Friday, July 1, 2016

Understanding the Catholic Perspective (for Debating Purposes)

For over fifteen years I have been reading and listening to debates between Catholics and Protestants. I have been on both sides of the discussion in that time. 

What I have discovered is that every single discussion, every single one without exception, comes down to the authority issue. Who or what is God's authority: Is it a church or a book? Upon this question hinges all theological disagreement. If you don't believe me, have a debate on any topic that causes division between us and take it to its logical conclusion. 

Protestants believe scripture is God's final authority. 
Catholics believe the church is God's final authority. 

So, in order for us to respect each other and listen without hearts open, instead of with our minds closed, we need to understand each other's sincerely-held perspective. 

When a Protestant wants to dialogue with a Catholic, they must first and foremost understand that Catholics have been convinced that Christ started the Catholic Church. 

We don't believe in in the doctrines of sola scriptura or in sola fide because we believe Christ started a church.

We remain faithful to the pope, not because we like him or think he is infallible or pray to him or think he is God. We remain faithful to the bishop in Rome because we believe Christ started a church.

We are horrified by the priestly scandal and the witch trials and the inquisition and all other things the people in the church have done over its 20 centuries. We understand Judases infiltrate us and people fail God but God will not fail Catholicism because we believe Christ started a church.

IF Christ started a Church and He gave it His authority, we will be a part of that church and obey her.... because of our love for Christ. Just as we obey our biological fathers because Christ told us to. It is about obedience. Because Christ started a church. 


Now on the other hand:

Catholics need to understand that Protestants do not accept Marian Dogmas, the Councils, the rosary, the sacraments, the sacrifice of the mass,  the pope, the saints, purgatory. They do not believe Christ started the Catholic Church. They believe Christ gave us a Bible.

We must respectfully engage in dialogue understanding the other's perspective. All the demands of a Protestant that Catholics "show them in scripture" that a belief is true, is only attempting to bolster the Protestant position in the Protestant mind, because it does nothing to impress a Catholic. 

That is like a stranger coming upon a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Smith and demanding proof they are married. Then assuming if they can't produce a certificate right then and there it means they aren't married.Then the stranger walks off believing he has really shown them how unmarried they are. That type of encounter means nothing to the couple who were at their own marriage. 

For us to ever really accept each other as Christians--which may not be some Protestants objective when they discuss things with us--we need to be gracious and respectful when we dialogue. We need to know enough about with whom we are discussing to have a logical and fruitful debate. Blessings. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

What God Called "NOT GOOD" in the Garden of Eden


What God Called, "Not Good" in the Garden of Eden

by Teresa Beem


God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness....So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them...God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:26, 27, 31
God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”... God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh....The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” Genesis 2:18, 21-23

The Godhead, in the first chapter of Genesis, looked upon the creation as good. And yet we see in the next chapter that at some point, God called it "not good" because man was not yet complete. Man was alone.


Man "Him," God "Us"


For our Protestant brethren who love the solas:
Masculum solum or man alone was not the intent of God. God, who scripture records as Trinity, declared,"Let us make man in our image."
In his solitude, man was not in God's image. Man's aloneness was not good. Man was, in fact, meant to be one like God, and yet that oneness was not alone. He was meant to have another like him, that with whom he could be united. And from that unity, he would truly be like the image of God, for man would be able to create in his own image. For when the two flesh of the man and women became one, children would be brought forth. In fact, that very oneness of both man and woman was the first commandment of God! 

Man, in his aloneness, was not capable of creating life. Man, in his aloneness, without another to help him, would live forever as the sole of his species. And with the other, and in their oneness producing children, mankind would be very like the Trinity.


How Was Adam Alone?

Surely God could not have considered man truly alone? God had filled the earth, the sky and the waters with creatures of all shapes and sizes. In fact, the more interesting thing is that God called Adam "alone" when He was there as Adam's
companion, speaking with him. Why would Adam be alone when God was there, in His presence? 

If there ever was a time when a man could reach out and say, "It is just Jesus and me" the Garden of Eden, before woman, was that time. And yet God did not consider a relationship between one man and God enough. God did not like the sola situation. Adam's solitary relationship to God without anyone else, was not good. Adam was not to have God all to Himself. The divine plan for Adam's relationship to God was never to be separate, individual and independent. 

Woman

If we wish to go even deeper, we can see that God gave man a woman. In scripture, a woman has always symbolized a church. Man was not just given a wife, man was given a helpmate to bring forth life. Mankind was given a church to bring life into the world. 
Eve: Given to Adam as "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh" completes the image of God in Adam. For as life-giver, she can truly make a Trinity of the one flesh. It is the necessary and life-giving oneness of man with God's Holy Church that keeps him from being alone. And this great mystery that St. Paul writes about in Ephesians 5, is what God pronounces, "very good."


Divisions  


Satan's plan is to take us back to Eden. But Satan's plan is to make us desire to be back to the point when it was just Jesus and Adam--the point that God called it, "not good." 

Many Protestants today are satisfied, if not overtly proud that their relationship with Our Lord is "just Jesus and me." They have rejected religion and the church believing that all they need is the Bible and that is enough. The Devil has seduced them with the proud propaganda of "independence" and individualism in our relationship to Him. But God said "It is not good for man to be alone." God
created us with the intent that we would be one with Him and in His likeness through the woman (the church.) Only then will our "one flesh" be life-giving and only then will we be to God, "very good."




Sunday, June 12, 2016

Confession and Me


I want to be good. Not because I am a perfectionist, but because with utter clarity, I remember my mother kneeling with me and teaching me to pray for forgiveness when I was a toddler. And she cried--at my sins. That emblazoned upon my soul how what I did not only hurt me, but my sins hurt others. How could I go around hurting my precious, angelic mother?

And my personality-type clings to the generosity and promise of the Confession booth. Oh, how I love confession.

Because I absolutely, sincerely never want to sin, when I do, I tend to fall to my knees immediately and ask God's forgiveness. I want that dirty, icky, stain of sin off me immediately. So when I go to Confession, the feelings of deep sorrow, embarrassment, the feeling of humility or regret are usually long past. 

Yet, I understand that even if my sins have already been confessed straight to God, something miraculous happens in the Rite of Reconciliation. There is a divine and powerful grace that is given to me that I may be victorious when tempted in these areas again. 
I need the power and grace of the sacrament. And I love it. 

The day before I go, I begin praying God will call to memory the sins I want to confess. I jot them down so I won't forget. Then, waiting in  the confession line, I am more earnest in my prayers of facing myself, seeing myself through His eyes. And all of a sudden, I notice myself attempting to excuse my sins. More for my own uncomfortableness than God's. The more honest I am with the deep selfishness and pride I discover in those moments, the more I recoil at myself. 

Through His grace, those vulnerable moments  are becoming less and less protected by excuses. I pray God will give me the courage to refrain from whitewashing the dark tomb I look down with, "Hey, I'm only human," or "I don't think it was a big deal," or "Everyone does it." 

Christ knows my heart better than I do. I can't fool nor hide from His intimate knowledge of my sincerity or culpability. He knows how hard I try and how deeply I love Him. So, I lay it all bare without excuse. 
  
Then, that moment...... the Act of Contrition, I never fail to sob. In fact, my eyes are so full of tears, I have to stop and pull myself together and wipe my eyes so I can see to read the rest of the prayer. (I don't have it memorized, so I always try to take a copy of it with me.)
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Amen.

"You who are all good and deserving of my love." How can I say get such a line while kneeling in front of the Father without breaking down with emotion?

 So why is it so emotional? For me, confession strips me of my identity as the good girl! I am a rule keeper. My greatest sins usually have nothing to do with what I have done, though there are those things but the sins within my heart. 

What is so painful is that I must hear myself say aloud my failures. I am forced into reality.
When I wanted so badly to be perfect and wanted to hide my humanness from everyone else, my facade is stripped. I am left sitting there, infinitely tiny and defeated by the world.

God shows me that I am so much more sinful than I can imagine. In fact, I would give up in utter despair and commit suicide if I were left to see the darkness of my sins through His eyes without His aid in bearing it. For no sin is minor. Each of my tiniest sins put Jesus on the Cross. Oh God, to see that is more than a human can bear. 

For I am a child of Eve, submerged in the filth of sin. Bathed in a system that teaches me to be selfish. Indoctrinated from the time I was born to pursue my own desires. Force fed that I have a God-given right to pursue money, fame and power--that my life is given meaning by how successful I am at making my dreams come true, even if it means focusing only upon myself and dividing myself from others who love me. I am told I am more valued if I am young, thin, beautiful, highly educated, snarky and sarcastic. 

That I deserve to be accepted without questioning anything I do, that I should avoid people or environments that upset or irritate me. And that I should avoid upsetting others with the truth, remain silent and passive when encountering grave injustices with a pseudo-righteous excuse of non-violence, tolerate everything without judgment, mind my own business.

My world view has been forged in the fires of the hellacious spiritual seduction that I have a God-given right to decide for myself what is right and wrong, true and false. Except when it comes to the world's sins of environmental and animal injustice. Then I can be as obnoxious and hateful as I wish to be when I fight for these values. 

I have been told to have as much fun as possible, give into my weaknesses so that I do not experience difficulty or even uncomfortableness. And in the end, I should refuse to feel shame nor regrets as long as I am forging my own destiny with relentless individualism. The only thing worth suffering for is that pursuit of your dream. 
     
Therefore, my heart, mind and soul was cultivated and fed in the soil of this sickness. In fact, my mind is so small and steeped in sin, that I am unable to recognize my own stains. And in confession, that moment of clarity comes to me. And it hurts because I am ugly with sin. I am infinitely ugly.

I hate my stains. I wish to be clean. 

Then the words are spoken by the priest that Christ absolves me. I am washed in His word and I am clean. That moment, the moment I didn't even fully realize I needed, for I was walking around not seeing myself through His eyes. In that precious moment, I am clean. All of heaven and the eyes of the Most Holy one see me as perfect. The weight of the sin that God had allowed me to experience, so suddenly grown thick and deep and heavy when seen through His eyes is lifted. And supernaturally, I clearly see the New Me who walks out of that confessional booth. I am infinitely perfect. And I will cling to this beauty as long as I can. His grace has made me whole. 

Thank you God for Confession. 
   

Thursday, June 9, 2016

4 THINGS THAT CATHOLIC MASS IS NOT


Catholic doctrine and tradition can be very confusing to Protestants. (And most of the time they are not aware of how confused they are.) I have sat through hundreds of hours of debate, even some in which I was involuntarily assigned the position of Catholic apologist, where I became frustrated because I knew that the Protestants were not understanding us. That is not their fault. It's like attempting to explain geometry using only algebra concepts or playing tennis using rugby rules.

Within a wrong framework, Protestants often try to judge Catholic teachings. Yet it is impossible to understand Catholicism through Protestant lenses. It simply cannot be done without distortion. Our verbiage doesn't translate, our worldview is different and while there is much we disagree on, there is more areas of agreement and our position is simply misunderstood. 

One of the most important areas of misunderstanding is in the sacrifice of the mass. I hear many Protestants wonder why we don't liven things up in church services, why do Catholics all have to say "amen" together? 

I have witnessed Protestant visitors in mass deliberately get chummy with their neighbors, cut up and comment aloud in order to witness to us fuddy-duddies about what heart-felt worship is. Can't we be spontaneous and real? What about all that horrible ancient music? It's too dark and depressing, why not have happy music? Why so solemn? Nobody seems friendly--lighten up already! Believe it or not, that seems like an easy question for a Protestant. But the answer is deep and rich and unable to fit into meme, tweets or soundbites.

Well then, let's talk... because these people are not understanding what is going on. While the subject of the mass is massive, here are four things Protestants should understand that Catholic Mass is not: 


1. Mass isn't about socializing.  


For Catholics, mass is a time for communion with Christ not socializing. Traditionally, Catholics socialize outside of church at our many, many feast days. Through the millennia we have certainly proven that we are a bunch of great partiers and love to socialize. We love dancing and wine. We don't demonize a little gambling here and there. We enjoy our cigars and cognac. Socializing is very important to us. We just separate our time to get to know or catch up with our neighbor from the time we worship Christ. (Which is a real problem in the US where we don't have a history of Catholic holidays where we do get to socialize.)

Catholics are more solemn and quiet when they entered the main seating area of the church. Protestants often 



misunderstand this as unfriendliness.
Catholics mass is not unfriendly, we simply have a different conception of what church is. 

While many United States parishes now have greeters posted in the narthex, the area that leads into what the Protestants call the sanctuary (and we call the nave) is supposed to be gate in which we enter heaven.
In the narthex, we are attempting to put our souls in a place of joyful reverence. We have come to meet the King to repent our sins, humbly beg for mercy and grace, receive not only His forgiveness and blessings, but to renew our intimate convenant as His Bride.


Once inside the nave, we are not there to kiss, hug, whisper to or greet our neighbor. We are supposed to quietly pray and prepare our hearts for the sacrifice of the mass. Nor are we supposed to talk at all until we are back outside in the narthex. (Boy, have we become lax with that rule.) 


While it is theologically the time that the entire Body of Christ is to worship in communion with each other, physically and spiritually we are to be silent in order to focus on worshipping the Creator. 


For Catholics who understand what is happening, mass is the holiest moments we shall ever have in our lifetimes on earth.




The Crucifixion is re-presented and we partake of the Wedding Banquet. We receive the food of heaven, 
the gift of the Eucharist that we may be one with Him, even as the Father and He are one. 

We join with Christ and take in us His Body and Blood, His Divine Nature. We participate in His Sacrifice, the breaking of His Body, that we may leave and go out sacrificing for others, breaking our prideful spirit, that we may share His life to others.  It is the only time in our lives that we can say we had an awesome time. For adorning God alone is awesome.  


2. Mass isn't about our preferences. 

The liturgy, the vestments, the decorations, the music, the bells and smells are not something a bunch of men at the Vatican sat around debating and voting for or against. We are not at mass to satisfy the pope or the magisterium's preferences nor our personal worship tastes. We are not there to experience diversity, share our opinions nor thoughts. We are there to learn to honor God and love what He loves. 

I know what many Protestants (and Catholics) are thinking. So what makes the Catholic Church so sure of what God likes in His worship? 


God made His preferences of how we are to worship Him known to the Jews and Christians dip from that well spring of knowledge. Our worship traditions were set in place by the Apostles and their successors in the first few centuries based upon what Christ told them as well as how God instructed the Hebrews. Catholic worship traditionally is supposed to resemble the Temple worship (only the sacrificial lamb is now Christ). 


But that's okay if you don't like the solemn ceremony, the music, the liturgy.

  • We don't have to like the traditional music of Gregorian chants--God does. 
  • We don't have to like the procession or the funny clothes--God does. 
  • We don't have to like the smells or bells or where the lecturn sits--God does.

The worship of God is not to please us but to please Him. We can surely put away our opinions and preferences for an hour a week.

Sadly for us, our Eastern Christian brothers have been more faithful in keeping out modern practices than the West. Those who attend Latin mass with Gregorian chants will get a better view of our history and what Catholic worship looked like in the early church. 


So often in the West, Catholics have attempted to copy Protestant worship in order to appeal to the modern tastes, which seems to never turn out well for us. Like when an opera singer attempts to sing hip-hop. It comes across awkward and indeed childish. We should stick with what we have learned to do well over the centuries. 





3. Mass isn't about entertainment. 

We are there under command by God to worship Him. Frankly, God doesn't care that we are bored. We are supposed to ask Him for the grace to bring us into the understanding of what is going on. 

There would never be a moment of boredom if we were to fully realize the powerful miracle of what was going on at mass: the supernatural shattering of time and space! In a sense we are all bi-locating and rewinding time for two-thousand years to

stand at the feet of the one sacrifice at the Cross. We are there at the altar experiencing the mystery of the unity of the church militant on earth, the church suffering in purgatory and the church triumphant in heaven as well as the angels and archangels--all there among us, worshipping. 


We are consuming the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ! Think of how that is sanctifying our spirits, our minds, our hearts, and our DNA! Christ in us! By imputation, by

infusing, by imparting, instilling, implanting, permeating, steeping and suffusing us with His righteousness--animating and enlivening our souls that have been beaten, broken, wounded, crushed and crippled in sin. 

As we grow in Christ and discover the deep mysteries of the Cross, our hearts and spirits will be drawn more and more to the mass. As we learn to walk in holiness by taking advantage of the graces of the sacraments, and reading about Catholic history and doctrines, our excitement will soar! (Need help with this watch anything on youtube done by Scott Hahn!)

4. Mass isn't about proselytizing. 

At least in the way Protestants think about it. We don't offer cards to guests to fill out making a pledge to Christ. We don't try and convince people with music and lengthy, emotional altar calls to give their hearts to Jesus during mass. 

Though historically, many of those who visit the sacrifice of the mass, experience His glory in the crucifixes, the reverence of the church, the Bible stories told in the stained glass windows, are drawn to His Holy gospel. Christ's presence is there and the Holy Spirit calls. 

Catholics most effective way of spreading the gospel is through their hospital and charity work, their universities and schools. It is through our
acts of charity and our daily sacrifices for others that best show the gospel of Christ. When one comes into a Catholic Church to pray or experience the sacrifice of the mass, it is usually the culmination of the seeds the church has sown in acts of love outside of mass. 

And indeed we are told in scripture that our coming together to celebrate the Eucharist is in its very act spreading the gospel. 

When you eat the bread and drink the cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again. I Cor. 11: 26.


Consider yourself Invited!

You are invited and most welcome to come to a Catholic mass. Just google a Catholic Church in your neighborhood. Just try to understand why we are different from Protestant Church. In mass, you should experience the Evangel. It will not be like a Protestant church service, as well it shouldn't. And that is not a criticism of the Protestant services. I worshipped with them for the majority of my life. 

Just know that mass is different. 


Very different. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

DEAR GOD, WHERE IS THE VOICE OF OUR BISHOPS?

Is the United States falling apart? Each night as I rest my head on the pillow I have more
concerns to lift up to God about our nation. And my concern for our corporate culpability is escalating.

With growing panic, I beseech God: Why aren't Christians leaders (with the exception of the intrepid Franklin Graham) not standing up and vocally, powerfully and courageously

denouncing the wicked crimes the nation is amassing against our Lord?  Where is the public outcry among pastors and priests?

Why, oh why, don't our Catholic bishops—the USCCB—stand up and do something? What is wrong with them? They seem to have no courage, no faithfulness to God with all this unending silence—or whispering at a level no one is hearing. It seems to us Catholics out here paying attention that, at the very least, the shepherds have gone to sleep while the sheep are being ravaged.

Based upon the reality of what we are witnessing, it is not undutiful or apostate for Catholic laypeople to ask the question, "Is the Catholic Church really the church Christ started, when it seems the leadership has been on a catastrophic moral collapse for over the few decades?"

Here is where the knowledge of Church history will help us find courage and stay faithful. Therefore let us take a few steps through history.
 (1)


THE 16TH-CENTURY ENGLISH REFORMATION



In 1534, King Henry VIII issued the Act of Supremacy. This proclamation did the unthinkable; it declared His Majesty the sole "Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England." While Catholic England was still stunned by such an arrogant grasp of spiritual authority, the king went even further by announcing the Treasons Act. If any citizen failed to publicly swear the king is the head of the church, they would be guilty of treason and would be punished by death.

The British Isles went even further into shock when their Catholic bishops decided that this was one of Henry's passing fancies and would be soon set right. So they all agreed to passively to submit to the King's demand and wait it out. He would die and a good Catholic king or queen would take his place and undo all the damage.

Therefore all the bishops signed the pledge and "pinched the incense" of paganism. All of them but two. The first was an old bishop who died soon after. The second: Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher. He refused to take the oath before God. And he was beheaded. The vast majority of the priests followed the unfaithful bishops. Many of the religious monks and nuns caved. But not all. Ireland held strong and that first year 800 Irish monks were slaughtered for their faithfulness to God.

To add to the tremendous blow, Henry seized Catholic Church property. All, everything: churches, monasteries, land, everything was stolen and given to the British Church. Before his death, King Henry burned or beheaded or disemboweled  thousands of Anabaptists, Catholic monks and bishops. There sole crime was that they refused to recognize the king as the head of the church.

 A contemporary eye witness reports that Catholics were, 
“hanged until partially conscious. Then their bellies were cut open, their intestines wrenched out and tossed on a fire, and their hearts ripped out by hand. The bodies were beheaded and quartered, and the pieces were posted at various locations throughout England. As the executioner slit open his belly, John Houghton, prior of the London Carthusian monastery, said, "O most holy Jesus, have mercy upon me in this hour."

The great saint, layman and Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, as a shining example to the cowardly church hierarchy, went bravely to his execution. He was beheaded at the Tower of London rather than betray his Lord. 

It was simple peasants, the humble monk and nun, and a few lowly priests who were imprisoned, tortured and executed for their faith. England's Catholics were horrified to watch their God appointed leadership fail God and them, yet see the laypeople go to their deaths.

As we travel back through time, this same scenario repeated itself time and time again. It can be discouraging to read the failures of the church's leadership in history. And even the early church was not immune to this.


THE 4RD-CENTURY PERSECUTION 



Emperor Diocletian ordered, in AD 303, that all Christian clergymen were to report to his authorities and to publicly sacrifice to Rome's gods. Then, in front of public witnesses, each Catholic bishop and priest must swear allegiance to Rome and her gods, only then could they receive a certificate to prevent accusations of treason which may lead to imprisonment or execution. Fourth-century church historian Eusebius reports with regret that most of the Christian clergy did not hesitate to renounce Christ.

Three years later, the net was cast much wider. The command was issued to the laity. Every man, woman, child and slave in the empire must sacrifice to the gods or die. Entire churches, indeed entire parishes gave in rather than suffer persecution. We have witnesses record for history that they felt like an earthquake had hit when, unannounced, Roman officers would come into their city and demand everyone sacrifice on the spot or be tortured.

One of the great historical tragedies is at this time, the bishops had the original letters and gospels written by the Apostles or their followers: the original manuscripts!  And the bishops handed them over to the government official to be burned without the slightest hesitation. At this time, the scriptures were almost lost completely except for a few Christians who hid them and some even went to their own martyrdom protecting them.
Those who did remain courageous and stood up to Rome were the regular lay-believer. It is interesting to note how many young maidens make it into the annals of martyrdom. There was a particular grace given to those virgins who loved Christ, and often they were the most brutally tortured. 

Why? Why have our christian leaders been so weak through the centuries? It is tempting to just give up on religion when we see the scandal, the cause for the ruination of souls, the catastrophic collapse in courage among those set up as our shepherds. Is the answer as simple as the Protestants claim? For they say God never appointed such men as our shepherds.

But let us refute that with one last scene in history. 

THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE


The gospels record that the men Christ chose for His closest companions were so weak that at His greatest moment of temptation, when He was literally in such agony of Spirit in the garden of Gethsemane He was sweating blood, that His Apostles could not even remain awake.

Then, only moments later, our precious Savior, our Creator and innocent God, faced a murderous mob alone, betrayed not just by Judas, but by those who claimed to love him. They all scattered. His friends scattered. Those companions who Jesus said that God had given to Him and would one day run the church—were completely faithless.

From the beginning, Christ has chosen His authorities among weak and cowardly men. Why?

Perhaps it all started in another garden long ago, when the first man not only betrayed his God but his wife by his weakness when he accepted the apple. And that same scenario has been playing out generation by generation.

But lest we give up in despair. Let us think of who did not abandon Christ. The one person who refused to betray Christ whom we see remaining steadfast from the moment the Father spoke to her through the archangel and called her, "Hail Mary!" to watching her son die on the cross. This was His mother.

Jesus gained strength from looking into the depth of His mother's eyes as He suckled her, was taught by her and went to His death with her near. Her strength gave Him strength.

And who did He see in His mother's eyes? He saw His church.

For Mary is the icon of the Church and mother of His Bride. Through that beautiful courage of His mother, the church has found the courage to never abandon Christ. Through those centuries of cycle after cycle of His Bride being attacked by the powers of darkness, she has remained faithful through the simply love of the layman.


This is not the end of the bishops' unfaithfulness. Prepare yourself for yet another chapter of bishops being cowardly. Pray for them. Do not fear the collapse and scattering of God's leaders when persecution comes. Do not be scandalized or swept away with discouragement if you see bishops fail.

Only ask one question: Will you be among those laypeople whose holiness will shine brightest during these times? Will your courage and love for Christ remain firm until death? That can only be answered in one way. If you are growing in His unmerited grace and power; if your life is submitted to Him, then you have no reason to fear. His grace will sustain you. 


History may record the implosion of God's chosen authorities, but history has always made room for the lowly, humble Christian hero. Let's roll…..
_______________________________



(1) MODERN CHURCH LEADERSHIP SCANDALS
It is not fair to include the priest sexual scandal because the majority of bishops were not included in this. While it was indeed a horrific scandal with fruits of tremendous loss of faith in Catholicism—the actual number of clergy involved was slight… less than 3 percent during a few years. We will not highlight how the Catholic bishops failures exacerbated the tensions that led to the Cristero War in Mexico in the 20th century, nor how the French clergy were at the center of fomenting liberty among the people that backfired on themselves in the 18th century French Revolution. But suffice it to say that historically the church hierarchy tends to have poor political instincts in many situations around the globe. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

CALL NO ONE HOLY FATHER

Protestants often bring up the honorary title that Catholics give the pope: Holy Father.
They call this title blasphemous, because they claim it is specifically the name of God and it should never be used as a title for man.

While my emotions may agree, a very easy look into scripture proves my feelings utterly wrong. God has always lavished honor on His creatures by giving them His name or His titles.

Let's start with the first—most glaring, scriptural objection: 


CALL NO ONE FATHER

What did Jesus mean when He said in Matthew 23: 9, "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven?" 

It sounds simple enough, and yet, we can be assured Jesus was not being literal. A literal interpretation would be unreasonable and mean Jesus is warning us to refrain from calling our biological male parent "father." And taken at its most literal, it would mean that we could call females on earth father. 

Was Jesus meaning that we should title no one father? If so we Americans who give that title to our Founding Fathers are doing wrong. Yet, it cannot mean that we are not to give anyone the title of father on earth, for Jesus and His Apostles used it as a title for the patriarchs. (See Luke 16's parable of Lazarus, John 8: 56, Acts 7: 2, Romans 4: 12; 9:10 , James 2:21.) Even Paul said that he was the spiritual father of the churches he set up. I Cor. 4: 15. 

So what was Jesus meaning?

At this time, Israel was splintered into many warring theological factions such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Each referred to their theological founding rabbi as "father." Israel's little denominations were using the title "Father" for purposes of setting themselves above others. As did the early Christians who said, 

"I am of Apollos" and "I am of Paul" etc. Jesus was speaking against setting one group above another by who you title your father.

In essence, Jesus is reminding the people that God is the father and He is the one who places His authorities on earth. Starting with the fact that we don't get to decide our biological fathers, neither do we get to decide who our spiritual authorities are. God alone, as our chief shepherd gets to appoint His earthly shepherds and He alone gives the title of father to those He chooses. This was Jesus showing His disciples that unity under their Father in Heaven was way more important than having little sects under theological fathers. (See Matthew 23:9)

Since Catholics believe that God appointed the pope as His spiritual authority on earth, Jesus would never be warning His people against referring to the pope as "father" anymore than He was telling the Jews not to refer to Abraham as "Father Abraham." 


The unnerving part is that Catholics call the Pope Holy Father. Whew. That cannot possibly be right. It should make all of us shiver with spiritual fear to use that title, of course. But what if, stunningly, God actually wants us to call His authority by His title?

What does scripture reveal to His creation taking His Name?



IS HOLY FATHER A TITLE FOR GOD?

There is only one place in scripture where the phrase "Holy Father" occurs. 
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11
The rest of the time Christ refers to His Father without the word holy. In fact, when Jesus gives us the way to pray to His Father, He does not tell us to call Him Holy Father but simply father: "Our Father, who art in heaven."


So Christ did not give us an example nor mandate to call Him that. Therefore, Protestants restricting that title to God, is not based in scripture. In fact, the Greek word for holy (hagios) is not exclusively used for the Godhead, but also for Christians. 

Saints share the holiness of hagios in many verses such as: Rom. 1:9; 11:16; 12:13; I Pe. 1: 15-15; Rev. 8:3; 11:18. We share His holiness. Even the word "holy" is used by God's Holy Word! So this holiness is not exclusively for God's title. 

Is it really our humbleness that wants to create extra-biblical dictates against using the word holy for Christians? Because, it seems the Bible is not against it. 

Let's do some more digging: 

ARCHANGELS TAKE GOD'S NAME



The literal translation of the Archangel Michael's name is "He who is like God." Some translators, uncomfortable with that, have switched it to what they believe is a more humble rendering, "Who is like God?" However, that still leaves the prophet calling the angel Michael in Daniel 10: 13, 21 the "Great Prince." Such an exalted title that the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists believe the archangel to be Christ. So Michael takes a descriptive name of God.

But it is not just Michael. The Archangel Gabriel's name seems to be literally translated, "Man of God," another title for Christ, or "Strength of God."

God's supernatural beings often have "el" or God in their names. This parallels the titles given to God in scripture which also include "el." Why would God allow this? Why would He allow Himself to be called El-Shaddai which is a disputed description title perhaps meaning, "Destroyer Lord" or "Lord of the mountain," or "Lord of Completeness/Enough." And also allow His creatures to take His own titles? 


A misunderstanding of God often creates confusion about names.

Michael and Gabriel bear the name of God showing that they are God's creation. It would be silly to confuse a

Chrysler car with its maker Walter Chrysler, or call the car egotistical for taking its maker's name. It was created to reflect the genius of its maker. The maker wishes His name intimately connected to His creation.


ISRAEL TAKES GOD'S NAME

2 Chronicles 7: 14, "if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

We often think of being "called by my name" as God calling us. As if His name is calling us. However, it can also be understood in some instances as His people, nation, house and temple as bearing his name. See: 2 Sam. 12: 28; I King 8: 43; Isaiah 41:25, Jeremiah 7: 10, 11, 14, 30; Jer. 25: 29; Jer. 42: 34; Jer. 43: 15.


And we can see this in the very name of Israel, for the most literal and direct translation of the Hebrew, YisraŹ¾el  is "God struggles" with a victorious connotations giving it the authority: God struggles and dominates. The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford U. Press) concludes that Israel is directly translated best as "God rules." Again, just as God has many different titles in the Old Testament that describe Him, He gives his people one of His own titles. 

King David astonishes readers even today when in Psalms 82: 6 he writes that God does not shy away from proclaiming, "You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High."

God is not afraid of us having His name. It is we who are afraid.

JUDGES TAKE GOD'S NAME

We see this in another instance in the Covenant code in the book of Exodus. Israel's judges are directly called one of God's most holy names, Elohim. This is truly God's name. It is not a description or a title. It is in the plural form but literally means simply, "God." And God does not limit His name to just Himself.

But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, [Elohim] and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property…. both parties are to bring their cases before the judges [Elohim]. The one whom the judges [Elohim] declare guilty must pay back double to the other. Ex. 22: 8-9 

The KJV aslo has Elohim translated as "judges, kings or prophets" in Exodus 4: 16, 21:6; I Samuel 28:13.

CHRISTIANS TAKE HIS NAME

God has always allowed His people to take His name. As Christians we all bear the name of Christ because the label Christians comes from the Roman nickname for "little Christs." 

We see Christ giving His title to His leaders in the New Testament. He, as the Chief Shepherd, entitles His leaders as shepherds. 

It is most shocking to readers today when Jesus inquired of the Pharisees, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods?' " John 10: 34. If you look at the context of this verse, Jesus was being accused of blasphemy by claiming that He and the Father were one.  To counter this accusation He does not soften or retract the statement. No, he goes back to the Old Testament (Ps. 82:6) to show that claiming oneship with God is not blasphemy. In fact, God's very word calls us gods! This is not a blasphemous claim but a claim of family unity.

As if that isn't shocking enough, let's take it up a notch. (1)

MOSES TAKES GOD'S NAME


Many Christians, read and reread Genesis 4: 16 to try and understand it. Many translations soften the wording so as to mellow the impact. But the most direct and literal translations cannot be denied. Moses is told by God at the burning bush that his brother Aaron will be Moses' spokesperson, but Moses will be Elohim [God] to Aaron.


He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. NIV Ex. 4: 16 

(See the RSV, KJV, OJB, NIV as well as the Tyndale.)

And if the leader of the people of God in the Old Testament can be called by the holy name Elohim, how much more can His leaders in the New Covenant. 

PETER TAKES GOD'S NAME

Throughout the Old Testament God is called "Rock." This is His title. And yet Christ gives it to Simon in Matthew 16: 18.

Of course this is very uncomfortable for us, who are sinners. We recoil at the thought of someone taking God's name. And yet, like a Bridegroom gives his name to his Bride, so God gives us His name. That does not make us God anymore than it makes the woman the same as the man when they become one flesh. Giving us His title is God bringing us into unity with Him. It is astonishing. It is supernatural and it should make us feel uncomfortable as well as overjoyed.

THE PATER NOSTER PRAYER


God is always uplifting us. Think about Jesus giving us the Lord's Prayer. We cannot make the mistake of believing that when Jesus gives us the privilege of calling God, "Our Father" that he is bringing God down to our level. No, he is wildly elevating the great nature of the human father. He is not just revealing who the Father in Heaven is, but He is revealing who we are! 

These scriptural revelations do not tell us that we are blasphemous for taking on Christ's name but how wonderful God is to be always reminding us that we are in His image.

The Protestant objection that we cannot use the title "Holy Father" is a construct of man and not of God. God is the one who brings us up to Him. 

His sovereignty is not diminished or harmed by God giving us glory and honor. Indeed it is His love for us that brings us into His very presence and He desires us to be co-heirs with Christ and sit on eternal thrones. It increases His glory when we are glorified. The Father wants us to take His name. This is shown over and over in scripture. He freely gives it to His angels, His Covenant people and judges and leaders.

His name is our name, and yet there is only one warning to us, found in Exodus 20. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain."

That reveals all to us that He trusts us with something so full of awe. We are His Body, we are His Bride, we are His sons and daughters. He gives us His precious name, and we should indeed take it with trembling lips. This should humble us as we carefully and with great awe live as co-heirs with Christ. All who see us will be seeing Him.

And that is especially a grave warning to the Holy Father sitting on the See of Peter. The Word of God does not condemn His taking  the name "Holy Father" but that he not take it in vain. 

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(1) Throughout the centuries, it has been understood that it is not blasphemy to call a king or queen, "Your Majesty" or to a ruler "My Lord." People can and do make distinctions in these titles for humans and for God.  



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