Purify Your Bride

15 Oct

Presumption and Despair

I remember my sister, a protestant pastor, once commenting that the wrong people often took her sermons to heart. She would see some people just coasting in the Christian life and not making much of an effort and really not being very concerned about the spiritual consequences. Then she would see others making a huge effort and always beating themselves up for not doing more. The trouble was when she aimed a sermon at the first group and told them to pull up their socks it seemed like the ones who took it to heart were in the second group. It made them want to try harder when she really felt like they needed to rest in God’s grace and realize the important things were all in His hands. When she gave a sermon like that she the first group would latch onto it. They would see it as affirmation of their laid back attitude towards the faith. People didn’t hear what they needed to hear but rather what fit in with current thinking.

This is the nature of presumption and despair. There are many in the church sowing seeds of presumption. They use lines like “God would not send you to hell for missing mass, or using contraceptives, or being gay, etc.” They are so focused on God’s live and God’s grace that they just presume a pseudo-universalism. There is no urgency to respond to the gospel because people are pretty much OK like they are. When you scratch them on this they start to talk about the huge problem of despair they see in society. People think they are such terrible sinners that they can’t be forgiven. They blame the church for talking too much about sin. You wonder where these people are and what parish they have been going to for the last 30 years. Priests that talk a lot about sin and hell are pretty rare these days.

Sure there are some people who suffer from dispair. Those that have really crashed. Criminals, prostitutes, drug addicts, etc. Those folks can wonder of God would really forgive them and they need to be reassured. Still, in typical parish, there are many more who feel like their sin is no big deal. They presume that they are in a state of grace. One sure sign of this at a parish is when everyone comes forward for communion but nobody show up for confession. Sadly that is the rule at many parishes. There is no sense of sin.

Canadian bishops, in their last ad lima visit about a year ago, mentioned exactly this problem to the pope. So they see it. Still we haven’t really been hearing in the homilies much. We still get much more preaching focusing on the vice of despair rather than the vice of presumption. Screwtape had advise along these lines. I don’t have the quote but he talked about getting people to fight the wrong vice. The one they have little trouble with. By focusing on this they can actually slip deeper into the vice that is really destroying their relationship with God.

I was pleased to hear the Pope’s next encyclical will be on hope. I hope, no pun intended, he talks a lot about the vice of presumption. Presumption and despair are vices opposite to the virtue of hope. I think some clear teaching from the pope on this subject could make a difference. We will see.

11 Oct

Atheists and Protestants

I am amazed at how similar the arguments against the church are to arguments against God. For example, atheists talk about evil in the world as proof there is no God. Protestants talk about evil in the church as proof the church is false. The logic is similar. Still protestants argue one way against the atheist and then turn around and embrace the atheists own argument against the Catholic.

Then there is the matter of the need for faith. God has chosen not to provide us with irrefutable proof of His existence and nature. We can deny Him and retain some semblance of rationality in our world view. In other words we must choose to believe on faith. The choice can be strongly supported by reason but it is never compelled by reason alone. Atheists take this as proof there is no God. They feel if God existed he would not make Himself so easy to miss. Protestants, of course, reject this reasoning and rightly so. God could want us to choose based on faith and love rather then pure reason. But then they argue to the Catholic about believing that Jesus wants us to obey His church and accept the pope as His vicar. Then the goalposts move. Now we need absolute, rigorous proof. God would not leave any room for faith in such a matter. He would compel any rational bible believing Christian to accept such a truth if it were true. Why should this be? Has the God who desires faith suddenly become a God who overwhelms faith with undeniable evidence? There is much evidence but a person who chooses to doubt can doubt. In both cases people need to prayerfully open themselves up using both their mind and their spirit. It is a humbling experience but it leads you to faith. Both faith in Jesus and faith in how Jesus works in His church.

Now we have a concept of an infinite regress. Some protestants seems to feel arguments about authority lead to such a problem. Again they are striking similar to arguments Richards Dawkins makes against the existence of God. Alvin Plantinga explains and destroys Dawkins argument here. It is really a weak argument in both cases. The need for an uncaused cause is ridiculed with an impossible demand for an infinite stream of causality. Same with the need for an ultimate authority. In both cases the infinite regress stops with God. He is the uncaused cause and the self authorizing authority. The arguments are just confusing pieces of sophistry. Still they are very similar. As Catholic that is not surprising that 2 attacks on the church would be similar but for the protestant to fend off an attack on God and then pick up the same club and hit the church with it. That seems confusing.

11 Oct

Hilary of Poitiers

Pope Benedict talks about Hilary.

Here is a guy who was exiled for being orthodox. He was right but a local synod was dominated by Arians and he ended up being punished for incorrect thinking. What is interesting is he never started his own church. Why not? He was right. The church was wrong. He was suffering hugely and unfairly for it. The majority of the laity even agreed with him. He could have been very successful. Would that not teach those bad Arians a lesson? Why didn’t he do it. Because he believed the truth would eventually win out. This was the body of Christ. The very church that Jesus promised the gates of hell could not prevail against. He just took his setbacks as temporary. If he was right about Arianism and he was right about the church then things would fix themselves eventually. He was and they did. Still he was called to suffer for quite a while. His enemies won and you can bet they gloated. It must have been hard.

In protestant circles today he would be considered insane. If you think you are right and can convince others you are right then who cares about the church? Why be loyal to an apostate magisterium? One that even denies the deity of Christ? That is a pretty major doctrinal error. Why not just declare yourself to be the faithful remnant and start your own church. Why be obedient to an exile all the way to Turkey? The church was already upset with him so what did he have to lose?

Well there was Jesus. He could lose Jesus. He would not longer be part of the body of Jesus. He would separate himself from the Vicar of Christ. How bad could that be? In his mind it was pretty bad. His focus was on writing. He wanted to reunite the church around the correct doctrines. He writings mostly argued the doctrine of the trinity from the scriptures. A fine way to respond to heresy but he did it from inside the church. He ended up still talked about how many centuries later?

It reminds me of Philipians 2 where Paul tells us to have the attitude of Christ becoming obedient to death. He goes on to say that such an attitude results in exaltation by God. That seems to have happened with Hilary. If he had chosen to exalt himself, like the standard protestant play-book tells you to do, then he would have been forgotten by now. As it is he continues to bless us. Bless us with a truth about the importance of keeping the church together. Trusting God to fix what you can’t fix and just keep preaching God’s truth in any way they let you.

10 Oct

Saint and Sinner Again

Dave has said he would not read Saint and Sinners responseto his rebuttal because S&S declared it to be only partial due to the length of Dave’s reply. I decided to respond anyway. S&S is in green normal, Dave’s are in green italics and my words are in purple:

I believe that I will only be doing one of these replies to his replies for each one of the verses he cited in his book (if that). I simply don’t have the time to do more. Also, I’ll try to make it brief and to the point.
I hope S&S and Dave can get some real dialogue going. I know there are quite a few passages and they both have a tendency to bring in related topics. That makes it hard but talking is much better than making excuses for not talking.  

“I find it a bit amusing, however, that S&S (being an adherent of Reformed “low church” presbyterian ecclesiology) wants to avoid the term bishop, even though that is the usual translation of the Greek words episkope and episkopos, found in 1 Tim 3:1 and 3:2.”

This is a semantic anachronism. The translation of episkopos into “bishop” is fine as long as one understands that, in the New Testament, it refers to a church elder, the office one place higher than a deacon. Under this definition, my local church pastor would be given the title, “bishop”. Also, the associate pastor in the same church would be called “bishop” as well. Thus, there could be as many as 4-5 “bishops” in a local church congregation numbering as few as 200 members. It does not mean (as it later came to mean) the head of several pastors/priests in a city or district.

This is just not true. Mark Bonocore makes this point well here

He then goes into a discussion he had with Dr. White in the past. Of course, many of his counter-arguments against Dr. White give a question begging response, and Dr. White probably got tired of Dave’s long-winded, question begging, red-herring rants. Perhaps in the later future (much later!), I’ll respond to the philosophical and historical arguments (which are mostly ipse dixits) put forward by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists.

The point is the same questions he put to James White (and he failed to answer) he also puts to S&S. Guess what, no answer. Why? Because this verse really does confound protestants.

Next, he goes into a long quote on the topic of what is usually termed “doctrinal chaos”. Of course, this gets into a philosophical argument which was never the topic at hand, and yet again, Dave has merited the red-herring award.
What? This is exactly the point. Protestantism has no pillar and foundation of truth. None at all. On every question you get an army of bickering exegetes all absolutely certain they are right. If protestants didn’t have human traditions to follow they would have no clue which way to turn. This verse seems to indicate the crisis of truth has it’s origin in a lousy doctrine of the church.

“S&S has also assumed certain things above without proving them; namely, that “church” here means simply all believers.”

Actually, if one reads what I wrote, I made this case in the third paragraph after my first citation of Dave’s book. I didn’t want to go into a long-winded dissertation (like Dave) on the meaning of the word, “church”, in Scripture.
Well a little more wind would have been better. You say it and list a few passages but don’t exegete them. It is a big part of the discussion. The context of this passage talked about elders (or bishops) and deacons. That seems to indicate an organization.

“Fundamental to any interpretation of an author’s work is an understanding of the purpose of that work…The book itself, however, made no pretense of being an elaborate commentary of biblical evidences for Catholic positions. I had done that already in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. The purpose here was to examine how Protestants try to exegete verses that we Catholics believe don’t fit particularly well into a Protestant framework.”

But how can you say that these verses don’t fit into the Protestant framework without showing what they mean in their context?!

Not at all. I can see how a verse does not fit in with Protestant teaching even if I am not sure what it means from a Catholic point of view. Even pointing out the fact that protestant exegetes make lousy arguments when talking about this verse is interesting information. Showing how they ignore it or don’t respond to the obvious questions, like S&S and James White have both failed to do here. Mostly this verse is shock value. Sola Scriptora people are surprised to see Paul speaking of the church in a way a Sola Scriptora Christian would never do. That is an indication that their thinking is out of sync with Paul’s thinking but one verse does not give us the whole picture.

You could, at the very least, have given mention in one or two short paragraphs of how verses 1-14 and verse 16 fit together with verse 15. Context is everything, and a verse without a context is simply a pre-text.
The problem I have is the context does not help you at all. In fact, it points more clearly to a visible church with clearly defined offices. We knew that already because something purely spiritual and invisible cannot be a pillar and foundation of truth.

“Yet I am accused of equating the “Church” with “just the clergy” as if I were not even myself part of it (if I am not, how could I be “received” into it?). This is ludicrous. Catholics believe also in the consent of the faithful or the sensus fidelium.”

Turretinfan pointed out, this is an unworkable rule of faith since the Popes and councils are believed to be infallible and thus irreformable.
Sola Scriptora people calling anything unworkable raises obvious pot/kettle issues. Aside from that, you have the assumption you are going to have contradiction rather than clarification and deepening understanding. This is getting off topic though. 

“It may very well mean that. But that doesn’t let S&S off the hook, because he still has to explain how the entire mass of Christians can be the pillar and support / foundation / bulwark / ground, etc. of the truth, when Protestants cannot even agree amongst themselves on so many things.”

Again, this is a red-herring. I was giving a critique of Dave’s exegesis, and so, he bears the burden of proof of showing how 1 Timothy 3:15 proves the infallibility of the church. This goes into a philosophical argument which was not the issue under discussion.
Again you are calling the central issue a red herring. Dave is not proving anything. He is simply pointing out this verse confounds protestants. You are proving how serious that is by repeatedly finding lame reasons to avoid addressing the main issue. Paul is saying quite clearly that Sola Scriptora is false. That the pillar and foundation of truth is not simply scripture. The church is involved in some way. This is only a few words so it is not going to explain exactly how but it does exclude the typical protestant assumptions.

“In OT times, the Jewish assembly was not yet given the gift of infallibility. Things change after Jesus comes and the Holy Spirit indwells believers. Is this not elementary?”

I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit but am not infallible, and all the passages that he normally cites to prove that the church is infallible don’t really prove that (I’ll get to them eventually).
Now you are into red herrings. The idea that the NT is a new covenant is pretty elementary. How is it different? Does the new reality preclude the covenant community losing the truth for an extended period of time? This one verse isn’t going to tell us.

“As I have contended above, even if we grant this invisible church, the problem remains of identifying the doctrines of this ethereal, nebulous, mysterious entity.”

Again, as I noted in my
second post on the invisible church, this is a category error that plays off of a straw-man.
No, you have allowed for the fact that the visible church can be split and even split often. Then you try and solve the unity question by suggesting an invisible church. OK. But where do we get doctrines? It does not seem like they are clearly defined by either concept of church. So what church is Paul talking about?

“The fact is that he contradicted himself: sometimes speaking of the invisible church and other times of a visible one (Lutheranism, after all, adopted a state church model and gave secular princes the power that bishops once had, and this was quite concrete and “visible” indeed).”

Again, the two are not mutually exclusive since they are different *kinds* of churches.
Yes there are. But they each have a role to play. The biblical role for the visible church simply cannot be played by anything protestants are willing to recognize. You seem to be using the 2 kinds to avoid being pinned down on this problem.

“It’s a falsehood to say that Catholic visible authority “died” during the Arian crisis. It may have among eastern bishops, but not at Rome, which always held the correct faith and supported St. Athanasius in it.”

It was more resistant to the heresy of Arianism, but that did not prevent an Arian bishop, Felix II, from ascending the papal throne and promulgating the heresy. It also did not prevent Liberius (though under pain of torture) to profess semi-Arianism (as proven in the Collectanea Antiariana Parisina). Since Dave is fond of appeals to authority (which is not necessarily wrong, especially in the case of the many nuances of history), Klaus Schatz, a (seemingly conservative) Roman Catholic professor of church history, writes:
This is a tangent. The point is that after the Arian controversy the structure of the church remained and the authority was still present. After the Lutheran reformation the structure of the church broke down and no authority structure survived (at least if you assume the true church was the protestant one). 

[As an as aside, one of the posters in DA’s combox, Randy, wrote:
“Even their own example of St Athanasius does not work. He is help up as a remnant but he is hardly protestant. How can your remnant be wrong about Mary, the eucharist, the papacy, etc. In fact, it was the authority of the pope that saved his bacon. So he wan’t a successful remnant in spite of his belief in the pope but rather because of that belief. So how can you put him up as the small, true church and still say he was so wrong.”

Whether he was a Protestant is irrelevant since I was presenting an internal critique of Dave’s claims. Secondly, he was a Christian and part of the true orthodox catholic Church which I claim to be part of as well even though we differ in theology in some areas. So, the example of Athanasius is perfect for the point I am trying to make. Thirdly, Athanasius did not believe in many of the things that you ascribe to him in your post. This is a classic case of a patristic ananchronism, reading a modern idea into the words and deeds of the church fathers.]
This is still a tangent but since this is my comment I thought I should respond. The first point he makes is not clear to me what he means. He is asserting that St Athanasius was the leader of a faithful remnant and that the enture church was in fact apostate. That is not Dave’s claim but his.
Secondly, when he says “differ in theology in some areas” that is an understatment. There are things Athanasius believed that protestants view as major errors. So majot that calling him a Christian is hard especially if you don’t see modern catholics as Christian. Take a look at what he says about Mary:

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O [Ark of the New] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Should I compare you to the fertile earth and its fruits? You surpass them. . . . If I say that heaven is exalted, yet it does not equal you. . . . If we say that the cherubim are great, you are greater than they, for the cherubim carry the throne of God, while you hold God in your hands.—St. Athanasius, quoted by L.Gambero in Mary and the Fathers of the Church (Ignatius Press, 1999), pp. 106-7

Is that the kind of person who is leading the faithful remnant of God’s church? Even the last few believers left have such non-protestant notions in their head? Protestants call this idolatry. Can they be the faithful remnant and also be unrepentant idol worshippers? I don’t see it. People say the same thing about Luther and Calvin. They paint them as great men of God when talking about the reformation but when you show them how far their thinking has moved away from what Luther and Calvin actually taught you get a big “So what?” When God raises up such men as protestants think God raised these men should they not have very deep insights into eternal truth? Somebody on S&S’s blog said the other day that nobody who understands scripture would accept infant baptism. Can you say that about Luther and Calvin and still view them as specially chosed instruments of God’s truth. I find it strange.

The last point he makes is that “Athanasius did not believe many of the things you ascribe to him in your post.” Suffice it to say this isn’t tenable either. Besides the quote I gave above you have other debates like this that show Athanasius cannot be made into a protestant.


09 Oct

Cardinal George on Nominalism

Amazing how the things I find on blogs seem to come together. This connects with the nominalism and the kingdom of heaven ideas I have been contemplating. It is John Allen interviewing Cardinal George from Rocco

Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge talk about the distinction between “high tension” and “low tension” religion, arguing that over time low tension groups tend to dissolve into secularism. 
That’s right. In the 60s, it was very important to show you could be American and Catholic. Whole magazines were devoted to that. There was a collective sigh of relief at the Second Vatican Council, with human freedom being so much in the forefront of the conciliar concerns, that the tension wasn’t there anymore. I think some of the moves of the church in that period now seem sociologically naive, in their long-term consequences.

What do you have in mind?
Catholicism as a distinctive way of life was defined by eating habits and fasting, and by days especially set aside that weren’t part of the general secular calendar. They were reminders that the church is our mediator in our relationship to God, and can enter into the horarium [calendar] that we keep, into the foods that we eat, into all the aspects of daily life, into sexual life. Once you say that all those things can be done individually, as you choose to do penance, for example, you reduce the collective presence of the church in somebody’s consciousness. At that point, the church as mediator becomes more an idea for many people. Even if they accept it, it’s not a practice. So then when the church turns around and says ‘You have to do this,’ then resistance is there to say, ‘How can you tell me that? I’m deciding on my life for myself, and you even told me I could!’

This idea that the reforms went too far in removing spiritual disciplines. Not only did we lose personal holiness for many people by failing to call them to a high standard but we lost some real connection people had with what it meant to be Catholic. Doing a fast as a church helped define who we were. When we stopped doing it we seemed to lose track. Then people got confused. The mass was changing. The rules for fasting were changing. It was like the church was constantly saying it was asking too much from people. Then it refused to change on some key questions of divorce and contraception. Now they needed to be countercultural and they no longer had the strength to do it. Everyone just thought if they gave it a few years the church would cave on those issues too.

09 Oct

William Webster’s Justification

Ken Temple’s words in italics from a comment below. 

Most of what you say here agrees with classic Protestantism and hence, the Scriptures.

Protestants have a zillion views on this like they do on everything else. Newman is pointing out how close the Catholic view is to some understanding of Sola Fide. I am glad you agree with him. It follows then that Webster’s statements are false. You cannot agree with both. They are either close or very different.

By saying that one can loose one’s salvation,

Lot of protestants say that. I think it is the majority view.

and that by good works one keeps oneself in and actually merits heaven

We would not phrase it this way. We would use words more like Paul’s “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious… I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The emphasis is on faith expressing itself through love. When people enter a state of grace it is typically faith first followed by works of charity. When people exit it is typically a grave sin first followed by a refusal to repent. Staying in a state of grace is not meriting heaven.

the ways of doing that are staying in the sacramental system of penance and drawing upon the merits of Mary and the saints and asking her to pray for you, you are depending on your own self and your good works and Mary to get you finally in

Mary and the sacraments help us persevere and avoid mortal sin. They give us merit in a temporal sense only. You seem to get that confused a lot. Mostly they cause us to grow in holiness. Merit is very much a secondary reason for going to the Eucharist or developing a devotion to Mary. We depend on the grace of God which comes to us through the sacraments and through Mary and other saints. Both are rooted in Christ. The Eucharist IS Jesus and the saints reflect Jesus because they have been conformed to His likeness (Rom 8:29).

But there is no need for any of the other Marian dogmas that the RCC has created in order to be saved

In one sense this is true. People were saved before the dogmas were proclaimed. The question is do you accept the church’s right to proclaim dogmas? That is again a different issue being imported into the justification question. It seems like Webster’s goal is to muddle things rather than clarify them. Or maybe they are just very muddled in his mind. Either way, the result is confusion. He seems to resolve the confusion he creates in the most uncharitable way possible towards Catholics.

By adding those things to Jesus and the cross, you are saying the cross and Jesus alone is not enough, one also has to do those good religious works in order to secure that final salvation;

This is just false. Catholics do not say the cross and Jesus alone are not enough. You can figure that out by just looking in the Catechism p1992, “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men.”

it is a valid illustration that the last foot of your bridge in your religion is weak string that will break at the end

It is based on an assertion of what Catholics believe that is clearly denied by Catholics. That makes it either ignorant or dishonest. Either way you should not accept this man as a source of information involving the catholic church. He doesn’t seem to get it right.

Amazing that you don’t get the illustration. It is not “anti-Catholic” to sincerely believe that the doctrines of the RCC are wrong and are like the Judaizers in Galatians and Acts 15; adding works to justification is false doctrine. It is “anti-Roman Catholic doctrine” but it is not “anti-Catholic”, as a “catholic” is a person.

I get the illustration. That is how I know it is false. To say RCC teaches X when it, in fact, denies X. What do you want to call it? Then when you keep saying that no matter how often you are corrected. Well it becomes a matter of not honestly interacting with the position you are trying to oppose.

You can say you don’t agree with the Catholic reading of Galatians where we don’t see asking Mary to intercede for us as the same thing as being circumcised. But describing it as a disagreement over scriptural interpretation is not good enough. That is what it is but it doesn’t paint Catholics as evil enough or stupid enough. So he makes stuff up.

06 Oct

Faith and Obedience

Cardinal Newman has a sermon on faith and obedience. Ken’s analogy of the rope bridge kind of brings this back up in my mind. Ken puts in conflict the faith we have in the rope bridge of Jesus with the self effort required to do good works.Newman sees a unity there. What produces good works? There is effort which flows from faith and there is grace. If you have faith you will make an effort and produce good works. If you lack faith any works you produce won’t be truly good anyway because they are, at least, tainted by a motivation other than service to God. So the good works that Jesus talks about is not really in conflict with the faith that Paul emphasizes. Paul does talk more about faith because he is focusing on the question of who is eligible for salvation, is it just the circumcised or is it everyone? So Paul wants to rule out any work as a precondition but that does not mean works never play a part.

So how much faith does it take to get on a rope bridge over a deep canyon? It takes effort. It takes facing your fears. It takes a willingness to leave behind baggage. It is a faith that involves not just a belief in Jesus but a willingness to take personal risk based on that belief. It is a great image of Catholic soteriology. The business of the last foot is just an anti-Catholic slur. It is typical of the falsehoods they repeat no matter how many times they are corrected. The answer is to simply never trust anything William Webster says about Catholicism.

05 Oct


Ken brought up Catholic nominalism. I had posted a few thoughts on declining mass attendence a while back. There is a good post by SDG on the same topic. Don’t have time to write anything now but I do find this topic interesting. They say the number one argument against Catholicism is Catholics. I believe it. I still don’t really understand the mind of the nominal catholic.

05 Oct

Religion and Spirituality

A while back I read a quote from Abp Chaput:

You know, there’s a reason why “spirituality” is so popular in the United States today and religion is so criticized. Private spirituality can be quite satisfying. But it can also become a designer experience. In fact, the word spirituality can mean just about anything a person wants it to mean. It’s private, it’s personal, and, ultimately, it doesn’t place any more demands on the individual than what he or she wants.

Religion is a very different creature. The word religion comes from the Latin word religare—to bind. Religious believers bind themselves to a set of beliefs. They submit themselves to a community of faith with shared convictions and hopes. A community of believers has a common history. It also has a shared purpose and future that are much bigger than any political authority. And that has implications. Individuals pose no threat to any state. They can be lied to, bullied, arrested, or killed. But communities of faith do pose a threat. Religious witness does have power, and communities of faith are much harder to silence or kill.

What brought this back to mind was going to a seminar by Tim Gray on the gospel of Matthew. He talked about the intertwined ideas of Jesus as King and the concept of the “kingdom of heaven.” There is a lot of talk about Jesus being king but very little about His kingdom. As he explained it the distinction seemed very similar. The idea of a personal and private faith in Jesus versus a world changing discipline. 

The phrase “kingdom of heaven” does not refer to something just in heaven. Matthew used this phrase while Mark and Luke use Kingdom of God because Jews avoided using the word God. It was just an idiom out of respect for Jewish piety and not a statement about the location of the kingdom. When you look at the parables of the kingdom they don’t make sense if the kingdom is just in heaven.

The modern world loves spirituality and hates religion. So there is a tendency to want to embrace Jesus but not the idea of His kingdom. The most concrete expression of Jesus’ kingdom is His church so this translates into a rebellion against the church in the name of Jesus. Protestants, of course, rebel against their own, already watered down, idea of church. Their acceptance of private judgement makes it easy for people to personalize their faith and remove any elements they don’t like. There is a move away from mainline churches to non-denominational churches and eventually to emergent churches. The focus moves away from creeds and morality and into experience.

Catholics go into dissent but it is much harder for them. The church is getting more and more orthodox and the world is getting less and less Christian. Eventually things reach a breaking point and they either leave or they come back fully. The hope and expectation is that eventually the church will become smaller and purer. Moving away from the big mass of people that aren’t sure what they believe. Moving towards a small group fully committed to living the gospel.

This was the kingdom Jesus left us. It started out small but people were ready to die for what they believed. They were truly the kingdom of God and they took down the Roman empire. Dr Gray talked about the sign of Jonah. The idea of being in a whale for 3 days and coming out and converting a major gentile capitol. Then there was the sign of Simon bar Jonah. He denied Jesus 3 times and ended up, through his successors, converting the biggest gentile capitol ever. Could we see that and still not believe in the Kingdom of God?

Update: I just ran into a facinating series of posts on Jesus and the Kingdom of David in Luke and Acts.

05 Oct

Justification etc.

More Ken Temple from below. His words are in green. Mine are in purple.:

The rope and canyon are illustrations of what Trent says.

I know that. It was a joke. The point was this is not exactly what the Catholic church says but what some antiCatholic claims the church says. That is an important distinction. They may get it right but it is very rare.

Read it again and comments at the link below.

It says baptism is the “beginning of justification”

This may be a difference in language. In Catholic terminology, and in scripture, justification is referred to as a past, present, or future event. That is we can be described as being justified when we entered a state of grace, our life as a believer can be described as a process of justification, and we can be seen as being justified at the final judgement. This line would be from the second way of thinking of justification.

It says that a person “converts himself to his own justification by freely assenting to grace”
Sometimes we call it faith. Here it is called assenting to grace. It emphasizes the active role we need to play. It is not simply belief but a life changing belief.

It says, that “justice is increased” by good works, etc.

Can’t find this phrase. Not sure what your point is here.

You know better what your church teaches than I do; if you commit mortal sin, you loose and go to hell if you die and have not done penance fully.

When you commit mortal sin you must restore the sacramental union you have with God. That involves the sacrament of confession. It is all part of grace. Penance has to do with temporal consequences. It has nothing to do with eternal salvation.

If you think Jesus and His work is, for example a strong rope bridge, but the last foot of it is the thin string of your own efforts and hopes and prayers to Mary, your own confessions and penances; then you will fall into the canyon.

This is not a correct image. It is not a Catholic image. It is just one designed to make the Catholic position sound like nonsense. Our efforts are required not because Jesus’ bridge is not strong enough. They are only required because God does not want to force himself on us. Being made ready for heaven involves a huge and very personal transformation. We need to agree to it. We need to do that with our actions and not just as a theory. Only when we experience what sanctification involves can we truly say yes to it.

That is what adding Mary and works and infused righteousness is. The Bible says, “not having a righteousness of my own derived from obeying the law, but that which is in Christ” (Philippians 3:9)

Adding Mary has nothing to do with justification. We don’t add the church. God does. It is the kingdom of God on earth. If we don’t like God’s kingdom on earth are we really desiring to go to heaven? God respects out choice.

There is no assurance of salvation in your system; no real peace.
Giving false assurance is wrong. Jesus indicated many times that people who were sure they were going to heaven would end up in hell. Jehovah’s Witnesses are sure they are saved. How can a disputed doctrine give anyone assurance? How can you have real peace when you really don’t know if what you believe is the gospel or some perversion of it? Besides, it only gives peace as long as your works line up with your faith. The minute you backslide you will be full of doubt. Did I really, really accept Jesus?

You never mentioned any comments on North Africa, that it was western; and the historical reasons for why Islam conquered it. Because Roman Catholicism, breeds nominalism, (as do many of the high church protestant groups, especially when infected by liberalism) by its teaching that infant baptism saves you and regenerates you and begins justification process. Also, the coercion of the state against the Donatists was un-biblical and unjust and created much bitterness in the children of the next generation were not regenerate. Europe today, because of nominalism, is loosing to Islam. Ceremonies and going to church and lighting candles does not save.

What breeds nominalism? I would not say Catholicism does. I would say schism does. Both today and in Augustine’s day there is blame on both sides. But it is like adultery. Sure both partners may have contributed by being a sinful spouse. Still the one who actually committed the act of adultery bears the greater blame. So to, you can’t absolve the church for schisms. But the ones who actually split the church are more to blame. The body is immeasurably weaker as a result.

04 Oct

Free Will in Scripture

A Calvinist asked me where you find free will talked about in scripture. It is an interesting question. I am not a Sola Sciptora person so I don’t have to find free will in scripture to believe in it but I do think it is there. The problem is it is implicit in so many words but never explicitly talked about. Maybe it is by I can’t find an explicit reference. The point is that the scripture writers did not think in those categories. When they talked about believing in Jesus there was an act of the will assumed. They did not bother to say that God does not use His power to force us to believe but rather leaves us a choice. It is implied in the definition of the word believe but it is not an inescapable implication for the Calvinist.

The two terms that seem to have the strongest implication of free will are love and sin. If you think about it love that is not freely chosen is not love. Sin that is not freely chosen is not sin. They are two sides of the same coin. To do good we need the power to do evil or we are really just following a program. To do evil we need to be able to choose good or we are just a machine.

The Calvinist will even argue that Paul did think in the categories of election and predestination because he used those terms. Since he does not use any term for free will in those contexts that absence is taken to be quite meaningful. When we just look at those texts it does seem quite strong.

The good news for us and the bad new for Calvinists is that Calvin has taken his crushing of free will to it’s logical conclusion. I say this is good news because once we see where this leads it becomes obvious that it is not biblical. Most point to the idea of limited atonement as a show stopper. We find the idea that Jesus does not offer salvation to everyone problematic. It is a problem but Catholicism does not get rid of it completely. Really our problem with limited atonement is a problem with hell at it’s root. Hell is an offensive doctrine. Itis a true doctrine but it is very offensive. The unfairness issue is there but Catholics don’t completely get rid of that either. We believe God’s grace comes primarily through His word, His sacraments, and Christian witness. These graces are not given equally to all. Some have greater access and therefore a greater chance of being saved then others. Sure the church does not exclude the chance that someone not getting these graces can be saved. Still the church urges people to avail themselves of these graces because failing to do so puts your eternal soul at risk. So their presence matters and logically that means their absence matters.

So if Calvinism does not have its biggest problem with limited atonement then where does does it occur? That is with perseverance of the saints. This is a doctrine many noncalvinists have grabbed ahold of because it sounds so good. Calvinists, at least, have a logical reason to believe it. They follow the steps of the TULIP and once you eliminate free will at the total depravity step then the logic is unbreakable. Others just hop on because in the Sola Scriptora world you can believe any doctrine you want. From a strategy point of view it seems silly to give the Calvinists a pass on such an unpopular teaching as limited atonement and then attack one of their most well recieved teachings in perseverance of the saints. But as popular as the doctrine is the reality is it is totally unblbilical. Jimmy Akin does a pretty solid job of proving it here.

03 Oct

Dictatorship of Relativism

To have a clear faith … is often styled a fundamentalism. Meanwhile relativism, meaning allowing oneself to be carried away ‘here and there by any wind of doctrine,’ appears as the only attitude to modern times. What’s being constructed is a dictatorship of relativism, which recognizes nothing as definite and that regards one’s self and one’s own desires as the final measure. 

Pope Benedict lashed out at the dictatorship of relativism in a homily just before the conclave that elected him. He sees liberalism within the church and a doctrinal free for all outside the church as being the root causes of the moral and spiritual decay of the western world. So what is he doing? He is working on a few fronts. One area he has focused on is the appointment of bishops. Today he said bishops have a “duty to preserve the faith among the people of God.” He has really made a much greater effort than JPII to ensure that we have strong orthodox bishops. It is really starting to show. I looked at the installation homilies of Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore and Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh. He may be a little slow but he seems to be finding men who will do this.

He also seems to be very concerned about the teaching around the church. There are a lot of liberal ideas floating around the Catholic church but he has focused his attention on those that make the Catholic church just one more religion. He has been willing to ruffle a few feathers to make sure everyone understands the church is proclaiming itself as the fullness of truth.

The other place he seems to be going is liturgy. The focus on the experience of the worshipper and the experience of the priest is a big problem for him. He has come back to it over and over. Again he has put out a document he knew would upset people. That must mean he thinks it is important. That followed up a document he published on the Eucharist earlier that year. There is a sense that the holiness of the mass is being lost in the rush to get modern music, better homilies, and more creativity. This is related to the marketing of religion as a commodity. The church needs to firmly refuse to play that game. If you want a funky spiritual experience go to the local mega-church. If you want God come to the Catholic church.

It is exciting to see this. I posted one time about how becoming Catholic allowed me to see myself as part of God’s story rather than seeing God as part of my story. It has made me much more interested in seeing that story unfold. The Catholic church is a family. As a protestant I just had no interest in what my church’s synod was doing. I am just facinated by what the Vicar of Christ does.

02 Oct

Welcoming One Such Child

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Mt 18:5

This line from today’s gospel struck me. Kyl on Dave Armstrong’s blog was talking about abortion by comparing what we accept as OK for a toddler with what we would accept as OK for an unborn child. The idea is to dispel some arguments that say the law should not intrude into our private lives or a child would case great hardship. If the argument fails for a toddler the only way it can succeed for an unborn child is if you see the unborn child as somehow less human than a toddler. Once you force a person to realize he has to find a reason why the unborn child is not fully human you are in very good position. There really isn’t a good reason.

It occurred to me that this same saying of Jesus also applies to contraception. Jesus calls us to welcome children. That is in direct contradiction to the mentality of the society we live in. We are to see children as a blessing. When we fail to do that we buy into a way of thinking that lead not only to contraception but to abortion and infanticide as well. The equivalence is very real. If we accept one we lose any credibility in arguing against the others. When we see children as interfering with our fun and bringing a huge burden then nobody wants to put that burden on themselves or anybody else. If society is filled with families who love life and have many children then people are going to see how their child can bring joy either to an adopting family or themselves.

Even the idea of men not wanting to marry a single mother. It is another way people can welcome a child into their life. If men embraced that then keeping a baby would be a lot easier for a woman to face. Again the expectation that more children could be added so he would not feel like he is missing out on having his own children. When the thinking is two or less then having one child as baggage from a previous relationship is a big deal.

A pro-life culture has to love children. As Mark Shea rightly points out, a culture that loves children will value virginity. When we love children we will not accept our young girls being exploited sexually. We want to respect their innocence until they are truly ready to become mothers themselves. Again the idea of birth control comes in. We don’t see contraceptives as a replacement for morality. We expect better from our teens. Again from today’s reading:

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven MT 18:10

02 Oct

Heresy and History

Thinking more about the idea that heresy is not a reason for schism. I thought you could get rid of the idea of infallibility. That is advantageous to some because they can believe they are right and the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to the whole church some day. That makes sense. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead the church into all truth and the gates of hell would not prevail. Rather than thinking we need to fix every heresy by creating our own church we can just let God be God and wait for him to fix the church. We can help but that help cannot involve leaving the church. That is not a help. That is just a sin. We cannot choose sinful means even if we are sure the ends are good.

There is a flipside. You accept that God will not allow His church to remain in serious heresy for a very long time. How long? There are some things the church taught without any real controversy for a very long time. Does that mean they must be true? It seems so. But if you accept that then the dominos start to fall. Were ecumenical church councils taken as definitive ways to settle doctrine? If so and if that was accepted for a long time without much controversy then we need to take God’s failure to correct His church as an indication it had not strayed off course. But if you accept the councils then you accept the entire Catholic faith. Papal infallibility was taught by Vatican I so it must be true. But that was the doctrine we were trying to avoid!

So to avoid the fullness of Catholic truth you need to be quite arbitrary. You need to accept some things and reject others that have exactly parallel evidence. Especially the questions about how we can discern God’s will. Those are dangerous because one objective is to save our pet theologies. Somehow we are sure they are true. Why? The reasons are personal. It is our own reasoning and our own feelings that make us sure. We tell ourselves it is because scripture is clear on those points but who really sees that? Have all Christians seen the same truth in scripture? If that was so then there would be no issue. The issue only comes from doctrines we love but Catholic tradition has rejected. So is scripture really that clear on those matters? In reality every Catholic doctrine has a rational, biblical basis.

So we look at history and ask ourselves what have christians been teaching for the past 2000 years? If we put aside our own ideas and assume God has been taking care of His church, what comes out? The bible is true. That is one thing that is there for sure. But what else? What has Jesus allowed His followers to accept as fact? The chuirch is the body of Christ. Would Christ allow His body to be seriously deformed and give nobody the vision to change it for more than 1000 years?

01 Oct

Thinking For Yourself

One of the things you often hear is that people choose to become Catholic because they don’t want to think for themselves. It is very interesting because I have experienced quite the opposite since becoming Catholic. As a Catholic you are constantly attacked by protestant arguments against and misstatements of the Catholic faith. As soon as people find out you are Catholic you get this litany of Rom 3:23, 1 Tim 2:5, Mt 23:9, etc. They are presented with such confidence that these proof texts are absolutely unassailable that it takes you a while to figure out that the actual arguments are always quite weak. I don’t know how other Catholics deal with these but for me they involve some serious theological thinking.

When I was a protestant this never happened. I assumed it was because there were no problematic texts. It was just true and that was that. No I know that is not the case. There are a bunch of texts protestants ignore. They don’t fit their belief system so they just pretend they are not there. There is never anyone putting these texts in from of their face. You don’t see John 6:51 on a track. Nobody at the water cooler is going to quote 1 Tim 3:15. It just does not happen. So you don’t have to think. You can just keep to sources that comply with your tradition and all is fine. Nobody is going to ask you about the cannon of scripture or about the multiplicity of churches. It does not happen.

Dave Armstrong calls these the Catholic verses. He has a book that talks about 95 of these to correspond to Martin Luther’s 95 thesis. Marcus Grodi calls these the verse he never saw before. It is interesting that even in a ecumenical seminary these verse are never talked about to the point where a pastor has no clue they are even there. It is just so easy for a protestant tradition to ignore texts. They don’t have a lectionary to make sure they get read every so often. They also don’t have the same kind of adversaries that Catholics do.

So, for me, the net effect has been to make me much more of a thinker as a Catholic than I ever was as a protestant. You are always called upon to justify yourself. The good news is you are not alone. You have the strength of the church behind you. You actually have some confidence that you are teaching truth rather than just giving an opinion. Not only that the Catholic faith is so beautiful it makes you want to contemplate it all the more.

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