Monday, December 28, 2009

97 Verses Opposing "Once Saved, Always Saved"

During the Dec. 17, 2009 sermon at Fairwinds Baptist Church, Pastor Carlo made the following statement during a discussion of the doctrine of eternal security, the notion that once people are truly saved, they will never lose their salvation:

"Those people who say you can lose your salvation, I don't know how...what they're reading in the Word of God, but I don't find that in the Word of God."

I was surprised to hear Pastor Carlo make this remark, since I have personally shared with him the very verses from the Word of God that Christians who do not believe "once saved, always saved" [OSAS] cite as support of their denial of this doctrine.  I assume he was using a figure of speech here, but the truth of the matter is, Pastor Carlo does know what verses we cite.  He simply doesn't interpret them as contradicting this doctrine which is clearly so important to his theology.

To further the conversation between Baptists and Catholics regarding this doctrine, I'd like to share 97 verses that seem to oppose the doctrine of eternal security.  Granted, some of them might be debatable, and that is perfectly fine by me.  The Bible is not a series of proof-texts, and I would like to be the last person to treat it that way.  So, I invite you to disregard as many of these 97 verses that you like, but remember, all it takes is one verse breathed by the Holy Spirit and we are bound by the obedience of faith to believe that truly saved persons can lose their salvation.  And don't forget that in accepting the Biblical teaching that truly saved people can lose their salvation, you are joining the vast majority of Christians--both Catholic and Protestant--through all of Christian history who have understood the Bible in this way.

Before launching into the 97 verses themselves, please note the following:

A)  I have a tract that provides these verses and more, including a simple visual diagram that plots out the categories people could be in when they die.  The category that this tract (and this post) deals with is the second category: people who at one point were truly saved but did not persevere to the end, thereby ending up in hell for all eternity.  Catholics and Baptist both agree that categories one (that there exist unsaved people who, naturally, don't persevere in grace to the end) and three (that there exist saved people who DO persevere to the end) exist, but we are not talking about these categories here.  The question is: is there Biblical evidence (either explicit or implicit) that suggests that category 2 exists--that truly saved people can fall away and lose their salvation?

B)  We have to be careful with this final phrase.  When Catholics speak of "losing one's salvation," they do not mean that this person returns to the state they were in before becoming regenerated by God at the first moment of their salvation.  Rather, through serious, mortal sin, Christians can reject God's sanctifying grace through an action of their own will.  Even so, such individuals retain the regenerated nature of their soul, such that through repentance, they can be restored to a state of sanctifying grace without needing to be regenerated all over again.  Still, to enter heaven, one need not merely be regenerated but truly in a state of fellowship--a state of grace--with God.  Indeed, souls that die in friendship with God but are not perfect are, by God's grace and mercy, purified as through fire, so that they can enter heaven. (1 Cor. 3:15).

C)  The last thirty verses are a variety of conditional statements relating to salvation that Biblical writers make.  When the Bible says something like "you will go to heaven, so long as you keep the commandments," this implies (to most readers) that you will NOT go to heaven if you do NOT keep the commandments.  People who believe eternal security, however, believe that anyone who is truly saved will keep the commandments, and thus, these conditional verses only apply to people who are not truly saved to begin with.  Thus, if an apparent "Christian" goes about breaking the commandments, this can only mean (or at least call into question) that they were not truly saved to begin with.

Thus, the critical question going into each of these conditional verses is: to whom is the writer speaking?  Is the writer speaking to saved Christians in his letter?  If so, where does he suddenly make the switch and point out that "the following statements don't apply to you; they apply only to anyone reading this letter who has not been saved"?

I have quite a difficult time finding these exception clauses, and so I would submit that these conditional verses are written to saved Christians (though they apply to non-Christians as well)--the same saved Christians to whom each letter as a whole is written.  If you agree, then each of these conditional statements ASSUMES that saved people can lose their salvation.

D)  After the verses themselves, I will offer a brief discussion of the verses used by Pastor Carlo to support the idea of eternal security.  After all, it is not enough only to provide Biblical support for the Catholic understanding.  It is equally important to see how the verses used to support eternal security are being misinterpreted, which is usually fairly easy to do by simply looking at the Greek verb tenses.  (Which is why the vast majority of Christians simply do not buy this doctrine.)

E)  Finally, this post will have to be a work in progress.  To begin, I'm basically cutting and pasting the verse references from my tract, along with some fragmentary incipits to aid the memory.  As I develop this post, I will unpack how each given verse supports the view that truly saved persons can lose their salvation.  In some cases, I will try to anticipate counterarguments and answer those as well.

So without further ado, here are:

97 Verses Opposing "Once Saved, Always Saved"

1. Luke 8:13           Seeds receive Word with joy, but no root.
2. Luke 12:42-46    Master assigns place w/ unbelievers
3. Luke 15:11-32    Prod. son was “dead but alive x2”
4. John 6:66-71      Disciples turned theirs backs on Jesus
5. John 15:2           no fruit=cut off from vine
6. John 15:6           cut from vine=thrown in fire
7. John 17:12         Judas was lost, doomed to destruction
8. Rom. 6:15-16    slave to sin=death
9. Rom. 11:20        unbelief=broken branches
10. Rom. 11:21     God will not spare you either.
11. Rom. 11:22     Continue in kindness or cut off
12. 1 Cor. 6:9-10   Fornicators [etc.] will not inherit...
13. 1 Cor. 9:23-27  St. Paul disqualified from prize?
14. 1 Cor. 15:1-2   Otherwise, you have believed in vain
15. Gal. 5:1-4; 19-20 You have fallen away from grace
16. Col. 1:21-23    Reconciled...if you continue in faith
17. Heb. 3:6          In house IF we hold on to courage/hope
18. Heb. 3:8          If Today...harden not your hearts
19. Heb. 3:12        Unbelieving hearts turn away from God
20. Heb. 3:14        Share in Christ IF we hold firmly till end
21. Heb. 6:4-6       ...if they [the saved] fall away...
22. Heb. 6:8  the end it will be burned.
23. Heb. 10:23-31 If we deliberately keep sinning..
24. 2 Pet. 2:20-22 If those [saved]...are overcome...
25. Rev. 22:19       Take away words=take away share
26. Matt. 5:27-32   Pluck out lustful eye vs. body to hell
27. Matt. 6:12-15   Forgive we have forgiven
28. Matt. 13:40-42 evildoers thrown in fire like weeds
29. Matt. 18:21-35 Master/servant parable re. debts
30. Rom. 8:13        to live according to sinful nature=death
31. 1 Cor. 10:12     Be careful that you do not fall!
32. Heb. 12:25 will we escape if we turn away?
33. 2 Cor. 11:2-4     Like Eve, your minds...led astray.
34. Gal. 6:7-9        We will reap...IF we do not give up
35. Col. 2:18-19    Don’t let anyone disqualify you...
36. 1 Tim. 1:5-6    ...some have wandred away...
37. 1 Tim. 1:19     ...some have shipwrecked their faith
38. 1 Tim. 1:20     ...these I have handed over to Satan.
39. 1 Tim. 4:1       ...some will abandon the faith...
40. 1 Tim. 5:8       denying faith=worse than unbeliever
41. 1 Tim. 5:15     Some have turned to follow Satan.
42. 1 Tim. 6:10     Some...have wandered from the faith
43. 1 Tim. 6:18-19 do take hold of life
44. Heb. 2:1 that we do not drift away
45. Heb. 2:3 escape if we ignore salvation
46. Heb. 10:35-39 ...those who shrink back=destroyed
47. James 5:19-20 wander from truth = sin = death
48. 2 Pet. 1:5-11   If you do these things=never fall
49. 2 Pet. 2:20-22 Saved+corrupted=worse than before
50. 2 Pet. 3:16-17 the ignorant twist scripture=destr.
51. Jude 4
52. 1 John 2:28
53. Rev. 3:4
54. Rev. 3:5
55. Rev. 3:11
56. Eph. 5:5
57. 2 Tim. 2:12
58. 1 Cor. 11:32
59. 1 Tim 3:6
60. Matt. 18:7-9
61. Heb.4: 1-4
62. Rev. 2:4-7, 10, 19-26
63. Rev. 12:8

Salvation as Contingent

64. John 15:10
65. Romans 11:22
66. 1 Cor. 15:2
67. Gal. 5:2-4
68. Col. 1:23
69. Heb. 3:6
70. Heb. 3:14
71. Rom. 8:13
72. Gal. 6:9
73. 1 Tim. 5:8
74. 1 Tim. 2:15
75. Matt. 6:14-15
76. 2 Pet. 1:5-11
77. 1 John 1:6
78. 1 John 1:7
79. 1 John 1:8
80. 1 John 1:9
81. 1 John 1:10
82. 1 John 2:3
83. 1 John 2:4
84. 1 John 2:5
85. 1 John 2:9-11
86. Matt. 18:35
87. Rom. 8:17
88. 1 John 2:15
89. 1 John 2:24
90. 1 John 3:6
91. 1 John 3:7-10
92. 1 John 3:17
93. 1 John 3:24
94. 1 John 4:7-8
95. 1 John 4:16-18
96. 1 John 5:2-5
97. 2 Tim. 2:12

Verses Used to Support OSAS

[coming soon]

Sunday, December 27, 2009

150 Reasons to be Catholic (or not something else)

At Our Catholic Faith, Dave Armstrong gives "150 Reasons Why I'm Catholic, and You Should Be, too!"

The list is worth checking out, whether you are Catholic or not!

Benedict XVI on St. Paul

Ignatius Press has recently published a collection of our Holy Father's general audiences that focused on the apostle Paul.  Since the topic of justification has come up recently on this blog, I thought I'd point my readers to a this book.

Excerpts from the book can be read on Google books by following this link.

The relevant essays can be found by searching for "justification."

The essays themselves, once found, can be read for free at the Vatican's website.  Start here, and simply find the general audience by the date listed in the book.

Finally, when I read articles written by evangelicals like this summary (thanks to WHW for the link) from Christianity Today, I can't help but think how very much Catholics share in common with many Evangelicals' understanding of justification.  From a Catholic perspective, there may be room for points of disagreement regarding the fine details of what justification entails, so long as a number of basic truths are not denied.  It turns out that the majority (if not all) of these basic truths are shared by Catholics and (many) Evangelicals.

Many of the canons of the sixth session of the Council of Trent are actually represented in the article linked above that WHW so kindly pointed out in a comment to the previous post.

To really move the conversation forward, I'm always curious to ask Evangelicals the following question:

What specific points from the following two (Catholic) explanations of justification do you find problematic and/or inconsistent with the points that you agree with?

1) Council of Trent, Sixth Session - On Justification
(See especially the canons beginning about half way down the page.)
2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-1995 - On Justification

I often wonder what Christianity would look like if all non-Catholics suddenly understood that the Catholic Church does not teach (nor has ever taught) that we can be justified by our own human works (apart from God's grace), an idea often referred to as "works-righteousness"?  Even in the Christianity Today article mentioned above, the Catholic position is not given any consideration, apart from a (dismissive?) reference to its supposed teaching of "works-righteousness."

According to Luther, the doctrine of justification was that issue on which the reformation stood or fell.

I'm sorry, but can we really justify using a doctrine about which so much agreement exists as a basis for division?

In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI is a model ecumenist in the essays linked above.  He shows that he is willing to grant the terms and understanding of those who would count themselves opposed to his teaching, so long as the truth is not violated, in order to open the door to true, uncompromising unity.

Likewise, I see something similar happening in some notable evangelical leaders, though there are still some who "are not quite ready" to end the divisions of the Reformation so that true, ongoing, unity-producing reformation can continue.

Since this is the case, both Catholics and non-Catholics are beginning to find themselves uniting behind the common question:

Where are our differences?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wright and Piper on Justification

Looking forward, one of the things that I would like to do with this blog is comment on the very recent exchange that has taken place on the subject of justification between N.T. Wright (Anglican bishop of Durham) and John Piper (pastor of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis).

I am deeply intrigued by both figures.  Piper, besides for being someone with whom I've had the joy of wrestling with on this blog, is perhaps one of the most recognizable--not to mention well-liked--names in Baptist theology and preaching these days.

Wright is also highly respected, perhaps as much by those who disagree with him as those who do (hence, Piper's readiness to devote a book-length response to Wright's views).  Within Catholic circles, Wright has been attracting attention because many people who have become attracted to Wright's theology have gone one step further and become Catholic, leading some people to ask if Wright's theology leads to Catholicism.  Wright has denied the claim, but it is easy, given first impressions, to see that Wright is far closer to Catholic ideas of justification than someone like Piper is.

In the interest of full disclosure, my initial reactions to Wright have always been that he is a profoundly deep and careful thinker and that he is indeed on the right path (though not always there yet).  On the other hand, I have a difficult time reading Piper without noticing what, to me, seem like gaping holes in his account both of what Wright has said and what the Biblical texts themselves say.

Rather than try to justify these initial responses here, I'd first like to state two general reactions that involve both authors.  These questions are really more like meta-questions that arise out of my own desire to figure out why I side so readily with one author and not the other.  Am I missing Piper's brilliance or Wright's logical gaps?

From a Catholic perspective, there seem to be two significant meta-differences (though the first difference may actually be a difference between both authors and the Catholic perspective):

1.  What Piper (more often than Wright) is calling the "New Perspective" may actually be the older perspective, and what Piper seems to think is the old perspective is (from a Catholic perspective) a very new perspective indeed.  While Piper claims that neither Wright nor he put traditions old or new above the Scriptures, Piper still seems to position his interpretation in a historical context so as to add a conservative weight or frame to his position.  I can't help but sense in between the lines of the rhetorical dance Piper performs at the beginning of his book that he feels like he is losing the debate on this issue, and that deep down, he harbors a significant fear that what he thinks is the very heart and mission of the Reformation will be lost.

2.  Perhaps more interesting, I think, is a difference between the authors and their positions themselves.  Piper strikes me as taking a very heady approach to the topic.  He takes umbrage to the idea that we are saved by believing in correct doctrines, yet, he immediately back-pedals as close as he can to the idea so as to connect his view of justification with the heart of the gospel.  (Again, Piper's apparent need at every turn to preserve as much ground as possible makes it seem like he is in the defensive.)

As a music teacher, I find time and again that if a person is struggling with one aspect of a performance, say fingering, that true weakness--and with it the true solution to the problem--is often found in another domain, say, in the ear's understanding of the pitches or rhythm.

I think that the difference between Piper and Wright might not ultimately be that they simply interpret some passages differently than one another, as if they could both somehow look at all the same passages at the same time with the exact same emphases (etc.), they would simply see the truth of the other's position.

In this case, I think the difference is more of a meta-difference, and one that relates not to Biblical exegesis but rather to liturgy.

I think the fact that Wright belongs to a (high) liturgical tradition and Piper does not accounts for the large chasm between their views on justification.  It is not so much that Wright reads the Bible differently than Piper, but Wright reads it in a liturgical context.  In contrast, Piper's reading of the Bible is the heart of the liturgy at his Baptist Church.  Piper preaches about Jesus for an hour a week to his congregation.  Wright celebrates the liturgy with his congregation.

I hypothesize that it is impossible to appreciate the difference between Piper and Wright on justification without understanding the profound difference between their experiences of liturgy.

Piper's book starts out with eight points about Wright's view of justification that give him pause--eight things that make Piper think that Wright's views will lead away from effective preaching of the gospel.

But the gospel for Wright isn't first about the preaching of the gospel!  It is about experiencing the gospel himself who is Jesus!  It is about worshiping Jesus with His covenant people, the church.

For Piper, then, Wright's view of justification threatens the very core of what Piper's experience of Christian worship has been: the proclamation of the word.  Wright, on the other hand, seems to have a much more nuanced approach to the Scriptures, since his liturgical universe doesn't hinge so much on the doctrine as on the person of Jesus.  At the same time, this more liturgical-minded, covenantal  approach to justification ends up being reflected in the very doctrine of justification that Wright develops.  It is no wonder, then, that from Wright's perspective, Piper seems incapable of appreciating the very pieces of the puzzle as Wright lays them out.  Wright's approach to reading the Scriptures seems to fall outside the realm of possibility in Piper's imagination.

As a Catholic layman who is by no means an expert in theology, I imagine that a significant portion of both Piper's and Wright's arguments will go over my head.  As an apologist, this becomes yet another reason that we need an authoritative magisterium to set at least some guidelines to the discussion.  Absent these authoritative guidelines, I would suggest that it becomes very difficult for the average Joe to know the truth.  Yet, did God intend for the truth--the Truth that is Jesus--to be known only by those of us with high-flying intellects?  Of course not!

Not only does the Catholic Church provide authoritative guidelines for interpreting the Bible, but the church is also careful to point out that within these guidelines there is ample room for interpretation, so much room in fact that it may be that the majority of both Piper and Wright's views could be considered compatible with Catholic theology.  Catholic theology really is more like a wide-open playground that is simply surrounded by a fence to prevent the children from falling of the precipice that lies beyond it.  The dogmas and doctrines of the church (which ultimately represent the Church's interpretation of the Scriptures) do not squelch dialogue but rather open up true dialogue by clearly marking the space within which possibilities may be explored.

Within this space, you can easily find someone like Pope Benedict XVI saying that the idea of justification by faith alone is correct, so long as faith is considered to be a faith that is animated by love and charity throughout life.  Whereas Piper seems hung-up on the particularities and technicalities of a precise doctrinal summation, both Wright and Benedict seem open to expressing all that is true, good, and holy.

On Dating a Church, a response

I've enjoyed reading the posts over at Jesse Browning's blog "A Narrative Called Life," including this post in which Jesse uses the analogy of dating to finding the right (new) church. The idea of community was obviously an important one to Jesse, as I know it is to many people who seek smaller churches or home churches. I posted the following response, since I think that something of the community may actually be lost in these church environments, as inviting as they might be.


[Your blog gives me so many good reasons to procrastinate grading my student's exams.]

I appreciate the idea of community, and certainly the Mass sends us out into the community to perform works of mercy and charity (such as evangelization, feeding the hungry, etc.)

But I wonder if the *feeling* of community leads us to the kind of community in Christian worship that we ultimately find modeled for us in the book of Revelation, where all of God's people (including at least one person, John), including all the angels and saints in heaven worship the "Lamb standing as if slain" around the throne. From a Catholic perspective, the community of the church that worships together is not a localized, provincial entity as much as it is the entire mystical body of Christ joining together in a single sacrificial act of praise and thanksgiving. We may not know each others names. It may not *feel* like the the kind of "community" we (somewhat nostalgically?) long for in our fragmented, postmodern culture. But ultimately, it is a community that does indeed worship together. And it is a community that meets together no matter what avenue or city we attend "church" at. That is because, as Hebrews teaches us, when we show up to Mt. Zion, we now enter the New Jerusalem. We worship not only with Joe, Susie, and Bob sitting next to me, but also with grandma who passed away last year, and all the angels, and the saints and martyrs and the church of the first born and those made righteous. *This* is the community that the Bible invites us to join when we worship. And, if we read Revelation like Christians have since the beginning, we understand that this liturgy is one that culminates in a supper: the marriage supper of the Lamb. In all of it--the prayers, the readings, the Holy, Holy, Holy--and through all of it, we participate in the battle plan of the God who reigns over heaven and earth, and we enter into this cosmic, heavenly liturgy everyday we go to Mass.

The Mass is heaven on earth!

Two quick stories for your delight:

At my former church in Ann Arbor, MI, a Methodist minister drove by and saw giant flames leaping from the roof of the barn (the main church while the new sanctuary was being built). He pulled over and ran up only to find Mass was in session and the Eucharist was being consummated.

At the Florida church where I grew up, shortly after they built a Eucharist adoration chapel, two militant atheists were walking down the sidewalk near the church. Out of the chapel, they suddenly saw bursts of bright pulsating light. They walked up and knocked on the door, and a dear friend of mine who was adoring Jesus came out. They explained that they had seen a light, and she explained that the person who created the universe and died on the cross to save them was in that very room, hidden under the appearance of bread.

The father and son are now Catholics!

Returning briefly to the sense of community:

When I meet other devout, plugged-in Catholics, no matter where I am in the country or world, we have an instant, communal bond (we comfortably worship together, chime in with the same prayers, no matter what the language, and partake of the same Eucharist). We have the same Holy Father, and we are members of a single, united family, a world-wide community that meets locally, to be sure, but exists primarily at the universal, catholic level.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Piper to the Pope, a response

Denny Burk just posted a clip of John Piper answering the question of what he would say to the pope if he had two minutes with him. The transcript of the clip, below, is taken from Piper’s own website.


If you had two minutes to talk with the pope, what would you say to him?

O my, I have never asked myself that question at all.
I would say, "Could you just, in one minute, explain your view of justification?" And then on the basis of his one minute, I would give my view of justification.
I think Rome and Protestantism are not yet ready. I don't think the Reformation is over. I don't think that enough change has happened in Roman understanding of justification and a bunch of other things.
I'm just picking justification because it's so close to the center. You could pick papal authority or the nature of the mass or the role of sacraments or the place of Mary.
But those seem to be maybe a little more marginal than going right to the heart of the issue of, "Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes? Do you teach that?"
And if he said, "No, we don't," then I'd say, "I think that right at the core of Roman Catholic theology is a heresy," or something like that.


Here is my response, which I added over at Burk's blog:

I'm surprised that Piper put justification at the center--as the core issue between Protestants and Catholics. In some respects, the commentators seem more aware of the central dividing issue than Piper did in this clip:


As Ron Dodson put it: he doesn't mind a bishop in Rome, just one who claims to be "authoritative over me."

The question then becomes:

Who does have final authority over the Christian believer?

The savory tension in Piper's clip is that Piper is, in a sense, his own Pope. Piper is the one who the Holy Spirit guides to lead Piper to the truth, not a successor of St. Peter.

The clip could have been called:

"Pope Piper to Pope Benedict"

So then, Piper finds himself in the awkward position of having to undermine the authority of one of the most brilliant theologians alive today while somehow elevating his own authority to speak on justification. I wonder--would Piper would have been so bold talking to the predecessors to Pope Benedict XVI, all the way back to Clement, Cletus, Linus, and finally St. Peter himself?

Ironically, much of what Piper ends up saying about justification is also believed by Catholics and taught in the Catechism.

Catholics believe that we are saved through Jesus Christ alone through grace alone. From the beginning to the end of salvation, it is the grace of Christ merited for us on the cross. Nothing apart from God’s grace—whether faith or works--can get us into heaven.

Further, Catholics believe that our initial justification is wrought by faith.

Because of these similarities, Piper is forced to suddenly become quite technical. I doubt that many of his own congregants would follow the intricacies of thought that go into Piper’s understanding of justification.

So, to focus the discussion a bit, I would ask Piper the following the questions:

1. Do you believe justification is a one-time event? If so, why do New Testament writers, who all use Abraham as exhibit A when it comes to justification, refer to Abraham as being justified at three different points in his life?

2. Where does the Bible teach that we are justified by faith alone?

3. Where does the Bible teach that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, rather than infused in us whereby we become “partakers of the divine nature”?

4. Of course, if our righteousness is merely the result of a legal decree by which we are accounted for as righteous such that our future sins do not affect our right standing before God, then it would seem that our eternal salvation is secure once we receive the gift of initial salvation. Yet, the Bible contains much evidence that our post-initial-justification sins (if they constitute a serious total rejection of God’s will and life) DO cause people to lose their salvation. Thus. St. Paul tells his followers to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” What, according to Piper, do we have to fear and tremble about once we are saved? Where does the Bible teach that once we are accounted for as righteous, we can not lose our salvation?

5. Where in the early church—that community of people who received their faith from the apostles and read the language of Scripture in their native tongue read the Bible in the cultural context within which it was written—do you find anyone who understands justification like Piper does almost 2,000 years after the fact?

6. How will the model of authority and church structure assumed by Piper ever lead to the glorious perfect unity that Christ offered his Passion to achieve (John 17) and that St. Paul commanded? My evangelical work in Catholic apologetics is done to try to achieve unity of belief, worship, etc. with both my Catholic and non-Catholic brothers and sisters, whom I love with fond affection. Yet, we are divided in many respects. The Body of Christ which is meant to show the world that Jesus was sent by the Father (John 17) through its profound, visible unity has become deeply and visibly disunified. It falls on each of us to dialogue with each other and work together toward that unity which Christ desires for us. And so, trusting completely in His grace, I offer the above questions to keep this important dialogue alive.

Finally, here is Pope Benedict’s response to Piper.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catholics and Mega-churches

The rise of mega-churches represents one of the more fascinating religious phenomena of the last quarter century or so.  But is a mega-church approach to the Christian liturgy one that can be reconciled with Catholics' understanding of the Mass?

This article opens up the topic, but what is really interesting are the comments that follow.

Now Available: The Writings of John Henry Cardinal Newman

Catholic convert (from Anglicanism) and cardinal John Henry Newman has written some of the most important works of apologetics this century, most especially his Apologia and his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.  These works have brought many Christians back home to the Catholic Church.

This link to Newman's writings will be permanently kept on the sidebar.

All the Evidence for God

Cardinal Ruini just finished hosting a conference of brilliant minds all talking about one thing: God's existence.  The article caught my eye when I saw that a well-respected scholar of music aesthetics, Roger Scruton, presented.  Turns out, a host of some of the most intelligent Christian philosophers shared perspectives on how God's existence fits seamlessly with our human existence and creation.

Wish I could have been there...

Read about the conference here.

The Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Fr. Z posts a wonderful article with his commentary about the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his blog.

Through this miracle, God drew an entire people to himself...all through the intercession of Jesus's blessed mother.  How very evangelical!  Mary is the model both of the Church and of all things evangelical.  Her message is always that spoken at the wedding feast at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you."  Mary's soul always "magnifies the Lord."

Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary--our Blessed Mother--may the divisions between Christians be healed and perfect unity attained so that the "world may know" that the Father sent the Son (John 17), and may all people be drawn to Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world.

I would propose to my non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ that our collective evangelical efforts will be hindered and even damaged until we are in union with each other and with Jesus's and Mary's evangelical plan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On Evangelical Anglican Catholics

See (former Anglican) Fr. Dwight Longnecker's essay here.

The opening two paragraphs:
What happens when former Evangelicals find their way home to the Catholic Church through the Anglican Church? They bring with them into the Catholic Church a whole range of gifts from their former traditions. They bring the zeal and dedication of the Evangelical. They bring wide and deep knowledge of the Scriptures. They also bring the Anglican love of fine preaching, excellent hymns, reverent worship and beautiful language and liturgy.

The new Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans may attract far more than a few disgruntled Episcopalians. A whole range of Protestant Evangelical Christians are 'out there' searching for a church where they can exercise these great traditions from Evangelicalism and Anglicanism in faithful full communion with the Catholic Church.
Fr. Longnecker's perspective is well worth getting acquainted with...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Undercover at Planned Parenthood

Live Action, a pro-life student group that began at UCLA, has recently uploaded a new video, one that provides an undercover glimpse into the counseling offered at Planned Parenthood.

May Mary, the Immaculate Conception, whose feast day we celebrated yesterday, intercede before the Son for the souls of these abortionists. Our Lady of Guadeloupe, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Artificial Contraception

Msgr. Pope offers this essay on artificial contraception and the Church's teaching.  It is well worth reading, especially if you aren't familiar with the historic, cross-denominational prohibition against artificial contraception that lasted until 1930.

History has once again shown the bright wisdom of the Catholic Church's stance on moral issues against a culture that is slowly but surely sliding into darkness.

Come Home

I recently read a short piece by Fr. Zuhlsdorf that carries certain implications for apologetics.  The snippet below comes from an essay that can be read here:
Once upon a time I had an experience similar to what I think is happening here while I was working for the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei in Rome.

We were having a terrible exchange with an American bishop. Volley of letters letters went back and forth across the Atlantic. People wanted the old Mass, and he refused absolutely. They petitioned. He rejected. They sent us the copies of the petitions. He would deny there was any interest. He would say he never got petitions.  We would mail back copies of his acknowledgment of the petitions.  He wrote stern letters telling us to mind our own business. We wrote back saying that this was our business. It became uglier and uglier.

One day a letter came from him that was so nasty it simply couldn’t be borne.

I wrote a draft of a response entirely proportioned to the tone and content of that bishop’s letter. My draft was intended to end the debate.

When the Cardinal came that afternoon, this was the great Augustine Card. Mayer, first President of Ecclesia Dei, he called me in to go over the various drafts that had to be finalized and then sent.  At last we came to my draft to that bishop.

Card. Mayer, nearly 80 at the time, had been a monk, an expert at the Council, an abbot, professor, curial Secretary, Prefect.  He is perhaps the holiest man I know.  He has a practically perfect grasp of English. He would normally make subtle changes in the language of all the letters he would sign. There was no question but that he could: he was the Cardinal and all the letters I wrote became his letters.  He was ready to hear a reason for or against a change, but he was usually right with each "suggestion".

So there was no surprise at all when my tough-minded letter came to the fore that he said,

"Here you write X. Do you suppose instead we could say Y?"

We went on to the next word in that manner… and the next… and the next, until – both of us chuckling a bit – there was nothing at all left of what I had written. The page was filled with corrections and cobwebs of lines and marks.

At last, I said "Clearly Your Eminence wants something else. It’s my job to make your job easier. Give me some direction."

He paused and looked at the large Murillo painting of the Blessed Mother on the wall of the office for a while and then said:

"At a certain point we must stop arguing and try to open their hearts."

With that I went back to my desk, pondered this for a while, and then rapidly wrote a short letter to that American bishop.

I took it in to the Cardinal, who make a minor change here and there, and off it went.

A few weeks later we received news from people in that bishop’s diocese that, not only had the bishop permitted the older form of Mass, he came to celebrate it himself for them.

"But Father! But Father!", you are no doubt saying.  "What did you write?  What saved the day?"

After the usual clink of incense at the beginning, common to all curial letters, I merely wrote that we regretted greatly the way our correspondence had gone. We hoped that it might improve. But given the earnest desire of the people in his diocese, ...

"Would Your Excellency please not open your heart to these people and help them?"

That seems to have been the real problem, after all.

At a certain point you have to realize that arguing isn’t going to achieve the result you desire.

At last you must strive to open hearts.
When sharing with non-Catholics about the Catholic faith (which, we must remember is their faith--their family--as much as it is ours), we must remember the importance of eventually putting aside our arguments and appealing to the heart.

From this perspective, perhaps the two most powerful words of Catholic apologetics for our non-Catholic brothers and sisters are:

Come home.