Panis Angelicus “Bread of heaven” and those platinum poltergeists

The popular Christmas song “What child is this” uses the music of “Greensleaves.” Here is an excerpt:

1. What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Another popular “evangelical” song is “Panis Angelicus.” Many modem non-Catholics are unaware that their version of “Panis Anglicus” consists of only the music – composed by Cesar Franck. Someone took the lovely tune and set his own lyrics to it. When you see the original words, you will see that it is inspired by the Roman Catholic doctrine of “transubstantiation” where the substance of bread and wine literally change into the physical body and blood of Christ. Yet it still tastes, looks, feels, smells (its “accidents”) like wafers (“bread”) and wine.

Here is wikipedia
Panis angelicus (Latin for “Bread of Angels” or “Angelic Bread”) is the penultimate strophe of the hymn “Sacris solemniis” written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi as part of a complete liturgy of the feast, including prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The strophe of “Sacris solemniis” that begins with the words “Panis angelicus” (bread of angels) has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn. Most famously, in 1872 César Franck set this strophe for tenor voice, harp, cello, and organ, and incorporated it into his Messe à trois voix, Op. 12.

Other hymns for Corpus Christi by Saint Thomas where sections have been separately set to music are “Verbum supernum prodiens” (the last two strophes begin with “O salutaris Hostia”) and “Pange lingua gloriosi” (the last two strophes begin with “Tantum ergo”).

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panis_Angelicus

Here is the original Latin of Aquinas:

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
Amen.

Literal English translation:

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The poor, servant, and humble person eats (gnaws, chews) the Lord.
.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.
Amen.

Most “evangelicals” would eschew the first verse. The second verse is accepted by all Trinitarians.

Contrast the new “evangelical” version, which is a radically different cup of tea.

O Lord most holy, O Lord most mighty,
O loving Father, Thee would we be praising alway.
Help us to know Thee,
Know Thee and love Thee;
Father, Father, grant us Thy truth and grace;

Father, Father, guide and defend us.
Rule Thou our wilful hearts,
Keep Thine our wand’ring thoughts;
In all our sorrows, let us find our rest in Thee;

And in temptation’s hour,
Save through Thy mighty power,
Thine aid, O send us;
Hear us in mercy.
Show us Thy favour,
So Shall we live and sing praise to Thee.

Here are two performances, the first the “evangelical” version, the second the Roman Catholic version:

Music by Cesar Franck

Jerome Hines: O Lord, most holy

Andrea Bocelli: Panis Angelicus

With regard to Aquinas’ last line of the first verse “The poor, servant, and humble person eats the Lord,” there is a sense in which this is biblical, which all the reformers  – Luther, Calvin and many others – except Zwingli believed and taught.
.
Here is the Apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:22-29
What! Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Roman Catholics and Protestants differ in the meaning of the “Lord’s body.”

I must say I hate the description “elements.” Makes me think of platinum poltergeists.

Did Vatican II really let more of scripture be her guide?

 

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims that the fruit of this Council is an updated vision and based on Scripture. Pope John Paul II referred to Vatican II as “a compass with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium.” The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) began on October 11, 1962, and officially ended on December 8, 1965. Vatican II brought many profound changes to the RCC.

Here are some of the major outcomes of Vatican II:

1. Renewing the liturgy. The Mass could be celebrated in the vernacular instead of Latin. The priest no longer celebrated the Mass with his back to the congregation facing the altar. Pope Benedict XIV (Ratzinger) was not happy with these changes, because he said for the priest to do the Mass ad populum “toward the people,” belittles the meaning of the Mass as the sacrifice of Christ. 

2. Greater emphasis was placed on Scripture, reflected in reforms to the missal – the book of instructions and texts used for the Mass. Bible-study groups were also encouraged. Protestants would say that a greater emphasis on scripture should have led to studying it more deeply leading to questions of the validity of doctrines that cannot be extrapolated from the Bible; doctrines such as the “Treasury of merit” and Marian doctrines of the “immaculate conception,” the “assumption” (Mary not dying but taken to heaven like Elijah) and Mary as mediatrix – the “neck” between the Head (Christ) and believers (the “church”). The “treasury of merit” is related to indulgences. Here is article 1478 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins.” The Bible is clear that it is only the merits of Christ, not of anyone else, that remit punishment for sins; Christ the holy purifier from the poison of sin, the one who sits at the right hand of God the Father. With regard to “saints,” these in the Bible refer to all those who are born of God (born again). 

3. Lay people to be regarded as equal members with the hierarchy. All who are in Christ, without distinction or exception, are called to be holy. To be true to scripture, which the Council endeavoured to do, they added, a holy “priesthood.” “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). This holy “priesthood,” however, is far removed from the non-biblical “priesthood” of “holy orders,” namely, those priests who sacrifice Christ on the altar at every Mass: 1 Peter 2 – “4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The divide between these two priesthoods is as wide as that between the wafer before and after consecration: infinite. 

4. Acknowledging God’s presence beyond the Church. The Holy Spirit is working in all religions, including “our separate Christian brothers” (Protestants). Ecumenical efforts should be made to foster dialogue with all religions. The Catholic Church, since Vatican II (1962-65), has radically changed its attitude towards inter-religious dialogue. Thomas Merton and other Catholic devotees of Eastern thought had a significant influence on changing Rome’s attitude to non-Christian religions.

Peter Kreeft, the Catholic philosopher and apologist, in his “Ecumenical Jihad,” sounds the modern Cathslamic call: “We can and should investigate and learn from the wisdom in other religions” (Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.79). “Allah is not another God…we worship the same God”(Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.30). “The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God the Jews-and the Muslims-worship.” (Ibid. p. 160). (See God’s got sons by the tons: Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad and  The influence of Universalism on society and the church).

The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge,preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (NostraAetate 2 – (NostraAetate is the Declaration onthe relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965). (See Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate).

Here is Pope John Paul II receiving the mark of the adorers of the Hindu god Shiva, February 2, 1986.

 

pope john paul hindu

Here is a RCC  tabernacle with a  budhha atop at John Paul’s inter-religious prayer meeting in Assisi, 1986.

catholic Tabernacle with a squattin buddha atop

(see Most Holy Family Monastery website).

The sacred writings of Islam, says Pope Francis, have retained some Christian teachings; Jesus and Mary receive profound veneration and it is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services. Many of them also have a deep conviction that their life, in its entirety, is from God and for God. They also acknowledge the need to respond to God with an ethical commitment and with mercy towards those most in need.” (Paragraph 253 – Apostolic Exhortation Evabgelii Gaudiam of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

No surprise; we find the same sentiment in the (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 841): The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. ‘The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.’” 

Visualise (and if you’re a mystic, envision) Paul, the Apostle, transposed to our times saying “Muslims (and Jews) adore the one merciful God, so it doesn’t matter if they don’t believe the following report. 

1. Who has believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3. He was despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53).

And 1 Peter 2:

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Paul said of such gainsayers: “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1).

5. Accepting the world. Roman Catholic theology regards people as essentially good. For this reason, it hopes for the restoration of the whole world, which began with the advent of Christ, and which will be perfected when Christ returns at the end of time. The question is, if everyone is born dead in sin (the doctrine of Original Sin), which only baptism, says catholic teaching, can remove, how does this harmonise with the idea that people are essentially good. Vatican II aspires to put a greater emphasis on scripture, yet in regard to this essential doctrine of the radical corruption of human nature, which scripture makes so clear, it balks at offending the world it wants so much to please. “… having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh (essentially, in your human nature), God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:12-13).

The doctrine of papal infallibility was announced dogmatically at Vatican 1 (1869-1870). Vatican I also announced dogmatically that there is no salvation “outside the Church,” that is, those who are not members of the RCC. Vatican II changed all that (infallibly?) and much more. Just because a thing changes doesn’t mean it, or what it changed from, was the sane thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God is Me: The divinisation of Self in mysticism

 

La France. C’est moi (Louis XIV “France is me”).

 Here are a few examples of Roman Catholic mystics who teach the divinisation of those in whom God is confirmed in the soul. The quotations are from “Mystical Marriage and Divinisation in True Life in God” written by a hermit nun living in Wales:

Alphonsus Liguori

“In the spiritual marriage, the soul is transformed into God and becomes one with Him, just as a vessel of water, when poured into the sea, is then one with it.”

Teresa of Avila in “The Interior Castle”

“Besides, this company it enjoys gives it far greater strength than ever before. If, as David says, ‘With the holy thou shalt be holy,’ doubtless by its becoming one with the Almighty, by the union of spirit with spirit, the soul must gather strength, as we know the saints did, to suffer and to die…”

John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle”

“This (the spiritual marriage) is, beyond all comparison, a far higher state than that of espousals, because it is a complete transformation into the Beloved; and because each of them surrenders to the other the entire possession of themselves in the perfect union of love, wherein the soul becomes Divine, and, by participation, God, insofar as it is possible in this life. I believe that no soul ever attains to this state without being confirmed in grace in it, for the faith of both is confirmed; that of God being confirmed in the soul…For granting that God has bestowed upon it so great a favour as to unite it to the most Holy Trinity, whereby it becomes like unto God, and God by participation, is it altogether incredible that it should exercise the faculties of its intellect, perform its acts of knowledge and of love, or, to speak more accurately, should have it all done in the Holy Trinity together with It, as the Holy Trinity Itself?

Anne Madeleine de Remuzat

I found myself all at once in the presence of the Three adorable Persons of the Trinity…I understood that Our Lord wished to give me an infinitely purer knowledge of His Father and of Himself than all that I had known until that day…How admirable were the secrets that it was given to me to know in and by this adorable bosom!…My God, Thou hast willed to divinise my soul, so to say, by trans-forming it into Thyself, after having destroyed its individual form.”

In Newsweek, Sept 2005, appeared a feature article  “Spirituality in America.” It said: “Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God.” The article went on to describe the Catholic use of Buddhist’s teachings. For example, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, noticed how attracted Roman Catholics were to the Eastern religious practices As a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature to the Abbot. Americans, like everybody else, is looking for transcendental prayer, transcendental meditation (TM), which could, it seems, also stand for “Trappist Meditation.” I recently heard Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk, say that the goal of contemplation is to discover that the self and the “Other,” which is God are identical.

Chris Rosebrough’s “Fighting for the faith” exposes the Christianese in so many seeker-drivel churches today. In his “The Inventor Of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It Is For.” These seeker-driven churches focus on a variation of one message” “Grab your vision; let your creative pants down.” Lately, though, they’re raising the vision higher and higher into prayer itself. This is where “centring prayer” comes into the picture, which can be summarised as “go into your closet, close the door, sit down, shut up, your mind, and let God.” In so doing, you will come to see that…, but let’s hear from a famous Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, one of the inventors, perhaps the main inventor, of “centering prayer,” who is the feature speaker on “The Inventor Of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It Is For.” Here is a snippet from Keating (Minute 20 ff).

Questioner: What is the journey from the false self to the true self?

Keating: “The spiritual journey is the realisation, not just the information, the interior conviction that there is a higher power or a God, or to make it as easy as possible, an Other, capital O. Second step: to try to become the Other, capital O.”

I used to read Paul Brunton avidly. He coined the term “Overself,” which is the source of all being, which is found deep in the the human heart. That centre, said Brunton is the “Overself.” In his notebooks, published after his death, he wrote:

“No one can explain what the Overself is, for it is the origin, the mysterious source of the expanding mind, and beyond all its capacities. But what can be explained are the effects of standing consciously in its presence, the conditions under which it manifests, the ways in which it appears in human life and experience, the paths which lead to its realization… The point where man meets the infinite is the Overself, where he, the finite, responds to what is absolute, ineffable and inexhaustible being, where he reacts to That which transcends his own existence–this is the Personal God he experiences and comes into relation with. In this sense his belief in such a God is justifiable.”

The Overself is the point where the One Mind is received into consciousness. It is the ‘I’ freed from narrowness, thoughts, flesh, passion, and emotion–that is, from the personal ego…Because of the paradoxically dual nature which the Overself possesses, it is very difficult to make clear the concept of the Overself. Human beings are rooted in the ultimate mind through the Overself, which therefore partakes on the one hand of a relationship with a vibratory world and on the other of an existence which is above all relations. A difficulty is probably due to the vagueness or confusion about which standpoint it is to be regarded from. If it is thought of as the human soul, then the vibratory movement is connected with it. If it is thought of as transcending the very notion of humanity, and therefore in its undifferentiated character, the vibratory movement must disappear. It is a state of pure intelligence but without the working of the intellectual and ideational process. Its product may be named intuition. There are no automatically conceived ideas present in it, no habitually followed ways of thinking. It is pure, clear stillness.”

That capital O – call it the “Other,” call it the Overself is, in reality, the SELF, the uber dragon in the dungeon of the soul, not glorifying, but lauding Self over, God. The seeker seeks to become God, not to worship Him. A fantasy game – “Dungeons and dragons” where “one person gets to be the dungeon master and he plays the role of the quote – “supreme god” in the world. He creates a world for his players. His tools are maps, dice, miniature figures, rule books, and so forth. And a game can last for several years. And the players will play through those years for hours and hours and hours. What is the ultimate fantasy of man? The ultimate fantasy of man is that man should be God. This speaks of that fantasy. (John MacArthur, “Reasons for the wrath of God 4).

The “self is God” defines Buddhism in a nutshell. Thomas Merton, another Trappist monk, and the most famous of modern Roman Catholic monks says: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”

And not only now and zen”, as a Yiddish “Jubu” (Jewish Buddhist) might say. (Thomas Merton’s “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”: All roads, including to Rome, lead Home). 

The pure, clear stillness of Home.

 

 

 

 

Mary, mother and God: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

One of the reasons why Mary, the mother of Jesus, has such an exalted position in the Roman Catholic Church is that she is called “Mary full of grace.” Here is an explanation of this term from Catholic Answers:

“The Fathers of the Church taught that Mary received a number of distinctive blessings in order to make her a more fitting mother for Christ and the prototypical Christian (follower of Christ). These blessings included her role as the New Eve (corresponding to Christ’s role as the New Adam), her Immaculate Conception, her spiritual motherhood of all Christians, and her Assumption into heaven. These gifts were given to her by God’s grace. She did not earn them, but she possessed them nonetheless. The key to understanding all these graces is Mary’s role as the New Eve, which the Fathers proclaimed so forcefully. Because she is the New Eve, she, like…

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Roman Catholicism: Desperate refuge

In The canonisation of two popes: what better day…To pray to them? To bake biscuits?? Read Calvin???, I related that a CNN interviewer asked the Dean of the Roman Catholic “Westminster Cathedral,”London – one of my favourite haunts when I was just out of my teens – whether Catholics pray to saints. He said no; they serve as an example. NO, no; they certainly do pray to the saints. Maybe the Dean doesn’t pray to the saints, but  we cannot even infer that from his answer.

When I was 19, and a student at the University of Cape Town, I converted to Roman Catholicism. Two years later, this devout Roman Jew was in London where I often sought refuge from the city in the Catholic “Westminster Cathedral” near Victoria station, where I frequently attended mass.

I came upon the Cathedral by accident. I was wandering around the environs of Victoria station when I came across what I took to be a Greek or Russian Orthodox cathedral because of its Byzantine architecture; a strange sight next to the other typical grey London office blocks. The interior of the Cathedral is decorated in mosaics.

westminster cathedral

The Catholic church conducts its services according to the Roman rite (which is the majority Roman Catholic rite) and the Eastern rite. Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches practice the Eastern rite but they are not in union with Rome. Westminster Cathedral uses the Roman rite.

In London there is also the Westminster Chapel (a misnomer, because it is very big), a Protestant church where Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (formerly a Harley Street specialist), arguably the greatest preacher and Bible commentator of the 20th century was pastor (1939 to 1968), who had and continues to have such a great influence on so many, including myself. Many decades ago, Westminster Cathedral (1962; Martin Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel was close by) was my refuge; today, it would be – if I lived in London – Westminster Chapel. From Jew to Catholic to Protestant; from a Catholic Jew to a Calvinist Jew!

Today I speak flippantly of Westminster Cathedral as one of my youthful “haunts.” Yesteryear, it was a desperate refuge. I have to admit, the Roman Catholic Church has got so much that appeals to the religious mind; for one, there is more than enough to feed the senses and the mind, and to intermittently dispel the darkness . Alas, it is not only the flesh that is carnal.

 

See my Autobiography: In search of French past (2): English Effluence

 

 

The canonisation of two popes: what better day…To pray to them? To bake biscuits?? Read Calvin???

Today, the Roman Catholic Church is making saints of two popes. What better day to read one of the church’s greatest sons, second, arguably, to Augustine of Hippo: Calvin’s Institutes. I’m  not being perverse, for I’ve been reading Calvin for the past few days already. I explain what the “for” is there for:

From the Institutes:

Peter says that believers are “elect” “through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:2). By these words he reminds us, that if the shedding of his sacred blood is not to be in vain, our souls must be washed in it by the secret cleansing of the Holy Spirit. For which reason, also, Paul, speaking of cleansing and purification, says, “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 4:15; Rom. 6:5; 11:17; 8:29; Gal. 3:27).

This does not mean that a Christian does not grow in holiness (sanctification). Nor does it mean that there are special human beings whose good works are of such a high quality that they should be made “saints” – to which, furthermore, Christians can pray (as a mediator between Christians and Christ). The Roman Catholic view of sanctification is far removed from the Bible.

Time to bake some biscuits while listening to the Institutes on my iPad app “Voicedream.”

I also dream dreams.

12 hours later. On CNN, the interviewer asked the Dean of the Catholic Westminster Cathedral of London – one of my favourite haunts when I was just out of my teens – whether Catholics pray to saints. He said no; they serve as an example. Tosh about the not-praying-to bit. For starters:

pope pius xpadre pio new

The prayer cards for the two new saints were probably printed a long way back. They must be selling well already.

Romans on Romans: Drivel or drool

I present three Roman Catholic views on “faith and works.”

Catholic Answers Forum

Here is a recent question on Catholic Answers Forum: “Are the teachings of Paul, specifically in the book of Romans easily understood?” A comment from a reader: “As there is the teaching of salvation by Grace alone – and the scriptures are arranged — it’s called the Roman road study– by faith alone not by (catholic) works. But in the catholic religion it is confusing and not easily understood.” Response from Catholic Answers: “Sorry, but this is simply not true. We Catholics do not believe in salvation by works. We believe in salvation by grace. Faith and good Christian works are results and fruits of God’s grace.(Italics added).

Council of Trent

The Council of Trent was convened to counter the Protestant Reformation. Here is Canon 24 of the Council of Trent:  If anyone says that justice [justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent sixth session, celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547, Decree concerning Justification).” (Italics added). Trent (and modern Rome?) says it believes in justification by faith but will not say it believes in justification by faith alone, which is the main pillar of Protestant Reformation. (See Trent above). Trent has, in retrospect, anathematised, that is, cursed, damned to hell – the expert on the “Catholic Answers Forum.”

Contrary to Trent’s view of Protestants above, the Protestant believes most firmly that works are “the fruits and signs of justifications obtained” This Protestant position, though, would not say that works are “merely” (Trent above) the fruits of justification, because this might create the impression that works don’t matter in salvation. If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you’ll politely growl – if the questioner is another evangelical Christian – “What a dumb question, of course I do!” The meaning of “faith alone” is that one is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. That is not to say that faith is found alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation. The general Protestant view is that works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. It also matters much what kind of good works you do once you believe – not for the purposes of salvation but because “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). (See Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell and David Stern’s Torah “Torah” in the Justification of sinners: A legalistic spanner in the works).

What is the latest Roman view? Here is Pope Francis on faith and works, or rather faith or works:  If the Roman Catholic sources are true, it’s all about loving kindness, good works. Justification (reconciliation with God) says Pope Francis, is no longer about faith AND good works, but solely about works You can be an atheist, says Pope Francis, on condition that you’re good and kind.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Holy Father is full of surprises, born of true and faithful humility. On Wednesday he declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists. However, he did emphasize there was a catch. Those people must still do good. In fact, it is in doing good that they are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good. In essence he simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ.”

The Vatican, it seems is alarmed, at best; no wonder, for Pope Francis is indeed, if not in deed, trashing Trent. Here is Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8: [I)t is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity [love].” Francis has thrown faith out of the Sistine into the cistern.

What is a Roman Catholic to believe? For starters, the Bible is clear: without faith in Christ, you will, after you leave this body, die the second death. Second, without one’s works, one cannot be saved. So salvation involves both faith (which alone makes us justified before God) ands works, the fruit of faith. But what to make of Paul’s “justification by faith without works” and James’s “one cannot be justified without works? Here is Craig Keener:

[W]hen Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener). (See A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works).

There are actually only two real denominations: drivel and drool.

How green is my Tiber: James White’s impassioned plea to Jason Reed to come home from Rome

The Tiber

The Tiber .

A boarding pier and shores dotted with waste in front of Castel Sant’ Angelo at the entrance of “Ships of Rome”, the tourist service on the city’s Tiber. Photo: AFP  Tourist cruises along Rome’s Tiber River have stopped for the first time since they began a decade ago because the waterway is too dirty.

Christianity is about redemption. Protestants  base their knowledge of redemption on the scriptures alone. The Roman Catholic and other Christian movements base their knowledge of redemption on both scripture and tradition. For the Protestant, only the scriptures are God-breathed, whereas for Roman Catholics, revelation is progressive (John Henry Newman). In this article, I examine James White’s response to Jason Reed’s “conversion to Rome” in his podcast “The dividing line, October 17, 2013).”

I responded, says White, to the “conversion testimony” (note how it is a story of conversion not to Christ, but to a system of religion) by former Southern Evangelical Seminary professor Jason Reed today. This is a very important discussion, and it is one I hope will be helpful to those watching the developments at SES in regards to a wave of apostasy to Rome. Very important lessons about how it is not enough to be “non-Catholic” but instead how one must have a passionate, positive commitment to the very heart of the gospel to truly understand the depth of Rome’s errors. I truly believe Reed’s testimony illustrates to the fullest the need for Christians to understand the true necessity of such truths as sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide. Clearly, Reed never had any commitment, or, it seems, by his own testimony, meaningful knowledge, of these truths.”

The following is my transcript of relevant excerpts from White’s Dividing Line podcast. White airs parts of Reed and responds. My interspersed comments and clarifications appear within brackets and in italics.

Reed – if Jesus said it, it’s enough.

White – Yes it is enough, no question about it.

Reed begins his summary statement – “Why did I become a Christian? Because I believe in the scriptures; I believe in the Bible.”

White – So you believe in the scriptures, you believe in the bible, that is why you became a Roman Catholic. You believe what it says in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So you can look back on your justification. Except that Rome teaches that you can lose your justification, and hence peace with God, and you keep getting rejustified in the sacramental process, right? So, is that what you believe? And when it talks about Peter; it says he is our fellow elder and not the head of the church, right? So you believe the Bible. And that’s why you don’t believe those parts of the bible [where it says these things]?

(“How, asks William Symington (1975 -1862) can man he justified with God? This is the most important, by far, of all the questions that can ever awaken human inquiry.” Contrast the Roman Catholic system of justification described by White above with what Symington calls the “Catholic” (the body of true believers) system.”

“The Catholic system, so called because it seems to have been held by the great body of Christians since the days of the apostle’s, is founded on the principle that God is just as well as merciful. It maintains that the pardon of sin is procured by the work of Christ, by which be gave satisfaction to the justice of God on behalf of those to be redeemed. This is what is commonly known by the doctrine of atonement, deemed, in every age of the church, of such transcendent importance as to deserve the most complete and patient discussion.” William Symington, “On the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ” – free ebook).

Reed – And I believe the church gave us the scripture.

White – The scripture predated the church, right? [Are you talking about] the Old Testament church? But the Old Testament church didn’t have the books that you accepted as canon. I thought God gave the scriptures to the church, Christ speaking to his bride. That’s the problem with Rome; Rome cannot have a dialogue with Christ [within the Bible] because Christ’s voice has now been subsumed under an authority, which is only a monologue. That is why you cannot ever have true Reformation within Roman Catholicism.

Reed – They have the teaching authority. Jesus Christ gave the Catholic church the authority to combat error.

White – Combat error? What if then [it is] she promulgates the error, who corrects her?

Reed – And I believe that Jesus taught us to believe in the eucharist.

(Aquinas used the Aristotelian terms of “accidents” and “substance” to explain the most important of Catholic doctrines, the “real presence”, which is called transubstantiation. In transubstantiation, the substance of bread and the wine changes into the substance of the body and Spirit of Christ. Although the senses can only detect the “accidents” (taste, texture, smell, sight), the communicant – claims the dogma – is eating the actual flesh and blood of the living Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Catechism of the Council of Trent expands this belief by stating: “In this sacrament are contained not only the true body of Christ, and all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews, but also Christ whole and entire”. Christ whole and entire is contained not only in the body but also in the blood).

White – Jesus actually taught us to follow his disciples who taught the sacrifice once for all finished, not to be re-presented.

Reed – To eat his flesh and drink his blood. There is so much I am leaving out. The Catholic church simply has no rivals. They’ve got the greatest thinkers…the Summa Theologica [Thomas Aquinas]. the greatest music, they’ve got a great culture, beauty, devotion, worship. They (Protestants) have nothing that competes. That’s why I am here [telling why he converted – as White would say – to “Rome.”

(Besides Aquinas, there were other great “Doctors” and “Fathers” of the Church such as St Augustine and St Anselm. As my mother always used to say – in Yiddish – about a place she admired: “The greatest doctors go there (In Yiddish, “Die greste Dokteirim geit dottern”).

White – [repeating Reed] Roman Catholicism, it’s got worship, beauty, and the greatest thinkers. It’s got the Summa Theologica. Long before Thomas these words were penned:

1 Corinthians 1

“18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

“There were not many wise according to the flesh (worldly standards) sophos, yes, philosophy. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I just heard boasting. No rivals, big thinkers, big brains. “So no man may boast before God.” That is why verse 30 says by his doing, by him you are in Christ Jesus, who became our wisdom from God.

(Aquinas’ Summa Theologica/Theologiae covers almost the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped working on it the year before he died in 1274. Now, fellow Protestants, don’t give Protestantism a bad name by saying that Aquinas believed that all he had written was straw. He didn’t say that. This is what he said: “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” Actually, now that I think more about it, if it was relatively straw, the issue is relative to what? I would think something analogous to what Richard Ganz said about Isaiah’s sense of his radical corruption (“depravity”) when he encountered God’s glory – the Son of God’s glory. Here is Ganz:

The Reformers called this total depravity. I think perhaps it would be clearer to call it radical depravity. It doesn’t mean that we’re as rotten and corrupt as we could be. In fact, everyone in this world could be even more rotten and more corrupt – from the best person to the worst person. It simply means that every part of our being – our moral, our intellectual, our spiritual, our physical, our heart – everything we are, and everything we do has been touched by sin, perverted and corrupted, and thus we are ruined without the grace of God.

That is the way it is with people! They can look good on the outside, they can do good things, but when you encounter Christ, what you realize is, “I am ruined.” When the best person in the world encounters Christ, by FAITH he realizes, “I am ruined.”This is why, when Isaiah sees the sin in himself, he experiences being torn into pieces before God, and he cries out, “Woe is me” (Isaiah 6:5). You have to understand what Isaiah is saying! What he is doing is taking a curse upon himself, and he’s doing it with the most emphatic language that he can use. What he is saying literally is: “Damned me.” And he gives the reason why: “I have beheld God.” This is the holiest man in Israel, and he sees himself as cursed, separated from God, because of one encounter, one glimpse of the holiness and glory of God.” (Richard Ganz, “Why is sin so important?”).

Aquinas was the most brilliant philospher-theologian of his time, yet when he beheld the glory of God, all his sophos wisdom was not merely like straw, but was straw. (See Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy and Education in the Middle ages). 

White continues – It is obvious that Mr Reed had not been introduced to the biblical truths of the reformation. He does not understand the issues of the Gospel. He did not understand the issues historically that separated Rome form all those churches who stood against her; who today no longer stand against her, because they are no longer convinced of what they believe. They have degraded in their commitment foremost the word of God.

I’ve heard considerably more compelling arguments than what I heard in Mr Reed’s testimony. If you are one of those let me talk to you directly. When I rise in the morning I don’t fear the wrath of God. Why? Because I never thought about it, because I take it for granted? No. I do not fear the wrath of God because I know what has been done in my behalf will avail before that holy God each and very day. And I don’t have to say, ‘I have to get to Jesus today. I need to go and get in the car where Jesus is and get some more grace, get a little more propitiation because you see I approached what supposed to be the sacrifice of Christ just the day before yesterday. And the priest said hoc est corpus meam, this is my body. But according to Rome I can do that 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, 10000 times, 25000 times in my life and still die in fear. I could die in mortal sin, not avail myself of the sacramental forgiveness and still go to hell. Same sacrifice allegedly. So I have to get in the car and go and visit Jesus again because I am not perfected by his one sacrifice. I have to go stand in front of an alter christus, another Christ [a priest]. He has to sacramentally bring Christ down from heaven and render him present, body, blood, soul and divinity upon the Roman altar, and this is how I am to somehow improve my relationship with God.

The reason, continues White, why I could never become a Roman catholic is because I am absolutely dependent upon the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect righteousness of another. I have nothing else to give. I know God is holy and if I do not have the righteousness of Jesus Christ, nothing else will avail. But you see Rome cannot give me the righteousness of Jesus Christ; it has no finished sacrifice, it has no finished work. You see the whole argument, Mr Reed and those of you who are planning of going across the Tiber river, if you’ve never read it, let me introduce it to you. The whole argument of the book of Hebrews is that the one-time finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ, perfects those for whom it is made. That is therefore is nothing to go back to. And one of the main arguments that the writer [of Hebrews] uses is that in the repetitive sacrifice of the old covenant there is a reminder of sin. You see, the high priest when he would go into the holiest place with the warm bowl of blood would see that he had been there before, that the blood was still dried upon the place of mercy, and that was a reminder that this blood of a goat, a bull is not going ever to cleanse anybody.

It was, adds White, pointing to something greater. The fact that it had to be repeated over and over again meant that it was imperfect and that is why there is only one sacrifice of Christ. It’s not re-presented so that you’re never perfected. It’s one time, singular, finished done. It is finished Jesus said. And what’s really really interesting is that when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of that repetitive sacrifice, there is a yearly anamnesis of sins, a reminder. A repetitive sacrifice, which is what you are limited to in Rome. The mass is an anamnesis of sin, because if you have to come back, you are not perfected. So all it does is remind you of the continuing presence of sin. But that word [anamnesis] is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and I’m so thankful that it is. Because that is the word that is used when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” in anamnesis of me. Christians have a new covenant, and that covenant has a single perfecting sacrifice. And so you see I don’t have a reminder of my sins; I have a reminder of my sin bearer, and that is why I have peace with God. Now if that was not taught to you in seminary or in your churches, I’m sorry. But you can’t blame your seminary or your churches because you [don't] possess the word of God.

I could never, says White, go to Rome because Rome has nothing to offer but a treadmill of penances, sacraments, and never being able to know have you done everything that’s necessary to attain justification. In the words of the Word of God, I have justification, not because of who I am, but because of who Jesus Christ is…if these words meant something to you, you could never go there, because anyone who has actually, truly bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and understands [their] absolute dependence upon him can never give that up, can never trade that in. I pray for Mr Reed. By his own testimony, he never understood what the issues where. I hope these words will be taken the the way they were intended. (This ends White’s impassioned plea).

In the last moments of his podcast White says that he doubts whether Reed had read writers such as William Whitaker. White probably has in mind Whitaker’s “A disputation on Holy Scripture: Against the Papists, especially Bellarmine” (1849) – free ebook).  Here are a few excerpts from Whitaker:

1. Indeed, when I compare our side with the papists, I easily perceive the great truth of Christ’s saying, that ” the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

2. “We maintain that the mysteries of the faith should be concealed from no one, and allege, in proof, those words of Christ, ” What ye hear in the ear, that proclaim ye upon the house-tops.” Bellarmine, (Lib, iv. c. 12) has recourse to a strange and hitherto, I think, unheard of interpretation ;— that is, says he, if need so require. He gives the allegation no other reply whatever; and how proper and apposite an answer this is, I am content that others should determine….In the same way, when we maintain that the mysteries of the faith should be concealed from no one, and allege, in proof, those words of Christ, ” What ye hear in the ear, that proclaim ye upon the house-tops;” Bellarmine, (Lib, iv. c. 12) has recourse to a strange and hitherto, I think, unheard of interpretation ;— that is, says he, if need so require. He gives the allegation no other reply whatever; and how proper and apposite an answer this is, I am content that others should determine.”

3. “I perceive that the utility, or rather the necessity [of this discourse] , is threefold. In the first place, we have to treat not of the opinions of philosophers, which one may either be ignorant I perceive that the utility, or rather the necessity, is three-fold. In the first place, we have to treat not of the opinions of philosophers, which one may either be ignorant of, or refute with commendation,—not of the forms of the lawyers, in which one may err without damage,—not of the institutions of physicians, of the nature and cure of diseases, wherein only our bodily health is concerned,—not of any slight or trivial matters ; —but here the matter of our dispute is certain controversies of religion, and those of the last importance, in which whosoever errs is deceived to the eternal destruction of his soul. In a word, we have to speak of the sacred scriptures, of the nature of the church, of the sacraments, of righteousness, of Christ, of the fundamentals of the faith; all which are of that nature, that if one be shaken, nothing can remain sound in the whole fabric of religion. If what these men teach be true, we are in a miserable condition; we are involved in infinite errors of the grossest kind, and cannot possibly be saved. But if, as I am fully persuaded and convinced, it is they who are in error, they cannot deny that they are justly condemned if they still persist in their errors. For if one heresy be sufficient to entail destruction, what hope can be cherished for those who defend so many heresies with such obstinate pertinacity ? Therefore either they must perish, or we. It is impossible that we can both be safe, where our assertions and belief are so contradictory. Since this is so, it behooves us all to bestow great pains and diligence in acquiring a thorough knowledge of these matters, where error is attended with such perils. Besides, there is another reason which renders the handling of these controversies at the present time not only useful, but even necessary. The papists, who are our adversaries, have long since performed this task; they have done that which we are now only beginning to do. And although they can never get the better of us in argument, they have nevertheless got before us in time.”

What made Thomas Aquinas describe his writings as straw. The same reason why Paul “counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung/refuse, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Christ’s substance is not concealed under the accidents of the senses but is found in mystical (deep spiritual) union with Him. Oh that I may be “found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:9-11).

Related post: (onedaringjew) My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left

Mary, mother and God: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

One of the reasons why Mary, the mother of Jesus, has such an exalted position in the Roman Catholic Church is that she is called “Mary full of grace.” Here is an explanation of this term from Catholic Answers:

“The Fathers of the Church taught that Mary received a number of distinctive blessings in order to make her a more fitting mother for Christ and the prototypical Christian (follower of Christ). These blessings included her role as the New Eve (corresponding to Christ’s role as the New Adam), her Immaculate Conception, her spiritual motherhood of all Christians, and her Assumption into heaven. These gifts were given to her by God’s grace. She did not earn them, but she possessed them nonetheless. The key to understanding all these graces is Mary’s role as the New Eve, which the Fathers proclaimed so forcefully. Because she is the New Eve, she, like the New Adam, was born immaculate, just as the First Adam and Eve were created immaculate. Because she is the New Eve, she is mother of the New Humanity (Christians), just as the first Eve was the mother of humanity. And, because she is the New Eve, she shares the fate of the New Adam. Whereas the First Adam and Eve died and went to dust, the New Adam and Eve were lifted up physically into heaven.” (See Mary highly favoured, mother of the son of God)

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says:

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her (Mary) and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Jerome translated the Greek charitoō (highly favoured) as “full of grace.” This Vulgate mistranslation of the Greek is one of the buttresses of the Roman Catholic doctrines about Mary; doctrines such as she was conceived without sin (the Immaculate Conception) and was taken up bodily (assumed) into Heaven (the Assumption).

In The Little Office of the Virgin Mary, “Mary occupies a place in the Church which is highest after Christ and yet very close to us, for you chose her to give the world that very Life which renews all things, Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord. And so we praise you, Mary, virgin and mother. After the Savior himself, you alone are all holy, free from the stain of sin, gifted by God from the first instant of your conception with a unique holiness.” (Italics added).

Contrast  “After the Savior himself, you alone are all holy, free from the stain of sin, gifted by God from the first instant of your conception with a unique holiness” with the “Seraphic doctor” of the Roman Catholic Church,  Saint Bonaventure’s “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in which he substitutes Mary for him who is her creator and Lord. (See biography of Bonaventure).

 Psalm 1:1

Bonaventure’s psalter – Blessed is the man, O Virgin Mary, who loves thy name; thy grace will comfort his soul.

Bible – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,

Psalm 3:1a

Bonaventure (Mary replaces the Lord)  – O Lady, why are they multiplied who afflict me?

Bible – O Lord, how many are my foes!

Psalm 4:1a

Bonaventure (Mary usurps God’s throne) – When I called upon thee, thou didst hear me, O Lady: and from thy throne on high thou hast deigned to be mindful of me.

Bible – Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!   You have given me relief when I was in distress.

Psalm 25:1

Bonaventure (Mary as merciful  Judge) – Judge me, O Lady, for I have departed from my innocence: but because I have hoped in thee I shall not become weak. Enkindle my heart with the fire of thy love: and with the girdle of chastity bind my reins. For thy mercy and thy clemency are before my eyes: and I was delighted in the voice of thy praise.

Bible – In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.

Psalm 30

Bonaventure – In thee, O Lady, have I hoped, let me never be confounded: receive me in thy grace. Thou art my strength and my refuge: my consolation and my protection. To thee, O Lady, have I cried, when my heart was in anguish: and thou hast heard me from the heights of the eternal hills. Thou shalt draw me out of the snares which they hid for me: for thou art my helper. Into thy hands, O Lady, I commend my spirit: my whole life and my last day.

Bible – 1. I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 3. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;  you spared me from going down to the pit. 4.  Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;     praise his holy name.

Bonaventure was canonised (made a saint) on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. Who is the more guilty for Bonaventure’s misventure into idolatry, exalting the mother of the Messiah above her creator, Bonaventure or the (office of the) pope?  “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God… And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time (2 Thessalonians 2:4, 6).

Related source

Greg Price. Astonishing Unbelief and Idolatry (From Nazareth to the Roman Catholic Antichrist) – mp3

Mary Co-redemptrix in the face of God’s terrible majesty

“Nothing is more natural, nothing more desirable than to seek a refuge in the protection and in the loyalty of her to whom we may confess our designs and our actions, our innocence and our repentance, our torments and our joys, our prayers and our desires – all our affairs.”

Pope Leo XIII “Octobri Menses” – Encyclical on the Rosary (22 September, 1891)

I would think it more desirable to confess and repent to Jesus, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings.

“With her suffering and dying Son, Mary endured suffering and almost death. She gave up her mother’s rights over her Son to procure the salvation of mankind, and, to appease the divine justice, she, as much as she could, immolated her Son, so that one can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race.”

Pope Benedict XV, Inter Sodalicia, March 22 1918.

Roman Catholics – who believe in revelation outside scripture – have no problem reconciling Mary as coreedemer (with the Christ) with:

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

Alas, for me, the arrogation to Mary as coreedemer is a flagrant denial of God’s “terrible majesty” נֹורָא הֹוד Norah Hod (Job 37:22).

Atheism without works is dead, says Pope Francis: Who cares?

The Saint Francis prayer is well known:

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your
love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in
you.
Chorus:
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console ….

Francis is famous for his loving kindness. It lies at the heart of Judaism, going back to Adam himself. The Jewish view is that as long as Adam was alive, God wanted to have an interaction with him. He knew that Adam had the capacity to sin, God knew it was going to happen. That was part of Adam’s struggle. That’s what God wanted. So after Adam made a mistake, God demanded him to love kindness. To love kindness, that’s a state of being that we have constantly to grow into. Adam could certainly have loved kindness more than He did. (Sin in Adam and his descendants).

According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the road to salvation is festooned with acts of loving kindness. It may be, said the Rebbe, your one tiny act of kindness that may bring Messiah (Moshiach). Here is a short interview between a reporter and the Lubatvicher Rebbe Schneerson (1992; two years before his death):

Reporter:”Rebbe can you tell us the message for the whole world about the Moshiach.

Rebbe: “Moshiach is ready to come now, we all must only do something additional in the realm of goodness and kindness. At least a little more and Moshiach will come immediately.” (See video here).

There is a second Francis, Francis the First, the new pope, who has much in common with Judaism, if not with the real Saint Francis: it’s all about loving kindness, says Pope Francis; salvation is all about loving kindness – good works. Justification (reconciliation with God) says Pope Francis, is no longer about faith AND good works, but solely about works – opera solum (if my Latin is any good). You can be an atheist, says Pope Francis, on condition that you’re good and kind. Well that is what I read on the internet, so it must be true. ”

“LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Holy Father is full of surprises, born of true and faithful humility. On Wednesday he declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists. However, he did emphasize there was a catch. Those people must still do good. In fact, it is in doing good that they are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good. In essence he simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ.”

The Vatican, it seems is alarmed, at best; no wonder, for Pope Francis is indeed, if not in deed, trashing Trent. Here is Trent:

Session 6, Chapter 8

“[I)t is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity [love].”

Here is how Pope Francis would rework Trent for the good atheist:

“It is most truly said that an atheist without works is dead and will remain dead….unless he worketh by love.”

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like menstrual rags. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”

(Isaiah 64:6–7)

Pilate asked Jesus: “What is truth.” According to modern Catholicism, since Vatican II, who cares? THE question for the Pope and swathes of Roman Catholics is: “Did you feed me, did you clothe me, did you bind up my wounds.” In other words, “Who cares?”

The night of the senses and the sense of God in Augustine of Hippo

As far as the senses and the sense of God are concerned, I think Augustine of Hippo had it just right; Augustine’s “Confessions,” Book 10:

“But what is it that I love in loving thee? Not physical beauty, nor the splendor of time, nor the radiance of the light–so pleasant to our eyes–nor the sweet melodies of the various kinds of songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers and ointments and spices; not manna and honey, not the limbs embraced in physical love–it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet it is true that I love a certain kind of light and sound and fragrance and food and embrace in loving my God, who is the light and sound and fragrance and food and embracement of my inner man– where that light shines into my soul which no place can contain, where time does not snatch away the lovely sound, where no breeze disperses the sweet fragrance, where no eating diminishes the food there provided, and where there is an embrace that no satiety comes to sunder. This is what I love when I love my God.”

Why the Jesuit, Pope Francis I will still be around a month from now; unlike smiling Pope John Paul I

I was very cross when I started reading one of the books on my Puritan Hard Drive – I popped a few hundred dollars across the Atlantic and voila, my second PHD – “The American Text-book of popery” (George Bourne, 1848), because the second page of the prefatory “Address to Protestants” was missing. Here is the first page – on the Jesuits:

“The ominous controversy which the Papal priesthood have recently excited in New York and Philadelphia, combined with their mischievous exactions concerning the entire exclusion of the Holy Bible, and Christianity, with all ancient and modern history, from our Common Schools, imperiously demand an authentic exposure of the nature and extent of that universal supremacy and jurisdiction which the Roman Pontiff and his vassals of the Papal hierarchy usurp, as their jure divino inseparable prerogative. Moreover, they are a self-evident testimony, visible among ourselves that the cardinal motive alleged by Pope Clement XIV for the suppression of the Jesuits was righteous and replete with philanthropy. In his ” Bulla,” he denounced that entire confederacy of monks and nuns, as a pestiferous band of conspirators, in bad reputation. ” Universum” enacted that Pontiff, ”pene orbem pervaserunt molestissima contentiones de Societatis doctrina” — “The most direful contentions are diffused throughout nearly the whole world by the doctrines of that society.” Wherefore, by his alleged infallible authority, he abolished the order; solemnly affirming in his pontifical anathema, that the society of the Jesuits could not any longer be tolerated, as…”

it, they, a, or what? Yep reading sure is a guessing game. What to do? Archive.org came to the rescue. Here is the second page: 

“their existence is totally destructive of the peace and welfare of mankind.They poisoned him (the Pope) during the celebration of mass, as the reward for his noble act!”

So you see why Pope Francis I, the first Jesuit Pope, will certainly see out the next month or two, at least; more than  smiling young Pope John Paul I (1912-1978).

John Paul I

John Paul I

Peter; forgive sins? Perish the thought

(This is a follow-on from The Roman Catholic Church’s dogma of binding and loosing sin)

The Roman Catholic dogma of “Confession,” as with all its dogmas, is based on the mother of all dogmas, the infallibility of Peter, whom they claim to be their first pope, and its sister dogma, the “Apostolic succession.” The Roman Catholic Church authorises its priests to forgive/absolve sins. In this regard, John 20:23 is one of the RCC’s texts: “If YOU forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if YOU withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

The Roman Catholic interpretation is that these were all or some of the 11 APOSTLES. Let us back up to verse John 20:19:

[19] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the DISCIPLES were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” [20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

The RCC position is based on the view that these disciples were the Apostles only. But why should this be so? Because this power resides in the Apostolic succession through Peter. So, to have disciples who are not Apostles in the room (in John 20:19-23 above) would not be good for the RCC.

I turn to Luke 24, the episode when two disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus and to what happened when they returned to Jerusalem to tell other disciples what they had seen and heard:

33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven AND THOSE WHO WERE WITH THEM GATHERED TOGETHER, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread…44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

So, in the room with Jesus were the 11 Apostles as well as OTHER disciples. The upshot: the idea that “disciples” in John 20:19-23 meant more than just Apostles is extremely cogent.

To return to John 20:23, the passage can only mean this: “Now, says S Lewis Johnson, notice the force of the perfect passive. So, what does this mean then?

“Whosoever sins ye forgive, they shall have been forgiven to them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they shall have been retained.” Well, when it’s all put together, the statement is simply this; the church has not been given the authority to forgive sins. She has been given the authority to proclaim forgiveness to the believing and judgment to the unbelieving. And as long as the church is faithful to the word of God, her pronouncements do simply reveal what has already been determined in heaven. In other words, God has set forth the conditions by which forgiveness, and by which no forgiveness may take place. And therefore, the decisions that count are made in heaven, not upon the earth.” (S L Johnson, Basic doctrine, “The forgiveness of sins”).

The Apostle Peter, leader of the twelve, was without doubt Primus inter pares, first among equals. Peter, however, never ever said anything at all like “Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti” (I absolve/forgive you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” What does Peter say to Simon the sorcerer? “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 20:8).

Peter; forgive sins? Perish the thought, but hopefully not those who entertain the thought.

The Roman Catholic Church’s dogma of binding and loosing sin

In the Jewish Bible (“Old Testament”) it is God, and God alone who forgives sins:

Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

In the New Testament, Jesus forgives sins, a blasphemy to the Jews:

Matthew 9:2-8 “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, “This man blasphemeth.”

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’ But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) ‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house’.”

And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.”

The Roman Catholic Church arrogates to its priests the divine ability to forgive sins. The RCC’s key text is Matthew 16:18-19:

“I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19a And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven:

In 19b we the read:

“and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

In Matthew 16:18-19 above, Jesus is addressing Peter alone. In Matthew 18:18-20, however, Jesus is not only addressing Peter, and not even only his Apostles, but all his disciples:

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Now, it is obvious that in “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” Jesus is not giving authority to all his followers/disciples within his hearing that they have authority to forgive sins. So what can it mean? A cogent interpretation is that a disciple who has fed on the meat of the Word and is faithful will be able to 1. ascertain whether God has forgiven the sins of other Christian and thus reassure them , or 2. Admonish them to repent for unless they do, God will discipline them.

There is no problem with Peter being given the keys to understanding and the authority to correct believers when he thinks they need it. But remember Paul, when he corrected Peter:

Galatians 2
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

The Roman Catholic dogma of “Confession,” as with all its dogmas, is based on the mother of all dogmas, the infallibility of Peter, who they claim to be their first pope, and its sister dogma, the “Apostolic succession.”

Holy Communion dunking style: You can’t have your wine and eat it

Some things we all absorb by instinct. Some Christians also absorb by intict. It happens at communion when the minister warns the congregation that the cup contains real wine and that if you don’t drink wine you may “dunk your wafer” instead of drinking from the cup. So, if you don’t like drinking wine, you can eat it.

Many Protestants are either not aware or do not take seriously Jesus’ command to both eat his body and drink his blood. I am not for one moment saying, as Roman Catholics and Lutherans do, that the body of Jesus, sinews bones and blood and so forth, in heaven replaces the substance of (Roman Catholicism)  or mingles with (Lutheranism) the bread/wafer and the wine. What I am saying is that there is a sense – don’t be afraid to call it “mystical” – that we are eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. Here is the Apostle Paul:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).

And then:

“For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).

Here is Rick Phillips:

Why Intinction Matters

One of the Book of Church Order amendments making the rounds of PCA presbyteries this year is a proposed change to forbid the practice of intinction.  For those not in the know, intinction is the procedure of receiving the Lord’s Supper by dipping the bread into the cup. Instead of eating the bread and drinking the cup, one eats the wine or grape-juice saturated bread.  It seems likely that this amendment is going to fail to achieve the necessary 2/3 of presbyteries to be approved, so that we will see the novelty of a Reformed Presbyterian denomination approving a procedure historically associated with the Roman Catholic Mass.  What is more revealing, and to me discouraging, is the kind of argument being reported in presbytery after presbytery.

Typical arguments include the following:

“People doing intinction are just trying to reach people with the gospel.  Why are we giving them a hard time?” “What is wrong with the PCA that we even debate silly things like this?” “Are we really going to say that brothers are wrong and force them to do things our way?”

There is, of course, no doctrine or practice that can be excluded under the above arguments, which it seems will carry the day in the PCA.  But what is most alarming is that there is no doubt regarding what the Bible teaches on this matter.  The NT passages instituting the Lord’s Supper state clearly that Jesus first took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat.”  Then, Jesus passed the cup, saying “Drink of it” (Mt. 26:26-28; Lk. 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).  So here we have a worship practice for which Jesus gave us detailed procedural instructions.  It is curious to me that a Reformed and Evangelical denomination would want to administer the sacrament in a way that is different from Jesus’ institution.  Do we think we are improving on his procedure?  If we think it is safe to disregard the Bible here, where else are we doing this? Still, people will say, “Okay, but why does this really matter?”  The first answer is that it always matters greatly how we respond to the clear teaching of our Lord.  A spiritually-alive church will “rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11) at the Word of God.  We should joyfully desire fully to obey the Scriptures and fearfully tremble at the thought of doing otherwise.  This is a very big matter for any church and denomination, and it makes the intinction debate important.

Second, intinction matters because the Lord’s Supper is important to the life of the church.  To say that this is a “silly” debate that “wastes our time,” raises questions about what our ministers think is important to the spiritual life and health of our churches.

It has been curious to me that many who seem least concerned to be biblical about the Lord’s Supper are those who administer it most frequently.  In fact, during the General Assembly, more than one minister who emphasizes weekly communion told me that intinction was necessary because the biblical procedure takes too long.  I realize that this subjective data does not prove that everyone who differs on intinction has become cavalier about the sacrament.  But the argument, “Why does this matter?” and “Why are we wasting our time on this instead of preaching the gospel?” raises serious questions about our attitude toward the sacrament instituted by our Lord on the night of his arrest.” (End of Phillips).

Ok, so you’re afraid that if you drink from the cup you’ll catch a germ. Solution, come early and sit in front – and pluck up courage to let your minister know, even if he’s not German, how you instinctively now feel, since reading this piece: Dunking is Verboten.

Vielen Dank.

Depiction and Argument in C. S. Lewis: The formula of Blood atonement and the Blessed sacrament

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

(Hebrews 13:10-12)

(This is a follow-on from Penal substitution: C S Lewis and the “formula” of Christ’s blood shed for our sins).

Introduction

In the Bible, the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength” and the second is “Love your neighbour as yourself.” For C.S. Lewis the adoration of the “Blessed sacrament” is second, and “Love your neighbour” is in third place. (C.S. Lewis and the three great commandments: Love God, love the blessed sacrament, love your neighbour; necessarily in that order). He also proposes that you can choose which “formula” (of faith) works for you. For example, instead of saying “I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb,” you could opt for “Christ died for my sins.” Lewis’ reasoning seems to be that it all comes out in the wash. In this article I argue that such talk is not merely irresponsible, but not Christianity at all. I also examine the link between Lewis’ elevation of the “Blessed sacrament and his denigration of blood atonement.

Depiction and Argument in C. S. Lewis

First a definition of the term the Passion of Christ. “Passion.” In normal English usage, “passion” means “strong emotion” of short duration. The heart of the “Passion” lies in its historical (etymological) meaning. “Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render.” So when we suffer, we have to submit to causes that deprive us of our freedom or well-being; we remain passive, and that is what the “Passion” of Christ means. (See Passivity and Suffering in the Passion of Christ).

Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” presents Mel Gibson’s view on how Christ died, but said nothing about why He died. The film, though, was indeed meant to be about the physical suffering of Christ, and not about why he suffered physically – and spiritually. His spiritual suffering, Christians believe, was far greater than his physical suffering, which itself was unique in the history of a crucifixion. This was so was because of the appalling treatment he received before the crucifixion. (Mel Gibson’s “How” in the Passion of the Christ: And the Why?). Gibson’s depiction of the Passion – many hate to admit this – is a moving description of the physical suffering of Christ.

C.S. Lewis is a master of depiction. We admire C.S. Lewis as “a master at two rhetorical arts, which he combined fluently: argument and depiction,” This double mastery contributed much to the success of his “Mere Christianity”, which “became the most important and effective defence of the Christian faith in its century.” (John G. Stackhouse Jr., “Why ‘Mere Christianity’ Should Have Bombed,” Christianity today, December, 2012).

Mere Christianity” is filled with deep philosophical/ theological arguments such as the the moral argument for the existence of God. Lewis shows how moral absolutes presuppose the existence of God. Mere Christianity works, says John Stackhouse, because “Lewis can both show and tell. He can tell us what he thinks we should think, and then make it appear for us in an image that usually lasts long after the middle steps of the argument have vanished from memory.” Here is an example from Mere Christianity:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

One cannot separate why Christ died (which Gibson above is silent about) from what Christ wants to do for sinners (the topic of Lewis’ paragraph above). What Lewis thinks – and tells us to think – is indeed unforgettably vivid ( “throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards”). The problem is that not only the middle steps of his argument but all of it from beginning to end is an imaginative flop. The reason: if the Gospel starts in the flesh – “Imagine yourself as a living house” – it may end in the flesh – Imagine yourself as a dead house.

Here is the biblical account (a masterful display of Christian argument and depiction). Begin by imagining yourself, not as a living house, but as dead in your house. Here is the Apostle Paul:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2).

We, in our natural state, are sinners standing under God’s divine judgement. God’s justice requires punishment. Instead of punishing sinners with eternal punishment, God the Father sent His Son into the world to suffer and die on their behalf. Whereas in the view (above), the most important point is the change that Christ’s Passion has wrought in sinners, the more important point is what Christ’s Passion has wrought in His Father, namely, the Father’s wrath has been “propitiated” (expiated, satisfied). The effect of the Passion was the overthrow of the powers of darkness (the devil and his angels) and the granting of God’s totally unmerited love. By dying on the cross, Jesus paid the price for the sins of his “sheep” (John 10:3), turning the Father’s ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. Jesus Christ became the sinner’s substitute for the punishment sinners deserved. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). (Mel Gibson’s “How” in the Passion of the Christ: And the Why?).

Find the formula that suits

Imagine yourself as living house” is a good foundation for what Lewis wants Everyman to think about the plan of salvation. What he thinks you should think is that you can think what you like (almost):

You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarrelling with other people because they use a different formula from yours.”

Yes they’re all true, but its highly irresponsible, at best, to tell human beings, who, in their natural state, all hate Christ that if the “blood of the lamb” formula (penal substitution, substitutionary atonement, blood atonement) does not work for you, ditch it. I will not be nice about it and so will quarrel about it.

The Blessed Sacrament and the Blood

In contrast to the Lewis’ à la carte of what Christ did, where the shedding of Christ blood for sinners is one among several delectables on the menu, what Lewis tells us to think about the “blessed sacrament” carries for more weight. In his “Weight of glory,” we read:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Jesus reiterates the two greatest commandments of Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the “royal law” (James 2:8), love you neighbour as yourself. For Lewis the two great commandments become three, with “love the blessed sacrament” displacing the “royal” commandment into third place.

For Lewis, what does it matter whether a Christian believes in the “formula” that he is washed in Christ’s blood? It’s no better than believing that “the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done.” But this bloodless salvation through Christ’s life (or through what “we ought to have done” ) rather than through His Cross is, according to scripture, no salvation at all. The New Testament mentions the “blood” at least 90 times: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission ( of sin)” (Heb. 9:22). “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12).

Where does all this leave Lewis’s “second” great commandment – love the “blessed sacrament.” Why not make the former, as he made the blood sacrifice of Christ, one more optional formula. Or should a person eventually wean himself off “mere” Christianity and mature into full blooded bloodied Christianity, without which there can be nothing “blessed” about the Eucharist for the obvious reason that without the sacrifice on the cross re-presented (not represented) in the Mass there is no body. No body of Christ means no re-presenting of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of “Communion.” (C.S. Lewis and the three great commandments: Love God, love the blessed sacrament, love your neighbour; necessarily in that order). For the Protestant Reformers, the reason for the existence (raison d’être) of the act of communion, in which the church – the “body of Christ) partakes of the bread and wine – is to commemorate Christ’s body broken and blood spilt for his sheep. Outside of communion, the bread and wine no longer have any Christian significance. (See Note1 on different views of the “Eucharist”).

Lewis regards the shedding of the blood of the precious Saviour as an optional “formula” of faith. It is hard to fathom that a good reader such as Lewis could arrive at such a view of clear scriptural passages that stress the centrality of the “blood” in redemption. Perhaps Lewis’ view that the incarnation (the word made flesh) is the grand miracle my help us understand why he thinks that second to the incarnation is the “Blessed sacrament” (the bread made flesh; the wine made blood).

The word made flesh; the bread made flesh

Here is his opening to “The Grand Miracle” (in ”God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975, p. 80), wherein he stresses the importance of miracles in Christianity, and what he says is the pre-eminent miracle of the Incarnation:

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.” (See The Incarnation or Substitutionary Atonement, which is the grand miracle? CS Lewis and John MacArthur say the former; George MacDonald, definitely not the latter).

And what if you take away the “formula” of we were washed in his blood? Adolph Saphir hits the nail on the head: “But while we adore the great mystery of the Incarnation, let us remember, that the Incarnation necessarily leads to the Crucifixion. The mystery of the manger involves the mystery of the cross. It is not enough to know that unto us the Child was bom, the Son was given, that the Word was made flesh. He never would have come down to earth unless His purpose had been to offer His life as a sacrifice for sin.”(Adolph Saphir, from his lectures on 1 Corinthians 2).

But isn’t Saphir merely referring to one of Lewis’ optional formulas, namely, “he died for my sins.” No, Saphir emphasises crucifixion, the cross. Lewis regarded George MacDonald as his “master.” MacDonald considered the idea of penal substitutionary atonement (blood atonement) an affront to God’s justice. This fact may help help us understand the reason for Lewis’ attitude to the blood. God’s justice and the lamb that was slain: A critique of George MacDonald’s rejection of penal substitutionary atonement.

Conclusion

The Passion – the breaking of Christ’s body and the shedding of his blood on the cross – is the central even of human history. If you are one of those squeamish types, you don’t have to stick with the formula “I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.” What is important, Lewis maintains, is not to believe the means (“Father if you are willing take this cup [of blood] from me” – Luke 22:42a) but to believe the end (salvation). For this reason “Christ died for my sins,” Lewis proposes, should cut it. This may be “mere Christianity” but is certainly not Christianity. For undermining the blood, C.S. Lewis, most of whose work I admire very much, deserves censure.

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”  (Hebrews 13:20-21).

1Here is Louis Berkoff from his “Summary of Christian doctrine”:

a. THE VIEW OF ROME. The Church of Rome conceives of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper in a PHYSICAL SENSE. On the ground of Jesus’ statement, “this is my body,” it holds that bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ, though they continue to look and taste like bread and wine. This view is open to several objections: (1) Jesus, standing before the disciples in the flesh, could not very well say that He had His body in His hand; (2) Scripture speaks of the bread as bread even after the supposed change has taken place, 1Cor. 10;17; 11:26-28; and (3) It is contrary to common sense to believe that what looks and smells and tastes like bread and wine is indeed flesh and blood.

b. THE LUTHERAN VIEW. Lutherans maintain that, while bread and wine remain what they are, the whole person of Christ, body and blood, is present IN, UNDER, and ALONG WITH, the elements. When Christ had the bread in His hand, He held His body along with it, and therefore could say, “this is my body.” Every one who receives the bread also receives the body, whether he be a believer or not. This is no great improvement on the Roman Catholic doctrine. It ascribes to Jesus’ words the unnatural meaning “this accompanies my body.” Moreover, it is burdened with the impossible notion that the body of Christ is omnipresent.

c. THE ZWINGLIAN VIEW. Zwingli denied the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, while admitting that He is spiritually present in the faith of believers. For him the Lord’s Supper was mainly a mere sign or symbol, a memorial of the death of Christ, and an act of profession on the part of believers. Some of his statements, however, seem to indicate that he also regarded it as a seal or pledge of what God does for the believer in Christ.

d. CALVIN’S VIEW. Calvin took an intermediate position. Instead of the physical and local, he taught the spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. In distinction from Zwingli he stressed the deeper significance of the sacrament. He saw in it a seal and pledge of what God does for believers rather than a pledge of their consecration to God. The virtues and effects of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross are present and actually conveyed to believers by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(See related article Penal substitution: C S Lewis and the “formula” of Christ’s blood shed for our sins).

Gregorian chant, Mary and the Blessed offspring (Beata viscera): the evisceration of scripture

A few months ago I bought a Sony turntable and over one hundred classical music LPs at a car boot sale. I removed a pair of speakers from my caravan and bought an amplifier. I connected them all up a few minutes ago. The records are standing stacked next to one another on a high shelf, and so the covers are not visible. I randomly reached up and pulled one out: Gregorian chant from the Benedictine Monastery of Monserrat; my first vinyl for many decades.

I think on my devout Catholic twenty-something years and the monasteries I stayed at in Europe. The Catholic church is sure filled with beauty. If only beautiful music, liturgy, architecture, ceremonies could reconcile us with God! This is not to say that the Reformers and Catholics did not share core biblical beliefs, which are reflected in some of the chants on the record such as “Descendit de caelis” (He came down from heaven), “In principio erat verbum” (In the beginning was he word) and “Verbum caro factum est (The word was made flesh). Several of these chants, however, stick in my throat; for example, “Beata viscera” (Blessed Offspring), a Marian piece sung during the Communion of the Mass. It is sung also on the feast of the Assumption (Mary taken, like Enoch, up to heaven without tasting death) and votive masses of the Blessed Virgin.

Here is the English translation of “Beata Viscera”:

Blessed flesh (inner parts) of the Virgin Mary, (Beata viscera Marie virginis)

at whose breast the king of eminent name,

concealing, under altered guise,

the force of divine nature,

has sealed a pact of God and Man.

O astonishing novelty and unaccustomed joy

of a mother still pure after childbirth (matris integrita post puerperium)

 

Vision does not endure to behold in its radiance

the sun, unconcealed, as he rises forth, pure.

Let the wholly enclosed womb of the mother

behold from the side as it is reflected.

O astonishing novelty and unaccustomed joy

of a mother still pure after childbirth.

 

Beata Viscera,” according to Catholic teaching, is based on Psalm 45:10b,11,12,13,14,15,16

10 a Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
 b Forget your people and your father’s house.

11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
    honor him, for he is your lord.

12 The city of Tyre will come with a gift, people of wealth will seek your favor.

13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
    her gown is interwoven with gold.

14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
 her virgin companions follow her—
    those brought to be with her.

15 Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.

16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
 you will make them princes throughout the land.

If you believe Mary is not only the mother of all mankind but also the Queen of heaven (as Catholics do), how on earth do you see the “Queen of heaven” as one of the several virgins sent in to share King David’s bed. No doubt she will be “led in with joy and gladness (when) she enters the palace of the king,” for what can be more joyful for her than to share her King’s bed? For one brief night – at least – she will be queen. And when she wakes up in the morning, yes, she’ll still, as a legitimate concubine,  be pure, but will she still be a virgin?

 Like many of the abuses of scripture in rabbinism, “mea viscera” not only distorts, scripture, it eviscerates it.

 

Protestants and Catholics: monkeying with history

Carl Trueman, a Protestant scholar of medievalism, in conversation with a Catholic priest, was surprised that “his theological education had never required him to read Luther.” Yes, it is abysmal the mutual ignorance that most Protestants and Catholics have of one another’s history – indeed, of history.

“The theological and ecclesiastical
upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, says Trueman, shaped as they undoubtedly were
by wider factors such as economic, cultural,
and political changes, are central to what
both Catholicism and Protestantism became.
Catholicism is not simply Protestantism
with different doctrines; while We share a
common grounding in Nicea and Chalcedon,
the two faiths have differing views of au-
thority, of the sacraments, of the nature and
function of faith, and of the nature of the
church. In an era that oscillates between ne-
glecting history and simply regarding history
as something negative or oppressive, it is
easy to lose sight of the significance of these
differences and reduce them to Swift’s Lilliputian
struggles over which end of a boiled
egg should be removed at the breakfast
table; or to misunderstand the differences
completely, and, as with the gentle priest
who chaired my seminar in Trento, see them
as purely matters of seditious individual am-
bition and the abuse of religious power.
Only a careful, articulate education in the
history of Catholicism will help Protestants
truly to understand it and, where necessary,
argue against it; and the same holds true for
Catholics. We cannot even agree to differ
with any integrity if we have not taken the
time to learn each other’s history.”

(Carl Trueman, “Fools Rush In where Monkeys Fear to tread.”

There’s monkey and monkish. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Messiah will/has come: Jewish, Messianic Jewish and Roman Catholic positions

Why is there no other name but Jesus that matters? Because Jesus Christ is what salvation means (Jesus means salvation”). This is the central doctrine of the Gospel, and used to be the central doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church until Vatican 2 (1962), which introduced the idea of universal salvation (Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others – EXCEPT Protestants). Here is an anecdote that expresses an opinion I (a former Catholic) and Catholics I knew held. Roy Schoeman, a Jew, relates his interesting journey to the Catholic Church. Here is the part of his story when he spent a week at a Carthusian monastery: 

One day when I was working alone in the fields, an elderly monk came out to speak with me. He approached and shyly asked, “Tell us, if you don’t mind ­ We couldn’t help noticing that you do not receive communion, so you must not be Catholic. What then are you?” When I replied “Jewish”, he grinned and with a deep sigh said “That’s a relief! We were afraid you were Protestant!”. At the time I had no understanding at all of the difference between Protestants and Catholics they were just meaningless words describing Christians ­ yet I was deeply struck by the fact that in some mysterious way this monk identified with Jews as opposed to Protestants. I later realized that in his eyes Jews were “elder brothers in the Faith” who had not yet received the grace to recognize the Messiahship of Jesus, whereas Protestants had once had, but then rejected, the fullness of the truth.” (John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply).

There is another Jew, who believes the Messiah has already come. He is Messianic Rabbi Michael Schiffman who writes that MessianiZc Judaism and Christianity share the same Messiah but are different religions. He says:

While traditional synagogues don’t acknowledge Yeshua, nevertheless, He is there. For me, He is the Messiah of Israel. As the brothers of Joseph did not recognize him when they stood before him, because all they saw was an Egyptian ruler, he remained their brother. He fed them and took care of them, and would not take their money for the grain they bought, because he remained their brother. When he revealed himself to them, he comforted them, and told them to come near, because they were his brothers. Joseph is a picture of Yeshua. As Joseph acted toward his brothers, so will Yeshua act toward his. He loves them, and will comfort them, and take care of them, which, after all, is the job of the Messiah.” 
z
Here is a comment on the Rabbi’s post from “ProclaimLiberty.” (My italics): 

I believe Dr.Schiffman hinted at a theological concept that might be called “the hidden messiah” (or “the unseen/unrecognized Yeshua”), which is a means to view an implicit relationship between Jews who reject the “Jesus” of the Gentiles and this hidden messiah who is the salvation of HaShem (“Y’shu’at HaShem”). Thus, when they approach HaShem, they too are coming to the Father through the auspices of Yeshua. As for the “remnant” problem, Jewish history is also replete with Jews who chase after other values and do not approach HaShem with any kind of faith at all. The judgement that may fall upon these individuals in the end of days will be nuanced by all that they have done and by all that has been done to them. It remains to be seen how zthat will effect the definition of the term “all” in the reference that says all Israel will be saved. But it is not accurate to limit this remnant to only those Jews who explicitly and religiously acknowledge Rav Yeshua as the Messiah.” 

With regard to the salvation of Ïsrael,“ ProclaimLiberty maintains that two kinds of Jews will be saved: 

1. Jews who have faith (and are faithful) to the Holy One of Israel,

and

2. Jews who will be judged by “all that they have done and by all that has been done to them.” Rabbi, Schiffman, in contrast, says “He loves them, and will comfort them, and take care of them, which, after all, is the job of the Messiah.”

I infer that “them” means all (Jews) without exception. In this regard, the Rabbi appeals to Romans 11:1: “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew [fore loved].” Like the Apostle Paul, the Rabbi has great sorrow for his Jewish people but notice the exception Paul makes:

Romans 9

The sorrow of the Apostle

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

God’s Sovereign Choice

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

It is clear that only a remnant of Jews will be saved. According to ProclaimLiberty, “it is not accurate to limit this remnant to only those Jews who explicitly and religiously acknowledge Rav Yeshua as the Messiah.” This view, according to many scriptures, is wrong. For example, John 8: (My emphasis)

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

These were “Jews who had believed him.” This belief was obviously not in whom Jesus said he was but in what these Jews wanted to believe Jesus was. In sum, according to Jesus, they were sons of the father of lies. 

Christ says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Christ is the light. No human being has any light in himself waiting to shine forth. 

As for ProclaimLiberty’s “The judgement that may fall upon these individuals in the end of days will be nuanced by all that they have done and by all that has been done to them,” this radical kind of “works” salvation is also wrong – terribly wrong. In this schematic, not even faith is required, which theRoman Catholic system does require. This works salvation reminds me of one of Art Katz’s talks, where he describes a movement within Lubavitch-Chabad who drive round New York in specially outfitted vans to pick up Jews on the street and get them to put on tefillin. If enough Jews did it the critical mass, whatever that was Messiah would come. Talking of critical mass, here is a comment on a Chabad article Who is Mosiach? the basics. [My square brackets].

It seems that on a scale it only takes 1 grain of sand to tip two equal portions to one side or the other. When the scale tips it tips completely to one side or the other. I think the critical mass is simply 50.000001% of the Jewish population keeping Shabbos for instance. Possibly 1 of 2 of the greatest gifts Hashem gave us. Those who keep Shabbos understand the value of this gift clearly. Why then aren’t we creating an International Shabbos day and selling it like we sell the Superbowl. With Jewish celebrities promoting it in all corners of the Earth. Chabad is trying this but it needs to be on a much much bigger scale. How can we promote this idea to give all of those who have strayed from the path after all of these generations in gullus [galut - "exile"] – a taste of Gad [Gan - "garden"?] Eden? 

The Lubavitcher Rabbi Schneerson (the Rebbe) expressed the “critical mass” idea differently: “”the Moshiach is waiting for that one tiny act of lovingkindness to tip the scales, then he will come.” (Saved by .000001% and a slight movement of the chest: Jewish and Islamic views of redemption). 

I return to Roy Schoeman’s story of his conversion to Roman Catholicism: “I was deeply struck by the fact that in some mysterious way this monk identified with Jews as opposed to Protestants. I later realized that in his eyes Jews were ‘elder brothers in the Faith’ who had not yet received the grace to recognize the Messiahship of Jesus.” 

The modern Roman Catholic position (since Vatican 2) is far more pliant – I would say obsequious -to these “elder brothers.” No more talk of the Jews not yet receiving the grace to recognize the Messiahship of Jesus. Indeed, there is no longer any conflict between the Jewish expectancy of a first-time Messiah and the New Testament expectancy of a second-time Messiah. The Roman Catholic Church says the Messiah’s come already, the Jew says, He’s still to come. “Why all this fuss over chronology? After all, the Messiah must be the same Messiah for both Jews and Christians/Messianic Jews,“ some may ask. The New Testament, alas, states otherwise as we read in John 8 above where Jesus says to the Jews who reject his claims that they are not of God. The upshot, without faith in Jesus/Yeshua as the (suffering) Messiah, their future expectation is in vain. No, says the modern Roman Catholic Church: 

Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us” (The Pontifical Biblical Commission statement (2002), entitled “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible”). 

How could such an expectation be not vain, given that they refuse Christ, the only Messiah, who has already come? This means, if taken to its logical conclusion, that the refusal of the mystery of the Incarnation, of the birth of our Divine Savior in the flesh, is no longer a sin of infidelity, is no longer a grave sin against God. If this were the case, how could it still be true for the already-come Messiah to say: “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6)? 

Paul says “all Israel will be saved” what is the context of “all?” Paul means all Israel “of the promise,” which are the ones who believe (abiding in belief – the “believing”ones) Jesus/Yeshua is the Christ/Messiah. Paul says in Romans 9, which he reaffirms in Romans 11 that only a remnant of (ethnic) Israel will be saved, and the reason that they will be saved is not that they’re “ethic” and dedicated to repairing the world. The reason is that God has mercy on those he wants to have mercy, which has stones to do with how many Jews do tefillin or how many acts of kindness they do.

 

Enough already with serving the Mass, have to get home to recite why this night is different from other nights – the Passover

In My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left, I explained why I converted to Roman Catholicism. During my second year at the University of Cape Town, at the age of 19, I was baptised into the Catholic Church. Kolbe house, the Cape Town University Catholic Society and Residence, became my new heimKolbe House is located on a small estate about 200 metres from the Main Road, Rondebosch.

Walk up the steps across the veranda and straight into the big lounge, behind which is a small library, which could be separated by a curtain because the library also served as a stage for Kolbe student concerts in which I sang favourites such as “A certain smile” (Johnny Mathis version) and “Love is a many splendid thing” (Nat King Cole). On the right of the lounge is a set of folding doors that opened on to the little chapel. After lectures, I would spend many afternoons at Kolbe House, browsing through the books in the library that nobody else read, while waiting for other students to arrive on whom I could impress myself. Most of my peers, like most students, were more interested in bonding over a beer, not necessarily in that order.

Isn’t that what much conversation is about; bonding – and beering? According to Naom Chomsky and Gilbert Ryle, the primordial function of language is self expression – pressing yourself on to others. Chomsky suggests that expression, not communication, is the central function of language (Chomsky, Language and Responsibility, 1979:88). Ryle (1959), in a similar vein (at the end of his introduction to “The concept of mind”), states: “Primarily I am trying to get some disorders out of my own system. Only secondarily do I hope to help other theorists to recognise our malady and to benefit from my medicine.”The “purgative” (“suppository”) function of language is one function that did not occur to Chomsky – I suppose. (Theological Aphasia and Language as Communion).

There was another Jewish student Andrew (not his real name), who was taking instruction with me in the Catholic faith at Kolbe House, the university residence and chaplaincy. Father Peter Paul Feeney was the chaplain and our instructor in the faith. At the end of our instruction, Fr Peter Paul baptised us together.

Andrew was my physical antithesis. I was blond and lanky; he, dark hair and short. Don Quixote and Sancho. During our year of Catholic instruction together at Kolbe House, Andrew and I used to spend time sharing our joy in our new found faith – two wondering Jews wandering no more. I had rented a room in a quiet part of Rondebosch near Kolbe House. Andrew lived in the main residence on campus. Whenever Andrew talked about Catholic things, his voice quivered, his eyes shone; he was in love. I was not too far behind him. He had a special love for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many Catholics tend to gravitate to the mother of Jesus more than to her Son. This is generally true not only of born Catholics but also of converts. There’s just something special about “Mother”, Ma-me-le (Yiddish). If you can have a heavenly father, why can’t you have a heavenly mother. Mary’s role for Catholics, though, is far more than that, as several papal encyclicals make clear. For example:Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. And that is not all. As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life. (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater: On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church, 1987.03.25).

A man knows about courage, truth, strength, wrath, but what does he understand about gentleness, lovingness, virgin purity and affection? That’s the woman’s domain, isn’t it? Mary, the meek, loving, obedient highly favoured woman, pierced by sorrow becomes the Mother of God, “Can we not feel that it must have been so right…a living object of devotion, faith and hope” (F.W. Robertson, 1924. “The Glory of the Virgin Mother” in Sermons on Bible Subjects, p. 224. Everyman’s Library). Bernard of Clairvaux brought a new emphasis to the mother of Jesus, exalting her to “Queen of Heaven” and intercessor between Christ and the Church. Here is Bernard: “The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die.” So, only if the mother of Jesus gives his Son permission to save, can he do so. When I was a devout Catholic, I used to feel that it was so. I never cared about biblical exegesis. Like most Catholics, I didn’t read the Bible much. There was no need to; the Church said it was so, and that was that. Besides, the mother of Jesus had that feminine touch that no man – not even Jesus – could match. But is this true? The Son of Man was a perfect embodiment of both the masculine and the feminine of humanness.

There is also, of course, the Mother tongue. Language teachers, translators, and linguistic scientists (linguists) are especially interested in the “syntactic joints and “semantic flesh” of the Mother tongue (Johnson, Barbara. 1985 Taking Fidelity Philosophically. In: Difference in Translation In: Graham, J.F. (ed.). Ithaca: Cornell University Press).Of particular interest to Bible translators are the problems in translation of biblical texts from the original (Mother) tongue.

But Mary is more than a tongue; “she is the neck of Our Head [Christ], by which He communicates to His mystical body all spiritual gifts” (Bernadine of Sienna, (Quadrag. de Evangel. aetern. Serm. x., a. 3, c. iii.).quoted in the encyclical AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM (English: Until that Joyful Day) on the Immaculate Conception, of Pope Pius X, Feb 1904). In the Catholic order of mediation between God and man, if Christ the Head is the Mediator between the Father and man, Mary, the neck, is the mediatrix between the Head (Christ) and man. (I discuss the mother of Jesus in more detail in Mary highly-favoured mother of the Son of God.

After my baptism, I attended Mass every evening at the little chapel of Kolbe House. As far as I knew, my parents had no idea of, or interest in, my personal life. We never discussed religious matters. A few months after my baptism, I was elected to the Kolbe committee as member in charge of “spiritual activities.” The role involved being available at daily mass. Quite a logical appointment seeing that I was one of the few Kolbe-ites who attended daily mass.

I was also Father Peter Paul Feeney’s altar boy for the three holy days of Easter. The Last Supper was probably Jesus’ last Passover meal. He ate it on the first day of the Passover, “the day of Unleavened Bread on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed’” (Luke 22:7). Christ was crucified a few hours before the first evening of Passover. It’s not certain on which day of the week the Passover fell for that particular year. The evidence seems to indicate a Thursday. But it’s not so important to know the exact day. What is important is, firstly, the historical and religious fact that Jesus died – was born to die – on a cross; and rose from the dead; and, secondly, to know why He died. I consider those two facts to be the most crucial facts in human history questions, and consequently of my history.

My parents expected me to attend the Passover seder (ritual feast). On one of these Holy Week days, my parents’ were waiting for me to arrive at the family seder to recite the first portion of the Haggadah, the “Ma Nishtana” – a set of four questions sung during the Passover seder. It is sung by the youngest available male member of the family. As the youngest male in the family – my brother, Benny, was living in Israel – I had to start the festivities.(The Haggadah (Hebrew: הַגָּדָה‎, “telling”) sets forth the order of the Passover service (seder). Reading the Haggadah fulfills the Scriptural commandment to the Jew to “tell your son” of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as related in the Book of Exodus. The family had moved from Claremont to Sea Point.

Sea Point is a bus ride of at least three quarters of an hour from Kolbe House in Rondebosch. So, if I leave in 15 minutes I’ll only get to Sea Point at about 8 pm.

Why was Fr Peter Paul taking so long to finish everything! After all it was a Low Mass. In a Low Mass, the priest reads, but doesn’t sing, and the ritual is much simpler and shorter. “The Low Mass, explains the Catholic Forum, was a basic Mass, with the bare (no, not bear) necessities. The High Mass was a more solemn Mass, and it had music, and all the other “smells, bells, and whistles” as they say. It also requires more servers and deacons assisting the priest saying the Mass. It was basically a more ceremonious way of saying the Mass.”

Mass and Passover; I was in a real Passover pickle at Kolbe House. Alphonse Daudet’s “The three low masses” comes to mind. It is about a priest whose enthusiasm (en theos “in God”) for gourmet dishes brings him into confrontation with Satan. The story begins with the priest reverend dom Balaguère (if he was a Jewish priest, he would be reverend dom Bagelère) enquiring of his clerk Garrigou (Satan in disguise) about the preparations for the after-Mass feast.

“Two truffled turkeys, Garrigou?” “Yes, reverend Father, two magnificent turkeys stuffed with truffles. There’s no mistake, for I helped to stuff them myself. The flesh almost cracked as they roasted, it was so tight–so—-” “Holy Virgin! and I, who love truffles as—-Hurry; give me my surplice, Garrigou. And what else besides the turkeys; what else did you see in the kitchen?” “Oh! all sorts of good things. Since noon we’ve done nothing but pluck pheasants, pewits, wood-hens, and heath-cocks. Feathers are scattered thick. Then from the pond they’ve brought eels and golden carp and trout, and—-” “What size are the trout, Garrigou?” “Oh, as big as that! reverend Father. Enormous!” “Heavens, I seem to see them! Have you put the wine in the flasks?” “Yes, reverend Father, I’ve put the wine in the flasks. But what’s a mouthful or two as you go to midnight Mass! The priest rushes throughout the three Masses. “But how can he go any faster? He scarcely moves his lips, he pronounces fully not a single word. He tries to cheat the good God altogether of His Mass, and that is what brings his ruin. By temptation upon temptation, he begins to jump one verse, then two. Then the epistle is too long–he does not finish it; skims the Gospel, passes by the creed without even entering, skips the pater, salutes from afar the preface, and by bounds and jumps precipitates himself into eternal damnation, always following the infamous Garrigou (_vade retro, Satanas_[“Get behind me Satan”]), who seconds him with marvellous skill; tucks up his chasuble, turns the leaves two by two, disarranges the music-desk, reverses the flagons, and unceasingly rings the bell more and more vigorously, more and more quickly.”

At the Kolbe House Mass, my churning brain was not thinking at all of that other altar, the laden passover table anxiously fixed on the front door waiting for its alter ego to arrive. Priest: Benedìcat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius et Spìritus Sanctus. (May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit). All: Amen.

The Mass is ended, go in peace. Ite Missa est, which means “Go, you are sent forth.” Missa does not mean “Mass,” but “sent forth” as in missive, missile. I was flying out of there like one. But, no it was not to be. The Mass was over, but like all altar boys, I had no pass; I had to remain to put things away. Done. I leaped down the steps of Kolbe House (see photo; for the steps, not the leaping), took the short cut through a gap in the copse, and dashed down the road to wait for the bus to Sea Point.

I opened the door of the flat. Fanny, my mother: “Where have you been, the food is getting cold.” I installed the Yamulke on my head, opened the Haggadah and sang:

Ma nishtana ha-laila ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot? Why is this night different from all other nights?

Indeed, very different.

I made only one tape recording of the voices of my parents; it was of this passover night. I still have the tape in my possession. I listened to a snatch of it about five decades ago. I can’t bring myself to listen to more of it – yet. The bit I listened to brought painfully home to me my snivelling deportment in the presence of Issy, my father.

God’s got sons by the tons: Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad

Once at a Bible study meeting, the leader said that all God’s human creatures are children of God. I interjected that the Bible does not say that everyone is a child – a “son”- of God. Later, over tea, one member of the the Bible study said that I needed to show more Christian love. I’m not sure whether she was referring to the timing or the content of my interjection. If to the timing, what do you want from me; wait for tea to tick the man off – on such a crucial matter? Not on your universalist nelly! I couldn’t wait for ”sharing time” at such a travesty of biblical truth. What love is this, you ask? Not shmaltz, for certain.

Adoniram Judson Gordon, founder of Gordon College

Adoniram Judson Gordon, founder of Gordon College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Christian theology, two kinds of universal salvation are proposed. The first kind states that every human being will be reconciled to God, no matter what their beliefs or non-beliefs or their (im)moral behaviour. This was the belief of Carlo Carretto. Carretto was the leader of the Italian post-World War II youth movement known as Catholic Action. In 1954, He resigned from that position and joined the Little Brothers of Jesus at their novitiate in the Sahara desert. The Little Brothers of Jesus movement was inspired by the life and writings of Charles de Foucauld. (See Universalism, Love, and the Mystical Desertion of the Gospel).

The second kind  is described in one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965. Nostra Aetate rejects the papal (infallible) bulls of previous centuries by stating that salvation can be attained in other religions if adherents remain faithful to their beliefs and follow universal moral values.

The Roman Catholic catechism states “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (pp. 242, 243).” In such a view all who acknowledge a creator are “sons”of God. And Buddhists? Them too are members of God’s family. But, hang on, they don’t believe in a a creator. Well maybe not of the Mosaic kind. In the end they must surely hold – unlike the latest beautiful physics theory – that something can’t come from nothing. So Richard Dawkins’ kind of mysticism, and others like him, for example, Lawrence Krauss is beyond the pale: “Why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing?”

Peter Kreeft, the Catholic philosopher and apologist, in his “Ecumenical Jihad,” sounds the modern Cathslamic call: “We can and should investigate and learn from the wisdom in other religions” (Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.79). “Allah is not another God…we worship the same God”(Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.30). “The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God the Jews-and the Muslims-worship.” (Ibid. p. 160). (See The influence of Universalism on society and the church).

Here is a description of the modern kind of evangelicalism contrasted with the biblical view of what it means to be a “son of God”:

” So, says Adoniram Judson Gordon, the most dangerous theology in circulation among us to-day is an evangelicalism which keeps most of the phrases of orthodoxy, and yet is utterly void of the vital substance thereof. ‘Atonement! Yes, indeed,’ says this other gospel. ‘ Jesus Christ is the martyr-man of the race, one in whom the enthusiasm of humanity kindled to such intensity that it consumed the heart from which it proceeded, giving the most splendid example of self-sacrifice which the world has ever seen. Not that in his death he bore the curse of a violated law! Such an idea spoils the poetry and pathos of his martyrdom, needlessly embarrassing it with the theology of substitution and vicarious satisfaction for human guilt, thereby keeping alive the old “offense of the cross.” Divinity of Christ! Yes; with all the heart let it be believed; and since by his incarnation Christ became our kinsman according to the flesh, let us rejoice in “the essential divinity of human nature” also.’ Thus, whereas in a former generation the contention was for bringing Christ down to the level of our common humanity, now it is for lifting up our common to the level of Christ. And so is brought in that most deadly doctrine of broad Christianity, that ‘all men by nature are sons of God,’ a doctrine proclaimed among us with such alluring eloquence that thousands of uninstructed souls imagine they hear the ring of the true gospel coin in what is really only the prolonged resonance of an old Pelagian heresy.

” We fully affirm that this doctrine is not only contradicted by all Scripture, but disproved by all human experience. ‘ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Here is sonship to God, but it is predicated solely on the ground of the new birth, the solemn necessity of which, as announced by our Lord, bears witness to the depravity, not to the divinity, of human nature. Can we brave it out with God, still maintaining in the face of explicit humanity Scripture that without repentance and without regeneration . . . men are the children of God? Such a doctrine Milton rightly traces not to Christ, but to the prince of fallen angels, whom he makes to say: ‘ The son of God I am, or was, And if I was I am; relation stands, All men are sons of God.’

(Adoniram Judson Gordon, a biography with letters and illustrative extracts drawn from unpublished or uncollected sermons and addresses. New York, Revell, 1898).

Here is Gordon’s Milton quotation in a fuller context. The Tempter (that is what “Satan” means) addresses the Son of God, Jesus the Christ:

Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view

And narrower Scrutiny, that I might learn

In what degree or meaning thou art call’d

The Son of God, which bears no single sence;

The Son of God I also am, or was,

And if I was, I am; relation stands;

All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought

In some respect far higher so declar’d.

(Paradise Regain’d: Book IV (1671)

So, grant the Tempter his due, for he “thought in some respect” that Christ’s Sonship stood above the sonship of ordinary men. The devils believe, and tremble.

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:28-29).

I am reminded of James White’s rubric opening to his “Radio Free Damascus” podcast, where a Muslim apologist rattles: “You don’t read your Bible properly.… God’s got sons by the tons.”

I return to the sheepy (and often sheepish) “sons of God.“ (As Rabelais would have said: “Revenons à nos moutons1 See Note 1).” I continue with Adoniram Judson Gordon. He asks: “Are we all God’s children, or only Christians? And answers: “The Bible is clear that all people are God’s creation (Colossians 1:16), and that God loves the entire world (John 3:16), but only those who are born again are children of God (John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-10).”

(I would question whether “God so loved the world” means the “entire” world, that is, everyone without exception. I would go along with the “limited atonement” view that “world” means “without distinction” and not “without exception.” I leave the matter there).

Gordon continues:

In Scripture, the lost are never referred to as children of God. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that before we were saved we were “by nature objects of wrath.” YET YOU SAY GOD LOVES THE “ENTIRE” WORLD) Romans 9:8 says that “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” Instead of being born as God’s children, we are born in sin, which separates us from God and aligns us with Satan as God’s enemy (James 4:4; 1 John 3:8). Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me” (John 8:42). Then a few verses later in John 8:44, Jesus told the Pharisees that they “belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” The fact that those who are not saved are not children of God is also seen in 1 John 3:10: “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Here is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “Sons of God. His text is:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Romans 8:16, 17.

“We are the children of God.” And here I am met upon the very threshhold by the opposition of certain modern theologians, who hold that sonship is not the special and peculiar privilege of believers. The newly discovered negative theology, which, I fear, has done some damage to the Baptist denomination, and a very large amount of injury to the Independent body—the new heresy is to a large degree, founded upon the fiction of the Universal Fatherhood of God. The old divines, the Puritans, the Reformers, are now in these last days, to be superseded by men whose teaching flatly contradicts all that we have received of our forefathers. Our old ministers have all represented God as being to his people a father, to the rest of the world a judge. This is styled by our new philosophers as old cumbersome scheme of theology, and it is proposed that it be swept away—a proposition which will never be carried out, while the earth remaineth, or while God endureth. But, at any rate, certain knight-errants have set themselves to do battle with windmills, and really believe that they shall actually destroy from the face of the earth that which is a fundamental and abiding distinction, without which the Scriptures are not to be understood. We are told by modern false prophets, that God in everything acts to all men as a father, even when he cast them into the lake of fire, and send upon them all the plagues that are written in his book. All these terrible things in righteousness, the awful proofs of holy vengeance in the judge of all the earth, and successfully neutralized in their arousing effect, by being quietly written among the loving acts and words of the Universal Father. It is dreamed that this is an age when men do not need to be thundered at; when everybody is become so tender-hearted that there is no need for the sword to be held “in terrorum” over mortals; but that everything is to be conducted now in a new and refined manner; God the Universal Father, and all men universal sons. Now I must confess there is something very pretty about this theory, something so fascinating that I do not wonder that some of the ablest minds have been wooed and won by it. I, for my part, take only one objection to it, which is that it is perfectly untrue and utterly unfounded, having not the lightest shadow of a pretense of being proved by the Word of God. Scripture everywhere represents the chosen people of the Lord, under their visible character of believers, penitents, and spiritual men, as being “the children of God,” and to none but such is that holy title given. It speaks of the regenerate, of a special class me as having a claim to be God’s children. Now, as there is nothing like Scripture, let me read you a few texts, Romans viii. 14.—”As many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Surely no one is so daring as to say, that all men are led by the Spirit of God; yet may it readily enough be inferred from our text, that those who are not led by the Spirit of God are not the sons of God, but that they and they alone who are led, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the sons of God. A passage from Galatians iii. 26.—”For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” declaring as it seems to me, and rightly enough, that all believers, all who have faith in Christ are the children of God, and that they become actually and manifestly so by faith in Christ Jesus, and implying that those who have no faith in Christ Jesus, are not God’s sons, and that any pretense which they could make to that relationship would be but arrogance and presumption. And hear ye this, John i. 12.—”To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” How could they have been the sons of God before, for “to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, who were born not of blood,”—then they were not make the sons of God by mere creation—”nor of the will of the flesh,” that is to say, not by any efforts of their own “but of God.” If any text can be more conclusive than this against universal sonship, I must confess I know of none, and unless these words mean nothing at all, they do mean just this, that believers are the sons of God and none besides.”

Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad.

1 A French phrase that means literally ‘Let us return to our sheep’, which has been used for hundreds of years in English to mean, ‘Let’s get back to the subject’. It comes from the French comedy /La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin/; or /l’ Avocat Pathelin/ (/c./ 1460), in which a woollen draper accuses a shepherd, Aignelet, of cruelty to his sheep. In telling his story, the draper continually digresses from the subject in order to discredit the defendant’s attorney, Pierre Pathelin. The judge has to interrupt him continuously by saying, ‘Mais, mon ami, revenons à nos moutons’. The phrase was frequently quoted by Rabelais (/c/. 1495-1553) and has a facetious equivalent among some English speakers, when asking someone to keep to the subject, in ‘Let’s return to our muttons’. The saying was popularised in Marcel Pagnol’s Topaze. (See here).

Of mysticism, cooking and them goose bumps

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)
St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, a good friend, whom I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, phoned me from Belgium. I asked a variation of my pet question, which I used to ask a phalange of friends my daughter used to bring home from school: “Have you read any good books lately.” The insult – not that her friends were aware of the insult (there I go; another insult) – was double: not merely books, any books, but good books. I would, of course, never ask my friend – or an adult, unless I was very mad, or mad at him or her – such a double-barbed question; not even the single barb alternative (Have you read any books lately?). Besides I know he loves books. So, I simply asked, “What are reading?

He said St Francis of Assisi, especially the classic biography. “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi” by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Hang on a mo….there, click, click, I’ve downloaded a free pdf into Goodreader on my ipad.

Also Teresa of Avila and a few others were mentioned. In my “Catholic” days, I loved reading how the arrows of divine love pierced Teresa’s heart and made her swoon. There’s nothing wrong, indeed there can be everything right about swooning. I’m not the typical Calvinist who advises you, if you show symptoms of “mysticemia” or any kind of religious experience, to repent or see your doctor.

One atypical Calvinist is Martyn Lloyd Jones – respected by all Calvinists – who in the early part of his sermon series on Ephesians (somewhere between Ephesians 1 – 3, I forget) says that it’s silly (my word for what he respectfully said) to imagine that if God comes to live in those born of God that the regenerated person cannot, indeed should not, feel a thing.

I want to specifically address my Calvinist brethren: There’s a TV advert for shampoo or whatever where a pretty girl says, “It’s all about feeling – AND feeling.” She is, if course, not distinguishing between two kinds of feelings, but merely emphasising that it’s all about feeling; life is all about feeling – “Let’s get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let’s get into physical, Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk.” In the spiritual domain, there are also two kinds of feeling, which requires discernment. There’s goose bumps AND good bumps. The one kind will cook your goose, whereas the other may provide deep insights into what’s cooking. Mysticism does not necessarily, as someone said, begin in a mist and end in schism.

Catholicism, Protestantism and private judgment

I entered the Catholic church by exercising my private judgment (as all converts to any religion or cause must – if thinking has any rational basis – do). But once I exercised this private judgment, I was required to exorcise all further exercise of private judgment (on matters of faith and morals). But that wasn’t hard because I handed over my private rational parts willingly to a religion that taught that private judgment is a Protestant aberration. One person’s private judgment may lead to Protestantism and its two main branches: Arminianism (dead you chooses to be raised to new life) and Calvinism (dead you can’t choose to be raised to new life because you’re dead, silly). In both systems, however, private judgment remains active.

On the other hand, another person’s private judgment may lead to Catholicism, where you use your private judgment to mentally assent to its doctrines, one of which is “leave your noggin (in matters of faith and morals AND of church history) at the Church door.” So, if the pope tells you that if you rock up to the showground in your country where he is to appear, you’ll get a plenary indulgence, you will do it. Or will you take a rain check? (Plenary indulgence – the time you would suffer in purgatory, which could many thousands of years, if you had to die now).

According to a decree signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Pope Benedict XVI will grant two types of indulgences for the international gathering of youth. Those who “gather at Sydney, Australia, in the spirit of pilgrimage” to participate in celebrations for 23rd World Youth Day, will be able to receive a full or plenary indulgence, the decree says. Partial indulgences will be available to “all those who, wherever they are, will pray for the spiritual goals of this meeting and for its happy outcome.”

As I wrote elsewhere, one of the reasons I left the Roman Catholic Church was this idea – purgatory itself was bad enough – of plenary indulgences. On entering the Roman Catholic Church, I didn’t really leave my private judgment at the Church door.

But there is, of course, much more than private judgment in coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for  ”what goodness it is when He Himself implants in us the desire of seeking (Him) while we are still enemies” (Andrew Murray (Jnr; in: Andrew Murray and His Message – by W. M. Douglas)

Authority, Scripture and Tradition in Catholicism and Judaism

Protestant to a Catholic: How do you establish that the Catholic Church has authority over scripture?

Catholic: Simple. For starters, it’s in scripture. “On this rock” and so much more.

Protestant: For starters?

Catholic: We also rely on tradition.

Protestant: How much is “also.”

Catholic” Half and half. Half on scripture, and half on tradition.

Protestant: What would happen if you were to rely on tradition alone for your authority? Would that halve the authority of the barque of Peter?

Catholic: No, the authority would be the same; the only difference is that the barque would sail at half-mast.

The Talmudic Jew, in contrast to the Catholic, does not fall for or into this circular kind of reasoning. For him, tradition (Oral Torah) produced scripture (Written Torah). Where is his authority for this? Why, tradition. At full sail.

Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy and Education in the Middle ages

In Catholic seminaries, three of the first four years of study is devoted to Greek philosophy, mainly Aristotle. Aristotle is central to Catholic theology because the bulk of it derives from the dazzling intellect of Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) who built his theology on Aristotle.

Thomas Aquinas by Fra Angelico

Aristotle ostensibly demonstrated that the universe could be understood without recourse to religion and its associated divine revelation. This understanding, however, was not concerned with ultimate questions about existence and about God, which other religions such Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are concerned with.

For example, the Greek gods had a modest influence over mankind compared to the God of the Hebrews. For one, when the Greek gods arrived in the universe, the universe was already all there. In contrast, the God of the Hebrews not only pre-existed the universe, He created it. Also, the Greek gods had no control over human (random) fate , whereas the central teaching of the Bible (Old Testament and New) is that God is a sovereign ruler and sustainer of all things. Greek religion had its ceremonies and rituals and its – believed, if not perceived – benefits. But it didn’t matter one iota whether you attended the ceremonies or practised the rituals. Greek religion couldn’t conceive – and if it did, probably wouldn’t have cared – that religion could give you a purpose in life, or that it could “renew your mind” (Romans1:2). Such an idea was totally foreign to the Greek mind. You don’t renew your mind, you expand it, you unfold it. The creation account in Genesis, for example, or the theological disputes in Christian theology would be regarded with amusement, even disdain. In this regard, the modern mind is very similar to the classical mind. When a Greek citizen took time off from his busy banqueting schedule to meditate on deep issues, he’d take a dip into philosophy for answers; Greek philosophy, naturally. Anything else was trivial. The modern secular mind is very similar to the classical mind in their disdain of theology and faith, which they consider to be not only delusional piffle but “lethally dangerous” (Dawkins, Richard, November 11, 2001, “Has the world changed?“. The Guardian).

Aristotle, like all Greeks, hadn’t read, nor would he have cared to read, the Hebrew Scriptures. It would’ve been beneath his Hellenic hubris and Attic dignity to do so. Attic Greek is the prestige dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek, and is the standard form of the language studied in courses of “Ancient Greek” (Wikipedia).

Aristotle, like all the Greek philosophers before and after him, were preoccupied with the idea God. Theology, the study (logos) of God (theos) could be undertaken purely through the natural means of reason and ordinary experience. Revealed theology wasn’t necessary to know God, because natural theology could do the job. The Christian view is that God is there, but he is not silent. (He Is There and He Is Not Silent” is the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer. This book deals with the philosophic necessity of God being there and not being silent). The classical view is that although God is – supernaturally – there, he is indeed silent, and would – naturally – remain so.

After the final demise of the Roman Empire in 476 (there are 210 theories on why Rome fell, and more keep cropping up), interest in classical literature waned until it was largely forgotten. But in later centuries, classical literature and philosophy began to see a resurgence. Its pagan worldview, however, was a threat to Christianity. The idea that God could be discovered without the aid of scripture was seen as a threat to Christian tradition. In several instances there was fierce opposition, which sometimes triggered riots, and even heresy trials.

It was only in the 9th century, under Charlemagne’s (King of the Franks. 747 – 814) educational reforms that opposition to the classics melted away.

In the Middle Ages, theology was well established as the queen of the sciences, and philosophy was its handmaiden. “Science” in the Middle Ages up to the Enlightenment of the 18th century signified any systematic recorded “knowledge” (Latin scientia). “Science” had the same broad meaning as “Philosophy” (Greek philo “love” and sophos “knowledge, wisdom”.

The Enlightenment is a period in Western culture and philosophy that divested itself of religious beliefs and resuscitated the the classical faith in reason. The Enlightenment resuscitated the Aristotelian idea of the primacy of reason. The difference between the Reformation and the Enlightenment is that on the Reformation view, justification is by faith alone; whereas on the Enlightenment view, justification is by faith in reason alone. Though “faith in reason” is an oxymoron” (Greek oxy “pointed”, moron “silly”), it is not for practical purposes a contradiction. I explain:

How do we know, how do we prove that our noggins are rational? That’s easy; use your noggin. This, however, is no solution, because you can’t use your noggin to prove you have a noggin, that is, you can’t use your reason to prove that your reason is rational. If we cannot prove our reason is rational, this does not stop us living out our practical lives. So, although the foundation principle of our knowledge may remain out of reach, this does affect the practical uses of knowledge. It’s a bit like God; we may ignore or be ignorant of Him, yet this does not affect the comfortable life of being a professor of theology or Greek philosophy.

When Rome fell, Greek literature and philosophy had been largely forgotten in Medieval Europe. The Medieval Church in Europe did not only encourage the study of Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, but also encouraged Muslim philosophers such as Avicenna and Averroes. It was Muslim scholarship, mainly Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), that introduced Greek philosophy to the West. There was also the great Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides. Aquinas had a great respect for Maimonides. There is written on Moses Maimonides’ tombstone: “From Moshe (Moses) to Moshe (Moses Maimonides) there was none like Moshe.” A Catholic might want to add “until Thomas.

Thomas Aquinas was called “the dumb ox” at school. He was very fat, and suffered from dropsy, and one eye was much bigger than the other. (This feature is not clear in the Fra Angelico picture above). In his youth, he was lethargic, introspective, spoke little, and most of the time was lost to the world.

When he was 18, he had set his mind on becoming a friar in the Dominican order. A monk. A vow of poverty. On his way to Rome, he was nabbed by his brothers, who brought him home. He was kept prisoner for more than a year.

No threats, no entreaties, no prayers, no enticements could deter him. What about an Abbot? Or a Bishoprick? Ok, then, an Archbishoprick; there’s one going in Naples. Even a prostitute secreted into his chambers could not dampen his resolve.

His family finally relented, and Thomas was sent to Cologne to study under Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great)’ “Magnus” because he was the greatest scholastic philosopher in Europe. Thomas went to Paris where he studied and obtained his Master’s degree. He also wrote some of his works there. In about 1261, Pope Urban invited him to come and teach in Rome. About 10 years later he returned to Paris. Soon after, he founded a new studium generale in Naples. A studium generale is the medieval name for an education institution of international excellence. The universities of Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, which were established in the early 13th century were three other studia generalia.

Thomas is called Doctor Angelicus, which the Roman Catholic Church translates as “Angelic Doctor”. This does not mean that he was angelic but that he was an expert on angels, a “doctor of angels.”

Aquinas was the greatest of the “Scholastics” (Schoolmen). Scholasticism is a medieval Catholic school of philosophy and theology. The roots of Scholasticism go back to the 8th century educational reforms of Charlemagne (Charles the Great; 747 – 814), King of the Franks. Education was called the “liberal arts”; “liberal” because education was open only to freemen (Latin: liber, “free”), and not to slaves.

The modern term ‘liberal arts’ is a curriculum aimed at developing intellectual abilities, in contrast to a vocational, professional, or technical curriculum. In ancient Greece and Rome (the classical period), the term designated the education appropriate to a freeman as opposed to a slave. In the feudal system of the Middle Ages, education was open only to the privileged few – the equivalent of the classical freeman of Greece and Rome. Education was limited to those who didn’t need to make a living.

The education curriculum consisted of two main divisions. The trivium (“three”) and the quadrivium (“four”). The trivium consisted of three language subjects: “grammar”, “rhetoric” and “dialectic”. The quadrivium consists of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. Let me say more about the trivium of “grammar”, “rhetoric” and “dialectic”.

The classical and medieval meaning of “grammar” was not restricted to the rules of language. “Grammar” consisted of rules as well as literature, for example, poetry and drama.

Rhetoric” is the art of persuading an listeners or readers to feel, think or act a certain way. “Rhetoric” also has the ordinary (non-academic) meaning of “empty words”, “hot air”, as in “He’s all rhetoric and no substance.” “Rhetoric” in this sense is the most trivial of the trivium.

The third component of the trivium was “dialectic”. “Dialectic was another name for logical reasoning, or simply, “logic”. The classical philosophers as well as the Medieval theologians based their intellectual practice on the assumption that all mentally healthy humans are endowed with the same rules of logic: the rules of my mind are the same as the rules of everyone else’s mind. The dialectical method is also called the Socratic method, because it came down to us through Socrates via Plato. (Plato, a pupil of Socrates, preserved and expanded his teacher’s thought in the “Platonic dialogues”).

The Socratic method takes the form of a debate. Participants in the debate explore one another’s positions in a stimulating, rational and illuminating way. The Socratic debate, however, doesn’t merely involve a sharing of ideas. The crux – and the fun -of a dialectic debate involves cutting and thrusting through contrary points of view. Each participant tries to lead the other to contradict himself. You don’t try and prove how clever you are; that only strengthens your opponent’s resolve. Instead, you let your opponent kick the ball into his own scrotum.

Plato, in his “Socratic dialogues”, portrays Socrates asking questions that elicit other questions. Socrates may know the answer, but pretends he doesn’t. In this way, the teacher does not lord himself over his pupil. The art is to cross-examine without making the other person peeved; to weed out without making the other person feel a weed, to uncover contradictions without making the other feel naked.

The Socratic method is not only applicable in the formal teaching situation; it is also applicable – and admirably so – in the home. I may talk till I’m blue in the face to my children about all these wise how-to’s, but what ultimate good does it do if I don’t do it myself. My daughter Beccy has often berated me for rubbishing her views.

The aim of both dialectic and rhetoric is to persuade. But dialectic restricts itself to rational persuasion, whereas “rhetoric” covers all kinds of persuasion such as how to feel and act. “Rhetoric” is often a one-sided matter. Somebody talks and somebody listens. Dialectic, in contrast, aims to persuade through rational discussion, through dialogue, the (objective) truth of a matter.

Although scholasticism developed a poor reputation during and after the Renaissance, scholastic writers had produced useful philosophical ways of explaining Catholic doctrine. Aquinas used the Aristotelian terms of “accidents” and “substance” to explain the most important of Catholic doctrines, the “real presence”, which is called transubstantation. In transubstantiation, the substance of bread and the wine changes into the substance of the body and Spirit of Christ. Although the senses can only detect the “accidents” (taste, texture, smell, sight), the communicant – claims the dogma – is eating the actual flesh and blood of the living Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent expands this belief by stating: “In this sacrament are contained not only the true body of Christ, and all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews, but also Christ whole and entire”. Christ whole and entire is contained not only in the body but also in the blood.

Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae covers almost the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped working on it the year before he died in 1274.

Now, fellow Protestants, don’t give Protestantism a bad name by saying that Aquinas believed that all he had written was straw. He didn’t say that. This is what he said: “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.”

Mary highly-favoured mother of the Son of God

One of the reasons why Mary, the mother of Jesus, has such an exalted position in the Roman Catholic Church is that she is called “Mary full of grace.” Here is an explanation of this term from Catholic Answers:

The Fathers of the Church taught that Mary received a number of distinctive blessings in order to make her a more fitting mother for Christ and the prototypical Christian (follower of Christ). These blessings included her role as the New Eve (corresponding to Christ’s role as the New Adam), her Immaculate Conception, her spiritual motherhood of all Christians, and her Assumption into heaven. These gifts were given to her by God’s grace. She did not earn them, but she possessed them nonetheless.

The key to understanding all these graces is Mary’s role as the New Eve, which the Fathers proclaimed so forcefully. Because she is the New Eve, she, like the New Adam, was born immaculate, just as the First Adam and Eve were created immaculate. Because she is the New Eve, she is mother of the New Humanity (Christians), just as the first Eve was the mother of humanity. And, because she is the New Eve, she shares the fate of the New Adam. Whereas the First Adam and Eve died and went to dust, the New Adam and Eve were lifted up physically into heaven.”

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says:

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her (Mary) and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Jerome translated the Greek charitoō (highly favoured) as “full of grace.” This Vulgate mistranslation of the Greek is one of the buttresses of the Roman Catholic doctrines about Mary such as she was conceived without sin (the Immaculate Conception) and she was taken up bodily (assumed) into Heaven (the Assumption), and several more. 

The question is why would Jerome make such an obvious translation error? The problem was almost certainly not an ignorance of Greek. Was it his compunction – encouraged by other sympathisers – to fill the mother of Jesus with grace, because he confused Jesus the “Son of Man (humanity)” with Jesus the Son of a man (masculine gender). Men can be so stern about things of the heart.

A man knows about courage, truth, strength, wrath, but what does he understand about gentleness, lovingness, virgin purity and affection? That’s the woman’s domain, isn’t it? Mary, the meek, loving, obedient highly favoured woman, pierced by sorrow becomes the Mother of God, “Can we not feel that it must have been so right…a living object of devotion, faith and hope” (F.W. Robertson, 1924. “The Glory of the Virgin Mother” in Sermons on Bible Subjects, p. 224. Everyman’s Library).

When I was a devout Catholic, I used to feel that it was so. I never cared about biblical exegesis. Like most Catholics, I didn’t read the Bible much. There was no need to; the Church said it was so, and that was that. Besides, the mother of Jesus had that feminine touch that no man – not even Jesus – could match. But is this true? The Son of Man was a perfect embodiment of both the masculine and the feminine of humanness. Here is what I consider one of the best descriptions of the Son of Man’s “womanly heart.” It appears in “The Glory of the Virgin Mother” by Frederick W. Robertson (1924. “The Glory of the Virgin Mother” in Sermons on Bible Subjects, p. 224. Everyman’s Library):

Now let us see what is implied in this expression Son of Man. It contains in it the doctrine of the incarnation: it means the full humanity of Christ. Lately I tried to bring out one portion of its meaning. I said that He belonged to no particular age, but to every age. He had not the qualities of one clime or race, but that which is common to all climes and all races. He was not the Son of the Jew, nor the Son of the Oriental-He was the Son of Man. He was not the villager of Bethlehem: nor one whose character and mind were the result of a certain training, peculiar to Judea, or peculiar to that century-but He was the Man. This is what St. Paul insists on, when He says that in Him there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free. A humanity in which there is nothing distinctive, limited, or peculiar, but universal-your nature and mine, the humanity in which we all are brothers, bond or free. Now in that same passage St. Paul uses another very remarkable expression: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female.” That is the other thing implied in His title to the Son of Man. His nature had in it the nature of all nations: but also His heart had in it the blended qualities of both sexes. Our humanity is a whole made up of two opposite poles of character-the manly and the feminine. In the character of Christ neither was found exclusively, but both in perfect balance. He was the Son of Man-the Human Being-perfect Man.”

There was in Him the woman-heart as well as the manly brain-all that was most manly, and all that was most womanly, Remember what He was in life: recollect His stern iron hardness in the temptation of the desert: recollect the calmness that never quailed in all the uproars of the people, the truth that never faltered, the strict severe integrity which characterized the Witness of the Truth: recollect the justice that never gave way to weak feeling-which let the rich young ruler go his way to perish if he would-which paid the tribute-money-which held the balance fair between the persecuted woman and her accuser, but did not suffer itself to be betrayed by sympathy into any feeble tenderness-the justice that rebuked Peter with indignation, and pronounced the doom of Jerusalem unswervingly. Here is one side or pole of human character-surely not the feminine side. Now look at the other. Recollect the twice-recorded tears, which a man would have been ashamed to show, and which are never beautiful in man except when joined with strength like His: and recollect the sympathy craved and yearned for as well as given-the shrinking from solitude in prayer-the trembling of a sorrow unto death-the considerate care which provided bread for the multitude, and said to the tired disciples, as with a sister’s rather than a brother’s thoughtfulness, “Come ye apart into the desert and rest a while.” This is the other side or pole of human character-surely not the masculine.”

When we have learnt and felt what is meant by Divine humanity in Christ, and when we have believed it, not in a one-sided way, but in all its fullness, then we are safe from Mariolatry-because we do not want it: we have the truth which Mariolatry labors to express, and, laboring ignorantly, falls into idolatry. But so long as the male was looked upon as the only type of God, and the masculine virtues as the only glory of His character, so long the truth was yet unrevealed. This was the state of heathenism. And so long as Christ was only felt as the Divine Man, and not the Divine Humanity, so long the world had only a one-sided truth.”

One-half of our nature, the sterner portion of it, only was felt to be of God and in God. The other half, the tenderer and the purer qualities of our souls, were felt as earthly. This was the state of Romanism. from which men tried to escape by Mariolatry. And if men had not learned that this side of our nature too was made divine in Christ, what possible escape was there for them, but to look to the Virgin Mary as the incarnation of the purer and lovelier elements of God’s character, reserving to her Son the sterner and the more masculine ?”

Kissing the pope’s feet gets the boot

Charles Spurgeon quotes from “The Religion of Rome,” which consists of letters published in a Roman Journal, translated from the Italian, by Mr. William Howitt.

“In the seventh century…not only did the popes not have their feet kissed, but they themselves were obliged to kiss those of the emperor. Becoming sovereigns of Rome, they soon began to adopt the same custom. Pope Eugenius II., who died in 827, was the first who made it the law to kiss the papal foot. From that time it was necessary to kneel before the popes. Gregory VII. ordered all princes to submit to this practice.”

In the “Catholic Forum,” under the section “Ask an Apologist,” a trial member asks, “Why do Catholics kiss the pope’s feet?” He/she says: “I’m an adult Christian thinking of converting to Catholicism (RCIA coming soon!). I saw a painting once of some king kissing the pope’s feet. Why would a Catholic do this?

The Catholic apologist answers: “Although never widely done, and usually restricted to subordinate members of the hierarchy (e.g., bishops, cardinals) or Catholic sovereigns, such a gesture was intended to be an acknowledgment of the pope’s authority and his status as the Vicar of Christ. In the case of a Catholic king, kissing the pope’s feet would indicate that the spiritual authority of Christ, as represented by the pope, is infinitely higher than any earthly power wielded by a king. As for the particular gesture of honoring the feet of the man who represents Christ on earth, the gesture does have biblical precedent (cf., John 12:3). These days though, the current Pope likely would gently discourage anyone from trying to kiss his feet.”

“As a side note, there’s a humorous story of an early 20th-century pope who, upon election to the papacy, was approached by the cardinals to be given a ritual sign of their acknowledgment of his authority. By this time the custom was to kiss the pope’s ring. One cardinal, overcome by the moment, fell to his knees and bent to kiss the new pope’s feet. The pope is said to have told him firmly, ‘Don’t make me give your nose a boot.'”

One of the rules of “Ask an apologist” is “You may not post replies,” hence the reason for this post. Here is the biblical precedent that the apologist refers to; John 12:3:Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Compare the above verse with Acts 10:24-26 24:

“24 On the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”

Mary was kissing the LORD’s feet not His represenative’s (vicar’s) feet. The (pre-)precedent that the Catholic Church should have used is Acts 10:24-26. Can it be clearer? To wit, the popes claim to be “Peter” so why not follow his example instead of incorporating this pagan Roman practice?

Here is the entry on kissing feet in the Catholic Encylopedia:

“The veneration shown in the kissing of a person’s hand or the hem of his garment is accentuated in the kissing of the feet. This is probably implied by the phrase of Isaias (49:23): ‘Kings…shall lick up the dust of Thy feet.’ Under the influence, no doubt, of the ceremonial of king-worship, as manifested in the cultus of the Roman emperors, this particular mark of veneration came to prevail at an early date among the usages of the papal court (see Lattey, ‘Ancient King-Worship,’ Lond., 1909 C. T. S. pamhlet). We read of it in the first “Ordo Romanus” belonging to the seventh century, but even earlier than this the “Liber Pontificalis” attests that the Emperor Justin paid this mark of respect to Pope John I (523-26), as later on Justinian II also did to Pope Constantine. At the election of Leo IV (847) the custom of so kissing the pope’s foot was spoken of as an ancient one. It is not, therefore, wonderful that a practice supported by so early a tradition should still be observed. It is observed liturgically in a solemn papal Mass by the Latin and Greek subdeacons, and quasi-liturgically in the “adoration” of the pope by the cardinals after his election. It is also the normal salutation which papal etiquette prescribes for those of the faithful who are presented to the pope in a private audience. In his “De altaris mysterio” (VI, 6) Innocent III explains that this ceremony indicates “the very great reverence due to the Supreme Pontiff as the Vicar of Him whose feet” were kissed by the woman who was a sinner. With regard to the first part, namely, “”The veneration shown in the kissing of a person’s hand or the hem of his garment is accentuated in the kissing of the feet. This is probably implied by the phrase of Isaias (49:23): “Kings…shall lick up the dust of Thy feet.” Whose feet is being kissed? The LORD’s The Catholic encylopedia entry finds support for the practice of kissing feet in the Roman cultus. The last part of the entry was also used by the Catholic Answer’s apologist above: “In his “De altaris mysterio” (VI, 6) Innocent III explains that this ceremony indicates “the very great reverence due to the Supreme Pontiff as the Vicar of Him whose feet” were kissed by the woman who was a sinner.”

As I pointed out; surely, especially for a pope, it is Peter who should be the example to follow. It looks as if modern popes have given kissing popes’ feet the boot, as the Catholic apologist humourously points out in her reply to the aspiring Catholic.

See further discussion on the topic here.

“I am the light” and matters of “immanent” importance in Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity

Religions share many common features such as faith, hope and love, and many other features. For example, certain parts of the Bhagavad Gita, a core Hindu text, resonate well with other religions, as well as with all philosophies, even materialist ones. Here is a verse from the Gita: “One cannot remain without engaging in activity at any time, even for a moment; certainly all living entities are helplessly compelled to action by the qualities endowed by the material nature.” (Chapter 3, verse 5).

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that living creatures can’t help it: they always have to be doing something. But the Gita is saying more than this. It is this frenzied compulsion to action that is the cause of much human misery. All religions agree on this. The first chapter of the King Solomon’s book “Ecclesiastes” (1:1-3) begins: 

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun?”

(Koheleth is Hebrew for “gatherer”, “assembler”. Koheleth is the Hebrew name of the book of Ecclesiastes).

There are other verses in the Gita that resonate with the Bible. 

From the Gita: “But if a man will meditate on Me and Me alone, and will worship Me always and everywhere, I will take upon Myself the fulfilment of his aspiration, and I will safeguard whatsoever he shall attain. (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17). 

From the Bible: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me….. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy might remain in you and your joy might be full” (John 15:4-11).

The Gita says: “I am the source of all; from Me everything flows,” and “Of all the creative Powers I am the Creator…” (Ch. 10, The Divine Manifestations). The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospel say similar things to the Gita. There is, however, much chalk in the Gita that clashes with the cheese of the Bible. One overarching difference is the nature of the divine being. Here is just one verse that shows the difference:

Know that among horses I am Pegasus, the heaven-born; among the lordly elephants I am the White one, and I am the Ruler among men.” (Ch. 10 “Divine Manifestations”). Who is this “I am”, this individual consciousness? It is my Self, THE Self, Ultimate Consciousness. The “divine manifestations” pervade everything; including the “Wondering Jew”: the story of one of the infinite manifestations of THE Self. (See my “Thomas Merton’s “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”: All roads, including to Rome, lead Home.”

Thomas Merton

In the Gita, Krishna says he’s the light; and in the Gospel of John, Jesus says the same. Is the Hindu (or opponent of Christianity) justified, therefore, in arguing (based on this aforementioned similarity or other similarities between Hinduism and Christianity) that owing to the fact that Hinduism is much older than Christianity, Christianity must be a pastiche of Hinduism? Of course not. All beings who claim divine attributes claim similar attributes, because these attributes are common knowledge to homo religiosus. Besides, what is more natural that an aspirant god or God Himself should call himself “the light,” “the way,” “the life.” It is true that the Hebrew or Christian divine being would not, as the Hindu divine being does, say that he is the light of the moon and stars as well. Compare:

Psalm 36:9b – “In your light we see light.”

Jesus – “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Krishna – “I am the light in the sun and the moon, far, far beyond the darkness. I am the brilliancy in flame, the radiance in all that’s radiant, and the light of lights.”

Say that Krishna really did say this above (as recorded in the Bhagavad Gita) centuries before Jesus’ similar saying, the difference is that Jesus is talking metaphorically, namely, He is talking about spiritual light not physical light. Hindu divinity inhabits moon, stars, and elephants in a pantheistic way, that is, the divine spirit is not distinct from his creation. In Hinduism, “Lord Brahma is the first member of the Brahmanical triad, Vishnu being the second and Shiva, the third. Brahma is the god of creation and he is traditionally accepted as the Creator of the entire universe.…Man’s subtle body is responsible for the creation of his gross body and also the world that he experiences.”

In Judaism and Islam, God both transcends his creation (he created something out of nothing, ex nihilo, and is also immanent in creation in the sense that he sustains it as well(equivalent to the Hindu Shiva):

  Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the LORD.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah, 23:24)

Let us now consider briefly the matter of “immanence” (God immersed in his creation) in the three relifgions of our discussio:

The Jew argues that the Christian God is unlike the Jewish God. In that regard, he quotes Numbers 23:19:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?

From “God is not a man,” or/and “God is not a son of man,” Jewish critics derive the following conclusion:

Major premise: God is not a man.

Minor premise: Jesus is a man/a son of man

Conclusion: Therefore Jesus is not God.

There is logic and there is truth. Logic has to do with how we think (reasoning), not with what we think (about truth/reality), where what deals with truth The conclusion to the above syllogism, therefore, is valid because if the major premise were true (we know that the minor premise is true, namely that Jesus was a man), then it logically follows that the conclusion must be valid, namely that Jesus is not God.

The second Jewish objection is that God does not lie. The Jew accuses the Christian of saying God lied to Jews when He said that His commandments to them were eternally binding (ex.: Ex. 31:17, Lev. 10:9, Deut. 5:29). The Jew argues that if Jesus “fulfilled” or “completed” the Law, God would had to have been lying “through His teeth (as another biting Jew – Frank – put it) when He wrote the Jewish Bible.”

God is not man” and “God does not lie” are, of course, two snippets from Numbers 23:19. Here is the unmutilated verse again:

God is not a man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?

On several occasions, I’ve responded to my Jewish kith that the conjunction which connects 1. “God is not man,” to 2. “he should lie” in such away that all God is saying is that whereas man is (by nature) a liar, God is not. Numbers 23;19 has nothing to do with the nature of God’s being, namely, whether he has a divine or a human nature, or both. (Later, of course, the New Testament does describe Jesus as fully God and fully man). Therefore, it’s illegitimate to chop the verse into two chunks and present them as two separate arguments. (See my Raphael and Picasso pay attention: God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19) and Milking the teats off the text: the rabbinical interpretation of Numbers 23:19).

The grammar and the historical context make it clear that God is not trying to prove that He does not have a body, that no “part” of Him is matter. God is merely saying –  contra Judaeorum – that men (all men) and women (all women) lie and go back on their commitments, which is why human beings are not like God – why they need a Saviour. The New Testament reveals that the Saviour , the Son of God, took on flesh (John 1). THIS is where the Christian God differs from the Jewish God. What is important is that God incarnate is both fully God and fully man. Well, some may ask – and this is where Hinduism comes into the picture again – what’s the difference between the pantheistic Hindu divine being and the Christian divine being, for both are identified with their creation? Biblical theology teaches that Christ has two natures – human and divine – in one person. It is Christ’s human nature – his flesh – that is part of creation. This dual-nature doctrine is naturally preposterous to the Jew, the Muslim as well as many Christians. I leave this supernatural matter there for now.


Pope John XXIII and the “crucifixion” of the Jew

PORTRAIT OF JOHN XXIII Español: IMAGEN DE JUAN...

JOHN XXIII

Rabbi Moshe Weiss writes: “During the years of my business life and before returning to a spiritual life, I was very impressed by the statements of John XXIII particularly his asking forgiveness of Jesus for crucifying him twice the second time being the persecution of his Jewish co-religionists.”

For most religious Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus was a non-event: it didn’t happen (because they regard the Jesus of the New Testament a figment), or if he was crucified, it is of no religious/spiritual import. (Rabbi Weiss is not one of these Jews).

A “traditional” Catholic website relates: Just before his death, John XXIII composed the following prayer for the Jews. This prayer was confirmed by the Vatican as being the work of John XXIII.(73) “We realize today how blind we have been throughout the centuries and how we did not appreciate the beauty of the Chosen People nor the features of our favored brothers. We are aware of the divine mark of Cain placed upon our forehead. In the course of centuries our brother, Abel, has been lying bleeding and in tears on the ground through our fault, only because we had forgotten thy love. Forgive us our unjustified condemnation of the Jews. Forgive us that by crucifying them we have crucified You for the second time. Forgive us. We did not know what we were doing.” Catholic magazine The Reign of Mary, “John XXIII and the Jews,” Spring, 1986, p. 11.

Besides the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus is a unique unrepeatable event, it is wrong for the pope to identify Jesus, in any way, with those who rejected him and continue to do so to this day, even when Jesus was also a Jew. Although it is right that not every Jew should be blamed for the crucifixion, it would not be right to say that some Jews were not responsible for it. And it would also be wrong for a Christian to call the Jew – or any one who does not believe that the Son of God came in the flesh to die for sinners – his spiritual brother. Would a Jew, a religious Jew call a Christian his spiritual brother? Of course not, for the reason that it is the crucifixion of Jesus and its implications that divide the Jew from the Christian (and from a Hebrew Christian like me).

With regard to Christ’s sacrifice, this time unrelated to the Jewish Holocaust, is it ever possible that Jesus could be crucified again. The ESV translation of the Greek in Hebrews 6:6 seems to indicate so.

[4]… it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV).

The problem lies with the ESV (English Standard Version translation). Here are two other translations that do a slightly better job.

(King James Version)

6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh (King James Version)

Young’s literal translation (also has “to themselves”)

6 and having fallen away, again to renew [them] to reformation, having crucified again to themselves the Son of God.

The two above translations are literal renditions of the Greek ἑαυτοῦ heautou “to themselves.” Surely, “to themselves” could only mean “it is as if they were crucifying the Son of God afresh,” for it is certain that Christ cannot really be crucified a second time, although Pope John XXIII seems to think so in his strange apology to the Jews. Yet it is not only popes who go astray. Here is Barnes (from his notes on the Bible)

“They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh – Our translators have rendered this as if the Greek were – ἀνασταυροῦντας πάλιν anastaurountas palin - “crucify again,” and so it is rendered by Chrysostom, by Tyndale, Coverdale, Beza, Luther, and others. But this is not properly the meaning of the Greek. The word ἀνασταυρόω anastauroō – is an “intensive” word, and is employed instead of the usual word “to crucify” only to denote “emphasis.” It means that such an act of apostasy would be equivalent to crucifying him in an aggravated manner. Of course this is to be taken “figuratively.” It could not be literally true that they would thus crucify the Redeemer. The meaning is, that their conduct would be “as if” they had crucified him; it would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outpeers any other deed of human guilt. Yet the apostle says that should they who had been true Christians fall away and reject him, they would be guilty of a similar crime. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there they would have joined in the cry “crucify him, crucify him.”

I say something, briefly, about the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass. If the Mass is a  sacrifice then surely there must be a death, the death of Christ every time a priest says “ For this is my body…” (Hoc est corpus enim meum), for the Roman Catholic Church clearly states that the Mass is a real sacrifice, and not a mere representation. The Catholic response will be that I don’t understand – the relationship between time and eternity. I have discussed this whopper elsewhere.

Plenary Indulgences and the Plenitude of God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

In the late Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church fully accepted the Augustinian (second council of Orange) view that salvation is totally of the Lord, that is, God draws sinners, preserves them and grants them eternal life, as we read in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe. Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. Now this is the will of the one who sent me – that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” ( John 6:35-40).

So, in spite of the theoretical acceptance of the Augustinian/Johannine monergistic view of salvation – where faith is the result and not the cause of regeneration – in reality, however, the Roman Catholic Church taught the opposite: sacraments, indulgences, penance, purgatory, pilgrimages.  All these are human efforts to assure one’s salvation, a merit, a works salvation. So, what is different today? Nothing in substance; today we have Plenary indulgences for such occasions as the Bi-millenium of St Paul and the World Meeting of Families and Sydney World Youth day.

If you had attended this Youth day in Sydney officiated by Pope Benedict and if you had died during or immediately after the meeting (having had no time to sin in thought or deed), you would have been granted a plenary indulgence and so have circumvented purgatory, whether one or one million years or more of it.

In “Santa and the Christmas Spirit: A Jew sneaks a peak into a Catholic Church,” I described Dan Goldberg’s fascination with the Catholic Mass.

What if Dan Goldberg also happened to attend World Youth Day In 1988 at the Sydney showgrounds where he was told that he was granted a plenary indulgence, that is, he would go straight to heaven without suffering in purgatory, purely for rocking up at the event in a spirit of pilgrimage? Wouldn’t that have made Dan, or any other non-Catholic, think at least twice about “crossing the Tiber” (to Rome).

Here is the reference to World Youth Day:

VATICAN CITY, 5 JUL 2008 (VIS) – According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence to faithful who “gather at Sydney, Australia, in the spirit of pilgrimage” to participate in celebrations for 23rd World Youth Day, and Partial Indulgence to “all those who, wherever they are, will pray for the spiritual goals of this meeting and for its happy outcome”.

One of the reasons I left the Roman Catholic Church was this idea – purgatory itself was bad enough – of plenary indulgences.

Is the Catholic Mass the Final Sacrifice? A Whopping Question

 The Catholic Forum mentions the following as an ”anti-Catholic whopper.”

 ”Catholics re-sacrifice Christ at every Mass because we don’t understand that His death on the cross was the FINAL sacrifice.”

In the above statement, is the argument that 1. Catholics don’t believe that Christ is sacrificed at every Mass or 2. Catholics do believe that Christ is sacrificed at every Mass but that this does not imply that Christ’s death on the cross was not the ”final sacrifice?”

The second argument seems strange. It seems to me that only the first argument is plausible. So, I shall focus on this one. In The Constant Thirst and Constant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa, I examined Mother Teresa’s belief that Jesus Christ in heaven is constantly “thirsting for souls?” In that post I linked the “constant thirst” idea to the constant sacrifice of the Mass. In Roman Catholic theology – perhaps, philosophy is a more appropriate term – the sacrifice is never over.

 According to Roman Catholicism, Christ was not sacrificed once and for all, but is sacrificed constantly – in the Mass. From this idea it’s no big leap to imagine that every time Christ is “offered” as a sacrifice in the Mass, He also thirsts (for souls) as he did at His crucifixion.

The term “constant” is from Pope John Paul II. In his teaching of the sacrifice of the Mass, Pope John Paul II writes:

. . . the Church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually (my italics) draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly (my italics) “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1995, p. 139). The underlined section is the Pope’s rendition of Hebrews 9:12.).

The Pope’s “constantly enters” resonates with the Council of Trent’s declaration that the Mass is not merely a “re-enactment”, but a real propitiatory sacrifice, which is repeated at every consecration of the wafer and the wine.

“And for as much as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.”

Here is one Catholic’s depiction of “the agony of Our Lord in each Holy Mass.”

As is (intentionally?) made clear, it’s hard not to make the propitiary sacrifice of the Mass unbloody, which the Council of Trent stipulates is an unbloody sacrifice, for surely ”sacrifice” implies blood – real, not mystical, blood.

The first part of John Paul’s statement – “continually draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice” – does not conflict with the Bible. However, just because the Church “continually draws upon the…sacrifice” this does not mean that Jesus Christ is constantly sacrificed.

After quoting what he says is Hebrews 9:12, the Pope ends with “(cf. Heb 9:12).” “Cf’” means see/refer to/compare Hebrews 9:12. Let’s do so. Here is the complete verse of Hebrews 9:12 from the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible translation (I underline the part of the verse that the Pope has asked us to compare with his):

Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis).

Here is the Pope’s rendition: Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantlyenters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12).

John Paul replaces ‘entered once’ with ‘enters, and ends up with:

(Jesus) constantly ‘enters entered once into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption’ (cf. Heb 9:12).’” John Paul changed “entered” to “enters,” to fit in with his “constantly.” Whether a Pope is interpreting ex cathedra (that is, by infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit) or in his personal capacity, the practical effect on many devout Roman Catholics is the same. But, for sure, John Paul is indeed speaking ex cathedra, and merely reiterating the Council of Trent on the issue.

And for as much as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.”

The question is: Was Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice (that is, the punishment sinners deserve is borne by Christ to satisfy/propitiate the Father’s wrath) a unique first-and-final sacrifice? If scripture is anything to go by, the answer is a whopping yes.

If Christ is constantly sacrificed (for souls), it’s no big leap to imagine that He is constantly thirsting (for souls), as Mother Teresa believed. As I argued here Christ is not constantly thirsting, that is, suffering with thirst, for souls. Neither does a propitiatory sacrifice occur every time the priest utters hoc est enim corpus meam “for this is my body.” The Council of Trent says otherwise; and that settles it for Roman Catholics – God on earth has spoken

Although I do not agree with the Catholic view that the breaking of the bread depicts the breaking of Jesus’ physical body (I stand with Calvin here), I do agree with the Catholic that ‘it was broken in pain, in anguish and distress of heart, under the weight of the indignation and wrath of God, which He sustained in bearing our sins.’ The wine signifies ‘that His Blood was severed from His flesh’ and it ‘tells you that He died for you, that His Blood was shed for you.”(My emphasis). (Quotes from Robert Bruce – Sermons on the Lord’s Supper).

‘You” in the last sentence refers to those whom God (in His mercy) appoints to salvation:

Acts 13
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Robert Bruce says: ”We utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm Sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs…”

And he affirms that

”in the Supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls.”

There is mystery here, as there is in so many of Christ teachings. For those Protestants (followers of the Zwinglian tradition), there is no mystery in the Lord’s supper, for they hold the ”elemental” view that the Lord’s Supper (”communion”) is nothing more than a remembrance; hence their use of the term ”elements” to refer to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. For Calvin – if not many modern Calvinists – the bread and the wine (the signifiers – to use Robert Bruce’s term) – becomes in a mysterious sense (that is, we only have very partial knowledge) the Body and Blood of the Lord (the signified).


Pope Benedict’s retake of “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)

See also Psalm 25 – Judge me, O Lady, for I have departed from my innocence: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

Pope Benedict writes in his latest book (2011) “Jesus of Nazareth II”:

When in Matthew’s account the “whole people” say: “his blood be on us and on our children” (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. … Read in the light of faith, [Matthew's reference to Jesus' blood] means that we all stand in the need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.

Benedict’s reflections, writes Matt Reynolds in “Christianity Today” follow in the tradition of Nostra Aetate (“Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”). In this Second Vatican Council document, Pope Paul VI declared that, while “the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ,” the crucifixion “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” The Jews, Paul VI wrote, “should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.” The declaration “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

With regard to Benedict’s paragraph above, Reynold says: “Like Benedict’s book, Nostra Aetate firmly places Jesus’ death in the context of his messianic mission, proclaiming that ‘Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation.’”

Although it is true that “Christ underwent His passion freely” out of love, it does not follow that if God had ordained the “passion” that men were not responsible for it; as we read in Matthew:

[20] When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. [21] And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” [22] And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” [23] He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. [24] The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” [25] Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:20-25 ESV).

There are several other texts that illustrate this point, for example, the incident with Joseph and his brothers:

“[15] When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” [16] So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, [17] ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. [18] His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” [19] But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? [20] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:15-20 ESV).

To return to the pope’s commentary on “let his blood be on us and how children,” here is the text in context:

[21] The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” [22] Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” [23] And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” [24] So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” [25] And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” [26] Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified (Matthew 27:21-26 ESV).

The pope has totally distorted the meaning. His take has nothing to do with biblical truth, something to do with sophistry, and everything, in my view, to do with politics.

Rhetoric” teaches how to use language for persuasive effect. Persuasion is important, but back of it should not only be a sound knowledge of how language is used, but the integrity to not do a humpty dumpty.

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all” (Through the Looking Glass).

There is also the more serious issue of the Roman Catholic Church’s (RCC) claim to be the infallible interpreter of scripture. Not only has Benedict dumped on to his sheep a distorted interpretation of Matthew 27:25 above, but he has contradicted the traditional interpretation held by the popes before Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate. What other reinterpretations are on the cards?

Related posts

 Psalm 25 – Judge me, O Lady, for I have departed from my innocence: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

 Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate).

Thomas Merton’s “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”: All roads, including to Rome, lead Home

I was speaking to a Christian who does Yoga – I’ll call the person C.Y. He says he only does the physical part, the Hatha part. Hatha Yoga is purification of the body, and so its focus is on exercises and breathing, which are intended as the preparatory stage for meditation. “Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit. Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.”

C.Y. said that he doesn’t go into the spiritual side of Yoga – that side is reserved for Jesus. Having practised Hatha Yoga and meditation myself as a young man, I remarked: “When you do the breathing exercises, you feel very relaxed and at peace.” “Yes, he said beaming, and I find that this peace is a great opportunity to witness to my non-Christian Yoga friends. I tell them that the peace they feel, they can have it more deeply if they knew Jesus.”

The fact is that the Yoga breathing exercises are not merely physical. C.Y. proved it with his claim to find through these breathing exercises the door to inner peace. I can see why C.Y. fell for this deception. After all, didn’t the Lord Jesus say much about peace. I don’t, however, believe that Yoga peace and Christian peace are compatible, because the peace found through Yoga creates the conviction that the answer to life’s problems is all about finding peace, which is not the Christian message at all. The Christian Gospel is about sin, repentance and Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice who pays the penalty for the believer’s sin. Christianity is about becoming a child of God, a God who is distinct from His creatures. Christianity does not teach that “we share a common Self, and that inner peace and Love are in fact all that are real…” (Gerald Jampolsky). From personal experience, I know that when you do Hatha Yoga (you don’t have to go into any deeper kind of Yoga), you have the experience of sharing a common Self (with a capital S) – a deceptive form of “The Kingdom of heaven is within you.” But then, many Yoga practitioners will tell you a similar story. And this search for inner peace is the force that drives so many, including many Jews,among them many young Israelis who “leave the army and go to India looking for wisdom, so that they can make sense of the spiritual world.”

Where there is peace, there is love; and love and peace are believed by many to be the goal. One cannot, the gurus say, achieve peace nd love without a transformation of conscioussness.  This transformation of consciousness is the foundation of Eastern thought systems such as Buddhism and Yoga, which has become a key ingredient in Western psychotherapy. “Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit. Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.” The ultimate aim of this transformation of consciousness is, in the Jewish psychiatrist’s words, is a “search for a better way of going through life that is producing a new awareness and a change of consciousness. It is like a spiritual flood that is about to cleanse the earth. This transformation of consciousness is prompting us to look inward, and as we explore our inner spaces, we recognize the harmony and at-one-ment that has ALWAYS (Jampolsky’s emphasis) been there. As we look inward we also become aware of an inner intuitive voice which provides a reliable source of guidance…listen to the inner voice and surrender to it…In this silence…we can experience the joy of peace in our lives” (p. 11. my underlining).

I now elaborate on the mystical strivings of Eastern thought and it’s influence on Christianity with  specific reference to the “Catholic Buddhist,” Thomas Merton, who has had a massive influence on “universalist” thought in Catholicism. By “universalist” I mean “all paths, including Rome, lead Home.” In the 1940-60s,  many Catholics joined monastic orders under Merton’s influence.

In the previous post, I examined the Catholic Carlo Carretto’s mystical musings on universal love. In what he calls his “mystical” communion with God, Carretto says, “love and all becomes logical, easy and true.” (Carlo Carretto, “I sought and I found, 1985, Orbis Books, 1985, p. 64). Carretto describes his visit to the “the temple of Kamakura, some hundred kilometres from Tokyo. It was a marvellous morning. And for the Japanese it was the day the birth of life was celebrated. Prospective bridegrooms were escorting their brides-to-be before the great Buddha…I was enchanted by all this beauty, and by such throngs of people at prayer…such vitality, such hope. Look how many ‘are finding’…How many have found! See how they love one another! See how they hope! Don’t be afraid! God is the living one!”

Religions share many common features such as faith, hope and love, and many other features. For example, certain parts of the Bhagavad Gita, a core Hindu text, resonate well with other religions, as well as with all philosophies, even materialist ones. Here is a verse from the Gita:  “One cannot remain without engaging in activity at any time, even for a moment; certainly all living entities are helplessly compelled to action by the qualities endowed by the material nature.” (Chapter 3, verse 5).

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that living creatures can’t help it: they always have to be doing something. But, the Gita is saying more than this. It is this frenzied compulsion to action that is the cause of much human misery. All religions agree on this. The first chapter of the King Solomon’s book “Ecclesiastes”  (1:1-3) begins:

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun?”

(Koheleth is Hebrew for “gatherer”, “assembler”. Koheleth is the Hebrew name of the book of Ecclesiastes).

There are other verses in the Gita that resonate with the Bible.

From the Gita: “But if a man will meditate on Me and Me alone, and will worship Me always and everywhere, I will take upon Myself the fulfilment of his aspiration, and I will safeguard whatsoever he shall attain. (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17).

From the Bible:  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me….. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy might remain in you and your joy might be full” (John 15:4-11).

The Gita says: “I am the source of all; from Me everything flows,” and  “Of all the creative Powers I am the Creator…” (Ch. 10, The Divine Manifestations). The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospel say similar things to the Gita. There is, however, much chalk in the Gita that clashes with the cheese of the Bible. One overarching  difference is the nature of the divine being. Here is just one verse that shows the difference:

Know that among horses I am Pegasus, the heaven-born; among the lordly elephants I am the White one, and I am the Ruler among men.” (Ch. 10 “Divine Manifestations”). Who is this “I am”, this individual consciousness? It is my Self, THE Self, Ultimate Consciousness. The “divine manifestations” pervade everything.

When I was a devout Catholic, I read the great Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. I was still wet behind the mystical ears, and had no idea that you could be a good Catholic and a good Buddhist at the same time. According to Thomas Merton, Buddhism and Catholicism are two sides of the same same Koinona (communion); they participate, according to Merton, in the same communion of divine fellowship where each is a different door to God, human solidarity and brotherhood. Yet, Christ said: “Truly, truly (that is, I am telling you the absolute truth), I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” ” If Merton’s – and Carretto’s – universalism is right, then surely this must mean that Christ is wrong.

Merton’s classic work is his autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” (1948). The title of the book refers to the mountain of Purgatory in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. When young, Merton was exposed to nominal protestant Christianity.  Like many others, he found little satisfaction in academic study and political commitment. In 1938, at the age of 23, he had a dramatic conversion experience, and found his ultimate truth in Roman Catholicism.

Merton’s struggles of the flesh and his eventual conversion, related in “The Seven Storey Mountain,” have been compared to the “Confessions” of St Augustine. Whereas Augustine kept on stressing how depraved he was, he doesn’t provide any salacious detail. Merton, in contrast, did go into some detail. His superiors of the monastery would not permit publication of “The Seven Storey Mountain,” (1947) until he had lopped off the bawdy bits.

I had converted to Catholicism at the age of 19, in 1960, in my second year at the University of Cape Town. Contrary to Merton, I found great satisfaction in academic study. It was the brilliance of Thomas Aquinas, the lucidity of French Catholic writers like Etienne Gilson and Gabriel Marcel, and the apologetic aplomb of Bishop Fulton Sheen that compelled me to bow the intellectual knee and acquiesce to Rome.

Soon after publication of The Seven Storey Mountain, the book had a great influence on vocations to the priesthood and to the monastic life. Many of those entering the religious life arrived with a copy of The Seven Storey Mountain tucked in their suitcase. Together with their Bibles? Albert Nolan, the well-known South African Dominican priest, was greatly influenced by Thomas Merton to enter the religious life. Albert entered the Stellenbosch priory in the early 1960s. I encountered his gaunt radiance often when I stayed at the priory.

When I read Merton’s story in the early 1960s I also got caught up in the majestic sweep of the book’s all-encompassing spirituality. I went on frequent visits to the Dominican priory in Stellenbosch, and spent weekends and even part of the university holidays living the life of an honorary monk.

Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemani  as a trappist  monk in 1941. Over the next 20 years he wrote on a wide range of topics from contemplative prayer to economic injustice. He was one of the first Catholics to not only commend Eastern mysticism but to absorb Eastern philosophy and practices into Catholicism. What made Merton so attractive was his universalism. He embodied the glorious quest for unity and compassion among men.  If he were alive today, he would have been, as was Mother Teresa, a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. And like Mother Teresa, won it.

Some of the things that Merton said make it very difficult to understand how he can reconcile his Catholicism with Buddhism. Merton wants to be both a Buddhist and a Catholic. He says: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” “And not only now and zen”, as Issy, my father, would have said – if the penchant had arisen to become a Buddhist; a Jewish Buddhist; “Jubu.”

Was Merton, a Catholic Buddhist or a Buddhist Catholic? Without doubt, he wanted to be both a good Catholic and a good Buddhist. But what mattered most to Merton was to become a saint . “Saint” and “holy” connote the same idea. “Saint” comes from the French “saint” through Latin sanctus;  “holy” comes from the Germanic halig, heilig.  Merton wanted to become a saint more than anything. The problem, he recognized, was that if you try to become a saint, the trying itself disqualifies you. If I want to be a saint,  I musn’t try to be one. If I see myself becoming holy, I must hide it; not only from the world, but from myself. It is hard to square the idea of “not trying” with the Catholic and Buddhist notion of works of purification; of climbing the ladder of perfection, of purification – in short, the ladder of sainthood. Not is there only the unbiblical problem of works as a condition of salvation, but there is also the hard job of trying to keep the works for God’s eyes only.

The Biblical view is that if you thirst for holiness, it is because God gave you that thirst. The natural man hates God and, therefore, is totally unable to love the things of God. Man’s nature is to love himself and to hate God. Is there anything that the natural man hates more than God, and will fill him with fury? I think there is: he hates more than anything to be told that he hates God. It’s not only natural man that hates to be told that he is dead – totally dead – to the things of God. Many Christians also block their ears and fume at the “blasphemous” idea that in Christian salvation, there are no ladders to climb or even little fingers to wiggle.  All flee from God; unless He calls:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest !

(“The Hound of heaven” – Francis Thompson)

Christ gives the believer a new nature, a holy nature. There are two parts to becoming holy (sanctification). I have mentioned the first part. The second is that we grow in holiness. That is what the Bible means by “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). This does not mean that we must now try to finish the job that God “merely” kick-started. Much effort and suffering is often involved: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Don’t, however, forget to read the next the word in the sentence “for” , and see what it is there for: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” It is God who works in his children, through his children. In the Bible, I don’t see any striving, any travailing, any climbing of ladders of perfection, any ascetic purifications in pursuit of God. But then I’m a sola scriptura (ok, solo scriptura if you’re a Catholic and also like jokes) man.

Does Rome hold the keys to the Holy Spirit?

Does the Holy Spirit come through Rome?

When I was a Catholic, I – like many other Catholics I knew – didn’t like to be called “Roman Catholics” because for us there was only one catholic (= universal) faith, which was the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The fact that its centre was in Rome (the Vatican), presided over by the Bishop of Rome, was incidental. Yet Pope Pius XII stressed the point that the Catholic Church was the Roman Catholic Church:

To describe this true Church of Christ – which is the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church – there is no name more noble, none more excellent, none more Divine, than the expression, ‘the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ’” (Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 4th ed. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1960, p. 270, ). (See Keith Mathison, “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch”).

The epithet “holy” in the pope’s “Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church” appears first for the sound reason that holiness is the most important quality in the “mystical body of Christ” (the pope above), which is the Church. In the Bible, “holy” and “spirit” meet in a person, the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Roman Catholic Church does not only claim to be guided, infallibly guided, by the Holy Spirit, but also to hold the keys to the Holy Spirit’s life and power. Here is the contrasting Protestant view, which I hold:

I ask you then to remark carefully, says Gilbert Ryle, that whatever individual Christians have, are, and enjoy, in contradistinction to the worldly and unconverted, they owe to the agency of God the Holy Spirit. By Him they are first called, quickened, and made alive. By Him they are born again, and made new creatures. By Him they are convinced of sin, guided into all truth and led to Christ. By Him they are sealed unto the day of redemption. He dwells in them as His living temples. He witnesses with their spirits—gives them the spirit of adoption, makes them to cry ‘Abba Father’, and makes intercession for them. By Him they are sanctified. By Him the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. Through His power they abound in hope. Through Him they wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Through Him they mortify the deeds of their bodies. After Him they walk. In Him they live. In a word, all that believers have from grace to glory—all that they are from the first moment they believe to the day they depart to be with Christ—all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Spirit.”


See John 6:63; 3:8; 16:9, 10; Eph. 4:30; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:15, 16, 26; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 5:5; 15:13; Gal. 5:5, 25; Rom. 8:1, 13.)

When Ryle says “all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Spirit,” this, of course, does not mean that the Father and the Son do not play a significant role in the plan of salvation.

Hans Herzl (3): Catholicism, liberal Judaism and death

This is a follow-on from two earlier pieces on Hans Herzl – Hans (1) and Hans (2). I discuss Hans’ involvement with Christianity and liberal Judaism, his death and final burial on Mt Herzl.

Matt at the Roshpinaproject (RPP – a Messianic Jewish site) expressed a common Jewish view of Jews who convert to Christianity: “Most Jewish converts to Christianity who claim any orthodox background are very fishy (they claim they grew up “conservadox”, or that their parents were orthodox).” And Bubby also at the Roshpinaproject, who told me – a convert to Christianity – that she suspected that “you never had the opportunity to find out the truth about Judaism and Torah so you feel like an outcast and you are angry and hostile.” I was a bit hostile in some of my comments on RPP but not because I felt a Jewish outcast. The reason for my hostility was that Bubby and other Jewish comments at the Roshpinaproject stressed that it was tragic that a Jew would give up his Jewish soul (neshamos) for the worship of the “man” Jesus. I kept on and on stressing – and stressing out; yes, that’s what it was, and not hostility – that what ultimately matters to me was Christ in me. Contrary to Hans, I had a thorough Jewish upbringing in my early childhood – from the age of 3-4 to 9, which was spent in a Jewish orphanage. (I wrote about the Orphanage years here).

Earlier, I examined the life of Theodor Herzl for whom Zionism was purely a political movement. Whereas Theodor Herzl’s struggle, was political, his son’s struggle was social and ethical Contrary to the brilliant atheistic minds of modern times, Hans believed that ethics proved God. His interest transcended Zionism and Judaism. If God was universal, he reasoned, then He must be God for all mankind, a universal God. For this reason, Hans did not believe in a historical Messiah. What was important was not the historical but the ethical. The ethical teachings of Christ could, then become, Hans said, the basis for the creation of a World-Church, which would subsume Christianity and Judaism. For Hans, the ethical teachings of Jesus were in complete harmony with Judaism.

Of course, Hans said, there is a precondition: by giving up the outdated dogma of the historical Messiah, the Synagogue would become a constituent member of the World-Church, and the unification of the human family would be completed by the inclusion of the Jews. Then the ethical content of Judaism could attain its fullest development, and renew national “Christianity” from within. This is how I see the Jewish mission, and Jewish nationalism: a Christian Theocracy of Jewish faith… I am a Christian – but in the spirit of the apostle Paul, in whom Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of One God… Don’t you see that the New Testament is only a continuation of the Old, just as the teachings of Jesus are but a continuation of the Ten Commandments?” (Hans to Marcel Sternberger).

Between the ages of 26 (1917) and his suicide aged 39 (1930), Hans searched for an answer to the Jewish ethical and political problems. He studied Zionism but found it inadequate. He believed that the Jewish question would never be solved unless the Jews united with Christians in seeking a universal solution for humanity. If Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of the One God, as Hans claimed, where would one look for an institution that embodied universal brotherhood (see Hans Herzl (1): The World-Church and Unification of the Human family). In the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps. But before, Hans flirted with the Roman Catholic Church, he became a Baptist for a while. After he left the Roman Catholic Church he tried various other denominations. I focus on Hans’ sojourn in the Roman Catholic Church not only because I belonged to that church for more than two decades but also because it is the church that is the most universal (“catholic”) of all the other Christian denominations – and that was what Hans was looking for: a “universal” movement.

The (Roman Catholic) Church’s main tenet, writes Abraham Coralnik, is a spiritual authority that unites peoples and nations into a universal unity, with one sole center – Rome. This is Catholicism’s eternal dream. This is what has strongly attracted romantics and people with imagination, from Dante to Cardinal Newman…One can well imagine how a man like Hans Herzl came to embrace Catholicism. Just because he was a Herzl, just because he was an “orphan of Zionism,” as it were, an orphan of the Jewish people, he felt perhaps more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution. What meaning did Judaism have for him? What did he know about it? In his father’s house, he heard talk of a Juden Staat, a state to be build with old crumbling material” (Reflections on Jewish Civiliation (Across the Great Divide Series: The Selected Essays of Abraham Coralnik, Vol I, p. 130). Coralnik’s “old crumbling material” refers to Herzl’s political foundations contrasted with the solid foundations of Judaism.

Coralnik’s “orphan of Zionism” seems to allude to the fact that Hans and his sisters were left orphans after the death of their parents:  “…the founder of Zionism spent his life fighting for a home for his people. His orphaned children spent their lives searching for a home of their own” (David Zax; see “The fall and the fall of the Herzl Dynasty (1): The clouds open.” If Coralnik means by “orphan” the fact that Hans lost his parents at a young age, I don’t see how that relates to Coralnik’s description that “he (Hans) felt perhaps (italics added) more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution.” Coralnik’s “perhaps” indicates that he is only surmising that Hans’ orphan status had any direct bearing on Hans’ – very real – conflict between religious and political Judaism. But even such a suggestion is not warranted because a (Jewish) orphan may choose to become an orthodox Jew or an assimilated Jew, without the conflicts that did actually occur in his life influencing such a decision.

The Roman Catholic Church was nothing like Hans envisioned it. He was perhaps deceived by the name catholic “universal.” If, however, if he was living after Vatican II, especially during John Paul II’s reign he would have felt much more at home. The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

(Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965)

The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate 2). (See Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate and Universalism and the Mystical Desertion of the Gospel.

And Pope Paul II wanted to do tshuva (prayer of repentance). Rabbi Blech relates that Pope John Paul II’s favourite teachers at Acting School were Jews. The Pope described how the Nazis shot his Jewish teachers in front of his eyes. “This (Rabbi Blech relates) changed his whole perception. He said we have to go to the Kotel [wailing wall] to do tshuva”, he used the Jewish word tshuva. (Blech addressing his audience) [You say it] can’t be because he is a goy. Goyim can change.” (See Rabbis, “evangelicals” and Messianic Jews of Maozisrael

, ostensibly, also thought so – that goyim can change. According to the majority modern Jewish view of Isaiah 53, the following words emanate not from the Messiah but from the repentant mouths of the goyim:

Isaiah 53:8b

For he (the Jewish people) was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people (the goyim) he (the Jewish people) was stricken.”

Here is the prevalent rabbinic opinion of Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53 contains a deeply moving narrative which world leaders will cry aloud in the messianic age.  The humbled kings of nations (52:15) will confess that Jewish suffering occurred as a direct result of “our own iniquity,” (53:5) i.e., depraved Jew-hatred, rather than, as they previously thought, the stubborn blindness of the Jews.” (See Isaiah 53: The grammar of modern rabbinical interpretation).

Hans would probably have found in Mother Teresa the missing piece of the puzzle; not only because of her good works, but also because of her universalist theology – she tried to reconcile the dying to their gods. But, Hans died long before Vatican II, and so did not have the opportunity to savour a church that was becoming catholic (“universalist”) in ways that that would have shocked the Catholic Church of pre-Vatican !!; for example, the video “Catholicism: Crisis of Faith” has film footage of an ecumenical gathering of the Dalai Lama chanting, African shamans calling on their gods, and Muslims chanting from the Koran. The altar that was used for the service had a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). Catholics believe that consecrated bread is literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Putting a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle is, in effect, elevating Buddha above Jesus Christ. A sedevecantist’s (a minority of traditional Catholics) worst nightmare, and, perhaps, Hans’ dream of universal brotherhood come true. (A sedevecantist is a Catholic who believes that the changes of Vatican II such as the one I have described are heretical; therefore, the popes from the beginning of Vatican II (1962) onwards are heretics. This means that the Chair of Peter is now vacant (empty – sede vacante – “empty seat”) because it is not longer “Peter” who sits on the papal throne but a impostor

After a brief sojourn, Hans left the Roman Catholic Church,which merited him instant excommunication. But then, all that “excommunication” meant to Hans, and to many others who leave the Roman Catholic Church, is that they no longer have any communion with that church. Hans tried various other Christian denominations and dropped those too. Protestant denominations don’t excommunicate you from the church for leaving, because they have a different definition of “church,” (to the definition of the Roman Catholic Church), which refers to “children of God,” that is, sinners who have been born again. I don’t know whether Hans was familiar with these distinctions or took any interest in them. His next “religious” move was to a liberal synagogue in London, which suggests that he was not searching for God – God as Creator of the universe, who is also personal – because liberal Judaism, of all the different kinds of Judaism, is the furthest removed from traditional Judaism (of whom Moses Maimonides is a prime example).

In Judaism (and other religions), one of the main issues is the degree of importance of the Law. For ultra-Orthodox Jews, all 613 laws (mitzvot) are essential. In contrast, Conservative and Reform Jews are selective. Then there is a vast swathe of Jews who don’t believe in the Torah at all or in the God of the Torah. These are the Reconstructionist Jews and to the right of them (believing less) are the liberal Jews. (See The Torah: shared myths and other stories in Reconstructionist Judaism and The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.

The Liberal Judaism website says:

Liberal Judaism arose in early nineteenth century Germany as an attempt to reconcile the basic principles of Judaism with the Enlightenment values of rational thought and scientific evidence. As the Jew emerged into Western society, Liberal Judaism affirmed the possibility and desirability of making compatible the practice of Judaism and a Jew’s participation in modern society. Liberal Judaism’s main departure from traditional Judaism concerns revelation. Liberal Judaism believes that the Hebrew Scriptures including the Torah are a human attempt to understand the Divine Will, and therefore uses Scripture as the starting point for Jewish decision making, conscious of the fallibility of scripture and of the value of knowledge outside of Scripture. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there are over thirty Liberal and Progressive Jewish congregations, large and small.”

I don’t see any significant difference between “Reconstructionist Judaism” and the above description of “Liberal Judaism.” There is hardly anything in these two modern products of the Enlightenment that represents the Judaism that has existed for more than 3000 years, and continues to exist among those who have been set apart (for God) from the myriads of Jews that make up the bulk of everyday Jews. The Torah is set apart from the world; it is in the world, but not of the world.

The irony is that modern Conservative and Reform Jews, and Jews who don’t believe in the God of Israel at all, are Zionists, whereas Ultra-Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionists. Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject “Zionism” because it is a human, not a divine, creation; it gainsays the Torah. Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe with Rambam that every word of the Tanakh is breathed out by God.

I believe in the words of the prophets. They are the truth.
I believe that the Bible was given to Moses.
I believe that the Bible cannot be changed.”

(Rambam – Moses Maimonides)

For Hans, religion was probably nothing more than a ritual of the senses whose function was to make sense of the rigmarole of life. Church was to Hans what nature was to Baudelaire:

Nature (church) is a temple whose living pillars from time to time
Utter confused and confusing words;
Man enters, passing through a forest of symbols
Gazing on him with familiar eyes.1

(Charles Baudelaire, “Les Correspondences,” my translation).

There is a world of difference between “ritual” and “spiritual.” Here is Charles Spurgeon:

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“). (See My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left).

 


Soon after his move to a liberal Judaism, Hans began to lose total control of his miserable life. Judith Rice writes:

In time he found himself attending the liberal synagogue in London. His life had spiralled into spiritual, emotional and personal hopelessness. Word came to him of his beloved sister Pauline’s death in Bordeaux. His depression and self-absorption, his failure in protecting his sister and saving himself (hence his people the Jews) became manic.”

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17).

In Bordeaux, the day after his sister Pauline’s death, he wrote the following letter:

If a ritual can really calm our spirits and give us the illusion of being in the company of our beloved dead once more I can’t think of anything better than a visit to the Temple: there I can pray for my parents, ask their forgiveness [Hans' father hated religion] and repent my apostasy before God. I am destitute and sick, unhappy and bitter. I have no home. Nobody pays any attention to the words of a convert. I cannot suddenly turn my back on a community which offered me its friendship.”

Without prejudice, even if all my physical and moral impulses urge me to: I have burned all my bridges… What good is the penance which the Church has ordained for my “spiritual healing”! I torture my body in vain: my conscience is torturing me far worse. My life is ruined… Nobody would regret it if I were to put a bullet through my head. Could I undo my errors that way? I realize how right my father had been when he once said: “Only the withered branches fall off a tree – the healthy ones flourish.” 2

Withered branches” refers to Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State,” in which he wrote, “Branches of the Jewish people may perish. Its tree will live.” Herzl’s “branches” reminds me of Chaim Weizmann, one of the key founders of Zionism, who when asked before WWII:

Can you bring six million Jews to Palestine?” I replied, “No.” … From the depths of the tragedy I want to save … young people [for Palestine] “The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world … Only the branch of the young shall survive. They have to accept it.” (Chaim Weizmann reporting to the Zionist Congress in 1937 on his testimony before the Peel Commission in London). (See Moral Dust).

Hans was 39 years old (1891- 1930) – not too old for Weizmann – but didn’t wish to survive. The day after the death of his sister Pauline in Bordeaux and thirty-five years after Theodor, his father’s dream about crowning him King of Israel, Hans wrote a short note to the hotel manager, in which he apologised for the mayhem he was about to unleash. Then“with a single gunshot, pierced the head his father had dreamed would wear the crown of Israel.”

His wished to be buried with his sister Pauline, but the Jewish Orthodox community refused. They reluctantly agreed after pressure from the caretakers of Herzl legacy, and Hans was buried – secretly – next to his sister in the Jewish cemetery of Bordeaux. If only I knew in 1962 what I know and interests me greatly now, for I visited Bordeaux on several occasions. It took many more years for Israel to agree to having Hans remains buried in Israel. In 2006 the remains of the once future King of Israel and Pauline were removed to Israel, where they were buried on Mount Herzl next to their father.

The procession which starts at the doge’s palace will be opened by Herzl-Cuirassiers. Then come the artillery and infantry… while all are marching in gold-studded gala uniforms, the high priests under canopies, the doge himself will wear the garb of shame of a medieval ghetto Jew: the pointed hat, the yellow badge… When I thought that someday I might crown Hans as doge… I had tears in my eyes” (Herzl’s diary, 1895, when Hans was four years old).

1Here is the original French:

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

2Here is some of the original German – “Ich bin eine einsame, verzweifelte, traurige und bittere Gestalt”.Niemand hört auf einen Konvertiten. Ich habe alle meine Brücken verbrannt. Mein Leben ist ruiniert. Niemand würde es bedauern, wenn ich eine Kugel durch meinen Kopf jagte. Ich kann so nicht weiterleben.”

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“).

Assurance in Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and Biblical Christianity

 

In Kaddish and Purgatory, I compared Pope John XXIII with Ben Zakkai, the founder of modern Judaism.

Here is the diary entry of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (his original name) of 22 Sept 1898, when he was 18 years old and studying at the Seminary of Bergamo.

“This evening, when I thought about it seriously, the tears came to my eyes. (John was anxious about the health of a fellow seminarian that was very ill). I imagined myself on that sick bed and I wondered how it would go with me if I were to be judged in this very moment. I should deserve to go to hell, but I hope I shall not be sent there. In any case I am sure I ought to be sent to purgatory. Yet the mere thought of purgatory makes me shudder. What then will become of me? Oh poor me, how wretched I am!”

Here is Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, founder of rabbinic Judaism’s  view:

” I’m about to meet Ha Shem, God , Blessed be his name, and before me there are two roads, one leading to Paradise and one leading to Gehenna; one leading to Heaven and one leading to Hell, and I do not know to what road Ha Shem will sentence me” (Rabbi ben Zakkai). This view is also the Muslim view.

Jews and Roman Catholics believe that their good deeds can earn merit for themselves and for the departed soul, which will shorten the time spent in purgatory (the Roman Catholic view) or the time spent in Gehenna or at a lower level of heaven (the pious Jewish view). They can, however  never be sure, because they feel that it would be pride to presume on God’s mercy. Unblessed assurance. How different is the Christian biblical view!

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him” (Romans 5:7); “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew (foreloved) he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified ” (Romans 8:28-30).

 

Herbert Butterfield – Christianity and history. Fontana book, 1949.

p. 27 “There exists in most historical writing…an appearance of definitiveness and finality which is an optical illusion…”. The history lacks fibre.

p. 28 “How much more easy it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the most excellent trained historian to repeat a piece of gossip or an anecdote at the dinner table without adding a little varnish…”

If this is true, how can one trust the written historical record? And the written historical record of the Bible? Is it harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle without the most competent recorder of biblical history to write what God has revealed without adding a wee dram of godsip.

Mother Teresa, the Missing Peace of the Puzzle

Certainly a realistic view of Mother Teresa does not put one in high esteem in the eyes of most Christians these days, but the evidence stands against her, I’m afraid” (Comment at Callies.com).

I am withdrawing from this discussion because anyone who has not the insight or has the ignorance to attack Mother Teresa is beyond the pale. May God have mercy on your soul” (addressed to me by a Roman Catholic relative).

On 18th November in Texas, William Dembski and Christopher Hitchens debated on the topic “The goodness of God.” In his closing statement, Dembski gave one last gasp of a blast across Hitchens’ mast, which Dembski seemed to think won him the debate: Drown in your defeat, Hitchens, because God is good!” His coup de grâce was Mother Teresa. But Hitchens was not undone or done. In his final statement, Dembski mentions Hitchens’ 1994 BCC documentary “Hell’s Angel” and his books “The Missionary position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice” (1997) and in “God is not Great: How religion poisons everything” (2009). In his books, Hitchens portrays Mother Teresa as a “self-serving hypocrite” (Dembski’s words). Dembski relates that Hitchens accuses Mother Teresa of (I quote from Dembski’s closing statement) “making use of the best medical care for herself while she did not make it available to the poor. Mother Teresa, was offered a pace-maker; she said that she could not accept it but she could accept the money for the poor.” Dembski adds that she also refused other medical offers, and only accepted them when she was close to death and “too ill to fight it.” On that note, Dembski ends his closing statement with these words: “I think I’ll leave it there rather abruptly. In my rhetoric course, I would wrap things up, but I’m going to give Mother Teresa the last word.” (Rhetoric – the art of effective writing and speaking).

After entrusting his last word to Mother Teresa, Dembski handed over the last word of the debate to Hitchens, which consisted of a withering attack on Mother Teresa. Dembski’s consummate proof of the goodness of God – Mother Teresa, merely gave Hitchens the opportunity to blast Mother Teresa, yet again: (with regard to Mother Teresa’s stance on contraception): “I think her preachments led to an enormous increase in the amount of poverty, ignorance, filth and disease in the world…and believe me I’ve barely started with that terrible person.” (Hitchens was directly referring to Mother Teresa’s stance on contraception).

In Hitchens’ eyes, and the eyes of many Christians (see here and here, for examples), Mother Teresa was the last person he would have chosen as an apotheosis of peace. Yet, for many people, she radiated a peace of biblical proportions. The psychiatrist, Gerald Jampolsky was one of these people. In a previous post, I wrote about Gerald Jampolsky’s “Love is letting go of fear,” in which he describes the secret of finding inner peace. Early in the book, he refers to Mother Teresa: “Many of us are finding that, even after obtaining all the things we wanted…there is still an emptiness inside. Mother Teresa of Calcutta calls this phenomenon spiritual deprivation (p. 12).” Further on, he describes a meeting with Mother Teresa:

“I wanted to meet with her because I knew she demonstrated almost a perfect consistency of living a life of inner peace, and I wanted to learn from her how she did this…I experienced an inner stillness while I was in her presence. The power of the Love, of the gentility, the peace that emanated from her was difficult to describe (p. 161).”

The primordial question in the study of human experience is: How much of the smell is in the nose, and how much in the rose? How much comes from inside, how much from outside. With regard to Jampolsky, the peace he saw in Mother Teresa was a figment, because she had little peace in her life. It is possible to mistake somebody else’s tormented demeanour as a picture of peace; this may may have more to do with one’s own relatively greater torment. For the serf, kulak is rich. Mother Teresa’s diaries reveal that she lived in unending agony;1 a long dark night of the soul. I quote Cindy Wooden, a Roman Catholic view: “Longing for God: Mother Teresa’s letters reveal isolation, doubts”:

The priest, who is in charge of preparing material for Mother Teresa’s beatification, is not surprised by the effort it took to open houses for the dying, the sick and the homeless. The surprising aspect is how much she did despite feeling for years that God had abandoned her, he said. Her letters to her spiritual directors over the years are filled with references to “interior darkness,” to feeling unloved by God and even to the temptation to doubt that God exists. She wrote to her spiritual director in a 1959-60 spiritual diary, “In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” In another letter she wrote that she wanted to love God “like he has not been loved,” and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated. In the context of Mother Teresa’s life, the thoughts are not heresy, but signs of holiness, Father Kolodiejchuk said in a late-February interview. Mother Teresa was convinced God existed and had a plan for her life, even if she did not feel his presence, the priest said. “Everyone wants to share, to talk about things, to be encouraged by others,” he said, but Mother Teresa, “hurting on the inside, kept smiling, kept working, kept being joyful.”

These relentless rackings of abandonment are, according to Cindy Wooden – a typical Roman Catholic – “not heresy, but signs of holiness.” The reasoning is that Mother Teresa was at an advanced stage of ultimate union with God. In the first stage (much earlier in her life, one would suppose), she was awakened to awareness in divine reality. She then underwent a purging. For Mother Teresa, the main instrument of this purging was suffering for the world and making others aware that suffering, in itself, brings one close to Christ, no matter what one believed about Him. The next stage is illumination, which is followed by the “dark night of the soul (see St. John of the Cross). The last stage is, reserved for the few, is complete purification, which, according to this mystical view, is filled with confusion, anxiety, helplessness, and a sense of being abandoned by God. Cindy wooden wrote (above) that Mother Teresa “wanted to love God ‘like he has not been loved,’ and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated.” If, however, the Bible is anything to go by, the last mystical stage upsets the greatest, and deepest, promise of Christ:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through z him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Mystics tend to dig through the “simple” meaning of the text – as if they were cutting through all the cackle – to uncover the deep secrets of the spiritual Light. That light, according to this mystical view, is the night, the dark night, the dark night of the soul. Jesus cuts off the branches that produce no fruit. Mystics go deeper; they uproot the vine:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).

The Roman Catholic Church (of yesteryear – one is never sure what their position is from from one Church Council to the next) claims that it is the vine. Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, outside the (Catholic) Church there is no salvation. So to accommodate the Roman Catholic view, we get:

The Roman Catholic Church is the Vine , you the branches: he who abides in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church in him, the same bears much fruit, for without the Roman Catholic Church you can do nothing. If anyone is not in the Roman Catholic Church , he shall be cast forth like a branch and wither, and they shall gather him up and cast him him into the fire, and he burneth.”

It is in this Magisterial light that we can better understand Mother Teresa. She would never have dreamed of bringing the Gospel to the sick and the dying; in her book, it was totally uncalled for:

We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Her Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, pp. 81-82).

In the biography Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, she is quoted by Desmond Doig as follows: “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are. … What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept” (Doig, Mother Teresa, Harper & Row, 1976, p. 156). And in the April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa sheltering an old Hindu priest.“She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to diereconciled with his own gods.”

And of Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life; the saviour of the world? Not a word.

When Mother Teresa died, her long-time friend and biographer Naveen Chawla said that he once asked her bluntly, “Do you convert?” She replied, “Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him” (“Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths,” Associated Press, Sept. 7, 1997).

I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Mother Teresa’s A Simple path, p. 31).

The April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa sheltering an old Hindu priest.“She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to diereconciled with his own gods.”

Mother Teresa, was more (less?) than a Roman Catholic; she was a Universalist, that is, a “Catholic,” believing that all religions lead to God – her definition of the “simple path.” This Roman Catholic universalist view is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the papal encyclical, Nostra Aetate, which is in total contradiction to previous previous infallible papal pronouncements that states that outside the Church there is no salvation. In Nostra Aetate, Buddha and Krishna, and the Jews, are the new darlings on the Catholic block. And the Protestants? Oh, they’ll be headed for the block.

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Anyone who gets a Nobel Prize, doesn’t get it it for standing up for the Christ of the Bible. In his Award Ceremony speech, John Sanness, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said: “There are many paths we can and must pursue to reach our goals – brotherhood and peace. What does Jesus say: “(Doubting) Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am l the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:5-6). “If the world hates you, you should realize that it hated me before you” (John, 15:18). The Christian Nobel Prize is the Noble Cross:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew16:24-26).

Somebody said to me:“surely Mother Theresa laid down her life for the gospel? She loved the unlovable and made a huge impact on humanity for the gospel. (my italics). “What does it matter if her ‘theology’ was wrong in your eyes; surely Jesus is more interested in ‘active theology’ and not just mental ideas. She for one, used her hands and her feet more than I have – even though I may disagree with her theology.”

Here is a comment in a similar, but less dispassionate, vein:

It is sad that you waste your energy attacking Mother Teresa for her great sacrifices. Why don’t you get your hands dirty and help a few thousand dying starving people around the world, and then we can complain about you too for not being perfect” (Comment at Callies.com).

The above two views raise the fundamental issue of the relationship between faith and works. For the Jew, it ‘s not about creeds, but deeds. A Jew understands “faithfulness,” that is, loving your neighbour. For the Jew, Faith and faithfulness are synonymous. The same attitude prevails among many modern Roman Catholics. Jesus and the Apostles say that faith (trust) in Him is what saves, not “faithfulness,” that is, works (I’ve discussed this issue here and here).

This Roman Catholic universalist view is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the papal encyclical, Nostra Aetate, which is in total contradiction to previous previous infallible papal pronouncements that states that outside the Church there is no salvation. In Nostra Aetate, Buddha and Krishna, and the Jews, are the new darlings on the Catholic block. And the Protestants? Oh, they’ll be headed for the block.

Most people, including most Roman Catholics, praise Mother Teresa’s “active theology” of nursing him with her own hands and helped him to die…” in contrast to “mental theology,” that is, mental assent (assensus) to a body of religious doctrines. (See Mental assent to Rome). The “reconciliation with his own gods” only adds to the merit to Mother Teresa’s compassion for meeting the dying “where they were at,” by easing them into the next world to meet their gods. She focuses on comforting the dying but ignores the great Christian commission, which is not to help the dying to become “reconciled with his own gods”, but to preach the good news, to help the person become reconciled to Christ, to the One who has power to send you to hell. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).

The Christ of the Bible nurses his children in His own arms and helps them to die reconciled with “my God and Your God, my father and your father” (John 20: 17).2

Christians are commanded to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew, 28:19). We become disciples when we become reconciled not with our gods or anyone else’s gods, but with Jesus Christ. Here is how Paul prays for those who have already been reconciled to Christ, where the reconciliation occurred through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 2:14-17).”

Christ promises that those who believe in Him shall know; not the love and peace of the mystic, but the love and the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

Many Christians would say that Mother Teresa brought love and peace to the dying, which they think is the love and peace of Christ. They say (all) love is Christ, (all) peace is Christ. This is not true. A Christian acquaintance of mine says she practises Yoga; only the physical part, mind you. The deep breathing, she says brings peace; it prepares her to enter the inner chamber of Christ’s peace. What is she really doing? She first reconciles herself with her gods – “the princes and power of the air,” most probably – and in so doing prepares the groundwork for reconciling herself to God. Yoga (breathing) in Christ out. Correction on two counts: first, Christ was not in, to start with; second, we don’t – because we are unable – reconcile ourselves to God; it is Christ who reconciles us to God (His Father). How does He do this? He comes to dwell within the “inner man” (Ephesians 2:14 above). In so doing, He becomes our peace: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

To return to Gerald Jampolsky; when he met Mother Teresa, he was sure he had found the the grand prize; the missing piece of the puzzle. Something, though, was still missing: the peace of the puzzle.

1As I mentioned in “Siblings – The Unsentimental Education,” French Agonie refers to death pangs or mortal agony. English Agony refers to severe physical or mental pain (French angoisse, supplice.

2“In his case the Heavenly One is his natural Father; in our case he is our God. But insofar as this true and natural Son became as we are, so he speaks of the Father as his God, a language fitting to his self-emptying. Still, he gave his very own Father even to us” (Cyril of Alexandria).

Mother Teresa and the the Missing Peace of the Puzzle

Certainly a realistic view of Mother Teresa does not put one in high esteem in the eyes of most Christians these days, but the evidence stands against her, I’m afraid” (Comment at Callies.com).

I am withdrawing from this discussion because anyone who has not the insight or has the ignorance to attack Mother Teresa is beyond the pale. May God have mercy on your soul” (addressed to me by a Roman Catholic relative).

 

On 18th November in Texas, William Dembski and Christopher Hitchens debated on the topic “The goodness of God.” In his closing statement, Dembski gave one last gasp of a blast across Hitchens’ mast, which Dembski seemed to think won him the debate: Drown in your defeat, Hitchens, because God is good!” His coup de grâce was Mother Teresa. But Hitchens was not undone or done. In his final statement, Dembski mentions Hitchens’ 1994 BCC documentary “Hell’s Angel” and his books “The Missionary position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice” (1997) and in “God is not Great: How religion poisons everything” (2009). In his books, Hitchens portrays Mother Teresa as a “self-serving hypocrite” (Dembski’s words). Dembski relates that Hitchens accuses Mother Teresa of (I quote from Dembski’s closing statement) “making use of the best medical care for herself while she did not make it available to the poor. Mother Teresa, was offered a pace-maker; she said that she could not accept it but she could accept the money for the poor.” Dembski adds that she also refused other medical offers, and only accepted them when she was close to death and “too ill to fight it.” On that note, Dembski ends his closing statement with these words: “I think I’ll leave it there rather abruptly. In my rhetoric course, I would wrap things up, but I’m going to give Mother Teresa the last word.” (Rhetoric – the art of effective writing and speaking).

 

After entrusting his last word to Mother Teresa, Dembski handed over the last word of the debate to Hitchens, which consisted of a withering attack on Mother Teresa. Dembski’s consummate proof of the goodness of God – Mother Teresa, merely gave Hitchens the opportunity to blast Mother Teresa, yet again: (with regard to Mother Teresa’s stance on contraception): “I think her preachments led to an enormous increase in the amount of poverty, ignorance, filth and disease in the world…and believe me I’ve barely started with that terrible person.” (Hitchens was directly referring to Mother Teresa’s stance on contraception).

 

In Hitchens’ eyes, and the eyes of many Christians (see here and here, for examples), Mother Teresa was the last person he would have chosen as an apotheosis of peace. Yet, for many people, she radiated a peace of biblical proportions. The psychiatrist, Gerald Jampolsky was one these people. In a previous post, I wrote about Gerald Jampolsky’s “Love is letting go of fear,” in which he describes the secret of finding inner peace. Early in the book, he refers to Mother Teresa: “Many of us are finding that, even after obtaining all the things we wanted…there is still an emptiness inside. Mother Teresa of Calcutta calls this phenomenon spiritual deprivation (p. 12).” Further on, he describes a meeting with Mother Teresa:

 

“I wanted to meet with her because I knew she demonstrated almost a perfect consistency of living a life of inner peace, and I wanted to learn from her how she did this…I experienced an inner stillness while I was in her presence. The power of the Love, of the gentility, the peace that emanated from her was difficult to describe (p. 161).”

 

The primordial question in the study of human experience is: How much of the smell is in the nose, and how much in the rose? How much comes from inside, how much from outside. With regard to Jampolsky, the peace he saw in Mother Teresa was a figment, because she had little peace in her life. It is possible to mistake somebody else’s tormented demeanour as a picture of peace; this may may have more to do with one’s own relatively greater torment. For the serf, kulak is rich. Mother Teresa’s diaries reveal that she lived in unending agony;1 a long dark night of the soul. I quote Cindy Wooden, a Roman Catholic view: “Longing for God: Mother Teresa’s letters reveal isolation, doubts”:

 

The priest, who is in charge of preparing material for Mother Teresa’s beatification, is not surprised by the effort it took to open houses for the dying, the sick and the homeless. The surprising aspect is how much she did despite feeling for years that God had abandoned her, he said. Her letters to her spiritual directors over the years are filled with references to “interior darkness,” to feeling unloved by God and even to the temptation to doubt that God exists. She wrote to her spiritual director in a 1959-60 spiritual diary, “In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” In another letter she wrote that she wanted to love God “like he has not been loved,” and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated. In the context of Mother Teresa’s life, the thoughts are not heresy, but signs of holiness, Father Kolodiejchuk said in a late-February interview. Mother Teresa was convinced God existed and had a plan for her life, even if she did not feel his presence, the priest said. “Everyone wants to share, to talk about things, to be encouraged by others,” he said, but Mother Teresa, “hurting on the inside, kept smiling, kept working, kept being joyful.”

 

These relentless feelings of abandonment are for Cindy Wooden – a typical Roman Catholic – “not heresy, but signs of holiness.” The reasoning is that Mother Teresa had an advance stage in ultimate union with God. In the first stage (much earlier in her life, one would suppose), she was awakened to awareness in divine reality. She then underwent a purging. For Mother Teresa, the main instrument of this purging is suffering for the world and making others aware that suffering, in itself, brings one close to Christ, no matter what one believed about Him. The next stage is illumination, which is followed by the “dark night of the soul (see St. John of the Cross). The last stage is, reserved for the few, is complete purification, which, according to this mystical view, is filled with confusion, anxiety, helplessness, and a sense of being abandoned by God. Cindy wooden wrote (above) that Mother Teresa “wanted to love God ‘like he has not been loved,’ and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated.” If, however, the Bible is anything to go by, the last mystical stage upsets the greatest, and deepest, promise of Christ:

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake x we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through z him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

 

Mystics tend to dig through the “simple” meaning of the text – as if they were cutting through all the cackle – to “reveal” the deep secrets of the spiritual light. That light, according to this mystical view, is the night, the dark night, the dark night of the soul. Jesus cuts off the branches that produce no fruit. Mystics go deeper; they uproot the vine:

 

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).

 

The Roman Catholic Church (of yesteryear – one is never sure what their position is from from one Church Council to the next) claims that it is the vine. Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, outside the (Catholic) Church there is no salvation. So to accommodate the Roman Catholic view, we get:

 

The Roman Catholic Church is the Vine , you the branches: he who abides in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church in him, the same bears much fruit, for without the Roman Catholic Church you can do nothing. If anyone is not in the Roman Catholic Church , he shall be cast forth like a branch and wither, and they shall gather him up and cast him him into the fire, and he burneth.”

It is in this Magisterial light that we can better understand Mother Teresa. She would never have dreamed of bringing the Gospel to the sick and the dying; in her book, it was totally uncalled for:

 

We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Her Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, pp. 81-82).

In the biography Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, she is quoted by Desmond Doig as follows: “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are. … What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept” (Doig, Mother Teresa, Harper & Row, 1976, p. 156). And in the April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa sheltering an old Hindu priest.“She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to diereconciled with his own gods.”

And of Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life; the saviour of the world? Not a word.

When Mother Teresa died, her long-time friend and biographer Naveen Chawla said that he once asked her bluntly, “Do you convert?” She replied, “Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him” (“Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths,” Associated Press, Sept. 7, 1997).

I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Mother Teresa’s A Simple path, p. 31).

The April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa sheltering an old Hindu priest.“She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to diereconciled with his own gods.”

Mother Teresa, was more (less?) than a Roman Catholic; she was a Universalist, that is, a “Catholic,” believing that all religions lead to God – her definition of the “simple path.” This Roman Catholic universalist view is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the papal encyclical, Nostra Aetate, which is in total contradiction to previous previous infallible papal pronouncements that states that outside the Church there is no salvation. In Nostra Aetate, Buddha and Krishna, and the Jews, are the new darlings on the Catholic block. And the Protestants? Oh, they’ll be headed for the block.

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Anyone who gets a Nobel Prize, doesn’t get it it for standing up for the Christ of the Bible. In his Award Ceremony speech, John Sanness, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said: “There are many paths we can and must pursue to reach our goals – brotherhood and peace. What does Jesus say: “(Doubting) Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am l the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:5-6). “If the world hates you, you should realize that it hated me before you” (John, 15:18). The Christian Nobel Prize is the Noble Cross:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew16:24-26).

 

Somebody said to me:“surely Mother Theresa laid down her life for the gospel? She loved the unlovable and made a huge impact on humanity for the gospel. (my italics). “What does it matter if her ‘theology’ was wrong in your eyes; surely Jesus is more interested in ‘active theology’ and not just mental ideas. She for one, used her hands and her feet more than I have – even though I may disagree with her theology.”

Here is a comment in a similar, but less dispassionate, vein:

It is sad that you waste your energy attacking Mother Teresa for her great sacrifices. Why don’t you get your hands dirty and help a few thousand dying starving people around the world, and then we can complain about you too for not being perfect” (Comment at Callies.com).

The above two views raise the fundamental issue of the relationship between faith and works. For the Jew, it ‘s not about creeds, but deeds. A Jew understands “faithfulness,” that is, loving your neighbour. For the Jew, Faith and faithfulness are synonymous. The same attitude prevails among many modern Roman Catholics. Jesus and the Apostles say that faith (trust) in Him is what saves, not “faithfulness,” that is, works (I’ve discussed this issue here and here).

This Roman Catholic universalist view is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the papal encyclical, Nostra Aetate, which is in total contradiction to previous previous infallible papal pronouncements that states that outside the Church there is no salvation. In Nostra Aetate, Buddha and Krishna, and the Jews, are the new darlings on the Catholic block. And the Protestants? Oh, they’ll be headed for the block.

Most people, including most Roman Catholics, praise Mother Teresa’s “active theology” of nursing him with her own hands and helped him to die…” in contrast to “mental theology,” that is, mental assent (assensus) to a body of religious doctrines. (See Mental assent to Rome). The “reconciliation with his own gods” only adds to the merit to Mother Teresa’s compassion for meeting the dying “where they were at,” by easing them into the next world to meet their gods. She focuses on comforting the dying but ignores the great Christian commission, which is not to help the dying to become “reconciled with his own gods”, but to preach the good news, to help the person become reconciled to Christ, to the One who has power to send you to hell. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).

The Christ of the Bible nurses his children with His own hands and helps them to die reconciled with “my God and Your God, my father and your father” (John 20: 17).2

Christians are commanded to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew, 28:19). We become disciples when we become reconciled not with our gods or anyone else’s gods, but with Jesus Christ. Here is how Paul prays for those who have already been reconciled to Christ, where the reconciliation occurred through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 2:14-17).”

Christ promises that those who believe in Him shall know; not the love and peace of the mystic, but the love and the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

Many Christians would say that Mother Teresa brought love and peace to the dying, which they think is the love and peace of Christ. They say (all) love is Christ, (all) peace is Christ. This is not true. A Christian acquaintance of mine says she practises Yoga; only the physical part, mind you. The deep breathing, she says brings peace; it prepares her to enter the inner chamber of Christ’s peace. What is she really doing? She first reconciles herself with her gods – “the princes and power of the air,” most probably – and in so doing prepares the groundwork for reconciling herself to God. Yoga (breathing) in Christ out. Correction on two counts: first, Christ was not in, to start with; second, we don’t – because we are unable – reconcile ourselves to God; it is Christ who reconciles us to God (His Father). How does He do this? He comes to dwell within the “inner man” (Ephesians 2:14 above). In so doing, He becomes our peace: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

To return to Gerald Jampolsky; when he met Mother Teresa, he felt that he had found the missing piece of the puzzle. I suggest that something was still missing: the peace of the puzzle.

1As I mentioned in “Siblings – The Unsentimental Education,” French Agonie refers to death pangs or mortal agony. English Agony refers to severe physical or mental pain (French angoisse, supplice.

2“In his case the Heavenly One is his natural Father; in our case he is our God. But insofar as this true and natural Son became as we are, so he speaks of the Father as his God, a language fitting to his self-emptying. Still, he gave his very own Father even to us” (Cyril of Alexandria).

The Constant Thirst and Constant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa

Thirst” is often used in the metaphorical sense as a metaphor for a strong desire such as thirst for knowledge, for vengeance, for love, for wealth. In the Bible, this metaphorical sense usually refers to spiritual thirst, as in:

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:2 (42:3 Hebrew Bible).

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 (63:2 Hebrew Bible). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6.

There are two passages where Jesus is mentioned as being thirsty:

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink…,” which, of course, doesn’t mean either that Jesus was thirsty for souls or that he was really hungry and really thirsty for food and water. There is one occasion, on the cross, that Jesus said “I thirst,”1 which has the literal meaning that Jesus had become so dehydrated that he cried out “I thirst.” In the original Greek of the NT, “I thirst” is the shortest of Jesus sayings, which consists of one Greek word, διψάω dipsaō . In the English translation of the NT, “I thirst” shares this honour with “Jesus wept (two words in Greek Ἰησοῦς Iēsous δακρύω dakryō).

“Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst” (John 19:28), which fulfils Psalm 69:21 “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” There is also, in the Christian view, the allusion of Christ’s thirst in Psalm 22:15: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”

According to John 19:28, the only significance of Jesus’ cry “I thirst” is that it fulfilled a prophecy in the Psalms that buttresses His claim to Messiahship. This seems to be the general Protestant view with some exceptions, for example, John Gill, who says “I thirst; which was literally true of him, and may be also understood spiritually of his great thirst and eager desire after the salvation of his people.”

” Jesus said, I thirst (John 19:28).

The verse, says Horatius Bonar, is “the only reference which the Lord makes to pain of body ; the others are to the griefs of his troubled soul. No doubt, in the Psalms he alludes once or twice to his bodily sufferings, as when he speaks of his bones being out of joint, his heart melted like wax, his strength dried up like a potsherd. But these intimations of corporeal pain are few; it is of the sorrows of his soul, in connection with the wrath of God, that he speaks so fully. In the Gospels, this cry of thirst is the only expression of bodily anguish that is recorded ; and from the way in which it is introduced we are plainly given to understand that even this cry would not have been uttered had it not been for the fulfilling of Scripture. However terrible the thirst, the cry would have been repressed, had it not been for what was written in the Psalms concerning this,—” In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Ps. Lxix. 21). For thus the Evangelist writes : ” After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (Horatius Bonar,  Sermon XVI. “The surety’s thirst”).

Another example, by Curtis Peter van Corder:

“Last Christmas some friends and I did a program at a center for the handicapped that is run by the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic order that Mother Teresa founded. I noticed a large banner on the wall that read I thirst,’ and I asked why they had chosen these two last words of Jesus. ‘That cry of Christ has become our rallying cry,’ one of the sisters explained. Shortly before she passed on to her heavenly reward, Mother Teresa said, ‘His thirst is without end. He, the Creator of all, pleads for the love of His creation. He thirsts for our love. These words, ‘I thirst,’ do they not echo in our souls?’”

Here is Mother Teresa in the “Decree of Erection” for her congregation:

“To quench the thirst of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls by the observance of the three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience …” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M. C. (USA: Doubleday, 2007, p. 20)

Since mother Teresa’s death, the “Mother Teresa Charism” has become Roman Catholic devotional practice:

The “Mother Teresa Charism” invites us to experience the intense and infinite thirst of Jesus on the Cross — and in the Eucharist — for love and for souls as she experienced it, and also to quench his thirst as she tried to quench it with all the power and stamina of her being.

“The general aim of the Society of the Missionaries of Charity”, writes Bl. Teresa, “is to quench the thirst of Jesus. ‘I thirst’, Jesus said on the Cross. When Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul, he spoke of his thirst — not for water — but for love, for sacrifice”.

An important principle in textual interpretation is to distinguish between metaphorical/figurative and literal meaning. There’s often disagreement on, first, whether a meaning is literal orfigurative, and, second, whether a literal meaning can also extend to a figurative meaning. In the light of these distinctions, let us now examine a few salient scripture passages on Jesus and thirst to try and establish whether the Jesus of scripture thirsts for souls:

“Now he (Jesus) came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, since he was tired from the journey, sat right down beside the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.”… So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you – a Jew – ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:6-15).

In this passage, it is not Jesus who was, in mother Teresa’s word, “thirsting for souls.” Indeed, nowhere in the Bible is Jesus or God described as thirsty for souls. The (figurative) thirst is in the human throat; it is man – a minority of men – who thirsts for God. In the Psalms David cries: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (42:2), and “My Soul Thirsts for You” (63:1, 143:1). In many other passages, it is God who promises to quench man’s thirst, as in Isaiah: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” (55:1); in Matthew “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (5:6). There are many other examples.

Where does Mother Teresa get the idea that Jesus is constantly “thirsting for souls?” I think the constant sacrifice of the Mass has much to do with it. In Roman Catholic theology – perhaps, philosophy is a more appropriate term – the sacrifice is never over.

According to Roman Catholicism, Christ was not sacrificed once and for all, but is sacrificed constantly – in the Mass. From this idea it’s no big leap to imagine that every time Christ is “offered” as a sacrifice in the Mass, He also thirsts (for souls) as he did at His crucifixion.

The term “constant” is from Pope John Paul II. In his teaching of the sacrifice of the Mass, Pope John Paul II writes:

. . . the Church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually (my italics) draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly (my italics) “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1995, p. 139). The underlined section is the Pope’s rendition of Hebrews 9:12.).

The Pope’s “constantly enters” resonates with the Council of Trent’s declaration that the Mass is not merely a “re-enactment”, but a real propitiatory sacrifice, which is repeated at every consecration of the wafer and the wine.

“And forasmuch as, pronounces the Council of Trent, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema”  (Council of Trent, The twenty-second session, Sept. 17, 1562).

The first part of John Paul’s statement above – “continually draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice” – does not conflict with the Bible. However, just because the Church “continually draws upon the…sacrifice” this does not mean that Jesus Christ is constantly sacrificed.

After quoting what he says is Hebrews 9:12, the Pope ends with “(cf. Heb 9:12).” “Cf’” means see/refer to/compare Hebrews 9:12. Let’s do so. Here is the complete verse of Hebrews 9:12 from the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible translation (I underline the part of the verse that the Pope has asked us to compare with his):

“Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis).

Here is the Pope’s rendition: Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantlyenters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12).

John Paul replaces ‘entered once’ with ‘enters, and ends up with:

“(Jesus) constantly ‘enters entered once into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption’ (cf. Heb 9:12).’” John Paul changed “entered” to “enters,” to fit in with his “constantly.” Whether a Pope is interpreting ex cathedra (that is, by infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit) or in his personal capacity, the practical effect on many devout Roman Catholics is the same. If Christ is constantly sacrificed (for souls), it’s no big leap to imagine that He is constantly thirsting (for souls).

In the Gospel, Jesus never thirsts for souls. What Jesus does say in the Gospel is that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14), and “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied Matthew, 5:6).

And:

“On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39).

The follower of Christ will become a conduit for God’s living water to the thirsty. There is also that wonderful promise that awaits every child of God in the world to come:

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the centre of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).

So, is Jesus constantly thirsting, in any shape or form? Not at all. Surely.


Will Jesus really be in agony and misery of heart until the end of the world?

I often come across sentiments about the Lord Jesus Christ’s present suffering. The idea behind such a sentiment is that God wants people to come to Him. He pleads, he begs, He pulls out all the divine stops, but, alas, He largely fails. The end result: God is miserable.. Here is a Messianic Jewish view of God’s “pain”: Bob Mendelsohn (such an illustrious family name in the world of music and Jewish philosophy) is saddened by the “outright rejection [that] my Jewish people display towards our Messiah. It is painful to him (Jesus) and I sense it only a bit by comparison. He is so wonderful and loving and available, and for too long, we reject him. Without due consideration.” Mendelsohn’s “pain” of Jesus pales next to the descriptions others use to describe Jesus’ present suffering state. I shall describe some of these views. First, I describe the view of Blaise Pascal, which I shall use as the motif running through the subsequent views. Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) was a Jansenist. The Roman Catholic Church regarded Jansenism as a heretical movement, because it emphasised doctrines such as human depravity (people love themselves too much to love God – the God described in the Bible), salvation is all of God, and predestination (God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy). Here is Pascal: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” (Pensees, Penguin books, 1966, p.313). The Bible does say that we must stay awake because we never know when the Master of the house will return, but it doesn’t say that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” I mentioned that Pascal was regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a heretic. One thing Pascal and the Roman Catholic Church do agree on is the belief that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” Here is a typical Roman Catholic description of how much God is suffering now. (I italicise key terms).Does the God-man Christ continue to suffer in heaven? Pascal once wrote that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world,” This is true in the sense that His Passion and death continue to be re-presented at every Mass and that He continues to suffer in His body, the Church. It is also true in that we call upon Christ to have mercy upon us (miserere nobis). This ongoing mercy or “misericordia” in its Latin root means to have “misery in the heart” for another (or others)… Since the hypostatic union [human nature joined to the divine nature) will never cease in Christ, we must believe that all that pertains to a true human nature (without sin) continues to exist in Christ. In His human nature, Christ continues to have misericordia.” Roman Catholicism teaches that Christ’s passion and death “continues to be re-presented at every Mass and that he continues to suffer in His body, the Church.” “Re-presented” means made present again – and again and again (at every Mass). If this teaching is correct, then it is logical to infer that every time there’s a Mass, Jesus Christ is sacrificed, which naturally involves suffering. I won’t go into any detail here on this doctrine because I deal with it elsewhere. Suffice is it to say that the tradition of the Mass clashes with the Bible, for it says “Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, He entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis). What I’d like to examine here is the writer’s “misericordia.” Many pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics would know that the term means “mercy.” The writer, however, takes us on an etymological journey from which he never returns. He informs us that misericordia consists of two ideas, “misery” and “heart.” That’s etymologically true, but the question is what does it mean now, how is it used now? Let’s have pity and enjoy the ride. There’s the Latin miserabilis, pitiable, from miserari, to pity, from miser, wretched. Our Roman Catholic writer has come to the end of his historical excavations, and also the end of my tether. “Misericordia” in anyone’s book does not mean – if language use means anything – “misery of the heart” but “pity of the heart.” God does not have misery of the heart; what He does have is mercy; “mercy on whom He desires, and hardens whom He desires (Romans 9:18). You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing moulded will not say to the milder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:19-24). Not at all a God who is miserable in His heart.

Here is another view. The book “Resurrection” (edited by Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes, David Tombs. T & T Clark International, 2004, p. 214) speaks of the ‘epistemology of pain’ involved in experiencing Jesus, where human suffering “mediates the continuing presence of the crucified in the risen Jesus.” The writers use Pascal’s citation: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” The writers says this about the Jews: ”One group whose history has consistently expressed that passion [suffering] is the Jews…” The Apostle Paul, undoubtedly saw the future suffering of the Jewish people. (See Romans 9-11). Recall Bob Mendelsohn (at the beginning of this article), who was saddened by the “outright rejection [that] my Jewish people display towards our Messiah. It is painful to him (Jesus) and I sense it only a bit by comparison. He is so wonderful and loving and available, and for too long, we reject him. Without due consideration.”

My next and final example is Rowan Williams, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, who also quotes Pascal:The cross, Williams says, stands while the world turns. So long as the world turns the cross is there. In the words of Pascal “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” As long as the world is there, there is suffering, there is injustice, there is butchery.” Jesus does – in one sense – identify with human suffering. He makes this explicit when he says:For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Matthew 25:35-40). We must keep in mind that Jesus is not saying that when you don’t feed a hungry person, He remains hungry and miserable in heaven. There’s nothing misty or mystical about it. What he is saying is that human beings show love to one another through kind deeds. And when we love, we imitate God, who loves us. Members in the “Body of Christ” the Church , suffer. This, however, does not mean that when someone is burned at the stake for his faith that Jesus also feels the flames. As Rowan Williams says, the cross is always there. It’s there for two reasons: to remind us of, first, the great sacrifice he made for those he has chosen out of the world, and, second, that he calls on believers to carry their own cross. The cross is not there to remind us that at present Jesus is suffering (for the lost) on the cross (in every Mass) or that he is suffering now in Heaven. It cannot be so, because Jesus is sitting in glory at the right side of the Father (metaphorically speaking of course). There is one thing He is definitely not doing; and that is hurting and thirsting for souls. “… observe how the great truth we are to learn is this: the knowledge of Jesus as having entered heaven for us, and taken us in union with Himself into a heavenly life, is what will deliver the Christian from all that is low and feeble, and lift him to a life of joy and strength. To gaze upon the heavenly Christ in the Father’s presence, to whom all things are subject, will transform us into heavenly Christians, dwelling all the day in God’s presence, and overcoming every enemy. Yes, my Redeemer, seated at God’s right hand-if I only know Him aright and trust Him as able to save completely-He will make me more than conqueror.” (Andrew Murray, “Holiest of all,” Oliphants, London, 1960, p. 65). (The ebook can be found here). Jesus does not suffer in his glorious state. He did all his suffering on earth. “It is finished/accomplished.” Seeing, then, the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself also in like manner did take part of the same, that through death he might destroy him having the power of death — that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14)…For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebews 2:17). Andrew Murray (p. 81, “Holiest of all” see ) comments on verse 17: “His death accomplished for us what we never could, what we now need not do. And ver. 17 tells us that His being made Man was that He might be a High Priest in things pertaining to God; to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. All these expressions-suffering death, tasting death for all, bringing to nought the devil, making reconciliation for the sins of the people-refer to the finished work which Christ wrought, the sure and everlasting foundation on which our faith and hope can rest.” Jesus knows His sheep from eternity and all those the Father has given Him WILL come to Him. In John 6 (32-34), Jesus says: 32b “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER DRAWS THEM, and I will raise them up at the last day.” In all our earthly suffering, indeed, in all our earthly life “the main point of what we have to say is this: We have such a High Priest, One Who is seated at the right hand of the majestic [God] in heaven, as officiating Priest, a Minister in the holy places and in the true tabernacle which is erected not by man but by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:1-2). I pray for all of us who may read this: “That the God of our Lord Jesus would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 1:17-22).

http://www.unitypublishing.com/Newsletter/GodSuffers2.htm

Does the God-man Christ continue to suffer in heaven? Pascal once wrote that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world,” This is true in the sense that His Passion and death continue to be re-presented at every Mass and that He continues to suffer in His body, the Church. It is also true in that we call upon Christ to have mercy upon us (miserere nobis). This ongoing mercy or “misericordia” in its Latin root means to have “misery in the heart” for another (or others). So, if the “lex orandi” is the “lex credendi,” we would need to acknowledge that the Lord still responds to our prayers with misericordia. Since the hypostatic union will never cease in Christ, we must believe that all that pertains to a true human nature (without sin) continues to exist in Christ. In His human nature, Christ continues to have misericordia.

[PLAYING WTH ETYMOLOGY – SYNCHRONY And DIACHRONY

Ode to a Grecian Priesthood: Beauty is truth and truth is beauty

John Keat’s poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” is familiar to many an English speaker, especially the last lines: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

I came across the same sentiment in Henri Bremond’s “Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en france” (Literary history of religious sentiment in France). Here is the relevant section. Bremont is waxing – I’ve already revealed my bias – lyrical about the priesthood. My English translation is followed by the French original:

HISTOIRE LITTÉRAIRE DU SENTIMENT RELIGIEUX EN FRANCE

Religious History of Religious Sentiment in France

DEPUIS LA FIN DES GUERRES DE RELIGION
JUSQU’A NOS JOURS.

From the End of the Religious Wars until Today

PAR HENRI BREMOND

de l’Académie française.

By Henri Bremond of the French Academy

1915

Volume 3, p.160

The first sentence is long. The Keatsian look-a-like is in the second (the last) sentence.

“The clergy eminently carries the inscriptions of the authority of God, the holiness of God, the light of God: three beautiful jewels in the priestly crown, joined together by the counsel of God and placed on His anointed, His priests and his Church, as were the first priests, saints and doctors of the Church; God preserving the same order, authority, holiness and teaching, and uniting these three perfections in the priestly orders, in honour of the imitation of the Holy Trinity wherein we adore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, divinely united in one essence. You shouldn’t only say this is beautiful, but also that it is true; and it is true because it is beautiful.

[ Lors] le clergé portait hautement gravées en soi-même l’autorité de Dieu, la sainteté de Dieu, la lumière de Dieu : trois beaux fleurons de la couronne sacerdotale, joints ensemble par le conseil de Dieu sur ses oints, sur ses prêtres et sur son Eglise, tellement que les premiers prêtres étaient et les saints et les docteurs de l’Eglise; Dieu conservant en un même ordre, autorité, sainteté et doctrine, et unissant ces trois perfections en l’ordre sacerdotal, en l’honneur et imitation de la Sainte Trinité où nous adorons l’autorité du Père, la lumière du Fils et la sainteté du Saint-Esprit, divinement liés en unité d’essence. Il ne faut pas dire seulement que cela est beau, mais aussi que cela est vrai et vrai parce qu’il est beau.

Here is another excerpt from the middle of “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” which I have linked to the ending of the poem: Keat’s famous line.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar, O mysterious priest,  Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,  And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? ….’Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

Contrary to Bremond’s flowery (fleuron) prose, what does the Bible say about the truth and the beauty of “priesthood.”

” Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter, 2:5).

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:7-9).

ἱεράτευμα hierateuma (priesthood)

Two conversions: the mind (NOTITIA) and the heart (FIDUCIA) of faith in Blaise Pascal

If you’re a computer programmer, you’ve probably heard of the computer programme “Pascal.” If you’re also into physics then you absolutely must know about the pressure unit “Pascal.” And if you’re familiar with physics you must also be familiar with the Pascal’s mathematical theorem.

Blaise Pascal had two religious “conversions.” The first is connected to his study of Jansenism (1545–1563) which broke away from the Catholic Church after the Reformation and  the Council of Trent. Jansenism’s distinctive feature was its Augustinian doctrine that salvation is entirely of  God, which is summed up in Augustine’s famous “Grant what You command, and command what You desire” (Confessions 10, 29). The most important of God’s commands is to repent.

Matt. 4:17 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Mk. 1:15 – “Repent, and believe the gospel.”
Lk. 24:47 – “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name.”
Acts 2:38 – “Repent and be baptised for the remission of sins.”
Acts 3:19 – “repent and be converted, that your sins might be wiped away.”

All Catholics agree that when God commands someone to repent, He grants the person the grace to repent, that is, he grants the helping grace to repent: “God’s free initiative demands man’s free response”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003, Doubleday).

Augustine, in contrast, is not saying that God helps us  (to make the decision) to repent; for repentance, he says, is itself of grace – a gift of God. Augustine is merely being God’s humble ape:

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

Acts 17:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they  glorified God, saying,”Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

The Catholic, and majority Protestant, interpretation of the above two passages is this:

With regard to Israel, God has always allowed them to repent if they want to. And the Gentiles? God decides that he will also allow them to repent, if they want to. But as for forcing anyone to repent, as for God dragging them screaming and kicking “It’s not fair; I don’t want your eternal life or anyone else’s. You said we could choose! You’ve gone and damaged your image and God’s image – me, in case you’ve forgotten – for good.”

The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.

Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. “I believe it, that settles it.” Of course, when you say that your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to the the third level of faith: fiducia.

Fiducia is full trust and commitment, it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father:

John 17

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Without the regenerative life of fiducia, one is no better off than the devils, who have enough notitia and assensus to burst – and  to tremble.

As I said, Pascal had two “conversions.” The first one was about notitia and assensus. The second was fiducia. In the fiducia faith that enables the believer to grasp the wonder of God’s plan of salvation. In Pascal, the first conversion was merely a head knowledge of grace, which erupted into a flame. Too much head ends up as heady, where the dazzle of ideas can easily be mistaken for union with Christ. This is not to say that notitia (theology – ideas about Christ) is not important. Absolutely not, for how would be able to understand the worth of what we believe without notitia; how would we be able to test all things, how would be able to distinguish the heady of “this world”  from the steady of God’s will,   how would be able to renew our minds. An important part of knowing God more is knowing about God. “Knowing God” in it purest form is fiducia. Fudica is a sovereign work of God’s mercy; a renewal, a regeneration of the believer by the Holy Spirit: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Notitia is tee renewal of the mind through testing the worth of things: 2 c Do not be conformed to this world, [1] but be transformed by d the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may e discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The Greek word for “testing” is dokimazo “discern, examine, prove.” Those who devote much notitia will probably also want to study documentary  (dokimazo) evidence of the scriptures. Some may even end up as dokitors.

Much has been written about the religious side of Pascal’s life.  For example, most psychologists reduce all religious experience to brain (dis)function. Pascal suffered from visual migrations that brought on aura experiences, which, psychologists say, might explain his religious experience. He speaks of seeing a fire during his conversion experience, and  came face to face with the presence of God. (Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists, Part 3, by Bogousslavsky, et al., p. 160). If God doesn’tt exist, then that would be a probable explanation; but if He does exist, then the psychologists remain dead in their sins. This “if” is what Pascal’s wager is about. He suggests that even though the existence of God cannot be discovered through reason, through notitia, a person should nevertheless wager that God exists, because if you live accord to belief in God, you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose; whereas if you don’t believe in God, you have everything to lose. He suggests one should live as though one had faith (fiducia) and perhaps that might bring about faith.

Much as been written about the “fallacy” of Pascal’s wager. I’m not sure whether he wrote his wager before or after his second conversion (his real conversion – fiducia). As I mentioned, the biblical position (for example, Ephesians 2:1-10 discussed above) is that faith that saves is not notitia or assensus but fiducia, which is 100% God’s doing: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Now, I would think that once Pascal was seized by God (no, not by a seizure), he would have realised that notitia of any form, including his “wager” was a dead end, for the simple biblical truth that when you’re dead to Christ, only He can bring you back to life.

My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left

Before I talk about myself, I think it would be helpful if I present a key difference between Roman Catholicism and those who believe in scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). Here is Keith Mathieson:

“A person who believes that the Roman Catholic Magisterium has special divine authority naturally looks at evidence for the claims of Rome in a much different way than a person who does not believe that the Roman Catholic Magisterium has divine authority. If a person firmly believes that the Roman Magisterium is infallible (i.e. incapable of error) under certain conditions; in short, if that is his basic theological axiom, then by definition he cannot at the same time believe that there is any real evidence of error. This is the reason that for faithful Roman Catholics, the very possibility of there being evidence contradicting the claims of the Roman Church is non-existent. Any alleged evidence of error offered by Protestants or others must be explainable in some other way.”

“Those who do not begin with the basic theological axiom of Roman Catholicism see abundant evidence against the claims of Rome in Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the documented events of church history. This evidence prevents them from believing that the Roman Catholic Magisterium has divine authority. For those who adopt the basic theological axiom of Roman Catholicism, all of this “alleged” evidence essentially ceases to exist. From the perspective of the non-Roman Catholic, the Roman Catholic is doing something comparable to reading a red-letter Bible with red tinted glasses. If he sets aside the glasses, he can see all the words printed in red. If he puts the glasses on, all the words printed in red disappear from his sight. From the Roman Catholic perspective, it is non-Roman Catholics who are reading the evidence with a distorted lens.”

During my second year at the University of Cape Town, I was baptised into the Catholic Church at the age of 19.  Within a few months, I was the University Catholic Society’s (Kolbe House) committee member for spiritual activities. I attended Mass most days of the week. Part of my duties was to help the chaplain prepare for Mass. I often served at Mass as well.

Why was I attracted to Roman Catholicism? There are so many captivating reasons:

1.       I was studying philosophy. I was also interested in religion. What a great delight to discover that   Roman Catholicism – contrary to Protestantism did not only embrace philosophy – especially Greek philosophy – but made it the foundation of its theology. Thomas Aquinas, the great “Doctor,” in his Summa Theologica, builds much of Catholic doctrine on Aristotle. For example, he explains “transubstantiation” (where the bread changes into the actual flesh and blood of Christ in communion) in terms of Aristotle’s concepts of  “accidents” (the colour, the taste of the wafer and of the wine) and “substance” (the flesh and blood of Christ). Although, the senses can only detect the “accidents,”  the communicant is really – claims the dogma – eating the flesh and blood of the living Christ who is sitting at the right hand of the Father:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:3; see Psalm 110:1)

In my French and philosophy courses, I studied many Catholic philosophers, especially the French ones; Etienne Gilson, Jean Guitton, and Jacques Maritain come to mind. There was G K Chesterton. There was Professor Martin Versfeld, my professor of philosophy, who was a Catholic. He was a great influence. Later in my life, I realized that many Catholic philosophers were greatly influenced by Eastern Philosophy. Lately, I have become acquainted with the Catholic philosopher, Peter Kreeft. In his book “Ecumenical Jihad” against “moral decay”, he says that Catholicism is one among many valid religions. His ideas on tolerance and truth are very attractive to some if not many Catholics. No Papal anathemas in Kreeft.

2.  There were the great “Doctors” and “Fathers” of the Church such as St Augustine and St Anselm. As my mother always used to say – in Yiddish – about a place she admired: “The greatest doctors go there (In Yiddish, “Die greste Dokteirim geit dottern”).

3.       The great saints. Who is not impressed by St Francis, giving up his rich life for rags and the poor. And so many others who turned their back on the world to become a servant to mankind.

4.       The mystics. Catholicism was not only intellectually impressive to me, it also appealed to the “deeper” spiritual side. Not only could you theologise and philosophise about God, you could also become “one” with Him. I read the mystics. The two outstanding ones are St John of Cross and St Teresa of Avila.

The mystical kind of spirituality is very popular today among all kinds of religions and non-religions. Those who get tired of the “world” yearn for an experiential connection to God. But, this yearning downplays the place of faith and Scripture. It exalts “transcendental” experiences that propel the person out of the mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer. If any practice – be it prayer, or some other contemplative practice – does not square with the Bible, it is not of God. For this reason, mystical meditation and “centering” (Richard Foster, Abbot Thomas Keating) is more a flight of fancy than Biblical Christianity. Biblical spirituality involves the study and meditation upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality, in contrast, looks for a “deeper meaning”, where scripture is regarded as allegorical rather than literal (the normal meaning of grammar, meaning and context, where history does not become allegory).

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

“Jesus the Son God is our High Priest. Our boldness of access is not a state we produce in ourselves by meditation or effort. No, the living, loving High Priest, who is able to sympathise and gives grace for timely help, He breathes and works this boldness in the soul that is willing to lose itself in Him. Jesus, found and felt within our heart by faith, is our boldness. As the Son, whose house we are, He will dwell within us, and by His Spirit’s working, Himself be our boldness and our entrance to the Father. Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness!” (Andrew Murray, “The Holiest of All,” Oliphants, 1960, p. 174).

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we read:

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). The Church invites us to invoke the Holy Spirit as the interior Teacher of Christian prayer” (CCC 2681).

It is not the (Catholic) Church who invites us (Christians), but Christ. He invites us (who is His body, the “church”)  through his Word (the scriptures) to invoke the Holy Spirit to dwell in us in a deeper way.  “He breathes and works this boldness in the soul that is willing to lose itself in Him” (Murray above).

Here is a response I received from a Catholic with regard to my argument that if prayer (for example, what I described as “transcendental” prayer) does not  square with the biblical kind of prayer, then this non-biblical kind of prayer is not talking to God, the God of the Bible.

My respondent says: “How can you say that …But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer…’ Your narrow minded, prescriptive view of the world is really sad. The sadness is that you really believe the nonsense you sprout. God is infinite – to limit him to one narrow written tradition, and to damn all other prayer is arrogance which is breath taking.”

Yes, I do limit valid prayer to one “narrow written tradition.” That is the difference between many Catholics, for example, Thomas Merton (whom I wrote about here) and Carlo Carretto (whom I wrote about here).

In Newsweek, Sept 2005, appeared a feature article  “Spirituality in America.” It said: “Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God.” The article went on to describe the Catholic use of Buddhist’s teachings. For example, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, noticed how attracted Roman Catholics were to the Eastern religious practices As a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature to the Abbot. Americans, like everybody else, is looking for transcendental prayer, transcendental meditation (TM), which could, it seems, also stand for “Trappist Meditation.”

5.       The contemplative life. Here again, people left the world to pray for the world and to be closer to God. “The act of contemplation, imperfect as it needs be, is of all human acts one of the most sublime, one of those which render the greatest honor to God, bring the greatest good to the soul, and enable it most efficaciously to become a means of salvation and manifold blessing to others.” (NewAdvent).

In the last decade, contemplation as a fruitful pursuit is gaining in popularity. A popular modern author on this topic is Richard Foster. He says:

“The apostle Paul withdrew for thirteen years from the time of his conversion until he began his ministry at Antioch. He probably spent three years in the desert and then approximately ten years in his
home town of Tarsus. During that time he no doubt experienced a lot of solitude. This was followed by a period of very intense activity as Paul carried out his mission to the Gentiles. Paul needed both solitude and activity, and so do we. (Richard Foster, “Solitude” in Practical Christianity. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986), 305.”

As far as I gather from the Apostle Paul’s life, he did very little withdrawing, but was continually in the thick of people. Having said that, it is true that “time spent in quiet prostration of soul before the Lord is most invigorating. . . . Quietude, which some men cannot abide, because it reveals their inner poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty designs to walk. . . . Priceless as the gift of utterance may be, the practice of silence in some aspects far excels it” (Charles Spurgeon in his “Lectures to students”).

The Bible advocates time for solitary devotion, prayer and adoration of God, but not the kind of sustained and continuous withdrawal from “life”.
Why does the Bible not contain any pattern of isolation? Let me answer by shooting off a mouthful of questions?

How do you learn to love if no one else is around to love? How do you learn humility on your lonesome ownsome? How can you be good, kind and gentle, patient on your own. Do you want  to be holy (sanctified)? Go and tell someone something he doesn’t want to hear. And it would be nice if it was a Bible verse.

6.       Penance and sacrifice. You could “mortify the flesh,” deny yourself and come closer to the sufferings of Christ and of others.

Penance and sacrifice are biblical doctrines, but what I reject is the notion that the works of penance and sacrifice are more than the fruit of faith, where faith alone, Protestants believe, is what justifies/saves.

Canon 24.  If anyone says that justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent sixth session, celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547, Decree concerning Justification)

7.       Sacraments and rituals. The sacraments are the vehicles of God’s grace. The more you partake of them, the more the grace you receive. That is why I went to Mass and took communion daily at university. The greatest source of grace is eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ.

The “sacrifice of the mass” is not biblical. According to Roman Catholicism, Christ was not sacrificed once for all, but is, in the Mass, sacrificed constantly.

The term “constant” is from Pope John Paul II. In his teaching of the sacrifice of the Mass, Pope John Paul II writes:

. . . the Church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually (my italics) draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly (my italics) “enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption” (cf. Heb 9:12). (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1995, p. 139). The underlined section is the Pope’s rendition of Hebrews 9:12).

The Pope’s “constantly enters” resonates with the Council of Trent’s declaration that the Mass is not merely a “re-enactment”, but a real propitiatory sacrifice, which is repeated at every consecration of the wafer and the wine.2 (For further discussion see(The Constant Thirst and Constant Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa).

8.       Confession. If I committed a sin – a mortal sin – I confessed it to the Priest, did a penance and thus was reconciled to God. I wasn’t sure which sins were mortal or not (I don’t think many Catholics are sure), so I confessed them all.

9.       Then there was the unsurpassed European culture: music, literature and art, and architecture.  I saw the Sistine Chapel before they cleaned up the paintings. It was still magnificent. There is also Gregorian chant and Mozart’s requiem, and many other fine works of music and art.. Here is Carl Trueman’s impression of his first visit to St Peter’s Basilica and one major reason why evangelicals “cross the Tiber.”

I am not particularly impressed by size or age; but St. Peter’s is on a different scale. As I turned the corner and came to the square, the colonnades seemed to be sweeping out to greet me like giant arms about to embrace the world, an intentional vision of Catholic aspirations, I am sure; and as I walked into the building itself. I was cowed into complete and awesome silence. The only other experience I have had that came remotely close was my first trip to New York when I stepped down from the coach and looked up-and up and up and up
-at buildings that seemed almost to disappear into the sky. I felt small. And I felt even
more so as I entered the great basilica at the heart of Vatican City. The scale of the place, the paintings, the beauty, the statues, the faces of popes gazing at me, the good, the bad, but not (at least as portrayed by the artists) particularly ugly. The overwhelming power of the place pulled me in different directions. It was both terrifying and attractive. I suddenly realized why so many American evangelicals are attracted to the institution: it has everything American evangelicalism lacks-history, beauty, self-conscious identity, and, quite frankly, class. I also realized that such a vast organization simply does not need anybody else.” (Carl Trueman, “Where monkeys fear to tread.”)

10.  l not only had two Holy Fathers (God and the Pope), I also had a Mother, Mary. I went to Lourdes during my studies in France.

11.  The unity. Catholics all believed the same things. I have since learnt that this is not so at all.

12.  The Catholic Church is built on the rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This is not true. The Rock Jesus is talking about is Himself – the foundation stone.

13.  The Pope was infallible. The doctrines of faith and morals were infallible. As long as I obeyed the rules of the Catholic Church, I would be assured of salvation. Convince someone that the Pope is infallible, and he’ll believe anything: purgatory, the treasury of merit, Jesus suffers every time we sin, the immaculate conception of Mary, and on and on.

What does the Reformation have to compete with that? The scriptures. How can the scriptures compete with:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine;
at least I have always found it so,
Benedicamus Domino!
Hilaire Belloc

There was of course GK Chesterton, who has been a great influence on many of us who “crossed the Tiber.” Not in my wildest could I have imagined that I would give all this  “Orthodoxy” up – for a solo book – 66 “books,” actually – Sola Scriptura. Late in life, I’ve come to understand that Roman Catholicism is a travesty of Christianity. Jesus teaches that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6″44). This is why no matter how much I talk about what made me see the light – for example, such things as my study of scripture and the history and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church – ultimately, the only reason why someone comes to the Christ is because God raised the person from the dead:

I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that was at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom I once lived, carrying out the desires of the body  and the mind, and  was by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me, even when I was dead in my sins, made me alive together with Christ— by grace I have been saved— and raised me up with him and seated me with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus. For by grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that I can’t boast. For I am his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them (adapted from Ephesians 2:1-10).

I now bring together the core differences that separates the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. Here is James White:

When I rise in the morning I don’t fear the wrath of God. Why? Because I never thought about it, because I take it for granted? No. I do not fear the wrath of God because I know what has been done in my behalf will avail before that holy God each and very day. And I don’t have to say, ‘I have to get to Jesus today. I need to go and get in the car where Jesus is and get some more grace, get a little more propitiation because you see I approached what supposed to be the sacrifice of Christ just the day before yesterday. And the priest said hoc est corpus meam, this is my body. But according to Rome I can do that 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, 10000 times, 25000 times in my life and still die in fear. I could die in mortal sin, not avail myself of the sacramental forgiveness and still go to hell. Same sacrifice allegedly. So I have to get in the car and go and visit Jesus again because I am not perfected by his one sacrifice. I have to go stand in front of an alter christus, another Christ [a priest]. He has to sacramentally bring Christ down from heaven and render him present, body, blood, soul and divinity upon the Roman altar, and this is how I am to somehow improve my relationship with God.

The reason, continues White, why I could never become a Roman catholic is because I am absolutely dependent upon the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect righteousness of another. I have nothing else to give. I know God is holy and if I do not have the righteousness of Jesus Christ, nothing else will avail. But you see Rome cannot give me the righteousness of Jesus Christ; it has no finished sacrifice, it has no finished work. You see the whole argument, Mr Reed and those of you who are planning of going across the Tiber river, if you’ve never read it, let me introduce it to you. The whole argument of the book of Hebrews is that the one-time finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ, perfects those for whom it is made. That is therefore is nothing to go back to. And one of the main arguments that the writer [of Hebrews] uses is that in the repetitive sacrifice of the old covenant there is a reminder of sin. You see, the high priest when he would go into the holiest place with the warm bowl of blood would see that he had been there before, that the blood was still dried upon the place of mercy, and that was a reminder that this blood of a goat, a bull is not going ever to cleanse anybody.

It was, adds White, pointing to something greater. The fact that it had to be repeated over and over again meant that it was imperfect and that is why there is only one sacrifice of Christ. It’s not re-presented so that you’re never perfected. It’s one time, singular, finished done. It is finished Jesus said. And what’s really really interesting is that when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of that repetitive sacrifice, there is a yearly anamnesis of sins, a reminder. A repetitive sacrifice, which is what you are limited to in Rome. The mass is an anamnesis of sin, because if you have to come back, you are not perfected. So all it does is remind you of the continuing presence of sin. But that word[anamnesis] is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and I’m so thankful that it is. Because that is the word that is used when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” in anamnesis of me. Christians have a new covenant, and that covenant has a single perfecting sacrifice. And so you see I don’t have a reminder of my sins; I have a reminder of my sin bearer, and that is why I have peace with God. Now if that was not taught to you in seminary or in your churches, I’m sorry. But you can’t blame your seminary or your churches because you [don't] possess the word of God.

I could never, says White, go to Rome because Rome has nothing to offer but a treadmill of penances, sacraments, and never being able to know have you done everything that’s necessary to attain justification. In the words of the Word of God, I have justification, not because of who I am, but because of who Jesus Christ is…if these words meant something to you, you could never go there, because anyone who has actually, truly bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and understands [their] absolute dependence upon him can never give that up, can never trade that in. I pray for Mr Reed. By his own testimony, he never understood what the issues where. I hope these words will be taken the the way they were intended.  (See How green is my Tiber: James White’s impassioned plea to Jason Reed to come home from Rome).

The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.

Assensus is belief, a mental assent. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent.

Fiducia is full trust and commitment. This is faith proper; it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father:

John 17

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Without the regenerative life of fiducia, one is no better off than the devils, who, having enough notitia and assensus to burst, still tremble. (See further discussion here).

As the scriptures I quoted above have shown, the only way one comes to fiducia faith is through a supernatural work of God, who raises the dead to life through and in Christ. The Bible teaches that it is not necessary to have (much) notitia or assensus to receive the gift of fiducia. The Bible also teaches (as in Ephesians 2, which I quoted above) that by grace I have been saved through faith. And this grace AND this faith is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works – my cooperating with God – so that I can’t boast.

The Roman Catholic Church has a radically different view of salvation and faith, which I believe is at best a distortion. For example, the “sacrifice” of the mass, the sacraments (seven of them) as the only means of grace, and on and on. But as I described above, there is so much that is captivating – like a kid let loose in a chocolate cathedral. Having said that, whether you’re a Catholic, Protestant or atheist, when you enter a Gothic Cathedral like Chartres or Notre Dame in Paris, you would be a liar – or a prig – if you said you didn’t feel a deep sense of awe at the beautiful forms of glass and stone.

The overarching stumbling block of the Roman Catholic view of salvation is decisionism. The following excerpt from the Vatican II document “The Church in the Modern World” explains what I mean:

“…Nevertheless man has been wounded by sin… When he is drawn to think about his real self he turns to those deep recesses of his being where God who probes the heart awaits him, and where he himself decides his own destiny in the sight of God”(paragraph 14).

That is what most Protestants believe as well. But not those Protestants – the Protestants faithful to the “Reformation” – who remained faithful to the original “catholic” doctrine of St Augustine’s era.

Catholicism, as with most non-Reformation Christianity, is “Arminian,” that is, the believer has the final vote in his salvation; he makes the final decision. The “Reformed Christian” position is that salvation is not man’s decision; instead salvation is an invasion of God’s grace that raises the dead to life, which then enables the raised person to willingly come to Christ; in other words he feels impelled from within (his heart) – therefore, not forced from without – to receive Christ.

William Webster, does a great job of proving that Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) – contrary to Rome’s  teaching that Sola Scriptura was a fabrication of  the Protestant Reformation – was in fact the central belief of the early Church for more than six centuries. Download the series here).

Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun. [45] And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word (no vain thing) for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 32:44-47).

Here is Charles Spurgeon preaching on the words in bold of the Deuteronomy passage above, namely:

For it is no empty word (no vain thing) for you, but your very life

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“).

I wrote the following reply to one of my readers who is thinking of becoming a Catholic:

Have you read/heard any of Martyn Lloyd-Jones? I haven’t found a deeper or truer teacher than him. You can download some of his podcasts at http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/living-grace/subscribe/podcast.xml. There are many more than those you see on this site. Once you’ve subscribed to the podcast, I think all the others will be available to you, such as “Christ in the heart” (3 parts). If you can get hold of his books on Romans and Ephesians, please read them. We both know that we should not neglect such a great salvation. This might hurt you and maybe you’ll give up on me, but I have to say this: Roman Catholicism is at best a dead-end. You don’t need all that stuff to experience Christ in your heart and be a faithful witness. What is dangerous in the RCC is that their doctrines such faith plus works (for salvation- Council of Trent), Mary as mediatrix, purgatory, the so-called “sacrifice” of the mass, and many more accretions contradict the Bible.

Related article:

How green is my Tiber: James White’s impassioned plea to Jason Reed to come home from Rome

Digging below the surface of Torah, Midrash and Vulgate: When very good includes evil.

(See the follow-on post The Slaughter of Isaac: An Axegesis of Laughter in Genesis).

Language consists of two main levels: 1. the level of words and sentences (what words mean) and 2. the level of language use, or discourse (what we mean by the words we use).  In other words, there are two questions  “What does X mean?” (words in a dictionary and grammar book) and “What do YOU mean by X?” (What is your intention).

Here is an example of the distinction. I find my 10-year-old son, fiddling under the bonnet of my car. I say: “What are you doing?”  Without any context, the sentence  means that I’m requesting information. With a context, however, the sentence means “You brat!” and many other unmentionables. I have given an example of a “speakerly” text. In a” readerly” text, the writer cannot rely on body language such as a gruff voice, flaying hands or red face to provide what his characters mean by the words they use. The writer has to provide words to clarify other words, to develop related ideas. This principle applies to all written texts, and, therefore, also to biblical texts.

I now consider some of the problems in biblical exegesis where I provide examples  – one from the Torah, one from the New Testament – of where misinterpretations lie not in the opacity of the text itself but in the theological/philosophical/psychological presuppostions that interpreters bring to the text.

In “Letters of Hebrew fire – the depth and death of meaning, I mentioned Rabbi Glazerson’s book “Philistine and Palestinian” (1995), in which he says:

The deeper significance of the (Hebrew) letters… is a subject as wide as all Creation. Every single letter points to a separate path by which the effluence of the divine creative force reaches the various sefirot (”spheres”) through which the Creator, Blessed be he, created His world.” In a word, we are talking about the Gematria, which is a system that assigns numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values are closely related to one another.

Most of Glazerson’s book deals with the connection between the “deeper significance of the letters,” (the Gematria) and the surface text. In this post, I shall not discuss the numerical values of words in the Torah (Gematria) but rather their normal linguistic and communicative properties; in other words, the text itself.

In his “Approbation” of “Philistine and Palestinian” (1995) by Matityahu Glazerson, Rabbi J. Zalzer states:

Rabbi Glazerson disproves the tale that it makes no difference in which translation language you happen to read the ‘Bible.’ He demonstrates that the Hebrew language possesses certain values which you hardly find elsewhere: a simple word expresses, in fact, deep ideas which the real meaning (my bolding) of the word includes. The Torah is not reading material for leisure, but needs much effort in order to be able to penetrate its real meaning and discover its real beauty beneath the surface.”

Rabbi Zalzer is using “real” to refer to both “surface” and “deep.” He distinguishes between the “surface” “real meaning” that needs to be penetrated to get at the “deep ideas” and “real beauty” lying underneath (the “real meaning”). Let’s get rid of the confusion by calling all levels of meaning “real” meaning, and then distinguishing between the real surface meaning and the real deeper meaning/s. Other terms for “surface” meaning are “grammatical,” “linguistic,” or “first” meaning.


I believe the scriptures usually contain only one meaning, the surface meaning. “Surface” is not synonymous with superficial. If they were synonymous, then every time I were to read “And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good (Genesis 1:31), I could justifiably exclaim, “how superficial! And ask, “surely there’s more to “very good” than “very good,” surely there’s something deeper than “very good” – “very very good,” for example.

If, though, one wished to penetrate the deepest secret of all, one would discover – according to the Midrash – something so deep that it would defy the laws of contradiction. I would find that when God says “very good,” he means “very good” only for the hoi poloi. But if you’re Jewish and have also devoted decades to Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah, then, and only then, will you understand that when God says “very good,” he really means “very bad”; indeed, worse than “very bad”; He means the evil inclination itself, the yetser harah. Let the Midrash speak for itself:

“And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)—Midrash: Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel’s name: “Behold, it was good” refers to the Good Desire; “And behold, it was very good” refers to the Evil Desire. (It only says “very good” after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations, in all other cases it only says “and God saw that it was good”) Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children; and thus said Solomon: “Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man’s rivalry with his neighbour.” (Kohelet [Eclesiastes] IV, 4) (Genesis Rabbah 9:7, translation from Soncino Publications)

Here are two more examples of “deeper” meaning. The first example is from the Hebrew Bible – the Song of Songs; the other, from the New Testament – Luke’s Gospel.

Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim).

On the linguistic (first) level, the Song of Songs is about physical love. For most scholars (Jewish and Christian), the deeper meaning of the Song of Songs is the love relationship between God and man (for the Jew, the relationship between God and his bride, Israel). Some modern Christian scholars see only the celebration of human love, and accuse the “allegorisers” of contorting a physical celebration into a mystical “cerebration.1” But, why can’t the Song of Songs be about both physical love as well as mystical love, which would mean that there would be not clash between the “first” (physical) level and the deeper (mystical) level. (By mystical I mean “imbued with mystery”).

The previous example was a legitimate example of how one level of meaning (the basic meaning) may allude to a deeper meaning. The next example – from Luke’s Gospel – is an example of illegitimate exegesis, which shows how one can arrive at (by steering towards) a higher meaning NOT by teasing it out of the basic meaning but by tearing the basic meaning out of context and replacing it with a “higher” meaning.

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says:

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her (Mary) and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Jerome translated the Greek charitoō (highly favoured) as “full of grace.” This Vulgate mistranslation of the Greek is one of the pillars of the Roman Catholic doctrines about Mary such as she was conceived without sin, and thus redeemed from conception, and she was taken up bodily into Heaven, and several more.

The question is why would Jerome make such an obvious translation error? The problem was almost certainly not an ignorance of Greek. Was it his compunction – encouraged by other sympathisers –  to fill the mother of Jesus with grace, because he confused Jesus the “Son of Man (humanity)” with Jesus the Son of a man (masculine gender). A man knows about courage, truth, strength, wrath. But what does a man understand about gentleness, lovingness, virgin purity and affection? That’s the woman’s domain, isn’t it? Mary, the meek, loving, obedient highly favoured woman, pierced by sorrow becomes the Mother of God, “Can we not feel that it must have been so right…a living object of devotion, faith and hope” (F.W. Robertson, 1924. “The Glory of the Virgin Mother” in Sermons on Bible Subjects, p. 224. Everyman’s Library). When I was a devout Catholic, I used to feel that it was so.  I never cared about biblical exegesis. Like most Catholics, I didn’t read the Bible much.There was no need to; the Pope said it was so, and that was that. Besides, the mother of Jesus  had that feminine touch that no man – not even Jesus – could match. This, of course, is not true. The Son of Man was a perfect embodiment of both the masculine and the feminine of humanness. (You can find F.W. Robertson’s excellent psychological analysis of the Marian doctrine here).

In sum, while the Midrash digs deep below the surface of “very good” and  finds something better; something (very?) evil,  the Vulgate violates translation in order to idolize the pure blessed mother of the Mediator between man and God. Is not this also an example of the very good becoming very evil?

1From “cerebral” (brain, mental).

(See the follow-on post “the-slaughter-of-isaac-rabbi-glazersons-axegesis-of-laughter-in-genesis-17-18).

Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate

(See related post “John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply”).

There is a growing number of contemporary Catholic monasteries and parishes that hold Buddhist retreats and workshops. A Jesuit priest come Zen master, Robert E. Kennedy, holds Zen retreats at his “Morning Star Zendo”. Kennedy asks “students to trust themselves and to develop their own self-reliance through the practice of Zen.” ( I’m not recommending Kennedy’s Zendo, but merely citing my sources, which  I like to do not just now and zen, but often).

It’s difficult to understand how one can be both a good Zen Buddhist and a good Catholic. It seems he was more interested in converting Catholics to Buddhism than in Catholicism itself. “The future of Zen is in the West,” he says. And the future of Catholicism? That was too limited in scope, too Roman; not universal enough, not catholic enough. The future lay in the emergent union to be born out of the merger between East and West. Merton had the backing of his illustrious and saintly predecessor, St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who proclaimed: “All that is true, by whomever it has been said, is from the Holy Spirit.” Could we also say “all that is deep, by whomever it has been said, is from the Holy Spirit.”

Merton was influenced by Gandhi who advocated that the way to finding the deeper roots of one’s own religious tradition is by  immersing oneself in other religions, and then returning “home” to see one’s own traditions and beliefs in a clearer light. The Catholic Church, since Vatican II (1962), has radically changed its attitude towards inter-religious dialogue. Merton and other Catholic devotees of Eastern thought had a significant influence on changing Rome’s attitude to non-Christian religions. The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

(Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965)

“The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate 2).

Wayne Teasdale comments that the (Catholic) church has yet to realize the full implications of the above statement.

The encyclical Nostra Aetate started out (in 1961, the year of Vatican II) as a “Decree on the Jews.” The final text of Nostra Aetate consisted of five sections:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Hindus, Buddhists, and other religions.
  3. Muslims.
  4. Jews.
  5. Conclusion.

The Vatican starts out with the best of intentions towards the Jews. Let’s try and sort out this Jewish millstone hanging round our necks of Pope Pius and the Holocaust. (Pope Pius XII was on the papal throne during the Holocaust). The Jewish view is that he could have done more to save the Jews.  We’ll stop telling the Jews that they killed their Messiah. We’ll write an encyclical and say, “it is wrong to call them an accursed people,…or a deicidal people,…”.  Hang on. Why waste a whole encyclical on the Jews.  While we’re about it, let’s go the whole hog and bring in the Muslims and the East as well. Let’s be truly catholic.” The monotheistic Jews end up as the last item behind the monotheistic Muslims. But who gets first prize? The new darlings on the Catholic block – Buddha and Krishna.

In October 2010, “Why Israel” reports, a Catholic synod called at the Vatican to discuss increasing persecution of Christians in the Middle East.  Much of its final statement was related to the Vatican’s demand to Israel to end its “occupation” of Arab lands. In his final statement at the synod, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros of Boston said that Biblical  promises made by God to Israel “were nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people.”   The Editor of “Why Israel” concludes, “the Vatican’s commitment to its earlier declaration regarding the Jews and God’s promises to them remains at least partially in question.” What commitment? It’s all tripe.

I’ve been scathing, which most would consider inimical to interfaith dialogue. My view is that much interfatih dialogue  is mostly, and often  sentimental; but not spiritual.  In interfaith dialogue, there are religions that have contradictory revelations from the same God. Only one can be true. Each of these religions, if they want to remain faithful and true to their own, should not budge on their major doctrines (which they believe comes from God). What, therefore, is there to dialogue about except “let’s respect the UN Charter on Human Rights, and not violate our right to free speech and free assembly, and so forth”? In a nutshell “Let’s not harass or persecute one another, and let’s also try to find a way to  make the world a better place for all;” which is the clarion call of all (secular) humanists.

Let me consider further the problem of interfaith relations. Here is the attitude of a Rabbi and a Priest (Catholic?) to each other. Rabbi Blech sincerely wants his fellow Jews to have more respect for the goyim. He mentioned a “priest” he met at an airport who asked him for a blessing.

Priest: “May I ask you a very important favour?”

Rabbi Blech: Sure

Priest: All my life, I’ve been waiting to meet a rabbi because I know that you are God’s chosen people, and all my life, I’ve been waiting to ask a rabbi for a blessing. I would love a blessing from a rabbi, could you do that for me.”

Rabbi Blech: (To his audience) By the way. How would you respond. Some people would say, “Ah, a goy,” – and I gave him a blessing. I said a posik (portion) for him and translated for him and this man walked away as if he had been given the greatest gift in the world, a brocha (blessing) from a Jew. Do you understand where the Bible belt in America is today? Do you understand how much respect there is in America today for Jews? There’s a whole world out there that thinks that knows that acknowledges that recognises that we are God’s chosen people, that puts us on a higher level. I said to myself I was a Rabbi in young Israel for 40 years, nobody came to me and said, Rabbi, you know you are the ultimate, give me a brocha..

Blech believes we are living in the pre-messianic soon return of Messiah. “One of the signs is that the goyim will start to do tchuva (Repentance). What I have written above is part of a much longer piece. I go on to speak of Pope John Paul’s desire to do tshuva (repentance). I wonder how much influence Thomas Merton and his sympathizers had in the drafting of “In Our Time” (Nostra Aetate). Earlier I quoted from the Nostra Aetate:

“The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate ).

I quoted Wayne Teasdale earlier: “the (Catholic) church has yet to realize the full implications of the above statement.”  The Vatican was cautious of Thomas Merton. It had reason to be so.

Merton doesn’t worry about the radical differences between the two faiths. But then “differences” imply dualism. Religions shouldn’t duel because dualism is an illusion. Merton’s universalistic monism defies logic. Some may argue that logic is a Greek fabrication. Aristotle says that A cannot be not-A. Aristotle cannot be and not be (Aristotle). Who says? Aristotle. But listen to “The science of sciences and the mysteries of mysteries” of the Bhagavad-Gita: I am Being and Not-Being (Chapter 5). The Jews, and ergo the Catholics are unscientific.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”  (Exodus 3:13-14).

Here is the Buddhist adaptation:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am NOT . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM-NOT-AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:13-14)

A Buddhist ditches the law of contradiction into the ocean of life and death, but no Catholic can do so. Catholic theology without logic is like Socrates without his dialectic: a diuretic. But we don’t have to appeal to theology. We can go right to its source: the Christian scriptures. But the Buddha first.

Buddha’s final words to his disciples were:

“Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not rely upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them; do not depend upon any other teaching.”

Contrast that with the words of John the Baptist: “He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light” (John, 1:8). John the Baptist continued to proclaim that Christ “is the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John, 1:9). Christ says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Christ is the light. No human being has any light IN himself waiting to shine forth.

To return to the Jews, the original inspiration for Nostra Aetate. The Pontifical Biblical Commission statement (2002), entitled “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” states: “The Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us.”

How could such an expectation be not vain, given that they refuse Christ, the only Messiah, who has already come? This means, if taken to its logical conclusion, that the refusal of the mystery of the Incarnation, of the birth of our Divine Savior in the flesh, is no longer a sin of infidelity, is no longer a grave sin against the Faith. If this were the case, how could it still be true for Our Lord to say to the Jewish false believers:

 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

(John 8:24-45)

These were  “Jews who had believed him.” This belief was obviously not in who Jesus said he was but in what these Jews wanted to believe about Jesus. In sum, according to Jesus, they were sons of  the father of lies.

(See related post “John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply”).

 

John 17 and Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed)

John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply

In 1960, my second year at the University of Cape Town, I joined the Catholic Church. Like many Catholics, I laughed at Protestants and all their denominations. As for “Are you saved, brother?” For a Catholic, the idea that salvation could involve nothing but faith in Christ, seemed rudderless. Not only is the Protestant rudderless, he’s missing a whole boatload of stuff, only to be found in the Bark of Peter, which the powers of darkness can never capsize. The Protestant is worse than a dog without his bark; he’s a dog without a leash. Without the Catholic Leash, the mad dogs rush headlong down the slopes, dragging the sheep down with them to perdition.

What inspired the Council Trent? To codify Catholic beliefs, yes. But why at that specific time in  Catholic Church history? Why, that stubborn heretic, Martin Luther and his ilk, of course. In 1520, the Catholic Church issued a Bull of excommunication against Luther. At the Diet of Worms, Luther was given the opportunity (no, not to lose weight) to recant some of his anti-Catholic writings. Here is Luther’s (in)famous reply:

“Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Luther prised open the sluice gates of private interpretation; with an unsurprising result – to Catholics: chaque pas, trois merdes (the French expression about the pavements of France) “Each step, three doggy doos. Each heretic, three interpretations. And nine denominations. See, Luther what your sola scriptura and plain reason have produced! An ecclesiastical maelstrom.“I personally believe, says John Martignoni, based on my experiences, that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestant denominations, and the main reason for this is sola scriptura.” And – John, you forgot another very important reason – the grammar and context of plain reason.

Before Vatican II (1962), “[t]here is but one universal Catholic Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215 A.D.

” We declare,say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Papal Bull ” Unam Sanctum”, 1302 A.D.)

” The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her. ( Pope Eugene IV, the Papal Bull ” Cantate Domino”, 1441 A.D.).

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, outside the (Catholic) Church there is no salvation.

” The Catholic Church is the Vine , you the branches: he who abides in the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church in him, the same bears much fruit, for

without the Catholic Church you can do nothing. If anyone is not in the Catholic Church , he shall be cast forth like a branch and wither, and they shall gather him up and cast him him into the fire, and he burneth” ( John 15:5-6).

” He who is not with the Catholic Church is against the Catholic Church; he who gathers not with the Catholic Church scatters” ( Matt: 12:30).

“Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name – than the Catholic Church – under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved ( Acts. 4:12).

In recent times, these papal Bulls are, it seems, the reserve of a traditional clutch of Catholics who, “if we know our neighbors are not Catholic and therefore cannot receive the sacraments, as Catholics we are to help them understand they need to come home to the one true Catholic Church outside of which no one can be saved.”

This traditional web site appears to focus on Protestants, because the phrase “coming home” is a catch phrase that refers to Protestants who swim (back?) across the Tiber pulled by – Protestants can be so funny – the bells and smells of Rome.

In October, 1986, Pope John Paul II convened and led a multi-faith service at Assisi, Italy. Leaders of non-Christian religions participated and publicly prayed to their gods. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and Zoroastrians participated in this service. So did an Orthodox patriach and some Protestant leaders.

The video “Catholicism: Crisis of Faith” has film footage of this service. You can see and hear the Dalai Lama chanting, African shamans calling on their gods, and Muslims chanting from the Koran. The altar that was used for the service had a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). Catholics believe that consecrated bread is literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Putting a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle is, in effect, elevating Buddha above Jesus Christ.

The above interfaith convention of 1985 has its roots in the papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), which is the Declaraton on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965. Nostra Aetate states:

“The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate).

It’s not only the Catholic Church that is taking the universalist route. So is the Episcopal and mainline Protestant Churches:

“Jesus saves, the Episcopal Catholic Church teaches, but a growing number of its clergy and leaders believe other faiths may lead to salvation as well. Long divided and distracted by questions of sexual ethics, the Episcopal Catholic Church (along with most mainline Protestant communities) are facing a cultural and theological shift towards religious pluralism—the belief that there are diverse paths to God.”

But there still exists a good number of Protestants who believe that faith in Jesus Christ is a prerequisite to salvation. I won’t call these Protestants “evangelical” because that word has become so bloated in meaning that it now means anything.

“Are you trying to tell me, asks the universalist (and the agnostic/atheist), that all those that don’t know the secret password Jesus Christ are going to end up in hell!”

Such a question gives a distorted impression of evangelism (Evangelium “Gospel”). The Gospel teaches that God the Father, has appointed Christ, His Son, as Lord. The Father’s glory is reflected in the Son, who is the exact representation of the Father’s being, of His glory:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:8-10).

With regard to Verse 8, the Protestant believes that it is the Catholic Church that has taken people captive by their “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition….” The Catholic church counters that the verse is pointing a finger at Protestants. Verse 9 states that Christ is the head over every power and authority. Protestants reject the Catholic Church’s claim to be Christ’s head on earth.

Why is there no other name but Jesus that matters? Because Jesus Christ is what salvation means (Jesus means salvation”). This is the central doctrine of the Gospel, and used to be the central doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church until Vatican 2 (1962), which introduced the idea of universal salvation (Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others – EXCEPT Protestants). Am I being divisive or, worse, perverse?I don’t think so. Here is an anecdote that expresses an opinion  I (a former Catholic) – and Catholics I knew – held.

Roy Schoeman, a Jew, relates his interesting journey to the Catholic Church. Here is the part of his story when he spent a week at a Carthusian monastery:

“One day when I was working alone in the fields, an elderly monk came out to speak with me. He approached and shyly asked, “Tell us, if you don’t mind ­ We couldn’t help noticing that you do not receive communion, so you must not be Catholic. What then are you?” When I replied “Jewish”, he grinned and with a deep sigh said “That’s a relief! We were afraid you were Protestant!”. At the time I had no understanding at all of the difference between Protestants and Catholics ­ they were just meaningless words to me describing Christians ­ yet I was deeply struck by the fact that in some mysterious way this monk identified with Jews as opposed to Protestants. I later realized that in his eyes Jews were “elder brothers in the Faith” who had not yet received the grace to recognize the Messiahship of Jesus, whereas Protestants had once had, but then rejected, the fullness of the truth.”

My “Rabbis, “evangelicals” and Messianic Jews of Maozisrael”, showed a photo of Pope John Paul II kissing a Koran, which denies “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11. And “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24.)

Many traditional Catholics were outraged by the Pope’s ecumenical gesture. Imagine the Pope kissing a Protestant Bible. It would be like the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem kissing the New Testament. To illustrate, here is a (Jewish) Anonymous comment on my “Mel Gibson’s “How” in the Passion of the Christ: And the Why?”

“…the “new testament” was written by Paul, not G-d… Paul wrote a viciously anti-Semitic and preposterous fiction in which the Jews murdered G-d, and then issued a statement essentially inviting good and decent lovers of G-d to hold future generations of Israel perpetually guilty. And, Christians have gotten that message loud and clear from Paul’s Christian bible. If you’ll notice, the devout Christian persecutors of Israel never, by and large, declared that their blood lust was motivated by events in the Jewish Bible. No pogrom was ever stirred up by a local bishop reminding the illiterate hoards that the Jews had complained to Moses about a lack of poultry in their Sinaitic diet. The anti-Semitic violence has always traced from a direct line out of the “new testament” deicide narrative. The imaginary passion of Jesus is what has led to so much real suffering of innocent Jewish people at the hands of religious Christians.”

One common example of this  “genocidal antisemitism” (as Rabbi Tovia singer describes it) is Martin Luther, a major flaw in his character.  But Jesus’ passion was not imaginary. Nor were the Jewish people innocent; if the Prophets – and the NT – are to be believed. According to Charles Soper, “every Protestant should read ‘on the Jews and their lies’ or even worse the utterly vile ‘Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi ‘ before ever praising him for breaking the yoke of Rome. He had most serious flaws which literally set out the manifesto for the Holocaust. He’s a prime example of Rom.11.20.” Soper is right about the serious flaws but not about the “manifesto for the Holocaust.” Here is Romans 11:20 in context:

Romans 11

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

Hitler saw a manifesto, while the Lutheran Pastor, Boenhoffer, saw – from his concentration camp gibbet – nothing of the kind. Hitler’s “manifesto” was the Lutheran’s death warrant.

“The ultimate question, Bonhoeffer said,  for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” The second question is indeed more important than the first. For a Lutheran – and for any Christian  – what ultimately counts on this earth is that one should not lose heart; for though the outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Catholic-Jewish relations are much better since Nostra Aetate. Protestant-Catholic relations are also better. But the label “Protestant” today is like the word “Evangelical;” it’s the sound of flapping labials signifying nothing. The real divide is between Catholicism and Reformed Christianity (Reformation theology) of whom J.C. Sproul, James White and Wayne Grudem are some of the more well-known exponents.

Why are so many Catholics universalists? They’re following the teachings of the Catholic Church:

“For the whole of mankind was freed from the slavery of sin by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ as their ransom, and there is no one who is excluded from the benefit of this Redemption …” Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, #1, 1914.

Surely, you can only begin to know what true freedom is once you’ve entered into the life of Christ. So, how can mankind be set free if they ignore Christ: “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Here’s the Catholic rub, according to Benedict XV: if you’re a good Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, atheist (?) you receive – in Catholic terms – the ultimate gift of redemption, which is salvation.It’s also ok to be a Jewish Hindu or a Catholic Buddhist. I said in “Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate,”that I found it difficult to understand how Thomas Merton could fulfill one of his greatest ambitions: to be both a good Zen Buddhist and a good Catholic. The answer, as Elvis could easily have said? Tommy be good.

But beware you (Reformed) Protestants, because you should have known better. Consider the faiths-works doctrine that splits Catholics and many Protestants: CANON 24 states: if any one says “…works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.” The Protestant argument is that works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, and NOT the cause of its increase. In contrast, Jews, Muslims and all the other religions are at one with Catholicism that works are not merely the fruits of justification but a (large) part of its cause.

I agree with DH Williams that

“justification by faith was not at heart a matter of soteriology [salvation], but of Christology [who Christ is], especially when it came to interpreting the divine intent and benefits of the Incarnation. . . . The reality of one’s salvation was only as good as the divine being who secures it….”

“[I]n the patristic era  [before Augustine].  The totality of God’s salvific plan and accomplishment was linked to the divinity of the God-Man who made it possible (Italics added]. We may say, therefore, faith is a divine work of salvation ‘in us,’ of inner transformation so that the believer may behold God.  This is the fruit of our justification: the goal of participating in the divine life.”

But, for many modern Catholics justification, as Wiiliams describes it, or as the Catholic Magisterium defines it, doesn’t matter. For example:

“If a person, says Cardinal Arenze, were to push what you said a little further and say that if you’re not a Christian you’re not going to heaven, we’d regard that person as a fundamentalist…and theologically wrong. I met in Pakistan a Muslim. He had a wonderful concept of the Koran. We were like two twins that had known one another from birth. And I was in admiration of this man’s wisdom. I think that man will go to heaven. There was a Buddhist in Kyoto, in Japan. This man, a good man, open, listening, humble–I was amazed. I listened to his works of wisdom and said to myself, “The grace of God is working in this man.” The interviewer then repeated the question, “So you can still get to heaven without accepting Jesus?” “Expressly, yes he laughs with the audience.” Dallas Morning News, 3/20/99).

(See also my “Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate”).

You can get to heaven, says the modern Catholic Church, without accepting Jesus. But if I’m a (Reformed) Protestant, which I am (no mea culpas), I doubt whether the Catholic Church holds the same opinion. The reason is that in its eyes I have actively rejected Jesus, because the Catholic Church and Jesus are one. “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, let him be anathema” (Canon 12, Council of Trent). “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out that no debt of temporal punishment remains…let him be anathema (Canon 30, Council of Trent). Those  Canons were designed  to counter the Reformers, to blow apart the Lutheran “cant.” But as Luther said so famously, “I won’t, I can’t recant.” Luther, that’s done it! Start singing Catate Domino. To recall:

” The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her. ( Pope Eugene IV, the Papal Bull ” Cantate Domino”, 1441 A.D.).

Traditional Catholics, however, are also no respecter of non-Christian religions.

“The Gospels are quite clear, say the traditional Catholics, that we need our Lord and His sacraments for salvation. We have a duty under universal charity to tell all those separated from the One True Catholic Church that they must enter the Catholic Church before they die, if not their souls will be lost forever. In the spirit of true Catholic ecumenism let it be your mission to make known the love of Christ and His Catholic Church. Do not rob your friends, co-workers and neighbors of the chance to find their way home.”

Muslims, Buddhists and Jews don’t give a toss about all that. But that – in the Catholic Church’s eyes – is fine because Muslims, Buddhists and Jews – mostly – don’t have a clue what they are not giving a toss about. Of course, they need to be morally upright Muslims, Buddhists and Jews. Protestants are different. They do give a toss – a big toss – about Catholicism. Their unpardonable sin is to toss much of it out.

I keep contact with my Catholic friends and relatives. Whenever I talk with them about faith and knowing God, they invariably quote “I was hungry, and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me.” Now, the Protestant will agree that if you do not do good works, you cannot have genuine belief. Catholics, however, insist – Jews are very similar in this regard – that the most important thing is not “faith” but “faithfulness” (living a moral life). That does seem the right human way to go, but it’s not the biblical way. The biblical way is trusting that God has done for you what you never could do for yourself. And what’s that? Become reconciled to a Holy, Loving and Just God, silly.

The Silence of the Gaps: Dom John Main’s Mystical Mutilations in Romans

If someone were to say that the Holy Spirit plays a central role in the Christian life, no Christian would argue, if what the person means by central is  “very important,” and “crucial.” We would say the same about the Father and about the Son. However, if we compare the roles of the Son and the Holy Spirit, I think it would be correct to say that Christ is at the centre of  Salvation, and the Holy Spirit, graciously, plays a supporting role. In the light of this supposition, consider the following excerpt from “Words in Silence.” The author is Dom John Main, a Benedictine monk. On p. 3, he quotes (New English Bible – C.H. Dodd) St Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:1-5:

I have underlined pertinent sections. Notice the gap between “ours” (end of verse 2) and “because,” (second half of verse 5). shortly.

Romans 1:1-5

Verse 1

    . Therefore, now that we have been justified through faith, let us continue at peace with God through the Lord, Jesus Christ, V

erse 2

    . through whom we have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace, where we now stand. Let us exult in the

hope

    of the divine splendour that is to be

ours

    …..

Verse 5bbecauseGod’s love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us.”

Dom Main comments: “His (St Paul) great conviction is that the 1. central reality of our Christian faith is the sending of the Spirit of Jesus; 2. indeed our faith is a living faith precisely because the living Spirit of God dwells within us, giving new life to our mortal bodies.”

Dom Main’s point 2 is right; his point 1 is wrong: the sending of the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit) is not, according to the Bible, the “central reality of our faith”.

Dom Main is right when he says that it is the Holy Spirit living in Christians that breathes life into their faith. But he is wrong to say that Paul thinks – or any Christian should think – that the sending of the Holy Spirit is the “central reality of our Christian faith”. It seems that Dom Main’s view is a common “mystical” (my term) interpretation. The Bible, in many places, clearly states what the centrality of faith is. Here is one passage. Jesus is speaking, after the resurrection, to his disciples (a short while before His ascension into heaven).

Luke 24:44-48 (I’ve marked two relevant sections, A and B):

“He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that:

A. the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

B. You are witnesses of these things. And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Dom Main says that B is the “central reality”. I would say the central reality is A: the suffering (death), the rising from the dead, and the repentance of sinners and forgiveness of sins for those who have faith that Christ has died, Christ has risen (and Christ will come again):

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Cor 15:3,4).

What is the Holy Spirit’s role in the “economy” of salvation? He is the “sealer” of the Faith, the Counsellor, the Comforter, the Revealer of truth, the Power from on high that equips us – to learn, to understand, to love, to witness. And to suffer for the Gospel. Nothing the Holy Spirit does can be divorced from the Word of God. Whenever, we read the Word the God, we should truistically read it in context. What is the context of the references to the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:1-5?

I return to Dom Main’s quote of Romans 5:1-5, and the dots between “our” and “because”, which indicates that Dom Main had left something out. Well, he left out half of Romans 5:1-5.  (He said he was quoting verses 1-5). Dots within a quote indicate that the quoter thinks the part he omits  is not central to his purpose. Dom Main is correct. They are not central to his purpose;. What is his purpose? His purpose is to show that the Bible considers the “central reality of our Christian faith” to be “the sending of the Spirit of Jesus” (Dom Main above).

Let’s see what Dom Main skipped in Romans 5:1-5. Here is the restored passage verses 1–5. The part in bold is what Dom Main left out. Pay special attention to the word “hope” in different parts of the passage.

1 Therefore now that we have been justified through faith, let us continue at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace, where we now stand. Let us exult in the hope of the divine Splendour that is to be ours. 3 More than this: let us even exult in our present sufferings, because we know that suffering trains us to endure, 4 and endurance brings proof that we have stood the test, and this proof is the ground of hope. 5 Such a hope is no mockery, because God’s love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us.

In Dom Main’s mutilation of Romans 5:1-5 (slicing off verses 3,4 and a part of 5) , “hope” refers only to “the hope of divine splendour”. But what does the unmutilated text say. The “ground” of “hope” is not divine splendour, but  being proved through “present sufferings”, “endurance”, and standing the “test”; in one word – through the cross; where the hope of divine splendour/glory shines through. Through Christ Jesus.

“Did you know then”, to quote Paul again, a chapter later, that “all of us  who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?” (Romans 6:3). “Baptised” here is not so much the physical act of immersing your body in water, but immersing yourself in Christ’s suffering and death – and, consequently, in your own death as well.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” (Mark 10:38).

In “The Passion of Bach: The Heart of Tragedy”, I described a well-known conductor who told of the deep effect Bach’s tragic “Passion of Christ” had on him. Not that he believed that the person being crucified was anything but a man. “You don’t, he said, have to be a Christian to feel the pain and the tragedy of such suffering.” From the Christian point of view, he didn’t understand that this Death meant much more than a human tragedy; it was a Death that brings life. I concluded that failure to grasp the meaning of this Death is what lies at the heart of tragedy.

With regard to Dom Main’s mutilation – with its “spirit-filled” intentions, there could also be a tragedy there. While the music conductor was ignorant of the Bible (for reasons known to God), Dom Main displaced the centrality of Christ by giving us a Holy Spirit-centred Gospel. As I mentioned above, the work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal  Christ, and to strengthen us in Christ. Of course, it is absolutely valid, and very good, to learn as much as we can about the Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the Trinity. What I think was not so good was the manner in which Dom Main went about excluding from Romans 5:1-5, “3 More than this: let us even exult in our present sufferings, because we know that suffering trains us to endure, 4 and endurance brings proof that we have stood the test, and this proof is the ground of hope.” In Romans 5:1-5, Christian faith is grounded in sufferings that trains a Christian to endure to the end, and ultimately he will be taken up to the divine splendor of Christ, his Saviour. The Holy Spirit is the One who helps the Christian on the Way.

The conductor of Bach’s “Passion” sobbed over the death of a man called Jesus. Or was it the music itself that brought on the sorrow? Music does that. The Conductor doesn’t know (and/or care) about scripture. Dom Main, on the other hand, has studied much, and also, no doubt, cares much about scripture. All the more reason that he should  “divide” the word with more diligence, without cutting it up so.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The greatest danger of mysticism for the Christian is to displace Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, a more universal term, which appeals to mystics across the religious smorgasbrod.

P.S. Dom John Main can’t respond to my criticisms, because he died in 1982. But someone else may wish to do so.

Journey of a soul: Pope John XXIII

Two weeks ago, Cathy, my wife and I went to a car boot sale in our home city, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where we met the librarian of the Catholic Diocesan library, who was selling unwanted books from the library.  I bought a few. He invited us to come to the library and take books that the library no longer wanted. Yesterday we visited the library situated in the grounds of the Catholic Archdiocese of Port Elizabeth. We filled a whole box of about 40 books. Cathy found five P.G Wodehouse paperbacks. I got some Catholic books among which were the Vatican II Council reports, a Code of Canon Law, John Henry Newman’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” (Defence/Justification of His life), and Pope John XXIII’s diary “Journal of a Soul.”

During Vatican II, I attended an audience of about 200 people (mostly clergy) with Pope John.  At the time, I was travelling with a Dominican Retreat Master through Europe, where we stayed at different monasteries,  where he gave retreats. I can never forget Pope John’s big eyes flashing with joy. This afternoon I was reading his diary. Here is an excerpt from an entry when he was 20 years old  (Pope JohnXXIII. Journal of aSoul. London:GeoffreyChapman, 1965, p. 64).

“Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? I am nothing. Everything I possess, my being, life, understanding, will and memory – all were given me by God, so all belong to him. Twenty short years ago all that I see around me was already here; the same sun, moon and stars…..Everything was being done without me, nobody was thinking of me….because I did not exist. And you, O God….drew me forth from the nothingness, you gave me being, life, a soul, in fact all the faculties of my body and spirit…you created me.”

John then quotes 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

The main emphasis in 1 Corinthians is on salvation, and it is entirely of the Lord.

Pope John says later on (p. 69) “I am alas! The prodigal son who wasted your substance, your natural and supernatural gifts, and reduced myself to the most miserable state because I had fled from you…And you are the most loving Father who welcomed me with a great feast when, repenting of my transgressions, I came back to your house and found shelter under your roof.

Comment:

The Father not only welcomes me back and forgives my transgressions; He also gives me the power to repent by raising me from spiritual death. But if He raises me from spiritual death, this can only mean that only after He regenerates me (after I am born again) will I be able to repent. This description of salvation is anathema to RC theology – and to popes who pronounce them.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  (Ephesians 2:4-8).

I haven’t praised Pope John and then shot him down. I haven’t praised him. But I do love him.  

More from Pope John’s diary – on purgatory.