“One of the reasons why Catholic and Orthodox Christians on the one hand and Christians of the Reformation traditions (Protestants) on the other have such divergent approaches to the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is because they read the Old Testament in significantly different ways…It strikes me, however, that there is a possible way which allows us to synthesise our understanding to some extent. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the allegorical method is generally inadmissible there should be no reason why we cannot agree that the use of analogy is perfectly acceptable. By which I mean that if the Old Testament shows God acting in certain ways or upholding certain principles we can assume that He acts in the same way and on the same principles in the New unless Scripture specifically informs us otherwise.
Which brings me to Mary and the Tabernacle of the Lord. The Tabernacle was that structure sitting at the heart of the nation of Israel where God dwelt among His people in a special manner. It first took shape as the Tent of Meeting at the time of Moses and later became the Temple of Solomon. There is no doubt that God dwelt in a special way too in Mary, the mother of the Son of God. I would suggest that the principles which underlay the construction of the first Tabernacle, made by human hands, also underlay the creation of Mary in the womb of her mother St Ann by the hand of God…click here to read more“
In my opinion, the Pharisees are important to consider in this day and age in the Church. I don’t say that to use the group as an epithet, nor to use an ad hominem to target bloggers I disagree with. I think we need to consider them because they did have an attitude towards religion that seemed right from a human perspective, but ultimately that attitude fell short in the eyes of God.
Briefly, the view of the Pharisee was (seeking to avoid pejorative terms) that one was faithful to God by keeping His laws. In doing so, they offered their interpretation of how the Law was best followed. People who did not follow that interpretation were considered sinners. In contrast, because they followed the Law in accordance with their interpretation, they believed they were holy. It strikes me as being an “either-or” fallacy. Either one followed their interpretation of the Law and were holy, or they did not follow their interpretation of the Law, and were corrupted. The problem is, the either-or fallacy overlooks the possibility of there being more than two options—in this case, the fact that it was not enough to follow the observance of the Law. Jesus did not fault the Pharisees for keeping the Law. He faulted them for failing to love God and neighbor while keeping the law (Matthew 23:23).
Formulae like ‘I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour‘ are very commonly used among Evangelical Christians. They can act as the gateway marking the point at which a person becomes a Christian. In that sense they resemble the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith. What they don’t resemble is the traditional Christian gateways which are baptism and the profession of the Nicene creed. There are many things which could be said about this but I propose to focus on what I see as the excessive individualism which this approach to the faith both reflects and encourages.
The formula is theologically sound so far as it goes, its main problem is the premature use of the full stop. It makes the Christian faith in its totality appear to consist of a personal relationship between the individual believer and one member of the Blessed Trinity. This is at best inadequate and at worst positively misleading...click here to read more
In Part One I suggested that by gazing into the mirror of Christ Crucified we can see answers to the question What is Man? (male and female) because Jesus is an icon of what a human should be like and because His situation is emblematic of the human condition. I proposed that ‘Man is loved and lovable‘ is one conclusion we can deduce and that ‘Man is a sinner’ is another.
The Crucifixion is something voluntarily endured by our Lord because it is the efficient means for redeeming fallen humanity. We can deduce from this that, insofar as He is representative of us, that we can add ‘Man is a lover,’ that is one who loves, to our list of essential human qualities. However, although we can say that Man is loved and lovable unconditionally we must qualify the truth that Man is a lover with the fact that he is also a sinner. This means that every expression of love or feeling of it is, at least potentially, tainted by sin which is produced by disordered affection for or attachment to certain inferior goods at the expense of Good as such.
The idea, recently expressed, that ‘love wins‘ is unreservedly A Good Thing is something I have challenged on my other blog. For our purposes I would say that love translated into intention and act always has to be evaluated in the light of how it fulfils its purpose. What this purpose is might be more easily be discussed if we consider that another conclusion we can draw from the mirror of Christ Crucified is that ‘Man is dependent.’...click here to read more
“What’s in it for me?” is a perfectly reasonable question to ask whenever someone tries to persuade you to take a risk. It may not be the only or even the most important question but it is certainly one which can legitimately be put. One cannot, therefore, blame non-Christians for taking it into consideration when hearing the appeals of evangelisers to be ‘born again in Christ Jesus.’ To people who believe in neither heaven nor hell the promise of the one and the threat of the other will make no impression. Likewise those who have no sense of sin are conscious of no burden of guilt from which they have to escape. None of these things then can be advanced as being relevant to the “what’s in it for me?” criteria.
The idea that the population would be susceptible to such appeals is the heritage of a time which has now past. Where you have a society in which almost everyone accepts the basic ideas of Christianity the task is to energise them, to get them to move from theory to practice. In the West today there are few if any such societies so the strategy requires to be revised. Fortunately the Church has experience in dealing with a world in which most people were ignorant of, indifferent to or antagonistic about basic Christian doctrines. This was the gentile world of the first century Mediterranean where the Apostles and their associates did the work of planting the Catholic Church in the first place. I think that they made three distinct promises which each convert would receive as a gift when becoming converted to the faith, promises which the Church can still make and which provide the answer “this is what is in it for you.”…click here to read more
The doctrine of Hell is one that is easily distorted into portraying Christians as gleefully awaiting non-Christians to be sent there, while thinking that we have a free pass where what we do doesn’t matter. While it is true that some Christians have so missed the point about what they are called to be that they do think this way, it is an aberration which perverts what Christianity really believes.
Far from being a cruel belief invented by a vindictive people in a way that contradicts the concept of a loving God, the concept of Hell recognizes that:
- God created us with an immortal soul
- God created us with free will to choose Him or to reject Him
- If we misuse free will in a way which rejects God, our immortal soul has to exist somewhere that is the logical result of that rejection
So, Hell is not an issue of “don’t steal that cookie or you’re going to burn forever!” It’s a reality of, “If you choose to reject God, that decision has eternal consequences if you do not change your ways.”
One of the things people in modern times find hard to reconcile is how God can be love (1 John 4:16) and the existence of Hell. The general assumption is that Hell is an arbitrary, disproportionate punishment tacked on to a crime—something like shooting a person for jaywalking. Because of this, it is assumed that God, being “good” (in an undefined way) would not really send them to Hell for their own actions. Maybe Nazis, but not “good” people. I suspect this is where the whole “God doesn’t care about X!” attitude comes from.
But this is to miss the point about what Hell is about. It is not an arbitrary sentence to a crime like, “If you commit theft, I will punish you with Prison.” It is more like, “If you jump off of a cliff, you will die.” In other words, Hell is the logical consequence for choosing to do what goes against what God has called us to be.
Since ancient times there have been those who say that Jesus taught one doctrine openly and another, higher, one secretly to those initiated into His circle.From time to time groups have emerged, and still emerge, which claim to be custodians of this doctrine or to have ‘rediscovered’ it. A claim which, of course, it is impossible to either verify or to disprove. A somewhat related theory suggests that during His youth our Lord went to India and upon His return taught some form of Buddhism or Vedanta Hinduism to those followers whom He had first drawn to Him by preaching a radical form of Judaism.
To some extent these are all conspiracy theories; a way of viewing the world which is notoriously difficult to unsettle. Anyone who wishes to believe such a theory, whatever form it may take, is meeting a psychological need and is likely to be impervious to those facts which fail to meet that need. Nonetheless I think that it is a worthwhile exercise to demonstrate why I think these are untenable approaches for explaining the mission of Jesus.
It is certainly true that there are a number of texts which show our Lord unfolding His teaching in a veiled way (the parables) before huge crowds and in a more explicit way (the discourses) before His disciples. What they don’t show is that there is any difference in content between the parables and the discourses, the latter explain the former they don’t alter their meaning. Moreover the category of ‘disciples’ is not clearly defined….click here to read more
If you read the works of the saints, or their biographies, you can see that they were aware of a truth that America has forgotten—sin is real and it alienates us from God. Instead, America (or, rather the whole of Western civilization) has a bad habit of presuming that God “doesn’t care” about the action we do that falls under the category of sin. As a result, we have an understanding about sin that is both self-contradictory and has nothing to do with the reality:
- When others do something we dislike, we have no qualms about acknowledging it as a sin.
- When we do something that is a sin, we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin and call it an arbitrary decision made by human beings that doesn’t matter to God.
In other words, while people are perfectly willing to denounce others, the fact is that, instead of thinking rationally about the good or evil of our actions we contemplate doing, we rationalize the things we already do to avoid thinking about whether they are good or evil or rationalize a reason not to do what we ought to do.
This mindset actually convicts the person before God—because we call the actions of others “sin” or “wrongdoing,” we acknowledge that there is a good which must be lived and an evil which must be avoided. But because we refuse to apply this knowledge to ourselves, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and evildoers.
Being a Christian today—at least one who takes a position contrary to what is currently favored culturally—is becoming an unpopular and potentially dangerous stand to take. While society is stressing the importance of being nice, and not saying anything negative about someone we disagree with (except when directed against said Christians), we are unpopular because we say “This is wrong, and cannot be done.” To which, the world says “Stop judging, you bigot!” (completely unaware of the self-contradiction). The impression one gets is that society would be perfectly willing to welcome us back into the fold if we would stop being so obstinate and go along with what they hold.
If the society was the source of determining what was right and wrong, then it would be foolish of us to be countercultural. Under such a view, whoever rejected the mores of society would be a hateful person. But this is where the problem lies. Christianity cannot accept society as the source of determining right and wrong. Indeed, we know that societies have a bad habit of going very wrong. In America, our mistreatment of American Indians and African-Americans give us examples of behavior that cannot be considered good even though society once favored it. The totalitarian dictatorships of history give us examples of behavior we cannot condone. So there has to be a source for determining right and wrong which is outside of society. Otherwise, when a new group is in power, people will find themselves without grounds to protest actions they find offensive. And society, in the name of freedom, is rapidly undercutting the pillars that support freedom. They do this by saying, “Stop trying to push your values on us!” while pushing their values on others.