September 21, 2020

The IMonk Spends Five Hours With Scott Hahn: The Full Report

UPDATE: OK. Here we go again. I’m not putting up with it this time. You want to respond respectfully, great. But anything less than calm and reasonable isn’t going to make it.

If you don’t know about my wrestlings with Catholicism, I can’t catch you up. Hit the search engine or ask someone who obsessively reads this blog.

I’ve avoided Scott Hahn completely. For a while, my wife and I had a deal his books wouldn’t be in the house. (I’ve since given up those kinds of ridiculous compromises. I’ve even given her one of his books recently.)

Hahn is a former conservative Presbyterian professor who has been called “Luther in reverse” since his much noted and retold conversion in the mid 1990’s. Today he is a prominent Catholic scholar, apologist and Bible teacher, doing much to encourage Roman Catholic adults to understand their faith and especially its sources in scripture.

Hahn’s conversion and subsequent speaking and writing career have resulted, according to Catholic sources, in…..a large number of conversions. (I’ve actually heard the term “millions,” which seems a bit enthusiastic.)

If you’ve read my writing about my own journey in relation to Catholicism, then you know I don’t like attempts at conversion. (Yes, the 135 of you who tried it, I mean you.) I like my Merton, my Nouwen and my Vatican II ecumenism. I don’t like Catholic Answers, The Journey Home and the big gun- Scott Hahn. (Be like Amy W and Alan C, people 🙂

But I’d never read or listened to much more than Hahn’s testimony, so being in a car many hours this week, I had a chance to remedy that. I went to Catholic Audio and found a five session conference Hahn did training adult Catholics to explain five of the most controversial areas of their faith: The Pope, Mary, the saints, purgatory and the Eucharist. (Get the mp3 link at the end of the post.)

I made it through all five presentations and I want to give a brief summary of my thoughts. This isn’t a response by any means. Hahn is a Ph.d and a trained scholar. I’m a lowly seminary grad and high school teacher. I’d love to hear him in a debate with any number or Protestant apologists, but his calling is more that of a teacher. Nonetheless, in these talks, he made extensive reference to his own journey from Protestantism (which he always speaks of very respectfully and positively) to Roman Catholicism. He is quite open about where he had the most difficulty embracing Roman Catholic teaching, which I appreciate.

1. Hahn’s presentations on the Pope, the saints, the Eucharist and especially Purgatory were outstanding. Were I in a position to consider conversion, they would be extremely helpful presentations. I recommend them to anyone on that journey. Of course, I disagreed in places and had questions, but the majority of these presentations were enjoyable and beneficial to work through.

2. The presentation on purgatory was particularly good because Hahn related his own objections and his strong belief in the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. His focus on the application of that atonement was, in many ways, similar to what I’ve heard from reformed teachers like John Piper. Hahn related purgatory to an overall view of suffering in the Christian life and did an excellent overview of that theme in Romans 8. I recommend this presentation above all the others.

3. Though we might have some substantial differences on the subject of purgatory, I felt Hahn’s view would make for an interesting conversation with the views of C.S. Lewis, who believed in purgatory, and N.T. Wright, who rejects purgatory but believes scripture teaches much on an interim state.

4. Many of Hahn’s Biblical insights in these presentations were brilliant. It is obvious that his Catholic setting as a scholar has placed him in a different position to approach the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, than many Protestants can appreciate. It is a richer, deeper sense of interpreting the Bible from within the church than many Protestants would attempt. Again, I would not join him in all of his conclusions, but his method was admirable, usually sound and often very suggestive of deep and helpful Biblical themes.

5. But then there was the presentation on Mary. Much of that material can be found here and perhaps elsewhere on the net.

I know that many of my RC friends believe I have a “Mary problem,” but that is really not the case. I would agree completely with Scot McKnight’s views on Mary. I believe that the great common areas of Marian doctrine that can and should be affirmed in the three major Christian traditions should be emphasized without embarrassment or reluctance.

I share a strong view of the communion of saints and the active role of those who have gone on to the church triumphant. I am not distressed by ideas of prayer that include the intercession of those who are with Christ. I am not opposed to the honoring of Mary as the mother of the divine Son of God, the incarnate Jesus, a model of the church and source of particular imitation and inspiration.

But in the one hour plus I listened to Hahn on this topic, I could feel the pain. And I didn’t bring any Tylenol either.

I could feel the pain of the Marian dogmas that have been propagated and made mandatory most recently, and the lack of simple, obvious Biblical evidence for those dogmas.

I could feel the stress of following a trail through scripture that was worthy of an Indiana Jones movie. And that is not an exaggeration. Hahn’s wild ride through the Old Testament to prove his points made the dispensationalist teaching of the rapture seem like John 3:16.

Again and again, Hahn told of “little known” aspects of the Queen-Mother theme in ancient middle eastern monarchies. Again and again, he said that “deeper study” would reveal the role of the Queen Mother. Again and again, he attempted to prove that the ark of the covenant is a Biblical symbol for Mary. With full knowledge that NO Protestant scholars buy his equation of the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12 with Mary, he persisted in insisting that the ark in the temple at the end of Revelation 11 and the woman in Revelation 12 are the same person.

These are fascinating views and have deep roots in Catholicism, but they aren’t laying there in the texts of scripture to be found and believed. They are a brew of centuries of Catholic scholarship finding what needs to be there.

Taking every available shortcut, and totally avoiding Mark 3, Hahn gave the expected view that Mary was ever virgin and had no other children. He cited the Protestant reformers as allies in this view, which is hardly a useful tactic if you intend to say those same reformers were wrong about so much else. Again, plain statements of scripture? Not available apparently.

He nobly attempted to explain why Joseph would have not had sexual relations with his wife despite the plain language of the Bible by saying Joseph would have considered marital sex and other children as an “unworthy use” of the virgin’s womb. One analogy compared Mary’s womb to fine China and marital sex to a picnic with plastic plates. This negative view of marital sex is something that simply can’t be brought into Christianity without deep negative consequences. Defending such an unnatural marriage with such analogies is insulting to those of us who are willing to listen and think through these difficult topics.

Word to all readers: Augustine was screwed up on the subject of sex and so were lots of other revered early church writers. MAJORLY SCREWED UP. Being great pastors and theologians doesn’t help straighten out the view that Joseph wouldn’t have wanted to defile the holy womb with regular marital sexual relations. Read Paul’s writings on marital sex and ask yourself if Augustine and Jerome were paying attention.

After all this desperation, Hahn never attempted a justification of any kind of the assumption of Mary, only resorted to a logical explanation of the immaculate conception and took for granted that Marian appearances, titles and piety contained nothing of interest. As seems to be the case so often, when we’ve gotten this far into what the church teaches on scanty or no evidence, there’s little hesitancy to put the brakes on or answer the huge questions that emerge.

As I said, a Protestant like myself feels that this sort of presentation is a painful exercise. Much of the “Biblical evidence” was of a kind that could never be brought into a neutral setting and presented seriously. It was as if the subtext was supposed to overtake the text: If you can believe all the rest, you can find a way to wrap your mind around this and make it work.

In other words, how much do you want to be in communion with the true church?

The issue for Protestants like myself is that the core Marian dogmas are important and almost all affirmable. But the more recent ones, and the more recent attempts to make all of this “Biblical” via various exegetical adventures, almost seems like tests for how much a Protestant is willing to surrender over to the teaching of the church what cannot be discovered or articulated any other way except dogmatically. If you persist in sayng these matters must be clearly demonstrated from scripture, something is going to have to give. See what the church sees and forget what you don’t see.

As I said, that’s real pain for some of us.

For many of us, that is also an insurmountable obstacle. Better- far, far better- to just say “The Church teaches it,” than to send Scott Hahn out to try and convince me that the Queen Mother Bathsheba proves the exalted role of Mary. Please.

I appreciated Scott Hahn’s presentations and learned much about his faith and his journey. It was helpful. He anticipated almost all of my objections to most of his subjects and answered them well, if not convincingly.

But on the subject of Mary it remains impossible to see why one must affirm the assumption of Mary in order to come to the Lord’s Table. Such a dogmatic hoop is there only to emphasize the necessity of submission of the mind and conscience to the church. As long as I can read the Bible for myself with reason and a modestly critical hermeneutic, I’ll never be able to affirm these dogmas.

Comments

  1. I’d be interested, and more importantly believe that other readers might appreciate the thoughts of some of us Catholics on this scenario.

    I have answered my own question at the end. If I am wrong, I’d like to know, but I’d ask you to please reference as specifically as possible what Church document I need to read, and what section, to understand my error. Between EWTN, Vatican.va, and NewAdvent.com almost anything should be available online.

    Festus is Catholic (A baptized member of the Catholic faith, receiving the sacraments). He finds that he feels unable to truly ‘believe’ in the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. He doesn’t feel able to believe it is appropriate to pray to Mary. He does acknowledge the authority of the Church, although these difficulties challenge him so that he feels weak, even in trusting the Church. This reaches a crisis and he consults a spiritual adviser.

    He does not hold an opposing belief – does not firmly believe that Mary sinned etc. He simply doesn’t feel that he does or is able to fully believe.

    Festus is advised by the spiritual adviser to pray, and do his best to be willing to believe, to ask for God’s grace to grow in faith.

    Festus agrees to do this to the best of his ability. He follows through pretty well, but work, family life – His prayer life is not exemplary. The situation persists for years. Yet, Festus more or less periodically make an effort to remain open to faith and often at Sunday mass manages to ask Jesus for the grace to believe.

    1) What is Festus’ status within the Church?
    2) Should Festus be receiving communion?
    3) What if he dies in this state?
    4) What is the minimum number of Hail Marys that Festus must say?

    Truly, It didn’t occur to me as I concocted this, but I really feel sorry for Festus.

    My Answers:
    1) Festus’ status within the Church is unaffected by these circumstances to the extent that he honestly tries to be open to the grace he needs to believe. It is not for anyone but Festus, God, and maybe his confessor to judge whether he is ‘honestly’ trying to be open. This would change if he became convinced of a contrary belief, and unwilling change. In that case, technically his status changes, his communion with the Church is compromised. His refusal to listen to the Church, to try to believe, becomes a sin (because he is refusing to listen to Jesus through the Church). Is this a mortal sin??? I don’t know.

    2) Yes! Festus Should be receiving communion!! Because the grace available in the sacrament will help him in his faith!!! Assuming he hasn’t committed mortal sins blah blah blah. His inability to fully accept these doctrines is not a sin, as long he remains willing, or at least tries to remain willing to believe.

    3) Only God judges. The Church does not a speculate on Festus ultimate salvation (except in the case of sainthood).

    4) 0 – Festus does not have to pray any Hail Marys. I would personally recommend that he force himself to say at least one a day – always asking for grace. In fact, I would recommend he say the Rosary every day in front of the blessed sacrament asking Mary to lead him into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

    Blast me! But please, point me to some official source to correct my error.

    Paul

  2. As a Festus, or former one, I agree with you. To use an analogy that I found useful, I think of Jesus as a tree. We are climbing toward heaven. The doctrines are branches, if some of us chose not to climb using branches that others see as strong, then that is our decision.

    I would also recommend that he relax, but possibly find an icon of Mary that he likes (just for its beauty) and have that in his house.

    From a personal stand point, one Hail Mary is good, but 50 of them. Some of us are truely unable to talk and mediate at the same time.

  3. To Jeff M,

    As I wrote above, there is so much in the Christian Gospel that contradicts and changes what is clearly written in the OT. The Bereans searched the Scriptures, but they must have had to change the way they valued many verses about the Sabbath, God, circumcision, the Law, and the chosen people. The preponderance of evidence in the OT does not predict many of the Christian innovations. And yet when Paul preached to them they could harmonize these things with the OT.

    I think Marian doctrine’s and scripture can be viewed in a similar light. Should we be like the Bereans or Thessalonians?

    I am not trying to convert anyone to RCC, I am just trying for better understanding of the role of Scripture and how rigidly we should interpret it.

  4. I, too, can identify with your Festus. Marian doctrines were the hardest for me to come to grips with as a result of my prostant faith formation. What really helped me was in fact, praying the rosary, and truly looking to Mary as a mother. “Hold me in your arms, and carry me to Jesus,” I would always say. What tipped me off were Christ’s words on the cross, “Woman, behold your son” and to John: “Behold your mother.” How beautitful! Surly this is quite important if Jesus is use his last words to ensure his mother loves us and is loved by us.

    As for Festus, I’d say he’s in a good spot. Faith is a gift, and it comes to us all in differnt ways and different times. So long as we remain open, our Lord’s grace will overwhelm us with his Truth. I find the most important prayer to pray is simply this:

    “Lord, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.”

  5. Joe M,
    I must disagree with you wholeheartedly. There in nothing in the NT that contradicts or changes the OT. There may be things that come into clearer focus for us from the OT in the NT, but that is a different thing. God has never changed. Abraham was justified by faith, just like you and me.(Romans 4) There is a dangerous vein of teaching within the church that suggests that God in the NT is different that God in the OT. That He somehow because nicer and more loving or something. This is false. He has always been long-suffering and patient with sinners. The Jews weren’t saved by “keeping the law”. They were saved by trusting in God, by faith in His promises.
    In fact, if you study the Jewish Feasts, you will see that they were and are dress rehearsals for what God had planned to do from the beginning. Do you think it was a grand coincidence that Jesus died on Passover and fulfilled the meaning of Passover at the same time? When Jesus taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he didn’t have the NT to show them. He was showing them what the OT said about Him. It is in there. The whole book is about Him.
    Jeff M

  6. JayH: Yes, I was referring to The Protoevangelium of James.

    Sorry for not responding sooner; I’ve been somewhat busy.

  7. I wonder if you are disappointed in how the convert apologists present the RCC?

    Yes. There is a tone in many(not all) of their writings that grates on me.
    Most likely it reminds me of how much I’ve simply wanted to be right and rest in that instead of living the journey. I’m not saying that’s what the apologists are doing so simmer down out there. I just recognize a certain tone that I’ve had (and still have at times). A tone of a one upmanship of sorts.
    All the apologist stuff makes my head hurt.
    I understand it’s important but it’s the living it that’s much harder and more important. If you’ve experienced someone living their faith in a way that brings tears to your eyes while knowing they couldn’t expound one bit on the technicalities then you know what I mean. That doesn’t mean the two can’t or don’t coexist but if I had to choose God help me live it better than I can speak it.

    Michael, your willingness to read and explore and wrestle with all of this challenges me to keep an open mind. Actually the other day my husband bought John Eldridge’s Wild At Heart book on CD. I thought to myself, if Michael can listen to 5 hours of Scott Hahn then I can listen to John Eldridge. 🙂

  8. Memphis Aggie says

    Gee, you don’t keep up with a site for a few days and wow over 100 posts on Scott Hahn no less! Thanks for keeping us posted Michael

  9. Alvin Kimel says

    I would like to invite folks to go back and re-read Matthew Petersen’s comments. Matthew is NOT Catholic, nor is he Orthodox. I believe that he is presently attending a Reformed congregation. But he reads Scripture with a truly catholic mind. I know that his comments about Mary may at first sound bizarre, but that is because the typological-figurative reading of Scripture does not come naturally to us any longer. It’s a skill that needs to be acquired. We have to put on a different set of spectacles.

    That is probably why the invocation of authority is the first thing Catholics do when speaking to Protestants who are inquiring about Mary: “Trust the Church,” “trust the magisterium,” “believe the dogmas,” etc. Though this sounds like an arrogant assertion of authority, it really isn’t. It’s just that until one is willing to trust magisterial teaching about Mary, one will never make the effort to read Scripture differently, with a catholic-typological-symbolic mind as opposed to a critical-literal-propositional mind.

    I do not talk a lot about Mariology because, quite frankly, I have not yet acquired fluency in this dimension of the language of faith. This is a real problem, because this lack affects my reading of the biblical narrative. This became clear to me while reading some of the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar. I like Balthasar because he reads Scripture as story, rather than as a theological textbook. But he tells the story differently than any Protestant I had ever read. He tells it differently because the person of Mary has a constitutive role within the narrative. It is this role, by the way, that the Marian dogmas are intended to protect.

    This is why I harp about our fundamental ability to rightly discern the fullness of Christian faith and practice by the reading of Scripture alone. So much more is involved. What we are talking about is our immersion into the language of faith, into a way of life, into an imaginative and symbolic vision. We have to learn to see and feel and experience the world differently. We have to take on a different mind, a new heart. The reading of the Church Fathers is essential here. Even more decisive is immersion into the eucharistic-liturgical-ascetical life of the Church. The Eastern Orthodox understand this dimension of spiritual formation better than anyone. If anyone reading this blog is not already a regular reader of Fr Stephen Freeman, then I encourage you to start reading his blog “Glory to God.” Abbot Joseph’s blog “Word Incarnate” is also excellent. What I appreciate about both is the patristic vision they are able to express. It has a depth and profundity that much contemporary Protestant, and sadly Latin Catholic, writing simply cannot touch. It cannot touch it because it has been cut off from the deep sacramental-imaginative-spiritual roots of catholic faith and practice.

    And perhaps this is the answer to the question earlier raised by Michael: “What benefits in regard to Christ are not available to me as a Protestant?” In my earlier comment I suggested that the question itself is problematic, because it places us in the position of spiritual consumer, looking for the best deal in town. Ultimately, though, do we want to be where God wants us to be, regardless of immediate benefit? But I also want to acknowledge the legitimacy of the question. The benefit of full communion with the Church Catholic is immersion in not just “mere” Christianity–Christianity cut down to the bare minimum–but in full Christianity. It is formation in that objective wholeness of truth and life that God intends for his people.

  10. ““I wonder if you are disappointed in how the convert apologists present the RCC?”

    Yes. There is a tone in many(not all) of their writings that grates on me.
    Most likely it reminds me of how much I’ve simply wanted to be right and rest in that instead of living the journey. I’m not saying that’s what the apologists are doing so simmer down out there. I just recognize a certain tone that I’ve had (and still have at times). A tone of a one upmanship of sorts.”

    I have a very hard time understanding why those who read – anything – seem unable or unwilling to put things in context.

    Catholic apologists exist because the Catholic faith gets attacked. Just like Theist apologists exist because atheists attack belief in God (see Dawkins, R., etc.) The TR apologists exist because they belive whatever their version of true Christianity is being attacked by Emergents or Michael Spencer or whoever.

    That’s what apologetics IS. It’s not theology. It’s not spiritual writing. It’s not ecclesiology. It’s not Scripture. By nature it is explanatory and defensive.

    So, Catholic apologists are answering those who are attacking the Catholic faith from any number of directions. Attacked for being irrational or pagan or non-Biblical or just stupid. You name it.

    Ordinary Catholics out here in the world get it from their friends, neighbors, family members. They ask the apologists for help. The apologists help by way of websites, talks, and books.

    So?

    Why is this even controversial? Look at Dave Armstrong, for example. The guy is in constant conversation/dialogue/battle with various Protestant apologists – yes, apologists – so that shapes his writing. That’s what he’s doing – he’s answering attacks.

    It’s one little corner of life. If you don’t like it, why bother with it? I could say “I’m bothered by anti-Catholic apologists” and go on nattering about how much they bother me, but the best answer would be to just not read James White. Or if I’m bothered by the TR blogs…don’t read them.

    If you’re “disappointed” in the apologists, then read other Catholics. Read Pope Benedict. Read Theresa of Avila. Read Therese of Liseux. Read Dorothy Day. Read Bonaventure. I don’t care.

    But why be “disappointed” in apologists just doing what apologists always have done?

  11. Memphis Aggie says

    I just read your full post and I think I might have a unique perspective. I’m a Marian Catholic at heart. I believed in the sanctity of the Mother-child relationship before I believed in God at all. I decided to become a Catholic on the feast of the Assumption. I fully believe that Mary shielded the seed of faith in my heart until it could grow strong enough to stand on it’s own. I also completely and comfortably accept all of the Marian dogmas and some of the Marian visions (Fatima & Lourdes) even though we are not required to do so. I wear a Marian medallion (the Miraculous Medal), recite the rosary whenever I can and believe She interceded on our behalf in the birth of my second son. I even have a Marian garden in my backyard. In other words I’m hip deep in the Marian life (although it feels like I’ve only just started to offer Her the praise she deserves).

    Despite all this I completely agree with you Michael. You are exactly right – there is no clear cut Biblical support for a lot of Marian dogma. I don’t find the Bathsheba example compelling either. It’s fishing for support of conclusion already made rather than reasoning from the evidence of scripture. Frankly when I first converted from Judaism I didn’t find the references to Christ in the Old Testament that compelling or clear cut either, and they are certainly more developed. However this is really about Authority, not Mary. If the Pope dogmatically decided tomorrow that the Gospel of St Mark was false and decided to toss it, I’d be shocked, but I’d accept it. For me Church > Bible and that is exactly why Marian dogma is such a stumbling block because, for Protestants, the equation is reversed (Bible > Church). The controversy over Mary s really a consequence of our disparate views on Authority.

  12. On Dr. Scott Hahn

    “Luther in Reverse” – Don’t be thinking that any significant number of Catholics of any stripe go around actually thinking that. It was just a radio spot tag line to hype up interest in broadcasts. It might have been printed as a quote on the jacket of “Rome Sweet Home” in some editions. It’s just a sales pitch people stuck on him. It sounds pithy and it irks protestants.

    Although Dr. Hahn has done some apologetics and is very capable, he is not a professional apologist. His conversion story was taped (without his knowledge at the time I believe) and widely distributed (with his permission). In the early years his wife wrote the book covering their conversion. He released and sold a few tape sets. He did some bible study and faith formation on EWTN. You might recall he ‘torpedoed’ his own career when he converted and had a family with like 5 kids to feed. Eventually, after they recovered from the ‘10.0 earthquake’ of their conversion and Scott settled in to steady job and writing career, he stopped releasing tapes, doesn’t do many interviews, he’s not on the radio all the time any more.

    Very little of his audio / video stuff is strictly apologetic. Mostly its conversion story and study.

    I’m not sure if I’ve read most of his books, but I can see 4 of them from where I sit (one that I haven’t yet read). His books are not apologetic.

    I am not qualified to rate his writing as far as theology, but I like them because he manages to write fairly sophisticated theological ideas in a manner that I can understand without have to reread repeatedly and diagram and refer to dictionaries and etc. I don’t read them strictly speaking as theology. It is more a theologically informed spiritual meditation.

    Just my 2 cents

    Paul

  13. Anglican Peggy says

    This may not be actually pertinent to over-all post, but I have come to believe in at least the plausibility that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. However, I also think that this possibility doesn’t necessarily have to denigrate marital sex. One possible alternate explaination could be that Joseph could quite possibly have been too old or ill and was quite content to have her as his companion and allow her to concentrate on raising Jesus. Given the extraordinary events that he witnessed, he might have been less inclined to see his marriage in the traditional Jewish way.

    Now, I’ll be the last to claim that there is any explicit evidence of this in Scripture and the first to admit that its speculation, but its intriguing to me nonetheless. What is the details of the tradition are correct and have subsequently accrued incorrect theological interpretations?

    If we accept the idea that Joseph had already had one wife before Mary and children from that union, then he would have been quite a bit older than Mary at the time of their marriage. This is not unheard of especially back then. Then imagine that his good health and vigor began to fail quite naturally only once he had completed his mission to protect the Christ-child and his Mother and see them safely back to Galilee (Could he have been preserved from infirmity until then? & Of course, by old I mean what would have been old back then in his fourties or fifties) If he quickly declined after the return from Eygpt, then this might explain why there is so little material regarding him. Most would agree, I think, that Joseph had to be already dead by at least the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus if not long before then. If he was much older than Mary, this is easy to imagine. Whatsmore, if he had been struck down untimely, his early end might have rated a mention whereas the natural end of a long and good life wouldn’t have.

    This might be further supported by the many images of Joseph as an older man. I believe that tradition can preserve facts even long after the true narrative is lost. Are the images of Joseph as a white-haired yet hale older man just such a case?

    The reason that I like this notion (and I do not make the mistake that it is anything more than that) it preserves what may well be the facts about Joseph and Mary preserved by tradition without the negative interpretation given to these facts by later theologians. It may have been that God did indeed want to preserve Mary to be dedicated her whole life to Him alone. But if that is the case, such preservation of her would not have been from some kind of stain or degradation but merely to keep her focus on him and remain faithful to him alone. It could also have been something as simple as that God wanted Mary to concentrate on raising Jesus without other children to compete for her attention.

    Again let me repeat that I do not believe this as a matter of faith. I believe it as a possibility that there could be some truth to the tradition that Mary remained a virgin. In which case, I don’t think it should be rejected whole-cloth. It might be better to simply be somewhat agnostic about it and perhaps take from it whatever might benefit you. For instance, I personally have no problem with the idea of Mary being specially dedicated to God and thinking along these lines helped me to understand better what such dedication might mean as far as my own understanding of my faith. It has been something which I have only come to meditate upon via thinking of Mary and of her life. Others might come to such an understanding and comfort with the idea through the same channel. Who knows? Should we close off any avenue which might lead to a deeper understanding or a deeper faith?

  14. It seems that within the rather broad tent of Christianity that there are 4 general ideas about the nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

    A. It is THE true church.
    B. It is a true church.
    C. It is a false church.
    D. It is THE false church.

    A would seem to be the position of devout Roman Catholics and a handful of others who have yet to convert to the RCC.

    B would include a vast number of ecumenically minded Protestants who disagree with the RCC on matters like Mariology, the Papacy, Purgatory and so forth, but still think it is a true church. I’m assuming this is also the position of most in the Eastern Orthodox world as well, but am not familiar enough with them to say emphatically. There may also be some Roman Catholics, who have wandered a little too far from the Tiber, who hold this position also.

    C would be the position of many evangelicals who are convinced that the RCC teaches a false gospel. Most Calvinists I’ve ever met fall in this category (J.I. Packer and Timothy George being notable exceptions). Many conservative baptists tend to hold this position as well. A lot of KJV Only folks also are in this camp (though many hold to position D).

    D includes those who believe that the RCC (or at least the Pope) is the beast of Revelation. A lot of independent baptists, some Calvinists, Seventh Day Adventists and John Hagee types tend to fall in this category.

    My own position is B. That is why I sound different when I’m debating with those on this thread who hold to position A and those in other places who hold to positions C or D.

  15. It’s the tone I have a problem with and as I said that’s on my radar due to my own problem with tone, Lisa. Someone else may read them and not detect that tone. I read them as my journey took me towards Catholicism. I was sure if I only had all the answers and could answer any apologetic question then I could prove to others that my decision was sound. So really it’s my own upmanship attitude that’s the issue for me.

  16. Checking back in. WIth Paul’s capable help, it’s been a good thread.

    I finished reading Bouyer’s Spirit and Forms of Protestantism today. A devastating critique. More on that at my other blog (JSS) maybe tomorrow.

    Let me just make one comment that seems to go across the board with all of us.

    Protestants tend to answer everything as if the church doesn’t exist unless they invent it with they current approach to the Bible, etc.

    RCs tend to answer everything with the presupposition that Christianity equals their current church, all its dogma, all its history, etc.

    So it’s easy to say that I am missing “the whole of Christianity” when you start with that presupposition.

    And it makes a critique like Bouyer’s powerful.

    But the fact is that the question of what do I get of CHRIST in the RCC that I don’t have now is really a test of to what extent you identify Jesus with everything in your church. For instance, if you believe Jesus set up the church to be the mediator of his mediation, the dispenser of the sacraments that convey saving grace, then OF COURSE I’m missing out. Duh.

    But to convince me that I do not have the fullness of God through faith in Christ now is going to take more than a presuppositional announcement.

    And I’m sure the EOs out there would have a thing or two to say about how much the fullness of knowing Christ is associated with submission to the bishop of Rome.

    ANd then there’s what one sees in the life. I know some amazingly Holy and Jesus like people- martyrs and servants- who are no where near the RCC. Is this like the Charismatics I used to know who would debate among themselves how Billy Graham could have all that unction if he wasn’t baptized in the Spirit and speaking in tongues? 🙂

    peace

    cya all tomorrow when I get some connectivity.

    MS

  17. Michael,

    But the fact is that the question of what do I get of CHRIST in the RCC that I don’t have now is really a test of to what extent you identify Jesus with everything in your church. For instance, if you believe Jesus set up the church to be the mediator of his mediation, the dispenser of the sacraments that convey saving grace, then OF COURSE I’m missing out. Duh.

    But to convince me that I do not have the fullness of God through faith in Christ now is going to take more than a presuppositional announcement.

    EXACTLY – I think?!? ‘fullness of God’ doesn’t quite work for me, but otherwise.

    In terms of purely intellectual endeavor, study and reason there seems to be an impasse. Doesn’t there seem to be chasm between Protestant positions and Catholic positions that is nigh near impossible to span by reason or argument? Certainly it seems pretty impossible to drag or entice someone across by intellectual means.

    I propose that it may be an inherent limitation of the Ameri-Proto-Catholic Apologetics is that because of the emphasis on Biblical arguments and adaptation to appeal to or deflect Protestant apologists it gets caught up in fighting running skirmishes and is thus prevented from really engaging on more fundamental differences.

    In past discussions (here and elsewhere) and even earlier on this topic, I have often gotten the feeling that Protestants think Authority and Magisterium and Hierarchy are appendages, or stand alone doctrines in Catholicism. Certainly fits with the theory of accretion that many subscribe to. I think what I have learned in this discussion is how important it is to recognize and acknowledge that the major doctrine of Catholic teaching are intertwined and support each other.

    I like what Lisa posted:
    … but it’s the living it that’s much harder and more important. If you’ve experienced someone living their faith in a way that brings tears to your eyes while knowing they couldn’t expound one bit on the technicalities then you know what I mean. That doesn’t mean the two can’t or don’t coexist but if I had to choose God help me live it better than I can speak it.

    Conversion is brought about by the Holy Spirit when we get our wants, demand and egos out of the way. All the division and problems in the Church are created by us, not God. The problems will always be there because we are all human, but if we live out our faith heroically, it will get better.

    God Bless

    Paul

  18. Dang, I was trying to get that posted quickly and it needed more attention. Excuse my poor editing.

    Paul

  19. Jeff,
    You are right. Most Christians (as do I) agree that the OT and the NT are in harmony and one complements the other.

    Of course Jews do come to Christ and can find him as a fulfillment of the OT, the Messiah. But many OT scholars and Jews (people of the Book) have not seen it that way. I am no scholar, but I just don’t think that it is very obvious reading the OT that all these Christian changes would necessarily follow. God is now a Trinity – yes you can find this in the OT but it is hard to see unless you are open to something new. The Sabbath, the day of rest, tied into the creation of the world is now replaced by Christ That is hard to see considering its huge importance in the OT. Circumcision, a perpetual covenant, is replaced by baptism.

    The Apostles, even after being with Jesus for three years, meeting Him after the resurrection, and receiving the Spirit, they too had difficulty with these issues – including the eating of unclean food (until special revelation). None of these issues were obvious to them from their knowledge of the OT scriptures. They argued about these issues and it is not clear that they were all (Sabbath) settled by the end of the First Century.

    It seems to me that for the Jews of Berea to find these things in the OT they must have searched carefully but they must have also changed their priority of certain themes that permeate the OT. And while I might not always be persuaded by it, Scott Hahn’s method of hunting for Marian doctrine in Scripture may not be all that different than this.

  20. Joe,
    I think we would both agree that understanding Scripture isn’t always easy. It does require and openness to understanding. But I do believe that the Holy Spirit assists us as believers in understanding God and His Word.
    I am not certain where you got the idea that Christ replaced the Sabbath or even what you mean by that. Christ spoke against the legalism that the Sanhedrin had placed on the Sabbath, but He didn’t do away with it in any form. The church did decide that it should be moved to Sunday and then proceeded to enforce some Pharisee like rules on that day, which I am certain Christ would have decried in similar fashion. There was a lot of disagreement about the Sabbath in the early church because some wanted to codify this idea of Sunday worship to eliminate “Jewish” influence. But God instituted the Sabbath and never changed it. In fact, Isaiah 66:23 plainly states that we will continue to worship God on the Sabbath in the new heavens and the new earth that God is making, which means that the Sabbath hasn’t changed and won’t change(I do still worship on Sunday, because Paul said frankly that whatever day we celebrate should be done for the Lord and I wouldn’t have a problem with having church on Tuesday or Friday or any other day). As I said before, I don’t think God has changed anything. It is true that some of the things in the OT remained a mystery(not understood fully) until the arrival of Christ. But with the Holy Spirit and the revelation that Jesus has given us of the Father, I don’t think we are similarly limited in our understanding.
    To be sure, I am much happier rejoicing in the things that we do agree on. But I also value finding out why we differ and continuing to learn. I don’t have any corner on the truth. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn. I am just enjoying the journey. Thanks again for sharing.
    Jeff

  21. You say it so well. God Bless and thanks.

  22. Memphis Aggie says

    “But to convince me that I do not have the fullness of God through faith in Christ now is going to take more than a presuppositional announcement.”

    This statement turns on the “fullness” term and the “through faith” phrase. I would propose that none of us has the “fullness” of God bestowed on them in this life and that this is a conflation sanctity and salvation and a Protestant concept of security. You’re saved through faith. But sanctity and growing in holiness is a slow process and the consolations offered by God exceed even salvation. I don’t doubt that you can grow in sanctity outside the Church, through acts of charity and humility offered for Christs glory. However within the Church there are sacramental mechanisms to support you and help you persevere like the very under appreciated sacrament of confession.

    Of course the very need to “persevere” in the faith is Catholic. If you accept a bullet proof notion of salvation in that once you’ve proclaimed Christ you’re irreversibly golden I guess you would not see any benefit of the sacraments or the Church. There are some beliefs which are too alien to Catholicism to be reconciled and the concept of perfect security is one of them.

    Another is deal breaker is the “through faith” Sola Fide idea. If salvation is all God bestows then faith is sufficient. In the light of Matthew 25 I don’t believe this, but if you held to this Sola and salvation is all you seek from God then again where’s your motivation to enter the Church? Now I can’t understand how anyone could say they love God and seek to do just the minimum heavenly requirements and nothing else. That’s not loving God, that’s using Him as a vehicle. Further I believe God has many graces and consolations to bestow because generosity and super abundance are His nature. Who wouldn’t want the serenity of St Francis or the joy of St Faustina?

    Obviously there is also the Eucharist and how you view John 6:53. I understand reception of communion as a literal requirement. However I also believe God will feed the righteous who are outside the Church on the last day, because I believe in His great over-riding Mercy and love as a defining part of His character. Further because Christ was critical of the insular legalistic Judaic world I can’t imagine that He does not intend that His gift be “laid before all” (the meaning of the word catholic) even through mechanisms outside the Church. However I expect that graces of this kind (outside the Church) are extraordinary and therefore uncertain. Security is in the Church for a Catholic, because graces received within Her are the ordinary (although still miraculous) fruits of obedience.

    So packed into your statement is a distillation of Protestant thought. I can’t refute it, I’m no apologist, but I can unzip and extract the concepts so you can see how many differences are embodied in that single comment.

  23. Alvin Kimel says

    The talks of the recent St Alban & St Sergius conference at St Vladimir’s Seminary are now available at the Ancient Faith Radio. I particularly commend, in light of the talking points of this thread, the talk given by Richard John Neuhaus.

  24. Jeff M.

    I am sorry to not respond sooner to your question about the date of Easter, and early schisms. I remember reading a book on the early schisms, maybe 15 years ago but I can’t locate it in my book pile. I only have a general sense of the controversies and schisms of the first 1000 years. I reread the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Eastern Churches the other day, and was reminded of how tangled it all is. Keeping all the different groups straight even is such a chore!

    You are probably better informed than I am.

    I do have 2 thoughts to throw out though.

    First, my limited knowledge of history, I’d say personalities and political / economic issues and pride, both individual and national played a significant role in nearly every schism. In many or most schisms such issues seem to have been very significant. The Roman Church contributed its part to those causes, particularly leading up to the reformation and the way Martin Luther was handled but also in dealings with the Eastern Churches.

    Second, regarding the schisms in the early Church. The way I read the history, it seems that all of the Churches in those days took schism very seriously. The fact that so many Bishops and Patriarchs excommunicated each other is a scandal, but in a way, it also shows that visible unity was something that they valued – otherwise there would have been no point to the excommunication.

    God Bless,

    Paul

  25. Memphis Aggie,

    Great Post. Thanks.

    Paul

  26. Memphis Aggie says

    Thanks Paul

  27. Jeff M

    In my post above I didn’t properly distinguish between schism and heresy. Some of the divisions in the early Church were over heresy and so are not technically schism. Martin Luther and the reformation began as an issue of doctrine. Some scholars believe that if his case had been handled more gently Luther would have eventually found a way to reconcile his original positions. As it was, he was excommunicated as a heretic.

    The Eastern Orthodox Churches (16 of them) are in schism from the Catholic Church. There are fragments of other Eastern Churches that are also in heresy. You might want to read the Decree on Ecumenism Chapter 3 that addresses the Eastern Orthodox.

    The following quote refers to several encyclicals regarding the Eastern Churches. Maybe one of them specifically addresses the question of the date of Easter. The “without narrowness” refers to rite and theological formulations.

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1908 edition) available online at newadvent.org.
    In the Encyclical “Praeclara gratulationis’, of 20 June, 1894, that has been often described as “Leo XIII’s testament”, he again turned to the Eastern Churches and invited them in the most courteous and the gentlest way to come back to communion with us. He assures schismatics that no great difference exists between their faith and ours, and repeats once more that he would provide for all their customs without narrowness (Orth. Eastern Church, 434, 435). It was this letter that called forth the unpardonably offense answer of Anthimos VII of Constantinople (op. cit., 435-438). Nor, as long as he lived, did Leo XIII cease caring for Eastern Churches. On 11 June, 1895, he wrote the letter “Unitas christiana” to be the Copts, and on 24 December of that same year he restored the Catholic Coptic patriarchate. Lastly, on 19 March, 1895, in a motu proprio, he again insisted on the reverence due to the Eastern Churches and explained the duties of Latin delegates in the East.

    As a last example of all, Pius X in his Allocution, after the now famous celebration of the Byzantine Liturgy in his presence on 12 February, 1908, again repeated the same declaration of respect for Eastern rites and customs and the same assurance of his intention to preserve them (Echos d’Orient, May, 1908, 129-31). Indeed this spirit of conservatism with regard to liturgies is in our own time growing steadily at Rome with the increase of liturgical knowledge, so that there is reason to believe that whatever unintentional mistakes have been made in the past (chiefly with regard to the Maronite and Catholic Armenian rites) will now gradually be corrected, and that the tradition of the most entire acceptance and recognition of other rites in the East will be maintained even more firmly than in the past.

    God Bless

    Paul

  28. Jeff M

    I had a minute while the toddler was napping, its gone now, but:

    I found from a 2006 Zenit article interviewing Bishop Brian Farrell the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
    who represented the Holy See at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Brazil, addresses the topic of ecumenism

    VATICAN CITY, 5 MARCH 2006 (ZENIT)
    quoting Bishop Farrell
    In relation to Easter, the Catholic Church has expressed her willingness to change the way of fixing the date to be in accord with the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox on the date, if a common solution can be found. We are willing. It is a very difficult problem.

    In the third century of the Church there were discussions on the date of Easter and they continue today. It is a point on which we talk and we will seek a solution. It would be a magnificent testimony before the world that Christians celebrate together, on the same day, the resurrection of Christ, the center of our faith.

  29. Paul,
    Thank you for your responses. I appreciate the information you found. Easter and Christmas have become more and more problematic to me the more I have studied. A few years ago, God placed a man in my path who had been studying and observing the Jewish feasts and Sabbath for a number of years. At first, I found it odd, but I knew his testimony of knowing Christ and the fruit of his life, so I asked him questions; lots and lots of questions. He teasingly tells me these days that I was supposed to tell him where he was wrong. A cursory glance through my blog will show that hasn’t been the case. The deeper I have dug for myself the more these tensions in church teaching grew. I have looked into the Catholic sources to see what they say about some of these issues and have often been left with more disappointment and frustration. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Easter indicates in the first sentence that the English word comes from says this, The English term, according to the Ven. Bede (De temporum ratione, I, v), relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring, which deity, however, is otherwise unknown, even in the Edda (Simrock, Mythol., 362)”. If the very name of the holiday is admittedly pagan in origin and the date is seemingly unconnected to its original anchor of the Passover, then what has the church(Catholic or otherwise) done to God’s purposes? This year was one that brought the differences of opinion on this particular matter into sharp contrast, and I am glad to see in your last post the information that there may be some reconciliation on the horizon. I am not certain that simply harmonizing the date for Easter will solve the deeper problem of reworking God’s ways in our own image. You see Christ didn’t come to create something new; He came to complete something old(eternal even).
    As a pastor, I have started to share some of what God has shown me with my congregation. The results have been very amazing. The richness of God’s Word has increased in my study to the point that I am amazed at how much I glossed over without a second thought before. I have never felt more humbled or hungry to know the riches of God. There is a real danger that I would stray farther off topic if I get going, so I will stop for now.

  30. Sorry, I have got to start hitting return twice between paragraphs. That thing looks like a giant runon thought. : )

  31. Sorry to Kepha whose comment didn’t make it. Don’t know why.

    I’ll be back home tomorrow afternoon and comments will be moderated again. I’ll be posting as review and repsonse to Bouyer’s Spirit and Forms of Protestantism over at Jesus Shaped Spirituality in a couple of minutes. I’m sure that will make for a lot of discussion.

  32. I thought Easter is merely the English word used. The countries with latin based languages use the word pasca relating to the pascal mystery.

  33. It is the English word used, but it shows the creeping influence of outside forces. The entry I quoted was the first lines from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry online at newadvent.org. Maybe that isn’t a good source for Catholic information. If so, I apologize.

    Pascha or its variations are the transliterated form of the Hebrew Pesach, which is Passover in English. Why did the church allow a known pagan association to be linked with “the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year”? This doesn’t even touch the pagan traditions that are a part of the Easter holidays. This kind of thing is disturbing to me. The entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia goes on to note the strong tie of Christ’s death and resurrection to Passover. This is from the Easter entry there: “The connection between the Jewish Passover and the Christian feast of Easter is real and ideal. Real, since Christ died on the first Jewish Easter Day; ideal, like the relation between type and reality, because Christ’s death and Resurrection had its figures and types in the Old Law, particularly in the paschal lamb, which was eaten towards evening of the 14th of Nisan.”

    The article goes on to explain why they couldn’t keep up with it because of the Julian calendar’s difference with the Jewish calendar. My big question is why the Church decided to dump the Jewish calendar, which was instituted by God, for the Julian calendar and then eventually a calendar of her own making? I don’t know that there is an easy answer for this, but it is something I am puzzling over.

  34. Jeff,

    While some of the practices of Messianic Jews trouble me at times, I do wish the church would spend some time commemorating the Jewish feasts. I don’t mean in the sense of the first century Judaizers, but in the sense that they are part of God’s work in history. In other words, they are part of the story.

  35. Jeff M,

    My perspective is probably about 170 degrees off of yours ;).

    Before I dig in, I am curious what you mean by ‘reworking God’s ways in our own image’? I’m getting an illegal syntax error.

    Also, I totally agree with your concept that the new testament is the fulfillment of the old. If you want to read any Catholic sources on that I can point you to some excellent resources.

    Onto origins of words, symbols and pagan influences in general. Firstly, I am far, far more concerned about the influences, false gods, idols and demons that are pervasive right here, right now than remnants of pagan history that were incorporated into Christian practice centuries ago.

    Second, I don’t believe there is any real meaning to symbols or words other than the meaning that we ourselves attach to them. I have several reasons for this. First and foremost is that Satan has power only when we believe his lies. I don’t believe that there is any word or symbol that can allow Satan to have any power over me or anything else, unless I believe that it has that power, and maybe not even then. Secondly, symbols and words have meaning because we give it meaning. Our intentions, and what we mean by using that word or symbol are all that matters, not what someone 700 years ago thought it meant. Christ gave the meaning to the cross. The early Christians gave the meaning to the fish symbol. Before Christ, the cross symbolized other things, some of which still carry some meaning – but the action of Christ on the cross gave it a new meaning. The ‘fish’ symbolized fish, until Christians invested a new meaning in it. Now today, many people probably don’t know what it means.

    Third, God created the world and all that is in it, and it was good! Specifically to paganism, which is primarily a worship of nature, although demonic practices might also be present I am not generally afraid of it. God created Man and the world, in a rustic way even with no knowledge of the Bible or Christ, Man can seek God and in Nature God has left his image in some way. The Catholic Church does not deny that non-Christian and nature religions can have elements of the Truth in them.

    Fourth, God can redeem and use anything for his purposes.

    Now, a pentagram or a swastika is a very disturbing symbol to me. When I see one, I immediately pray for my own soul, for the people around me and especially for the people associated with it. However, the symbols themselves have no power. It is the power of what they stand for in our present culture that makes my skin crawl. The people who use these symbols today use them because of what they mean in our day and time and they intend them to symbolize that very meaning. In 500 years, the memory of Auschwitz and horror movies may face into total obscurity and those two symbols may come to mean something else. Prior to the Nazis the swastika was innocuous and it is technically some form of a cross so it might of even had a Christian origin.

    I belong to an organization that uses a triangle inscribed in a circle as its primary symbol. There is another homosexual activist organization that uses the same geometric figure with pink and purple colors. I read somewhere once that is an ancient Satanic symbol. I also notices that it is in the one of the stained glass windows of the Cathedral at Chartes. The only thing it means to me is service, unity and recovery.

    The fact that Christmas is associated with Solstice and probably hijacked a pagan holiday and appropriated some pagan customs doesn’t trouble me at all. I don’t even have a problem celebrating Solstice just for Solstice! – I wouldn’t attach any pagan meaning to it. The Universe is Incredible! God’s work is unbelievable. The solstice is a Astronomical even, a feature of God’s creation. Man has used the solstice to mark time and set the calendar in every culture for about 6,000 years at least (obviously I am not a young world creationist!) I think it is a very appropriate day to praise GOD and celebrate the birth of Christ!

    In my family, my wife and I do try to be very conscious of our traditions. We do the easter bunny (although I’d kind of like to get rid of that) in a small way. Santa Clause has a Catholic origin, at least in part, but we try to keep that small as well because the modern world has really stripped it of anything useful. Holy week we go to Church every day but Saturday (no services). We actually fast and try to do extra prayers during lent. We make a real effort to observe advent. We don’t put the tree up until Christmas, not the day after thanksgiving. I am very concerned about the materialism associated with both holidays, and try to focus my children in other directions as much as reasonably possible.

    We even celebrate Halloween, but we also try to invest at least equal time celebrating All Saints day (Mas on All Saints and All Souls) . I’ll never let me kids dress up as demons or devils etc. We usually have an All Saints day party where kids dress up as a saint and give an oral report on their saint. Then we break a pinata.

    As for the liturgical Calendar in general. I am a scientist. The Gregorian Calendar is a better Calendar! I admit, I am not familiar with the Hebrew Calendar being divinely inspired. I am open to enlightenment.

    Actually, I have to tell you that this discussion makes me very happy to be a Catholic. I know you are genuinely trying to serve the Lord and live a Christian life. You are diligently trying to make your life reflect Jesus. I admire that. I wish a lot more Catholics were as sincere. I went through a time when I was reading, debating, following arguments and trying to figure out what God wanted, what Jesus meant for the Church to look like. I spent about 7 years doing that. I finally, through grace, came to actually have Faith. Faith in Jesus in general. Also, Faith that Jesus meant what he said: “On this Rock I will Build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” By God’s grace I came to totally trust in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. I can focus on prayer, worship and being a good husband and father instead of worrying whether I have somehow fallen into the wrong kind of Christianity. It truly is a great blessing.

    God Bless

    Paul

    BTW it looks like my perspective might actually be a full 180 degrees off yours.

  36. Oh Yes, as far as the Catholic Encyclopedia, I think it a great resource. That is why I contributed in small way for to the effort to get it into electronic form and make it available online. I find three downsides. It was published in 1908 so the articles had to be written before then. By necessity the articles are very condensed so difficult to read, and require lots of side trips to other articles if I am not very familiar with the topic. The online version, helpfully has blue highlighted hyperlinks, but every third word is highlighted and I find it distracting to read on the screen unless I reset my browser style sheet to display the links in black.

    God Bless

    Paul

  37. lonleypilgrim,
    That is more or less exactly where I am at. I think we can learn a lot be reclaiming the Jewish feasts into our Christian lives. God never intended for them to be done away with. There are still feasts that have fulfillment to be made. The Feast of Trumpets is a rehearsal of Christ’s Second Coming, just as the rehearsals of Passover and Pentecost were literally realized in history on those dates. Part of the story is yet to be realized and the Jews are still rehearsing the script.

  38. Paul,
    I agree with you totally about symbols, but let me add one thing. Even if they are totally innocuous to you because they have been used by Christendom for so long, many pagans and others outside the church see in them the corruption of Christianity itself. I believe it damages our witness to a lost and dying world in some places when we forget where those things come from. What we do with them on a personal level is completely between us and God, and I am not intending to condemn anyone or judge anyone in regards to them. If I have come across this way, I apologize for it. I am just trying to point it out so that we as believers can be aware of some of the stumbling blocks that the church has placed in some folks path.
    As for the Divine inspiration of the Hebrew calendar, let me make a couple of statements. God’s Feasts are tied to that calendar. He set them out on specific days of specific months of that calendar. Jesus also observed this method of timekeeping(not the Julian calendar that eventually was transformed into our current Gregorian one). We know this because the Bible tells us that he went up to celebrate the Feasts in Jerusalem with everyone else at the appointed times. Calendars are a funny thing really. I don’t pretend to know everything about them. There is a good article on them here.
    The author there makes some excellent points and tracks the Biblical relevance of the calendar the Jewish people use. Certainly the Gregorian calendar is more accurate in terms of what we observe astronomically, but in it we lose something that God is still doing today. The feasts are a testament to God’s faithfulness for all. We still have the Feast of Trumpets(where no one knows the day or the hour it begins) and the Feast of Tabernacles (where God draws all nations to Himself) to look forward to in time. I still have to live in a world dominated by man’s time, but I have made a conscious decision to pay attention to God’s time as well .

    You asked me about the statement, “reworking God’s ways in our own image”. Let me try to clarify with an example. God sets apart a day, Sabbath. He makes it clear that we will be keeping it forever(Isaiah 66:23). I did a post at my own blog in more depth on this a while back, but suffice it to say that we(the church) literally decided to move God’s Sabbath to Sunday as this quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia indicates:

    “The express teaching of Christ and St. Paul prevented the early Christians from falling into the excesses of Jewish Sabbatarianism in the observance of the Sunday, and yet we find St. Cæsarius of Arles in the sixth century teaching that the holy Doctors of the Church had decreed that the whole glory of the Jewish Sabbath had been transferred to the Sunday, and that Christians must keep the Sunday holy in the same way as the Jews had been commanded to keep holy the Sabbath Day.

    I know plenty of people who refuse to this day to do any work on Sunday and so forth because this is what they have been taught. It isn’t Scriptural and God never said it. We as people have taken what He did and changed it slightly for ourselves. That is what I was trying to say with that comment.

    I hope I haven’t left the impression that I am fretting over believing or “falling into” the wrong kind of Christianity. That isn’t where I am at at all. I am rejoicing at what God is showing me. I am about to start classes for my master’s degree and just got my books for the first ones. One of the books is Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright. I can’t remember the last time that I got excited about reading a “textbook” before classes even get started.

    Let me also say that I have enjoyed this discussion with you. I have learned a great deal from it. I appreciate particularly the information about the Catholic Encyclopedia. I didn’t realize that the info was that old. It is a good thing to know. Thanks for your work on it. It is a good resource for study.
    Blessings to you,
    Jeff

  39. Jeff M,

    I would say that Jesus fulfilled Yom Kippur also, but He didn’t do it on Yom Kippur. I have heard some Messianic Jews who claim that the 2nd coming will happen on Rosh Hashanah. I’ve heard some say that He was born on that day also. When I start hearing that sort of stuff that’s when they lose me.

    As to whether or not the feast days were intended to be permanent, I appeal to Paul’s statements in Romans 14 that one man honors special days and another honors all days the same and the neither is wrong.

  40. lonleypilgrim,
    I am in absolute agreement with you that Romans 14 leaves how and what we celebrate up to our individual consciences, but it doesn’t say that the feasts no longer mean anything or aren’t permanent. I have pointed out the passage from Isaiah 66 that speaks of celebrating the Sabbath and new moon(first of the month in Hebrew calendars) in the new heavens and new earth. Zechariah also has a prophecy of all the nations coming to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. And I think Paul was very clued in to the meaning and implications of the Jewish Feasts. Look at his reference to Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:20,23. The resurrection of Christ actually took place on the day the celebrated firstfruits and this makes the passage in Matthew 27:52-53 make a lot more sense in that light.

    I just read something earlier in Wright’s book that helps put into words where I am at with this. It also has application here as this blog has moved to the JSS phase.

    “When we look at events in the history of the Old Testament, with these points in mind[essentially that Christ validated the Old Testament and completed it] then it has several effects. It means first that whatever significance a particular event has, in terms of Israel’s own experience of God and in the articulation of their faith, is affirmed and validated. ‘What it meant for Israel’ does not just evaporate in a haze of spiritualization when we reach the New Testament. At the same time, secondly, we may legitimately see in the event, or in the record of it, additional levels of significance in the light of the end of the story – i.e. in the Light of Christ. And thirdly, conversely, the Old Testament event may provide levels of significance to our full understanding of all that Christ was and said and did.”

    As I have been studying these, I have seen this type of realization in my own life. I am not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking, I just get too excited to hold it in(plus I am a pastor and sometimes we don’t know when to stop talking.) My own blog posts have been reflective of this excitment, and I apologize if I am monopolizing the conversation here with it. For me it meshes perfectly with what I am getting from reading the iMonk and JSS blogs, because at its core it is a search to know Jesus as He was, a Jewish man and the Messiah, anointed Son of God.

  41. Hi, Michael.

    I found couple of links that lay out in more detail the Catholic Church’s understanding of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

    http://www.frtommylane.com/bible/enjoying_paul_old_testament/03_nt_gal1.19_brothers_sisters_jesus.htm

    http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap080300.htm

    In the case of the Marian dogmas, while these were proclaimed recently, they have been part of the traditions of the faith for centuries. What Catholics refer to as the Assumption is called the Dormition among Eastern Orthodox. Some of the other Marian beliefs are mentioned in the works of the early Church fathers and some extra-canonical texts such as the Protoevangelion of James.

    Good luck and God bless you,

    Bill

  42. Bill,

    But no one was required to believe those dogmas in order to take the Lord’s Supper until they were deogmatized.

  43. I think that it is possible that early Christians were not excluded from the Last Supper for not believing that Jesus was really God and man – not just God’s Son and not just the Messiah, or that God is really Three persons in One—- until the Council of Nicea.

    Is it possible that all these progressive refinements of the existing Faith, which were helped by the Holy Spirit, resulted in excluding previous church members?

  44. Yes, and some were better than others. The post reformation ones are the problem. And I’ll wager they aren’t over.

  45. Michael,
    Great post. I have read a couple of Hahn’s books, most notably “Home, Sweet Rome.” A few friends have either made that journey or considered it and then relented. You descriptions are helpful to any who would be interested in the subject and particularly Hahn’s “evangelistic” fervor for Rome.

    Blessings. Always enjoy reading what emerges from your keyboard.