Bible

The River of Tradition

‘In protestantism, the believer is always looking to the fresh rain of the scriptures, but in Catholicism, the believer looks to the fresh rain of the scriptures, as well as the great torrents of the river of reflection and consideration by the saints upon those same scriptures, going back to their source in the incarnate Son of God. To take this analogy a step further, the puddle corrupts and muddies the water it receives far more than the fast flowing river.’

I wrote this in a post a couple years ago, and I just wanted to post it again on its own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

God bless you!

…male and female he created them

I will begin by admitting that I myself am male, and in the standard ways. To me, women are incredible. I don’t mean they confuse me by their differences from men, or how attractive I find them, or how impressive their skill sets are. I mean that the idea of woman, much as it eludes me, takes my breath away. I really don’t know what woman is, though I feel the biological role of motherhood expresses it beautifully, almost as an analogy (in a similar way, I suspect biological fatherhood is a beautiful analogy of man, though I (as a man) have almost no idea of man at all).

In the Genesis story, Woman is created after Man, from his rib. Perhaps I spent too long accepting this literally, but I believe there is deep truth in this account. I can’t escape the feeling, that there is something primordial about man, relative to woman. Perhaps this is just because, being a man, woman is something special. But I suspect it is more than this.

Woman is created after Adam. In the creation account, perhaps the first thing to notice, is that each day creation is getting better. From just light, we get stars and suns, from just plant life, we get birds, fish, and mammals. Much as you can argue about it being “better”, creation is expanding into new dimensions of its existence, with incredible new possibilities. At the end of this upward progression, God finally creates woman. Yes; I’m suggesting that Woman is God’s finest creation.

And yet, Eve is also from Adam. Man seems to make sense on his own, in a way that woman does not (hmmm… I thought I had “almost no idea of man”…). To use my earlier “analogy”, fatherhood is conceivable without motherhood, but motherhood is inconceivable without fatherhood (pardon the pun), and in a certain way, I feel the same may be true for man and woman. That being said however, it was looking at man sitting on his own, that God said for the very first time, “It is not good…”

With trepidation, here is my suggestion: Man is the ‘wholeness’ of humanity, but woman is the ‘perfection’, though in such a way that men aren’t comparatively imperfect or women comparatively incomplete. The seed contains the wholeness of the tree, but the fruit is its perfection; yet it is ridiculous to claim one is more wholly or perfectly the tree, or that one is greater than the other. Having said that, I prefer ‘perfection’, and I prefer fruit.

Jesus, Mary, and the Church

I will further suggest, that this is why it was fitting that Jesus be male (and consequently both priesthoods, old and new covenant), so that the wholeness of humanity is embraced in him. By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus taught us what it is to be human, and is truly the most wholly human of all.

With regards to Mary, she is the most perfect creature of all, and the one most perfectly redeemed. In her, we see the perfection of humanity, yet not in such a way that she is “more perfect” than Jesus.

With regards to the Church, the Bride of Christ and our mother, its role is to bring to completion and perfection the work of our Lord Jesus. It is, after the example of our other mother, Mary, to bring Christ forth, to the end of the earth. I think it’s for this reason that Mark titled his gospel, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, as the good news is still happening in the work of the Church, “the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.”

I hope you’ve found these thoughts insightful at all. Pope Francis said, “We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman”, and I hope I’ve helped, however little. I ask for your honest criticisms and corrections, because I know how incomplete my thinking here is, and how important the subject is.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you

The bread of God

“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:33

“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 8:3

“And the Word became flesh…”
John 1:14

And it all becomes clear! At least, it suddenly seemed clear to me.

The bread of life is both the words of scripture, the words of Jesus himself, and also, the very flesh of Jesus, by which we have life. Both Scripture and Eucharist.

And the bread that Jesus gives us to eat, is not mere flesh, since Jesus was according to the flesh born of Mary, without any pre-existent flesh coming down from heaven. Yet, we most truly eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood in the Holy Eucharist, because “the Word became flesh”. The Word did not inhabit flesh, but became flesh, for our life.

As the people of Israel lived by the manna from heaven and the commandments of the Lord, which both come “from the mouth of the Lord” (Young’s Literal Translation says “every produce”, rather than “every word”, and I suspect this is a better translation [though what do my suspicions count?]), so the Church lives upon the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Gospel, received within the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Please pray for unity in the Church and for miracles of unity amongst all Christians.

God bless you.

Is Christianity Knowable?

One of the main things that drove me from protestantism to Catholicism, was realising that within protestantism, I couldn’t really know about most areas of my religion. One day I could be sure an issue was settled, and the next day I would have seen an argument against my earlier position, and think the matter’s open, and within a few days my mind could completely change on an issue. And each time, I’d have to run about, looking into ancient languages, history, and literary styles, to support my new belief. Often, I was trying (with moderate success) to push my own ideas onto the Bible (I very nearly had a vegetarian Jesus at one point, but there was a pesky fish in the way…).

There could be arguments over what was scripture (“Paul never even met Jesus…”), what the scripture said (“the Hebrew word used, beit-nun-hei, was used to…), and how scripture should be read (“scripture came through men, and cannot be taken at face value”) [I can see the appeal of KJVonlyism]. I read good Christian books and theology, and found they kept referring me to a new “heart of Christianity”. It was when I heard about a Christian who believed we should still follow Jewish dietary laws that I got really fed up. Without hearing him out, I couldn’t dismiss him, as he was probably better informed on the matter than me. But I decided to anyway, because I was tired of being told I didn’t know my religion until I learned about ancient languages and history and the rest. I felt it was settled by St. Paul in the first century Anno Domini. I began to wonder if I had be a full-time scholar to know the “true” teachings of my own religion.

Sadly, these arguments aren’t confined to trivial matters. To this day, there are people arguing from the Bible against Christ’s divinity, God being the Trinity, who God loves, how we are saved, the way to read the Bible, the role of the law, the nature of sin, and much more. Today, protestantism still has to fight many of the heresies dealt with by the early Church. Protestantism is, naturally, in a worse state than the early Church was, because they have only the scriptures to refer to, and so each theologian must start again from the scriptures, whereas the early Church could also refer to the oral teachings of the apostles, and those given authority by the apostles.

As a result of this general uncertainty (and greater geographical mobility), you’ll find most protestants today will only call themselves Christian, and will avoid even calling themselves protestants (perhaps out of politeness also). Few are willing to associate with a denomination, since a better interpretation may come along, or they may move somewhere where that denomination is less to their worship taste. Exactly what constitutes a “Christian” is up for debate, and it’s accepted that on most matters, there is only opinion. As a result, churches only teach basic Christianity.

At the end of the day, the question remains unanswered, “Who is Jesus, and what exactly does he want?” Does he just want to save us, so we can sin as much as we like and still be saved? Does he want to threaten everyone with eternal torture so they obey his blood-thirsty Father? Does he want us to start a revolution? Does he want us to not judge others? Does he want us to follow him even to death? Does he want us to eat his body and drink his blood, and so enter into mystical union with him? Does he want us to be saved for doing good to the needy?

The Solution

Catholicism. Catholic teaching is known, and does not change. The Catholic Church has an immense, two thousand year old intellectual tradition, reasoning through everything thoroughly, and yet, the Catholic faith can be reasonably accepted by illiterate peasants as well as the finest scholars, because it is from the Church that Jesus founded.

The Catholic Church doesn’t struggle with the old heresies anymore, because they were definitively settled more than a millennium ago. The arguments were laid to rest, and we’re done with the matter. That’s not to say there are none left. There are always new heresies, but they’re being dealt with too.

The Church has come a long way since she was the early Church, and has remembered and passed on all of the teachings of the apostles, and ‘treasured all their words and pondered them in her heart’ (Lk 2:19). Indeed, the Church has internalised the understandings of those who originally wrote and received the scriptures, so that the Church’s teachings are naturally the teachings of the scriptures in their proper context. That’s not to say that the Church isn’t looking back to the scriptures though.

In protestantism, the believer is always looking to the fresh rain of the scriptures, but in Catholicism, the believer looks to the fresh rain of the scriptures, as well as the great torrents of the river of reflection and consideration by the saints upon those same scriptures, going back to their source in the incarnate Son of God. To take this analogy a step further, the puddle corrupts and muddies the water it receives far more than the fast flowing river.

‘Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church.’
St. Thomas Aquinas

Ultimately, the reason I became a Catholic is because I had come to believe that the Catholic Church really knew Jesus. I looked at her teachings, practices, and attitudes (particularly towards poverty and suffering), and I looked at the New Testament, and especially the Gospels, and found she was living in radical continuity with Jesus and the apostles. Catholicism was the real deal. And since the Church really knew Jesus, she really knew his teaching.

God bless you.

Does God love everyone equally?

God doesn’t love us equally. It’s better than that. God loves us all incomparably. Not more, not less, and not equally.

God’s love is always infinite. But we can’t say that infinity equals infinity. God’s love for you is incomprehensible, even in terms of His love for me.

Does a larger circle have more lines of symmetry? Are there more square numbers than prime numbers? Are there more possible shapes than possible songs? What is zero divided by zero? What is infinity divided by infinity? There comes a point (but it’s really more a lack of a point) where things are beyond comparison, even to each other, and even to themselves. I believe God’s love is one of these things.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:18-19

God bless you

Salvation by “faith alone” limits God’s grace

Advocates of salvation by faith alone have, in the past, argued that anything else is unbiblical legalism, and so makes void God’s grace. This is entirely mistaken.
The reason it limits God’s grace, is that it removes the crucial change that grace causes. Faith doesn’t simply give us the password to heaven, no matter how good the creeds professed. In God’s grace, we are made Godly. By our faith in God, we let in God’s grace, that proceeds to fundamentally change us. God’s grace takes over us, as we allow Him, and fills us with grace also, so that we can say with Paul,

with Christ I have been crucified, and live no more do I, and Christ doth live in me; and that which I now live in the flesh—in the faith I live of the Son of God, who did love me and did give himself for me;
Galatians 2:20

And,

Not having my righteousness, which is of law, but that which is through faith of Christ—the righteousness that is of God by the faith, to know him, and the power of his rising again, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if anyhow I may attain to the rising again of the dead.
Philippians 3:9-11

Don’t mistake it for legalism. It is through God’s grace that the change is had. It is not by man’s effort that salvation is reached (though each can refuse or accept).

for if by the offence of the one the death did reign through the one, much more those, who the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of the righteousness are receiving, in life shall reign through the one—Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17

It is God’s gift, that those of the true faith will imitate Him they have faith in. It is only natural. [rereading this post, I feel the need to note that it isn’t “only natural”, but is also supernatural]

Jesus talked a lot about what to do to be forgiven and enter the Kingdom of God. You could argue it was all mere legalism before he had taken our place upon the cross, but that would make him irrelevant to us in all apart from his crucifixion and resurrection; It would be a far shorter good news. But we cannot remove Jesus’ redeeming work from his holy teachings.
Anyway, Jesus had to deal with legalism himself(Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:27). Jesus already acknowledged that a list of dos & do nots was insufficient, and mercy was required, so that God also would be merciful.

‘For, if ye may forgive men their trespasses He also will forgive you—your Father who is in the heavens;’
Matthew 6:14

Jesus explains the way he will be manifested to us,

Judas saith to him, (not the Iscariot), ‘Sir, what hath come to pass, that to us thou are about to manifest thyself, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If any one may love me, my word he will keep, and my Father will love him, and unto him we will come, and abode with him we will make;’
John 14:22-23

That the Son, and the Father, and the Comforter will make abode with us is brilliant news. This requires us to love Jesus, and so keep his word. And the Father, and the Son, and the Comforter, will make us holy.

This idea of justification by faith alone is harmful to the Church, because it ignores God’s holy gift.

But I must make this crystal clear: I am not advocating legalism. It is the God-given, miraculous transformation that saves us, coming through faith.

Having been declared righteous, then, by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have the access by the faith into this grace in which we have stood, and we boast on the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

Any deeds are the natural [and again, supernatural] effect, and outward manifestation of God’s seed within us (1John 3:9). They are not what earn salvation.
The repentant criminal on the cross at Jesus side did no act to save himself but trust Jesus and be transformed.

Rejoice in God’s gift. He gives you Himself, to make you holy.

God bless you.

P.S.
the reason I felt the need to write about this doctrine is that it is so much less than the truth.
I don’t know how common this Lutheran idea is today, but I have come across it a couple times, and it seemed to have general acceptance. The problem is, it makes God’s grace weak, in failing to make us holy inside; and convenient, in changing little of our lives. Also, it isn’t Biblical.
One time I came across this doctrine was in a church drama, set in the airport to heaven. A man in a suit went to get on the plane and mentioned all his good work, but wasn’t allowed on because of his passport not being good enough. Then a criminal was allowed on, using Jesus’ passport. It seemed nice to get on, but I didn’t get why this is a good system. The point of passports is for accurate ID. It didn’t seem right to me, but I figured it was a bad analogy.
I might have misremembered, as this was years ago, and I didn’t listen in Church much back then.
I didn’t suspect it was maybe wrong for years.

God bless you.

P.P.S.
Earlier today I was reading about sanctifying grace on the Catholic Encyclopedia website, and that really helped clarify this for me, and provide lots of Bible verses relevant to the matter. A lot of thanks to them.
I had been thinking along similar lines on salvation, though I was phrasing it as “Does God believe in you?” which is far less Biblical language. What I had been saying is that if God doesn’t know you, you are turned away, and I took this to mean if God believes you’re good for him. I was also saying that true faith leads to being the kind of person God believes in.
I’m glad I waited rather than publishing that before I was aware of the more complete answer. Thank God because that post could have been very misleading.

God bless you.