Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Using Words

Today I came across a website that claimed the popular quote, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary,” made St. Francis sound like a wimp. I've lost that original site, but the site he links to showing that this is not an actual quotation of St. Francis can be seen here.

Still, I think that calling the quote "wimpy" is based on a misunderstanding. Sadly, I think this misunderstanding is common, and I think that many Catholics use it to justify an attitude of, "I can just go peacefully about my Catholic life, not bothering anyone about religion, and people will be converted by my good example."

The simple fact is that the average "good person" does not glow so radiantly with goodness that they preach their faith just by existing. If they did, we would certainly have many more people converting to the Catholic faith.

So then, how should we view the quote?

First, I think the quote may have come from people in a Catholic country, where leading by example might be more important than preaching.

Second, I think that it could be looked at more clearly if we invert it: Preaching the gospel with your words will have little effect if you are not living the gospel yourself. This is akin to Jesus saying to remove the beam from your own eye before going after the speck in the eye of another.

But I think it is best understood by looking at the lives of some of the saints.

Let's look at (the not-quite-canonized) Mother Teresa. She preached the gospel constantly in her care of the sick. She certainly used many words to preach it as well. But her words gained much more power by her actions.

So, I think the wrong way to apply the quote is, "Don't talk about religion unless forced to."

And the proper way is, "Live the gospel in every moment, and whenever the time is right, preach it."

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Relationship

The Shack claims that Jesus doesn't want religion, he just wants a personal relationship with us. This view is fairly common among Protestants.

Now, he's right to an extent. If we just try to "follow the rules" of our religion, but we somehow do so in a way that does not recognize Jesus as the purpose of everything we do, then we are just engaging in vain works.

But there is a danger going the other direction as well. Jesus does not just want to be our buddy. As the Bible teaches, the relationship we are intended to have with him is far more like marriage than it is like a casual let's-hang-out-at-the-mall-on-Saturday friendship.

Let us compare marriage to our relationship with Christ:

1) Introduction: Before anything can happen, a bride must be introduced to the groom. We are introduced to Christ when we hear the Gospel.

2) Falling in Love: There is a difference between hearing the Gospel, and accepting it. When we really start to know Christ, we will fall in love. He will make sure we are introduced to his father, because if we are to love Jesus, we must get to know and love his father, The Father. We will spend more time with him in prayer, and we will want to make ourselves more attractive to him.

3) Proposal: After we fall in love, we will realize that we are betrothed to Christ, he proposed to us before we were ever born. We have only to say, "Yes," and we will enter into the engagement.

4) Wedding Plans: During our engagement, we plan the wedding, and continue to learn more about our beloved. In the Church we do this by attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes, among other things. If we haven't already, we should start meeting more of Christ's family: being introduced to his brothers on earth (our fellow parishioners), his brothers in heaven (the Saints), and his mother (Mary).

4b) Confession: You want your marriage to be a clean start, and you want to be completely honest with your spouse, so before you are married, you share with Jesus your past failings, and ask his forgiveness.

5) Wedding: The wedding is a major point in the relationship. At this point our love is formalized. This corresponds more-or-less to Baptism and Confirmation. At this point we enter into the family of God. Jesus becomes our spouse, his Father becomes our Father, his brothers and sisters become our brothers and sisters, and his mother becomes our mother. This is a momentous change, and may be marked by taking a new name, in recognition of the new life that has begun.

6) Consummation: Only after the wedding do we consummate our relationship (Christ is without sin, after all). In the Church, Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist (communion). Unlike the wedding, this step is normally repeated many times over the course of a marriage.

These are the major steps in the relationship. After this, we will continue to grow closer to our spouse, and only love him more with time. But as sinners, there is still a problem that is likely to come up:

Infidelity: Christ will never be guilty of infidelity, but sadly, it can almost be guaranteed that we will not always be faithful to him. When this happens there are two paths we can take.

1) Divorce: While Christ will never desire divorce from us, no matter how we betray him, we can choose to run off, chasing after our sins.

2) Reconciliation: Even though we have betrayed him, he will always forgive us if we ask. Here's where confession shows up again. To have a lasting marriage, we must learn to say we're sorry.

Now, if we look back through these, we can see how the Catholic religion is not a contradiction to the relationship with Jesus, but is rather what you would expect from a deep relationship that is so much like marriage.

We can also see that removing the "Falling in Love" step makes the rest of the events lose all their meaning, but that still doesn't answer why many Protestant groups seem to think that the relationship shouldn't have any more steps after the acceptance of the proposal (though for them, acceptance of the proposal also counts as making wedding vows).

But what about all the things that leaves out? Under normal circumstances, who would say, "It's only our personal relationship that matters," and get married quietly without any witnesses? Who would say, "I don't need anyone interfering with my personal relationship," and refuse to speak with their spouse's family? Who would say, "It's only how we feel about each other that matters," and abstain from a physical relationship and consummation?

The truth is that relationships are both simple and complicated, and our relationship with Christ is no exception. The relationship is rooted in faith, hope and love, but living that relationship, and experiencing it in its fullness, through all the intricacies of our daily lives can get more complicated. That's why we have the Church, through which we come to a fuller knowledge of our beloved, and experience our relationship with him in all the ways he intended.

The Shack

I am currently reading William P. Young's The Shack.

While the book doesn't have the world's greatest writing, I am still mostly enjoying it, and can recommend it for the way it shows God as extraordinarily loving, showing the Trinity as a perfectly loving family, and the way it deals with the difficult question about why God allows evil.

But it also has its shortcomings, some of which I will address in greater detail in the future. The writer has God say that he does not like such man made things as "institutions," "authority," "hierarchies," or "religion." I found this very strange, since the writer appears to be using the Bible as one of his primary sources, and the Bible clearly shows the origin of all these being found not in fallen man, but in God himself.

The book would have been quite a bit better if the author had (for example), instead of blasting authority outright, shown how authority was supposed to function. He could have explained that authority was not given so that those with authority could use their power for their own benefit, it was given so that they could lead with the sole intention of serving those in their care.

But I guess that might point out another value of the book: It's a good introduction to the kind of anti-institutional theology taught by certain Protestant groups.

Our Incompetent Press

Here's another example of the media's horrible ability to interpret anything that anyone in the Catholic Church says: View Rips Catholicism Again

First, some background from the Catholic League:
"A news story in today’s New York Post claims there is “a new study approved by the Vatican” on sin that concludes that “Men and women sin in different ways.” Men are more given to lust; women to pride."
And now part of The View's absurd response to this "study":
Whoopi Goldberg: "Realize the Vatican is the last word in all things that are god. For some folks. But explain how you suddenly can write new sins. You can't do that."
Yeah... apparently being famous requires utterly incoherent thinking. To see the full extent of the craziness, be sure to read the whole story, and it's follow up.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Philosophy Lectures

I just found out that you can download lectures on Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft at his website. I highly recommend visiting:


If you don't know, "Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King's College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 45 books."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Quoting a Rabbi

Today, I'll just give you an interesting quote by Israel Zolli, once the Chief Rabbi of Rome. He converted to the Catholic faith in 1945, after the end of World War II. When asked by a reporter, "But why didn't you join one of the Protestant denominations, which are also Christian?" he replied:

"Because protesting is not attesting. I do not intend to embarrass anyone by asking: 'Why wait 1,500 years to protest?' The Catholic Church was recognized by the whole Christian world as the true Church of God for 15 consecutive centuries. No man can halt at the end of those 1,500 years and say that the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ without embarrassing himself seriously. I can accept only that Church which was preached to all creatures by my own forefathers, the Twelve who, like me, issued from the Synagogue."

Read more about his conversion here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Once Saved, Always Saved # 3

This time it'll be short. I stumbled across another parable that doesn't square with the common Protestant notion of "Once Saved, Always Saved" (for other two see Part 1 and Part 2).

Let's look at Matthew 13:18-23:
"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

"The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

"The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
This gives us four kinds of people. The first hears the truth, but never accepts it. The next two hear the truth, but they fall away. The last one is saved.

The two who fall away are familiar images. The first "receives with joy. But... lasts only a short time." He is like the new believer who gets excited and goes forward at an altar call, but falls away after the excitement fades. He may even go forward on more altar calls in the future, always hoping for a dramatic change. But perhaps some of us don't have one life changing moment. Perhaps he's missing the fact that salvation takes more than a one-time mental assent. He has tried, and failed to give this assent in a satisfactory manner. What must he do? Perhaps he needs to realize that the faith must be lived out if it is to continue to grow in us.

The second who falls away has better roots, perhaps, but "the worries of this life" interfere with his faith, slowly killing it. We can probably all identify with this man to an extent. We have experienced "weeds" grabbing at us. Once again, the solution may be perseverance. We have to do what we can, and use what the Church provides, to help kill the weeds that strangle our faith. Perhaps confession can be used to help separate us from our sins. Perhaps balancing our life so that ample time is given to God and his Church will help nourish us. If we can get through this phase, where we seem so weak, and the weeds seem overpowering, perhaps our faith will grow stronger. And this stronger faith will be like that of the fourth example. It is possible that there will still be weeds, but our stem will be thicker, and our roots will be deeper, and our branches will poke out beyond the weeds, so the weeds will no longer strangle us.

But the man in the third example fails to persevere. He does not nurture his faith, and his faith is killed by the weeds.

These examples are natural and identifiable. They speak to our human experience. Why should we try to force them into an uncomfortable "Once Saved, Always Saved" mold?

Protestants rightly observe that we need a "personal relationship with Jesus" to be saved. But what relationship persists when one party rejects and ignores the other? Jesus may wait eagerly for us to return so the relationship might resume, but how can we have a relationship as long as we reject him?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Investigating Planned Parenthood

Live Action Films has an amazing collection of films showing illegal activities by Planned Parenthood. See them here:


They show Planned Parenthood workers pretending not to hear when a 13 year old girl claims her 31 year old boyfriend got her pregnant. They also show these workers coaching girls on what to say to avoid getting her boyfriend in trouble, and giving instructions about how to avoid parental notification laws by crossing state lines.

Other videos on the site show workers accepting donations from a man who says he wants to donate money specifically to abort a black baby because "There’s definitely way too many Black people in Ohio..."

At least this is in keeping with Margret Sanger's Nazi-like eugenic plans which were part of what motivated her to found Planned Parenthood in the first place.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pro Life Rap

My wife found these two great videos posted on the Faith & Family Blog.

While it's not a genre of music I normally listen to, and one of the songs seems to imply that the singer is still continuing in some related immoral behavior, these videos are still a good pro-life witness. Both relate to real life-and-death decisions related to the singers.