The Third Day – G.K. Chesterton

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.

— G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, Part II, chapter iii

EmptyTomb2

A Social Religion by Frank Sheed

I have been finishing reading Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed.  It has been a long chore because he is taking my mind to heights I did not realize we would ascend when first we set out.

The following is a section called “A Social Religion” which I found fascinating enough to post.  Why this section and not others probably more worthy?  Not a clue.  Perhaps because my old Protestant individualist thinking still holds sway in some areas and therefore this section impacted me particularly.  Whatever the reason, it seems a good reminder to Catholics in an individualistic religious culture.

Enjoy!

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Looking at man, almost the first thing we see about him is that he is not an isolated unit independent of others, but a social being bound to others both by needs which cannot be satisfied and by powers which must remain unused save in relation to other men.  It would be strange if God, having made man social, should ignore the fact in His own personal dealings with man.  To treat man as an isolated independent unit would be as monstrous in religion as it would be in any other department of human life.  It would be to treat man as what he is not.  But the one being who would not be likely to do that is God, who made man what he is, and made him so because that is what He wanted him to be.  A religion which should consist in an individual relation of each person directly to God would be no religion for man.  A social being requires a social religion.  Within that social religion the individual will have his own religious needs and experiences, but they will be within and not external to, or a substitute for, his approach to God and God’s approach to him in union with other men.

Individualist religious theories there have always been, even among Christians.  They have never been able to carry out the full logic of their individualist theory because their nature as men stood too solidly in their way.  Something in religion that have had to get from other men.  So the Bible Christian, despising the priesthood and minimizing the Church, has yet had to fall back upon the Bible, and the Bible, although it is given to us by God, is given through men, the men who under His inspiration wrote it.  A religion wherein the soul finds and maintains a relation with God with no dependence upon men is impossible, and what makes it impossible is the nature God gave man.  The only question then is whether religion shall do its very utmost to elude the social element in man’s nature, accepting only so much as it can by no possibility avoid; or whether it shall wholly accept and glory in the social element as something given by God, something therefore to be used to the uttermost in religion as in the rest of man’s life.  In giving man the religion of the Kingdom, God showed what His own answer is.

Christ did not leave His followers free at their discretion to form their own groups if it seemed good to them or to remain isolated if it seemed good to them.  He banded them into a society, a Church.

“He gave Himself for us, to ransom us from all our guilt, a people set apart for Himself.”

What the Jews had been, the Church now is.  We remember Moses’ words:

“This is the blood of the covenant.”

But now we have Christ’s words:

“This is My blood in the new covenant.”

There is a new covenant and a new people: not just millions of redeemed individuals: a people.  The brotherhood of every Christian with Christ involves the brotherhood of all Christians with one another.  His normal way of giving them His gifts of truth and life was to be through the society: in other words, the whole Christian life was not to be a solitary relation of each soul to Christ, but of each to all in Christ, this is what the Apostles’ Creed means by the Communion of Saints.  In solidarity with other men we fell in Adam and rose again with Christ; in the same solidarity we live the new life.

God can and does give this or that man what he individually needs.  But the great needs of the soul are not peculiar to the individual, but the same for all.  There is the need for the Life which Christ came that we might have more abundantly; and the need for Knowledge—knowledge of what God is and what man is, and of the goal of life and how we are to attain it.  It is through the society that God offers men the spiritual gifts by which these needs common to all are supplied.  The relation of Christians with one another is essential in their relation with Christ.  They are related to Him not one by one, but in virtue of their membership of His Kingdom.

–Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity; chapter 21 Dispensing the Gifts, section 1

Some Fun Re-Wording a CARM Article

So I decided to have a little fun.  Taking this piece from CARM titled “Why do Roman Catholics believe what they do”, I re-worded the article from a Catholic perspective writing about Protestants instead of vice-versa.[1]  The blocked quotes are CARM’s and the responses are my own.[2]

Enjoy!

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But, it doesn’t matter what CARM presents to them because the Catholics will continue to believe and defend whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them. It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to the “one true church” that tells them what the truth is. This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they submit to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Whatever the “true church” tells them, they defend . . . because it is the true church.

It doesn’t matter what Catholics present to them because Protestants will continue to believe and defend their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture.  It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to “just follow the Bible as the Holy Spirit guides.”[3]  This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with all heretics throughout history when they proclaimed their own fallible interpretation of Scripture as the only true one and everyone else wrong.  For Protestants, especially American Evangelicals like CARM, whatever the “Holy Spirit” tells them, they defend…because the Holy Spirit told them.  That’s how they know they are not mistaken.

In the cults, members always defend whatever the Mother Church tells them. Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not a church) tell them. Why? I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Protestants always defend whatever the whims of their own subjective interpretation tell them.  Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of Scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not of their own opinions) tell them.  Why?  I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Those Catholics who defend the errors of their Mother Church, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate. This is what the Scripture tells us. It is as simple as that. They do not have the mind of Christ. They do not hear his voice (John 10:27-28). Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Those Protestants who defend the errors of their own opinions, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate.  This is what the Scripture tells us.  It is as simple that.  They do not have the mind of Christ.  They do not hear His voice (John 10:27-28).  Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

As with the Catholics, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:22-23 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

With Protestants, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many 1miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Notice that Jesus condemns those who appeal to their faith and works for salvation.

Notice that Jesus says those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.

My heart aches for the Roman Catholics who think and behave like cultists, who defend whatever their Mother Church tells them to believe, who justify the error of works righteousness (CCC 2068, 2027, 2068) [sic], who have given themselves over to a Church rather than to Christ, who conduct themselves in a manner consistent with what their Mother Church tells them to do and believe.

“…no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold,” (Trent, Session 4, “Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books”)

My heart aches for Protestants who think and behave like lawless anarchists, whose only authority is their own subjective opinions of Scripture, who justify their error of salvation by faith alone, who have given themselves over to their whims rather than to the Church established by Christ Himself, who conduct themselves according to what their fads tell them to do.

2 Peter 1:20-21 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

The abdication of the self to a church leads to bondage and damnation. But, abdication of the self to Jesus always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The refusal to abdicate the self leads to bondage and damnation.  But, abdication of the self to Jesus working through His Church always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The burden of the Catholics is to believe and follow whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe and do (CCC 862, 883, 896, 939), to merit their own grace (CCC 2010, 2027)[4], and to keep the Ten Commandments and thereby attain salvation (CCC 2068). Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet the Catholics will defend whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe. They follow another besides Christ.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”

The burden of Protestants is to be adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  Since they only follow subjective feelings about what they think the Bible says, they can never rest assured that they are standing on a rock.  They base their doctrines on a fallible interpretation of a few cherry-picked verses from which they interpret the entire Bible.  For every Scripture they use as a defense is another they stumble over.  They can never be unified because unity requires everyone to submit to an authority higher than themselves.  But since each is his own personal pope, there can be no unity and only endless schism.  They believe in “salvation by faith alone” contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture yet must rely on their good works to prove they are truly saved.  Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet Protestants will defend whatever whims their subjective interpretation of the Scripture tells them to believe in defiance of all authority.

They follow a Christ made in their own image.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”

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[1] Some things in this post I would never say as a Catholic, such as Protestants are not regenerated.  If they were baptized properly they are Christians.  I retained much of the wording of the original CARM article to show how silly this article sounds because the exact argument can be turned on the accuser. “Catholics are not real Christians” can be refuted with “Protestants are not real Christians.”  See how nothing has been determined and assumptions are the only evidence summoned forth?

Protestants like the ones at CARM probably had a true experience with Jesus.  Awesome!  Unfortunately, they began the race but seem to think the starting and finish lines are the same thing.  Whereas Catholics believe we don’t reach the finish line until death.  Hence the appearance of “salvation by works”.

[2] Note: I started about halfway down the CARM article because the first part is a silly critique about what CARM thinks Catholics probably/maybe/could/should/possibly believe.  For example, the article quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church to claim that Catholics possibly believe they will become gods.  Meanwhile, they seem to ignore the fact that when the CCC says we will become “partakers of the divine nature” it is quoting directly from 2 Peter 1:4 which says, “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

[3] CARM’s article How to Interpret the Bible begins with, “The Bible is God’s Word. But some of the interpretations derived from it are not.  There are many cults and Christian groups that use the Bible—claiming their interpretations are correct.  Too often, however, the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory.  This does not mean that the Bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies in those who interpret and the methods they use.  We need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting God’s Word.”  https://carm.org/how-interpret-bible

[4] Notice these references begin with “no one can merit the initial grace.” So CARM is misrepresenting and simplifying Catholic doctrine and then “refuting” a caricature.

CARM and Revelation 12

queen-of-heavenEvery now and then I find amusement perusing anti-Catholic sites run by Evangelicals.  The intense desire to prove Catholicism wrong so often puts their own position in jeopardy.  The website known as Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) is one such site.

When I saw this article[1] by Matt Slick questioning whether Mary was the woman in Revelation 12, I had to check it out.  And, of course, like any good random blogger, I will now bless the world with my thoughts.

The first and shallowest part of the article:

The first part of Slick’s article is not even about Revelation 12 but rather about trying to shock the reader with how much Catholics honor Mary.  Once this Evangelical “mortal sin” is established, Slick then infers that Catholics only see Mary in Revelation 12 due to their devotion to her.  But this is backwards.  Devotion to Mary developed largely because of Revelation 12, not in spite of it.  John Henry Newman said,

“But if all this be so, if it is really the Blessed Virgin whom Scripture represents as clothed with the sun, crowned with the stars of heaven, and with the moon as her footstool, what height of glory may we not attribute to her? and what are we to say of those who, through ignorance, run counter to the voice of Scripture, to the testimony of the Fathers, to the traditions of East and West, and speak and act contemptuously towards her whom her Lord delighteth to honour?”[2]

Scripture itself describes Mary in the highest of terms.  Should not a true “Bible Christian” do likewise?

Furthermore, Slick’s argument cuts both ways.  Since his theology does not allow for a Queen of Heaven, he cannot allow himself to see Mary in Revelation 12.  Boom.  Down.  Owned.  Touché.

This is a classic case of what C.S. Lewis calls “Bulverism”[3] and should not even be included in legitimate dialog.

The second part of the article:

The second part of Slick’s article then attempts to show a contradiction in Catholic theology.  Since the woman in Revelation 12 has pain in childbirth, and since the curse of sin upon women was pain in childbirth, Slick contends that Revelation 12 cannot be about Mary since Catholics believe Mary was without Original Sin.  According to Slick, since Mary felt pain she must therefore have Original Sin.

The errors here are obvious, right?

First, Slick must first pull in a separate Catholic doctrine (Mary’s sinless-ness) in order to make his case.  But since Slick rejects that doctrine too, what is his reason for completely rejecting the woman as Mary?  Since Slick believes Mary had sin, why not believe the woman in pain of childbirth is Mary?  It still fits his own hermeneutics.  One need not be Catholic to believe the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary and believing so need not automatically assume she is without sin.

Catholics believe Mary was sinless based on other Scripture passages, not Revelation 12.  At best, Slick has found a sticky paradox within Catholic teaching.[4]  But he has not proven the woman is not Mary according to even Protestant standards.

Second, the curse of sin was on men too, right?  Genesis 3:17-19 says men will have pain, sweat, and toil.  Death also came to mankind because of sin (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:12).  Now, Jesus was without sin, right?  And yet He still felt pain, sweat, toil, and ultimately died, right?  Does that mean Jesus had sin?  If Mary cannot be sinless and feel pain simultaneously, then neither can Jesus.  According to Slick’s hermeneutics, Mary must have had sin because she felt pain, therefore Jesus must also have had sin because He felt pain.

By desperately trying to prove Catholics wrong Matt Slick puts his own beliefs in jeopardy.  It’s a double-standard.

The non-existent third part of the article:

Finally, despite the title question, Slick does not actually answer the question of whether the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary.  His article is not only a failed attempt to prove Catholic doctrine “unbiblical” but he does not even give his own case of who the woman is.[5]  The closest he gets to “proving” the woman is not Mary is by accepting the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinless-ness and attempting to show a contradiction.

Conclusion:

It is easy to be skeptical but difficult to form something positive; easy to tear down but difficult to build up.  Any negative explanation must be met with an equally satisfying positive explanation, otherwise it is simple protest-antism.  I’ve found that Evangelicals wade at ease within skepticism but are on slippery ground when attempting to build a case for their own beliefs.  And that is one reason why I eventually left Evangelicalism and accepted the Catholic Church.

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Disclaimer – As usual, this blog post is just that: a blog post with the personal thoughts of a random blogger.  What is said here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church.  I am still learning and am very susceptible to error.  Don’t take anything here as Gospel.  Don’t be stupid.  Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

[1] https://carm.org/revelation12mary

[2] http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/pusey/section3.html (emphasis is mine) Is it possible to worship Mary in the way we worship God?  Technically, I suppose it is possible.  But then so does the Catholic Church.  That is why it makes a distinction between latria and dulia.  The first is worship given solely to God as God.  The second is honor and devotion given to others of high esteem, such as Mary and the saints.  To worship anyone else other than God as a god, including Mary, is a mortal sin, according to the Catholic Church, and puts one on the road to hell.  On a side note, I have been strongly researching Catholicism for about 3 years now and have been a confirmed Catholic for 1 year, and I have yet to find anyone who worships Mary as a goddess.

[3] See ‘Bulverism’ in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Or watch this YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH53uFBOGbw

[4] Indeed, there has developed a Catholic tradition that Mary experienced no pain during childbirth.  However, so far as I know that is not a dogmatic position; it is a small ‘t’ tradition.  Regardless, it is more difficult to deny that the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary than to believe Mary experienced no pain.  Secondly, in Revelation there are likely multiple applications and time periods within a single image and portions of the image will not apply to all applications.  That is why Catholic tradition identifies the woman with Mary, the Church, and Israel.  The pain section could apply to the Church or Israel.  Or, regarding Mary it may represent the sword that would pierce her soul that Simeon prophesied (Lk. 2:35).

[5] Perhaps Slick did so in another article, but this would be a good place to put a link to said article if it exists.

Is the Vatican a waste of money? Would Peter feel comfortable?

cq5dam-web-1280-1280One of the criticisms one often sees from non-Catholics is pointed toward the Vatican and all its “riches.”  Some wonder about all the good the Church could do if it didn’t have all this material stuff.  Other questions I’ve seen wonder about how comfortable Peter would have been in the Vatican.

“Think of all the good they could do”:

First, what good is the Catholic Church not doing?  The whole reason it exists is to spread the gospel to all nations and to ease the suffering of others.  Its whole existence is to feed people both spiritually and physically and it is doing these very things.

Is St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican a waste of money?

Some simple research reveals that the Vatican is actually not that wealthy.  The Vatican is a city-state with annual revenues of about $300 million which often goes into deficit.[i]  They not only maintain a government entity but house art in museums and maintain historical archives.  I believe, as most would, such cultural and historical preservation is important.  So the Vatican is actually doing quite a bit with the meager budget they have, in addition to being the head of a world-wide Church and giving to various charities.

To further the perspective, the Louvre in Paris has an annual budget of about $350 million.[ii]  Is anyone sitting outside the Louvre thinking, “If only they got rid of all this ‘stuff’ they could do so much good.”  The Louvre is doing good by doing exactly what it does; preserving culture and history.  Meanwhile, preserving culture and history is only one function of the Vatican but on the same budget as the Louvre.  So what exactly is being wasted?

To further the perspective even more, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook and is now worth about $50 billion (yes, that’s with a ‘b’).  He made that by building a “social” networking site which is actually the antithesis of true society.  Some studies even show that it contributes to more depression and loneliness.[iii][iv]

If wealth is being squandered and not used for good, it is not the Vatican holding it back.

Finally, there are the simple, cold pragmatics of economics.  If the Church sold everything and gave it to the poor, it would feed a small fraction of the hungry for a day.  What will they eat tomorrow when they are hungry again?  Solving poverty and hunger requires long-term solutions but most people can only think in the short-term.  Initiatives like PovertyCure focus on long-term solutions to abolishing poverty, but such solutions are “boring” to most modern A.D.D. mentalities.

So what about the Vatican and the comfort of Peter?

Do I believe Peter would feel comfortable in a papal crown or living in the Vatican?  No, actually.  Nor do I believe most popes did or do feel comfortable.  For every Alexander VI there were probably far more like Celestine V.  Many—probably most—popes purposefully wore scratchy shirts underneath the expensive garments to keep themselves from getting too comfortable.

When the Pope Enters St. Peter’s for the coronation ceremony, he is greeted by a monk who blows out a candle—admonishing him not to forget that he is mortal like the rest of humanity.[v]

There is even a room in the Vatican called the Room of Tears.  It is where the newly elected Pope changes into papal vestments.  It is often accompanied by tears as the burden placed upon him is realized.  Because being Pope is actually not fun.

The Vatican and papal crown emerged from a time when people wanted to “see” their ruler and be proud of him.  They wanted him to look and act the part.  They wanted to hold him on a throne and walk through city streets receiving blessings from his hand—the very hand of the Vicar of Christ, ordained by God, and the hand of the direct successor of St. Peter himself to whom Our Lord entrusted the keys of the kingdom (not the keys of the democracy).

Even in our modern “progressive” society we see inklings of such human needs to “see.”  I knew a doctor who drove a fancy car and wore very nice clothes.  He once told me if he didn’t people would not believe he was a good doctor.  If he drove a beat-up truck and wore t-shirts most would not take him seriously and they would find another physician.

It is telling that today the Pope does not typically wear the crown or be carried through the streets on a throne.  His garments are much more undistinguished than in days past.  Why?  Because the culture has largely changed.  The culture no longer cares for such finery and would probably only be distracted by it.

These are the opinions of a random blogger.

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Update January 12, 2017:  Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have vowed to donate 99% of their Facebook shares to charity.
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/technology/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-charity.html?_r=0

[i] CIA World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/vt.html

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre#21st_century

[iii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/04/08/new-study-links-facebook-to-depression-but-now-we-actually-understand-why/#1d4f6e342e65

[iv] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/04/facebook-envy_n_6606824.html

[v] “Liberty or Equality” by Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, page 185

Bishop Robert Barron discusses College Campus “Safe Spaces”

He contrasts it with the university style in the High Middle Ages with its quaestio disputata (disputed question).

 

“Can I suggest that Thomas Aquinas’ method from the Middle Ages does represent a kind of ‘safe space’ for argument; but a safe space for serious adults and not for timorous children.  And might I further suggest its not a bad method for our own engagement of these public questions.”

Friendship, Dialogue, and the Inklings

“In this kind of love…Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’  The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend.  He need not agree with us about the answer.” – C.S. Lewis on friendship love in The Four Loves

I have become quite enamored with The Inklings of late.  The Inklings was an informal group at Oxford begun mainly by C.S. Lewis and which “had no specific agenda beyond a vague shared interest in literature among its members and a vague notion of a kinship of spirit existing between them.  Lewis was the nucleus, without whom any gathering would have been inconceivable, but Tolkien was also almost always present.”[1]  This group would discuss literature, theology, and read their latest projects to the group for criticisms.  Chapter by chapter over the years, J.R.R. Tolkien read his manuscript for The Lord of the Rings to this group.  It was also due to the constant encouragement of Lewis that Tolkien finished the story for publication.  Tolkien wrote to a friend saying, “But for the encouragement of C.S.L. I do not think that I should ever have completed or offered for publication The Lord of the Rings.”[2]  Likewise, Tolkien was encouraging to Lewis to finish writing and publishing Out of the Silent Planet, the first in the Space Trilogy.

There is something I find particularly fascinating about the members of this group; they were literary geniuses but apparently did not see themselves as such.  They did not simply generate books of brilliance on whims and expect everyone to swoon at their magnificence.  They submitted their work to the critique of the group.  Many, if not all, of the publications from these men were vetted before being deemed worthy.

“Out would come a manuscript and we would settle down to sit in judgment upon it,” recalled Warnie Lewis.  “Real, unbiased judgment too, for about the Inklings there was nothing of a mutual admiration society; with us, praise for good work was unstinted but censure for bad, or even not so good, was often brutally frank.  To read to the Inklings was a formidable ordeal, and I can still remember the fear and trembling with which I offered the first chapter of my first book–and remember too my delight at its reception.”[3]

These men did not allow themselves to think higher of themselves than they should and they each humbled themselves enough to hear the “brutally frank” criticisms of peers and friends.  This is exactly why their works are so good.  Each book was the final draft of a manuscript analyzed by peers and friends.[4]

Dialogue is a healthy thing.  These men not only presented their manuscripts to the group but also discussed anything they all thought important, including religion.  It was due to a long and late night talk with Tolkien and Hugo Dyson that Lewis returned to Christianity.  If no dialogue had taken place, nor a willingness of all parties to attempt an understanding of the others’ beliefs, Lewis may never have re-discovered Christianity and given us his great literature.

The arch-literary-nemesis of the Modernist George Bernard Shaw was the Christian G.K. Chesterton.  They both wrote scathing reviews of the other and debated publicly but could still invite each other home to dinner and drinks and laughter together.  Surely this was largely due to the truth of Lewis that two men to whom a question is important can be friends even though they do not agree upon the answer.

Another strong ingredient, I believe, was Chesterton’s Christian conviction to love thy enemy and to treat all people with charity.  Does not charity include giving someone the time of day and discussing with them something they consider important?

 


 

[1] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 63

[2] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 35

[3] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 64

The Forerunners of the Reformation with Dr. Scott Hahn

Peter Kreeft once said everything Scott Hahn touches turns to gold and this talk seems evidence of that.  This talk gave me so much to think about.  Hahn summarizes the broad scope of Western intellectualism, where it rose, where it began to fall, and how we are today living with the consequences.

“Intellectuals rule the world but they usually do so from the grave.  Because it takes a while, it takes time, for their ideas to catch on.  In fact it takes several generations for people to really work out the implications of these novel ideas.  In fact the novel ideas have to reach a point where they no longer seem novel.  They have to reach a point where people think that way without even having to think about it.”

–Scott Hahn, The Forerunners of the Reformation

More lectures on history can be found at the Coming Home Network Deep In History series.
http://www.chnetwork.org/deep-in-history/

“The Survivor” by Phil Keaggy – a song for children in the womb

The March for Life in Washington D.C. is this Friday January 22, 2016.  For that I found it fitting to post this pro-life song “The Survivor” by Phil Keaggy.

The lyrics revolve around the words of Psalm 31:13-14 and apply them to a child in the womb, wondering what is happening and professing trust in God for deliverance.

G.K. Chesterton said, “If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. Thus it is considered more withering to accuse a man of bad taste than of bad ethics. Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence.”

Commenting on this quote, Dale Alquist said: “Chesterton can see from a century ago that the world was headed to a time when smoking a cigar would be considered more offensive than performing an abortion.”

Actions have consequences and actions are a product of our values and beliefs.  A culture so antagonistic to human life will bring the antagonism of life upon itself.  May God end the evil of abortion.

Confirmation on November 1, All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day painting by Fra Angelico; from Wikipedia

Well, looks like it is going to happen. I am joining the Catholic Church on November 1, All Saints’ Day, with conditional baptism and first confession on October 31, an ironic date.

It is happening so “quickly” because I went through RCIA last year and have talked with the local priest a few times. He knows where I am coming from and is content I know what I am getting into. He and I are going to grill steaks soon and we’ll talk some more.

There are still many things I don’t understand about Catholicism but I have discovered enough to be convinced for myself, even if it isn’t convincing enough for others. But we shouldn’t be expected to understand everything before a decision is made. One doesn’t perform 100 pushups from the get go. One starts with 5, eventually moves up to 10, then 20, and so forth. The famous saying from St. Augustine is fitting; “Believe that you may understand.”[1] This is not blind faith leading to a false understanding. It is reasonable faith rooted in something strong which will grow into greater understanding.

The final decision was due, in part, to the realization that this process has been two very intense years (even longer for the roots of some issues).  Life needs to move on and it cannot move on so long as I am stuck in paralysis.  Paralysis and indecisiveness has only drained my joy and even driven away people I cared for.  Paralysis will only continue to haunt and hurt unless a decision is made. The lines in the sand must eventually be draw and so far Catholicism still seems the best option.  The soldier in battle who freezes when the bullets fly is in the worst danger.  It would be better for him to shoot back, run for cover, or at least run away as a coward.  But freezing in one place will only destroy him and probably also hurt those around him.  That’s kind of how I felt.

So I figured the best remedy for indecisiveness is to make decisions and Catholicism is still the most reasonable option available.  And I must say, I have felt peace beginning to return, not in an overwhelming way, but like a gentle touch of God easing me into my decision.  Laughter is also coming easier, and I love to laugh.  There is still some residual frustration and lack of understandings about the way things played out in my life this past year but even that is subsiding into a calmer acceptance. (After all, anything I went through is small potatoes compared to what others are currently facing around the world right now and throughout history. Who am I to whine when life is still so good?)

Another thing that revealed how far I was along the trail was my brief consideration of atheism. While grilling a steak I wondered, “Is this whole Christian thing even true? Maybe I should just give it up.” These were short lived thoughts but they shed light on where my soul was; either Catholicism or give up Christianity altogether. And it seemed lame to give it up. After all, how could chance give us something as delicious as steak? There must be a God, right?

Two people have asked me if I was happy with my decision. It is a natural question to ask. We all want to be happy. But it was my father, a protestant minister, who raised me up to follow truth and to do what is right, whether we like it or not. Happiness may come with the territory, but happiness cannot be the litmus test. C.S. Lewis enhanced this theme in Mere Christianity: “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

The Bible talks much about joy, but it also talks about “taking up your cross.” Christianity is life and life includes both laughter and tears. I have hope that the grass truly is green on the other side but that cannot be the standard of my decision.

So I have been eyeing an 18 year bottle of scotch and waiting for the appropriate occasion. This is as fitting a time as any to buy it . If anyone else wishes to raise a glass too, I would love to hear about it.

God bless and peace be with you all.

By the way, while there is no need to end the blog, since the name is still fitting to the Christian life, this will also mean I will probably take a break from blogging. I feel the need to settle and gain roots into my new faith. I will probably post here and there but they will probably be few and far between.

[1] Tractate 29 (John 7:14-18), http://newadvent.org/fathers/1701029.htm