Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mary's Virginity and the Brothers of Jesus

"The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner, AD 1898
During the last few hundred years it has become in vogue for some Protestant Christians to not only question the virginity of Mary, but to actually oppose it openly and militantly. Many traditional Protestants have gone the way of doubting the virginity of Mary altogether, relegating it to an early Christian myth. Meanwhile most of the more contemporary Evangelical Christians firmly adhere to the virginity of Mary during Christ's conception on up to his birth, but vigorously deny her virginity thereafter. This article will demonstrate why both assumptions are wrong.

The former assumption, that Mary's virginity is a myth, lacks all historical evidence. It is simply an assumption based entirely on modernist doubt.  I suppose if one wants to build one's faith on modernist doubt, have at it. In time however, it won't be long before one is questioning everything else in the gospel, then ultimately the gospel itself. Thus the progression of modernism in Christianity has always been from denial of little things, to the denial of big things, and on to the denial of everything. If this is the path one finds one's self on, don't let me stop you. This blog is about real history, real science and real tradition. If these things are a problem for you, there is nothing I can do. So maybe you should simply move on. If however, you're interested in real history, and what we really know about Mary and Jesus' brothers through the only records that tell about them (Scripture and early tradition) then this blog is for you.

When we look at characters in the Bible, holy men and women of God, we need to understand that everything we know about them comes from two sources. The first source is the writings of Holy Scripture itself.  The second source is the writings of the early Christians, that while they may not be infallible like Scripture, they do give us a clear image of what the early Christians believed. My father always taught me that the best way to understand history is to go to what he called "original source documentation."  What does that mean?  It means going to the writings of the people who lived closest to the historical event. Fortunately for us, the early Christians were prolific writers, and some of their stuff has survived to this very day, was translated into English, digitised and can now be read in historical archives in libraries and on the Internet. Outside of these records we have no knowledge of what the early Christians believed or how they interpreted the Scriptures. That's right, outside of these writings, we have nothing. This is it. If you want to know what the early Christians thought, then you can read it in their own words. If you're not interested in their writings, or are apt to dismiss them, then you'll have to deal with the fact that you have no information about the early Christians and therefore you know virtually nothing about them.

Many of today's Evangelical Christians usually fall into this trap, but often enough, they are completely oblivious to it. The common Evangelical narrative goes something like this...
Mary was a virgin when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Christ to her. She remained a virgin all through her pregnancy and Joseph did not have intercourse with her. Then after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had sex. We know this because the Bible tells us that she only remained a virgin "until" she gave birth to Jesus, implying that she ceased to be a virgin after. The Bible also makes references to the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus Christ, even naming some of them. Therefore, we know, based on the Bible Alone, that Mary ceased to be a virgin after the birth of Jesus, had normal sexual relations with Joseph, and produced a number of younger siblings of Jesus Christ.
Okay, there are several problems with this narrative, but before I demonstrate that I want to emphasise that this is an extremely popular narrative which is almost universally accepted in Protestantism (both traditional and Evangelical). Now some traditional Protestants have ceased to believe in the virgin birth altogether, but the Evangelicals vigorously defend that, at least insofar as Mary remaining a virgin prior to the birth of Jesus. The Evangelicals almost universally subscribe to the narrative above. Aside from a small group if high-church Anglicans, and perhaps a few traditional Lutherans, almost every Protestant in the world accepts the above narrative as Biblical and historical truth. So with that said, lets look at all the Biblical "evidence" Protestants use to support the idea that Mary had sex sometime after the birth of Jesus Christ.

The first Biblical citation comes from the Gospel according to Matthew in reference to the relationship between Joseph and Mary...
"but [Joseph] had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus." -- Matthew 1:25
Here Evangelicals like to put an emphasis on the word "until," implying that because this word is used, it means that Mary's condition as a virgin changed after the fact. However, there is a serious linguistic problem with this understanding, both with the English word "until" and with the Greek word it was translated from - heos. Neither in English nor in Greek, does the word "until" (heos) always imply that something changed after it is used. Most of the time it does, but not all of the time. For example, 2nd Samuel 6:23 says: "And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death."  So does that mean that Michal had children after her death?  Probably not. Matthew 22:44 says: "The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’" So does that mean the Lord (Jesus the Son) will not sit by our Lord's (God the Father's) right hand after he puts his enemies under his feet? We have some significant theological problems if it does mean that. For the Father and the Son are two Persons of the blessed Trinity. How can the Son no longer sit at the right hand of the Father? 1st Corinthians 15:25 says that Jesus "must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." Does this mean the Jesus will no longer reign after he has put his enemies under his feet? Again, we've got some serious theological problems if it does. Jesus is God. How can he not reign after a certain event happens? 2nd Corinthians 1:13 says: "For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end." So does that mean the apostle hopes we will not understand after the end -- meaning the end of the world and the last judgement? Are we to conclude that based on this usage of the word "until" the Apostle Paul only wants us to understand things until Jesus comes back, and then after that he hopes we don't understand any more? From this you can begin to see how ridiculous things get when we impose a strict single-sense meaning on the word "until" (heos). Granted, the word "until" usually means that something changes after a certain point, but it doesn't always mean that.  It can't. So to use the argument that Mary had sex after the birth of Jesus because the word "until" (heos) is used in Matthew 1:25 is a mistake. The usage of that word alone proves nothing -- neither in English nor in Greek. It simply means that Joseph did not have sex with Mary before or after she was found to be with child. It says nothing -- and I mean nothing -- about what happened thereafter. Sorry that's just English (and Greek).

Another objection is commonly raised because of the way some English Bibles translate Matthew 1:25 as "And he did not know her until she brought forth her firstborn son." The assumption here is that because the verse says "firstborn," there must have been a second-born, and a third-born, and so on.  Now that does sound logical in the modern English usage of the word. However, we are not talking about a modern people here, nor a modern culture, nor a modern linguistic usage of the term "firstborn." In ancient Jewish culture the term "firstborn" was a legal term. It literally meant the child that opened the womb. This was important for inheritance reasons, as the legal firstborn son (not daughter but son) was always the one designated to receive the inheritance from his father (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 34:20, Numbers 3:12). What this meant is that the son who was born first was called the "firstborn" regardless if there was ever a second or a third.  He was called "firstborn" immediately, even if the mother died in childbirth and never gave birth to a second or third child. The term "firstborn" was a legal term in ancient Jewish culture, and that is how the term is used here in this passage. It in no way means that a second or third child must follow. That is ancient Jewish law. Feel free to look it up, or check with a local rabbi.

Now there are multiple references to the brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ. These are as follows... Matthew 12:46; Matthew 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12; John 7:3-10; Acts 1:14 & 1st Corinthians 9:5.  Of course, this leads many to believe that this is irrefutable proof that Jesus had younger siblings. However, there is a problem here, and this has to do with language. While the New Testament manuscripts we have available to us today were written in Greek, that is not the native language Jesus and his apostles spoke. They all spoke Aramaic, which is a Semitic language very similar to Hebrew. Very few people speak it today, but at the time of Christ, it was very popular and widespread throughout the region. Aramaic is a primitive language and lacks words for some fine details that are taken for granted in Greek, Latin and even English. For example; Aramaic has no word for "wrist." In fact, the wrist is just considered part of the hand. This is why the Scriptures say that Jesus was pierced through the "hands" at his crucifixion, even though modern medical science tells us it would be impossible for the hands to support the weight of his body. Medical examination of the Shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, shows the image of a man crucified through his wrists. Most archaeologists agree that the nails were commonly placed through the wrist during Roman crucifixions. Yet to people who spoke Aramaic at that time, they would have said the nails were placed through the "hands" because the wrist was considered part of the hand. Likewise, a similar situation exists in the usage of the words "brothers" and "sisters" in the Aramaic language. The problem being that like ancient Hebrew, the Aramaic language had no words for cousins, aunts, uncles and step-siblings. They were all simply referred to as "brothers" and "sisters." There is no way that any of these verses cited above can prove that Jesus had siblings through Mary. Sorry, that's just the nature of Aramaic. In fact, the Scriptures themselves demonstrate exactly what I'm talking about here, referring to two completely different mothers for some of those named "brothers" of our Lord (Matthew 27:56 compare to John 19:25). Now granted, the New Testament manuscripts we use today were written in Greek, not Aramaic, but they were written by Aramaic-speaking people, and based on the example I just provided, it is obvious their Aramaic manner of speech carried over into their Greek writings. Besides that, there is considerable evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic before it was translated into Greek.

So I've demonstrated here, using the Bible fully in its linguistic and cultural context, that every passage Evangelicals commonly use, to "prove" that Mary had more children after Jesus, is nothing more than an assumption that has no real Scriptural backing. However, there is a passage of Scripture that completely backs the idea that Jesus did not have younger siblings. Throughout the gospels it becomes clear that Mary is under the care of Jesus. Now this would be unheard of if Joseph were still alive. Many early writings indicate that Joseph died when Jesus was in his early teens, and this would indicate why she would fall under the care of her son from that point on. Remember, under Jewish law at that time, women had no rights. So a woman was forced to always live under the care of a man. First a woman is raised by her father. Then she goes under the care of her husband. Then presumably, if she is fortunate, she will bear sons, and if her husband dies before she does, she will pass to the care of her eldest son, unless he is unable, then to the next eldest, and so on. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he gave care of his mother to his disciple John rather than to the next male sibling in line as Jewish law would require (John 19:26-27). Are we to believe that Jesus broke Jewish Law immediately before he died? If he did, that would make him a sinner, and thus an imperfect sacrifice. No, Jesus did not (indeed he could not) break the Law of Moses, because as a Jewish man he was under the Law of Moses, and as God he could not sin. So the fact that he gave the care of his mother to somebody who was clearly not his younger sibling brother indicates that he had no sibling brothers. To say that he did is to make Jesus Christ a sinner while he was on the cross dying for our sins.

Now that we've examined the Biblical record, let's take a look at what the early Christians had to say about this matter in their own writings. There was a small book written in about AD 120 called the "Protoevangelium of James." This book has been recognised as an ancient account of early Christians beliefs concerning the lives of Mary and Joseph. The book records that Saint Anne (Mary's mother) was childless. So following the example of the Prophet Samuel's mother in the Old Testament (1st Samuel 1:11), she promised to God that if he would give her a child, she would dedicate him/her at an early age to serve in the Temple as a virgin. Both boys and girls served in the Temple as virgins since the earliest days of ancient Israel. In fact, the Old Testament records an incident wherein some of these female Temple virgins were defiled by the sons of the high priest (1st Samuel 2:22). The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Mary was dedicated by her mother Anne, to lifelong service in the Temple as a virgin. However, it was common for such virgins to be entrusted to a guardian to safeguard their virginity. This was done by marrying them to elderly widowers who already had children by their now deceased wives. The guardians were to take these virgins into their homes as their wives. Their sole duty was to guard their virginity. By being legally married to them, it prevented any younger men from daring to try to win their affections. In exchange, the elderly guardian would gain for himself a housekeeper, cook and companion. This practice was well known in first century Judaism. Because of the number of virgins serving in the Temple, their presence in Jerusalem was only required during certain times of the year. This allowed them to live in remote villages spread throughout the Holy Land for most of the year, only making occasional trips to Jerusalem during high feasts twice a year, and occasionally as needed.

The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Mary served in the Temple constantly as a young girl, from the time her mother dedicated her, at about the age of 3 years.  Mary was raised in the Temple by the priests and scribes, and the Protoevangelium records that she danced for the Lord and made all therein joyful. The high priest, Zachariah (the husband of her cousin Elizabeth), raised her as his own daughter. After the age of 12 years, it was decided that she should be married to a guardian, as this was the custom. So some years later, a number of widowers were selected as possible candidates, and Joseph of Nazareth was one of them. Joseph was an elderly widower, probably in his late forties or early fifties, who already had a number of sons and daughters by his previous marriage. Joseph was selected to become Mary's guardian-husband, and this is the commonly understood reason why the Scriptures record the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus Christ. They were his older step-brothers and step-sisters through Joseph. Now this makes Biblical sense because in John 7:3-10 these "brothers" of Jesus (presumably older step-brothers) speak down to Jesus, telling him what to do, and did not believe in him. In ancient Semitic culture it would have been unheard of for a younger sibling to speak to the oldest this way. Indeed, if these "brothers" were younger siblings through Mary, they would have been totally out of line here, defying everything in their culture, and Jesus could (indeed should have) scolded them for not respecting their elder sibling. However, when we plug this verse into the context of the Protoevangelium of James, it all makes sense. These were Jesus' older step-brothers through Joseph who were talking down to him. This clears up a lot of other mysteries as well. Joseph apparently died when Jesus was about twelve years old. This would have certainly been catastrophic, and mentioned in the Scriptures, if Joseph were a young man. However, Joseph was already an elderly man (by first century standards) at the time he was betrothed to Mary. Therefore, his death twelve to thirteen years later, would not have come as a shock to anyone, needing no mention in Scripture.

It was Jewish custom at that time for a betrothed couple to live together for one year before the wedding ceremony. (The wedding ceremony itself was a feast or party that could last as long as a week!) Such a living arrangement was designed to help the couple determine if they were really suitable for marriage. In other words, could they live with each other? Or did they have irreconcilable differences? Again, virtually all betrothed couples did this. During this one-year betrothal period, the couple would live in the same house, but sleep in separate rooms. Usually an older woman (such as an aunt or grandmother, etc.) would be appointed to live in the house with them as a chaperone. It was presumed that if the trio could manage to live together peacefully for a year, then a normal marriage between the man and the woman, in which just the two lived together, would be easy. All of this may seem strange to us today, but when we consider how many modern marriages end in divorce, the ancient Jewish betrothal period starts to make a lot of sense. So, we can begin to see the magnitude of the scandal when we read in the gospels that Mary was found to be with child (pregnant) during the customary betrothal period!!!

Now, stop and consider this situation please. Mary is just a 16 year old girl, and Joseph is an elderly widower in his late 40s to early 50s. Mary is a Temple virgin consecrated to lifelong prayer and service to the Lord. Joseph was selected to be her guardian-husband. His sole responsibility was to protect and preserve her virginity. Now we begin to see the magnitude of the scandal! This was truly a mess, and it explains why the Scriptures tell us that Joseph, being a righteous man, sought to have her shipped off quietly to some secluded location. However, we know the rest of the story. The angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child she bore was from God.

The Protoevangelium of James goes on to tell us the rest of the story. Mary's pregnancy eventually reached the point where it could not be hidden any more. A tribunal was held in which the two were brought before a Temple priest and accused of fornication. A test was given to them, to see if their story was true, and when it was determined that they did not lie, the priest refused to condemn them. They returned home and were married privately some time later.

Certainly the whole affair was a stain on Joseph's reputation. One can only imagine what his older children must have thought, and based on what we see written in John 7:3-10 and Mark 3:21, they obviously didn't think very highly of Jesus at first.  The Protoevangelium of James is a beautiful document, and gives a very ornate and mystical vision of the period between the birth of Mary and the birth of Christ. It is not Scripture. However, the text (written in about AD 120) gives us a very clear picture of what early Christians believed and accepted as history. It is, in fact, the only historical record we have concerning the lives of these Biblical characters during this time period. To reject it is to confess we know nothing, and one opinion is just as good as another. While not elevating the text to the level of Scripture, the early Church saw it is highly important and gave it an honoured place in the early Christian patrimony. This is reflected in the words of subsequent Christian writers...
"The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" -- Origen, Commentary on Matthew 2:17 (A.D. 248)
"Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin." -- Athanasius, Orations against the Arians, II:70 (A.D. 362)
"The Son of God...was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit." -- Epiphanius, Well Anchored Man, 120 (A.D. 374)
"The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin" -- Basil, Homily In Sanctum Christi, generationem, 5 (A.D. 379)


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Early Christians and the Ancient Church

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer
by Jean-Leon Gerome, AD 1883

I am constantly reminded by Evangelical Christians about their admiration for the Ancient Church and Early Christians.  In fact, the Evangelical church I once attended, and nearly became a pastor for, boasted of a style of ministry that was virtually identical to how the Early Christians believed, preached and practised. Every Sunday we began our worship jam with electric guitars and drums. The congregation would clap their hands, stomp their feet, raise their arms high in the air, and should praise and worship lyrics at the top of their lungs.  Then after a short prayer, they would all sit down and listen to a 40 minute sermon, using a New King James Protestant Bible, followed by a prayer, a few more songs, and then it was out the door and off to the nearest restaurant for lunch.  Communion was only celebrated once a month so as to "avoid ritual and idolatry."  Baptisms were only administered to adults and teens over the age of twelve.  This was a strict "Bible Alone" church, wherein tradition was shunned, and anything that smacked of Catholicism was frowned upon. Yes, for the longest time I actually believed that what we were doing was a modern version of the Ancient Church.  I've even had some Evangelical friends and relatives tell me that recently.  They say "Shane, why don't you leave all this 'man-made ritual' of Catholicism behind and get back to the ancient Christian faith of the early Church?" They say this of course with the implication that I should rejoin their Evangelical church.

Irony of ironies!  How did we get here?  Christians (both Catholic and Evangelical) have forgotten so much history that Evangelicals actually claim their method of doctrine and worship is "ancient," while Catholics are so equally ignorant of history as to not know how to respond to this.  The desire to seek continuity between modern Christianity and the Ancient Church is perfectly legitimate.  In fact, I would dare say that not wanting to find continuity with our ancient Christian past is abnormal.  Every Christian should want to be like the Early Christians. For what greater example of faith is there than that? These people hid in catacombs, and practised their faith in secret, to avoid persecution. They were evangelistic marvels, doubling the size of the Church every few years. To us, they seem fearless. When captured, they refused to deny their faith, and suffered the worst form of torture and martyrdom for Christ. They were burned at the stake, whipped and beaten, even fed to lions!  In every sense they were heroes, and their faith should indeed be something we look up to and aspire toward. Who wouldn't want to be like the Early Christians!?!  Who wouldn't want their local church to be like the Ancient Church!?!  I think such a desire is not only healthy but also commendable.

However, if we all want to be like the Early Christians and the Ancient Church, shouldn't we have a clue as to who these people were and what their faith was actually like?  Evangelicals think they know, because after all, to understand the Early Christians, one need only look at an Evangelical mega-church, right?  Well, maybe that's not exactly right.  In fact, maybe that's not even close.  It seems to me that Evangelical Protestants often have a "make it up as you go along" kind of approach to whom the Early Christians were, and what the Ancient Church was like.  This is because they simply do not know. How many Evangelicals actually study Early Christianity and the Ancient Church?  I dare say very few. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that the average Evangelical Protestant "Born Again" Christian has no clue about Church history after the death of the last apostle in about AD 100.  It seems the most common Evangelical understanding of Church history goes something like this...
First you had the story of Jesus in the gospels.  Then the apostles went out and preached the Word to the Gentiles in the Book of Acts.  Then the apostles got old, and Christians started to get persecuted. Then the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Then the last apostle, John, died in about AD 100.  After that came the "dark ages" that lasted 1,500 years.  First Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire, then by the Catholic Church, and then finally, the "dark ages" ended with the Protestant Reformation in about the 16th century.  The End.
Now before you criticise me for this horribly simplistic characterisation of the average Evangelical understanding of Christian history, you have to ask yourself two questions.  Aside from a small handful of learnt Evangelical scholars, meaning Evangelicals who read a lot of history books, am I wrong? Is this not what the AVERAGE Evangelical thinks?  Do a little test if you don't believe me.  Go to an Evangelical church and do a little survey as people are walking out to their cars after the church service. Ask the people attending if they can name a single significant event in Church history between AD 500 and 1500.  Go ahead. Give it a try and see what you come up with. Then ask them if they can tell you when the Bible was compiled into a single book. See if they can narrow it down to within a century.  (Hint: The answer is between AD 367 - 400).  Then ask them who brought Christianity to England in the Middle Ages. (Hint: St. Augustine of Canterbury) Ask them who brought Christianity to Ireland in the Middle Ages. (Hint: St. Patrick) Ask them if they know who brought Christianity to Northern Europe. (Hint: St. Benedict).  Ask them if they know WHY the crusades were fought. (Hint: to combat Islamic jihad) Ask them who the greatest reformer in Christian history was during the late Middle Ages. (Hint: they'll probably say Martin Luther, but the answer is really St. Francis of Assisi). The truth is, and I dare you to try it and see for yourself, most Evangelicals will just look at you with a blank stare. They won't know the answer to any of these questions. Finally, ask them what the Early Christians believed, and what the teaching and practise was of the Ancient Church. Then they'll go into a litany of all kinds of things that look surprisingly similar to the Evangelical church they just walked out of. So the question must be raised; if these people (God bless them) have no clue about Christian history between AD 100 to 1500, then what makes you believe they know what they're talking about when it comes to Christian history prior to AD 400?  The truth is, the AVERAGE Evangelical doesn't know. The AVERAGE Evangelical can't honestly tell you what the Early Christians believed, because he doesn't know. The AVERAGE Evangelical can't honestly tell you what the Ancient Church practised, because he doesn't know. What is especially sad it that the AVERAGE Catholic doesn't know enough to educate and correct the AVERAGE Evangelical when the opportunity arises.  I do hope this article will go a little way toward correcting that problem.

The thing about early Christians is that they were prolific writers. The wrote quite a bit, and some of those writings have survived to this day. From these writings we can clearly see how what the Early Christians actually believed, and how the Ancient Church actually practised those beliefs. There is no need for guess work. It's all laid out for us in black and white, provided of course that somebody is willing to read it. Many scholars have, and of course, these writings have been translated into English so that anyone interested may browse through them. Below I will cite the writings of ancient Christians on some key topics that will give us a true glimpse of what the Early Christians actually believed, and how the Ancient Church actually practised those beliefs. All these quotations will come from well known and orthodox sources. Ancient heretics wrote some of their stuff down too, but I will not use their writings here. Rather, I will simply pull up approved orthodox Christian writings from the first four centuries of Church history -- written by Early Christians from the Ancient Church, many of whom died for their faith...

The Early Christians were Trinitarian...
"Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learnt that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove." -- Justin Martyr, First Apology,13 (written in A.D. 155)

"For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, 'Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;' He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world." -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies,4,20:1 (written in A.D. 180)

"The statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it are to be measured by times and ages." -- Origen, First Principles,4:28 (written in A.D. 230)

"For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is." -- Methodius, Oration on the Palms,4 (written in A.D. 305)
The Early Christians baptised their children and infants...
"For He came to save all through means of Himself--all, I say, who through Him are born again to God--infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men." -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2,22:4 (written in A.D. 180) 
"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family." -- Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,21 (written in A.D. 215) 
"For this reason, moreover, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptising infants too." -- Origen, Homily on Romans, V:9 (written in A.D. 244) 
"Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous." -- Origen, Homily on Leviticus,8:3 (written in A.D. 244)
The Early Christians believed that the Virgin Mary was Immaculate (without sin)...
"This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." -- Origen, Homily 1 (written in A.D. 244)

"Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother." -- Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns,27:8 (written in A.D. 370)

"Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin." -- Ambrose,Sermon 22:30 (written in A.D. 388)
The Early Christians prayed to the Virgin Mary...
"For as Eve was seduced by the word of an angel to flee from God, having rebelled against His Word, so Mary by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying his Word. The former was seduced to disobey God, but the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. As the human race was subjected to death through [the act of] a virgin, so it was saved by a virgin." -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:19,1 (written in A.D. 180)

"O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides." -- Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71:216 (written in AD 373)

"Recalling these and other circumstances and imploring the Virgin Mary to bring assistance, since she, too, was a virgin and had been in danger, she entrusted herself to the remedy of fasting and sleeping on the ground." -- Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 24:11 (written in A.D. 379)
The Early Christians called themselves "Catholic"...
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out through their office the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude[of the people] also be; by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude[of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." -- Ignatius of Antioch,Epistle to the Smyrneans, 8:2 (written A.D. 110)

"All the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished." -- Martyrdom of Polycarp,16:2 (written A.D. 155)

"Nor does it consist in this, that he should again falsely imagine, as being above this [fancied being], a Pleroma at one time supposed to contain thirty, and at another time an innumerable tribe of Aeons, as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said." -- Irenaeus,Against Heresies,1:10,3 (written in A.D. 180)

"For the blessed apostle Paul himself,following the rule of his predecessor John, writes only by name to seven Churches in the following order--to the Corinthians a first...there is a second to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians, yet one Church is recognised as being spread over the entire world...Howbeit to Philemon one, to Titus one, and to Timothy two were put in be in honour however with the Catholic Church for the ordering of ecclesiastical to the Laodicenes, another to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul's name to suit the heresy of Marcion, and several others, which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey. The Epistle of Jude no doubt, and the couple bearing the name of John, are accepted by the Catholic Church...But of Arsinous,called also Valentinus,or of Militiades we receive nothing at all." -- The fragment of Muratori (written in A.D. 177)
The Early Christians celebrated communion regularly, and believed the communion elements of bread and wine became the LITERAL body and blood of Jesus Christ (Transubstantiation)....
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead." -- Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6. (written in 110 A.D.)

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus." -- Justin Martyr, First Apology,66, (written in A.D. 148)

"The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however, - of the drink and of the Word, - is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word." -- Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of the Children 2,2,19,4 (written in 202 A.D.)
The Early Christians followed the Bishop of Rome (Pope) as the successor of Peter, and the leader of the Ancient Church...
"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love..." -- Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (written in A.D. 110)

"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorised meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organised at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere." -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (written in A.D. 180)

"And he says to him again after the resurrection, 'Feed my sheep.' It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church's) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided." -- Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, 4-5 (written in A.D. 251)
These are the writings of the people who gave their lives in the Colosseum and circuses of the Pagan Roman Empire.  They gave their lives professing the Trinitarian God, of whom the Second Person of this Trinity gives his literal body and blood to us in Holy Communion.  They gave their lives because they baptised their infant children in this faith. They gave their lives professing that the Virgin Marry was Immaculate (without sin) and they prayed to her, asking for her intercession to God.  They gave their lives professing to be "Catholic," which means "whole and complete," and professing their allegiance to the Bishop of Rome (Pope).  These were the Early Christians, in their own words, in their own writings, written by their own hands. Evangelicals often have some fanciful ideas as to who they were and what they believed, but I have yet to see them produce a single document, written by an Early Church Father that backs such fanciful ideas. Rather, their own pens tell us a different story, a story that is much more consistent with the teachings of another Church -- the Catholic Church. They can turn a blind eye and deny it all they like, but history testifies, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that the Early Christians were CATHOLIC, and the Ancient Church was ROMAN. The evidence is plain and clear to see, and there is no alternative. I defy anyone to try to produce an alternative version of history using the writings of the people who lived during that time. I tell you, it cannot be done.

I think the above is a pretty good primer on what the Early Christians believed and what the Ancient Church practised. It is by no means a complete picture, but it does give us a snapshot. It is admirable that many Evangelical "Born Again" Christians want to emulate, and identify with, the Early Christians and the Ancient Church.  However, they should know who these people were first, what they actually believed, and how their Church practised those beliefs.  I would encourage Evangelicals to do a little more research on Early Christians before they say they are trying to emulate them.  I would likewise encourage Catholics to do the same research in order to point out what Early Christians actually believed and practised.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Statement on Vatican II

The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II)
A.D. 1962 - 1965
To make the intentions of this blog crystal clear, the blogger now makes the following statement...

I, Shane Schaetzel, fully support the Second Vatican Council.  Since my conversion to the Catholic Church, in the year 2000, I have always supported it, and I have never stopped supporting it. I believe it to have been an ecumenical council of the entire Catholic Church that was pastoral in nature, as stated by both Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI.  My own conversion to the Catholic Christian faith is a direct result of the fruit of this Council.  For it was not until AFTER I read the documents of Vatican II that I converted to Catholicism.  Of particular importance to my own conversion was the document entitled Unitatis Redintegratio - Decree on Ecumenism. I have always read Vatican II in the context of historic Church tradition, and continue to do so today, in what Pope Benedict XVI called the "hermeneutic of continuity."

I also support the reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo mass (Missal of Pope Paul VI) and believe it to be a fully valid and sanctifying liturgy of the Catholic Church.  I believe this to be one of two valid forms of the Roman Rite, which coexists alongside the Vetus Ordo mass (Missal of Saint Pius V), as stated by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.  I do not accept the claims of those who state the Novus Ordo mass is somehow invalid or "less efficacious" than the Vetus Ordo mass.  I don't accept such ridiculous claims, so please don't bother with trying to convince me otherwise, as I will not listen.

While I am a follower of the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite, as practised in the Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans within the Catholic Church, this is in no way to be misconstrued as some kind of personal rejection of the Novus Ordo mass or the Second Vatican Council.  If anything, the exact opposite is true.  It is my acceptance and embrace of the Novus Ordo and Vatican II that make my embrace of the Anglican Use possible.  Essentially I am a traditionalist, but when I say that, I mean traditional in the sense of loving authentic traditional expressions of liturgy and the classical understanding of Church doctrine.  I am not one who attacks something just because it is "new."  It is possible to do "new" things in a very traditional way, and that is how I understand the proper celebration of the Novus Ordo mass. Granted, the Novus Ordo is a relatively "new" liturgy, but it has some very traditional elements and can be celebrated in a traditional way. The same could be said of the Anglican Use liturgy, which is in many way more "new" than the Novus Ordo liturgy, especially to the Catholic Church, but nevertheless, it has many traditional elements, and can (and usually is) celebrated in a very traditional way.

While some of my readers may not agree with these statements above, please know, they are what make me who I am as a Catholic Christian.  I cannot imagine myself any other way, nor will I try.  If you have come to this blog looking to recruit another blogger to the growing band of ultra-traditionalists (fundamentalists) who reject Vatican II and the Novus Ordo mass, you are wasting your time with me.  Please move on.  However, if you have just come here to read my thoughts in a genuine spirit of curiosity, then I welcome you, regardless of your personal beliefs and perspectives.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pope Francis on Homosexuality

"Who am I to judge?" That is probably the most quoted line of the year. It came in July of 2013 from Pope Francis in a lengthy interview with a number of reporters on a plane flight back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil. The statement was in reference to homosexuals. Ever since then the phrase has been quoted by millions around the world, and the effect it has had on Catholics and other Christians has been staggering. Some have been elated, assuming this signals a new attitude toward homosexuals in the Catholic Church. Others have been disappointed with the assumption that the pope has forgotten Church teaching against the sin of homosexuality. So what's going on here?

The mainstream news press has been no help, often reporting the pope's words in 5 second snippets generally lacking context. Editorials and blogs have been even worse, reinterpreting the pope's words to fit their own agenda. Then we have the Traditional Catholic outlets, which use the stories generated by these media sources to speculate that the pope has somehow forgotten how to be Catholic. Finally, there are the Protestant Fundamentalist outlets, which use these same media sources to theorise that the pope is the Antichrist, or the "False Prophet," or at least party to some diabolical plan to deceive the world and overthrow the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So putting all the hype aside, let's try to look at this whole thing objectively.  To better understand, we probably ought to take a closer look at what the pope actually said, and then compare this to the official and historic teachings of the Catholic Church.  To begin, let's look at the "who am I to judge" comment. The context of the quote comes from a question asked by a journalist. The journalist asked a question about Vatican official Monsignor Ricca, who was accused of engaging in a homosexual affair:
I would like to know, Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question. How to address this question and how Your Holiness intends to address the whole question of the gay lobby. 
Pope Francis:
In regard to Monsignor Ricca, I've done what Canon Law orders to do, which is the investigatio previa. And from this investigatio there is nothing of which they accuse him, we haven’t found anything of that. This is the answer. But I would like to add something else on this: I see that so many times in the Church, outside of this case and also in this case, they go to look for the "sins of youth," for instance, and this is published. Not the crimes, alas. Crimes are something else: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, the sins. But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought. But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I've done the investigatio previa and we found nothing. This is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay.” They say that they exist. I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said and says: "these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society." The problem isn't having this tendency, no. We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others. The problem is the lobbying of this tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This, for me, is the more serious problem. And I thank you.

read full text of interview here
Now when you read the full quote in context it really changes things.  The pope is making a clear distinction between a homosexual (gay person) and a homosexualist (gay lobbyist).  A homosexual is simply a person (male or female) who struggles with temptations to commit homosexual acts. To these persons the pope extends his full sympathy and support, knowing full well we do not choose our temptations in life. Nothing in this quote can be construed to mean the pope is sanctioning homosexuality itself or "gay relationships" either.  He is simply saying that he refuses to judge people who struggle with this temptation.  Is this something new?  Hardly.  For the Catechism of the Catholic Church has always taught this...
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
SOURCE - Catechism of the Catholic Church 
So the pope is simply following the Catechism. As the Catechism instructs us, we are not to judge them for their temptations in life. We are not to judge them for their past sins and failures. We are to avoid any unjust discrimination of them, which means they should have access to jobs, housing, healthcare and all public facilities. We should never treat them cruelly or make fun of them in a hateful way. Bullying of homosexual persons is forbidden, and they are to be treated with dignity. This isn't Pope Francis' teaching on homosexuality, this is the Catholic Catechism teaching on homosexuality. Pope Francis is simply practising it.

You see, the Catechism also teaches that homosexuality is "gravely depraved" and "intrinsically disordered." This is a commentary on the condition, not necessarily the person. I would liken homosexuality to alcoholism in some respects. Persons who are prone to excessive drinking are not necessarily bad people. In fact, some can be quite wonderful people. Nobody would think of discriminating against them or bringing harm to them. Most people would seek to bring help to alcoholics, in the form of rehabilitation. Nobody who loves an alcoholic hands him a beer or a glass of wine. For to love an alcoholic is to care about that person's well being enough to not offer him a drink. In many ways, the Catechism teaches that homosexuality is like this. We are to love persons who struggle with homosexual temptations. We are to treat them like we would anyone else, except we are to love them enough to not offer them opportunities to sin, nor condone sin when it happens. When they do sin, we still love them, we just don't condone the activity. That is all. There is nothing in Pope Francis' words that contradicts any of this. In fact, if you read his comments slowly and carefully, you will see he is actually saying exactly what the Catechism says.

Now all that being said, there is a difference between homosexuals and homosexualists. The homosexual is simply a person who struggles with homosexual temptations. The homosexualists is a person who believes the temptation is "normal" and wants others to believe it's "normal" too. Quite often, homosexualists want to force this agenda on others; from individuals, to businesses, to churches, to governments. They demand that homosexuality be accepted as "normal" and that it be blessed and approved by society. They use media propaganda and pressure tactics to strong arm people into agreeing that homosexuality is "normal" and persecute anyone who refuses to comply. The journalist referred to this as a "gay lobby" and there are rumours that there are homosexualists within the Vatican that are trying to change the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. They want the Church to drop its teaching that homosexuality is "depraved" and "intrinsically disordered." They want the Church to start teaching that homosexuality is "okay" and that priests can be openly "gay." They want the Church to start blessing same-sex marriages and tell children that it's okay to be "gay." In other words, they want the Catholic Church to start acting like The Episcopal Church in the United States.

To be clear, based on his comments above, Pope Francis follows the Catechism by refusing to judge homosexuals.  At the same time he referred to the "gay lobby" (homosexualists) as "bad" and in fact he specifically said: "The problem is the lobbying of this [homosexual] tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This, for me, is the more serious problem."  Am I putting words into the pope's mouth here? No. You have the full context above, go read it for yourself again and see. The pope refuses to judge homosexual persons, and offers sympathy to anyone who struggles with homosexual temptations. At the same time however, the pope opposes homosexualists and anyone who lobbies for the acceptance of sin. Surprise! The pope is Catholic after all.

Now there are many who like to throw around the "who am I to judge" comment as if the pope is somehow condoning homosexual relationships. Indeed, the mainstream news press has not been helpful, because of their tendency to summarise the pope's comments in short headlines and 5-second sound bites. Then we have the Internet and editorial magazines which have clouded the pope's message even further. Human beings being what they are, tend to hear what they want to hear, rather than what was actually said.

With that let's move on to the next quote by Pope Francis regarding same-sex "marriage." In an interview with the Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, Charles J. Scicluna, an Italian newspaper reported his recent interaction with Pope Francis over legislation in Malta proposing "marriage" and adoption rights to same-sex couples. The bishop reported that Pope Francis was "saddened" by these developments and referred to same-sex "marriage" as an "anthropological regression." Neither the pope nor the Vatican has denied this claim. In fact, the pope used this same phrase while he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires in Argentina, calling same-sex "marriage" an "anti-value and an anthropological regression." Furthermore, in a conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka published in the book "On Heaven and Earth," Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis) said that same-sex "marriage" is a weakening of the institution of marriage. Every single quote from Bergoglio (Francis) indicates that he is opposed to same-sex "marriage." Still, that doesn't seem to stop people from hearing what they want to hear and coming to a different conclusion in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, there is this recent quote concerning the pope and legal civil unions...
Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point? 
Pope Francis:
Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn't know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety. 
read full text of interview here 
From this the Internet has gone ablaze with speculation that Pope Francis is softening the Church's stand against homosexuality and is about to condone same-sex civil unions.  Okay, now just looking at what the pope said, nothing else, let's examine this. The pope specifically said "cohabitating of various natures" which could include literally anything. For example; it might include a man and a woman who live as a married couple but do not want to have a religious wedding. It might also include an adult brother and sister (or two brothers or two sisters) who live together raising the children of one whose spouse has either died or abandoned the home. It might include a son or daughter who is giving care to his elderly mother or father. There are so many possibilities. In all of these situations it is foreseeable that a legal civil union might be required to insure healthcare benefits and property inheritance for the parties involved. This is likely what the pope is talking about here.

Now in saying this, it is reasonable to assume that the pope is aware that some homosexual couples will seek these legal arrangements to simulate a mock "marriage." Indeed, there would be no way to stop them from doing this. He knows this, and even though he vigorously opposed same-sex "marriages" in Argentina while he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires, some news reports have indicated that he proposed civil unions as an alternative. What he appears to be saying here is that while the Church can NEVER condone homosexual relationships of any type, that does not mean the Church needs to oppose the institution of legal civil unions in and of themselves. In other words, it may be possible (depending upon further examination) that the Church can hold a neutral stand on legal civil unions, so that they may be used for various reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality. Yet at the same time, the Church can morally oppose the abuse of such civil unions for the purpose of promoting homosexual relationships as a type of mock "marriage." Such an opposition would be impossible to enforce by law of course, but the Church could still hold this position without spoiling the prospect of a civil union for those who want to use it for other legitimate means.

Have I twisted the pope's words here? Have I quoted him out of context? Have I somehow put words into his mouth and made him to say something he hasn't? I don't think so. It would seem that many others have done this, and continue to do this, day after day. However, I defy anyone to prove me wrong using the pope's own words cited in context, as I have done above.

Pope Francis has certainly proved to be a different kind of pope, much different than anything we are used to in modern times.  I don't know if there has ever been a pope like him, but if I were to speculate, I would say this the first pope, Peter, probably had a similar style, as well as subsequent popes for the first hundred years or so of Church history.  That's just a guess of course, but I think I have some logical ground to stand on here.  During that time of history the office of the papacy was less institutionalised, and that probably afforded its occupants the opportunity to "be themselves" a little more.  Francis has determined that he will "be himself" regardless of the institutionalisation of the office, and has taken measures to make sure that he himself never becomes a fixture of institution.  We can debate on the appropriateness of this all we want, but for now it just is what it is. Francis' "off the cuff" style has caused a lot of speculation in the media and Internet, but when we really examine what he actually said, we find it falls significantly short of what many people speculate. There are those who say Francis certainly requires a lot of "clarification" in his remarks, but really, his remarks are usually quite plain. What often requires clarification is the direction people often go with his remarks. As I said above, people are people, and quite often that means they hear what they want to hear, rather than what was actually said.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Naturhistorisk Privatundervisning
(Natural Private Education)
September 1877
So far 2014 has been a roller coaster year for the 'Catholic In The Ozarks' blogger.  Without going into the details of the circumstances, I pulled my 10-year-old boy out of his Catholic school in January.  He is now being homeschooled by me 80% of the time, and his mom 20% of the time.  Yes, it's official, I am now a homeschooling dad.  This is something that my wife and I had considered for years. Circumstances have been pointing us more and more in that direction over the last year, and this January it became obvious that the time had come.  As for our daughter, things are still up in the air. We may bring her home next year, or the year after, but the writing is on the wall.  It will likely happen eventually.  We cannot expect our current situation to maintain itself indefinitely. We are thankful of course to everyone who has helped us get this far in the Catholic school system.

The situation my wife and I find ourselves in is actually quite common.  Most Catholic parents don't even bother to investigate Catholic schools, simply because they know they are financially out of reach. Some parishes will offer assistance with tuition, books and uniforms, but this is on a case-by-case basis. Most Catholics are afraid to ask for help, and many more simply won't.  While this is unfortunate, because many parishes are willing to help, I can understand why some Catholic parents feel this way. It's so much easier to send a child to a public school, especially the way the laws are set up in most states. It is blatantly obvious that most states want to discourage blue-collar working-class parents from sending their kids to religious schools. Oh sure, lawmakers will tell you they have nothing against it at all.  Blah, blah, blah...  I wasn't born yesterday. My father always told me that actions speak louder than words. If lawmakers in this country really had nothing against religious schools, than legislation would already be signed into law, providing state assistance to any blue-collar parents choosing to send their children to one. Lawmakers tell us they have nothing against religious schools in their states. Baloney! If it's true, show us the money! Otherwise stop lying to us. We're not stupid.

Still, even if the state did provide money to parents choosing to send their children to religious schools, some still wouldn't do it. For a growing number of Catholic parents are joining with Protestant parents in the United States and choosing to educate their children at home instead. My wife and I have now joined their ranks.

The first couple months have been a bit challenging.  The first hurdle was just finding a good curriculum to follow.  Protestants have been at this a while, so the market is saturated with their stuff. Some of it is pretty good. However, as Catholics, some of it doesn't necessarily fit out needs. It took about a month of research and study to find something that we think will work for us. We are about 70% satisfied now.  Obviously, we will be fine-tuning things over the next several months. Then comes the question of homeschool cooperatives. Do we want to be in one? If so, what kind? The questions just keep coming. One thing we did right away was join the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and put a lawyer on retainer. For just $10/month we now have the legal ability to spank anyone who dares question us or try to interfere with our rights as parent-teachers. Granted, in Missouri that is not likely to happen, since this state has some of the most liberated homeschooling laws in the country, but you can never be too careful. While homeschooling is legal in all 50 US states, Missouri is definitely one of the better states to homeschool in, and that holds true for some of the surrounding states as well. Other states require much more oversight and regulation, nevertheless, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.

This is not the case in some other countries. In Germany for example, homeschooling is illegal, thanks to an old law that is still on the books, and has recently been used by Left-wing statists to persecute homeschooling families there. Parents who homeschool can be subjected to fines, imprisonment and even have their children taken away by the state -- indefinitely. The situation is so bad in Germany, that some homeschooling families have fled to the United States for protection. One family -- the Romeike family -- fled to the United States in 2008 and petitioned for asylum due to religious persecution for homeschooling in Germany. The Romeikes are a devoutly Christian family who believe homeschooling is part of their religious obligation. Initially a Tennessee judge granted them asylum because he believed that Germany had wrongly restricted the family's religious freedom. That decision however, was quickly opposed by the Obama administration which sought to deport the Romeikes back to Germany. The matter went to the federal courts, where a federal judge sided with the Obama administration. Appeals to the US Supreme Court fell on deaf ears, and as usual, our nation's highest judicial body proved itself worthless once again. (Should this be any surprise to anyone after Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade?) It refused to hear the case.  Just when it looked hopeless however, and deportation was inevitable, the Obama administration reversed itself and allowed the Romeikes to stay in the United States indefinitely. While I must praise the Obama administration for eventually doing the right thing in this case, let us not forget that it was the Obama administration that caused this poor family 6 unnecessary years of heartache and pain in the first place. Why all the emotional torture for these people?  Isn't America supposed to be the place people come to when their freedoms are violated elsewhere?  I think the Obama administration really screwed up on this one at the beginning, but let's just hope that's all it was. For the alternative is something far more sinister. For now however, let's just be thankful that somebody in the administration saw how unfair this was and finally did the right thing.

Now just on the heels of that epic saga we have the emergence of 'Common Core' education, which if any Christian parents haven't already pulled their children out of public school for other reasons, they should over this. I'm not going to go into the litany of problems and complaints over Common Core. If you want to learn more about what is wrong with Common Core just click here. Rather, I'm just going to say this. Common Core was designed by corporate elitists and is nothing more than the federal government's attempt to micromanage every public school in America -- from coast to coast -- Alaska and Hawaii too.  It's taking the "No Child Left Behind" program and putting it on steroids!  Once the federal government has control of all academic standards in America, it will be able to dictate college admission standards, and punish those children whose parents dared to put them into private, religious or home school. For fear of this, many private and religious schools are now voluntarily adopting Common Core standards, so they can avoid this potential problem in the future. This is just wrong folks! There is no reason for the federal government to do this. The fed claims it's all voluntary right now, but we know where that leads. Currently, the fed is promising money to any state that adopts Common Core. So guess what all the cash-strapped states are doing? That's right, they're signing on as fast as they can. What however are they really signing onto? That remains to be seen, but I think it's safe to say that within a decade there is going to be a whole lot of regret out there. Was that federal money really worth it? I think most states will eventually say they wished they had not taken it. By then however, it will be too late for them. Fortunately my home state of Missouri is attempting to fight the implementation of Common Core here with HB 1490.  (If you live in Missouri, contact your state legislators and tell them to support it.)  A few other states are working on similar measures. Whether you homeschool or not, whether you send your children to a religious school or not, you should support these measures. Common Core is bad for America's schools, it's bad for teachers, and it's really bad for our children. It will however become America's universal academic standard soon unless 'we the people' stand up to fight it. Contact your state legislators today.

The following paragraph I want to address to our religious leaders, and by that I mean our parish pastors, our bishops and yes, even the pope.  Not that I think Pope Francis reads my blog, but I do hear he is in the habit of reaching out to common people in rather common ways.  So this paragraph is for him, and I call upon all bishops and priests to likewise hear this plea and respond...

Please, Your Holiness, we need your help. Will you address the rights of parents to educate their children in the way they deem best -- whether that be public school, private school, religious school or home school? Many of the world's leaders believe that parents have no rights in this area, and that the state has final say on how God's children are educated. This is wrong Your Holiness. We need advocates on our side. We need somebody to speak up for us and tell the world's leaders of our human rights, especially our rights as parents to do what God calls us to do. Please, Your Holiness, will you speak out for us? Will you defend us? Will you take our case before God and the world? If you will not, then who will?

Finally, I want to speak of something that is close to my heart. When I first brought my son home from school, I didn't know what to expect. I admit that I was frightened and intimidated by the whole idea. I knew this was the right thing to do, but I didn't know if I would be adequate as his teacher. I prayed, I worked, and I put together a curriculum. Then we began working together. It's only been two months, but something has happened that has changed my life for the better and my son's life too. Before, we rarely saw each other. I work weekends at a hospital, and he was at school on weekdays most of the time. We would see each other for a short time in the late afternoon, then it was dinner, homework and off to bed. My son and I were growing apart, and that's not a good thing for any boy entering into adolescence. A boy needs his father during these critical years, and homeschooling is allowing me to be with him most of the week. A daughter needs her father too, which is why it's only a matter of time before my girl is brought home as well. In just two months time I am getting to know my son again, and many of the issues he was dealing with prior to bringing him home are now starting to resolve. I am also discovering that what I originally thought would be an intimidating process has really turned out to be satisfying to me. Not only can I teach, but I can teach well, and to be quite honest with you, I couldn't have picked a better student. He's my own flesh and blood! Nobody knows him or understands him better than his mother and I. Likewise, there is nobody better than us he can relate to as teachers, for the same reason. Many of the learning problems he might face, I once faced too. I find him struggling with the same math questions I once struggled with, and because of that, I can bring my experience to him in a way that only a father can.  I've learnt that parents can be teachers, and in fact, we already are. We were their first teachers. We taught our children how to talk, and how to walk, and the basics of letters, writing, art and religion. Then we sent them off to school, but the truth is, we didn't have to. Most of us could have just kept going. That's how it was in North America just a little over 100 years ago. Most children west of the Mississippi River were home educated. Some of America's greatest inventors, leaders and even presidents were homeschooled. I work with people (licensed medical professionals) who were homeschooled. There is a joy that comes with homeschooling that I cannot describe here. It's almost impossible to put into words. All I can say is I'm glad we did it, and I think other parents should consider it as well -- at least as one viable option. To all Catholic homeschooling parents out there, I want you to know that I am now one of you, and I am with you. You have a friend and an advocate in me.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Another Gospel

Interior of a Megachurch
A good friend of mine recently forwarded an article to me.  The article was actually a sermon (homily) delivered by an Assemblies of God minister here in Springfield Missouri about six years ago.

Assemblies of God Headquarters
in Springfield Missouri
For those of you who may not know, the Assemblies of God, at 65 million members, is the world's largest and most organised Pentecostal Protestant denomination.  Its headquarters is just a few miles away from my home, here in Springfield Missouri, in a large blue and white complex the locals affectionately refer to as the "Blue Vatican." Historically, these Pentecostals are known for "speaking in tongues" during church services, dynamic preaching from the pulpit and long altar calls, whereby parishioners walk up to the front of the chapel and publicly rededicate their lives to Jesus Christ -- often referred to as "getting saved."  The Assemblies of God is a Protestant denomination, meaning it clings to all of the historically Catholic teachings on the Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement.  They are not part of the "Oneness Pentecostal" movement that has denied the Trinity. So they definitely fall under Catechism 818 & 819 wherein they ought to be referred to as "Christian brethren" by Roman Catholics.

Recently however, in Springfield Missouri, the Assemblies have changed their style of worship, moving away from their traditional Pentecostal church model in favour of the more contemporary Evangelical Megachurch approach.  Speaking in tongues, words of knowledge and prophecy, all the traditional Pentecostal flair, has been replaced with a more entertaining worship service, consisting of pop praise and worship bands, some even using massive video displays and fog machines.  All the core Pentecostal beliefs are still there, mind you, but one is more apt to find such things as "speaking in tongues" expressed in private study groups associated with the main church, rather than in the main church service itself.  This formula has attracted tens of thousands of new members across the Ozarks. Many Baptists and Evangelicals have switched over to the Assemblies of God, mainly because of this new worship model. Even a good number of traditional Protestants (Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.), and even a small number of Catholics, have joined this Assemblies Megachurch movement.

James River Assembly
James River Assembly, located in the City of Ozark (just south of Springfield), has become the flagship of this movement here in the Ozark Mountains, boasting of nearly 10,000 people in regular weekly attendance. It is to this particular church, and a few similar congregations, that many Baptists, Evangelicals and other Christians have switched to, often not even realising that "James River Assembly" is an Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) church.  The complex is so large, with so many activities and attractions therein, that I have heard some of the locals snidely refer to it as "Six Flags Over Ozark."  I don't share this sentiment, but I can understand why they use this comical epitaph.  It is rather large.  I occasionally like to stop by and just look around.  I've been known to stop by and get a coffee, pull out the laptop and blog on "Catholic In The Ozarks" while sitting in one of their comfortable lobbies.  The people are friendly and the place is so big, nobody is the wiser.  They have no idea that I don't even attend church there.  I've had some good conversations with folks there and talked about God.  I'm not there to evangelise people, and they have no idea that I'm Catholic, because I usually don't disclose that to them.  Unless they already know me personally, or ask some specific question, they'll probably never find out.  Once a friend who attend there asked me if I had decided to go to church there.  I very plainly told him "no" and "I just like using the lobby.  It's very comfortable and friendly."  (I mean, what are they gonna do?  Kick me out!?!)  This resulted in a smile and an invitation to come by and visit any time.  I told you they were friendly.  Now James River Assembly has gotten so large that it's opened up a second campus closer to my home.  James River Assembly - West Campus is a bit smaller, only boasting of 2,000 people in regular attendance, but what this means is that James River Assembly has taken the Megachurch model to a whole new level.  It is now a "denomination within a denomination."  James River has two campuses now, and there is no reason to believe it won't eventually open a third and a fourth and so on.  Yet, James River is within and under the Assemblies of God denomination.  I have no idea how this will work out in the years to come, and whether James River will remain under the Assemblies of God, or grow so large that it eventually breaks with the Assemblies and starts its own Evangelical/Pentecostal-style denomination.  I have no idea.  All I know is they have good coffee, comfortable lobbies, an excellent wifi connection, and good Christian pop music playing in the background.  The people are always friendly, and it's a good place to blog or read surrounded by people who are religious and believe in family values.  I much rather prefer this setting to a Barnes & Nobel or the local library. I suppose some Catholics might be afraid to step foot in such a place, for fear of being pulled out of the Catholic Church and sucked into Protestantism.  I suppose I wouldn't recommend going there to just any Catholic.  As a former Protestant teacher, I have been thoroughly inoculated against Protestant theology.  Because of this, there is no danger of me ever converting back to Protestantism, so I could stroll right into just about any Protestant setting, greet and love everybody therein, and stroll right out just as Catholic as I was before.  I suppose some Catholics can't do that, mainly because they don't know their faith well enough, so I guess it's not for everybody.  In fact, as I was writing this article, two Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door.  We had a pleasant conversation, wherein it became apparent that I would not convert, and they were not interested in hearing the Catholic side of things.  So we shook hands and parted ways on friendly terms.  My point here is to demonstrate that if a Catholic knows and fully understands his Catholic Christian faith, he has nothing to fear.  There is not a Protestant (or a Jehovah's Witness for that matter) in the world that can unsettle the faith of a well educated Catholic.  I tell you, it's not possible.  So if you haven't done so already -- LEARN AND KNOW THE FAITH.

Okay, now that you've become acquainted with the large influence the Assemblies of God has on this region in which I live, I'll go on to the article/sermon my friend forwarded to me.  It's really very fascinating, and at the risk of raising a few eyebrows, I will call it "prophetic."   The article/sermon was delivered by David Wilkerson here at the Assemblies of God Headquarters (Blue Vatican) in Springfield Missouri. It is entitled "The Dangers of The Gospel of Accommodation."  As best as I can tell, it was originally posted to the Internet in July of 2008, before the collapse of the stock market later that year and subsequent great recession to follow.  Here is the link if you would like to read the whole thing.  I would also like to call your attention to another article published by the Christian Science Monitor about a year later, that warns of a similar thing using statistical models and trends.  The article from the Christian Science Monitor predicts the coming collapse of Evangelical Protestantism within about 10 years or so.  The article/sermon by David Wilkerson very deftly tells us why.  The following is a excerpt from the Christian Science monitor...
(Christian Science Monitor) - Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century. 
This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good. 
Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close. 
The Monitor's article goes into a litany of reasons why, which includes such things as identifying with political conervatisim (the "Culture War") at the expense of preaching the full gospel, which of course not only includes option for the poor, but most importantly, the confrontation of sin in our personal lives and the interior need for repentance and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  In the end, the Monitor points out that Evangelicals have failed to pass on the faith on to their children in any real meaningful manner.  The next generation of Evangelicals has been set adrift.  For the time being they will identify with Evangelicalism on a purely cultural or social level, but that will soon change -- very quickly.  Evangelicalism has no real cultural anchor to hold steady to.  Let's face it, when your "cultural spirituality" consists of pop bands, video screens and fog machines, how long do you think that will last.  Such things can be found in any music concert or teen club. Who needs a church?

The real message behind the Monitor's article however is truly brought out in David Wilkerson's own article/sermon published a year prior.  When we consider how much Pentecostalism overlaps with Evangelicalism (and this includes many Baptist churches) we can see the big picture.  Here in Springfield Missouri, Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have become virtually indistinguishable.  In truth, the average Catholic couldn't tell them apart, and neither could the average non-religious person.  The overlap is bringing about a convergence, and in a way, we could consider the whole thing one movement now.  For the sake of simplicity I will simply refer to it as the "Protestant Megachurch Movement."  David Wilkerson's article/sermon was addressed specifically to the Assemblies of God, but I think it's so profound, and so darn accurate, that it applies to the whole Protestant Megachurch Movement entirely.  Here are some abbreviated excerpts from Wilkerson's article/sermon...
A New Gospel 
Accommodate means to adapt, to make suitable and acceptable, to make convenient. A gospel of accommodation is creeping into the United States. It’s an American cultural invention to appease the lifestyle of luxury and pleasure. Primarily a Caucasian, suburban gospel, it’s also in our major cities and is sweeping the nation, influencing ministers of every denomination, and giving birth to megachurches with thousands who come to hear a nonconfronting message. It’s an adaptable gospel that is spoon-fed through humorous skits, drama, and short, nonabrasive sermonettes on how to cope—called a seeker-friendly or sinner-friendly gospel. 
To begin with, those terms are unscriptural. The gospel of Jesus Christ has always been confronting—there is no such thing as a friendly gospel but a friendly grace. 
This new gospel is being propagated by bright, young, talented ministers. They have come upon a formula which states you can go into any town or city; and if you have the right formula, within a short time you can raise a megachurch.... 
Paul’s Warning
Paul warned of the coming of another gospel and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4). He warned the church that it’s really not another gospel but a perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. If you hear any other gospel, he said, let that preacher be accursed. In other words, no matter how pleasant, how pious, or how sincere, if the message is not the death of sin through the cross of Jesus Christ, let it be accursed....
Paul said they are going to glory in the flesh, in their bigness, their numbers, their influence, and their contemporariness. They will boast they are contemporary, that there is a gospel that is out of style that doesn’t reach human need anymore. They will glory in the world’s acceptance. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The context of that warning was: “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it” (verse 14).
His warning was to beware of the wolves who are going to say it’s really not that narrow and straight—they are going to come posing as submissive sheep. Jesus put His finger on the cause: ambition—ambitious ravening wolves. In the Greek it means “starved for recognition and quick gratification, quick growth.”
Jesus left no doubt about His meaning. For example, He was addressing a struggling pastor who has worked for years and hasn’t seen the kind of growth he wants to see. A young man with an accommodating gospel moves into town and and within a very short time has a megachurch. People are flocking there because there is entertainment; it’s a gospel of fun. I’ve been in some of them. It’s the gospel of entertainment that has no conviction whatsoever. There is very little in their gospel that speaks to sinners of repentance, brokenness, and cross-bearing. A Christ is preached, Jesus’ name is mentioned, but Paul said their’s is another gospel, another Jesus.
Paul warned that if you are caught in this trap, if you want that hook of entertainment, that hook of sudden growth, this is the hook: The enemy will put in your path a teaching....
What the Gospel of Accommodation Does
I see three things in the gospel of accommodation:
  1. It is the accommodation of man’s love for pleasure. 
  2. This gospel of accommodation accommodates all man’s aversion to self-denial.
  3. There is an accommodation of man’s offense to the gospel.
It’s cruel, pastor, to lead sinners to the Cross, tell them they are forgiven by faith, and then allow them to go back to their habits and lusts of the flesh, unchanged and still in the devil’s shackles. If the preaching of grace doesn’t have as its goal the producing of a walk of righteousness, then it’s another gospel, another Jesus....
I encourage you to read the whole thing.  The good minister here is trying to make an excellent point, and his observation is spot on.  The Protestant Megachurches, especially those with television ministries, fit this description perfectly.  Their object is not to offend, and create a "feel good gospel" that is acceptable to the most people possible.  There are only a few exceptions to this that I can think of, namely those few Megachurches obsessed with end times prophecy, and don't care who they offend.  Wilkerson is right in his observation that this "new gospel" has crossed denominational lines, as indeed, I've even seen some Catholic priests trying to imitate it. (This is a terrible mistake a Catholic priest would do well to correct if he finds himself doing it.)  However, I would like to make my own observation here.  What is happening with the Protestant Megachurches is nothing new.  In fact, I would dare say that whole phenomenon of the rise of Protestant Megachurches is following a rather old tradition.  Granted, it's been augmented by mailing lists, focus groups and internet strategies, but in the end, its the same old story we Catholics have been hearing about for the last 500 years.

Protestantism itself began as a kind of "new gospel" that accommodated the social trends and lifestyles of the time period.  When Martin Luther rejected Catholic teaching on Purgatory, indulgences, the sacraments and the authority of the pope, he was accommodating not only his own aversion to certain aspects of the gospel, but he was providing a way to accommodate the same aversion in others.  Let's face it, Martin Luther wouldn't have amounted to much in Germany, if there wasn't a new type of affluence there that found his new gospel appealing.  The same type of accommodation gospel would be realised in Geneva under John Calvin, and then in England under Queen Elizabeth I.  Century after century, the process has been repeating itself, with one accommodation after another, resulting in one great Protestant movement after another.  Today there are thousands of Protestant denominations, sects and affiliations.  During 20th century America, one could easily find a Protestant church to fit any theological fancy.  However, over the last 30 years or so, the Protestant Megachurches have arisen, and as a result, there has been a kind of consolidation of these various traditions into one big entertainment/motivational "worship" service.  Quite frankly, as a former Protestant and now Roman Catholic, I find the whole thing quite natural.  It was inevitable that Protestantism would end up this way, and it is inevitable that it will soon find itself in crisis because of it.

David Wilkerson is right, but I think he doesn't realise just how right he is.  The Gospel of Accommodation has been around for a very long time, and what he may not realise is that his own tradition (which he considers "traditional") is itself a form of accommodation from another Protestant tradition in the past. Because if we are really frank with ourselves, those of us who know history are quite aware that Protestantism has always been an accommodation.

That being said however, they're still Christian.  As long as they continue to accept the Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement, we Catholics can, and should, continue to call them "brethren."  That's what the Catechism teaches anyway.  So the best thing for us to do is to know our own faith, and know it well, so that we can teach them what we're about gradually.  When the collapse of the Protestant Megachurches comes -- and it will come eventaully -- perhaps some of their members will remember us, and return home to Rome in the process. Until that day comes I'll continue to stop by for the good coffee, comfortable lobbies, excellent wifi and good conversations.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!