“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.

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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

An Interesting Pickle: Accept Free Will and Become Catholic?

I did not grow up Calvinist. Though I knew of it, I never gave it much attention. From the beginning the whole thing sounded wrong. However, in college I had a sudden influx of friends who were either Calvinist or seriously considering it. Finding myself unexpectedly surrounded by Calvinists and conversing about it, I wondered if God was trying to tell me something so I began to look into that theology myself. To keep a long story short, after Biblical studies, ponderings, and many conversations, I decided to continue rejecting it.

As time went on I began noticing complications. I rejected Calvinism and attended non-Calvinist churches, yet the basic theology of “faith alone” was still there as well as a sense that one could not lose one’s salvation short of a complete 180° rejection. Sin in the life of the believer was often not seen as something that could cost a believer his soul. Sin was presented as hurting our “relationship” with Jesus but did not effect a loss of salvation. Sermons or Bible studies would come across any of the multiple Bible verses that demand the Christian to live a moral and righteous life and, almost without fail, preceding or succeeding the exposition of these verses would be a disclaimer saying something like, “Not that we are saved by our works, obviously, etc. etc. etc.”

Meanwhile, I was left pondering the relationship between faith and works. Works and righteousness are clearly commanded in the Bible. It seems Jesus strongly suggests works are necessary for salvation.[i] The Book of James is about practically nothing but works in the life of a Christian and straight up says we are “justified by works and not by faith alone.”[ii] The Apostle John says that there is sin that leads to death.[iii] Paul warns the Galatian Christians to live righteously or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.[iv] Baptism is clearly a requirement for salvation in the New Testament[v], which means something must be done—a “work” according to most Protestants.

With the recent considerations of Catholicism, it was initially frustrating—though now it is becoming amusing—how a Protestant apologist will say something like “One should reject Romanism because it does not follow Biblical teaching. True Biblical teaching is x, y, and z.” Meanwhile, x, y, and z is Calvinistic. Thus I am left pondering, “I myself have rejected these notions as unbiblical so I can’t hold Catholicism ‘unbiblical’ on these issues if they too reject them.” It puts me in a weird position.

As part of my attempts to learn all sides, I recently checked out from the library a DVD called “Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism.” It interviewed some fairly famous Calvinist theologians and apologists about the history and doctrine of Calvinism. One thing I found interesting is their opinion on Arminianism, which is a version of Protestant theology that accepts free will. Take these examples:

R.C. Sproul said,

The Reformers felt that if they acquiesced to the protests—the Remonstrations—of the Arminians at that time, that in a very real way they would have been putting their feet back on a path to Rome. Now let me clarify that. I don’t think any of them believed that Arminianism was, or is today, Roman Catholicism. We’re talking about putting your feet on a path that goes in a certain direction.

D. James Kennedy said,

And if once you acknowledge free will, which Luther and all of the other Reformers denied, then you open the door for all of the various Roman Catholic heresies that came along as well as that one.

This analysis of the situation is reminiscent of a story told by Scott Hahn. While Hahn was still a Protestant attending seminary, a professor told the class that the entire Reformation hinged upon the doctrine of “faith alone” and quipped that if that doctrine were disproved he would be the first to knock on the doors of the Vatican for entry. Hahn said they would all laugh—“What rhetoric!”—but as his further studies in theology began to show that faith alone was not Biblical Hahn was drawn further into the Catholic Church.

It’s no wonder Calvinists are so militant in rejecting free will. Apparently to accept free will is to put one on a path leading to Rome. And since Catholicism is obviously wrong (duh!), free will must be rejected too, right? Playing the Roman card will probably have an effect on those determined not to be Catholic—“I don’t want to be Catholic so maybe I had better reject free will”—but it’s not going to help someone who has already rejected Calvinism and is considering Catholicism. In fact, it only confirms certain suspicions.

[i] For example, Matt. 7:21; Matt. 25:31-46

[ii] James 2:24

[iii] 1 John 5:16-17

[iv] Gal. 5:16-26

[v] For example, Mark 16:16; John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21

Thoughts of Tears and Grief During Maudlin Moments

Do tears bring healing or do they stop up the wells of the soul? If the tears eventually dry up, does it mean healing has come or does it mean the heart has solidified? Does it mean we can feel again or does it mean we have stopped feeling? When weeping for those we care for ends, does it mean we care for them less? Is the callous and detached attitude of a Calvinist better than the warm and concerned outlook of a loved one? Detachment allows less pain. Should we desire less pain? Or is detachment a virtue?

God saves through water. Noah and his family were saved through the water. The Israelites fleeing Egypt were saved through the water. We are now saved through the water of baptism.

Are tears another form of salvation? Does healing come through the water of tears? If the eyes are the window of the soul, does water flowing from the eyes draw toxins from the soul like the water of sweat draws toxins from the skin? Or, like a dried up well, empty and offering no life, does the soul begin to die when there are no more tears to draw?

Must the soul cease caring in order for weeping to eventually end or is the soul able to care all the more when weeping eventually ends?

We beg God for an end. Is that really best? But who can stand agony for long? Why does God feel silent? Shouldn’t He be, though? Isn’t it His fault? Or is it mine? Who even knows anymore. Is impassiveness the only respite? Does joy truly come with the morning? How many mornings must first pass?

To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears…,

And why do such maudlin thoughts make one feel a fool?

Is “Rome” the Antichrist?

Joe Heschmeyer, on his blog Shameless Popery, had a very interesting post about the Roman Church.  Below is the second section that dealt with whether Rome is the Anti-Christ, a popular claim among many non-Catholics.  I hope he doesn’t mind me “re-posting” his work.

————————————————–

II. Is “Rome” the Antichrist?

We’ve just seen Saint Jerome claim that those who break from the pope are siding with division and the Antichrist rather than unity and Christ. But what to make of the Reformation, in which Martin Luther taught that the pope was the Antichrist? Should that view be taken seriously?

While it’s no longer a common belief within Protestantism, this view was once widespread. It’s still held by some Protestants: for example, Michele Bachmann found herself in the midst of a mini-scandal when it was revealed that her denomination, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, still claims this, and you can also find it within some Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles.

Near the heart of this claim is a bit of very important exegesis. As GotQuestions points out, the theory that the pope is the Antichrist turns largely on Revelation 17:9:

The speculation about the Pope possibly being the Antichrist revolves primarily around Revelation 17:9. Describing the evil end-times system symbolized by a woman riding a beast, Revelation 17:9 declares, “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” In ancient times, the city of Rome was known as “the city on seven hills” because there are seven prominent hills that surround the city. So, the thinking goes, we can know that it is somehow connected with Rome. So, if the evil end-times system is somehow associated with Rome – it does not take much thought to see a potential connection with the Roman Catholic Church, which is centered in Rome. Numerous passages in the Bible describe an “Antichrist” who will lead the anti-Christ movement in the end times (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:5-8). So, if the end-times evil world system is centered in Rome and led by an individual – the Pope is a likely candidate.

While GotQuestions finds it “hard to believe that Pope Francis I is the Antichrist,” evangelicals like Dave Hunt (author of the aptly-named A Woman Rides the Beastwant to believe. Hunt goes from (a) saying that Revelation 17:9 proves that “Babylon” is Rome, to (b) concluding that Vatican City is Mystery Babylon (and the pope is the Antichrist):

Furthermore, she is a city built on seven hills. That specification eliminates ancient Babylon. Only one city has for more than 2000 years been known as the city on seven hills. That city is Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined.”1

There are, of course, other cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, that were also built on seven hills. Therefore, John provides at least seven more characteristics to limit the identification to Rome alone. We will examine each one in detail in subsequent chapters. However, as a preview of where we are going, we will list them now and discuss each one briefly. As we shall see, there is only one city on the earth which, in both historical and contemporary perspectives, passes every test John gives, including its identification as Mystery Babylon. That city is Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City.

Hunt is making a huge jump here: going from the Book of Revelation’s apparent condemnation of Imperial Rome, to saying that this “more specifically” means Vatican City… even though Vatican City (1) didn’t exist at the time Revelation was written, (2) isn’t the same city… or country, and (3) isn’t built on seven hills.

Hunt tries to bridge this gap by quoting a Catholic Encyclopedia entry for “Rome” saying that Vatican City exists within the ancient city of seven hills. It’s an incredibly convenient quotation, so much so that I looked it up, and found that it was entirely made up. Go read the encyclopedia entry for yourself: it’s available online. Here’s where he says it’s supposed to be.

Besides the fact that Hunt’s evidence is forged, there’s a deeper problem: it’s obviously false. You don’t need to take my word, or Hunt’s, or the Catholic Encyclopedia. You can just look at a map:

Seven_Hills_of_Rome

This map shows the seven hills of ancient Rome: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal. The city’s ancient limits, the Roman Walls, are shown in red. Outside of the ancient city, across the Tiber, is Vatican Hill. It’s not one of the seven hills.

For Hunt to make his “Rome = Antichrist” exegesis work, he has to add an eighth hill, and then say that this is the hill that Rev. 17:9 really means. In light of this, his statement that Revelation 17:9’s city of seven hills refers to “Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City” would be like me saying that “the Fab Four” refers to the Beatles, and “more specifically,” Mick Jagger. This is why he needs to rely on made-up evidence, because the actual evidence discredits his exegesis.

At the heart of this, and many of the “papal Antichrist” claims, there’s a categorical error. “Rome” is used to describe at least six distinct entities: the local Diocese of Rome (the cathedral of which is St. John Lateran’s, outside of the Vatican), the Latin Church (the Western half of the Catholic Church, as distinct from Eastern Catholicism), the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City / the Holy See (technically a separate country from Italy), the City of Rome, and the ancient Roman Empire. The pope is the head of the first four of these, and for about a thousand years, also was in charge of the fifth.

Aurea Luce, the hymn I quoted earlier, reminds us that the Christians of Rome were largely killed by Roman authorities. Shortening that to say that “Rome” was persecuted by “Rome” renders the statement incoherent. But that’s just what Hunt has done: throwing all six of these entities together under the label “Rome,” so that Revelation 17:9’s condemnation of the Roman Empire gets treated as a condemnation of the Church of Rome, the very Church that Scripture praises (see Part I). That’s sloppy, conspiratorial exegesis.

Is the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 about the Eucharist or not?

The Bread of Life Discourse seems a decision point. It is a fork in the road and the traveler must choose which path to follow because both cannot be walked. Commitment is initially trepidation because once a path is chosen one must follow wherever it leads.

512px-Erlebacher_Jesus_breaking_bread_Philly

By Smallbones (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

There seem to be two main views of the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6; a fork in the road. The two main, overall views are

  1. John 6 does describe the Eucharist.
  2. John 6 does not describe the Eucharist.

In short, does the Real Presence of Christ exist in the Eucharist?

For me, the decision between these two choices directly affects the overall perception of the Eucharist, and therefore Christianity in general, and leads down uncomfortable roads of thought.

For the moment let me lay that choice aside. First I am curious how many Christian traditions even connect the Bread of Life Discourse with the Eucharist.

There are four major traditions within Christianity that I will consider here; Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Church of England, and Protestantism/Reformed which is pretty much everyone else.

—-VIEW 1—-

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism is easy; it connects John 6 with the Eucharist and needs no detailed references. Look up explanations of the Eucharist by Dr. Scott Hahn, Stephen Ray, Fr. Robert Barron, Catholic Answers, or more official documents like the Council of Trent or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and you will find Catholics using John 6 to explain the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Eastern Orthodoxy

For the Eastern Orthodox, the study notes for John 6:51-59 in The Orthodox Study Bible say:

The Eucharistic significance of this passage is indisputable. Our Lord’s declaration that He is Himself the living bread that gives life reveals the Mystical Supper of the NT Church. John never reports the details of the Last Supper (such as the ‘words of institution’ recorded in Lk 22:19, 20); instead, he reveals the significance and truth of these events (events that were already known to his hearers) by reporting here Christ’s own words.[1]

In his book The Orthodox Church, Timothy Ware says:

As the words of the Epiclesis make abundantly plain, the Orthodox Church believes that after consecration the bread and wine become in very truth the Body and Blood of Christ: they are not mere symbols, but the reality.[2]

Though the Eastern Orthodox in general do not follow Roman Catholic theologians in attempting to nail down specifics on the change, they still believe there is certainly a change from bread and wine to Body and Blood of Jesus “in very truth” and they connect this belief to John 6.

(Side note: According to Ware, some Orthodox have even held to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation with its distinction between substance and accident. Interesting….)

Church of England

In general, Anglicanism has been agnostic about what it believes about the Eucharist. In fact, if Jaroslav Pelikan’s description[3] of the Church of England is correct it makes one wonder if, as a whole, it can really figure out and agree on much of anything.

However, there is a branch of Anglican theology known as Anglo-Catholicism which has a “High Church” view of ecclesiology and theology. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961-1974, was largely in line with this theology, though some claim[4] he was too liberal for it.

In his 1935 book The Gospel and the Catholic Church, Ramsey also connects the Bread of Life Discourse with the Eucharist saying Saint John “does not record the institution of the rite, but he unfolds its meaning in the discourses upon the Bread of Life in chapter 6.”

He also believes in the Real Presence, however that happens, and calls it a mystery.

Mystery means that Christ by His body and His blood feeds His people with Himself, and that the presence of His body and His blood is not the result of the individual’s faith, but, like the Incarnation itself, a presence of Jesus which faith may receive and which unfaith may reject. The gift is there, by the act of the Lord in His Church, just as Christ Incarnate was there in Galilee for men to receive or to reject. Such is the way of the Gospel of God.

Ramsey also says of the Eucharist,

It is visible, tangible, earthy; and the common, vulgar word for eating (τρώγειν) tells of its earthiness. Yet in this earthy action the truth of the eternal God is learned and is active to save the souls and bodies of men.

So at least the Anglo-Catholic version of Anglicanism believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist due to John 6.

Bonus Tradition – Lutheranism

I’ll throw in another tradition at the last minute; Lutheranism. I don’t know many details about Lutheranism but I know it is more sacramental in theology than the Reformed branch of Protestantism. And according to at least one Lutheran pastor, the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 refers to the Eucharist, which suggests there are other Lutherans who feel the same.

Bonus Quote – Cyprian of Carthage

In my continued learning of the early church, I found that Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 200-258) specifically connected the Bread of Life Discourse with the Eucharist. His Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer was written in A.D. 252 and in the section about “our daily bread” Cyprian says,

And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body, as He Himself predicts, and warns, “I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”

Sounds like Cyprian also has a “grave sin” outlook in mind which would render a person unworthy of receiving the Eucharist, much like modern Catholicism.

—-VIEW 2—-

The second view, that John 6 does not signify the Eucharist, seems the standard Protestant/Reformed view of this passage. For example, the notes in the Zondervan NASB Study Bible say:

Jesus’ absolute statement that ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves’ (v. 53) precludes a direct reference to the Lord’s Supper. He clearly does not teach that receiving that sacrament is the one requirement for eternal life or that it is the only ordinance through which Christ and His saving benefits are received. In this very discourse He emphasizes faith in response to testimony (see vv. 35,40,47,51). Flesh and blood here point to Christ as the crucified One and the source of life. Jesus speaks of faith’s appropriation of Himself as God’s appointed sacrifice, not—at least not directly—of any ritual requirement.

This statement fits the view held by Protestant apologist Norm Geisler who says,

Jesus equated ‘eating’ his flesh with one who ‘believes in him’ and thereby ‘has eternal life’ (cf. Jn. 3:16, 18, 36).[5]

A devotional on Ligonier Ministries, the ministry of R.C. Sproul, sort-of-kind-of says John 6 references the Lord’s Supper but it still falls within View 2 because they believe the true eating is “faith” in Jesus and that there is no “Real Presence.”

Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life who fully satisfies our hunger and thirst (John 6:35). He does this through our faith in Him, for He says that we gain eternal life only as we look on Him and believe in Him (v. 40)….we benefit from the Supper because we trust in the Savior. We receive grace and strength to help us persevere as we believe that Jesus endured the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood for us. Our souls are sustained unto eternal life as we affirm that Jesus will never cast us out if we come to Him in faith and repentance (v. 37).

SO WHICH IS IT?

Is the Bread of Life Discourse connected to the Eucharist or not? I suppose that is a decision each person must decide for themselves. One must take the fork in the road; to the left or to the right.

It is intriguing that such a large segment of Christianity (the majority in fact) connect the Bread of Life Discourse with the Eucharist, that a Real Presence of Christ of some sort exists in the Eucharist, and that the Eucharist is a really big deal for Christians because it is where Jesus feeds us with Himself.

Majority opinion does not prove the connection correct, but it does put more weight on the minority party to show why they believe no connection exists at all, especially against the simple Biblical reasoning:

“I am the bread of life.” → “Take, eat; this is my body.” → “The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

———————————

Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am 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] Bishop Kallistos Ware was on the Overview Committee.

[2] Timothy Ware is now Bishop Kallistos Ware.

[3] Pelikan describes the Church of England as “Lutheran in its intellectual origins, Catholic in its polity, Reformed in its official confessional statements, Radical in its Puritan outcome, and, according to the old saw, ‘Pelagian in its pulpit, but Augustinian in its prayer book’” – Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700)

[4] Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction by Mark Chapman

[5] This quote came from an article downloaded from Norm Geisler’s website which has recently been updated and now I cannot find the article for citation. Perhaps the new site is still in development and will be fully updated soon with links to all articles.

The Church: visible or invisible

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything so here is one hastily written.

One of the key disputes between Catholics and Protestants is the idea of the Church; what is it? Is it a visible, institutional Church? Or is it an invisible, non-institutional community of all Christians?

If there is only one institutional Church established by Christ Himself, then it means membership in that Church is necessary in order to be called “Christian” and membership is expected of us by Christ Himself. On the other hand, if the Church is not a specific church but rather an invisible entity, then simply by being a Christian one is a member of the Church and there is no need to be a member in a specific church. It hardly needs comment that Catholicism holds the former view while Protestantism holds the latter.

This is a serious issue and requires wrestling from anyone wishing to remain where they are or considering conversion. For my part, the view of the early church on this issue is very important and must be factored in. Here are two quotes from non-Catholic patristic scholars; a Lutheran and an Anglican respectively.

Jaroslav Pelikan from The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)

“For both Ignatius and Cyprian, moreover, the bishop was the key to authentic unity, and schism was identified as party spirit in opposition to him. Therefore the efforts to superimpose upon the second or third centuries the distinction made by Augustinism and especially the Reformation between the visible and invisible churches have proved quite ineffectual, even in interpreting the thought of Origen, whose dichotomy between the heavenly and the earthly churches might seem to have tended in that direction; but on earth there was only one church, and it was finally inseparable from the sacramental, hierarchical institution.”

J.N.D. Kelly from Early Christian Doctrines

“What these early fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important between a visible and an invisible Church.”

It seems a visible unity was very important to the early Christians, and a visible unity seems to demand an institutional church. A visible unity seemed to be very dear to Jesus too, in His prayer for the Church.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23

Within a couple verses, Jesus prays for Church unity three times and twice equates that unity with converting the world. Maybe the first step of evangelization is being part of a Church that is one, visible, and institutional.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Matthew 12:25

Trent Horn and Robert P. George on Obergefell v. Hodges

“This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.” – G.K. Chesterton

Since WordPress annoyed me with their LGBT flag banner at the top of the login page (an obvious celebration), I decided to post on the new Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges. But I’ll let others do the talking since time is short and others write better than me anyway.

Here is Trent Horn of Catholic Answers.

In the span of twenty years, redefining marriage to include homosexual unions went from being opposed by both political parties and a supermajority of the American electorate to being a position that must be embraced lest one be branded a bigot. How did this issue move forward so quickly? My opinion is it is the necessary outcome of previous redefinitions of marriage. Or, the tsunami we see today started with an earthquake that rumbled decades and even centuries earlier.

In 1644, John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, published another work called Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. In it he argued that England should change its laws based on Catholic canon law that prohibited divorce. According to Milton, marriage was not an indissoluble union that comprehensively unites men and women. Instead, its purpose is to promote “the apt and cheerful conversation of man with woman, to comfort and refresh him against the evils of solitary life.”

Notice how this parallel’s Justice Anthony Kennedy’s definition of marriage in Obergefell:

Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.

But if this can’t be achieved in marriage, Milton says, a divorce is justified, and history has adopted his thinking. In 1969, California governor Ronald Reagan passed the first state law allowing for no-fault divorce. Through the new law, couples did not have to prove one partner committed a fault such as adultery or abuse in order to end the marriage. Instead, as Milton argued 300 years earlier, a marriage could be ended simply because both people had “irreconcilable differences.” Women could now easily escape marriage, or what feminist Betty Freidan at the time called “a comfortable concentration camp.”

Throw in the new birth control pill and you had the perfect storm for changing the public’s view of marriage from being an institution for the benefit of children that is anchored in permanence and sexual exclusivity to one that is ordered toward the benefits of adults and is anchored in whatever makes them happy at the moment. It’s not surprising that if the point of marriage for opposite sex couples is to fulfill one another’s happiness, that the courts and public opinion now feel that same-sex couples should have a right to this happiness as well.

Since the highest court of law now says marriage is simply about “companionship” and not being “lonely”, there is no reason to believe “marriage” will not eventually be expanded to between siblings, between parents and children, between adult and minor, between man and dog, or how about even polygamy of multiple people with multiple animals.  The possibilities are endless.  Just use your imagination and it will be legally recognized eventually.

Here is Robert P. George who is an author I’ve planned to read for a while but haven’t quite gotten there yet. This quote is from an article discussing his lecture given for Hillsdale College June 23, 2015.

George maintained that there is no alternative for traditional Christians to continued engagement in the public square, “even if the horizon is 50 or 100 years.” While the social radicals maintain that their victory is inevitable, George said that “nothing is inevitable in this domain.” He noted that the same demoralizing claims were made after the Roe vs. Wade decision legalized abortion in the early 1970s. Yet the pro-life movement has grown in the years since, persuading larger segments of the public, and young people in particular, of the truth of claims in favor of the right of unborn children to live. Much earlier, eugenics was a favored doctrine of the American elite, and heartily endorsed by the mainline Protestant denominations. Only Roman Catholics, and some very conservative Protestants, opposed it. Yet the horrors of World War II undid eugenics, and even today attempts to revive the doctrine endeavor to disown the name of eugenics.

In terms of practical action, George said that social conservatives must not make the predictions of the inevitability of the social acceptance of same-sex marriage a self-fulfilling prophecy. He asked those who are believers to pray ceaselessly.

Everyone committed to traditional morality should work diligently to elect pro-life legislators and executives, and to keep the Republican Party committed to social conservatism. He noted that the GOP was founded as a party committed to moral principle, specifically, to opposing slavery and polygamy. While he said that the immediate future is not good, Christians should remember that their ultimate duty is to God, and to serve Him in the cause of righteousness in the world. However the struggle over same-sex relationships develops, His coming in glory is assured, and believers should keep their eyes on that.

Here is the full talk given by Robert P. George.  I found the last 15 minutes or so to be the most interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeGbO7xUaSM

The worst thing about political correctness is not that it shuts down speech–bad as that is. It is that it shuts down thought.” – Robert P. George

Jaroslav Pelikan on Scripture and Tradition

JaroslavPelikan

From Wikipedia

“For those who believe that you don’t need tradition because you have the Bible, The Christian Tradition has sought to say, ‘You are not entitled to the beliefs you cherish about such things as the Holy Trinity without a sense of what you owe to those who worked this out for you.’ To circumvent Saint Athanasius on the assumption that if you put me alone in a room with the New Testament, I will come up with the doctrine of the Trinity, is naive.”

—Jaroslav Pelikan (a Lutheran at the time)