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Archive for the ‘Sacred Scripture’ Category

Well, so you’ve probably heard that the largest body of Presbyterians in the U.S. have voted to allow gay clergy.    I’m not actually going to delve into that here because it is clear to me that mainline Protestantism is busy destroying itself from within.   The situation reminds me of the book of Judges which tells us what happens to the people when they have no king, and each man decides for himself:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.  Judges 21:25

Now, the really funny thing about this quote and why it matches the situation with the Presbyterians so well is that it comes immediately after, and by way of explaining, the previous chapters concerning the tribe of Benjamin.  If you haven’t read it before, I won’t ruin it for you.  Suffice it to say that the chapters concern homosexuality, licentiousness, abuse, rape, murder, more murder, lies, cover-ups, chaos, mayhem and evil. 

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.

So…this is what the great reformation has wrought.  Everyone, every denomination doing what he thinks is best, and moral relativism’s grip gets tighter.

Oh, but I said I wasn’t going to discuss the Presbyterian Church situation, per se.  Right.  Okay, back to the point of this post.  What I want to talk about is the response to the Presbyterian Church situation, at least insofar as other more orthodox Protestants view it.  Which brings me to today’s article in Christianity Today, the magazine of Evangelical Christians.  In an article entitled, The Road to Gay Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a Reformed Presbyterian theologian by the name of Dr. S. Donald Fortson III addresses the voted change to that denomination’s constitution.  Dr. Fortson is a Professor of Church History and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary—Charlotte. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which (I learned from reading his article) broke away from the main body of the Presbyterian Church in anticipation that it was only a matter of time until the main body fell to “a pro-gay agenda relentlessly pressed until at length Presbyterians officially landed in the gay ordination camp”.   

The article itself is brilliant in its linguistic and theological acrobatics to say how wrong this decision by the PC(USA) is, how unbiblical and outside of tradition…without of course, admitting that the entire Protestant Reformation was…<ahem>…unbiblical and outside of tradition.  And of course, to make his point, this Reformed Presbyterian relies on the Church Fathers of the Catholic Church to make his case.  It’s a brilliant use of equivocation.**  Really, it’s brilliant

Here are some examples of Dr. Fortson’s theological heroics:

And church history is crystal clear: Homosexual practice has been affirmed nowhere, never, by no one in the history of Christianity. The church fathers insisted that doctrine and practice must be tested by Holy Scripture. In addition to careful exegesis, another test was catholicity, that is, what has been the universally accepted scriptural interpretation passed down in the church. (emphasis mine)

To what church is he referring?  the Presbyterian Church?  Or that other one

I kinda think he means this one

He continues–

When novel teachings were shown to fail both the careful scrutiny of Scripture and the consensus of the orthodox Fathers, heretical ideas were doubly condemned.

Um, gosh, could the ‘novel teachings’ he refers to be something like, I dunno…sola fidesola scriptura?  If you remember your history, they both failed the careful scrutiny of Scripture and the consensus of orthodox Fathers, not a one of whom supported either.  The reformers were the ones who championed these novel teachings.

He goes on to quote SAINT Vincent of Lerins (without “Saint” naturally) —

… if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly that is, by the authority of God’s Law [Scripture], then by the tradition of the Catholic [universal] Church. …[W]e take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.'”

Um, Dr. Fortson, I know you are a scholar and like a teacher of kids as well as an actual historian so I’m sure you realize that (this is embarrassing) but uh, you do realize that you misquoted a church father, right?  I am sure that you did not mean to suggest that St. Vincent, the Catholic monk said, “the univeral church” because of course, he didn’t.  He said, the Catholic Church.  Changing the name of the church would seem sorta like you are hiding or obfuscating facts and of course as a Professor of Reformed Theology…I know you wouldn’t do that.  I mean, it’s not like he was just some presbyter schmoo.  He was a monk.  So I’ll just correct it for you.  Here, let me correct your mistake.

‘… if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly that is, by the authority of God’s Law [Scripture], then by the tradition of the Catholic Church. …[W]e take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.'”

Yes, yes!  ‘the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere’…yes, the Presbyterian Church has been taking great care to hold onto that which has been believed since the time…er…well, since the time that it formed itself in defiance of that which was believed everywhere, always, and by all.  But I will take your word for it that since the time of their rejection of the universal beliefs of the universal church, they have been really really good at holding onto that which has been believed everywhere.  (So that is, what?  1541 or so?)

Dr. Fortson, now on a roll, heads toward his conclusion–

Christianity is a tradition; it is a faith with a particular ethos, set of beliefs and practices handed on from generation to generation. The Christian tradition may be understood as the history of what God’s people have believed and how they have lived based upon the Word of God. This tradition is not only a collection of accepted doctrines but also a set of lifestyle expectations for a follower of Christ. One of the primary things handed down in the Christian church over the centuries is a consistent set of …

I’m sorry!  I need to take a break.  Laughing too hard.  BRB!

kk, sorry, where were we?  oh yes…haha, we were talking about the Christian tradition, some of us more seriously than others.   Dr. Fortson now makes his dramatic and unintentionally Catholic and/or seriously hilarious conclusion regarding the matter at hand–

Revisionist biblical interpretations that purport to support homosexual practice are typically rooted in novel hermeneutical principles applied to Scripture, which produce bizarre interpretations of the Bible held nowhere, never, by no one. (emphasis mine)

So there you have it.  Typical Reformed Protestant absconds with Patristic Fathers, rewrites what they say to make them agree with his Protestant theology, and equivocates his way into agreeing completely with the position of the Holy Mother Church circa 1520 all the while still assuring himself and his wayward, defiant Protestant flock that while it is meet and right to condemn homosexuality via the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church, because, well, you know, those Papists got it right on that one, but hey, don’t come waving your authority in my face!

Hahahahahaha.   I wish I had an nth of the intellect and scholarship of someone like Dr. Michael Barber who I know would see layers here that I do not.  Nevertheless, I  find this whole article ripe for satire and abuse.  I wonder if these earnest Sophists ever realize how absurd and hilarious they are!  God bless ’em. ***

**a quick lookup of the word “equivocation” reveals that its synonyms are misrepresentation, deceit and doublespeak.  To be charitable to Dr. Fortson, we are only using the definition of equivocation in the philosophical use, meaning a fallacy.

***and my original response via the comment section may not have been as charitable.  Mea culpa.

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Beautiful video with Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. reflecting on the solemnity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with the Kyrie Eleison chanted in the background.

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Now there remained in the camp two of the men, of whom one was called Eldad, and the other Medad, upon whom the spirit rested; for they also had been enrolled, but were not gone forth to the tabernacle.  And when they prophesied in the camp, there ran a young man, and told Moses, saying: Eldad and Medad prophesy in the camp.  Forthwith Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, and chosen out of many, said: My lord Moses forbid them.  But he said: Why have you jealousy for me? O that all the people might prophesy, and that the Lord would give them his spirit!”    Num 11:26-30

 

John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name, who follows not us: and we forbade him.  But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that does a miracle in my name and can soon speak ill of me.  For he that is not against you is for you.”      Mark 9:37-39

Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries gave a terrific homily a couple years ago at Church of St. Mary’s in Chicago.  The homily is entitled, “Would that Everyone Could be a Prophet.”  The Sunday readings he focused on were Numbers 11:25-29 and Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48. 

From the readings, we see Joshua being jealous of the prophesying by the two elders who were not at the meeting with Moses.  In the gospel, we see John complaining that some people are casting out demons in Jesus’ name, even though they were not part of his apostles.  In both cases, Moses and Jesus chastise the complainers for trying to stop these works of God.  Also, Fr. Barron tells us, this is the root of the problem between Saul and David, and Saul’s jealously of the divine gifts to David, threw Israel into civil war.

Fr. Barron reminds us that when we sow dissention, jealousy and turf wars, we waste the grace that God has extended to us.  Instead, he challenges us to look for the grace in us, and in those around us, and cooperate with it: 

The spiritual life is really about one thing: it’s about our cooperation with grace….Grace–God’s love–is surging into the world at all times, according to God’s purposes, God’s will. Our job is pretty simple: it’s to notice it and once we notice it to cooperate with it, get on board with it.  Cooperate.  Whether that grace is coming directly to me, or to someone else.  Whether it is according to my expectations or outside my expectations…Whereever it appears, get on board, cooperate with it!

When the ego takes over, the flow of grace is blocked.  That’s the central tragedy of sin.  God’s love wants to surge into the world, but He gives us the privilege of cooperating with it.  We can block it if we make our own ego central.

 

Watch the homily below. 

Part 1

Part 2


Remember to pre-order your Catholicism dvd set today!

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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Ephesians 5:8-14

Yesterday, we attended the Confirmation of the oldest son of a family with whom our family is close. It struck me during Mass that this passage from the second reading applies very aptly to the young people; indeed to all of us.  This entire chapter of Ephesians gives good instruction on the importance of right thinking.  In our modern context, it is a sure shield against moral relativism.

Pray for our Confirmation recipients.

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I am very sorry that I have not taken the time to write original posts, or even bothered to re-post others’ articles.  While I have been very busy, I admit to lacking that burning need to share my thoughts on CwG.  That may be due in part to the bible study I lead at my church – perhaps my thoughts are getting channeled overly much there.  Be that as it may, I am trying to rekindle the writing flame, so keep me in your prayers.

Speaking of bible study, we have been able to bring Jeff Cavins’ excellent The Great Adventure Bible Study to our parish.  We’re very excited to have 20 attendees (or pilgrims as I like to call us).

If you read this, please take a moment to pray for our study group as we go through 24 weeks of reading, study, discussion, and prayer on our great adventure.  May God use this time and place to create 20 faithful, joyous, industrious workers, for

the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few.

Pray!

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One of my favorite biblical scholars and an all-around good guy has been awarded (finally! *cough cough*) his doctorateMichael Barber of Reasons for Faith, The Sacred Page and JP the Great University is now Dr. Michael Barber

My heartiest (and real) congratulations and imaginary slaps on the back to Michael, his wife and his family! I raise a pretend glass of the finest French champagne (hey, it’s my daydream) to you!

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On the blog of The New Theological Movement was this gem revolving around some of my favorite-est things:  St. Michael the Archangel, the importance of humility and the beautiful, intricate symmetry of Sacred Scripture.  As an added bonus, it includes the prayer to St. Michael which I have right over there >>> in my side items. 

Read it and enjoy!

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Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton:

For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.

I quoted this in Bible study the other day as it seemed appropriate. The innocent have nothing to fear from a just God, while the guilty shrink from such justice. As we age, we hopefully gain self-awareness, insight and humility. We throw ourselves into the arms of our merciful Lord, knowing that a fully just God would condemn us for our faithlessness. But we can trust to God’s justice AND his mercy. We only have to ask for it with fully contrite hearts.

But watch out that you do not fall into the habit of wanting mercy for yourself, and justice for everyone else!

A great prayer of contrition is found in Psalms:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. And according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me….Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from your face; and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. I will teach the unjust your ways: and the wicked shall be converted to you. Deliver me from blood, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol your justice. O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise. For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51

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The Gospel for today is another unique story, the story of the adulterous woman found only in John.  Scholars speculate that this story was a later edition to the text as it does not seem very Johannine, and may have been written by same author of Luke – Acts.  The Church believes it to be inspired scripture and it remains one of the most popular stories in all the Bible.

while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.   But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.  Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.”   John 8:1-11

Our friend Fr. Jon at Redemptorist Preacher takes an in-depth look at the underlying drama to the story; after all, this was a trap being laid for Jesus, one of several instances in the Gospel in which he is challenged by Jewish leaders with a seemingly no-win situation (e.g. the question of paying Roman taxes).  Here the trap is that while Mosaic law (religious) required adulterers to be stoned to death, Roman law (civil) forbade any private capital punishment.  Should Jesus heed the Hebrew law of his ancestors or obey the might of the Roman authorities?   Either way he answers could lead to his own death.  The scribes and Pharisees chose a very visible, crowded venue to challenge him.  How fraught the situation, and how humiliating for this woman, who likely may have been dragged there immediately after being found in flagrante delicto. 

My Sunday to Sunday nonsensical weekly just wanted to discuss the inherent sexual bias of the story and bemoan that women are still being kept down by The Man.  You know, the Church and the Pope and mean guys everywhere.  Blessedly, our Bible study leader decided to scrap the Gospel reflections from the Sunday to Sunday and instead spend the entire time leading our own discussion, which was enlightening and uplifting.  I confess that I disliked this story for a long time.  In my opinion, it was used in an anti-Christian way for far too long, and is the go-to verse for moral relativists everywhere.  But I am so glad that I had this week to study and reflect on it.  I have a whole new appreciation for the complexity of this Gospel.  

Our Bible study was wonderful, too.  We dwelt on Jesus’ silence, his remarkable silence.  In reflecting on our discussion, it occurs to me that this possibly throwaway story shows us the way to be Christians, as Jesus role models the virtues we should aspire to: 

  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Prudence
  • Courage
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love

Everyone discussing this Gospel account sooner or later uses it to point to Jesus’ non-judgment and that oftentimes becomes the sole takeaway from it.  “Jesus said he didn’t judge the woman and neither should we.”  This (I think) is an incorrect lesson for us, or at least not the sole lesson.  Jesus does not condemn the adulteress, but I think he does judge the woman.  In so doing, he actually shows us how to judge.  Never does Jesus tell her she is not a sinner and not guilty of her crime.  In fact, he forgives her and instructs her to turn from her path of sin – “go and sin no more.”   See that?  He did not simply say, “Go on, beat it!”  He did not say, “well then, clearly you are not guilty.” 

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.”  

The condemnation of the crowd would have been her stoning, her loss of earthly life.  Jesus does not condemn her and in so doing, he presages our Reconciliation sacrament.  Jesus’ pardon refers to her eternal condemnation.  Jesus frees her; he is her savior just as we know he is ours.  He came to free us from our sins.  But inherent in this act of compassion, and mercy is his act of divine justice.  The woman must not sin anymore. 

And what does that mean, “sin no more”?  We know by the Catechism that we are all sinners and fall short of the grace of God.  Is the woman, and are we, required to “sin no more”?  How can we take on such a burden?  What is Jesus telling us?

In order to be absolved of our sins, in order for God’s merciful forgiveness to be ours, we must convert our hearts.  We must renounce the sin in which we find ourselves and we must earnestly intend to not persist in it.  How many of us understand that?  We ask for God’s forgiveness but have we truly renounced our sin within our heart of hearts?  Do we walk into our confession hardened to Jesus’ words?  We know from Revelation and from Pauline letters that we may not persist in our sins, and that Jesus WILL come again to judge the living and the dead.  Our acts on earth will be weighed in the balance.  So we must repent now, and that means to renounce our sins and promise to do better.

So how are we to judge if we should not condemn?  We know that only God knows the secrets of our hearts, and only He has perfect justice and mercy.  We must trust to His justice.  But as Christians, we are called upon to lead our fallen brothers and sisters back to the path, and correct one another in a spirit of love and gentleness.  In good faith, can we allow those entrusted to our care to persist in their sin?  I think we cannot.  Adultery, premarital sex, gossiping, sloth, illegal business practices, addictions, whatever the moral failing, this Gospel is not telling us it is none of our business.  It is showing us the way to intervene as a Christ follower should:  take time to reflect in silence and humility, maybe get down in the dirt a bit to fully understand the situation, see all sides, when finally necessary to speak, do so calmly, temperately and fairly, do not offer condemnation but rather love, forgiveness and a hope for reconciliation, make it clear to the sinner that Christ expects their metanoia.

Our sins are so hard to renounce, our hearts slow to convert.  Speaking the truth in charity and gentleness must be matched by our own humility, our understanding of our own failures.  We have a faith that goes beyond following an established set of rules.  Our faith requires us to devote our time, energy, intellect and spirit in a constant conversion away from ourselves and over to God.

Our God is so awesome!

Pray with me: 

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.

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I’ve been in conversations with my Protestant friends lately, particular one young evangelical I love.  I’ve been trying to get them to read the Bible.  Does that sound funny?  It strikes me as being not a little ironic, for the Catholic mom to be urging young Evangelicals to read the Bible.  They all own one…I’m just not sure how much actual reading goes on.  If you don’t count the apps that send a little out-of-context verses to their phone or the daily Scripture passage widget on their high-tech church websites (because we are evangelizing through the media, you know), I’m not sure they actually ever read the Bible. 

So, here we have Christians who genuinely love Jesus, profess a great faith, who ardently defend sola scriptura, and who do not read the Bible

So what is forming the faith of these youngsters?  What understanding do they have of their beliefs?  of Christianity and their own particular denomination / sect / bible church?  Well, where they are getting their religious beliefs from seem to be mostly two-fold:

  1. Church services which are a lengthy sermon (usually not much theology there) and worship music
  2. Contemporary Christian Music and … uh…more worship music

So the majority of the doctrinal teaching for many Protestant youth (and most Evangelical kids) is — as far as I can tell — worship music.   And today’s worship music either lacks doctrine or (in a surprising number of instances) contains bad doctrine.  There, I said it.  Modern Christian worship music is bad theology.  I used to think it was sort of repetitious and bland, saccharine and, um..repetitious.  Then I began to think more deeply about it and realized that actually, the music oftens conveys a bad theology.  It’s leading our Christian youth and young people down a bad path.  (I know I’ve promised the post about the dangers of the rising popular Christian music industry a gazillion times.  This is still not that post.  Sorry!)

The above tirade is my rambling way of introducing the real subject of this post, which is that our protesting Protestant brethren are still trying to bring Catholic practices into their Protestant lives.  It’s funny really. 

Here are three articles in this month’s Christianity Today:

COVER PACKAGE
Practically Theological
How churches are teaching doctrine—and finding eager participants.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey | posted 3/15/2010 09:33AM

COVER PACKAGE
The Lost Art Of Catechesis
It’s a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine.
J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett | posted 3/12/2010 10:31AM

COVER STORY
The Mind Under Grace
Why a heady dose of doctrine is crucial to spiritual formation.
Darren C. Marks | posted 3/12/2010 10:30AM

Although I’m being facetitious in my introductory comments, I want to make sure that I make it clear that I am actually very relieved to see that CT is tackling the problem of the lack of doctrinal teaching among Protestant Christians, particularly in the Evangelical movement.  I actually know one Christian young man who does not seem to understand that we believe in a Triune God.  Yes, yes, we need to love God, we need to burn for Him.  But we also need to know God.  Faith AND Reason.  If I hear one more time, “isn’t it really all about loving Jesus?” or “let’s not get hung up on non-salvation issues” or “it’s about Jesus NOT religion“, I’m going to throw my copy of the Catechism at their head.  All that love and fervor, yet no real understanding of the credos of their faith just leads to heresies and Joel Osteen. 

Yeah, I know — Go work on my big post I keep promising.  Meh.

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