Sunday, September 18, 2005

Did the Bishop of Rome originally have only "primacy of honor?"

I've heard the claim that the Catholic Church did not begin until much later in the history of Christianity. When this supposed "later" occurred often varies, depending upon the subjective view of the antagonist. Yet, the claim goes something like this:

"The original Church taught that authority was vested in a college of bishops, each one being equal in authority. The Church in Rome was run by a group of presbyter-bishops until the mid-second century. The Bishop of Rome had nothing more than primacy of honor, being the "first among equals." There was no such thing in the early church as the Bishop of Rome having jurisdictional authority over the other bishops."
Let's compare this claim to the evidence of history...

St. Ignatius (AD 50-11) wrote:

"Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father" (Letter to the Romans 1:1 [A.D. 110]).

"You [the church at Rome] have envied no one, but others you have taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force" (ibid., 3:1).
This coming from a guy who learned his Christianity directly from St. John the Apostle. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch from AD 70 until his martyrdom in Rome (ca. AD 110), presiding as Bishop in the place where they were first called Christians.

Only the Catholic Church treats the "presidency" of the Bishop of Rome to be a matter of both honor and jurisdiction, to such an extent that what the Church of Rome enjoined in their instructions should remain in force.

According to non-Catholic Eastern Orthodox authors:

"Let us turn to the facts. We know that the Church of Rome took over the position of 'church-with-priority' at the end of the first century." (THE PRIMACY OF PETER : Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church edited by John Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992, page 124)

"... the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches [cf. 1 Clement, AD 80]. Note also that the Roman Church did not feel obliged to make a case, however argued, to justify its authoritative pronouncements on what we should now call the internal concerns of other churches. There is nothing said about the grounds of this priority....Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument." (ibid, page 125-126)

"Speaking of the Church of Rome, Ignatius [AD 110] uses the phrase 'which presides' in two passages. ... The term 'which presides' [Greek given] needs no discussion; used in the masculine it means the bishop, for he, as head of the local church, sits in the 'first place' at the eucharistic assembly, that is, in the central seat. He is truly the president of his church...[Ignatius] pictured the local churches grouped, as it were, in a eucharistic assembly, with every church in its special place, and the church of Rome in the chair, sitting in the 'first place.' So, says Ignatius, the Church of Rome indeed has the priority in the whole company of churches united by concord....In his period no other church laid claim to the role, which belonged to the Church of Rome." (page 126-127)

St. Irenaeus, writing between AD 175 and 190 provides the earliest extant list of popes from Peter to Eleutherius (Adv. Haer. 3:3:3; Eusebius, "Hist. eccl." 5:6). Another extant list, called the Liberian Catalogue (AD 354) provides a list of popes from Peter to Liberius, with the length of their respective episcopates, the consular dates, the name of the reigning emperor, and in many cases other details. The list of popes is identical with that of Irenaeus, save that Anacletus is doubled into Cletus and Anacletus, while Clement appears before, instead of after, these two names. The order of Popes Pius and Anicetus has also been interchanged, all of which are likely to be copyist errors. Another witness is from Eusebius, from his "History" and his "Chronicle." Eusebius' Eastern list of popes is identical with the Western list of pops by Hippolytus, except that in the East the name of Linus' successor seems to have been given as Anecletus, but in the original Western list as Cletus. The two authorities presuppose the following list: (1) Peter, (2) Linus, (3) Anencletus [Cletus], (4) Clement, (5) Evarestus, (6) Alexander, (7) Sixtus, (8) Telesophorus, (9) Hyginus, (10) Pius, (11) Anicetus, (12) Soter, (13) Eleutherius, (14) Victor, (15) Zephyrinus, (16) Callistus (17) Urban, (18) Pontian (Harnack, "Chronologie", I, 152).

We learn from Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 4:22) that in the middle of the second century Hegesippus, the Hebrew Christian, visited Rome and that he drew up a list of bishops as far as Anicetus, the then pope. Eusebius does not quote his catalogue, but scholars see ground for holding that we possess it in a passage of Epiphanius (Haer. 27:6), in which the bishops as far as Anicetus are enumerated. This list of Hegesippus, drawn up less than a century after the martyrdom of St. Peter, was he believes, the foundation alike of the Eusebian and Hippolytan catalogues (Clement of Rome I, 325 so.). This view has been accepted by many scholars, both Catholic and non-Catholic. [The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII, "Chronological Lists of Popes"]

Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly in his book, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes says, "The Papacy is the oldest of all Western institutions with an unbroken existence of almost 2000 years." Kelly lists the papacy from Peter to John Paul II. During the time of the Arian controversy in the fourth century, Kelly had this to say about the papacy:

"Since its occupant [ie. the pope] was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fufillment of the divine plan" (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pg 417)
Thus, many non-Catholics admit that the evidence of history shows the Catholic papacy started in the first century, but they theorize that it must have only originally had a primacy of honor, not that of jurisdiction. I find this thesis lacking historical support, however. Observe...

Eastern Father, St. Athanasius, called the Council of Sardica: "the great Council" (Defense Against the Arians, 1) and "the Holy Synod" (Letter to the People of Antioch, 5). Take note of what that council, which St. Athanasius was a member, in fact affirmed in a letter to the Pope Julius (AD 342):

"So it seems to us right and altogether fitting that priests of the Lord from each and every province should report to their HEAD, that is, to the See of Peter, the Apostle"

(Council of Sardica, To Pope Julius, as cited by prominent historian James T. Shotwell and Louise Ropes Loomis, The See of Peter (New York:Columbia, 1927), pp.527-528.)

Now, I'm a military man, and I know what "report to" and "head" means. It's not something merely "of honor" but clearly means both honor and jurisdiction. Just in case that isn't evidence enough, there's more ...

Just like St. Ignatius (AD 50-110), we find later on in St. Irenaeus' works (AD 189) what the "presidency" of the Church of Rome means to orthodox Christians of the second century:

"... we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of
its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world
, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition
" (Against Heresies 3:3:2 [A.D. 189]).

If "honor" includes "all the faithful in the whole world" must agree with the Church in Rome, then that sounds particularly Catholic, no? Who still insists upon this second century assertion to this day? The Catholic Church.

According to Eastern Orthodox scholarship:

"...Irenaeus [AD 189] insists that anyone looking for the truth can find it in the Tradition of the Apostles, which every local church has preserved. So we must suppose he thought that the Apostolic Tradition and the Faith proclaimed to mankind were preserved in the Roman Church more fully than in others, or, at least, in a more manifest way. "

(THE PRIMACY OF PETER : Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church edited by John Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992)

According to St. Cyprian of Carthage (AD 251):

"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]). ... On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

"Cyprian to [Pope] Cornelius, his brother. Greeting. . . . We decided to send and are sending a letter to you from all throughout the province [where I am] so that all our colleagues might give their decided approval and support to you and to your communion, that is, to both the unity and the charity of the Catholic Church" (Letters 48:1, 3 [A.D. 253]).

"Cyprian to Antonian, his brother. Greeting ... You wrote ... that I should forward a copy of the same letter to our colleague [Pope] Cornelius, so that, laying aside all anxiety, he might at once know that you held communion with him, that is, with the Catholic Church" (ibid., 55[52]:1).

"With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to
the chair of Peter
and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source" (ibid., 59:14).

From Eastern Orthodox scholarship:

"...according to [Cyprian's] doctrine there should have really been one single bishop at the head of the Universal Church....According to Cyprian, every bishop occupies Peter's throne (the Bishop of Rome among others) but the See of Peter is Peter's throne-par excellence-. The Bishop of Rome is the direct heir of Peter, whereas the others are heirs only indirectly, and sometimes only by the mediation of Rome. Hence Cyprian's insistence that the Church of Rome is the root and matrix of the Catholic Church [Ecclesiae catholicae matricem et radicem]. The subject is treated in so many of Cyprian's passages that there is no doubt: to him, the See of Rome was -ecclesia principalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est- [the Principal Church from which the unity of the priesthood/episcopacy has its rise]."

(THE PRIMACY OF PETER : Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church edited by John Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992, page 98-99)

According the St. Cyprian, the PRINCIPAL Church is at Rome, and it is from that Church that the unity of the priesthood/episcopacy has its source. It is clear that holding fast to the chair of Peter defines, for St. Cyprian, whether one is truly in the Church.

A contemporary of St. Athanasius, Optatus (AD 367) wrote the following:
"You cannot deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Chair was first conferred on Peter, in which the prince of all the Apostles, Peter, sat ... in which Chair unity should be preserved by all, so that he should now be a schismatic and a sinner who should set up another Chair against that unique one." (Optatus of Mileve, The Schism of Donatists, 2:2-3)
I'm seeing a definite Catholic theme here.

Now comes the most explicit evidence of jurisdictional authority, from the Ecumencial Council of Chalcedon (accepted by Eastern Orthodox):
Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the thrice-blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the Rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, hath stripped him (Dioscorus, Bishop of Alexandria) of his episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic worthiness." (Acts of Chalcedon, Session 3)
Hmmmm... it seems the primacy of the See of Peter included the juridic authority to strip the Patriarch of Alexandria of his episcopate. There's more...

From the letter to Pope Leo from the Bishops of Chalcedon:

"You are set as an interpreter to all of the voice of blessed Peter, and to all you impart the blessings of that Faith. ... (Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep 98)

Besides all this, he (Dioscorus, Bishop of Alexandria) extended his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Savior. We refer to Your Holiness. ... (ibid)

Knowing that every success of the children rebounds to the parents, we therefore beg you to honor our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded agreement to the Head in noble things, so may the Head also fulfill what is fitting for the children. (ibid)
Notice that the Eastern and Western Bishops of Chalcedon are asking for Pope Leo's ratification of their councilar decisions, yielding their agreement to the "HEAD" of the Church. Note that they consider themselves "CHILDREN" to Pope Leo. Also note that they assert that Pope Leo had been charged with "CUSTODY OF THE VINE BY THE SAVIOR" and not by political gain or the mere consent of the other bishops.

These claims agree with Catholicism. Pope Leo undoubtedly had singular juridic authority to either ratify or to reject the councilar decisions. No other bishop was asked to ratify the councilar decision, because no other bishop had been charged with "custody of the vine by the Savior."

So, what did Pope Leo do? There were 28 canons decided upon at Chalcedon. Pope Leo ratified all of them except canon 28, which attempted to elevate Constantinople with wording that was contrary to Catholic teaching. Pope Leo exercised his VERY REAL juridic authority and rejected canon 28. Subsequently, Anatolius, the Bishop of Constantinople, wrote to Pope Leo, and apologetically stated,

"As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople [ie. canon 28], let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness.
(Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132, on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon)

The evidence of history is clear. Pope Leo had juridic authority to veto that which an Ecumenical Council of Bishops agreed to. Only the Bishop of Rome has ever exercised this clear jurisdictional authority in the history of Christianity. Did Pope Leo "preside" only in honor or did he have real authority to either ratify or reject councilar decisions? It seems clear the latter is true, contrary to the opinion of later revisionists. Why did Pope Leo have this authority? The bishops of both East and West at Chalcedon in the fifth century asserted as the Catholic Church asserts today: the pope has been charged with the custody of the Vine by the Savior.

God bless,


Monday, September 12, 2005

Do Protestants value Scripture more than Catholics?

This claim (paraphrased) was recently made by a Protestant antagonist, which was so ridiculous, I couldn't let it pass without a response:
"Protestants value Scripture more highly than the Catholics, because Catholics reject the Protestant doctrine of "Bible alone" as the sole authority"
This isn't a convincing argument, because those that value Scripture, must also value tradition as the means of receiving the deposit of faith. To reject "tradition" (Gk "paradosis") as non-authoritative is to de-value Sacred Scripture, since St. Jude (Jude 3) asserts that the deposit of faith is handed on or delivered (Grk "paradidomi"), which literally means that it was "traditioned" to the faithful.

According to Vine's Expository of New Testament Words (Protestant source):

paradosis "a handing down or on" (akin to paradidomi, "to hand over, deliver"), denotes "a tradition"

St. Paul tells us that we are to shun those who do not hold fast to the tradition (Gk "paradosis") that has been taught (Gk "paralambano") by the apostles (cf. 2 Thess 3:6). Moreover, according to Scripture, these traditions are both oral and written...

"So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions (Gk "paradosis") that you were taught (Gk "paralambano") by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter" (2 Thess 2:15).

According to Thayer's Lexicon (Protestant source):

paralambano: to receive with the mind 1) by oral transmission: of the authors from whom the tradition proceeds 2) by the narrating to others, by instruction of teachers (used of disciples)

So, in past discussions with Protestants, I've explained that tradition is an "extra biblical help", the instruction of lawfully ordained pastors handed on throughout Christian history which help us to understand the true deposit of faith handed on by the apostles.

Then I point out that Protestants too use "extra biblical helps" in their attempt to understand the teachings of the apostles. For example, the preface to my Protestant KJV Bible recommends extra-biblical "study helps" to better understand Scripture, affirming that ...

"The reader will want to keep in mind as well. In no instance, however, has the emerging light from these extra-Biblical sources ever done violence to or disturbed the central message of the eternal Word of God. These helps only serve to illuminate and make the brilliant gems of truth even brighter." (The Open
, preface, Authorized King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Publishers, 1975).

I find the above admission rather revealing. Catholics have always contended that the "extra-Biblical study helps" of Catholic tradition has "in no instance ... ever done violence or disturbed the central message of the eternal Word of God." But instead, Catholic traditon "only serves to illuminate and make the brilliant gems of truth even brighter."

It seems that when Protestants use "study helps" from "extra-Biblical sources" they "only serve to illuminate and make the brilliant gems of truth even brighter." Yet, when I say the same thing of the "extra-Biblical source" of Catholic tradition, my Protestants friends charge me with following "traditions of men" instead of the "Bible alone." They claim for themselves that they "value" Scripture more. I don't find such a rebuttal at all convincing, however, as I see the hypocrisy behind their charge.

The fact is, they don't actually use the "Bible alone" as they often assert, but also use the "traditions" or the "extra-Biblical study helps" that they choose to believe, novel as they are, whereas I use the ancient traditon or "extra-Biblical helps" that I find more compelling and believe more convincingly describes the intent of Sacred Scripture.

God bless,


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rebellion against Mother Church...did they succeed?

The following thesis was presented regarding the Catholic Church and the advantage of an authoritative teaching body (magisterium)...

"There was a mutiny, and the "captain" could not quell the mutiny. So the presumed advantage of the Magesterium when actually prevailed upon, failed."
There certainly was a rebellion (like the sin of Korah's rebellion, cf. Num 16, warned against in Jude 11). Yet, I wouldn't say it isn't being quelled. Nor would I say the magisterium has failed.

For example, over 100 years ago there were more Protestants than Catholics. Today, 54% of all those calling themselves Christian call themselves Catholic. Among the Protestant mutineers, there is such disagreement that it cannot honestly be called a mutiny against Catholicism anymore, but thousands of mutinies within a whole band of mutineers, all rebelling against each other in ways unimaginable by Martin Luther.

Think of it this way, does it appear that the mutiny succeeded? It doesn't appear that way to me. Thus, the magisterium has not failed. The chart above (click on it to make it bigger) makes this rather obvious. The large group to the far left is Catholicism (54%). The next is largest is Orthodoxy (12%). The rest of the mutineers are divided up into little piece parts, the largest of which is the African Indiginous Sects at 5.8%. (source: Keep in mind, of the above classifications, the only one that classifies as a single Church is the Catholic Church. None of the others even meet Webster's definition of "denomination", which is "a religious organization uniting local congregations in a single legal and administrative body." [the Latter Day Saints being the only exception, but I don't agree they are Christians, but instead are polytheists].

Other than the Catholic Church, which has a single legal and administrative body governing the single Church, the other classifications of Christianity are divided up further still into many distinct governing authorities, creating such disunity that some authors estimate that they divide at a rate of 5 new groupings per week.

Seems to me the only "rock" in the past 2000 years among these mutineers has been the Rock of Peter, where Christ built His Church. (Matt 16:18)

God bless,


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Man or Rabbit? by C.S. Lewis

I've decided to teach Freshman High School Theology at my parish. In preparing for my first session, I was reading the Handbook Of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. It has a wonderful summary of the many conflicting views of "truth" that people hold. However, at the end of that book, they've included an outstanding essay from C.S. Lewis, which I wanted to share....

Man or Rabbit? by C.S. Lewis

"Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” This is the question on which I have been asked to write, and straight away, before I begin trying to answer it, I have a comment to make. The question sounds as if it were asked by a person who said to himself, “I don’t care whether Christianity is in fact true or not. I’m not interested in finding out whether the real universe is more what like the Christians say than what the Materialists say. All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think them true but because I find them helpful.” Now frankly, I find it hard to sympathise with this state of mind. One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.

As soon as we have realised this, we realise something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live forever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be “good” or “bad” simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of “happiness”.

Now there are quite a lot of things which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the Materialist would simply ask about a proposed action “Will it increase the happiness of the majority?”, the Christian might have to say, “Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.” And all the time, one great difference would run through their whole policy. To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day.

The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.

With the best will in the world ... then it won’t be his fault. Surely God (if there is a God) will not punish a man for honest mistakes? But was that all you were thinking about? Are we ready to run the risk of working in the dark all our lives and doing infinite harm, provided only someone will assure us that our own skins will be safe, that no one will punish us or blame us? I will not believe that the reader is quite on that level. But even if he were, there is something to be said to him.

The question before each of us is not “Can someone lead a good life without Christianity?” The question is, “Can I?” We all know there have been good men who were not Christians; men like Socrates and Confucius who had never heard of it, or men like J. S. Mill who quite honestly couldn’t believe it. Supposing Christianity to be true, these men were in a state of honest ignorance or honest error. If there intentions were as good as I suppose them to have been (for of course I can’t read their secret hearts) I hope and believe that the skill and mercy of God will remedy the evils which their ignorance, left to itself, would naturally produce both for them and for those whom they influenced. But the man who asks me, “Can’t I lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” is clearly not in the same position. If he hadn’t heard of Christianity he would not be asking this question. If, having heard of it, and having seriously considered it, he had decided that it was untrue, then once more he would not be asking the question. The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true. He is really asking, “Need I bother about it?” Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being "good”? Aren’t good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn’t someone inside?”

To such a man it might be enough to reply that he is really asking to be allowed to get on with being “good” before he has done his best to discover what good means. But that is not the whole story. We need not inquire whether God will punish him for his cowardice and laziness; they will punish themselves. The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately “forgets” to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor might tell him.

The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity. Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed—“Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.” 1 But to evade the Son of Man, to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.

But still—for intellectual honour has sunk very low in our age—I hear someone whimpering on with his question, “Will it help me? Will it make me happy? Do you really think I’d be better if I became a Christian?” Well, if you must have it, my answer is “Yes.” But I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage. Here is door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal “sell” on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug? Faced with such an issue, can you really remain wholly absorbed in your own blessed “moral development”?

All right, Christianity will do you good—a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called “good”—all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind”—isn’t quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.

“When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 2 The idea of reaching “a good life” without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are “done away” and the rest is a matter of flying.

1 Luke xii, 10.
2 I Cor. xiii, 10.

[ C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock:Essays on Theology and Ethics , Part I, ch. 12)

God bless,


Saturday, September 03, 2005


What follows is an explanation I gave in 2003 to a Protestant who asked about Purgatory...

From: "Purgatory" by James Akin
A fundamental truth of the Christian faith is that we will not be sinning in heaven. Sin and final glorification are incompatible. Therefore between the sinfulness of this life and the glories of heaven we must be made pure. Between death and glory there is a purification.
I've dialogued with many Protestants who also teach that when we die, we undergo a final process which makes us holy, worthy of God's presence. Of course, you won't often hear "purgatory" or "purgation" in their discussion, however, this is the same concept. Why do Protestant, Catholics, and Orthodox believe that such a process takes place? This teaching is implied by Sacred scripture.

It is God's desire that we be perfected in Christ
Mt 5:48 -be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect
Without holiness, we cannot see God
Heb 12:14- strive for that holiness w/o which cannot see God
Even unto death, we may fall short from that holiness
Jam 3:2 -we all fall short in many respects
Nothing unholy will enter heaven
Rev 21:27 -nothing unclean shall enter heaven
The wages of sin is death, however, not all sins are deadly
1 Jn 5:16-17- degrees of sins distinguished
Jam 1:14-15- when sin reaches maturity gives birth to death
Even after sins are forgiven, temporal punishment remains
2 Sam 12:13-14- David, though forgiven, still punished for sin
Mt 5:26 -you will not be released until paid last penny
Mt 12:36- account for every idle word on judgment day
Not all sins are forgiven
Mt 12:32 -sin against Holy Spirit unforgiven in this age or next
Pain of purgation implied by Paul
1 Cor 3:15 -suffer loss, but saved as through fire
Praying for the dead an ancient Jewish teaching
2 Macc 12:44-46 -atoned for dead to free them from sin

Mr. Akin further explains ...
The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Macc. 12:41-46) as well as other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning "until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy" (The Life of Adam and Eve 46-7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one they pray a prayer called the Mourner's Qaddish for their loved one's purification. Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformers came in the 1500s that anyone denied this doctrine. As the following quotes from the early Church Fathers show, purgatory has been part of the Christian faith from the very beginning.Some imagine that the Catholic Church has an elaborate doctrine of purgatory worked out, but basically there are only three things that are essential components of the doctrine: (1) that a purification after death exists, (2) that it involves some kind of pain, and (3) that the purification can be assisted by the prayers and offerings of the living to God. Other ideas, such that purgatory is a particular "place" in the afterlife or that it takes time to accomplish, are speculations rather than doctrines.

I believe that when we die, all of our sins from our life will be made known to us, all the forgotten sins, all the opportunities to love passed by, as well as the further "ripple effect" our sins had on the lives of others. I believe this realization will be a painful process of coming to understand the mistakes of our lives. It is the pain of this process which I believe to be the pain of purgatory.

I also believe that God blesses some for the faithfulness of others. If this is so, then praying for those that have died is a holy practice which may bring God's blessing upon those loved ones who have passed away, if that be God's will.

God bless,


Friday, September 02, 2005


Our prayers are with those suffering in the aftermath of Katrina.
If you'd like to provide assistance, here's a link to Catholic Charities of USA...

Contribute Now Online

or, Mail Checks To:
Catholic Charities USA
2005 Hurricane Relief Fund
PO Box 25168
Alexandria, VA 22313-9788

or, Call:(800) 919-9338

God bless,