"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brace Yourself! Shocking image!

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” -Ronald Reagan Where have all the heros gone? With bloodthirsty Molech worshipers like this in charge, i'm bracing for the fire and brimstone. Christ have mercy on this country.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catholicism or Orthodoxy?

A few months ago I had my sola Scriptura world crushed. I’ll skip past the soul searching and hair pulling to the acceptance of the facts. Protestantism cannot possibly be part of the church Christ founded. Wonderful, Jesus loving people, absolutely. Will they be throwing stacks of crowns at His feet in heaven? Absolutely. Do they have the slightest credible claim of being the church Christ gave to the world, no way. Even before I accepted this fact, I knew that if I did I would be forced into one of two rival churches both claiming to be the one and only church on the face of the planet. Those two communions are Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The reason these are the only two in the running is that they are the only ones that have a plausible claim to succession from the Apostles. If sola Scriptura is false, which I became fully convinced of, then a tangible measure of orthodoxy in the form of submission to a particular leadership is needed. Rome and Constantinople are the only serious options. So where to go? First, my qualification. This decision between Catholicism and E. Orthodoxy was not a huge question for me. By that I mean that I was following the assumption that if Christ founded a single, visible church, then He made it easy for even a layman to find. If I ask for wisdom, do some looking into history from various sources on all sides of the question, I will be able to easily identify the true church. I really believe God gives us BIG, knock you on the head clues about the identity of the church. For instance, the disunity in Protestantism is a biggie. It is as inescapable as air, and it points the Protestant to look elsewhere. Also the lack of the sacraments in varying degrees pushes them away. So whatever the answer, the answer must include the element of simplicity infused through it. So that was my starting point: For me as a layman who can only spare an hour or so a day to reading Scripture, history and theology, I have to assume that the question “what is the church?” must be one of those big questions like “how am I saved?” that is both easy to answer initially, but also has depth. It must be a question that a child could answer easily, and a scholar could study for a lifetime. Knowing myself pretty well, I went for the “child could answer easily” half of the equation! I have no stomach any longer for the pompousness of scholars and theologians that come up with elaborate “systems” for simple things like the gospel that supposedly just can’t be understood without more and more study. This is the failure of Dispensationalism, which takes what it sees as contradictions in the Scripture and comes up with an either/or rather than a both/and hermeneutic. I am fully convinced that concerning Divine revelation, the most important things for humans to understand will be simple enough for a human child to understand. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be complex enough for a brilliant mind to spend a lifetime on, but when the brilliant mind can’t seem to coherently explain their “system” to me, I get suspicious that it is the thoughts in the brilliant mind itself being promulgated, and not Divine revelation. To answer the Catholic vs. Orthodox question, I quickly turned my sights on Rome, because it is the bigger target. Not because it is the larger communion, which it is, but because it’s claims are so audacious. To claim infallibility is to invite investigation. Also it has a unified hierarchy by having one Bishop claiming to be the measure of unity. These two aspects give it what appear to be big weak spots ready for prodding. Orthodoxy does not claim infallibility in the same sweeping and targetable way that Catholicism does, and has many “autocephalous” heads that although sharing a surprising amount of common belief, have no single unifying head who is himself the measure of true doctrine. So I set out to cut the Achilles heel, to show that the Catholic magisterium has contradicted itself, to prove to myself that they are just as autonomous in their doctrines as Protestants are. I was humbled by the 20 centuries of what could only be divine protection from contradiction. I sought out the best Protestant examples of where the Magisterium has shown itself to be fallible, and found their best arguments to be but straw in the face of 2000 years of stalwart protection of the faith that is the Catholic Church. For me this recognition came while watching an online debate on the infallibility of the Papacy between Protestant apologist James White and Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. White’s best examples of a Pope contradicting previously defined doctrines were so minor, so petty, so infrequent, and ultimately very explainable, that I literally was flooded with an emotional feeling of discovering what must be the biggest miracle in history: that the largest (1.1 Billion adherents) and oldest institutional organization on the planet has never contradicted itself. The claim is huge. Papal infallibility of hundreds of Popes for two millennia. It is so huge it is dismissed outright as being impossible by Protestants and Orthodox. And in a way they are right, it IS impossible for a mere human institution to be infallible. IF, that is, it is merely human. But the next step is rarely taken by the naysayers, please show where it has failed. Please show where there has been even the slightest contradiction between one infallible statement and previous infallible statements. Once this is attempted to a reasonable degree, the biggest miracle (other than the Incarnation) in the history of mankind is revealed, and it points to the claim of infallibility being true. It is common at this point in the search for truth for Protestants to get hung up on the “yeah, but” argument. “Yeah, but Purgatory is false doctrine, so the Pope is fallible.” Or “Yeah, but Catholics believe in salvation by works, so the Pope is fallible.” These are important topics, but completely beside the point. All I wanted to do at this point in my journey (and what I challenge anyone to do) is show where a Pope has preached as true doctrine something later defined as heresy or vice versa. It is shocking how Protestants never seem to get around to actually attempting to show this. It is assumed that the very claim of infallibility itself can be dismissed outright, because after all the Pope is just a man, not God, and has to be fallible. Or the Galileo argument is put forth or some such nonsense. What is rarely attempted is to try to show where any one of these 265 men have contradicted each other in the last 20 centuries. Seems easy right? Go ahead and try. You will end up Catholic. As a Christian in the Reformed camp, I was always a staunch postmillennialist. Basically that means I think the millennium is now and Christ is here with us in his Church. Things will progressively get better and better until we wake up one day, and look around to find out history is over and sin has been eradicated for good. So for me to see this miraculous example of infallibility within recorded history of an organization that claims to be THE Kingdom of Christ, how happy that made me! I felt like a modern day Jew who has been waiting and hoping for the messiah who first hears about Jesus. Something he thought could never happen in his lifetime has already been going on for 2000 years! For me, Postmillenialism is no longer a doctrine to be studied, but a church to submit to. The Catholic Church IS Postmillennialism! Now after reading* a sufficient amount on this issue of the Papacy to convince me of its protection from error, the arguments for Eastern Orthodoxy became hollow. Strangely, their arguments against Papal infallibility were the same old Protestant ones that seemed to be “after the fact” arguments. For instance, when the Protestant Reformation happened all of a sudden Luther and Calvin were in the position of believing in the authority of the “church” as they defined it, but at the same time having removed themselves from the way true doctrine has always been measured by the church. i.e., communion with those Bishops in succession from the Apostles. So instead of submitting to the Bishops in succession, they conveniently denied the need for succession. “Apostolicity” (as defined by them of course) was to be the measure of true authority. In the same way I see ample patristic evidence of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome from very early on in Church history. The 7 ecumenical councils from Nicaea I (325) to Nicaea II (787) were all ratified by the Pope for goodness sake! When I first heard that I chuckled out loud. Not only were they ratified, but the ratification was seen by everyone as necessary for those councils to be binding. Many Orthodox still would say that the Popes ratification is still a necessary criterion for an Ecumenical council. Is it any wonder the Orthodox have not had an Ecumenical council since Nicaea II? There is disagreement amongst themselves as to how one would even occur! WAIT. HOLD ON. I can hear the gears grinding in the Orthodox heads with the objections to what I just said. Save it. I have had enough of the disunity and excuses of Protestantism for a lifetime, and I don’t want to further examine Orthodox disunity and excuses. Here is the undisputed fact: there is disagreement between leaders within Eastern Orthodoxy as to:
1. How an ecumenical council would be called. 2. If it were called how it would be ratified in a definitive way without the signature of the Bishop of Rome.
The fact that individual Orthodox Christians feel they have an answer to these questions is about as impressive as a Protestant who feels he has the correct interpretation of John 6. That is to say it is not an authoritative opinion. The only point I need to know is that there are a variety of views on this question within Orthodoxy and they have not had a council since 787 A.D. Does anything more need to be said? I don’t see how someone leaving Protestantism because of a lack of Divine authority would then go to a church that is so fundamentally emasculated. The Catholic Church is under no such fog of confusion when it comes to defining doctrine and holding ecumenical councils. Another reason I rejected Orthodox claims is what I recognize as a Protestant smelling circular reasoning in regard to identifying the church. The church is composed of those who believe the true doctrine, and true doctrine is that which is believed by the whole church. Hmmm, sounds very similar to the “bootstrap” theory of Protestant church identification I just left. Orthodox believers will have complaints with what I just said above. Keep in mind that your intricate explainations fall utterly flat for a Protestant tired of the subjectivity and self rule of sola Scriptura. I want simplicity, and I know that Christ must have made it simple. Here is simplicity: How do we find the true doctrine? The churches in communion with the holder of the keys to the kingdom (the Bishop of Rome) have the true doctrine. See how there is no circularity? Here again you Orthodox will complain, but there you go again, sounding so Protestant by trying to convince me of your interpretation! "But the Pope said X!... that can't be right!" This attitude sounds like the self serving authority of Protestantism I am fleeing from. I have discussed the Filioque issue with Orthodox people and it was shocking how Protestant they sounded, trying to convince me how the Orthodox view makes more sense from Scripture, etc. That’s not the point! The point is WHO DECIDES what the true doctrine is. Is it the church or me and you? When Bishops disagree about the Filioque, who do I follow? Orthodoxy has the same answer Protestants do... "follow us." Well that's not good enough. So in the end, Catholicism just makes sense to my mind. How best can unity be kept in the church? The answer is obvious to me: one, single, visible beacon of unity. Outside of communion with that beacon is something else than the one true church. How can multiple heads function if there is no ultimate uniting force? This is the point that a child can understand but is often lost on the “wise” and highly educated. Just the idea of multiple “autocephalus” “heads” is an oxymoron. A body has one head. Only a hydra has multiple heads. “Christ is the head” you retort. Yeah, but on earth as in heaven there needs to be a single head. Ask a child which system works better and they will tell you what you already know in your heart. Other reasons I rejected Orthodoxy that I would categorize as “intuition” are:
1.There have been times in church history where the Pope was alone in his holding to the true faith. This fits with Christ supernaturally protecting the purity of the church’s doctrine. During these times, the patriarchates that now comprise “Eastern Orthodoxy” were (by their own admission) an utter heretical mess. Again, smells like Protestantism. 2.Orthodoxy is still comprised of regional churches which strongly identify with the nations they are in. 3.Numerically, Catholicism is way bigger. This means something to me. It seems to me to be something we should expect 2000 years after Pentecost. 4.The Catholic understanding of the Filioque fits better with a proper understanding of the family as a picture of the Trinitarian relationship. From man comes woman, from man and woman comes child. Again, makes sense. 5.Orthodoxy is more likely to side with mystical experience than intellectual. I don’t trust mystical experience unless it is firmly rooted in the intellectual. I see Catholics as doing both, while Orthodoxy seems to distrust the intellect. 6.Orthodoxy does not have a well defined, universal dogma on some very important issues like contraception and divorce. This is a clue to me that they have stagnated theologically. Christians need firm guidance from the church on these issues. 7.I see more variety in the modes of service of laity and Catholic monks and nuns than Orthodox. (this touches on my #4) 8.Catholicism has objectively produced better art. To me this is a sign of better theology, and a sign of God’s blessing. 9. I get the feeling that Orthodoxy is a "step behind" Protestantism. My money is on Protestantism disolving within half a millenia. Orthodoxy has more momentum from having all 7 sacraments and from true succession, but if the Orthodox churches remain in schism from Peter, they will eventually dissolve. I want to leave my descendants a legacy of a christendom that is true and lasting.
I don't expect to amaze anyone with my critique of Orthodoxy here. These have just been the reasons I personally found totally compelling in favor of Rome. I hope the Orthodox can give up the autonomy soon and just come back into full communion with the key-bearer. Imagine the witness to the world that would be! *The Early Papacy To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451, by Adrian Fortescue and Studies on the Early Papacy, by Dom John Chapman were very eye opening for a Protestant unfamiliar with the early church.

The Very Cheery Bertrand Russell

"That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built." Bertrand Russell From “A Free Man’s Worship” 1902 Does he realize that with his every word he contradicts the very words he speaks? If "unyielding despair" is the only safe resort, why try to convince anyone about it? Every moment of his life in which he believed this "truth" as he calls it but also was not trying to commit suicide, was a moment in which he showed himself to not believe a word his mouth was saying. Also it is ironic that he speaks of "no philosophy which rejects them (despair) can hope to stand." Two points on this Bernie. 1. Christianity is a philosophy based on great hope. Enough hope and joy that saints throughout its 2000 year history have gladly spilled their blood for that hope with joyful, happy smiles on their face! Christianity is 1/3 of the earth population and growing Bernard, and we have had plenty of time for our planet to think about your philosophy of despair. We reject it. Right now only 3% of the earth is atheist. 2. The history of mankind is the history of religion. There is no reason to believe this will ever change. Human beings desire God. Sad, tired, old philosophies of men like Russell are the chaff that is blown away in the wind of the Spirit which draws men to the cross.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In dying we are born

The prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon: where there is doubt, faith ; where there is despair, hope where there is darkness, light where there is sadness, joy O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen. Other prayers of Saint Francis can be found here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reply to anonymous Good Shepherd member

A member of my family's former church left a comment to my letter to them. My response got long winded so I post the comment and my response to it here.
Dear David, I am deeply troubled by your decision to leave Good Shepherd. The vows made by your daughters just a few months ago were made before God and before God's ordained minister and elders. Those vows were serious, just as serious as any vow made in the Roman Catholic Church. Those vows were real and binding and precious. Walking away from our church tells your girls that their vows were whimsical, temporary, and groundless. Your girls will conclude that Pastor Moon has no authority as an ordained minister and that our elders also do not represent God's authority over our lives. I also want to say that you are tearing your family away from its church family, the people who love you, took vows at your children's baptisms, grieved for you when you went through miscarriages, and celebrated when your girls were born. We are a family, and your leaving is a painful and sorrowful event. God is just as much present at Good Shepherd on Sunday morning as He is at the cathedral or the Vatican. We worship in spirit and truth. Isn't that good enough?
Hi anonymous. I can tell you are from Good Shepherd, as you remember my girls taking membership vows. Also, we were so incredibly blessed to have Good Shepherd at our side during our recent tragedy. I will forever thank God for the mercy of having a pillar like Josh to comfort us at our son’s funeral and the many people that comforted us in that bitter time. Perhaps God was waiting for that event to pass before moving our family to join the Catholic church? Perhaps the solid believers at Good Shepherd was what he knew we needed in that dark hour? You are the only person to respond to this letter so far. I am surprised at that. I thought more people would at least leave a quick note to wish our family well. But perhaps I have made people upset at how I handled all this. I can’t blame them. They perhaps have written us of as flakes that never were truly Reformed or something. Or perhaps they see us as apostates now and could care less about saying anything at all to us. Lord knows I could have done things in a better way. For that I am sorry, and I have said as much to the elders as well. But thank you for your caring attitude. I can tell our decision has troubled you and believe me, our family is very sad to have to leave. Honestly, on a personal level it has been painful for us (Bridget especially) but I decided on the “pulling off a bandaid” way of leaving. Quicker the better. What follows will be lengthy, as you are the only member to respond, and I want to fully respond to you. I hope you will hear me out. Now about our membership vows. Try to see things from the perspective I am at. I have come to believe the Catholic church is the one and only church that Christ founded. From that perspective, can you see how any vows to other Christian communities or churches are not at all valid? I did not enter into any vows at Good Shepherd in a “whimsical, temporary, and groundless” way. Neither did I teach my children those vows were such. I took them deadly serious, faithfully teaching my children to take their obedience to the elders seriously. But can you see how the perspective changes when one comes to see the true nature of Christ’s church? I am sure you can think of all sorts of vows one makes that later they cannot in good conscience feel obliged to fulfill. (Luther and his wife Katharina come to mind) You said I made vows before “God's ordained minister and elders”. I will be frank. The elders at Good Shepherd are committed Christian men that love Christ with a passion that shows. What they are not, however, is validly ordained. This is something that is easily shown, and if they can show me evidence of their being ordained to ministry by someone having succession from the apostles, I will immediately bring my family back to Good Shepherd. The fact is, however, they have been ordained by men with no more authority than you or I. Their connection to the apostles is one of a perceived “apostolicity” based on a certain interpretation of scripture. As I have said before many times, their idea of “apostolicity” is different than many other Christian’s ideas and I have no way of knowing who has the truth and who doesn’t unless one of them claims the Holy Spirit protects their apostolicity from error. There is no Protestant that will claim this. If they did claim infallibility, they could not then show a valid succession from the Apostles to back it up. So the idea that I must submit to them is really saying I must submit to some session somewhere I agree with right? If I decided to become Lutheran to fit my interpretation and transferred my “vows” to an ELCA church with a lesbian Eskimo pastoress, I am nearly certain the session at Good Shepherd would transfer me. I think they would have to per the BCO. They wouldn’t like it, but they would. Where is the authority there? Where is the exercise of church discipline? If the WCF is true then force submission to it on pain of excommunication. If it is not true, and just some guys opinions, then it is just scratching my itching ears. I desire above anything in the world that my family follow Christ. Not men. Not my opinions. Not the PCA’s opinions, or the Westminster Divines opinions. Not Calvin’s or Luther’s opinions. NOT THE POPE’S OPINIONS EITHER. But the Pope does not claim I must listen to his opinion, however. When doctrine is defined by the church, it is being recognized as from God. Neither the Pope, nor any man can change that doctrine or make me take a vow to submit to any man’s opinions. Ask the session at Good Shepherd the following question: Is Christ’s body and blood truly present in the elements of bread and wine during communion? Listen for the well reasoned answer (your Pastor is smart) Now ask them if the answer they give you is from the Holy Spirit, and if you need to completely submit to their answer as a matter of faith. You know what they will say. They will say you can basically believe what you want if you are convinced by scripture of it. Of course they will give you some basic “guardrails” of doctrine outside of which you may not go, (Coca cola may not be used, never, ever, ever.) But who decides where those guardrails are? Should I bow down and worship Christ in the elements? Can we throw the bread in the garbage after the sevice? What is their answer? Whatever it is, their answer has absolutely no authority over me. It is merely the opinions of men. Even they would say that I can disagree with them up to a point, and then they would, based on their own interpretations, ARBITRARILY set a point at which disagreement becomes heresy. (let’s call it the Coca Cola heresy) I want the true doctrine of the Apostles. Not smart men’s best guesses. The church Christ founded must have a special ability, guided by the Holy Spirit, to determine where that heresy boundary is, and to determine what is true doctrine. Any organization which does not claim this supernatural ability is automatically disqualified as being that church. Of course claiming it (Mormons) is not enough either, but at least that is a starting point. The Catholics and Orthodox are the only two choices by a long shot. Reformed Christianity, and Protestantism in general has never claimed the Holy Spirit guides their leaders in such a way that disobedience to their doctrinal definitions is heresy. As a Protestant this makes ME, the one who is the authority. So you can see, anonymous, how from my perspective the vows my family has taken are actually very dangerous. I am the final arbiter of authority under those vows. That means that I have taken vows to submit to myself! This leaves me in a position of having absolute ecclesial authority over myself and my family. As much as I trust the motives of the session and know for a fact they have nothing but the purest intentions, and an earnest desire to serve our Lord, I cannot trust my soul or my family’s souls to good intentions. I must follow Christ.
You said: “Your girls will conclude that Pastor Moon has no authority as an ordained minister and that our elders also do not represent God's authority over our lives.”
That is a true conclusion. Where does Pastor Moon’s authority come from? To say it comes directly from God would be pretty cocky. And anyone can say that. I could say that and start my own church tomorrow. (Just like Doug Wilson did) There needs to be a standard of succession from the apostles to determine which leaders claim to authority is real. (see Turtullian below) As far as the authority of the session, I challenge you to put yourself in the position of (theoretically) disagreeing with them to confirm the fact that they do not communicate God’s authority over your life. Only so far as you agree with them do they have “authority” over you. You only submit to them because you first CHOSE to put yourself under their authority based on your agreement with their interpretation of scripture. I will say it again: Only so far as you agree with them do they have “authority” over you. Search your feelings, you know it to be true! You only submit to them because you first CHOSE to put yourself under their authority based on your agreement with their interpretation of scripture. Why are you not a Pentecostal? Why not Reformed Baptist? Why not Lutheran? Why not PCUSA? Kenneth Copland? You do not and would not take vows and submit to the authority of at least one of the above options, because they disagree with your interpretation. So the fact that you and I have taken vows to submit to the authority of a Reformed Presbyterian church, simply means we have chosen to submit to people that agree with us. If that agreement should shift, we then form the CREC down the road like the people we know did, and on with the Reformation! Semper Splintera! Uh cough… I mean Semper Reformanda! Do you see now how the guy in the pew is the authority in Protestant churches? Our Pastors and sessions have only the authority we allow them to. They were not given their authority by Christ, but by mere men like you and me. Please try not to take it personally, like I am condemning Protestants as not being Christians or not worshipping the triune God. I think no such thing! Remember, I have very recently been one myself, so I think I have at least earned the credibility with you to say that people at Good Shepherd (of which I was one) are SOLID Christians that are totally sold out for Jesus. That is really beside the point.
Finally you said: “God is just as much present at Good Shepherd on Sunday morning as He is at the cathedral or the Vatican. We worship in spirit and truth. Isn't that good enough?”
No, it is absolutely NOT good enough. Good motives and intentions are absolutely not good enough for my family. I don’t mean to be rude or overly curt, but you need to look at the above sentence you wrote and put it in the mouth of a Pentecostal, Reformed Baptist, Lutheran, or a health and wealth gospel church. Now move to the non-Christians and put it in the mouth of a Mormon or Jehovah’s witness. ALL of these people believe they are worshipping God in Spirit and Truth. Is God present at Good Shepherd? 100% absolutely. Is he present at my brothers Assembly of God church where I first believed and was baptized? 100% absolutely. Are you folks Christians that will be in heaven if you have true contrition for sin and trust God according to what you know? 100% absolutely. But you must admit, these groups can not all have the “truth” simultaneously. And unless you are willing to say that the Holy Spirit disagrees with Himself, which I know you are not, you must admit that they are not all proclaiming the truth of the one true faith. So how do I escape this dilemma of choosing between different interpretations and finding the true church Christ founded? What makes my choice of Catholicism any different than your choice of Reformed theology? Am I not just basing it on my preferences just like I am accusing you of? Am I being a hypocrite? No. And here is why. The way the early Christians identified where the church was is polar opposite from the self serving way we have done it since the Reformation. I will give but two quotes. If you want more I can give you dozens. Again, how do we find the church?......
St. Augustine: “You know what the Catholic Church is, and what that is cut off from the Vine; if there are any among you cautious, let them come; let them find life in the Root. Come, brethren, if you wish to be engrafted in the Vine: a grief it is when we see you lying thus cut off. Number the Bishops even from the very seat of Peter: and see every succession in that line of Fathers: that is the Rock against which the proud Gates of Hell prevail not.” St. Augustine to the Donatists
Tertullian: Moreover, if there be any [heresies] bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, so that they might seem to have been handed down by the Apostles because they were from the time of the Apostles, we can say to them: let them show the origin of their Churches, let them unroll the order of their bishops, running down in succession from the beginning, so that their first bishop shall have for author and predecessor some one of the Apostles or of the apostolic men who continued steadfast with the Apostles. For this is the way in which the apostolic Churches transmit their lists: like the Church of the Smyrnaeans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John; like the Church of the Romans where Clement was ordained by Peter. In just this same way the other Churches display those whom they have as sprouts from the apostolic seed, having been established in the episcopate by the Apostles. Let the heretics invent something like it. After their blasphemies, what could be unlawful for them? But even if they should contrive it, they will accomplish nothing; for their doctrine itself, when compared with that of the Apostles, will show by its own diversity and contrariety that it has for its author neither an Apostle nor an apostolic man. The Apostles would not have differed among themselves in teaching, nor would an apostolic man have taught contrary to the Apostles, unless those who were taught by the Apostles then preached otherwise. Therefore, they will be challenged to meet this test even by those Churches which are of much later date – for they are being established daily – and whose founder is not from among the Apostles nor from among the apostolic men; for those which agree in the same faith are reckoned as apostolic on account of the blood ties in their doctrine. Then let all heresies prove how they regard themselves as apostolic, when they are challenged by our Churches to meet either test. But in fact they are not apostolic, nor can they prove themselves to be what they are not. Neither are they received in peace and communion by the Churches which are in any way apostolic, since on account of their diverse belief they are in no way apostolic (The Demurrer Against the Heretics 32:1 [A.D. 200]).
This is the only objective way to identify the church! Christ gave authority to the Apostles and tells us to listen to them. In John 13:20 Jesus said to the Twelve: "Amen, amen I say to you, he who receives the one I send, receives me; he who receives me, receives the One who sent me." Without an objective way to identify the true teaching of Christ, and the true identity of the Church, we are left with well, Protestantism… every interpretation with its own “branch” and no authority. So there HAS TO BE an objective way. Christ would not leave us stranded with our own interpretations. We need to look to the successors of the men Christ sent and see which churches are in communion with them to find the true faith. Outside of this, no matter how sincere, Godly, and well intentioned, there can be only opinions and division. Not the unity Christ said we would have in John 17. If any Reformed Pastor can show me a bishop in the line of succession from the apostles that he is in full communion with, (The Bishop of Rome or an Eastern Patriarch) I will fully submit myself to his authority. If he cannot do this simple act, I will assume his authority to be arrogated and illegitimate. It is as simple as that. All the theological arguments in the world can be spilled, and spilled, and spilled, but in the end, we need to submit to the church like a child submits to her daddy. She looks around for him, runs to him, and hugs him. She knows who he is. Christ gave authority to our “daddies” the Apostles. I can see where those men are 20 centuries later, and I am running home to them. I wish you all at Good Shepherd the continued grace and blessings from the Holy Spirit. And I pray you all come to the fullness of the Truth waiting for either you or your descendants in the Catholic faith. Peace, David Meyer and family

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The following is from Kevin Branson's blog Journey to Rome. His point is spot on and the Star Wars references made it all the better. There is a sense of desperation that has become obvious amongst some of the Reformed camp, as evidenced by their regular and ridiculous attacks on the Catholic Church. The irony of the phenomenon is that those men flailing their arms and making the most noise are the very ones who, having dared to somewhat loosen their ties to the Westminster Divines, appear horrified to realize that they are in a much closer theological orbit with the "Death Star" known as Rome than they ever dreamed they would be. Good news boys: The tractor beam has been engaged, resistance is futile, prepare to be beamed aboard the "Mother"ship. Yeah, I know I mixed Star Wars & Star Trek lingo... Sorry about that. -Kevin Branson

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Pope in my belly wants enchiladas

Andrew McCallum, Thanks for commenting, and sorry I didnt respond sooner. I think your point is a good one, and it took me a few minutes to sort of understand what you are getting at. You said: "There is a huge continuum of belief systems within the RCC from the very liberal to the ultra-conservative and the debates never get resolved and everyone thinks that they are being faithful to the historic Christian Church. David can stick with the small group of conservatives in the RCC and hope that their interpretation of the Church is right, but isn't this like the situation he just came from?" Hmm, really? I picked up a copy of the CCC a few months ago and have read most of it. I wasn’t too confused as to what it was saying. The other day I saw some story about a pro-abortion organization called "Catholics for choice" or something. I am assuming this sort of thing is what you are referring to. The problem with your argument about me being in the same position as before as far as choosing doctrine is as follows: In the PCA being pro-abortion is not a matter of doctrine in the sense that the WCF forbids it. It is not a doctrine that all are made to submit to the church on. It is agreed to be evil by almost all members because they have chosen to belong to a group of likeminded Biblical interpreters who collectively agree that the Bible says abortion is murder. The church did not pronounce that the Holy Spirit has made it so, the individuals submit to their collective interpretations. (in this case they are submitting to the Catholic magisterium without really knowing it, and will be blessed accordingly) On the other hand, Catholics can clearly see in the CCC Paragraph 2272: "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"" Per-darn-clear to me. I love it when Protestants try to say that the magisterium needs interpretation just like scripture! If there are Catholics that are idiots and willfully don't submit to the above doctrine that is proclaimed by the Holy Spirit through the Church, that really has no correlation AT ALL to the situation I was in as a Protestant. Can't you see the difference? Even if there are Bishops that are unfaithful in this way, is it really so unclear what is true that I will be left to my own authority? No way. Let me ask you this Andrew: what does the Catholic magisterium say about the Federal Vision debate? Now, don't get me wrong they don't address it specifically so the answer here is "nothing". But you and I know what they WOULD say if it became an issue like in the PCA. And the probable dissenters to my theoretical magisterial ruling would (A)know which side they were on. And if they didn’t, or wanted to play possum, the magisterium would (B)CLARIFY. Then the beautiful situation of(C)the church speaking and making a definitive statement. When the dust settled, those in communion with Rome would be the ones with the correct doctrine. If the process took a while, then I guess i'm just left to my own interpretation, right? That makes me think of the ancient people under Arian bishops. It took a while for word to get to them that they were heretics, but they at least got a DEFINITIVE ANSWER. There will be no such answer and has never been such an answer for Protestants. Come on, Andrew, show me all these issues which divide Catholics that the magisterium has been silent on or needs interpreting on because Catholics disagree about them. Please list them. Abortion should be on your list. OK, now go down the list and mark off the ones that you think I will have the same type of difficulty in finding the definitive magisterial teaching on. (Compare with me determining the truth of church teaching on the FV issue) I bet you 7.7 trillion dollars that the people in the PCA after a "definitive" FV determination is made, will have no idea other than their own interpretation of scripture, which side was right. (PCA or FV) They can submit to the PCA all day long, which is to say they are submitting to their own agreement with the PCA. If they don't like it, they will go to the CREC and "submit" to them. Again, submitting to their own agreement. You see, neither of these churches claim that any single thing they decide is the truth from the Holy Spirit, so therefore dissent becomes a matter of what the "Pope in my belly" (Martin Luther's term) is hungry for. If he is hungry for enchiladas, then by golly enchiladas he’s getting! If they are too spicy, then enchiladas are evil and he must be fed tacos. When Mexican food makes him sick, then he moves on to Thai food, on and on it goes. You are saying that I am just choosing the Italian food of Catholicism. What I am doing, however is pulling the tapeworm out of my belly and looking for the bread from above. What does God want me to eat? I looked for authority that claims supernatural, sacramental guidance. No serious Protestant claims this about his church. Again, they DON’T EVEN CLAIM IT. See the difference? Go ahead and deny the claim that the Catholic Church is THE one and only church and it's doctrine is the truth of the Holy Spirit. You may have good reasons for claiming this. I’m sure you do. But don't try to convince me that Catholics are in the same situation as Protestants when it comes to knowing true doctrine. I must say that is laughable. Even you, as a Protestant, can give me a very detailed explanation of what Catholics teach as defined doctrine according to their official documents. If you were to talk about justification, for instance, I bet you would not be all that baffled at what Catholics believe the Holy Spirit defined at Trent for instance. The list could go on and on, and you or most any moderately educated Protestant with an internet connection and Google could tell me what the Magisterium says about nearly any doctrine. The fact that there are lay-unfaithful or unfaithful Bishops does not even elicit a yawn from me. Even Peter was called satan by Jesus during a moment of unfaithfulness. Ironically, the very Catholic doctrines you are claiming are so unclear that they will cause me to not have any more doctrinal assurance than when I was Protestant, are the VERY DOCTRINES that are clear enough that you point out that there are dissenters! To put it another way, you are using the backdrop of the Catholic church’s unity to point out the dissenters who are so easily seen against such a backdrop! It proves all the more to me that Catholicism is true when I see in her ranks diabolical tares that hunger for dead babies trying to change her doctrine. This situation could never happen in Protestantism, because of a lack of any visible church to try to change! The diabolical tares just become the PCUSA, the wheat form the PCA, and ye-haw on we go with the Reformation! No need to change the church, just make a new one! The game is over Andrew, I see through the attempts to use Catholic unity to try to prove there is no unity. Even in a situation like the Arian heresy where if I remember right, MANY bishops succumbed to the heresy, the point remains that when we talk about the Arian heresy, we are talking about the Arian HERESY. NOT the Arian CONTROVERSY. Protestants have absolutely, positively, 100%, no possible way to make that kind of determination now that they removed themselves from the church. Anyway, sorry for the book. Hope I didn’t sound too angry here, I’m not, but can come off that way due to poor communication skills and sin. I also am super hungry (for enchiladas!) and can get ornery when that happens. In Christian brotherhood, David M.