Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

I finally understand the Truly Reformed approach to interpreting the Bible

My interpretation of the Bible is infallible because I’m Elect because my interpretation of the Bible is infallible because I’m Elect.

For all their stated emphasis on grace, some Reformed Christian folks demonstrate such certainty in their own understandings that they actually emphasize their own interpretative stances over anything else, including grace.

What does this have to do with anything? Take a look at a few rounds of this video debate between a Reformed guy and a Roman Catholic guy, as I did recently.

Watch how they both selectively avoid the consequences of the opposing proof texts. Notice how their selective engagements involve work-arounds that have nothing to do with the texts themselves.

The take-away from their exchange, in my opinion, is simply that systematizing the Bible into a complete set of firm answers and airtight conclusions is not possible. But some people can only have a Bible if they have an infallible interpretation of it, too.

Watching the debate also reminded me that the late great French Protestant Jacques Ellul once said “the Bible is not a recipe book or an answer book, but the opposite: it is a book of questions God asks us.”

Stumbled Upon: 2012 and 2014 EWTN Interviews With Bestselling Author Dean Koontz

I’ve only read one novel by Dean Koontz, titled Lightning, a fun read I picked up years ago. But Koontz’s reputation in the publishing business is hard to miss because he sells millions of copies of his books, which inevitably wind up on the bestseller lists. While searching for something completely different, I stumbled upon these EWTN interviews, one from 2012 and another from 2014, in which Koontz talks about his life, his work, good versus evil, and the Roman Catholic influence in his books. It’s really interesting to hear how he appropriates his Catholic faith in his writing—and to note how he doesn’t.

Heads up—the 2012 video, above, is entirely devoted to Koontz, while the 2014 video, below, includes an interview with him as part of a one-hour news program, so you’ll have to fast-forward or scroll ahead to see him in the latter.

Also see Dean Koontz’s 5 Favorite Books.

Here’s an Odd One: Carl Jung’s Endorsement of Catholicism & Liturgical Worship For Mental Health

You might think Carl Jung was crazy, or wicked, or insightful, but no matter what you think, you’ll probably acknowledge the man formed at least some decent observations.

Along those lines, I tend to stumble across some of the weirdest stuff (I hear regular readers laughing).

Read these two excerpts from Memories, Dreams, Reflections for your own inferences and extrapolations:

“The play of fantasy [in artistic self-expression] is also helped by religion, an indispensable auxiliary for the psychologist. Catholicism in particular, with its ceremonial [sic] and liturgy, gives fantasy a priceless support, for which reason I have found in my practice that believing Catholics suffer less from neurosis and are easier to cure than Protestants and Jews.”

And later:

“Even so, as a Protestant, it is quite clear to me that, in its healing effects, no creed is as closely akin to psychoanalysis as Catholicism. The symbols of the Catholic liturgy offer the unconscious such a wealth of possibilities for expression that they act as an incomparable diet for the psyche.”

Infer and extrapolate at will.

How Tradition defended Scripture & defeated Gnosticism in early Christianity

Continuing a critique of the phrase “Biblical Anglicans” and some possible assumptions behind it:

Throughout his five-volume series The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Jaroslav Pelikan, the late Yale historian of Christianity, returned to the formative role of church tradition.

(Granted, as I said before, histories, like texts, are matters of interpretation. But some interpretations are better informed and more authoritative than others.)

In the fifth volume, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700), Pelikan writes (with direct quotations referring to sources listed in the margins of the book; the sources are omitted here for clarity):

Because it was the period in which historical theology came into its own, especially among Protestants but also among Roman Catholics and (particularly toward the end of the period) among Eastern Orthodox scholars, the nineteenth century confronted the idea of consensus of Christian tradition, and specifically patristic tradition, in a new way. It did seem remarkable that the apologists of the first three centuries in their defenses of the Christian message against pagans and Jews had “totally ignored the living tradition in their theory and criticism of revelation,” which they sometimes seemed to reduce to rational notions of God, creation, and immortality. A growing interest in the historical significance of Gnosticism for the emergence of orthodox Catholic doctrine led to the judgment that since Catholics and Gnostics alike had appealed to the authority of Scripture, the authority of tradition as “a principle standing above Scripture” became a way for Catholic orthodoxy to defeat Gnostic heresy. Irenaeus deserved recognition for being the first who “penetrated to the full value of the Catholic principle of tradition and developed its probative force.” Having supported the authenticity of the books of the New Testament from the tradition of the universal church, he had, moreover, helped to preserve the very Scripture that Protestants now sought to dissociate from tradition; and he had proved his thesis concerning the unity of apostolicity of the Catholic Church and its tradition by reference to the church of Rome, whose authority Protestants denied; Eastern theologians had to make a special point of explaining his statements about Roman primacy.

The boldfaced segments above were added by me.

Please also see:

Richard Hooker versus the Puritan position—more about the Anglican view of Scripture, Reason & Tradition

“Biblical Anglicans” as “one-third Anglicans”

Anglicanism and “Biblical Anglicans” as “one-third Anglicans”

Anglicanism, Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker in the context of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition

 

The aggregate of thoughts, feelings, and years

I can stand up for hope, faith, love
But while I’m getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady  — U2

With this blog during the past five years, I’ve tried to make the case that Protestant evangelicalism and its close cousins are intellectually problematic exercises in futility.

The available Reformed and fundamentalist views of God, humans, and the Bible never really work out, intellectually or experientially, without constant guess work and endless, tiny adjustments in the particulars of belief.

Unfortunately for me, this line of argument has been just as futile as evangelicalism.

Even when others have understood specific, concrete stories from my own life, they could not understand what brought me to the point of exasperation.

What can’t be explained is the aggregate of thousands of hours in conversations with friends, ministers, and psychologists.

What can’t be explained is the aggregate of thousands of hours of observations and, later, evaluation of those observations, the mulling over and over of words spoken and actions observed.

In other words, I don’t have arguments for or against evangelicalism. I have a life that offers deep and broad reasons why evangelicalism as a way of life does not work and couldn’t possibly.

When I found a church with candles and liturgy, I thought at least I could continue to believe in God and worship what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world,” which I took to be the Incarnation. That was the best I could do.

These days I see people going back in the same direction I came from, tempting the darker forces of religion to control congregations. But there is no way to bottle or package my experiences and my perspectives and present them concretely as a cautionary tale. Others are trying to bottle and package their experiences and their perspectives, and they carry more certainty than I do, maybe with fewer years, but with more zeal.

For them, “there’s one size for everyone.”

For me, “this particular size works for no one.”

Which is the more limited point of view?

G.K. Chesterton once contrasted the pagan circle with the Christian cross. The circle is closed, he said, with no expansion possible. The cross, however, extends infinitely in four directions, essentially in all directions.

I am sure my opposites would consider my point of view to be the circle, and their point of view to be the cross. Of course, I see it the other way around. The only thing I can say in response is that the liturgy and the candles — and, certainly, the bread and wine — enabled me to imagine the cross extending infinitely into past and future, while its crux remains firmly at “the still point of the turning world.”

The strange thing about the way sovereignty is assumed among Reformed, fundamentalist, and evangelical circles is this: there’s nothing to imagine. Only precision of abstract doctrine, none of the genuine mystery of the Baptized God and His universe as sensed and intuited by poets, novelists, and artists. Perhaps there’s nothing to imagine because the ministers feel certain they have grasped the mind of God.

The imaginations that drove Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien and Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor were Roman Catholic. The imagination that drove T.S. Eliot was Anglo-Catholic. The imagination that drove Aleksander Solzhenitsyn was Russian Orthodox. The biggest imagination that was close to evangelicalism was C.S. Lewis, who was Anglican. Are there any evangelical,  fundamentalist, or Reformed authors or poets of their caliber in the last 100 years? Perhaps in parts of Europe, but certainly not in the United States or the United Kingdom. I doubt the Reformed, evangelical, or fundamental crowds would claim John Updike or Garrison Keillor — they’re too liberal.

Elsewhere, others have said that our wills fail because the images in our subconscious minds undercut us. The imagination, as most deeply engrained in our minds, as most symbolically woven together with our beliefs, runs on stores of images. Those images must have a basic goodness to them if our wills are to accomplish what our rational minds say we want to achieve.

The Christian imagination ought to be broad and deep and it should buoy our wills toward good ends. The mindset that focuses on doctrinal precision and steps and methods and curricula and numerical growth in congregations only engages the rational mind. This is a failing mindset. As Chesterton said, “The mad man is not the man who has lost his reason. The mad man is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark explains Religious Freedom to New York Times

A letter to the editor from the New York Times website, a version of which appeared in today’s print edition:

Re “Bishops Sue Over Contraception Mandate” (news article, May 22):

The lawsuits by Catholic institutions are not about abortion, contraception, sterilization or other procedures. They are about ensuring that all religious organizations — no matter their particular faith — can publicly live out and express without editing or abridgment what their faiths teach. They are about ensuring that the institutions — and not government — determine what to believe and how to practice their beliefs.

They are about ensuring that any religious institution — not just Catholic institutions — may uphold its teaching and still serve all people in need, regardless of faith. Under the final rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the only way a Catholic hospital, school or social service agency can continue to stay Catholic is to limit care, services or education solely to Catholics.

The administration gives us three options: violate our beliefs, go out of business or serve only our members. “Are you hungry?” or “How do you feel?” must become “Sorry, Catholics only.” That is not acceptable.

The First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This administration has tossed aside this first of all freedoms for everyone, not just Catholics.

How ironic that this administration, which is violating our right to believe in the sanctity of life at all stages, recently offered asylum to a Chinese man persecuted by his government because he believes that certain practices are immoral.

(Most Rev.) JOHN J. MYERS
Archbishop of Newark
Newark, May 23, 2012

Taylor Marshall’s short history lesson: Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Church of England

I admit I’ve been interested in Taylor Marshall. His journey seems unlikely — or does it?

He started out thoroughly Protestant. He received a masters degree in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (a rigorously Reformed institution) and later earned a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Nashotah Theological House. He served as an Episcopal priest before converting to Roman Catholicism in 2006. He is the author of The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. He is currently a Doctoral Student and Instructor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas.

The following is an excerpt from this article published today at Catholic Online.

Those who remember their high school history might recall that Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England in the late sixth century to establish the Catholic Church in England. In A.D. 598, Pope Gregory the Great designated the township of Canterbury as the nation’s principal see. There were hiccups along the way (Norman conquest), but England remained under the pastoral oversight of the Pope until 1534 when King Henry VIII declared himself caput ecclesiae anglicanae “Head of the English Church.” Henry VIII never shook his devotion to the old rites. He demanded priestly celibacy, Latin Masses, and prayers for the dead. He did however have an appetite for the wealth of the monasteries. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left his son Edward VI as king. As a Protestant, Edward approved a Protestantized English ritual which became known as the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.

The liturgies found in the Book of Common Prayer and subsequent editions reveal a careful blend of medieval Catholic piety mixed with subtle Protestantism. Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth fully realized this compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism—perhaps the cleverest grab for political power in history. As England colonized the world, she spread her national Anglican church. In America, she became the Episcopal Church. The new worldwide conglomerate of national churches became known as the Anglican Communion. Since those days, the Anglican Communion has been divided into roughly three camps: High Church (more Catholic), Low Church (more Protestant), and Broad Church (liberals who bless the political and cultural mores of society—something going all the way back to Henry’s desire for a second marriage, and then a third marriage, and then a fourth…you know the story).

In the last twenty years, the Broad Churchmen emerged as victors in the Anglican Communion …