I hope to finish reading Scott Hahn's doctoral dissertation Kinship by Covenant (which is amazing so far) and post some thoughts when I get back.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I hope to finish reading Scott Hahn's doctoral dissertation Kinship by Covenant (which is amazing so far) and post some thoughts when I get back.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Many of you have seen the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The film scared the jeepers out of me and I only finished it because it had some pretty heavy theological implications.
The most disturbing element of the film is that Emily Rose is depicted as a redeemed Catholic Christian in a state of grace who is asked by God and the Blessed Virgin Mary to suffer demonic possession so that the rest of the world will come to appreciate the supernatural. Emily Rose is said to be possessed by six demons, one of which is Lucifer himself:
The first one, (In Hebrew)- "Anee-hoo-sheshokhen-betokh-CAIN."("I am the one who dwelt within CAIN!")
The second one, (In Latin)- "Ego sum unus quisnam habito intus Nero."(I am the one who dwelt within NERO!")
The third one, ( In Ancient Greek)- "Eh-no-ente-so-paro-thene-JUDAS-een."(I once dwelt within JUDAS!")
The fourth one, ( In German)- "Eet-ik- nik- LEGION."(And I was with LEGION!")
The fifth one, (In Assyrian Neo-Aramaic)- "Ah-nah-BELIAL!"( I am BELIAL!")
The sixth one, (In English)- "And I am Lucifer, the devil in the flesh!"The film is based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young German Catholic woman who died in 1976. I don't know if the story of the six demons belongs to the original story of Anneliese.
A Catholic Perspective
St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas teach the redeemed soul in a state of grace is not only infused with grace but by this grace is also indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is not metaphorical. God dwells in the human soul by grace and resides there as if enthroned in a hallowed temple.
How then can the soul of Anneliese Michel be indwelt by both God and Satan at the same time? God says, "I shall not share by glory with another" (Is 42:8). How then could God share a soul with Satan?
In a similar situation, St. Paul explains that he had been given over to be tormented by an evil spirit:
 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.The concept is similar. A demon is introduced and by virtuous patience, God's glory is manifested. It is clear that St. Paul grants that God allows evil spirits to "harass" us. This also occurred to Job (cf. Job 1) However, the case of Job and Paul are not cases of demonic possession. The problem with the Emily Rose film or the true story of Anneliese Michel is that it depicts a person in a state of grace possessed by a demon (or many of them). Again we come back to the question, how can God and Satan dwell in the same soul?
 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;
 but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12)
St. Thomas Aquinas writes: "And yet the Holy Ghost is possessed by man, and dwells within him, in the very gift itself of sanctifying grace. Hence the Holy Ghost Himself is given and sent." (Summa Theologiae I. 43. 3)
Perhaps one way to solve the riddle is to say that the soul of Anneliese Michel was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but her body was possessed by devils. This would be the only way to get around the obvious contradiction. However, St. Paul says this of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? (1 Cor 6:19)For St. Paul, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul is the same as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body. I don't think that St. Paul's understanding of the human person allows for the strict bifurcation of the human soul from the body (while it is still living). Thus, it seems that Anneliese was in a state of grace and not possessed by devils; or she was possessed by devils and not in a state of grace.
If anyone has any other ideas, please contribute. I think this is a very interesting topic and regardless of our theologizing, let us be charitable and take a moment to pray for the soul of Anneliese Michel.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
This is a nice little article by James Akin, a former member of the Presbyterian Church in America, entitled "A Tiptoe through Tulip". It examines each of the five points of Calvinism formulated at the Protestant Synod of Dordt (A.D. 1619) from a Catholic, specifically Thomistic, point of view.
For those unfamiliar with the "five points of Calvinism" they are known by an acronym T.U.L.I.P. and are as follows:
Total Depravity (the human mind and will is depraved so that it is incapable of responding to grace other than by spiritual regeneration.)Akin explains to what extent these doctrines can be appropriated by the Catholic Church, and where they clearly break with Apostolic teaching.
Unconditional Election (Certain persons were chosen by God for salvation without regard or foresight of their character, life, deeds, or dispositions.)
Limited Atonement (Christ died only for the elect.)
Irresistible Grace (Grace cannot be resisted. It is necessarily effectual.)
Perseverance of the Saints (Those who have been elected by God and predestined will in fact persevere unto death and be saved.)
Read James Akin's "A Tiptoe through Tulip".
Thursday, July 19, 2007
With all the recent discussion on this blog concerning justification, I wanted to post something on the various "justifications" of Abraham, our father in faith.
By reading the Epistle to the Romans, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistle of St. James, we discover that Abraham was "justified" at least three times (Gen 12, Gen 15, Gen 22). This demonstrates that while justification occurs as an initial event, it continues in a progressive manner.
The First Justification of Abraham
Hebrews 11:8 refers to the virtue of Abraham's faith when he left his homeland. Hebrew's says that this faith is an example of the faith that "pleases God". Moreover, Hebrews 11:10 states that Abraham's faith in Genesis 12 was based on Abraham's belief that he would receive a "city without foundations and whose architect and builder was God." Abraham became a believer at this point and thus was justified.
The Second Justification of Abraham
The second justification is the one that St. Paul focuses on in his discussion of Genesis 15. St. Paul in Romans chapter 4 makes his defense of the righteousness that comes from God through faith based on the Abraham's faith in the promise of God. Here Abraham believes and is justified.
The Third Justification of Abraham
The third justification of Abraham is the one described by St. James in the second chapter of his epistle. This is the controversial one, because St. James specifically says of Abraham:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24)St. James describes the events that took place in Genesis 22 and describes this as "justification". A Protestant may say that the justification of Genesis 22 and qualitatively different than Abraham's previous justification. This is true for the wrong the reasons. It is different in that it is a "re-justification". Abraham is not passing from death to life again. That has already happened previously. However, the "justification" that St. James describes is still a technical "justification" in that Abraham is "made righteous". As in any previous justification of Abraham, this is a deepening of the righteousness that Abraham obtained in his initial justification.
A plain reading indicates that the faith of Abraham originated in Genesis 12 and continued throughout his life as evidenced by his hope in the promises of God and his loving obedience to the guidance of God. This faith began in Genesis 12 and yet Abraham was justified in Genesis 15 and again in Genesis 22. The plain reading of these passages reveals that justification is repeatable and progressive - two things that Protestantism rejects.
The Council of Trent on "the just being justified still"
Besides these three examples in the life of Abraham, the Council of Trent (Session 6, Chapter 10) quotes two passages of Sacred Scripture to prove that justification continues in a progressive manner in the life of the believer:
in this justice, received through the grace of Christ 'faith cooperating with good works', they increase and are further justified, as it is written: 'He that is just, let him be justified still,' (Rev 22:11) and again: 'Be not afraid to be justified even to death,' (Sirach 18:22) and again: 'You see, that by works a man is justified and not by faith alone.' (James 2:24)The Scriptural evidence proves that justification has a beginning, middle, and end. Justification is not a formal and complete event at the beginning of salvation. It is something progressive and repeatable. Moreover, the Church (and St. Augustine) teaches that justification can be lost and regained.
- Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 10
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The Vatican City State has a new website. For those who are wondering, the "Vatican" is a sovereign state. However, the "Holy See" refers to the chief apostolic "see" (i.e. seat) of Rome - the Pope's diocese. The Holy Sees is the religious reality, and the Holy See governs the Vatican City State. The Holy See and the Vatican are thus two separate entities. The Vatican City State could disappear, but the Holy See would remain.
Newspapers usually refer to "the Vatican" and not to "the Holy See." Whenever I see a report that reads, "Yesterday, the Vatican issued..." my first (rather uncharitable) thought right off the bat is, "This person doesn't know what he's talking about." Only the Holy See issues statements concerning the the practice, doctrine, liturgy, etc. of the Church. I may be wrong, but I believe the only things that the Vatican issues are postage stamps and paychecks.
Interestingly enough, the Holy See is a member of the United Nations not as "Vatican City" but as "the Holy See". Also, all diplomatic relations with foreign nations are with "the Holy See" and not "the Vatican". For example, the United States has an ambassador in Rome as "Ambassador to the Holy See". The Pope sends an ambassador to the United States who is called the "Papal Nuncio" (not an ambassador).
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the recent document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the status of Protestant denominations. The document explains that these communities are not churches "in the proper sense of the word." This isn't new. It goes back to the Reformation and was restated in the 2000 document Dominus Jesus.
In Catholic parlance, Protestant denominations are officially "ecclesial communities" and not formal "churches". This means that they are voluntary associations of real Christians.
If you think about it though, Protestant denominations explicitly define themselves as "voluntary associations". It's not like the Presbyterian Church in America or the Southern Baptist Convention has any real authority over its faithful. They only do if you agree they do. If you don't like what they are doing or saying, they tell you that you're free to go to a Methodist parish or an Evangelical fellowship. In other words, the denomination's authority is based on volunteerism.
The Catholic Church claims to have authority over the baptized whether a person acknowledges it or not. E.g. the Pope believes that he is the Pope of every baptized person.
Moreover, the main point of the document is to reinstate the clear biblical doctrine that Christ instituted only one Church and not a plurality of differing denominations. I think we can all agree that Christ did institute only one Church - we just disagree on how that phenomenon is apprehended in the third millennium.
We might also remember that the Catholic Church defines the Church as a visible reality that is historically connected to Christ and His twelve Apostles through Holy Baptism and Apostolic Succession. The latter term refers to the unbroken chain of ordinations extending from the Apostles to the modern day bishops of the Church. This unbroken chain of ordinations ensures that these men receive the promises of Christ: 1) to "bind on earth" through doctrine and discipline; 2) to "forgive sins" (Jn 20:19-21); and to have authority to celebrate the Sacraments, chiefly the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Protestants reject all those things so they shouldn't be offended that the Catholic Church says they are not "proper churches". Protestants don't want all that stuff, so they shouldn't be offended when Catholicism points out to them that they don't possess these gifts, powers, and authority. To be "Protestant" is to "protest" these things in the first place.
There has been a lot a talk on what the Catholic Church does or does not teach about Justification.
According to Sixth Session of the Council of Trent "of this Justification the causes are these:
The Final Cause
"the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting;
The Efficient Cause
"while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance;
The Meritorious Cause
"but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father;
The Instrumental Cause
"the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified; lastly,
The Formal Cause
"the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation.
The Mode and Manner of Justification
"For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said, that Faith without works is dead and profitless; and, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision, availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by charity. This faith, Catechumen's beg of the Church-agreeably to a tradition of the apostles-previously to the sacrament of Baptism; when they beg for the faith which bestows life everlasting, which, without hope and charity, faith cannot bestow: whence also do they immediately hear that word of Christ; If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. Wherefore, when receiving true and Christian justice, they are bidden, immediately on being born again, to preserve it pure and spotless, as the first robe given them through Jesus Christ in lieu of that which Adam, by his disobedience, lost for himself and for us, that so they may bear it before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may have life everlasting.
Monday, July 16, 2007
From a reader:
Could you have a look at the verse below, and add a comment? It makes it clear that in election works have no part at all, or grace is not grace. Your exegetical remarks would be appreciated.The literal meaning of this Scripture passage refers to the election of Israel and the mystery of its national apostasy. The passage begins: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? (Rom 11:1)
Rom. 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.
That being said, I think it is entirely appropriate to use this passage to analyze the gratuitous property of grace as it pertains to personal salvation. In other words, we not should limit this passage to how it relates to God's people of the Old Law.
In Romans (and Galatians) St. Paul is concerned with the prevailing Christian heresy of his day - that one can only be righteous before God by belief in Christ AND by observance of the Torah.
St. Paul uses a powerful argument based on Abraham's faith to show that the gratuitous property of grace excludes not only Jewish works but, a fortiori, all works.
Yet Paul knows that grace has allowed him to accomplish great salvific acts - primarily his ministry to the Gentiles/nations (Rom 15:16). Thus grace allows Christians to perform human acts in such a way that these good works are not contrary to the grace of God but actually subsumed under the current of grace flowing through the believer. Therefore, post-regenerative works are not opposed to grace, but fall under grace.
St. James further explains that works "perfect faith". These works are NOT produced by the raw human will, unaided by grace. Rather faith and works are the result of grace present in the human will. For the Catholic Church, both faith and works (and charity and hope) are the result of grace operating in the human will. Grace insulates everything so that "none may boast".
Sunday, July 15, 2007
St. Paul teaches that the time between Adam and Moses was a unique dispensation.
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned - sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14).Here is the line of thought, after Adam men were sinning and they died, but sin was not "counted" because the law had not been given. I think the reference to Moses in v. 14 reveals that "law" here means the Law of Moses. What is this supposed to mean?
If I may take a stab at it, St. Paul sees a connection to the probation and failure of Adam with the probation and failure of Israel at the time of Moses. In a sense, Israel recapitulates Adam's failure. The High Priest, the priests, the Levites, and all the Israelites are New Adams. The Tabernacle/Temple is a New Eden. These New Adams fail and so God removes them from their New Eden by destroying the Temple in 586 B.C.
By sin "counting" or "not counting", St. Paul refers to probationary periods where covenant fidelity fails. Adam's sin "counted" because it brought sin and death into the world. Sin under the Law of Moses "counted" because it revealed Israel was unable to bring "light to the nations" and universal devotion to the God of Israel.
It is not that men between Adam and Moses were not guilty of their sins because they hadn't heard of the Law of Moses. On the contrary, God judged men at the flood for their sins because of their guilt. No, men were culpable of their sins on account of natural law and their consciences bearing witness to that law (see Rom 1-3). Here, "sin counting" has to do with the possibility of universal redemption, or in the case of Adam and Israel, universal darkness.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Since the Scholastic period and especially after the Council of Trent, Catholic theology has spoken of salvation and grace in terms of actual grace and habitual grace. Habitual grace is also called sanctifying grace or deifying grace.
Actual grace is the supernatural assistance of God for salutary acts granted in consideration of the merits of Christ. Actual grace is called "actual" because it refers to direct acts of God. Actual grace refers to a special help that God may give for a moment or certain act. Actual grace is gratia gratis data or "grace freely given."
You might think of "actual graces" as zaps from God that enable someone to do something salutary. They are "graces" or "charismata." Acts of prophecy, tongues, healings, miracles, even the priest's ability to absolve sinners in confession or confect the Blessed Sacrament are accomplished by actual grace. The initial grace of God given to a sinner to be able to repent and trust in Christ is also an actual grace. Again, think of "zaps".
Habitual or Sanctifying Grace
For the most part, Protestant reject the formal Catholic doctrine of habitual or sanctifying grace.
This kind of grace is called habitual grace on account of the Latin word habere meaning "to have or posses." It is the kind of grace possessed in the soul of the redeemed Christian. It is also called sanctifying grace because brings life to the soul and allows the will to conform a person to the holiness of Christ. It is called deifying grace because its presence in the life of a believer allows for the presence of the eternal divine life of the the Blessed Trinity to dwell in the soul.
When you hear a Catholic speak of "being in a state of grace" they are referring to being in a state of habitual or sanctifying grace. According to Catholic theology, if you die with habitual or sanctifying grace in your soul, you are saved and not damned.
How do you receive sanctifying grace?
St. Paul refers to habitual or sanctifying grace in Galatians 5:4. It is also the "new man" of which Paul speaks (cf. Eph 4:24). St. John calls it the abiding "seed of God" (1 Jn 3:9) that dwells in the Christian. Habitual or sanctifying grace is the grace we receive when we are born again and become sons of God by divine adoption or filiation. It is received by faith in baptism and it can be lost through mortal sin. Once lost through mortal sin, it is restored through sacramental confession.
The possession of habitual or sanctifying grace entails the presence of the Holy Spirit - for the two go together.
The Church would cite Romans 5:5 as an example of this twofold reality:
"The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us."Here the charity of God poured into us is sanctifying grace and it is accompanied by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Thus we become temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16).
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Man's righteousness, effected in justification, is regarded by Augustin as inherent rather than imputed, to use the vocabulary of the sixteenth century. A concept of 'imputed righteousness', in the later Protestant sense of the term, would be quite redundant within Augustin's doctrine of justification, in that man is made righteous in justification. The righteousness which man thus receives, although originating from God, is nevertheless located within man, and can be said to be his, part of his being and intrinsic to his person. An element which underlies this understanding of the nature of justifying righteousness is the Greek concept of deification, which makes it appearance in the later Augustinian soteriology.Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei - A History of the Christian Doctrin of Justification, Second Edition, pp. 31-32.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Today is the day in which the "delayed parousia" of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum finally arrived. The document expands the use of the 1962 Missal of John XXIII, as the document names it, i.e. the form of Holy Mass used prior to the New Order or Novus Ordo of Holy Mass issued by His Holiness Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council.
Father William Stetson, who serves as Secretary to the Ecclesiastical Delegate of the Pastoral Provision (His Grace John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark) and has met with Cardinal Ratzinger on a number of occasions, called me yesterday and drew my attention to the way the document uses the word "rite" and "use."
Father Stetson and I hope in the next few days to prepare a podcast or some notes on the "liturgical vocabulary" of the recent Motu Proprio.
It seems clear that the Holy See desires to retain the term "rite" as a singular term for the liturgical patrimony of the West. In short, there cannot be Roman "Rites".
As Father Stetson has repeated at several venues, the Holy See has always refused to acknowledge a group of reunited Anglicans as an "Anglican Rite" in the sense that the Eastern Churches possesses the distinction. Rather, priests and faithful coming from Anglicanism into the Catholic Church, have been granted a liturgical "Usage of the Roman Rite" that expresses the patrimony of Anglicanism.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger accomplished this "Anglican Use" solution during his tenure as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Now as Holy Father, he is using the same vocabulary to solve the "Old Rite vs. New Rite" debate. Just as Pope St. Leo the Great declared that Christ possessed two natures while being yet one person, so Pope Benedict XVI has declared that there are "two usages while yet one rite."
What does this mean for Anglicans? It means that the Anglican Use is somewhat like the Use of the Missal of John XXIII (1962). There is the ordinary use of the current missal, which is surrounded by other extraordinary "uses" (e.g. Anglican Use expressed in the Book of Divine Worship or the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII).
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Marcion donated 200,000 sesterces to the Church of Rome after Pope Hyginus died in 143, an impressive sum of money. The Church of Rome returned the money to Marcion after they learned of his odd doctrines (i.e. that the Old Covenant God was an evil demiurge). Many have conjectured that this "gift" was actually a calculated bribe on the part of Marcion and his adherents in order to obtain the bishopric of Rome.
At this same time, Tertullian (Adversus Valentinianos IV) claims that Valentinus was a candidate for bishopric of Rome. Needless to say, Valentinus and Marcion were passed over for Pope St. Pius I. Tertullian says after this great disappointment, Valentinus entered into schism and developed his advanced Gnostic doctrines. Marcion set up his parallel "church" at this time, as well.
Providentially, the Holy See was protected and Pope St. Pius I was chosen as the successor of St. Peter.
A Lutheran opines on the "any-day-now" Motu Propio allowing wider usage of the Tridentine Mass. According to him, this would be a vindication of the classic Lutheran claim that the "Roman" Church is still the Scarlet Whore of the Antichrist.
This is a prime opportunity for Lutherans to assert the Evangelical treasures of the Scriptures. With a Vatican approval of the Old Order of the Mass Rome will once again clearly demonstrate that in spite of all the romanticizing done by Lutheran ecumenists about how Rome has "changed" and how it has now again "embraced the Gospel," it is in fact just the same old, same old Romanism.I assume the author is addressing claims by the likes of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus that Vatican II answered all the protests of the Lutheran Reformation.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
It is commonly asserted that St. Augustine underwent a major shift in his theological positions, but when did this occur?
According to St. Augustine, this shift occurred shortly after he was consecrated as a bishop in A.D. 395 or 396.
In St. Augustine's Retractiones, he states that he himself presented an insufficient view of grace in his own work Expositio quarundam propositionum ex epistula ad Romanos, written in A.D. 394.
St. Augustine also explains that he developed his full blown doctrine of grace (what we might call "Augustinianism proper" when he wrote his first book to Simplicianus. This book was written by St. Augustine in 396 or early 397.
We observe St. Augustine criticizing the work he had written in A.D. 394 and explaining that he underwent a major theological shift in A.D. 396. This doesn't mean that everything written by St. Augustine before 396 is all wood, hay, and stubble, but it provides us with a good reference point.