Friday, August 31, 2007

Scripture: Historia Salutis, Introduction (Why a Synod on the Word of God?)

Part 1 of the Historia Salutis series.

  1. What "signs of the times" in your country give this Synod on the Word of God a particularly timely character? What do people expect from it?
  2. What is the relation of the preceding Synod on the Eucharist to the present one on the Word of God?
  3. Do experiences and practices with the Bible exist in your particular Church? What are they? Do Bible groups exist? Describe them and their activities.
I summarize each paragraph of the document. The introduction covers paragraphs 1-5. Quotes are from Historia Salutis unless otherwise noted; if a quote is from a different paragraph than the one currently being treated it will be specified.
  1. The phrase Word of God (or word of God) is a rather loaded one. We call Scripture the word of God, and we call Jesus the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Incarnate Word. Scripture contains the revelation from God (His word), and Jesus is the fulfillment and totality of that revelation. As John describes in his account of the Gospel, the Word of God was with God in the beginning (cf. John 1:1-3), and creation came through the Word: God spoke, and light (and all else) came into being (cf. Gen 1:3). The Word is present throughout all history -- its beginning, the key moment of the Incarnation, and its culmination (cf. Rev 22:20).
  2. "Christians are eagerly seeking the Word of God as the source of life and as a means of encountering the Lord in a personal manner." Through the reading Scripture, God, "out of the abundance of His love [...] speaks to humankind as friends and lives among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself" (HS 2; DV 2). The communication between us and God "takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit".
  3. "The Person of Christ the Lord is at the core of the Word of God." "Dei Verbum [...] completed the long study and development of three Encyclical Letters: Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII, Spiritu Paraclitus of Benedict XV, and Divino Afflante Spiritus of Pius XII." This Synod is looking at, among other things, "how the Word has been encountered in the Bible", such as in Joshua 24, Nehemiah 8, and Acts 2.
  4. In particular the Synod is looking at "the intrinsic connection between the Eucharist and Word of God", since Jesus, the Word of God, is present at Mass both in Scripture and in the Eucharist. Knowledge of Scripture -- and certainty "regarding the teachings of Revelation" -- are very important to every Christian. "Without the truth of God's Word, relativism becomes alluring in people's lives and thinking." To this end, the Synod feels "a total and complete knowledge of the Church's teachings concerning the Word of God" be made known to the faithful.
  5. Among the objectives of this Synod (which is primarily pastoral) are:
    1. "to help clarify the basic truths of Revelation as the Word of God, Divine Tradition, the Bible and the Magisterium, which prompt and guarantee an authentic and effective living of the faith"
    2. "to spark an appreciation and deep love Sacred Scripture"
    3. "to renew listening to the Word of God [...] specifically through lectio divina"
    4. "to offer a Word of consolation and hope to the poor of the world"
    It also hopes to "encourage ecumenical dialogue, which is closely linked to listening to the Word of God". The Synod will focus on three areas:
    • "Revelation, the Word of God, the Church"
    • "The Word of God in the Life of the Church"
    • "The Word of God in the Mission of the Church"
I encourage you to read the actual document yourselves, and post your answers to the questions asked in the Introduction (shown above).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Diablog: "Having Christ", Meriting Eternal Life

This is my fourth post in a diablog with Weekend Fisher. She wrote (emphasis mine):
The only way to fill the need for Christ is to have Christ; I'd question whether "having Christ" needs to be interpreted at all. I think that "having Christ" ought to be seen as self-explanatory. Let me use an analogy; since you're a newlywed I'll use marriage as an example. What does it mean to have a wife? Does it mean wearing a ring (what happens if you take it off to do the dishes)? Does it mean showing kindness to someone you love (what happens if you're a grump for a day)? Does it mean sharing a bed (what if you're on a business trip or in the doghouse for a couple of days)? Or maybe "having a wife" just means having a wife, and all those things are pretty darn likely to follow but shouldn't be mistaken for having a wife. Maybe 50 different answers about what it means to "have a wife" are all legitimate if you're making a list of what follows, but are all an exercise in missing the point if they're mistaken for the thing itself. Having a wife (for you) means that a kind-hearted and friendly girl named Kristin is forever part of who you are: having Kristin means having Kristin; the rest follows. Back to "having Christ". Having Christ means having Christ; if we ask "what it really means" we have to be careful. Are we asking what follows? Then there are lots things that follow, none of which should be mistaken for the thing itself. Are we asking if "having Christ" really means something else and we can look somewhere besides Christ (maybe a Bible study regime or participation in charity or attendance at church) for whether we really "have Christ"? Then we've missed the point very badly. I've known people who wear rings and are not married; I've known people who attend church and do charity work and do Bible studies and write theology, and nothing is further from their minds than Christ. So on this one, I want to go back and underline where we started: having Christ means having Christ, just as (in your case) marriage is not primarily about rings but about Kristin.
I agree with the analogy to an extent. But if Kristin is "forever part of who [I am]", that means who I am has changed, and I would expect that change would manifest itself (in ways both visible and invisible). If I "have Christ", I have changed: indeed, whoever is baptized into Christ has "put on Christ" (Gal 3:27), and whoever is in Christ "is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). This change manifests itself in various ways. The manifestation is not the "having Christ" any more than the rings and the affection and the gifts are "having Kristin": Christ is Christ (and Kristin is Kristin). And it's the same way with faith and works: works cannot ever equal faith or replace it, but works are a visible manifestation of faith.

In other words, if I have Christ, that reality should manifest itself. If it does not manifest itself, it calls into question whether or not I actually do have Christ. Having Jesus as my Savior and Lord means certain things follow: those things that follow are evidence of "having Christ". And not only are they evidence, but some of them grant me the grace to continue in Christ despite hardships and my sinful nature. (This is why I find the notion of "going to church" absolutely preposterous to anyone who adheres to "once saved, always saved", by the way. In fact, once you're saved, you don't technically need Jesus anymore either, since he's "already" saved you... unless you think there's the possibility you weren't saved, and that calls into question the "eternal assurance".) For a Catholic, receiving the Eucharist is having Christ. Reception of the sacraments is having Christ. Not only do they follow having Christ, they are participation in his divine mission.

She also wrote (emphasis mine):
The question comes when we get to whether believers have "fully satisfied the divine law" by such works, whether believers have "truly merited eternal life" by such works. It's difficult to explain to you just how wild I think those assertions are, made by the Council of Trent, that our human efforts could "fully satisfy the divine law". Where is the acknowledgment that we still sin daily in thought, word, action, and omission, and primarily in lack of love? {note: see chapter XI of Trent Session VI -- japhy} How could anyone possibly imagine that, just because by the grace of God we sometimes do the good works he lays before us, we have somehow "fully satisfied the divine law"? "Be holy" and "be perfect" are divine law. Not to hate is divine law. Not to lust in our hearts is divine law. If the one without sin were to throw the first stone, even in a church today or a convention of supposed saints, the wrongdoer would still walk away without a scratch. Nobody "fully satisfies the divine law". Nobody gets through without forgiveness and mercy, neither before nor after the gifts by which we slowly learn to love God's will.
(In addition to my answer, check out vivator's post on the matter on his blog, Viva Catholic.)

It's not "human efforts", it's the strength of Christ permeating ourselves and everything we do. And as for "the divine law", it is qualified by "according to the state of this life", meaning, as I show below, the avoidance of those behaviors which disqualify one from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. Of course we all need forgiveness and mercy, but the kindness of God is meant to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4). But if we do not continue in His kindness, [we] too will be cut off (Rom 11:22).

Clearly none of us hopes to go the grave as an adulterer or a thief. The commandments of God are not burdensome: the yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden is light (cf. 1 John 5:3; Matt 11:30). As Trent (Session VI, Chapter XI) said: "no one should use that rash statement [...] that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified". It goes on:
For though during this mortal life, men, however holy and just, fall at times into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, they do not on that account cease to be just, for that petition of the just, "forgive us our trespasses" (Matthew 6:12), is both humble and true; for which reason the just ought to feel themselves the more obliged to walk in the way of justice, for being now freed from sin and made servants of God (cf. Rom 6:18, 22), they are able, living soberly, justly and godly (Titus 2:12), to proceed onward through Jesus Christ, by whom they have access unto this grace (Rom 5:1-2)
I think it is clear that God wishes those who have accepted His free gift to, in turn, be worthy of it (after the fact, and only through His grace). Here is a smattering of Scripture (emphasis added) with comments where I think are needed...

"He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37-38) Unless Jesus is being coy, we can reason that to be worthy of Jesus we must love him more than father, mother, son, and daughter, and take up our cross and follow him.

"But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'" (Matthew 25:26-30) This is the end of the parable of the talents. The servant who received a talent and did not invest it is deemed worthless: his talent is taken from him and he is cast out. We can recognize the other two servants as worthy of the gift they were given, not beforehand, but only afterwards.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. (1 Cor 4:1-2) Paul is saying that the stewards of the Gospel must be found trustworthy; what is the consequence for unworthiness? See Matthew 25; see 1 Cor 9:27, where Paul admits to his need to subdue his flesh lest he be disqualified.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27) It is then possible to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord in a worthy manner, and if this "meal" is really more than just a symbol or memorial, but an actual partaking of the sacrificial Lamb, and food which endures to eternal life (John 6:27), then by the grace of God we can be worthy to receive it!

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3) Here begins a series of admonitions to the various churches to be "worthy of the call".

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel... (Phil 1:27) We are asked to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10) We can lead a worthy life and be fully pleasing to the Lord not by any strength of our own, but by being filled with the knowledge of the will of God in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Thus the common versicle of many Catholic prayers, "Pray for us, N. / that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ".

You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers; for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess 2:10-12) Paul and his companions showed by their example holy behavior, so that the church in Thessaly might know how to lead worthy lives.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess 1:11-12) Again, Paul prays that the church be made worthy of the call they have answered.

(These next two excerpts of Scripture were added after I responded to preacherman in the comments below.)

We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. (1 Cor 10:8-10) Paul tells the Corinthians not to indulge in immorality, not to put the Lord to the test. This testing of the Lord includes living on in sin under the presumption that God will forgive you because you claim to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Forget not Paul's words to the church in Rome: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Rom 6:1)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor 13:5) How brazen of Paul is that? To tell a church to examine themselves to see if they are holding to the faith! And then to tell them that Jesus Christ is only in them -- baptized Christians! -- if they meet the test! This holding to the faith does not simply mean believing the right things, it includes behaving the right way as he continues: But we pray God that you may not do wrong -- not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. [...] What we pray for is your improvement. [...] Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor 13:7, 9, 11)

Why all this concern with being made worthy? Because there's a whole laundry list of people who won't inherit the kingdom of heaven (idolaters, thieves, fornicators, etc.). Such behavior is not found in a life worthy of God. Of course, we are sinners, so we must repent and ask forgiveness often. Trent doesn't say that these good deeds which merit eternal life make up for our sins. What it does say is that the gift of eternal life, granted to us on the merits of Jesus, also becomes our reward and inheritance by a life that is lived in a manner worthy to the call of God. Our shortcomings and sins which sully this "worthiness" are only able to be forgiven because we cling to our faith in Jesus Christ, not because of or through our good works.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scripture: Five Church Documents on Scripture

As a precursor to my treatment of Historia Salutis, I will summarize the five documents I have read prior to it, which are, to the best of my knowledge, primary referential sources for the lineamenta of the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

1. Dei Filius - Conciliar Constitution on the Catholic Faith, First Vatican Council (April 24, 1870)

In six parts -- an introduction, four chapters, and a section of canons based on the four chapters -- this document summarizes the fruits of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), while lamenting the state of affairs that brought it about (cf. nos. 3, 5-7). Against this background it establishes continuity with the Council and purposes to "profess and declare from this chair of Peter before all eyes the saving teaching of Christ, and, by the power given us by God, to reject and condemn the contrary errors" (no. 10). One such error is that heretics springing from the Reformation no longer held the Holy Bible, "which they at one time claimed to be the sole source and judge of the Christian faith [...] to be divine [but] began to assimilate it to the inventions of myth" (no. 6).

Chapter 2 ("On Revelation") professes that "supernatural revelation [...] is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand" (c. 2, no. 5). Furthermore, it reaffirms the contents of sacred Scripture: "The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the [Council of Trent] and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition" (c. 2, no. 6). The Church recognizes these as "sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, not simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church" (c. 2, no. 7). It also affirms that "Holy mother Church" is the rightful "judge of the true meaning and interpretation of the Holy Scripture" (c. 2, no. 8).

2. Providentissimus Deus - On the Study of Holy Scripture, Pope Leo XIII (November 18, 1893)

This encyclical of Pope Leo XIII urges the whole Church -- clergy and laity -- to approach Holy Scripture with enthusiasm, respect, and a desire to learn from the Holy Spirit. The Pope desires "that this grand source of Catholic revelation should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ" (no. 2) and wishes that "all, therefore, especially the novices of the ecclesiastical army, understand how deeply the sacred Books should be esteemed, and with what eagerness and reverence they should approach this great arsenal of heavenly arms" (no. 3). The Church recognizes that renewed interest in the original languages of the Scriptures "gave a strong impetus to Biblical studies" (no. 8; cf. no. 17), and that history shows the "the Church has never failed in taking due measures to bring the Scriptures within reach of her children" (no. 8).

The Holy Father admonishes as "foolish and improvident [those preachers] who, in speaking of religion and proclaiming the things of God, use no words but those of human science and human prudence, trusting to their own reasonings rather than to those of God" (no. 4); he intones the warning of St. Augustine that "vainly does the preacher utter the Word of God exteriorly unless he listens to it interiorly" (no. 5).

Then he writes about the proper way to study Holy Scripture, as opposed to "relying on private judgment and repudiating the divine traditions and teaching office of the Church" (no. 10). First and foremost is the necessary belief in the inspiration of Scripture and the reality of revelation and miracles, in the face of Rationalists who deny the existence of "revelation" or "inspiration", who see Scripture as "stupid fables and lying stories", who regard "the prophecies and the oracles of God" as written after the fact, and who relegate miracles to "mere tricks and myths" (ibid).

When it comes to the matter of interpretation of the Scriptures, Pope Leo XIII quotes St. Irenaeus, that "where the charismata of God were, there the truth was to be learnt, and that Holy Scripture was safely interpreted by those who had the Apostolic succession" (no. 14). As regards what has not yet been definitively interpreted, "such labors may, in the benignant providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity the judgment of the Church"; as regards what has been definitively interpreted, "the private student may do work equally valuable, either by setting them forth more clearly to the flock and more skilfully to scholars, or by defending them more powerfully from hostile attack" (ibid). Thus the first objective of a Catholic commentator should be "to interpret those passages which have received an authentic interpretation [...] in that identical sense, and to prove, by all the resources of science, that sound hermeneutical laws admit of no other interpretation" (ibid). This is not a tactic to prevent the pursuit of Biblical science, but rather to protect it from error and to provide it a real opportunity for progress.

It is advised to follow in the footsteps of the Church Fathers and Doctors and make use of their commentaries; but to pass by the Catholic exegesis and "have recourse to the works of non-Catholics" for the purpose of finding alternative explanations to those passages "on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and labor" is "most unbecoming" (no. 15). It is not that there is no value to be found in non-Catholic studies ("used with prudence") but "the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true fatih, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith" (ibid). This sentiment is found in the writings of many of the early Christian (St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and St. Hilary just to name a few).

In order to maintain the authority of the Church's interpretation of the Bible, it is necessary, from Scripture, to produce evidence for that authority: "since the divine and infallible magisterium of the Church rests also on the authority of Holy Scripture, the first thing to be done is to vindicate the trustworthiness of the sacred records at least as human documents, from which can be clearly proved [...] the Divinity and mission of Christ our Lord, the institution of a hierarchical Church and the primacy of Peter and his successors" (no. 17).

His Holiness also covers the issue of error in the Bible. First, he deals with "those who [...] minutely scrutinize the Sacred Book in order to detect the writes in a mistake" (no. 18) and thereby discount Scripture in its entirety; exposure to such attacks can mortally wound the faith of the masses, especially the young. He quotes St. Augustine: "Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so" (no. 18; De Gen. ad litt. i, 21, 41). St. Augustine continues this thought and writes that the Holy Spirit "Who spoke by [the sacred writers] did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation" (no. 18; ibid ii., 9, 20). The Pope explains thus: "they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time" (no. 18).

It is "impossible that God Himself, the Supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true" (no. 20), so when an error is found, it must be accounted for. One crack through which error can seep is "that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible" (ibid). However, the Pope cautions that this cannot be "too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear" (ibid). In other words, the "scribal error" defense cannot be the first recourse when a difficulty is encountered. But it is forbidden "either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred" (ibid). In explicitly defining what this inspiration entails, he states that "He so moved and impelled them to write -- He was so present to them -- that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth" (ibid). As St. Augustine wrote to St. Jerome, "if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand" (no. 21; Epistle 82, i, 3).

The Pope speaks of the necessity for cooperation from "all those Catholics who have acquired reputation in any branch of learning whatsoever" (no. 22), for "the bitter tongues of objectors will be silenced [...] when they see that scientific men of eminence in their profession show towards faith the most marked honor and respect" (ibid).

He summarizes by restating that all the faithful should "loyally hold that God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures -- and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archeology which can really contradict the Scriptures" (no. 23), and that when contradictions appear to arise, "truth cannot contradict truth" -- that is, the truth in the Scripture and the truth in the natural world, as they are the work of the same Creator -- "and we may be sure that some mistake has been made either in the interpretation of the sacred words, or in the polemical discussion itself" (ibid). Finally, he urges us "the Church always to approach the Sacred Writings with reverence and piety" (no. 24).

3. Divino Afflante Spiritu - On Promoting Biblical Studies, Pope Pius XII (September 30, 1943)

This encyclical, issued on the fiftieth anniversary of Providentissimus Deus, affirms and clarifies the position of Pope Leo XIII. It recognizes the previous encyclical as "the supreme guide in biblical studies" (no. 2). Pope Pius XII then goes on to summarize the work of his predecessors in the field of biblical study. He completes this summary by drawing attention to the fact that "the conditions of biblical studies and their subsidiary sciences have greatly changed" (no. 10) since Providentissimus Deus, mentioning in particular the excavations in Palestine. He also explains the situation that brought about the dependency on the Latin Vulgate translation: "knowledge even of the Greek language had long since become so rare in the West, that even the greatest Doctors of [the middle ages], in their exposition of the Sacred Text, had recourse only to the Latin version" (no. 14).

The Holy Father brings this up because of the increasing availability of the Scriptures in their original languages. Indeed, "the original text [...] written by the inspired author [...] has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern" (no. 16). He then clarifies that the Council of Trent's declaration "that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic" (Council of Trent, Session IV, Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books) "applies only to the Latin Church and to the public use of the same Scriptures; nor does it, doubtless, in any way diminish the authority and value of the original texts" (no. 21). The Council also did not forbid the making of "translations into the [common language], even directly from the original texts themselves" (no. 22).

As pertains to interpretation, he writes that the "foremost and greatest endeavor [of interpreters] should be to discern and define clearly that sense of the biblical words which is called literal" (no. 23), and that as what took place in the Old Testament "was ordained and disposed by God with such consummate wisdom, that things past prefigured in a spiritual way those that were to come" (no. 24), the exegete must also search to understand the "spiritual sense, provided it is clearly intended by God [Who] alone could have known this spiritual meaning and have revealed it to us" (ibid). He writes with hope for the present studying of Scripture to produce fruits, since "not a few things, especially in matters pertaining to history, were scarcely at all or not fully explained by the commentators of past ages" (no. 31). He also notes the "oft-repeated efforts of many of [the Fathers] to explain the first chapters of Genesis" (ibid).

Then Pope Pius XII treats of the nature of the inspiration of the human writers, and recognizes how Catholic theologians have "explained the nature and effects of biblical inspiration more exactly and more fully than was wont to be done in previous ages" (no. 33). The level of precision offered by the Pope is thus: "the inspired writer, in composing the sacred book, is the living and reasonable instrument of the Holy Spirit [using] his faculties and powers" (ibid). It is important, therefore, for the exegete to determine "the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed" (ibid) as well as "to whom and why he wrote" (no. 34; Athanasius, Contra Arianos I, 54).

On the topic of apparent error in Scripture, frequently when one comes across "historical error or inaccuracy in recording of facts, on closer examination it turns out to be nothing else than those customary modes of expressions and narration peculiar to the ancients" (no. 38). This can be detected by paying attention to the "manner of expression or the literary mode adopted by the sacred writer [leading] to a correct and genuine interpretation" (ibid). To aid this genuine interpretation, those who study the Scriptures should also pay attention to discoveries in the "domain of archeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing" (no. 40).

His Holiness also offers wisdom when particular puzzles in Scripture seem too difficult to solve: "perhaps a successful conclusion may be reserved to posterity [so] let us not wax impatient thereat" (no. 45). He also draws from St. Augustine the possibility that "God wished difficulties to be scattered through the Sacred Books inspired by Him, in order that we might be urged to read and scrutinize them more intently" (ibid). He also readily admits that "in the immense matter contained in the Sacred books [...] there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous" (no. 47). But he then reminds us that Scripture was not "given by God to men to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research" (no. 49) but to "instruct us to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus [...] that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work" (no. 49; 2 Tim 3:15,17).

He gives instruction to priests (such as giving sound Scriptural homilies, cf. no. 50) and bishops (such as helping those associations which seek to spread copies of the Bible -- translated, as liturgical laws permit -- to the faithful, cf. no. 51). Finally, he affirms that "men more fully know, more ardently love and faithfully imitate [Christ] in proportion as they are more assiduously urged to know and meditate the Sacred Letters, especially the New Testament" (no. 57). There, in the Holy Gospels, "Christ, the highest and greatest example of justice, charity and mercy, is present to all" (no. 58).

4. Sancta Mater Ecclesia - On the Historicity of the Gospels, Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies (April 21, 1964)

This instruction is addressed to commentators, seminary teachers, preachers, and biblical associations, and provides them with exegetical norms. In its preface, it states that there "will never be a lack of problems in explaining God's word and trying to solve vexing difficulties" (Preface), but instead of being frustrated, the Catholic exegete "should strive diligently to clarify the true meaning of Scripture, relying on his own forces and, most of all, on God's help and the Church's guiding light" (ibid). It reminds the exegete that "even such illustrious commentators as St. Jerome sometimes had relatively little success in explaining more difficult questions" (ibid, "Progress in Catholic Exegesis"). The primary focus of this document is addressing "many writings in circulation [which] question the truth of the events and sayings reported in the Gospels" (ibid, "Exegesis Important Today").

It establishes general guidelines for exegetes, describing the historical method, suggested by Pope Pius XII, which "thoroughly investigates the sources, and analyzes their nature and value, relying on the help of textual criticism, literary criticism, and linguistic knowledge" (I, "The Historical Method"; cf. Divino Afflante Spiritu, no. 38). Caution is raised about the use of "form criticism" which "is often interlaced with inadmissible philosophical and theological principles" (I, "Form Criticism"). In particular, the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies states that there are rationalistic proponents of this method who "refuse to recognize the existence of a supernatural order", "deny the intervention of a personal God", "reject the possibility or actual occurrence of miracles and prophecies", "deny [a priori] the historical nature and historical value of the documents of Revelation", and "minimize the authority of the Apostles as witnesses to Christ" (I, "Erroneous Premises").

The instruction identifies three stages of the tradition through which the Gospel message comes to us. The preaching of Jesus was done in the "forms of thought and expression prevailing at that time" (II, 1, "Our Lord's Teaching"); in this way Jesus "adapted Himself to the mentality of His audience so that His teaching would be firmly impressed on their minds and easily remembered by His disciples" (ibid). The Apostles "faithfully set forth His life and His words, adapting the format of their preaching to the condition of their audience" (II, 2, "The Apostles' Teaching). In their preaching, they did not "transform Him into a 'mythological' figure, or distort His teaching" (ibid). As Jesus interpreted "His own words and those of the Old Testament" to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so did the Apostles explain "His deeds and words according to the needs of their audience" (ibid). The Apostles employed distinguishable literary genres in their preaching: "catechetical formulas, narrative reports, etewitness accounts, hymns, doxologies, [and] prayers" (ibid). Finally, the Evangelists wrote down the "primitive instruction [which] was passed on orally at first" (II, 3, "The Four Evangelists"); in doing so, each used "all approaches suited to his specific purpose" (ibid). "From the material available to them the Evangelists selected those items most suited to their specific purpose and to the condition of a particular audience [and] narrated these events in the manner most suited to satisfy their purpose and their audience's condition" (ibid).

In order to emphasize a particular meaning of Christ's deeds or words, "the Evangelists reported [them] in varying contexts, choosing whichever one would be of greatest help to the reader in trying to understand a particular utterance" (II, "Context"). However, the truth of the Gospel account "is not compromised because the Evangelists report the Lord's words and deeds in different order [nor because] they report His words, not literally but in a variety of ways, while retaining the same meaning" (II, "Order of Treatment"; cf. St. John Chrysostom, in Mat., Hom. 1, 6; cf. St. Augustine, De consensu Evang., 2, XII, 28). St. Augustine offers this rationale:
[It] is reasonable enough to suppose that each of the evangelists believed it to have been his duty to relate what he had to relate in that order in which it had pleased God to suggest to his recollection the matters he was engaged in recording. At least this might hold good in the case of those incidents with regard to which the question of order, whether it were this or that, detracted nothing from evangelical authority and truth. But as to the reason why the Holy Spirit, who divideth to every man severally as He will, (1 Cor 12:11) and who therefore undoubtedly, with a view to the establishing of their books on so distinguished an eminence of authority, also governs and rules the minds of the holy men themselves in the matter of suggesting the things they were to commit to writing, has left one historian at liberty to construct his narrative in one way, and another in a different fashion, that is a question which any one may look into with pious consideration, and for which, by divine help, the answer also may possibly be found. (De consensu Evang., 2, XXI, 51-52)
So then it is the duty of the exegete to consider "all the factors involved in the origin and composition of the Gospels" (II, "Consequences for the Exegete"). In his analysis, "he should always be prepared to obey the Magisterium of the Church" (ibid). It must also be remembered that, as "the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit when they preached the good news [so too] the Gospels were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who preserved their authors from every error" (ibid).

The chief concern of seminary teachers should be "to teach Scripture in accordance with the seriousness of the subject and the needs of the day" (III; Apostolic Letter of Pope Pius X Quoniam in re biblica). They should teach their students to identify literary devices in Scripture and show them "how these devices help us understand revealed doctrine more clearly, or if the occasion arises, to refute errors" (III, "Use of Literary Criticism").

Of preachers, the Commission demands "the highest degree of prudence [giving] first place to solid doctrine" (IV). Preachers are reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Tim 4:16: "Take heed to yourself and to your teaching, be earnest in them. For in so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you." They are to "abstain completely from advancing vain new theories or ones which lack sufficient proof" (IV). Prudence is also to be cultivated by "those whose writings are circulated among the faithful" (IV, "Writers"). They should "bring out the divine riches contained in God's word" (ibid) and "scrupulously avoid departing, at any time or in any way, from the common doctrine and tradition of the Church" (ibid). The Commission reminds people that "books and articles in magazines and newspapers, which deal with biblical topics, are also subject to the authority and jurisdiction of Ordinaries" (IV, "Books and Articles").

5. Dei Verbum - On Divine Revelation, Pope Paul VI (November 18, 1965)

This is the Second Vatican Council's decree on Divine Revelation; in a preface and six chapters it summarizes the Church's understanding of revelation and how it pertains to Tradition, Scripture, and its interpretation. The preface states the goal of the document is to "set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love" (Preface; cf. St. Augustine, De Catechizandis Rudibus, c. IV 8). Belief (faith), hope, and love (charity) are the fruits of revelation.

The first chapter treats of revelation itself. Through God's revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, to us, man has access to the Father through the Holy Spirit (cf. no. 2). This revelation makes known to us "the deepest truth about God" and as a result "the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (no. 2). God "prepared the way for the Gospel down through the centuries" (no. 3), starting with our first parents. Even when they fell, "His promise of redemption aroused in them the hope of being saved" (ibid; cf. Gen 3:15). Finally, "after speaking in many and varied ways through the prophets" (no. 4), God spoke to us clearly in His Son (cf. Heb 1:1-2).

Jesus therefore "perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work [...] especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth" (no. 4). Therefore, the New Covenant in Christ is "the new and definitive covenant [that] will never pass away" (ibid); furthermore, we expect "no further public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ibid). While God Himself "can be known with certainty from created reality" (no. 6; cf. Rom 1:20), God makes His will known to us through divine revelation: "He chose to share with [us] those divine treaures which totally transcend the understanding of the human mind" (no. 6).

The second chapter explains how divine revelation is handed on. In order that all generations may have access to Him through Jesus Christ, "God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on" through the Apostles and their successors, kpeeing the Gospel "forever whole and alive within the Church" (no. 7). The revelation possessed by the Church "includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God" (no. 8). Coming from the Apostles, this tradition "develop[s] in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit" (ibid). As time goes on, "the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her" (ibid).

This does not mean that the Church does not have "the fullness of divine truth", but rather that it will only be completely realized (i.e. made real) when all that God has decreed has come to pass. For example, the early Church (before Cornelius in Acts 10) did not include Gentiles, but the divine truth in the Church of the plan of salvation included Gentiles. It was only when the authority of the Church realized this that Gentiles were baptized into Christ.

This "mov[ing] forward toward the fullness of divine truth" means we have a "living tradition", through which (in the fullness of time) "the Church's full canon of the sacred books" was made known, as well as our growing understanding of Scripture (ibid). Scripture and Tradition, then, are closely linked, "flowing from the same divine wellspring" (no. 9). Scripture "is the word of God inasmuch as its is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit", while Tradition "takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity" (ibid). The task authentically interpret both Scripture and Tradition "has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church" (no. 10; cf. Humani Generis, nos. 8, 18, 21). Scripture, Tradition, and Authority "in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls" (no. 10).

The third chapter talks about Scripture, its inspiration, and divine interpretation. First and foremost, it reaffirms that the "divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" (no. 11). The humans responsible for penning Scripture where chosen by God and "while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted" (ibid). Thus, "the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted to put into sacred writings for the sake salvation" (ibid).

It also recognizes the human elements of their composition: their language, their words, their idioms, their literary styles (cf. no. 12). It is necessary to understand these things for Holy Scripture to be "read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written" (no. 12). Thus, "while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact [...] the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse" (no. 13). This is done to the same degree as was the Incarnation. God "took to Himself the flesh of human weakness" (ibid) and was like in us in every way except sin; so His word (i.e. revelation) takes to itself the language of humans, like our language in every way except error.

The fourth and fifth chapters deal separately with the Old and New Testaments. God "chose for Himself a people to whom He would entrust His promises", and this "plan of salvation foretold [...] is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament" (no. 14). The books of the Old Testament then, being divinely inspired, "remain permanently valuable" (ibid). The revelation of the old covenant "was directed to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, to announce this coming by prophecy, and to indicate its meaning through various types" (no. 15). They contain the "mystery of our salvation [...] in a hidden way" and thus "Christians should receive them with reverence" (ibid): as St. Augustine wrote in Quest. in Hept., 2, 73, "Novum in Vetere latet et in Novo Vetus patet" ("The New [Testament] is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed"), since God is the Author of both (cf. no. 16).

The message of salvation "is set forth and shows its power in a most excellent way in the writings of the New Testament", because the mystery was manifested to the Apostles in a way surpassing the manifestations to earlier prophets (no. 17). The Gospels are preeminent in this regard, because "they are the principal witness for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior" (no. 18). The Church has held throughout its history and continues to hold "that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin", because "what the Apostles preached in fulfillment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of faith, namely, the fourfold Gospel" (ibid).

The four accounts of the Gospel -- by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- have a "historical character [which] the Church unhesitatingly asserts [and] faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation" (no. 19). Their authors "wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus" (ibid). In addition to the Gospels, the Church recognizes the letters of Paul and other works of apostolic origin, just as divinely inspired, "by which, according to the wise plan of God, those matters which concern Christ the Lord are confirmed, His true teaching is more and more fully state, the saving power of the divine work of Christ is preached, the story is told of the beginnings of the CHurch and its marvelous growth, and its glorious fulfillment is foretold" (no. 20).

The sixth chapter deals with Scripture in the life of the Church (which is intrinsically related to the topic of the upcoming Synod of Bishops). The Church venerates Scripture in the same way that she venerates the Eucharist, since they convey to us the "bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body" (no. 21). The Church wishes that all the faithful have easy access to Scripture, which in the past has resulted in the Vulgate translation (among others), and today is sen by her care "that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books" (no. 22). In addition, "should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them" (ibid). In addition to Scripture, the Church highly esteems and "encourages the study of the holy Fathers of both East and West and of sacred liturgies" (no. 23).

The foundation of our theology is "the written word of God, together with sacred tradition" (no. 24). Scripture, which is the "soul of sacred theology", nourishes all "pastoral preaching, catechetics and all Christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily must hold the foremost place" (ibid). Therefore, "all clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study", especially those who preach, "since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the faithful committed to them" (no. 25). This study of Scripture should always be accompanied by prayer, for "we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying" (ibid; St. Ambrose, On the Duties of Ministers I, 20, 88).

To aid non-Christians (and the faithful as well), "editions of the Sacred Scriptures, provided with suitable footnotes, should be prepared" (no. 25) and distributed generously. For, "as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similar we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God" (no. 26).

Technical: Goodbye, DIV; Hello, TABLE

I recently learned that my three-column template, while rendering fine in Firefox (of course), breaks horribly in IE (of course).

So, in what is sure to be the web page design faux pas of the century, I've eliminated the DIV-based template and replaced it with a TABLE. Yes, a TABLE.

And now it renders fine in both browsers. IE, you owe me one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Diablog: Subject to Christ or to the Pope?

This is my third post in a diablog with Weekend Fisher. She wrote:
Or again, in the Papal Bull Unam Sanctam, the church of Rome states
Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
Now I know Roman Catholics are honor-bound to say that's right, but from the outside looking in, that statement looks like proof that Rome has lost the plot about what is really necessary for salvation. It looks like Rome has forgotten what Christ said about the greatest of the apostles: He shall be servant of all, and "The lords of the gentiles lord it over them, but not so with you." Even for someone who grants in principle that Rome had a place of honor among the ancient sees of the united church (pre-Chalcedon), this papal bull demonstrates "lording it over", the opposite of what Christ taught would be the hallmark of Christian leadership. "Absolutely necessary for salvation" to be subject to the Roman Pontiff? That is why the Protest looks at Rome and sees "Jesus plus something else" in a place where it should be Christ alone.
Somewhere in my lifetime, I knew I'd have to give a response and defense of this statement made by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302. But I think in order to do this, I must treat the entire document (linked above). I've added my own emphasis (bold) and made sure all scripture is formatted nicely and referenced properly.
Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8 (or 6:9)] proclaims: "One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her", and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [cf. 1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5]. There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog. [Ps 21:21 (or 22:20)] He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church. This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot [Jn 19:23-24]. Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: "Feed my sheep" [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John "there is one sheepfold and one shepherd." [Jn 10:16] We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: "Behold, here are two swords" [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: "Put up thy sword into thy scabbard" [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: "Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms" [Jer 1:10] and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven" etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [cf. Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [cf. Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
So now you have seen the entirety of the Pope's statement, and one of the Church's arguments for the truth of the office of the Papacy. It is the antitype of Noah piloting the ark (outside of which none were saved). It is imaged by the tunic which was not split. It is specified by Jesus to Peter in John 21, where Jesus tells Peter to "tend my sheep" (John 21:16). The "my" here refers to Jesus: he is telling Peter that the sheep of Jesus are all Peter's, even the "other sheep that are not of this fold" (i.e. the Gentiles): there is to be "one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). One would then have to be under Peter to be under Jesus.

So then, Christ is the head of the (one) Church. But unlike the Davidic kings, he is not visible to us. The visible head of the Church is the man to whom "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 16:19) have been given (cf. CCC 882, 936). The office of the Papacy, started with Peter, is perpetuated through his successors.

But why must we be subject to him? Why not subject to Christ?

Ah, but we are subject to Christ. But how can we know we are? How are we to know what is the truth about Jesus Christ when there are at least a hundred denominations of Christianity which do not agree with each other on various points of doctrine? We can be sure if we are within the one Church founded by Jesus which has been promised to be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit, and against which the gates of Hell will not prevail. And how can we know if we are in this one Church? If we acknowledge its head, the successor of Peter, the Pope, the one to whom Jesus entrusted all his sheep.

To know you have the right doctrine, the right beliefs, the right faith, you must have the right teacher. The Catholic Church says that, if you adhere to the Catholic faith, you adhere to the fullness of faith and revelation, including the authority of the Church, specifically that of Peter and his successors. If you reject the ones Jesus sent, you reject Jesus. This is why the Church is so darn stubborn about Apostolic succession. If some random preacher shows up tomorrow, how can I be sure following his teachings about Jesus will lead to my salvation?

Luther himself made some rather bold statements about his understanding of the true revelation from God. He claimed that whoever did not accept his doctrine (which was God's doctrine) could not be saved:

For inasmuch as I know for certain that I am right, I will be judge above you and above all the angels, as St. Paul says, that whoever does not accept my doctrine cannot be saved. For it is the doctrine of God, and not my doctrine.

(Johannes Janssen, History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages, 16 vols., tr. A.M. Christie, St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910; orig. 1891, vol. 3, 269-272 / Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522)

I do not admit that my doctrine can be judged by anyone, even by the angels. He who does not receive my doctrine cannot be saved.

(in Will Durant, The Reformation, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957, 422, from Werke {Erlangen}, XXVIII, 144; also in Jacques Maritain, Three Reformers: Luther-Descartes-Rousseau, London, 1950, 15 - obviously also from Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522, though Durant doesn't mention it in his footnotes)


Is adherence to Lutheran doctrine necessary for salvation? If so, by whose authority? Luther's (or his successors')? And if Lutheran doctrine is not necessary for salvation, what is its purpose? I do not mean to sound inflammatory, but I am curious what Lutheranism holds as true that may or may not be necessary for salvation. And which Lutheran denomination retains the proper doctrine...?

Diablog: Trent on the Merits of Good Works

This is my second post in a diablog with Weekend Fisher. She wrote:
The "Christ Alone" of the Protest [...] was a reminder that Christ alone is our savior, and that nothing else is needed for salvation except Christ alone.

But Rome goes further and states that such works merit the attainment of eternal life (Council of Trent). That is cause for protest; something has been added where Christ alone belongs. [...] It is through Christ that we have eternal life, not through our merits.
I do not think any Catholic disagrees that "Christ alone is our Savior". Where Catholic theology does differ, though, is what "nothing else is needed for salvation except Christ alone" means. What does it mean to "have Christ" (that is, to fill the need for Christ)? Does it mean...
  • saying the sinner's prayer?
  • being baptized?
  • going to church on a regular basis?
  • loving your neighbor and your enemy?
  • doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy?
  • reading the Bible often?
  • evangelizing?
I could ask 50 different Christian communities and get 50 different sets of answers! Some might say that a person who professes to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (that is, to "have Christ") yet who does not do some of the things I have mentioned doesn't really have Christ (or is in danger of losing Christ).

And what is "Christ alone"? Does it exclude the Church, which is his body, and of which he is the head? How can you have the head without the body?

As for the Council of Trent, I believe you are referring specifically to Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 16. Let's take a look at it (emphasis mine):
Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58); For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name (Heb 6:10); and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward (Heb 10:35).

Hence, to those who work well unto the end (Matt 10:22) and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits (cf. Rom 6:22).

For this is the crown of justice which after his fight and course the Apostle declared was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming (cf. 2 Tim 4:8).

For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches (cf. John 15:1-8), continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace (cf. Rev 14:12), since Christ our Savior says: If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting (John 4:13-14).

Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves (cf. Rom 10:3; 2 Cor 3:5) nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.

Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward (cf. Matt 10:42; Mark 9:40) and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17); nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17), whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits.

And since in many things we all offend (James 3:2), each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything (cf. 1 Cor 4:3-4); because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God (cf. 1 Cor 4:5), who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works (cf. Matt. 16:27; Rom 2:6; Rev 22:12).
In addition to this are a few of the canons defined thereafter:
Canon 26. If anyone says that the just ought not for the good works done in God (see above) to expect and hope for an eternal reward from God through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if by doing well and by keeping the divine commandments they persevere to the end, (cf. Matt 24:13) let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.
There is much said here that I think both parties can agree on. For one, the paragraph quoting the letter of James says that "neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything". Surely, despite all our good works, we are not to judge ourselves as worthy or good or clean; judging is God's and His alone. However, as Paul writes in Romans 2, God will repay us according to our works, so while we are not to determine our fate based on our good works, we cannot ignore that God does take them into account and does so accurately and justly.

So then, let me deal with what I believe are the worrisome statements of Trent.

Eternal life
is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself.

This does not say that you can attain eternal life by either grace or good works, it is saying that eternal life is offered to as as both a grace (a totally unmerited gift through faith in Jesus Christ) and as a reward (for the virtuous work we do in Christ). I understand this to mean we are to unite ourselves to the work of Jesus Christ, and in doing so -- forsaking family and possessions if necessary -- be rewarded with so much more in return, including eternal life (cf. Luke 18:28-30). This reward would not exist if it were not for our faith in Jesus Christ.

Christ ... continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life.

This is probably misinterpreted in much the same way, but it is qualified by the fact that the good works in question are the fruit of the strength infused into us (the justified) by Christ. Those who are justified by Christ receive strength that is found before, during, and after their virtuous works. That strength is necessary for them to found pleasing to God, but it doesn't stop there. They can be seen as meritorious because of that strength working through them. I think Trent missed the boat when they neglected to refer to the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). The three servants received coins from their master, but one of them did not invest it. This servant was cast out! And to the one who had received the most coins, more was given! It was not enough for the master that the servant received the coins -- he did nothing with them. It was not enough that the servant returned the coins inviolate -- he had to fruit to show. The master knows he would not have received ten talents from his servant had he not given him five to start with! It is not that the servant who received five talents was worthy to receive greater responsibility then: it was proven to be so by the fruits of the investment made in him.

I believe it is the same idea found in Paul's first letter to Timothy (6:12) when he says take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Don't let the investment of the Lord in you -- this grace -- be stagnant. Take hold of it! You can't earn it -- we know that much -- but you can show that you can earn and merit even more graces by what you have done with the graces you first received. You will show that eternal life is not just your promise but your reward as well. Paul writes about this in Romans 2 of all places! But it's important to remember that this meriting is never without the foundation of the merit of Christ which we could never earn.

Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works ... nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord.

Here it is. The Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent, affirms we are not to glory in our good works done in Christ nor in ourselves, but we are to glorify only the Lord. We are not even to trust in our good works, because there could never be enough of them to merit what we have received by grace, and they exist only through the strength of Christ in us. Do not worship the creature, worship the Creator!

Canon 26 says that "the just" -- that is, those who are justified in Christ -- can "expect and hope for an eternal reward from God through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ" provided they persevere as Jesus said they must, and they are virtuous ("doing well") as Jesus taught them to be. It says they can expect this reward "for the good works done in God"; it does not say "through their good works", but "through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ".

Canon 32 says that "the good works of the one justified" are not only gifts of God but also meritorious and produce an increase of grace. This hearkens back to Matt 25:14-30 again. The five talents the servant received was an initial grace, the investment which produced five more is a "good work", and the five additional talents exist for two reasons: because the master gave him the first five and because the servant invested them. He has five more talents because he co-operated with the gift given to him. The investment was meritorious: the servant received additional talents from his master, not because he received five, but because through the five he produced five more -- not of his own power, but through the power endowed him by his master.

It is, of course, an imperfect analogy (if one can accuse Christ of teaching imperfectly) but it is the one through which we understand the need to co-operate with the graces we receive, the true source of the fruits those graces produce, and the reward we receive for this co-operation.

Diablog: Jesus + X? No. Jesus, therefore X.

(Update: This post came from a thread on the Coming Home Network forum, as Tiber Jumper indicated in his comment below. The specific post in the thread is here.)

I'll keep this short and sweet, because my wife is already in bed (sleeping, no doubt) and my sister (visiting for the weekend) is trying to sleep on the couch downstairs, and I'm sure this typing isn't helping.

A lot of non-Catholics argue that the Catholic Church "adds" things to Jesus. It's not just faith in Jesus Christ, it's faith, and works, and the sacraments, and the Pope, and Mary, and this and that...

I disagree. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, it therefore follows that there are works, and sacraments, and a visible leadership (the Pope), and role models (like Paul and Mary).

They say Catholics add to Jesus. No: Catholics get more out of Jesus.

Update: Weekend Fisher posted a response on her blog. This is the beginning of a diablog.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vocations: Make a donation to fund vocations

The Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations is an organization that assists young men and women who are otherwise qualified and willing to pursue religious or priestly vocations, but are prevented from doing so by their student loans.

Since the summer of 2004, they have helped 31 young men and women pursue their formation in the religious life. It does this by assisting them in paying off their student loans. The average college loan debt today is over $25,000, and most graduates take at least a decade to pay it off.

Please consider making a (tax-deductible) donation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of young men and women stand ready to answer the call, if only we help to remove the one obstacle that stands in their way: college debt. Help put an end to a vocations crisis by assisting those who have heard God's call.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Prayer: For the repose of souls

My condolences to Amber; her aunt has succumbed to the aftermath of a double stroke in June of this year.

My wife's great aunt, Helen, has also passed away.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Scripture: Historia Salutis, The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church

I have given myself a "mission" for September. To read Dei Verbum (the Vatican II Constitution on Divine Revelation) and Historia Salutis (the lineamenta for the upcoming 2008 Bishops' Synod) -- Dei Verbum is a chief citation source for the lineamenta. Update: I will also be reading three previous documents on Scripture: Divino Afflante Spiritus (Pope Pius XII's encyclical promoting the study of Scripture, from 1943, commemorating the fifthieth anniversary of...), Providentissimus Deus (Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, also on the study of Scripture), and Dei Filius (the Vatican I Constitution on the Catholic Faith). These documents are either direct sources of Historia Salutis and Dei Verbum, or are indirect sources through one another. In addition to these three documents, I'm also reading Sancta Mater Ecclesia, an instruction from 1964 on the historicity of the Gospels.

The lineamenta's introduction and three chapters include "detailed Questions associated with the subject treated in each chapter" (Historia Salutis, Preface). The Bishops taking part in the Synod are expected to "submit a written response to these questions before November of this year" (ibid).

I am going to contact my Bishop and find out how I can share my own personal answers with the Synod (if it is at all possible). I certainly do not consider myself a Bishop, or imbued with the mark of character a Bishop has, but I do wish to try and let them know (to the best of my ability) how one lay Catholic sees the subject.

I will be making the process public: I will post the questions for a section when I begin reading it, write about the section briefly, and post my answers to the questions. I hope to have this finished by the end of September.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tradition: Ecclesia una est

(More Latin? Hopefully this is easy enough for you to translate.)

As promised, this is the first of a set of articles about the two recent documents coming from the Vatican: Summorum Pontificum, a motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, and Responsa ad Quaestiones from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), of which the Pope was the prefect when he was known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. I will treat both documents separately in their own articles, but I will also speak of them together in this article. They are intrinsically connected to one another, because they reaffirm the same timeless Truth: Ecclesia una est (Catechismum Catholica Ecclesiae, 813).

The Pope's motu proprio explains that the Mass of Paul VI (the "Vatican II Mass" or the Novus Ordo Missae) and the Mass of Blessed John XXIII (the "Tridentine Mass" or the Vetus Ordo Missae) are two expressions (or forms, or usus in Latin) of the one Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church (cf. Summorum Pontificum, art. 1). The Mass of Paul VI is the ordinary form of the Rite, whereas the Mass of Blessed John XXIII is the extraordinary form of the Rite.

The Pope goes on to liberalize the celebration of Mass using the older Missal: no longer must the faithful (whether clergy or laity) request permission from their Bishop (cf. ibid., art. 2, 4, 5§1). If the requests of the group of lay faithful (which is "continuously present" per Fr. Zuhlsdorf's translation -- the Latin reads continenter exsistit) are not met by their pastor, their Bishop is to be notified; he may, in turn, contact Ecclesia Dei, the commission set up by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to handle affairs regarding the celebration of Mass according to the older Missal (cf. ibid., art. 7, 8). The document goes into effect on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14, 2007.

The other document, which garnered a lot of negative press in the mainstream media (due to an apparent inability to read), answered five questions about Catholic doctrine: did Vatican II change the doctrine on the Church, why does Lumen Gentium say the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church (two questions), and how does the Catholic Church use the word "Church" in reference to non-Catholic Christian communities (two questions). The document and the commentary that accompanies it respond to these five questions by quoting numerous documents from the Church, showing that nothing has changed in the teaching of the Church. The five responses have 736 words, and nearly 40% of them are explicit quotes from other documents. This isn't new teaching, folks.

So there you have it. The Church is one in its worship -- there is one Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed in two forms -- and it is one in its essence -- Christ established one Church, and although various elements of this Church are found in various places of Christian worship, the only place all of them are retained in perpetuity is the Catholic Church.

More articles will follow. This is a busy week for me: the Perseids meteor shower late Sunday night, my New Testament final exam on Tuesday night, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Wednesday, and a Parish Pastoral Council meeting on Thursday night. Hopefully I'll get one more post up this week.