Category Archives: Church History

Review of @bakeracademic’s “Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts”

Adonis Vidu has no need to argue in his work, Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts, which atonement model is the most accurate. Rather, his purpose is to trace a path of model development next to evolving systems of justice, from the ancient world to the modern. Vidu matter of factly states, “the history of atonement thinking could be read as an ongoing conversation with the history of thinking about justice and the law.” (xiv) His book does not simply fill a gap, but may in fact help us understand atonement modeling as a contextual paradigm, perhaps loosening our tight grip on particular expressions.

Atonement, Law, and Justice has 6 chapters, with the first 4 examining the development of atonement and justice since before the Christian-era. Chapter 5 examines the atonement via various modern lens with the final chapter acting the the author’s view. Chapter 1 examines the development of justice and law in Patristic thought, although Vidu is smart in bringing in Homer, Plato, and other familiar pre-Christian influencers first. Nothing develops in a vacuum, not even Christian theology. As such, we encounter philosophy, before we are led to Augustinian theology (which is based on philosophy!). To be quite clear, our usual notions of the atonement as retributive justice are called into question — as well as they should,  if we are to be consistent with the cognitive environment of the New Testament writers. For the ancients, justice is order, but not necessarily equity. Thus, the gods were unrestrained in achieving that order, with little or no expectation between the deities and humans. Law was second, if not third. For the modern (American) reader, the notion of an executive pardon (refusing to punish a law-breaker) may be the best image here. It wasn’t until the Romans borrowed Stoicism that justice existed outside of social order, becoming an internal virtue.

atonement
Say what?

This move from justice-as-order to justice-as-equity fed directly into early Christian thought. After all, once justice becomes a virtue, then one can assign it to God. This then separates justice from non-justice, good from evil, and law from disorder, leading us into the rollercoaster of atonement models and justification theology. Where once the divine could contain deceit, evil, etc… the doctrine of divine simplicity started to take hold, giving way to a higher refrain of justice only complete in God. Because of this, we move from the ransom theories to a satisfaction model. Before I go too far into summarizing this chapter, allow me to simply suggest that this chapter is a hallmark in not only the study of Augustinian theology, but in early Christendom. In the end, Augustine’s move towards anchoring the sacrifice of Christ to a divine justice sets the stage for medieval atonement models.

Is God tied to or bound by law? That seems to be the discussion between Anselm and Abelard in the late medieval ages. More than that, however, is the shift (Vidu calls it a revolution) from law-as-specific to context, to a universal notion of law and legal remedies. Because of this universality in viewpoint, Anselm is able to offer his satisfaction theory, which precludes free grace. In other words, a wrong required a penalty. Abelard, on the other hand, moves away from original sin, but into a realm of what is desirable. Vidu shows that these two men and the third, Aquinas, are very much products of their time. Here especially, Vidu slows down and gives us a great depth of understanding as to how changing notions of law, justice, and universality shape the various atonement models during this time. Likewise, we are introduced to John Duns Scotus (p79 — 87) and left to wonder if the notion of atonement, as developed as it was by European developments in law and justice, did not contribute to the development of our Western society, ending with the separation of Church and State. I suspect that this portion of Vidu’s thesis is at least a remarkably important read in understanding Western Christianity, Christian civilization, and how our doctrines have shaped our current political realities. I cannot stress this enough — I desire more from Vidu on this subject, and would have sacrifice more time and pages to read more from our author on Don Scotus.

We are now ready to be reformed, which is the subject of chapter 3. Here, Vidu takes us through Luther and Calvin, who existed in Duns Scotus’ now secular shadow — where law was autonomous. If anyone has read anything from the New Perspective on Paul theologians (E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, or N.T. Wright), you will become immediately familiar with Vidu’s take here. Because the notion of the Law and what authority it has has been transformed in European society of the time, the same thing shapes Protestant theology. Luther and Calvin cannot be divorced from their time, but like several others before them, are shaped by it.

It is here that I question if the usual modern refrain of the Church shaping the World or the World shaping the Church. While Vidu’s book does not tackle this issue, I cannot help but see that when we had no Christendom, or no firmly established Christendom, Christians and their doctrine shaped the world. After a millenia of Christendom, the world shaped us. The one real stand-out during this time is Duns Scotus. While Aquinas gave to the Church Universal Natural Law as tied to Divine Law, Duns Scotus broke that a part, preparing a way not only for the separation of Church and State, but so too the separation of the Body of Christ in the West. 

Up until recently, legality and morality were thought to be the same. In our current world, we know better. Which is, perhaps, why so many Christians challenge the very idea of atonement. Secular law is decided by the State whereas, for the most part, moral law is still divine (or at least above the State). Names like Kant and Schleiermacher come to the forefront. Ritschl as well. And each, leading the way in the liberal Protestant tradition and thought, removes the exchange in atonement, making it subjective (according to Vidu). This is the sum of chapter 4.

Chapter 5 turns to post-modern thought, tackling the changing of terms and ideas from historic Christian lexicons to psychologist-influenced trends. His first engagement with a modern theology is with Andrew Sung Park, a seminary professor of mine at United Theological Seminary. Park incorporates Han into the equation, something Vidu takes to task. I should not like to decide who is correct here. From here, Vidu tackles feminist and postcolonial views on sin and atonement. Theologians and thought leaders such as  Foucault, Derrida, and Girard are given special treatment by Vidu. He treats each one well, giving them their voice — and then attempts to demolish their arguments. It is up to the readers to decide if he succeeds. Their arguments are met from the positive angle in chapter 6, where Vidu begins to shape his view on atonement, law, and justice.

There are few deficits in Vidu’s work. He does not take into account Jewish thoughts on justice and law. I would like to have seen how the rabbis fit into these paradigms. Further, there are no counters to the hegemonic West. Augustine is left without Cassian and Aquinas has no Gregory Palamas. I realize he is not writing an encyclopedia or multi-volume set; however, in getting into the cultural contexts, which themselves stand as comparisons one to another, a bit of the East should have been mentioned.

There are two important takeaways for me, personally. One, it shows a somewhat well-ordered path in developing the penal substitutionary atonement model. Note, never once does he argue for this view as the only view. This is interesting because of the development of other doctrines. Secondly, I think it shows the sad state of liberal Protestantism. Where we once had great thinkers, digesting 1900 years of theological and philosophical thought, we are now left with loud-mouth bloggers with little or no intellectual training. What thinkers we do have are often times shredded in engagements, retreating to catch-phrases like oppression, privilege, and bully.

I started this book with a distaste in my mouth. I do not believe in penal substitutionary atonement — although the atonement takes center stage in my theology. However, while I am not convinced that PSA is correct, I am convinced Vidu has provided the Church a rather important book in discerning the doctrine of atonement and allowing that it has developed. Also, I think he has called us to be mindful of our context and the way we approach issues of Christian thought. Finally, especially in chapter 5, Vidu gives us reason to suspect the liberal Protestant tradition along with post-modern thought may in fact be bankrupt when it comes to their stances on the atonement. It is expertly researched, meticulously crafted, and properly presented.

the portions in italics do not appear on Amazon. 

Am I an Evangelical?

evangelical
Image Credit: Ruthless Reviews

Every now and then, I like to examine myself and see where I fall on issues. Am I still a Mainliner? Am I drifting away, towards apostasy, or worse, evangelicalism? Am I committed to remaining open on the non-essentials and charitable in all things?

In a recent conversation, the term “evangelical” was mentioned. Admittedly, I am not a fan of this term even though I know many who claim to hold are not evangelicals in the historic sense of the word. Rather, many who hold it have slid into fundamentalism where biblicalism has become boisterous literalism.

When I asked “what is an ‘evangelical,'” David Bebbington was brought up.

Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

I want to take these issues one at a time.

  • Coversionism. I do not believe in the “born again” status. I think this passage in St. John’s Gospel is sadly misused and applied to a one time experience much to destruction of the original intent. However, I do believe we are to be engaged in a life-long process of “being saved.” I think St. Paul’s use of different tenses excludes a “conversion experience” but rests on many experiences throughout the life of the Christian. I never say “yes” to the question of, “Are you saved?” Rather, I answer with “I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved.” See here for the Orthodox view.
  • Activism: I agree with this, completely. This is what draws me to United Methodism. I believe we are made disciples to transform the world, through discipleship and social holiness.
  • Biblicalism: I have a high view of Scripture — I do not take it literally. I do not take it as the ultimate authority. It is a primary authority, yet creeds and Tradition preceded Scripture. Scripture is validated through Tradition, the Tradition of the Church universal. Scripture likewise validates Holy Tradition. I am not “obedient to the Bible,” but to Holy Tradition which likewise includes the rule of faith (used to interpret Scripture), the councils, and the voices of the Fathers. Never once are we told the Holy Spirit dwells in the bible, but we are told it dwells in the Church, speaks through Scripture, and calls us today. This means that while eternal truths will not change, our own dogma may. A (narrow?) biblicalism is where I depart most heavily from Bebbington’s “evangelical.”
  • Crucicentrism: There is Christianity without Jesus Christ, no Jesus Christ without the Cross. While we may see the sacrifice, or death of Jesus, on the cross through our respective lens, the atonement is an essential.

In the end, I am 2/4’s evangelical. I do not consider the Christian life a one-time experience, but see prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace as actively transforming the person throughout life. And with Wesley, and numerous others, I too believe in an intermediate state.

What about you? Do you identify as an evangelical, and if so, how come?

Online Communion = gnosticism

online communionThis will not be a long post, because the topic of online communion is almost worth not having. Yet, it is a theological one and frankly, this is great because it means United Methodists are talking about something more important that genitals.

Chad Holtz, with whom I disagree vehemently regarding inclusion has written one of the best send ups in favor of online communion. I disagree with his proposal, but I do recommend his piece. I will not offer a rebuttal of this proposal, but simply state why I feel it is not theologically sound to do this.

In my opinion, an online communion — taking the bread and the wine over the internet — is a form of gnosticism. It allows one to create a false persona, to hide behind it, and to live apart from the real, physical community.

The world is separated into two spheres. One, the physical, is regulated to non-necessary. Our physical community is now no longer necessary. Rather, what is elevated is the spiritual, or cyberspace. No longer do we try to have physical contact, but we are satisfied with an image on a screen.

If the Eucharist represents/is the real presence (or, flesh and blood) of the ascended and divine historical Jesus then it must be taken in person — to phone it in or to suppose one can simply throw blessings around from the Aeon of cyberspace relates back to the notion that non-material supplants material, that our material world is inconsequential.

If the act is nothing but a memorial, an act meant to remember something, then an online communion is fine. However, biblically, theologically, and traditionally speaking the Eucharist is not merely about “remembering” a past event. Rather, the Eucharist is about breaking bread, which is the body of Christ, so as to enjoy the real presence of Christ. The official United Methodist Church stance can be found here. It is a mystery of the Christian faith with therapeutic inclinations. It is more than that, I believe.

This is not short-sighted, but Christocentric-sighted.

Worship, bible study, etc… are not official sacraments of the Church. The Eucharist is. It is not merely about taking it, but about receiving it, and then receiving it in a community or presence.

We are entering into a place where the intimate can not be replaced with the inanimate.

 

 

A Symposium of “Adam and Eve”

Introduction:

I will need to explain a few things before I draw a conclusion. I am focusing on John Walton’s statement, “Ontology trumps biology” found in the soon-to-be published work, The Lost World of Adam and Eve.

Ontology:

Ontology (from Wikipedia):

…the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

See herehere, and here.  I cannot help but simplify ontology as the study of being (what it means to exist), and it is used here in the sense of “if being is that which transcends reality” — it is who we are before reality, under reality, and after reality.

ontology trumps biologyThere are two types of Trinitarian Theology, economic and ontological. In the economic Trinity, God exists as a Monad but expands to a Triad during this present age. Thus, God begets (not makes) God the Son and in doing so, becomes God the Father. After this present age, the Triad will shrink to become a Monad. This explains equality and a whole host of issues and was held by the early Church. Ontological Trinitarianism means the Trinity has always existed as a Trinity and will always existed as a Trinity, a view held by the Church universal today.

Plato:

Plato’s Symposium will also factor into this discussion. His view of the ontological existence of love is this:

They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.

Or, you might like a song about it. Your choice.

Adam and Eve:

Let me refresh your memory of Genesis 2.21–25:

The Lord God then put the man into a deep sleep and, while he slept, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh over the place. The rib he had taken out of the man the Lord God built up into a woman, and he brought her to the man. The man said: ‘This one at last is bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh! She shall be called woman,* for from man* was she taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and attaches himself to his wife, and the two become one. Both were naked, the man and his wife, but they had no feeling of shame. (REB)

For woman, the transliterated is ishshah while for man, it is ish (REB notes).

Let me now relate what John Walton has said. Please note this is a prerelease of the book.

He proposes that the “deep sleep” of Adam is actually a visionary trance. Further, the rib which is often translated as “side” throughout the OT is better understood as a “side of Adam” (think side of beef). Thus, Adam’s deep sleep is a vision of the ontological being of he and Eve. Walton says, “The vision would concern her identity as ontologically related to the man.”

My paraphrase of Genesis 2.21–25, according to Walton’s notations, reads like this:

The Lord God then put the man into a visionary trance, where he took one side of the human and closed up the flesh over the place. The side of the human he had removed, the Lord God built up into a woman, and he brought her to the man. The man said: ‘This one at last is bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh! She shall be called woman, for from man was she taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and attaches himself to his wife, and the two become one. Both were naked, the man and his wife, but they had no feeling of shame. (REB, JW version)

If you read the Symposium and Walton’s version of Genesis 2.21–25 together, there are some similarities, notably the side of the person becoming another person and the initial closing up of the wounded flesh not to mention the leaving of family to reunite the severed flesh.

But, there is more to Walton’s thesis.

While he asserts that there is mankind and womankind, he equally asserts that ontology trumps biology, ontological existence trumps biological realities (p81). “Genesis 2.24 is responding to the question of why a person would leave…” his/her family (biology) “in order to form a relationship with a biological outsider.” For Walton, we are ontologically gendered (compare this to the arguments of androgyny in Genesis 1.26). Marriage, then, is not about sex or reproduction, but about ascertaining our equal other-half. “Becoming one flesh is not just a reference to the sexual act. The sexual act may be the one that rejoins them, but it is the rejoining that is the focus. When Man and Woman become one flesh, they are returning to their original state.”

Conclusion: Does Walton’s precept, “Ontology trumps Biology,” work?

Walton is providing enough ground to dismiss natural law (separating ontology from biology) and arguments against homosexuality. Perhaps he does not see it. Perhaps you do not either. Let me contextualize this.

  • Genesis 1.27 has God creating the urmensch male-n-female, which some scholars see as an androgynous creature much like Plato’s androgyne. This idea is not new but is found in both Philo and Origen. Likewise, it is found in the Gospel of Thomas and perhaps even in 2nd Clement. In other words, the reading of Genesis 1.27 as something other than two genders, but rather as one person with two genders pre-exists modern sexual concepts. For further study on Genesis 1.27 in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, see Betz’s Hermeneia volume.
  • Walton suggests we take Genesis 2–3 as a sequel (not a recapitulation) of Genesis 1.
  • If the “original state” of humanity was this androgyne, then sexuality v. gender is a secondary argument given the forceful nature of finding our ontological completion, or perhaps, soulmate. This is why we leave biology, which is based only in reality, to find the other half.
  • “Ontology trumps biology.” Walton says this to support the notion of us leaving our families, the only real connection we have to this world, for something that is naturally opposed to us, a “biological outsider.” Why? Because the ideal state of humanity is meant to overcome reality.
  • The act of sex is secondary to the actual enjoining of the two halves. Further, Walton does not seem to state that sex itself is solely meant for procreation, but rather to aid in the enjoining. Thus, the reproductive necessity of sex, and the need for two separate genders (assuming both fertile) is dismissed.
  • When two join, they are joining as halves. We can call one Man and the other Woman, or A and B. Given that “Man” and “Woman” are not all that different, are dependent upon one another, and clearly represent one side of a whole (ontological) being, then it is safe to allow “Man” may represent a biological female as does “Woman” if there are two biological females enjoying an ontological companionship. After all, in the life after this one, we will be as the genderless angels (Matthew 22.30).
  • If Genesis 2 and Plato’s Symposium is connected, then can we, pardon the pun, separate them neatly? If we read Genesis 2–3 with Plato close by, do we not see that our current debates of sexuality v. gender is biologically based rather than ontological whereas religion and philosophy calls us to escape biological traps and instead look higher?

I do not want to suggest Walton is saying anything more than he has, only that if he is correct about this particular reading of Genesis 2–3, then we need to reconsider that “Creation order”/Natural Law arguments, which are the only theological arguments against homosexuality.

I am extrapolating data, not trying to tell you the conclusion to reach. I have long maintained that the only legitimate argument against the incompatibility of the practice of homosexuality is the one from natural order, the one from the creation account. I have not changed my mind on that yet.

The Federal Headship of Adam

I am not a Calvinist, nor one who believes in St. Augustine’s error. Rather, I believe we can theologically explain the transmitted nature of sin better. However, in reading a particular book, the federal headship view was mentioned (sort of). I wanted to invite consideration and thoughts:

Transgression of the covenant commandment would result in death. Adam chose the course of disobedience, corrupted himself by sin, became guilty in the sight of God, and as such subject to the sentence of death. And because he was the federal representative of the race, his disobedience affected all his descendants. In His righteous judgment God imputes the guilt of the first sin, committed by the head of the covenant, to all those that are federally related to him. And as a result they are born in a depraved and sinful condition as well, and this inherent corruption also involves guilt. This doctrine explains why only the first sin of Adam, and not his following sins nor the sins of our other forefathers, is imputed to us, and also safeguards the sinlessness of Jesus, for He was not a human person and therefore not in the covenant of works.1

Is Adam our representative in that one particular sin?

I’m going to go ahead and give away my view of Adam. I think the story is representative of Israel’s choice to have a king, which is a federal representative in the ancient world. When the King chose to break the covenant, then all Israel fell. This was the original intent.

For now, I don’t have to justify this with St. Paul’s view…

….however, if I had too, I would say St. Paul sees Adam as the federal representative of the people of God made that by the covenant. Christ makes a new covenant that undoes the sin (the violation of the political treaty) of Adam and thus makes a new, unbreakable covenant.

But I could be wrong.

  1. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 242–243.

John Wesley on “lamb-like” #advent14ccumwv

The Sermons of John Wesley are included in our doctrinal standards.

john wesley lamb like

Behold… the lamb that comes to take away the sins of the world…

Did John Wesley use the “Apocrypha?” Yes. Yes, he did. #umc

According to James Charlesworth (who used John Vicker’s data) he did.

john wesley apocrypha use deuterocanon

This is taken from James Charlesworth paper for the Charles Wesley society (PDF). He concludes that both Wesleys, while some differences of use, still used and cherished the hidden books. He concludes by saying,

For John Wesley the most revered apocryphal document may have been the Wisdom of Solomon, followed by Sirach. The Wisdom of Solomon and the Fourth Book of Ezra seem to be the most attractive apocryphal books to Charles Wesley.

I note that John Wesley’s Articles of Religion, which was geared to the American Methodists (1784), says,

In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church. The names of the canonical books are:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, The First Book of Samuel, The Second Book of Samuel, The First Book of Kings, The Second Book of Kings, The First Book of Chronicles, The Second Book of Chronicles, The Book of Ezra, The Book of Nehemiah, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Cantica or Songs of Solomon, Four Prophets the Greater, Twelve Prophets the Less.

All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical.

The 39 Articles of Religion (Anglican) allows for the “apocrypha” but sets them up only to be read, not used for doctrine.

I note Rev. Martin’s suggestion for expanding our current doctrinal standards in regards to this particular article.

We could restore the part of the Anglican article that John Wesley removed before sending his abridged Articles of Religion to the new Methodist Episcopal Church in America. This means naming the additional books that are discussed in the 1971 one-volume commentary and declaring them, as the ancient biblical scholar Jerome did, to be worthy of reading “for example of life and instruction of manners” but not “to establish any doctrine.” Such a step would put us back in basic harmony with not only Jerome but also with the great reformer Martin Luther and with Anglican churches today, including the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. This action would be a limited move, and the additional books would clearly have a second-class status.

Or, we could shorten Article V to its first sentence, leaving us with a general statement about the Bible similar to that of the Confession: “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man [sic] that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Such a broad affirmation would allow us, in our understanding of the extent of the Bible, to come much closer to agreement with Augustine, with the majority view of the Church before the Reformation and with the great majority of Christians in the world today.

Thoughts?

St. Hilary on true miracles #advent14ccumwv

The Christian Ed director at our local UMC congregation has started a nifty advent idea. Each day, we have a verse or so from the Gospel of St. John to cause to consider. We are give responses, usually ours. But, I am going to choose this time to draw out voices from the Great Tradition. hilary trinity

I’m not so sure the author of John’s Gospel was unlettered. His keen sense of philosophy, his use of allegory, and his knowledge of the Scriptures places him pretty high in the educational ladder. However, I do think the better “miracle” is found in the great a-ha moments of orthodoxy.

St. Vincent of Lerins on Development of Faith (Orthodoxy) v. Alteration

Thomas Oden looks to St. Vincent as a way to give rebirth to orthodoxy. I would like to explore St. Vincent and Clement of Alexandria’s focus on the true Gnostic. For now, here is St. Vincent:

A simplified chart of historical developments ...
A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Christianity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale. Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the Faith, not alteration of the Faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another. The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries, but only along its own line of development, that is, with the same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.

The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person … If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled. In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age. In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of truth but the intrusive growth of error. On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when, in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase it may flourish and be tended in our day also.1

  1. St Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium 23.28–30: ed. R.S. Moxon (Cambridge, 1915), pp. 88–92.

Islamic Iman Leads U.S. House of Representative Prayer. #whynot

I’ve been thinking about this and have been asking the question “why not?” There are a few things to consider here:

Watch here

  • Is this or is this not a “freedom of religion” believing country?
  • Why are Christians only the ones to be blamed for America’s secularism?
  • Isn’t the text of the Islamic Iman’s prayer a text that even a Christian or a Jew wouldn’t volunteer an hearty “amen”?

I cannot picture Moses, performing miracles in Pharaoh’s Court, using his staff, and then, when Pharaoh summons his magicians to perform the same miracles Moses was performing, that Moses would have said “no, I won’t accept this challenge… I can only accept miracles performed in the name of MY God, Jehovah”. No! Moses not only accepted the challenge but his staff-now-turned-into-snake consumed, devoured, ate, Pharaoh’s magicians staff-now-turned-into-snakes! Christians should not be afraid of any challenge from any other religion! We have to believe that God will prevail, and that our beliefs will surpass, metaphorically “eat” everyone else’s belief; otherwise we are nothing but religious weaklings, whiners and phonies! Jesus never shunned a challenge either! Let Muslims do what they do in between killings and beheadings, and let us as Christians do what we do in confidence that God will see us through as winners… In this the infamous Charismatic TV preacher is right: “I read the end of the book: We win!”