Friday, September 15, 2017

SELF EVIDENT TRUTHS, THE NATURAL LAW AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS



I am doing some research and at this point I don't know who or where to continue researching for answers. (Scholars who might have the answers are too busy to answer my emails--evidently.) 

Anyone who knows anything about this or knows of a book or class to recommend, let me know. 

My questions: 

1) The American Founding Fathers stated that some things are "self-evident." Would that mean that self-evident principles are self-evident to all cultures and peoples for all time? 

2) How do "self-evident" propositions compare to the Natural Law? Would the Founding Fathers believe they are the same? Are they basically the same? Or are they very different and why?

3) Would the Ten Commandments fall under laws that are "self-evident" or the Natural Law? Why or why not? 



Saturday, September 9, 2017

LONGING TO SEE WHAT YOU SEE



Since my life-altering car accident in 1997, I have had the time-luxury of immersing myself in history and Christian philosophy. I have encountered such fascinating figures as Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero; Cicero being my favorite so far.

These great men of old seemed to have had an ancient, unified cry-of-the-heart for truth. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Cicero's writings to his son, Socrates and Platos writings were profound attempts to solve the same cosmic questions of: "What is goodness?" "What is virtue and heroism?" 

Only lately have I been able to discern, from my considerable historical distance, that these men did not ask these questions as we do today. They were not being wistfully romantic or sentimental. This was a raw, existential quest to make sense of what many saw as a meaningless, hopeless life.

While they had the oracles, these philosophers' search for truth was not settled in any satisfying way by the Greco-Roman gods. Their gods were like humans: fallible, capricious, narcissistic, blaming others for their mistakes. Zeus gave men little truth or hope. All seemed chaotic and unfathomable to the ancients. Therefore these thinkers—their time, their energy and their very lives were poured out in search of the meaning of life and death. What does it mean to be human? 

We get a glimpse of this heart-rendering nihilism that had befallen the world in the question of Pilate to Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38)

This encounter with the ancients has made me realize that Christ did not come into the world simply to solve the problems of the afterlife. He came as the answer to the unending fount of questions for those living during the millennia before Him. The Messiah was the answer for the world's questions. His authentic heroism stood in stark contrast to Achilles and Odysseus. His life gave meaning to existence. With His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus answered the heart-cry of the ancients of what is good and virtuous.

For two thousand years, we have lived within the grand framework of The Answer. Christendom built an entire civilization upon the values and teachings of Jesus. Western civilization has flourished in the rich Christian soil for so long it taints our view of history. We study the ancient struggle for truth with an entertaining romanticism. For we have the light of Christ so brilliantly surrounding us that we take it for granted and often close our eyes to truth when it makes us uncomfortable. We no longer understand the desperate struggle for meaning pre-Christ and can be presumptuous about living in the era of the answer.

Our culture celebrates our political freedom on July 4, Veteran's day, Memorial Day with mindless festivities and gluttony, forgetting that our freedoms were paid for with the incalculable sacrifices of our young men. So, too, do we bask in these days of eternal answers, made so clear by Christ, that we are no longer aware that questions--real, heartfelt questions of why--ever existed. In fact, our post-Christ, comfortable peace has entertained us into a stupor where asking such philosophical questions is considered a bore. 

Or much worse. Those who rejected The Answer fall back into the same nihilistic question of Pilate. 

Thinking themselves kindred spirits to the noble Socrates, many modern intellectuals dismiss two-thousand years of light, assuming that the philosophers of old would reject the Cross. They waste away formulating new, irrational answers to their unending existential inquiries. Yet, there is nothing similar in those who die of starvation searching for bread during a famine and those who die of starvation ignoring a banquet around them. 

Christians live and move and breathe within the living bread and the banquet of God. It is unconscionable for us who have tasted that God is good and have been nourished by Christendom to not cherish our preeminent position in time. 


Jesus has a warning for us today, "Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." (Matt. 13:17)

Christians have the incredible honor of living after many of the great mysteries have been revealed, having been born into or chosen to walk into the Kingdom of God. The Answer should permeate everything we think and do with eternal awe and gratitude.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Is Your Religion Making You More Like Christ?

(This is written for Christian audiences who have already given their hearts to Christ and are saved (in Protestant lingo) and baptized (for Catholics.)

Some Christian denominations stress what you do (commandment-keeping or acts of charity) and other churches stress what you think and believe. Some denominations teach that prayer and Bible study are the most important things you can do strengthen your relationship with Christ. Other churches stress that if you want a closer relationship to Christ, then obey Him in: helping the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, giving offerings, fasting, confession and repentance, evangelization and missions.

All of these are good things. But when you do them, are they making you good? Are the things you do and think actually making you more like Christ? Really ponder this. Is your religion making you love like Christ?

If God is love, then your religion should be taking away your pride, arrogance, anger, selfishness, greed, laziness.Your faith should be bringing you into closer contact with His holiness and that affects you.

Is your religion transforming you into His love?

St. Paul writes to the people in Corinth in chapter 13 first about the importance of "agape" (charity). He lists all the supernatural fruits of the spirit: tongues, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, and faith. However, he writes that without love all of these are NOTHING. He emphasizes this admonition with—if you give away all your possessions and give your body to be burned, without out love…you gain nothing! Ouch!

Love is even greater than faith! And if faith can save you, what amazing things can love do? What is this vital thing called love? St. Paul defines "agape" (charity/love) in the next few verses:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. …And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Ask yourself again: Is your religion giving you the graces to be patient, kind, humble, to not anger easily nor hold onto wrongs and grudges? Does your religion help you to delight in truth and protect, trust, hope and persevere?

Is your religion opening your ears and eyes and bringing you out of the stupor of sin? Is it giving you the strength and courage to humbly serve others? Is your religion lifting you out of the crippling disfunction of me-ism and calming that desire to be better than others?

I am not bashing religion at all. Because the word "religion" comes from the same root word as "ligament," religion is supposed to help us shed the shackles of enslavement to sin and make us holy enough to stand in the brilliance of Pure Love. Our belief system, our church attendance, our Bible study and prayer times are supposed to re-align and reconnect us with God. Commandments are for the purpose of helping us to be like Christ.

If what you do is not transforming you into the image of Christ and opening up your heart to both giving and receiving love, something is wrong. It may be your specific denomination, but probably it is something inside you. Perhaps you are not understanding the purpose of religion.

When I was young, my mother told me that manners were not to make one feel they are above others who do not have manners, but manners were developed carefully over time to show respect for others. If we become arrogant or resentful because we are more mannerly than those around us, we have reversed the entire reason manners were developed. Manners are unselfish acts of kindness towards others.

This is the same thing with religious rules and traditions. Commandments are to help us learn love. Prayers and fasting, Bible study, works of mercy and charity are to strip us of our pride and self-centeredness and help us to be patient and kind. Rules and works are to give us God's noble character so that we may stand before a holy God for all eternity.

Religion is to make us love like God loves.

If your faith does not do this for you, do not give up keeping Christ's New Covenant commandments, do not stop prayer and Bible study, do not stop acts of mercy and charity. Rather, rethink your motivation and attitude. Go to God and ask for His grace to change your heart. Pray that He will shower you with gratitude and praise for Him, pray that your eyes will be opened to see how much He loves you and that you may see others through His loving eyes.

Pray for radical transformation of your heart that the barriers of sin in your life will fall so that you can experience the overwhelming joy of His love and you then can overflow His love to others.

For that is what religion is all about.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Place of Peace

 
Yesterday in mass, an Asian woman sat behind me. She had a tattoo sleeve. Next to her sat her very white husband with their small children. Nearby sat a gay friend and a black family. As my gaze wandered around, I saw the world in our church; every skin color, gender, age, sexual orientation, race, political affiliation. The
differences were striking--young people wearing traditional church clothing, even a few women with chapel veils. There were also young people with clothing that looked as if they were at the beach, people with sundry piercings, people with large families, single people, the aged in wheelchairs and the babies making baby noises that echoed against the tall ceiling. There were the stooped over and handicapped, those with down syndrome and there were tall, strong and beautiful worshipers who looked like they should be on a magazine cover. 

What drew us here this morning to this unity, was that we all know we are sinners in need of the mercy of Christ. 

All those who came had given up something to be here whether it was a child's sports game, watching political talking heads on television, a game of golf or simply sleeping in and relaxing. Jesus was their priority. And they came.

The homily was difficult to hear because it was about the violence in Charlottesville so close to our own parish. The priest spoke about the sin of racism and hate that will tear our nation apart.

When the priest finished speaking, everyone in unison stood and prayed, next we knelt and prayed, afterward we sang: together, united.

Then a sacred hush fell across the church. There was no shuffling of clothing or feet, not a whisper or whimper from a child could be heard. Against this total silence, the parishioners' voices were lifted to the Cross of Christ:


Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Have
mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.  
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Grant us peace. 




Those words reverberated tenderly across the church.


Grant us peace. 


I thought how wonderful it would be if the media could flash this exquisite scene of peace across the world. This peace between races, ethnic groups, gender, age, differing political groups. If only every eye and every ear could see what I was experiencing this morning.

Each soul then quietly went down the aisle to receive the Eucharist. I realized then that it will only be through the Body and Blood of Christ, His eternal sacrifice on the Cross that we will all receive His mercy and be reconciled--through Him, Christ.

And here, this morning, I got a taste of eternity. A blessed moment of real peace. And only through Him.




Friday, June 30, 2017

Steven Crowder Invites Catholics to Try and Convert Him.


Yesterday, I bought a subscription to crtv.com  to watch the discussion between Steven Crowder and Michael Voris about the Catholic Church. Here's the link at: #convertCrowderday (#191 Catholicism vs. Protestantism). At this point, you will have to subscribe $10 per month to watch it. 

My thoughts on the discussion:

Firstly, it took me eight years of open-hearted, open-minded prayers and research to convert to Catholicism, so to think a quick two-hour dialogue that wanders all over the map will be able to explain Catholicism is ridiculous. I am not assuming Crowder or Voris expected that would happen, but I have encountered many Protestants who think that if Catholics are not totally convincing with a few theological soundbites, then game over--Catholicism is wrong. That is unrealistic. 

So, while both Voris and Crowder realize no one will be converting, for theological addicts like myself, this exchange does make for interesting television.  

The First 300 Years

Almost immediately the two started debating the early church. Before I make a couple observations, I want to remind Michael Voris that I wrote him years ago about putting together a series on Church Militant TV dealing with the Catholicity of the first three hundred years of Christianity, pre-Constantine and pre-Bible. Simon Rafe answered that Michael will get right on it!

Crowder's concept of the pristine early church is not unique. Often Protestants believe they are linking themselves directly back to the early church with their doctrines and practices. They are returning to a time before the Church corrupted the faith with things like the real presence of the Eucharist, the honor of Mary, praying to the saints, etc.

Catholics need to prove that in the three centuries before the Bible was put together, the church was united in its belief on the Eucharist, the primacy of the bishops, and doctrines and practices the world today considers Catholic. The early church is nothing like Protestants romanticize it to be. If Protestants really want to return to the pure, early church, we need to show them just what it looked like. We need the evidence out there. Maybe Church Militant will get that series out! 

Now to my two points how to clearly show the differences in Catholicism and Protestantism.


The Truth that Binds  

Protestants unite behind what they believe is truth. Its organizational structure is more akin to a political party in that ideas bind them together. A Protestant church forms around some person's interpretation of the Bible and those who agree with that person's interpretation. So, theology, correct theology, is of utmost importance to Protestants because it is through correct information that they are linked with God and each other.

Through theological positions, one is judged saved or unsaved, a believer or non-believer. If a Christian gets theology wrong, Protestants (who think they have accurate information about God) are obligated to divide with those who cling to falsehood. Because rightness cannot mix with wrongness.... Doctrine  is the glue holding a Protestant denomination together and doctrine is the reason denominations break apart.

While Catholics absolutely believe truth/doctinre is vital, it is not the reason the Catholic Church is united. If the Bible or the Church were to be proven absolutely fallible and in error, Catholicism would still maintain its course. Protestantism would utterly fall because, through scripture Protestants know truth and true truth connects them to God. 

Catholicism isn't wholly dependent upon truth nor scripture. Catholicism unites under family ties. We believe Christ began His family kingdom. 

Christ entrusted His doctrines and scripture to His family. The family structure was formed first, then His truths were given to them. You do not arrive at God through correct doctrine, but through a correct relationship to God's family. 

The different between these worldviews may not seem great, but it is vital in understanding both Catholicism and Protestantism.

Catholics become family through baptism (most often baby baptism where no theology is yet understood). We call Mary our mother, nuns our sisters, monks our brothers and of course priests, our fathers. Through the blood of Christ in the eucharist, Catholics take the kinship of believers very literally. 

For Catholics, it is not an information connection with God but a family one. That is why Catholics can be radical left and radical right on "truths" and still maintain united in their church. Because if Christ is the way, the truth and the life then truth is not found outside Christ. It is our relationship with Him that brings us into truth, not our relationship with truth that brings us to Christ. 

This fundamental worldview difference is clear when Steven Crowder cites Catholic theological divisions and sees these differences as similar to Protestant denominations. Crowder can't understand why Catholics don't simply kick out bad priests and bishops. Within a Protestant worldview--if leaders no longer agree with the church on doctrine, then these rogue theologians need to be fired or be kicked out--anathematized. 

A Protestant church is able to fire an adulterous or thieving pastor. But in the Catholic system, you can't fire an uncle or brother, the blood connection doesn't allow for simply walking away. Our spiritual familial connection obliges us to take responsibility for even the most horrific pedophile priest. The Catholic Church must not discard even the worst among us. (Even if it is imperative that we don't allow rogue priests and bishops to continue leading people astray. If the problem is not legal, we simply put them in a monastery and tell them to be quiet. We don't fire them.)

Catholic divisions are like a fighting family whereas Protestants divisions are like a divorced family or more precisely, a business. 

There may be Catholics standing in a corner speaking with utmost vitriol about an uncle or aunt they may vehemently disagree on doctrines, but when the family is called together for dinner, we all sit at the same table. Protestant divisions are more permanent because their theological differences often cause someone to leave the family and start a new one with a new table. Catholic divisions are just as pronounced, but a Catholic--a real Catholic--goes to mass. The Catholic model is spiritual genetics, our basis for uniting isn't truth, but Christ's Body and Blood. (And I can assure you that many Catholics deeply wish the church could just fire a bad pope or cowardly bishops!)


The Invisible Bride

Protestants and Catholics agree that God's church is His Bride. Yet, Protestants believe that the connection of Bride and Groom is in the heart of the believer and is not specifically organizational. Though Luther did not agree with this, America is mainly a nation of Calvinist theological roots. And John Calvin taught that the church is invisible

Catholics highly disagree. Imagine a man with an invisible bride and anyone who claims to be the man's bride through some experiential connection with him is welcome in his bed. I know I wouldn't want to marry a man under those conditions. I, Teresa, am a visible bride to my husband. And Catholics believe that Christ wants His Bride-Church to be clearly seen.

A visible, organizational bride-church is absolutely necessary to fulfill Christ's commission to His followers. If the church were this unorganized spattering of believers all over the world, how could Matthew 18 be followed? 
If your brother sins, go and point out their fault between the two of you.... If they refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (parts of vs. 15-19).
How can we take people we are concerned about to an invisible church? That would be very confusing. Anyone in any church could claim this ultimate authority. 

Throughout the New Testament the church is a visible group that is persecuted. How would a persecutor find an invisible group? No, these people met together and formed connected groups with leaders. 

Protestants take all the Biblical verses about the Church and see them within an invisible worldview. At most they will see the church as little organized local groups with no interconnectedness and no centralized leaders. However that is anything but historical or Biblical. 

We, as Catholics, need to establish the scriptural and ecclesiastical evidence that proves from the very beginning, the church was visible, organized and united. And that same church was already known as "catholic" by AD 107. 

Michael Voris did a terrific job in his discussion with Steven Crowder. I hope they will do it again, as promised. Voris and Crowder, like many discourses between Catholics and Protestants, need to  define worldviews before dialogue can be successful. I am not suggesting we will convert Protestants, that is up to the Holy Spirit. But we will at least get past misunderstandings and get at the real differences.

To start, we need Protestants to understand that Catholics are a visible family-church united by the blood of Christ. Though we believe scripture to be the inerrant, infallible Word of God, the basis for our Christianity goes to the very kingdom Christ established centuries before the Bible was put together. Our foundation and source is Christ Himself telling His apostles that they are chosen to lead a visible Bride that Christ will never leave nor abandon them. 









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