Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All done in the name of Christ

I passed by Cyberbretheren and I saw him discussing The Secret Files of the Inquisition on DVD. I so happened to pass by too in one of our suburb's DVD rent shop, and I browsed at the DVDs for sale, and guess what, I saw on the rack the DVD for A$26.95. It was good buy so I took it home.

What made me more curious of this documentary on the Inquisition was the event that happened to Jews and to a couple of Venecian Lutherans. Firstly there was the case of Fr. Baldo Lupitino, a Franciscan monk who became Lutheran. He was supposed to be publicly executed - the plan was to behead him and his body burned on the spot, but this was bad for "business". Instead he was indefinitely imprisoned and after 14 years of ordeal, he was executed in secret. He was drowned.

Then there was Pomponio Algerio, a university student. He was given time to re-consider his Lutheran convictions and sent to jail. But in the jail, his conviction all the more grew. He wrote

To my most beloved brothers, fellow servants of Christ, I must tell you that I found comfort in a dark cave, serenity and hope in the place of bitterness and death. For he who had been far away is with me now, and offers me his hand. I am in the company of those who have been crucified, stoned, hunted, beheaded or sent to the flames. It has been written, if we are accused in the name of Christ we will be blessed for the honor and virtue of God rest on ye. Goodbye fellow servants of God, be strong and pray for me unceasingly.

He was spoken to and asked to recant and in exchange, as a act of mercy, he will be strangled instead so that he does not have to go through the agonizing process of execution. The Venecian authorities refused to carry out the excution order of Paul IV, so he was extracted to Rome where he was boiled alive, in oil, tar and turpentine, a new technique devised by the Inquisition.

What is also interesting is the comment made by the Vatican Undersecretary interviewed in this documentary. He insinuated that one should understand the Inquisition in the context of its time. Killing people because of their ideas may be horrible to us today, that might be true, but he said that it is possible to understand it in context of sociology of religion. Hmmm.

But you see, the Inquisition of the RCC, killed people because of their ideas. This is bad in our time. I agree. However, the RCC with its Inquisition did not kill people simply because they have bad or oppossing ideas - they tortured and killed people in the name of Christ! The Magisterium who claimed to be the True Church, the one "founded" by Christ, ordered the killings and even divised torture chambers in the name of Christ! So they killed for Jesus. I know of another group that does that, kill in the name of their faith.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Those Re-Conversions

As was said in the last posting, there is much publicity on famous evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism. Over at Bill Cook's blog we see the reverse of what happened to Dr. Frank Beckwith. Mr. Cook went from SDA to RCC and then to SDA again. I am going to be side tracked a bit and tell you what intrigued me in the comments to Mr. Cooks reflections. Someone who converted to Roman Catholicism commented to him, said this...

When I became a Catholic I was spiritual both a Jew and a Muslim and I didn’t have to give up either to become a Catholic.

This comment confirms what I have been suspicious of, those Lutherans, Baptists (or whatever) who became RC , have they really converted or did they just carry over their spirituality inside the RCC? No one knows the heart, hence you can be in RCC and be a crypto-evangelical, crypto-Jew, crypto-Muslim, crypto-Mason etc, like this gentleman commented. The label you used to wear is no longer there but it is still the same clothing, like new wineskins for old wine. This is what I observed in my younger years and here it is again. So have they really converted with that philosophy in mind?

Now, back to the topic of what Prof. McKnight said of conversions from Evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism. I will just comment on one aspect; he says that the person gets into a crisis situation,a crisis of transendence. One of them is the crisis of certainty (but others would be that of history, unity or authority). I will focus on certainty. These are questions of the type "how do I know I am saved", "how do I know that this interpretation of the Bible is true", "how do I know this is the true church", "how do I know I am in God's will"?

These are legitimate concerns, I had them. I go through crisis of self-doubts too. However, because evangelicalism focuses you on yourself, these crises are made accute. For example, it makes you find out these questions within your inward experiences. Evangelicalism is not the same, it is now post-Evangelical. It has departed miles apart from the Reformation. Whereas in olden days, justification was the core focus, it is now regeneration. The first makes you look outside, the second makes you look inside. It became "Christ for you vs Christ in you", and the latter won. So there will be a lot of swimming going on for a while, until the likes of Mr. Cook come out of the woodwork.

Indeed if you are going to find certainty, you got to find it somewhere outside you, it can not be in you because that is circular. There is no certainty inside you. So, the converts rely on the RCC Magisterium's claims that they are the TRUE Church, and they hope so. This gives security because it has claim to history, has claim to authority and works for unity, what more can you ask? Or does it? Some who went to the RCC have gone beyond and become Sedevacantists.

Going to another authority like the RCC Magisterium is outside yourself indeed. But apparently Calvin said that the RCC and the AnaBaptists are the same. The latter makes you point into yourself as an individual and let's face it the Evangelicals today are highly AnaBaptistic. The former, makes you point in yourselves (us, we and our - The Church). Hence, according to him, they are ruled by something in them, not by something above them. Of course, I have some disagreements with Calvin but here, I think he is correct.

So where does one go? Is this spiritual journey like walking in the wilderness, like the Israelites of old, always going around in circles whereas the Promised Land is just a few miles away? The good thing is that crises do not last very long, what we feel real is not that real. When crises of certainty happens, experience tells me it is an opportune time to go back to Jesus through His Word. And, let's face it, you will miss God's will for you if that is your concern, you will have a feeling that you may not be in the right "church", you may doubt if you have the right interpretation of Scripture etc etc. but if you get all of these right but you get the Gospel wrong, Luther says, you still got error, you still have uncertainty, you just made yourself believe you no longer have them because you belong to the "Church".

13(A)These things I have written to you who (B)believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have (C)eternal life.
1 John 5:13

Seems to me, there is only one thing that we need to be sure of, this thing trumps all uncertainty - Did Jesus died and rose again for your sins' forgiveness? Scripture says "YES". If so, then what is the problem?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Those Conversions

I have been reading Prof. McKnights' paper published by the JETS on September 2002 entitled From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholics. I have been reading it in the light of famous and prominent convesions lately, like that of Dr. Francis Beckwith's and now in Lutheran circles that of Prof. Koon's. Now isn't that embarassing? I can hear RC friends hollering... "Jump ship, join the bandwagon, your ship is sinking, see, they are leaving the Titanic".

I have few random thoughts here.

1.) I wonder what those Lutheran martyrs and other Protestants of other stripes who gave their lives rather than recant during the Inquisition, would say? Those people who were murdered, tortured, killed, burned rather than renounce their confession. I wonder what the Evangelical converts would say to them - could it be this - you died for nothing, bad luck, you should have listened to the Pope , the Mother Church has been right all along, you got what you deserve. I hope not.

2.) I have not read Prof Koon's paper, but I have just browsed through it, I have no time lately, my thesis is 3 years late and I can not afford to be side tracked like blogging! But I noticed he quoted Cardinal Newmans' work - An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Now again, I have not read the whole work of the Cardinal, just read sections here and there. I was a bit turned off, because he would say the Church Fathers believed this and that but there is not much reference for me to check. But here is really what has got my mind thinking lately. Cardinal Newman said in that work this
To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

Now pause a little and feel the blow of that statement and now put your mind on what was the theme or spirit of that paper? - the theme was on how the doctrines of the RCC are historical. It tries to defend and justify how one can believed in RCC dogmas even though historically the evidence for such is nil, e.g. - supremacy of the pope, papal infallibility, immaculate conception of Mary etc. That art and process of defending and arguing speaks from an outsider and ignoramus like me this thing ... as if he was saying - no, the RCC is deep in history even though you can not find in history that our doctrines have been believed by people of apostolic times, it is there - you just could not find it in Scripture or history. Duh? Go figure.

3. Lastly for today, Prof. McKnights's paper outlined several reasons for conversion, one factor is the crisis, but more on that later.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mum's the word

Last Sunday was Mother's Day. As I recall, in the church calendar, there is no such thing as a Mother's Day.

Anyways, for the first time, I was happy in church for a Mother's Day Sunday worship servce.

I was happy because at the sermon, I was not scolded for not being a good husband, not being a good dad. I was not lectured on how lowsy I treat my wife and ugly a father I am. Instead, I was convicted of how I do not really love Jesus yet Jesus still loves me. I left church, broken but strangely paradoxically blessed.

I remember when I was in ministry how I hated these special day Sunday occassions. I hated it because it gets in the way of my chosen agenda of trying to correct a situation in church, like people's lack of spirituality or their lack of prayer etc etc. Goodness, I would mumble, this is the opportune time to address church life issues from the pulpit, and I must give way! Instead I had to preach about moms if it was Mother's Day or dads if it was Father's Day. In all cases, my agenda was, come to think of it now, wrong headed too. For my agenda was not a talk about what Jesus did but rather what the Christian should do.

I also am not impressed with these special day occassions, for another reason. I mean surely there is one for me, like Father's Day after all I am a dad. I don't like them. I tell you why, it gives my kids the excuse to ignore me the rest of the year but suddenly on that special day like Father's Day, suddenly they start giving gifts to you, sort of, to make up for the days they pre-occupied themselves with themselves, a day they can relieve themselves of the guilt of being self-focused. Everyday ought to be a day to love your neighbor like you love yourself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I knew it

Sometime ago, I had a feeling that it would just be a matter of time when we hear a famous Evangelical turn to Rome. I had this notion because apologists of RCC persuasion have been very active publishing conversion experiences. Now it has happened, like a big fish swimming the river (Tiber) to Dr. Francis Beckwith, former Evangelical Theological Society President. This is no ordinary layman, returning to the RCC, this is a leader in a highly visible Protestant scholarly society and has lots of publicity with embarassment for Evangelicals. So many things have been written in reply to Dr. Beckwith's move. I am not here to offer a profound analysis( I am hardly profound). I have no doubt he is sincere and must have come to a crisis of faith that only this move can reconcile the turmoil (so he thinks).

A few things are worth noting. Should not the local church to which Dr. Beckwith belongs exercise discipline? That is I am sure, that Protestant local church to which he attended, if it be Evangelical, surely believe that he is embracing some false teachings, thus should publicly call him to repentance and publicly state that he is under discipline.

Now I wonder, had each Evangelical convert to RCC got disciplined in such a way, I wonder what could result if the Scott Hahns, the Gerry Matatics etc. got such public chasening from their former local churches, I wonder what might have happened? It is not too late to do such a thing, I suppose.

But then, wait - does not Vatican II makes conversion to the RCC superflous?

On an amusing note, from what I heard (and this is just hearsay), had this happened 200 years ago, it would not be strange to hear a suggestion from some quarters that the person converting to RCC from Protestantism must have been a Jesuit mole whose main design was to convert Protestants back to Rome. Don't laugh loud, I know this is playing up to the music of conspiracy theory. But apparently that suggestion was not considered entirely pointless, a couple of hundred years ago.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

You're soooh mean!

You probably think this blog is about you. Sorry, not really. I don't know.

Many Evangelical as well as Calvinist folk are so offended with the closed communion practise of Lutherans. At first, in my mind, that was a concern in me too. It seems so tribal, divisive, clannish and not Christianly at all.

Over at Reformed Catholicism this is being discussed. It was started off from The Pirate with a nice help from Confessing Evangelical . These guys' contributions have been insightful.

To my Calvinist and Evangelical friends who are quite disappointed at the close communion practices of orthodox Lutherans, I have a suggestion, a sincere advice. Do not start with the question "why do they do close communion"? This is not the first question to ask. The first issue is this, "what is happening at the Lord's Supper"? Is this the body and blood of Christ? This is the first question to understand, and when it is settled, the idea of closed communion, you will find is not strange at all.

If you answer that question with a "yes", to which a Lutheran will say also "amen", then you got your answer too - you will see that it makes sense why they practice close communion and they only offer it to those who can say "yes", this is the body and blood of the Lord according to his Word.

If your answer is "no", then why blame them for being closed? This is something to be happy about, why commune at the table to which you can not agree? You should not be desiring it. Besides, this answer means there is nothing special about communion and it is no different (really, I mean no dis-respect) to eating bread for breakfast or taking a sip of wine during dinner.

So the Lutheran practise of closed communion is a very simple issue to resolve. It is not hard and you will not be offended once you know the answer to "what is on the table". Believe me, I was like that too, close communion became the least of my concerns after I got the answer to the question from Scripture (1 Cor 10:16).

Now would an RC commune in a Lutheran table? Of course they won't! I got my suspicions why they won't, I just want to know if they match their reasons.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Theology and Mis-Theology in Spiderman 3

I must confess, I am a Spiderman fan. I saw Spiderman 3 last night with the family.

I like Spiderman because he is so human, he has money problems, love problems, ego problems and also, sin problems.

Spiderman 3 proved to be more theological than the last two episodes, for me anyway. Here we get the problem of revenge, hatred and its resolution - forgiveness.

Being infected by a venom from outer space, Spidey turned into a violent revenge ravaged man - he turned into a nasty and not nice than usual self - he was there to enjoy the fun, of getting even. And he loved being that way. Giving in to the self is addictive, intoxicating. Gal 5:19. I like the line Peter Parker said to Eddie Brock, "what do you want, forgiveness? Get religion".

There are a couple of things though that are mis-theologies in Spiderman 3. For those who have no Christian connection, but are submerged into pop culture, the theology in Spiderman would probably be the only exposure one could have.

There were a few things which some what bothered me. Firstly, Eddie went to church after being humiliated by Parker, he prayed to the crucifix of Jesus and asked Parker to be killed? Is this a swipe at Roman Catholicism which normally uses crucifixes or to Christians in general i.e. is it ligitimate to pray to Jesus for others to die? I probably prayed that way but that is wrong.

Secondly and the most disturbing to me now is Parker's exhultation of "your choice", so much Pelagian innuendo came through at the ending, and I felt it was in line with the American notion of free will/ your choice. cf. http://extranos.blogspot.com/2007/01/mighty-holy-will.html
When it comes to attaining a connection with God, our free will is incapacitated.

In the end, the exaltation of our free will is still part of that sinful flesh.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Small Cat

I once asked my daughter, who worships in a Pentecostal church, if her friends in church heard, or could recite or just plain speak of the Apostles Creed. She said - "Well I would know about it since you spoke of it, but I doubt if my friends ever heard the thing".

The more I observe young Christians in evangelical churches, the more I am convinced that many (quite many) are not taught or catechized well. I wonder what would they say if I asked them - "what is justification, regeneration, or name one commandment in the 10 commandments"? They probably would give me a shocked looked, eyes wide open and rolling. People today are not into those might big words, they would probably say "I am not into that sort of thing, all I want is to know Jesus". (To be interpreted) "I want to know how to make it in this life".

Mighty big words? I don't think so - those words like justification, atonememt etc are in Scripture or used as terms in Scripture. You can not ignore them if you read the Bible - they are there.

But really it is not the fault of young people why they are like that. It is the church that is representing Christianity to them and what they see done and talked about in church gives them the impression that, that is what Christianity is all about - how to make it in life. So long as the church is giving people what they want and not what they need, Biblical ignorance will not decline, it will even increase. If the church caters to what people want and not to what Scripture says people need, then trouble is just in the corner, the church will be following where they lead, not tell them where they should go.

Oh, don't be impressed that some could even quote the Small Catechism verbatim. I discovered that there are those who can quote what Luther said there and still manage to believe that Christianity is about good works, and that one is saved by doing good. In fact that could be the reason why they go to church religiously. When we see this - we should not just sad about the young, we should get sad about the old too.