Friday, September 29, 2006

Their brains are bigger over there.

I don't recall who pointed me to this blog, but Gagdad Bob's blog has some interesting reflections, tinged by a Joycean penchant for wordplay. Check out his latest comments on eschatology in One Cosmos: 9-11 and the Parallel Looniverse

I wrote something in my study questions last semester concerning eschatology and the historical world view. Wish I'd said it nearly as well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

This time, Milingo made it easy

Ed Peters responds to a recent episcopal ordination by Cardinal Milingo of several married men in a recent blog post, This time, Milingo made it easy. Since I can't comment there, I will here.

Although Milingo is affected by this act, would the ordained men be excommunicated? From what it appears, they're part of a schismatic sect anyway (the Old Catholic Church. of which there are apparently many splinter groups). A clarification would be great.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Crucifixion: the Aftermath

Perhaps aftermath isn't the right word. Maybe long-term repercussions would be more accurate.

If you haven't read the first part of the story of my crucifixion, you'll want to read Young Martyr at Play.

I grew up, for many reasons, with some damaged ideas of what I had to do to be loved. I won't go into that issue in this post, but suffice it to say that I grew up with a bit of a savior complex. I got involved with young ladies who had their own issues, and I did my darndest to take responsibility for them, fix them, or do whatever I could to make their lives better. I remember one time being in a bad relationship with a young lady, and I spoke to the friend of a young woman whom I'd just realized I'd fallen for in a hard way. As I was explaing this complicated situation to her, she remarked, "No one made you her savior, man." But that was the role I tried to play in relationship after relationship.

Some 16 years later or so, I was working for a high-tech company in the Boise area supervising a group of eight close-knit professionals, mostly a bunch of well-educated, liberal women. While we got business done, we also talked a lot, shared a lot of stories, and laughed a lot. Shortly after I began my return to the Church, I got into a discussion about my childhood, and I let slip to one of my employees that I had crucified myself on my grandmother's lawn. She'd been raised in a nominally Presbyterian family, and she was aghast at the idea of a Christian child doing such a thing. Naturally, this meant she had to poll the others to get their perspectives, and all of those of non-Catholic or non-Christian background were appalled at the seemingly blasphemous act.

Then she spoke to the only other cradle Catholic on the staff: "Argi*, did you hear that crucified himself when he was a kid?"

Argi responded, "Oh yeah... No. Hadn't heard that story."

"Well," she said, "Aren't you appalled?"

He shrugged and smiled. "Sounds like a Catholic boy to me."

My coworkers hadn't missed the fact that I tended to put myself on the line more than necessary. Actually, that's putting it too kindly. Perhaps what they noticed was my tendency toward self-martyrdom. I recall during a particularly tough period of layoffs, I said that I would stay as long as they were there and needed someone to defend their interests. One of them told another later, "When is he going to come off of that cross?"

About three weeks later on a Friday, I arrived at work. Like many workplaces, on Friday the rules are relaxed. People dressed more casually, and the office atmosphere wasn't quite as buttoned up. For us, Friday meant music over the intercom, typically Stevie Ray Vaughn or someone else that everyone could agree upon. However, this day, I entered to the sound of Gregorian chant.

This wasn't the most reverent bunch (albeit very tolerant of their supervisor's recent reversion), so naturally I found the music choice perplexing. As I walked in, I passed by the one person on my staff with whom I had a strained relationship. On most mornings, this person would probably not have acknowledged my presence. However, I knew something was afoot when I noticed her lips curl ever so slightly into a grin. I turned down the aisle and noticed everyone's attention to be uncharacteristically riveted to their monitors.

And then I stopped dead at the entrance to my cubicle.

Spread out on my desk was a black drape with three tea lights flickering in front of a 12-inch high tryptych on foam core. Each panel featured a scene from the Passion as rendered by El Greco or Caravaggio, except for one small detail: my face had been superimposed in each painting from photos taken at various company functions. The most comical was the last panel, the scene after Christ's body was removed from the cross. In place of Christ's face stood my beaming visage—goatee, grin, and all.

I don't think I could ever have been handed a more perfect indictment of human frailty and impotence than those images. While they poked fun at an aspect of me that I didn't really want to acknowledge, they also helped me to come to terms with my own powerlessness, my own pretension, my own egocentricity. I wasn't going to save the world. I wasn't even going to save my coworkers. I had to let go and accept that I couldn't fix anything without a whole lot of assistance, not the least of which was the assistance of that God whom I'd left behind and tried to replace.

*Not his real Basque name.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Matthew 25 on Grace and Works

My morning scripture reading today was Matthew 25. Jesus tells three parables in this chapter, two of which seem to enunciate Catholic teaching on grace and works quite clearly.

The first, the parable of the 10 maidens, asserts the need for vigilance. One could interpret the five wise as those who commit works and are prepared for judgement. Frankly, I think that stretching the symbol a bit. Suffice it to say, we must be prepared for the bridegroom. We should not wait until it's too late.

With the parable of the talents, we get closer to Catholic doctrine on grace. Here are the opening verses (14-15):

For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.

One of the most difficult doctrines for Christians is predestination. St. Augustine grappled with it, as did Luther (the former, successfully, while the latter, not so much so). Why is it that some do not have the grace necessary for salvation? In Protestant theology (at least the theology of the Reformation), the Elect are given grace; the Reprobate are not. the more extreme form of this doctrine is double predestination—the idea that God created souls who would be reprobrate intentionally. That is, He intended for them to be destined to Hell. To these, He does not give his grace. In this realm, the concept of free will doesn't really work. God gives grace only to those whom He wills to have salvation. I imagine many Protestant denominations would have trouble with this formulation these days. However, at the time, that was the hard line. Luther didn't care for it, but Calvin embraced it fully. The idea that one could resist God's will is ludicrous; therefore, our will must not truly be free.

We know from 1 Timothy 2:3-4 that God wills that all should be saved. What that means in terms of the conomy of grace in Catholic theology is that all are given what is called sufficient grace. We are all given the grace to repent and accept Christ's forgiveness. The question, then, is whether our will will follow. God does not compel us to love him. He gives us all we need to make the choice. Then we have to make an act of will: choose God or not. This is sufficient grace—the grace to choose. Then we must act. Our actions then determine whether we will have additional actual graces to result in sanctification. These additional actual graces are also called efficacious grace—that is, the grace to effect salvation for the Elect.

Matthew 25:14–15 are a perfect analogy for this economy. The man going on a journery bestows upon three servants the means (talents) to gain his graces. I find it a rather happy coincidence that a word we use for our own personal capabilities signified a large sum of money—some 15-years' wages for a common laborer. The first two servants received the sum—the actual quantity is irrelevant—and they immediately put it to use. That's the way it is with sufficient grace. We take what God grants to us freely out of His own generosity, and if we choose His will, we multiply that gift into something greater than it was. However, none of it could be done without His gratuitous gift. At the same time, He owes us nothing more. We're His servants. Our job is to do His will. His reward to us is, again, solely born from His generosity and mercy. At the same time, knowing that He is a gracious God, we know He will reward us (which is how Catholics understand merit—a gift God wnats to give us as His obedient servants).

Then the unhappy plight of the third servant. He is given a talent. fearing the wrath of the master, he doesn't use this talent or even turn it over to someone else to use for some benefit. Instead, he buries the talent. When the master returns, the servant simply gives the talent back. While this might seem to be an inoffensive gesture when it comes to "safeguarding" someone's goods, it's not what you're supposed to do with a gift. It's a rejection of a gratuitous gift. It's the equivalent of saying, "I knew you were expecting me to do something challenging with this gift, so I decided not to use it. Here it is back in perfect shape."

God doesn't give us gifts or talents to bury (nor are we to hide our light under a bushel basket). Talents or gifts are given with an expectation—to make the talent grow into more than it was.

As if to confirm His meaning, Jesus goes on to the next parable:

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

We have just prior to this an analogy for the lazy servant who rejects the master's gift. Now we have the Son of Man seated on His throne. This passage is less parable than analogy. He says that the Son of Man will sit on His throne and will sort people from all the nations as one sorts sheep and goats. The important thing to realize here is that the parable doesn't start until after the analogy is made. We will be sorted. The parable provides the means, the criteria by which we will be sorted:

[F]or I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

The sheep are brought into the kingdom for what they do, not for what they profess (Matthew 7:21). In fact, Christ's Judgement only makes sense if one has criteria by which he or she is being judged. And what would those criteria be?

- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Welcome strangers
- Clothe the naked
- Visit the sick and imprisoned

Notice what is not mentioned: have faith. Jesus does not say that these goats didn't believe in Him, and at this stage, disbelief in Him would be rather difficult as the goats would be in His midst. While faith is certainly necessary, it isn't the only necessary thing.

Although Romans is frequently cited as support for sola fide, Paul himself reiterates the necessity of good works: "But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury." (Romans 2:4-7).

The Book of James is particularly known for its claims of the necessity of works. Where Protestants err is when they consider works of the Law (which Paul condemns) and works to which we are impelled by grace as equal.

Where we agree is that we are saved by grace alone. Only God's gratuitous gift of grace can save us, but that grace should move us to two things: faith and works.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gypsy Scholar: What the Pope really, actually said in Regensburg...

Not surprisingly, now we learn that what the BBC and AP claimed the Pope said wasn't quite what the Pope said. Aside from the rather sensationalist headlines, the mainstream media took a very small part of a larger lecture, given in an academic setting, and made it out to be the primary issue in the Holy Father's speech. The lecture actually discussed faith and reason, and the tendency in the West to divorce the two—even to the point of "de-Hellenizing" religion. However, apparently the English version that these "journalists" quoted wasn't indicative of the tone of the original.

Gypsy Scholar notes the discrepancy in What the Pope really, actually said in Regensburg....

HT to Peter at Lex Communis for the link.

Monday, September 18, 2006


AP is finally carrying a story that lays it all out. I wonder if the MSM will recognize their complicity in this debacle?

Al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies said Muslims would be victorious and addressed the pope as "the worshipper of the cross," saying "you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere. ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose the 'jizya' tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (being killed by) the sword."

Islam forbids drinking alcohol and requires non-Muslims to pay the "jizya" tax, though those who convert are exempt. The tax, sometimes called a head tax, has not been imposed in Muslim nations in about 100 years, though Islamic militant groups have tried to force non-Muslims to pay it on a local level in some countries.

"You infidels and despots, we will continue our jihad (holy war) and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism, when God's rule is established governing all people and nations," said the statement by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups in Iraq.

Al-Qaida in Iraq said Muslims would be victorious and addressed the pope as "the worshipper of the cross" saying "you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere. ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose the 'jizya' tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (being killed by) the sword."


Another Iraqi extremist group, Ansar al-Sunna, challenged "sleeping Muslims" to prove their manhood by doing something other than "issuing statements or holding demonstrations."

"If the stupid pig is prancing with his blasphemies in his house," the group said in a Web statement, referring to the pope, "then let him wait for the day coming soon when the armies of the religion of right knock on the walls of Rome."

I particularly like this aside:

Islam forbids drinking alcohol and requires non-Muslims to pay the "jizya" tax, though those who convert are exempt. The tax, sometimes called a head tax, has not been imposed in Muslim nations in about 100 years, though Islamic militant groups have tried to force non-Muslims to pay it on a local level in some countries.

Which means, of course, that it has been imposed in the last 100 years, but by these militant groups that don't represent Islam... except that they seem to be the loudest protesters when Christians actually say what they believe.

I can be content, at least, that AP is finally beginning to report what's actually happening.

I've been reading the Qur'an lately (a bilingual translation by Majid Fakhry), and there's an interesting note concerning the translation for the word "peace" in Surah 2, verse 208. Fahkry's note indicates that "[t]he Arabic equivalent for 'complete peace' can also be rendered as 'complete submission' or 'true religion.'" (page 37)

Hmmm. So when we say "religion of peace" and think "religion of nonviolence," Muslims may very well be thinking "religion of complete submission."

I think that communicates the disconnect quite well.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Read the Speech, fer Cryin' Out Loud

Nothing like taking words out of context. Here's the full text of the speech. You'll note that the words that have the Muslim world up in arms are quotes from a 13th century text, not the opinions of the Holy father.

As for me, da Pope's da Man.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Some anonymous commentor who's name is MY BROTHER sent me a request to explain the Catholic teaching of Purgatory. You see, I made the mistake of telling the whole fam damily about the crucifixion story that I posted a few days back. Anyway, big brudder did some poking around and figured out which one was mine—probably not a difficult guess.

Anyway, he writes:

What is the official teaching on purgatory, does it exist, what would lead one to such a condition, and would one be aware of their status.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Purgatory. That's an official Catholic teaching, a doctrine of the Church. You can get the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Purgatory here.

This post will not be a heady theological explanation of the scriptural and traditional grounds for Purgatory. I don't do theology in under five pages, as my professors at Holy Apostles will attest, and frankly, Purgatory is not a neat and simple doctrine (which is why it wasn't very well defined until the Council of Florence).

Anyhoo, here's an elevator explanation of Purgatory.

Purgatory is a state or place where temporal punishment for transgressions takes place after death before one of the Elect enjoys the Beatific Vision. The term "purgatory" comes from the Latin infinitive purgare, which means "to purify." Although we talk about it more in terms of punishment, some theologians have likened it to a cleansing process. Essentially, while Christ dealt with the eternal, spiritual penalty for sin, we inflict on ourselves temporal damage that must be rectified or repaired. In some cases, we rectify these matters in life (through personal suffering, corporal works of mercy, and other penitential acts). Whatever we don't address in this physical life will eventually have to be addressed after we die.

Sin leaves a mark. I think all of us who have had a dramatic falling away from faith and a dramatic return can attest to this. We may have converted, but sin has still warped or deformed us in the form of attachments to things and experiences in this world. We cannot enter God's presence in such a state; nothing unclean can stand before God. However, in His infinite mercy, God provides a means for cleansing these stains and imperfections—a means for detaching us from the world of material experience. Think of purgatory, then, as Heaven's mud room. Unless you've taken immaculate care of your soul or done considerable scouring of your worldly attachments, you'll probably spend a bit of time in Purgatory getting tidied up before you see Heaven.

Doesn't sound quite so bad as classical Purgatory, does it? Well, that's because I'm being really conceptual about it. We can't say definitively what Purgatory is like because that much is not in revelation. We have hints in scripture that don't sound like a lot of fun (for example, St. Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). We have Old Testament types in Adam, who is forgiven but has to "eat his bread in the sweat of his brow" or Moses, who doesn't get to see the land of promise. David was forgiven his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his arrangement of Uriah's untimely death, but the temporal penalty was the loss of his child. We also have personal revelation, which does not rise to the level of doctrine and with which Catholics are free to disagree. Some saints have reported vistations from souls in Purgatory, and from these encounters we have most of our impressions.

If you think back to my comment on "attachments to things and experiences in this world," you can imagine how this might be painful. We have difficulty in life detaching ourselves. So the process of cleansing is expected to be painful in some sense.

Those who end up there are those who have unrepented venial sins at the time of death and those who have imperfect contrition for sins and have not done sufficient penance will be spending some time in Purgatory. Perfect contrition and penitential acts are means of addressing the remaining temporal effects of sin.

There's some dispute of whether we're aware of being in Purgatory. However, many of the personal revelations relate a soul in Purgatory requesting prayers, which would suggest some awareness of being in a state of preparation. My sense is that we still have hope even if the process is painful. We know that we're no longer in danger of sinning and of losing friendship with God.

Catholic Answers has a good article on Purgatory. The Catholic Encyclopedia article provides all kinds of scriptural support as well.

The concept doesn't sit well with most Protestants because of their understanding of justification (forensic or extrinsic justification, as opposed to the Catholic concept of intrinsic justification). This is because extrinsic justification is like a pardon: God overlooks our offense, ignores the depravity that caused us to sin, and covers it with His Son's righteousness. To Protestants, we're still depraved sinners and always will be. Christ's atonement covers us, but it doesn't cause us to revert back to the original state of grace prior to Adam.

Intrinsic justification is different. It's a process, and its goal is to lead us back to that state of perfection, to change us internally, not just to pardon our offenses. Purgatory makes sense only if intrinsic justification is operable. In a world of sola fide, the idea of purgation doesn't make a whoe lot of sense. However, in the Catholic mindset, the idea of entering before God with the stains of sin underneath (albeit covered by Christ's righteousness) doesn't jibe. We cannot appear to be perfect; we must become perfect. That only happens through God's grace acting in us by faith and works (penitential acts).

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Stirling Novel

I blame Dale Price for this.

Based on a recommendation he made to which I NEVER should have heeded ( stoopid!), I read Dies the Fire. Tonight, I wandered shaking and foaming at the mouth to Barnes & Noble to pick up The Protector's War.

Because I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of my life, I'm a sucker for pretty much anything set here (which doesn't include much). This series by Stirling runs all over my stomping grounds, so I felt compelled to check it out.

I think some of the details early on paint my locale (Boise) as a bit podunk with a backwoods, regional airport and a bunch of good ol' boys hanging out at the aircraft hangar. Of course, having recently traveled off to the place of a good portion of my childhood (Spokane, WA), I guess I can reasonably concede that were a bunch of podunk good ol' boys in these here parts.

I typically gravitate toward historical fiction or classic fantasy, but this is a nice blend of the two: lots of technical detail, both historical and practical, and plenty of the mythopoetic elements that make fantasy worth reading.

Anyway, now I'm hooked. Thansk a whole lot, Dale.

Monday, September 11, 2006

2996 Tribute: Richard J. Klares

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers
will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.

We will honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.

I am honoring the memory of Richard J. Klares, age 59, of Somers, NY.

There's a tribute to him at

HT to Julie D. for the link.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Justification by Grace Alone

Michael Barber has a link to a great essay concering the Catholic doctrine of justification written by a former Protestant theology student who eventually converted.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]

Catholic Answers Forums

The forums at Catholic Answers have been down for some time, apparently the result of a hacker attack. They're now back up, but with some data loss. Check out Jimmy Akin's blog for details.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Which Theologian Am I?

Okay, I'm not really Anselm, but my theology appears to align best with his.

HT to Jimmy Akin for this quiz.

You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'





Karl Barth


Friedrich Schleiermacher


John Calvin


Charles Finney




Martin Luther


Paul Tillich


Jonathan Edwards


Which theologian are you?
created with

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]