitted to the Church with the baptism which they had received in heresy? For the same unity of the ark saved them, in which no one has been saved except by water. For Cyprian himself says, "The Lord is able of His mercy to grant pardon, and not to sever from the gifts of His Church those who, being in all simplicity admitted to the Church, have fallen asleep within her pale." If not by water, how in the ark? If not in the ark, how in the Church? But if in the Church, certainly in the ark; and if in the ark, certainly by water. It is therefore possible that some who have been baptized without may be considered, through the foreknowledge of God, to have been really baptized within, because within the water begins to be profitable to them unto salvation; nor can they be said to have been otherwise saved in the ark except by water. And again, some who seemed to have been baptized within may be considered, through the same foreknowledge of God, more truly to have been baptized without, since, by making a bad use of baptism, they die by water, which then happened to no one who was not outside the ark. Certainly it is clear that, when we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body, since all who are within in heart are saved in the unity of the ark through the same water, through which all who are in heart without, whether they are also in body without or not, die as enemies of unity. As therefore it was not another but the same water that saved those who were placed within the ark, and destroyed those who were left without the ark, so it is not by different baptisms, but by the same, that good Catholics are saved, and bad Catholics or heretics perish."

I just highlighted the interesting word that Thomists/Augustinians, and Calvinists alike despise "foreknowledge" and also that in the end St. Augustine says baptism saves but ultimately what makes the baptized saved or unsaved is the position of the heart.

Once again, may our hearts be better than our heads.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Cross

"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God... For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness...the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men...as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." - St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians chapter 1 (KJV)

Today in Mass we read heard the entire end of Mark's Gospel from the triumphal entry of Jerusalem, to the crucifixion to the resurrection. It reminds me of something the president of West Moorlands Bible College once said in Bible School : no matter how awful a church service is, if they read the Word, at least one part of it was inspired (ie. scriptures). The Msgr preached a very short but clear message that was mostly what I tend to call "Airy Anglican" social gospel which was to be expected. This is ok, neglect for the gospel in it's entirety is usually a fair expectation in the Catholic Church (and Anglican, and for that matter almost every church i've been to).


Then we went for our last confirmation class before everyone's baptism and my confirmation, and we watched a video. We'd been watching them all year and a theologian I liked was speaking, he had refuted the idea that Catholicism teaches "works righteousness" before, and explained how Augustinian justification avoids such a caricature. But today he was discussing the cross, and his words are almost seared into my mind and have made me sick all day. He said "there is a theology in the church (Catholic Church)- not a doctrine - but a theology of atonement, held by people like Mel Gibson and the Passion of the Christ, which says that human sin has closed the gates of heaven and that the only way for humanity to be saved was the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sake..." - so far so good - "...but I tend to disagree with this because of a few flaws it has, it first promotes a bloodthirsty God who wants to hurt people which is at odds with the scriptures (obviously he hasn't read the OT prophets), and it means that the teachings and life of Christ and the resurrection are meaningless, all that mattered was his death" ...I can't remember the rest of his sentence because of a fire burning inside of me to run up and kick the TV into the wall and the picture of Mary, but I didn't... he then went on to promote the Lombardian heresy - rejected by the Catholic Church officially via Lombard's excommunication, which smelled of the same airy anglicanism. It was the type of salvation model that apologists like Alister McGrath and C.S. Lewis use when they're backed into a corner (though I love both of them, they do this and it annoys me), where Jesus death was just a supreme picture of love and the full cost of his humanity, etc...

My mind was racing with the aforequoted part of first corinthians, and Isaiah 53, and the Nicene creed. I tried to anathemize the propogater of this heresy to our class by mentioning Lombard, St. Thomas Aquinas (who basically taught Penal Substitution) and St. Anselm (who taught almost the same thing), as doctors of the Church who should be respected above this man. But apparently our class liked the Lombardian heresy more, and the Presbyterian convert next to me (who should've known better) waved me off saying 'well the church has wrongly excommunicated many people' ...

I was outraged, I am outraged. I find the same garbage in every modern church it's not as though Catholicism is solely responsible for this view - it's been around a long time. Rob Bell teaches it, N.T. Wright semi-teaches it, and many other Protestants and Orthodox and Catholics, but man, it burns my blood. It robs the Cross of the victory, the power of God, I described the message to my parents as "Anglicized Judaism with nice feelings", it's what Michael Horton calls "Christless Christianity" (or Crossless Christianity - I don't remember), and while Protestantism has no effective way to deal with heresy, at least the Traditional Protestant Churches I've been to (Grace Reformed, Holy Trinity Anglican, my Grandma's Mennonite church) can teach a coherent biblical theology of the cross.

In the end, I feel obligated to be true to Scripture, the Nicene Creed and the councils of the Church. I don't believe Catholicism has officially destroyed the cross, but there's no question that our Parish has. When I read my catechism it is full of quotes all about the sufficiency of the Cross to deal with sin, the superabundant grace it bestows, and the patristic quote that 'there is no other ladder to heaven' than the cross. Trent affirms this, in my opinion. I think I'll just change parishes. But man, it certainly shook my faith.

May all Christians continue to confess the catholic faith
As the Nicene creed states:

"For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen."

A Presbyterian minister -who is much smarter, and much more a Christian than I will probably ever be, save by the grace of God - once had this verse at the end of an email he sent, where he accused me of trusting the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church rather than Christ, I still don't see the dicotemy (most of the time), but I will say that if I was guilty of it then, I am no more guilty of it, because I've tried to make this verse the key phrase to my entire walk with God, and I completely trust in Jesus and his work (on the cross and in my life) = "but a new creation") for salvation.

"far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." - Galatians 6:14-15 (ESV)

and may our hearts be smarter than our heads today and every day.

Happy Palm Sunday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spurgeon: What I love about the Baptist Tradition

I was pretty discouraged with all this theology and at times like that I sometimes go to this book I really enjoyed "Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching" by Iain H. Murray. I find Spurgeon normally kind of boring because he has gems of wisdom within long sermons, but this book takes all of those gems and puts them together so that you cut through the slag.

I love Spurgeon, that's why I still like the Baptist tradition, and I still think infant baptism has got to be one of the biggest malignings of the gospel as well (but Tradition/Augustine/Church Fathers are allowed to malign the gospel I guess in non-Baptist traditions - including my own). Anyway, here's some wonderful quotes:

"Man must not look to himself to find reasons for God's grace...Trust nothing of your own, not even your own sense of need...Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out"..."Him that cometh to me:"...the man may have been guilty of an atrocious sin, too black for mention; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have made himself as black as night - as black as hell...I cannot tell what kind of persons may have come into this Hall to-night; but if burglars, murderers, and dynamite-men were here, I would still bid them come to Christ, for he will not cast them out. No limit is set to the extent of sin: any "him" in all the world - any blaspheming, devilish "him" that comes to Christ shall be welcomed. I use strong words that I may open the gate of mercy. Any "him" that comes to Christ - though he come from slum or taproom, betting ring or gambling-hell, prison or brothel - Jesus will in no wise cast out." - Charles H. Spurgeon in "Spurgeon v. Hypercalvinism" p. 78, 79

"Beloved, there is nothing that so delights Jesus Christ as to save sinners... You misjudge him if you think he wants to be argued with and persuaded to have mercy; he gives it as freely as the sun pours forth light...Paul had no stinted Saviour to present to a few, no narrow-hearted Christ to be the head of a clique, but he preached a great Saviour to great masses, a great Saviour to great sinners..." Spurgeon p. 93

"you cannot help it; if you are the people of God you must commune with all saints, baptized or not. You may deny them the outward and visible sign, but you cannot keep them from the inward spiritual grace...If a man be a child of God, I do not care what I may think about him - if he be a child of God I do commune with him and I must" - Spurgeon p. 110

"We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, - not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God's chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any wilful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus." Spurgeon p. 112

"True peace puts an end to all spiritual monopoly. I know there are some who think there is no grace beyond their own church...not unlike those ancient wranglers in the land of Uz, they say, "We are the men and wisdom will die with us." ...You may have sound doctrine and yet do nothing unless you have Christ in your spirit. I have known all the doctrines of grace to be unmistakably preached, and yet there have been no conversions" p. 113

Spurgeon mocked hyper-calvinists saying they believed "they cannot be saved till they are thorough theologians" p. 115. Well I love Spurgeon, I have even more quotes, as I read him even though as a Catholic he would've either beat me to death with his KJV bible or just screamed and pointed "reprobate" at least within Protestantism he advocated this kind of a view. I hope that maybe someday someone will come to advocate a view this open and grace-filled, if they ever did I don't care what denomination they were in, I'd join that church...

Bitter Rant: Practicality and Theology

I had a discussion with my mom yesterday about justification again. I said that if the Reformers are right and it is imputed then I think God should let me in anyway because I've spent more time investigating this doctrine than arguably any other topic in my life. It seems like it's the only thing that ever gets discussed.

I actually had this dream the other night. My dad and I were standing on the edge of a cliff debating about Luther, Imputed Righteousness, Trent, etc, and I just threw myself off the cliff... I jumped. I've never died in a dream before - that was the first time. So I died in the dream and then everything was just black like a TV turned off, and then I realized there was no God, no doctrine of justification, etc, and that I'd wasted my entire life talking about an issue for which there seemed to be no answer and ultimately had no applicability.

yep. I don't actually consciously believe that, it's obviously an important issue if I debate it so much, but maybe subconsciously it's turned me into more of a Deist. I HATE it when people say just 'pray God will lead you into ALL Truth" and then quote John 16 whatever. You know what, God has actively led me into no truth. I've read books and that's how I learn truth, I talk to people and I learn truth. I suppose you could call those things passive leading or God working through secondary causes but at the end of the day, it's all the same result, God says nothing sensibly (ie. can't 'feel' 'hear' etc), I bitterly argue about what he does and thinks, and he still does nothing sensibly. There's theology. It's like waking up in a locked room with 10 other people and then you start arguing about what's outside the room even though no one has any idea about it. It's a bad example because it excludes revelation, but whatever, this is a rant.

And then I read Jared's blog where Irenaeus says the the pillar and bulwark of truth in the Church was the gospel and thought SHIT! it can't be that, it has to be some kind of ethereal kingship left by Peter in a way foreign to scripture... so now my ecclesiology - which was the only clear part of my faith - is utterly shaken, because that gospel = church argument was Calvin's and McGrath misled me by saying no one had argued that before in his book "Christianity's dangerous idea" and now I want to mail an angry letter to Alister McGrath for ruining my week.

And I enter either the Whore of Babylon and damn myself or the "One true church" and save myself in 8 days and 7 hours... and I don't even care about any churches anymore, or theology. All I can think of is how much I hate theology now and how lucky everyone else in the world is who just go along with their protestant lives not questioning anything, not opening a book on church history, not caring to explain their positions at all, just to condemn me.

domine iesu christe miserere mei peccatoris...
kyrie eliesen.

rant over


and to all the worried Catholic spies, don't worry i'll enter your church as planned, you'll have your convert and then everyone can go along not caring as usual... so much for an 'exciting' 'celebration' heh...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Penitential Psalms (part 2) - Psalm 32

I've been dreading this post.... because that red alert word is used in it "imputes" and "covered", it's like admitting defeat. But I don't really want to get into a huge debate about justification, I'll simply say that maybe the Roman Catholic Church needs to re-read this Psalm, it's the one infamously quoted by St. Paul in Romans 4 and by Protestants everywhere as the imputation proof text, which the text actually seems to support.

But I'll note this, it's not the imputation of sin to Christ that Trent anathema'd (I'm pretty sure), we can believe that, it's the imputation of Christ's active obedience/righteousness to us which they excommunicated.

There's a big difference saying 'Jesus' blood covered my sins', and saying 'when God looks at me, he sees Christ's active obedience and allows my sinful unregenerate nature to enter Heaven, without any personal transformation'. I think that's the difference. Our sin is removed "imputed" to Christ at our baptism/moment of sola fide, then we are increasingly justified as the grace of the Holy Spirit is infused into us and we are transformed into the image of Christ.

And I think that's what the Psalm basically teaches, blessed are those who God doesn't consider sinful, but rather have a right spirit and act righteously and fear God.

Anyway, here's the Psalm.

Psalm 32

The Joy of Forgiveness
Of David. A Maskil.
"Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you; at a time of distress,
the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart."

I love the lines about God being our hiding place, this idea is more creepily illustrated in the Catholic prayer "Jesus hide me in your wounds" (which I think sounds weird)

I like that David describes the righteous (those who trust in the Lord) as almost in a tornado of love. It surrounds them, and they shout for joy. What a gift and encouragement the scriptures are.

The Bible according to John Locke

Being raised Fundamentalist Baptist/Puritan, I've been instilled with a deep reverance for the Bible, which I have never abandoned (I hope). I realized this when my dad and I fought for hours about interpretation when I realized that we were fighting only because of a love of God's revelation and it's truth. I found this quote by John Locke, one of the fathers of Liberalism (political) and a puritan himself. Chances are, if you live in the Western Hemisphere, your deepest assumptions about government come from him. He was the champion of "Life, Liberty, and Property".

"The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure." John Locke

Saved by Christ

"She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." - The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Chapter 1, Verse 21

I was reading an old post on a Reformed blog (not deadtheologians) about Francis Beckwith a revert to Roman Catholicism and how the author was saying he could never be a Christian nor could anyone within the "Whore of Babylon". Now not only do I think that's ridiculous (though predictable - I really should stop reading those types of blogs), but if the Pope came up to me and said "Guttentalk, say there isn't a saved soul in the British Episcopal Methodist ecclesial community" I'd have ot say "Benny I have to disagree with you", there are saved souls in every church which preaches about Christ. In fact, anywhere the word of God is read (the bible), I believe that the Word of God (Jesus) is calling people to salvation.

This verse struck me again because it is fundamental to everything I believe. JESUS will save his people from their sins. Him. Not denominations. Not Martin Luther. Not the Pope. Not the Westminster Confession of Faith. Christ.

One of the things I personally love about the Roman Catholic Church is it's Christo-centrism. I believe that in the midst of every doctrine is the person, work, and teaching of Jesus Christ. While Protestants claim they champion this, and many do, I find them more concerned with extreme expressions of catholic doctrines (like justification by faith, focussing only on Romans, etc), than with simply bringing people into a communion of faith - the Anglicans do an amazing job at this as well.

Because in the end:

"Salvation is of the Lord" Jonah 2.9

A Temporary Lapse into Reformed Theology lol

"ultimately, since God is sovereign, salvation must depend solely upon His sovereign choice." - Presbyterian Website.

Now you wouldn't think that when a Baptist friend sent me a message at 3am concerned about his salvation that I would speak almost the exact same words to him, as a Roman Catholic. But I did. He was worried about whether baptism saved you or not because he encountered the sinister "Church of Christ" denomination account of regenerative baptism (as an aside, they really should get a new name, that's like calling your denomination "The Real Church").

I tried to explain that I thought it was necessary for you to be baptized but that both my brothers aren't -strangely the baptists I know go around calling baptism a meaningless ritual...maybe they should change the name to "The Church Formerly known as Baptists", anyway, he was worried and I showed him all the verses about Baptism for salvation (Jn 3:5, Mk 16.16, Acts 2.39, Gal 3.27, 1 Pet 3:21, etc) but being a smart kid he started talking about "baptism of the Holy Spirit" - I wanted to shout DAMN YOU CALVIN!!@#@. but I didn't .... strangely I did the opposite and started talking to him about what it means to be saved, and why he shouldn't be worried. I said something like "Ultimately it doesn't matter whether you're baptized or not, Salvation is God's free sovereign choice, it's his house, he decides who to let in (Mark Driscoll said that)" - I shocked myself - A papist pretty much quoting the WCF, it must've been because it was 3am.

The thing is, I -like St. Thomas Aquinas- believe in predestination, God's sovereignty, and while I believe people can choose, God already knows who's "in" and who is "out" and I don't think he arbitrarily elects some for 30 years and then unelects them, which is a strange thing Aquinas taught.

But here's where I think this latent Reformedness comes from for me. I was reading parts of Fr. Louis Bouyer's thoughts on Sola Gratia in "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism" and he goes on and on about the "gratuitousness of salvation" (which is now one of my favourite phrases) and the fact that salvation is a free gift which is unmerited, etc. So I was just linking the two doctrines I guess.

I had a 2 hour argument with my Dad about justification on Saturday (again) and he just doesn't understand how a Catholic who believes works are a fundamental part of salvation can have any assurance or trust in God, because they're "buying their way into Heaven" (a concept Kreeft decimates). I don't think my salvation has anything to do with me, just because my justification is intrinsic - within me - doesn't mean it's within my power. It's "God working in you" (Php 2:13).

I guess the thing I have in common with Calvin - probably the reason I like him as much as I still do - is that I believe the question of Salvation is a question of God's character. I have a friend named Dan and if I was in prison or in trouble he'd come and bail me out or help me. Dan is just a finite human, and I can trust him for my temporal salvation in situations. God on the other hand is "mighty to save", he has "loved me with an everlasting love", he is the one who saved me while I was yet a sinner (Rm 5:8) and I have full faith that he will save me in the end. For St. Paul says:

"And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:30 - also note the word Sanctified which Calvin championed in his distinction isn't even present).

and finally I will quote the great catholic council of Orange which as a Catholic I adhere to:

"[W]e are obliged, in the mercy of God, to preach and believe that, through sin of the first man, the free will is so weakened and warped, that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought, or believe in God, or do good for the sake of God, unless moved, previously, by the grace of the divine mercy . . . . Our salvation requires that we assert and believe that, in every good work we do, it is not we who have the initiative, aided, subsequently, by the mercy of God, but that he begins by inspiring faith and love towards him, without any prior merit of ours."

I guess that's what I was saying to my friend, that God will save him, because God has chosen him, and elected him. But that still sounds like a lapse into Reformed theology heh.