Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Thanks to God on Thanksgiving with these 4 Prayers!

It's Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a time to stop our hectic lives and give thanks for all the blessings we have.

Who are we to give thanks to? Of course, we ought to thank the people who make our lives so blessed, but more than anyone we ought to thank He who made us, everyone we love, and everything we know. God. To help us do so, I wanted to collect a few of our best Catholic prayers of thanksgiving here for you to use today (each with a link to the full prayer in Latin and English and a little reflection I wrote last Thanksgiving on each).

I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day. One full of love, family, laughter, and prayer! And don't forget gluttony is still a sin ;).

May God bless you all abundantly.

And don't be this guy...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sword and Serpent: Book Review

I was recently invited to be a part of the "launch team" for the newest release from Dr. Taylor Marshall. As I've read and enjoyed his non-fiction in the past, I was particularly interested in seeing what he'd do in fiction. I must say he stepped up and produced a real "barn burner" of a tale, one which I unhesitatingly recommend to all my readers. Below you'll find a link and a fuller review. Consider picking a copy up for yourself as an early Christmas present (don't forget to use my link to help support the blog!)

Sword and Serpent is a gripping tale that will keep you wanting to turn that page and see what happens next! The story is set during the dark days of the Great Persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian, which provides the catalyst that launches us into the story of our hero Jurian (St. George). We get to traverse the Mediterranean world with our hero (and meet a few other saints along the way) experiencing the hard realities of life when being Christian itself was a crime.

While this main story is interesting enough to recommend the book, the intertwining tale of a priestess of Moloch (whose life solely consists of preparing young children to be sacrificed to their demonic god) might even be said to almost eclipse the tale of Jurian. Watching the priestess (Sabra) struggle with her devotion to a monster who she is convinced is a god and more, seeing her willingly taking on a Christlike love that leads her to be willing to lay down her life for the salvation of those she loves (something Jurian can never quite seem to do himself) makes her one of the more memorable characters I've come across in this genre of fiction.

The story will particularly appeal to Catholics and other Christians with an interest in action and in the early centuries of our faith, but should also be appreciated by anyone who enjoys a good adventure story with elements of the fantastic. I found myself unable to put the book down to go to sleep, making it both an enjoyable and a quick read.

I highly recommend Marshall's Sword and Serpent to anyone looking for a great story coming from a different point-of-view than most adventure/fantasy stories. Well worth the price - check it out, you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Error of Impartiality by Chesterton

Saw this over at the GKC Facebook page (you should follow them if you're on Facebook). Like so much of Chesterton, this sums up perfectly the inanity of modern assumptions.

Christus Rex Est!

Readers will note the patron of this blog is none other than Christ the King, which feast we celebrated (in the forma ordinaria) this weekend past. Last year I spent some time reflecting on one of my favorite feasts and I thought I'd draw some attention to those posts for those of you who might be less familiar with this great feast.

First, we looked at some basic questions about the feast, who instituted it and when, what color vestments the priest wears, and whether there is any Biblical evidence that Christ is a king at all. You can read the whole thing here: Christ the King.

The following days we took to look in depth at the encyclical Quas Primas by which Pope Pius XI instituted the feast. This was a two part series (HERE and HERE). If you haven't taken the time to read through Pius' thoughts on instituting the feast in 1925, it is definitely worth the time. Remember by '25, the major monarchies of Europe had collapsed, thanks to the "Great" War. The world had just been "made safe for democracy." Boldly proclaiming Christ, not as president or prime minister, but precisely as king was a gutsy move by the pope. More gutsy still was his direct challenge of the creeping secularism that was already well on the ascendancy in the roaring twenties.

The Feast of Christ the King, then, is meant to remind us of our primary loyalty - not to the government or to any power of this world, but to God. More, it is meant to remind us to publicly be counted as members of the Kingdom, for the faith isn't just something personal, something just between "me and Jesus," rather each of our individual faiths are meant be a public witness drawing the world to take up the light yoke of her true king.

The world may hate us for proclaiming that message, for refusing to keep our religion in the four walls of our churches, but such is the command of our king. Luckily, we already know the ending of the story and who wins (hint: it isn't the Christ hating world), so let's remember to

God bless. I hope you had a great feast day this weekend! Christus Rex est!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Of Atheists, Zombies, Wizards, and Jesus

An atheist recently claimed the following about Our Lord:
"First century zombie wizard" accurately describes what christians believe about Jebus.He lived in the first century.He died then came back to life, like a zombie.He had magic powers (ie, performed "miracles"), like a wizard.
To which another atheist disagreed, saying

Jesus wasn't a zombie.  Now a lich is more reasonable or a mummy but better to say. "Do you believe in a 1st century undead carpenter whom may have performed magic" is the most detailed description one can make.
Which, of course, is nothing less than a painfully obvious misrepresentation of actual Christian beliefs (which these atheists must only learn from other atheists). This kind of argument is essentially the same as this brilliant rebuttal of evolution:
Two monkeys had sex and a human baby popped out? Yeah right. Who'd the baby mate with then? Ha, ha... stupid evolutionists.
Both the "first century zombie wizard" and the above description are ridiculous straw men of the positions Christians and evolutionists actually hold. Let's take a look at why this type of argument entirely fails to land even a glancing blow against Christianity.

What is a Straw Man?
For those who might not be familiar with the term we turn to Dr. Peter Kraft's Socratic Logic for a description,
The "straw man" fallacy consists in refuting an unfairly weak, stupid, or ridiculous version of your opponents idea (either his conclusion or his argument) instead of the more reasonable idea he actually holds. You first set up a "straw man," or scarecrow, then kick it down, since a straw man is easy to knock down. (p. 79)
With that definition in place, let's look at each of the claims made by our first atheist and see if they accurately represent Christian beliefs or if he is creating a "weak, stupid, ridiculous version" of what Christians believe. 

First Century
Do Christians believe Jesus is a first century being? Do we believe in, pray to, and worship a man from the past? No. Christians believe Jesus is co-eternal with the Father, begotten not made. When we pray to Jesus, we don't think we are communing with some character from the days of Caesar Augustus, we claim to be in communion with a contemporary - a man, in fact, who is contemporary to every time. Of course, Jesus did trod the Earth during thirty-three years of the first century in a unique way, that much our atheists get right - He does have a special connection with first century history (that being the time from His Incarnation to His Ascension) but Christians most certainly do not see Jesus as being somehow "from" the first century. I'll grant this this, of the three claims, comes the closest to actual Christian belief, but it still grossly misses the mark, making it appear was if Christians worship a limited being from the distant past.

Zombie (or Lich or Mummy)
Do Christians believe Jesus is "undead?" Well, first it might do well to see what the "undead" are. According to Wikipedia,
 undead is a being in mythology, legend or fiction that is deceased yet behaves as if alive. 
Which brings us to the question, do Christians believe that Jesus, after the Resurrection, is  "deceased yet behaves as if alive?" The answer is a clear "no." Christians profess Christ Risen, not as if alive, but actually, fully alive. Christians believe that Jesus had the power to lay down His life and also to take it up again (cf. Jn 10:18). Christians manifestly do not believe Jesus is still dead after the Resurrection, but now - like the undead - behaves as if He is alive. Rather we believe He actually is alive. Further, the undead (whether they be zombies, liches, or mummies) are, as we see from the definition above, less alive than we are, or indeed than they were before their deaths. Just think of any depiction of a zombie, groping about mindlessly looking a brain to feast on, and we see these images of the undead are monstrous distortions of life (because they are, in fact still deceased despite moving about as if alive). The opposite holds true for what Christians believe about Jesus. We don't believe He is less alive after the Resurrection, we believe He is more more alive. He doesn't stumble about in a half decayed body - one that still shows the effects of the tomb, rather His body is glorified - is superior to His pre-Resurrection Body. The undead, far from being Christlike, are actually anti-Christ figures - distorting the promises of the final bodily resurrection of all believers into a horrific "living death." Again, our atheists have grossly missed the mark of actual Christian belief, creating a straw man version of the Resurrection. 

Wizard (or Magic Working Carpenter)
Do Christians believe Jesus is a powerful wonder working wizard? Well, you've probably already noticed a trend here - the answer (again) is clearly, no. A wizard is a man who, usually through some hidden occult knowledge or through some special object or book, is able to interfere with and manipulate matter. The Bible knows full well about such characters, as we see in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts
there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is that power of God which is called Great.” And they gave heed to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.... Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!... And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (v. 9-24)

We see here the juxtaposition of a "wizard" with the apostles, who work wonders not through "magic," but through the grace and will of God. The apostles derive their power from God to the point where they can do nothing apart from Him (cf. Jn 15:5). God simply chooses to work miracles through them - this distinction (working magic through your own will and being a conduit of God's will) is the essential difference between wizards (who control nature by their own power or learning) and the disciples (who do not). If the wonders worked by the apostles are not the result of their wizardry, how much more is Jesus Himself not a wizard? Jesus, being God enfleshed, obviously works the miracles He does not through any gained wisdom or power, but through the power of God. Further, Jesus doesn't work His miracles through His own will (like a wizard), but merely does the will of the Father (cf. Jn 6:38). Which is a bit of a long way to say, no Christians don't believe Jesus is a powerful wizard, they believe He is God.

What Do Christians Really Believe?
If we don't believe Jesus is a First Century, Zombie Wizard what do we believe He is? We believe Jesus is the eternally begotten Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. True God from true God. As such He is the author of (and thus has control over) the laws of nature. Indeed, He is omnipotent. In the first century, He took on flesh and dwelt among us (and He continues to be physically present with us until the end of the age hidden behind the accidents of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist). He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried, but rose again, in a new and glorified Body, into a fuller experience of life and will never die again. I admit that is a bit longer and less catchy (not to mention less easy to argue against) proposition than the Zombie Wizard bit, but such is what we actually believe and such is what needs confronted to avoid a failed "straw man" argument.

Does it Matter What Christians Believe?
As you can see, I keep stressing "what Christians believe." Our atheists might retort, "well I don't believe any of those things about Jesus, so he's still a Zombie Wizard." This would be the height of illogic. As we saw from the definition above, a straw man is a mischaracterization of what the other side believes. It doesn't matter if you believe it or not, what matters is arguing against what the other side does in fact believe. It would do our young Earther no good to say, when called out for the straw man example above, "oh, well I don't believe in evolution, so I say it is the same as a monkey giving birth to a human baby." That would just be to restate the straw man, it wouldn't make it any less of a fallacy. The same holds true for the atheists. It doesn't matter whether or not they believe Jesus is Resurrected in almost the exact opposite way of the undead - it only matters that Christians believe it. To argue effectively against Christianity, you have to actually argue against Christianity, not against a weak (straw man) version of it.

Perhaps the Best Question... Why Create the Straw Man?
The most common reason people construct straw men of their opponents positions is because they can't refute the actual positions held by those they disagree with. Those employing straw men, then, are being less than honest. I never like, however, to ascribe malevolency where ignorance can suffice as an explanation, which I think is a good rule to follow with our two atheist friends here. Sure they both could know what Christians believe and be deliberately constructing straw man versions of the Faith, but, for some reason something tells me they just don't know any better. They might just actually believe that they are summing up what Christians really believe. I suppose such might be the necessary consequence of getting most (or all) of your information about Christianity from atheist websites. Imagine someone deciding they'd learn all about the African American experience from reading materials produced by the Ku Klux Klan or someone opting to study evolution (to return to our example above) but staying far away from any evolutionist, preferring to read young Earth creationists exclusively. Such selective reading brings to mind James Carville who once remarked (apropos of cable news channels) that viewers tuned in for the same reason a drunk uses a light post - not for illumination, but for support. Of course, doing so might end up making you look ridiculous.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy: 

Of Atheists, Straw Men, Spaghetti Monsters, and God

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cardinal George Retires Leaves Us Words of Wisdom

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, prince of the Roman Catholic Church, archbishop of Chicago has retired, but does so with some words of wisdom for all Catholics everywhere, (from CNA)
“The faith, what it means, and then the habits of life that protect a life of faith, are part of personal formation in the truth, and the Church should attend to those dimensions as much as she possibly can” 

His focus on not just believing the truth (important as that undoubtably is), but on living it - in developing "the habits of a life of faith" - is particularly important. He went on, addressing our Catholic youth,
 "If young people get caught early on in habits that enslave — drugs or sexual promiscuity or gangs — they’re never free. Christ died to make us free.”
We heard the same advice given by Blaise Pascal last week (Sin Motivates Disbelief)
“At least get it into your head that, if you are unable to believe it is because of your passions, since reason impels you to believe and yet you cannot do so. Concentrate then not on convincing yourself by multiplying proofs for God’s existence but by diminishing your passions.” (Pascal, Fragment 233) 
Both Pascal and Cardinal George recognize the great danger that lies in wait for those who build the wrong habits - those of sin. These unrestrained passions, these habits that never allow us to be free, are one of the primary reasons people stop believing. The old Latin expression; lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi, then works in reverse as well. The way we live (lex vivendi) can determine what we come to believe (lex credendi) and whether or not we pray (lex orandi).

Cardinal George also went on to speak about the gathering storm clouds of persecution here in America,
“We never thought that our kind of society could develop into a place where people would not be free to practice their faith fully. Now we realize that can happen here too — more subtly, done through the law, but sometimes liberal societies can also be oppressive”
Which, of course, brings to mind his epic comment from 2010,
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."
The last line, frequently left off the quote, is, in my opinion, the most important. The Church has faced many a persecution. Some grisly (think of the Christians used as human torches by Nero in the first century or the priests butchered in the streets of Mexico in the twentieth), some not (Queen Elizabeth's recusant fines), but the Church has always withstood and eventually risen to pick up what is left of civilization and begin anew.

It yet remains to be seen how dark the days ahead might get for faithful Catholics here in America. Growing intolerance and mounting pressure to restrict the open practice of our religion (our "first freedom") certainly makes the grave prognosis of Cardinal George less unthinkable than it would have been even ten years ago.

Please do keep him in your prayers. He has been diagnosed with cancer for a third time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

All Christians (not just Catholics!) Should Call Mary the Mother of God (8 points)

Last week we saw why Every Christian (not just Catholics!) Should Be Praying the Rosary. Some non-Catholic Christians who might have followed the argument and be tempted to pick up their beads might still draw back when confronted with the Marian title - "Mother of God." Doesn't this make Mary into some kind of goddess? Wouldn't this mean she existed before God? Doesn't this finally prove the Catholic Church is trying to slip some kind of pagan Mary worship into "pure Christianity?" Can'e we just all agree to calling Mary "the Mother of Jesus"and move on?

It might be with surprise that our Protestant interlocutor finds this Marian title to be absolutely essential to authentic Christianity of any stripe. The Catholic (and as we will see historic Christian) argument is simple enough to be put into a single syllogism:

Mary is the mother of Jesus.Jesus is God.Therefore, Mary is the mother of God

It's All About Jesus

All the Church's Marian doctrines are really doctrines about Jesus Christ. That is essential to keep in mind when thinking about anything and everything the Church teaches about Mary. The title "Mother of God" then has less to do with who Mary is (although it tells us that too certainly) and more to do with who Jesus is. We really only have two options before us, one leading to "Mary, the Mother of God" and the other just to "Mary, the Mother of Jesus." We can all agree Mary is the Mother of Jesus so:

Option 1 (Jesus = God)Mary is the Mother of JesusJesus = GodTherefore, Mary is the Mother of God 
Option 2 (Jesus doesn't = God)Mary is the Mother of JesusJesus doesn't = GodTherefore, Mary is not the Mother of God

This clearly demonstrates that whether or not Mary is the Mother of God depends only on the answer to one question, is Jesus God? If Jesus is God, we can replace the word "Jesus" with the word "God" in the statement "Mary is the Mother of Jesus" if Jesus isn't God we can't. It's really that simple.

Isn't Mary Just the Mother of the Human Jesus?

There aren't two Jesuses, one human and one divine, there is only one Jesus, who is both human and divine. In other words, Jesus isn't a human person he is a divine person who has both a divine and a human nature. Women are not mothers' of natures, they are mothers' of persons, thus Mary is the mother of the divine person - Jesus Christ (God). To say Mary is the Mother of the Human Jesus is to say Jesus wasn't God become flesh (i.e. a divine person who took on a human nature), but to say that Jesus was merely a human person. Again we see, saying Mary isn't the Mother of God is saying Jesus isn't God.

But Doesn't "God" Mean All of God?

Absolutely! Saying Mary is the "Mother of God" implies that she is the Mother of the totality of God, not just a "part" of God. This too is saying something very important about Jesus. For Jesus, as our Protestant brothers certainly know, is the totality of God (as is the Father, as is the Holy Spirit). Jesus isn't part of God He is God. All of God. Each person of the Holy Trinity is all of God while remaining distinct from each other (hence the problem with comparisons of the Trinity to an apple - with core, skin, and flesh - or to a man - who is uncle, father, and brother. The three persons of the Trinity are not 1/3 of God each - they each are God while not each being one another).

When Catholics insist upon Mary being the Mother of God, we do so because we insist upon the Divinity of Jesus. 

Are You Saying God Didn't Create Mary?

Mary being the Mother of God has nothing at all to do with whether or not God created her (He did) or whether God pre-exists her (He does). It simply means that Jesus is really, truly God. That when Mary became pregnant with Jesus she was pregnant with God. That when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she gave birth to God. That God (Jesus) entered the world through Mary. Mary is God's mother because of the Incarnation, not because she pre-exists God (which she didn't).

Don't Mother's Always Pre-Exist Their Sons?

For human persons? Yes, but, as we saw above, Jesus isn't a human person, He is a divine person with both a divine nature and a human nature (thus being both fully God and fully man). As human persons we don't pre-exist our conception. Jesus, as a divine person, does. We have mother's because they bring us into the world (which also happens to be the beginning of our existence as persons). God too was brought into the world through a woman (although, for Him, it wasn't the beginning of His existence, only the beginning of His Incarnation), thus God too has a human mother - Mary.

Nativity of Jesus

Wouldn't All of This Make Mary a Goddess?

Absolutely not! It simply makes Mary the woman who birthed the Incarnate God into the world. As we saw, Mary isn't the Mother of God in His Divine nature, but only in His human nature. She isn't the source of God's Divinity, but is the source of His humanity. Mary isn't the Mother of the Godhead. She isn't a goddess, but she is the Mother of God.

A Little History

This was all worked out long ago by the early Christians at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431). Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople, was teaching against the already long established custom of calling Mary "the Mother of God" (theotokos in Greek). He taught that Mary ought to only be called Christokos (Christ-bearer or Mother of Christ) and advanced the same arguments some modern Protestants do. Seeking to defend the Divinity of Christ, which we saw is undermined by the Protestant/ Nestorian position, the Council proclaimed that
This is the account of the true faith everywhere professed. So shall we find that the holy fathers believed. So have they dared to call the holy virgin, mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word or his godhead received the origin of their being from the holy virgin, but because there was born from her his holy body rationally ensouled, with which the Word was hypostatically united and is said to have been begotten in the flesh. (source)
Which is the exact same thing we said above and that the Catholic Church still teaches 16 centuries on. But wasn't only the Holy Catholic Church that historically has defended this Marian title. All Christians, with the exception of the few followers of Nestorius (a clear heretic) and Evangelical / Fundamentalist Christians today, have defended the Divinity of Christ by calling Mary "the Mother of God." Martin Luther (hardly a fan of the Catholic Church) said,

Martin Luther, defender of the Theotokos
(Mary) became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. - Martin Luther (Luther's Works, 21:326, cf. 21:346.)
We too know very well that God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother. (Theodore G. Tappert, ed. Selected Writings of Martin Luther. Fortress Press. p. 291.)
Even the "Father of the Protestant Reformation" saw through the arguments against calling Mary the theotokos and, while feeling free to discard many Catholic teachings, vigorously defended this Marian title, knowing full well that in so doing he was really defending the Divinity of Christ and thus authentic Christianity.

It All Boils Down to One Simple Question

Which brings us right back to where we began, with one simple question - Is Jesus God? If you answer yes, then Mary is the Mother of God. Period.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pope Benedict XVI - "A Man at Peace"

Great news out of Rome! Our beloved Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, is doing very well and continues to be in good health, according to a report from CNA/EWTN.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo recently met with Benedict, swapped zucchetti with him, and found him to be in excellent physical and mental shape (oh how I hope he is writing!) From CNA:
“He is in fantastic health, fantastic health, and his mind is as sharp today and perhaps even sharper than when he was the great theologian and the great Pope that we knew him as.”  
Heavy is the head that wears the papal tiara (well, mitre these days). Benedict's self-imposed retirement seems to be agreeing with him. The good Monsignor (who is one of the leaders of the Caritas in Veritate Institute, which takes its inspiration - and name - from one of Benedict's encyclicals) went on to give a great description of Benedict's time as pope,

“He was able to combine sound doctrine, without changing (it), with a very pastoral approach,” he said, explaining that as pastors, priests must be able to reach people in the pews not by changing doctrine, but rather making it something living and meaningful in people’s lives.
And pointed out that Benedict's greatest witness for the Church today (and in times future) was the profound humility and trust in God he had to step down from the Chair of Peter,
“The greatest pulpit from which Benedict has ever preached is his great witness of humility. Here is a man who reached the top, we would say, in the Church. He is the successor of Peter, but he did not cling to that dignity”
The whole piece is worth reading (HERE). It is always heartening to hear the Holy Father Emeritus is doing well. As anyone who has been around the Church for awhile knows, Cardinal Ratzinger had wanted to retire several times during the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II. Following the will of God, he instead served not only for the duration of JP 2's tenure, but then heroically answered the call to become the Supreme Pontiff himself, leading the Church in such a way as to physically manifest the "hermeneutic of continuity" which is the only valid way of understanding the Second Vatican Council. After reaching this height (the highest office attainable for any man - servus servorum Dei), Benedict was willing to, for the good of the Church, step aside when he felt no longer able to fulfill the functions of his office. That one act, his "greatest pulpit", will certainly echo through the history of the Church with greater force even than his many brilliant writings. Truly, Joseph Ratzinger has long been and continues to be a loyal servant of Jesus Christ and of His Most Holy Catholic Church.

If you haven't had a chance to watch his only extended English language interview (conducted by Raymond Arroyo at The World Over) you ought to give it a watch. This is from shortly before he would become pope.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Was God Doing Before the Big Bang?

I've been going back and forth with several atheists this week and one quote had been continually popping into my mind,

Which of course is a play on (and a refutation of) some of the weak arguments atheists make against theists. Overall, it seems, many "new" atheists don't really seem to have any idea what theists actually believe. They spend their time endlessly deriving weak, straw man arguments that really do nothing to promote atheism and less to attack theism. I suppose there might be a few theists out there who, undereducated in their faith and desperate to be "current," might fall for one or two of these weak arguments, but I can't imagine there are many.

The latest one to cross my inbox was the following meme:

Which is nothing more than the good old, "what was God doing before the Big Bang" nonsense we all are too familiar with. Of course, God, having created time, cannot possibly be within time (any more than He can be contained within space) and thus doesn't spend any time waiting around or "doing nothing." All of time is one eternally present moment to God. We find this hard to imagine, but it is rather easy to comprehend.

Our relationship to time is like a fish floating down a stream. Some of the stream is behind it, more is in front. Some of the stream is so far behind our fish he isn't even really sure if it exists and the end seems unimaginably far away on either side. The fish simply glides with the current. He can't experience more than the one section of the stream he currently is in. God is like a man hovering above the stream in a hot air balloon. He isn't within the stream at all and the whole stream, beginning, middle, and end, is present to Him.

It would make no sense to ask what our hot air balloonist was doing for so long when not much was happening at the beginning of the stream. He isn't stuck just looking at the beginning of the stream - the whole stream is His to behold, all the time, at any moment.

The same is true of God. He doesn't "do nothing" for 10 billion years after the Big Bang, as if He is trapped in time like temporal creatures are, waiting for something to finally happen. All of time is current to Him, right now. What is the future to us, is the present to God. What is past to us, is present to God. What is present to us, also is present to God. In other words, we could no more escape God's presence by traveling in time than we can be traveling through space. It isn't as if I can board a plane to Rome and God wouldn't be there because He happens to be in Prague at the moment. Similarly, if time travel as well as space travel was possible, I could no more escape His presence by journeying to the court of Kublai Khan than I can be traveling cross country.

Perhaps no one sums all this up better than Frank Sheed in his classic work Theology and Sanity,
What then is time?... Time... is the duration of that which changes; time... is the measurement of the changes of the universe.... Where nothing changes, there is nothing for time to measure. Where nothing changes, time has no possible meaning. Thus time and the universe started together. God is infinite and therefore changeless.... The universe He created is a changing universe. And because change belongs to it and not to God, time belongs to it and not to God.... time is the ticking of the universe. 
Thus the phrase "before the universe was created" has no meaning at all. Before is a word of time, and there could be no time before the universe. To say "before the universe" means when there wasn't any "when"; which is to say that it doesn't mean anything at all. ...
Apply all this to the consideration of one further absurdity that tends to shadow the back of our minds, even when in the front of our minds we are by way of knowing better. It is the vague feeling we have that eternity had been going on for some time before God decided to create the universe. In light of what we have said, this is seen to be sheerly meaningless, for it brings time into eternity. We must not think of God creating the universe after a certain amount of eternity had rolled by, because there are no parts in eternity, and it does not roll by. This mental monstrosity is perhaps related to the picture of God as an old man. But God is not only not an old man, He is not even an old God. He is not old at all. For "old" simply means that one has lived through a long time; and there is no time to God. (pp. 66-68)
Which gets us to the taproot of much of the "new" atheism (and a good bit of the old too). Atheists, by and large, seem to reject what they think theists believe to be God, but we theists reject their false notion of God too. Atheists laugh at the prospect of an aged beard man sitting around waiting for 10 billion years to elapse before He can get to doing something interesting. Theists laugh at that image as well. What so often separates us then is merely the theist having taken the time to understand what all the symbolize actually symbolizes, while the atheist never gets past the pictures he saw of God in some child's Bible. The atheist, in rejecting a false notion of God, rejects the real God. The theist transcends the false notions and rises to see the beauty and majesty of the Creator standing behind the images. The atheist has thrown the baby out with the bath water. The theist holds the baby closer and loves him more once he's removed him from the bath water. The one has embraced unreason, choosing to believe everything came from nothing for no reason and continues to exist for reason. The other has embraced reason and found Reason Himself. Or as Frank Sheed has it,

"If we saw a coat hanging on a wall and did not realize it was held there by a hook, we should not be living in the real world at all, but in some fantastic world of our own in which coats defied the law of gravity and hung on walls by their own power. Similarly if we see things in existence and do not in the same act see that they are held in existence by God, then equally we are living in a fantastic world, not the real world. Seeing God everywhere and all things upheld by Him is not a matter of sanctity, but of plain sanity, because God is everywhere and all things are upheld by Him. What we do about it may be sanctity; but merely seeing it is sanity. To overlook God's presence is not simply to be irreligious; it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there.... God is not only a fact about religion: He is a fact. Not to see Him is to be wrong about everything." (pp. 24-25)

I wonder if that "seems legit."

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

5 Reasons Every Christian Should Be Praying the Rosary!

Yesterday, we looked at four reasons every Christian (not just Catholics!) should ask the saints for their prayers. With that established, I'd like to look at a specific prayer every Christian (not just Catholics!) ought to be praying - the Rosary. The Rosary is sadly often neglected or even ridiculed by non-Catholic Christians, but it shouldn't be - praying it is nothing more than reciting and meditating upon something both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians both love - the Holy Bible. Let's look at a few reasons the Rosary should be the ultimate ecumenical prayer.

Reason 1 - The Our Father was Taught to us by Jesus Himself

One of the major prayers of the Rosary is the highest "pre-fab" single prayer in Christendom - the Our Father (aka the Lord's Prayer). When the Apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He didn't say come up with a bunch of your own words, making sure to start with "I just...," and end with "In Jesus' name." Instead, He taught them a prayer to be memorized - the Our Father. Thus, every Christian ought to say the Our Father at least once a day - it is our communal family prayer to God (hence "Our" Father, not "My" Father). Not only does it connect us to each other as the family of God, it also connects us with all the Christians who went before us who also made this prayer a part of their lives. This great prayer is said six times during the rosary, really giving the person praying it a chance to soak in its meaning.

Reason 2 - The Hail Mary is a Recitation of and Reflection on 

Sacred Scripture.

The Hail Mary, sometimes maligned by "Bible Christians" is one of the most Biblical prayers we have. It is the other major prayer of the Rosary. Let's review it, line by line.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Luke 1:28 "And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." 

Blessed art thou among women
Luke 1:41-42a "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women..."

Luke 1:48 "For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed."

Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus

Luke 1:42b "and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Luke 1:43 "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Rev 21:27 - "Nothing impure will ever enter it (heaven)”
James 5:16 - "The prayer of a righteous man has great power”
Rev 8:4 "the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel”
(Mary is in heaven, everyone in heaven is righteous, the prayer of the righteous is powerful, those in heaven pray for us. Thus, we should ask Mary to pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.)

I don’t know how any Christian could be against reflecting on and reciting God’s Word, especially when we know that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Far from being "vain repetition" (cf. Matt 6:7), reciting Scripture is a way to grow closer to God through His Word - the Bible! I honestly don't know how any "Bible Christian" could call reciting and reflecting on the Bible "vain!"

Reason 3 - The Mysteries of the Rosary are Deep Reflections on Scripture

Praying the Rosary, of course, involves more than just reciting the prayers, it also includes meditating on the Bible (something all Christians should support!) Their are four sets of "approved" mysteries, but Christians are free to reflect upon any aspect of the life of Christ they feel drawn to while saying the Rosary. There are four "approved" sets are, each with five mysteries for our contemplation, for a total of twenty mysteries. Of these the first eighteen are drawn straight from Scripture. The last two are drawn out from Scripture, but are not explicitly mentioned. All of them primarily deal with reflecting on the person of Jesus Christ. They are,

The Luminous Mysteries
1. Jesus is Baptized in the River Jordan (cf. Matt 3:13)
2. Jesus Works His First Miracle at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1-12)
3. Jesus Preaches the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk 1:15)
4. The Transfiguration of Jesus (cf. Matt 17:1-9)
5. Jesus and the Apostles Eat the Last Supper (cf. Matt 26:17-30)

The Joyful Mysteries
1. The Angel Gabriel Announces the Conception of Jesus (cf. Lk 1:28)
2. Mary Visits her cousin Elizabeth, John Jumps in utero for Jesus (cf. Lk 1:41-42)
3. The Birth of Jesus (cf. Lk 2:1-20)
4. Jesus is Presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:22-40)
5. Jesus is Found Discoursing with the Jewish Doctors in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:46)

The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. Jesus Prays in the Garden (cf. Lk 22:39-46)
2. Jesus is Beaten at the Pillar (cf. Jn 19:1)
3. Jesus is Crowned with Thorns (cf. Matt 27:29)
4. Jesus Carrys His Cross (cf. Jn 19:17)
5. Jesus Dies on the Cross (cf. Mk 15:33-34)

The Glorious Mysteries
1. Jesus Rises on the Third Day (cf. Matt 28)
2. Jesus Ascends into Heaven (cf. Mk 16:19)
3. Jesus Sends Forth the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:1-13)
4. Jesus brings Mary into Heaven (see more HERE)
5. Jesus Crowns Mary in Heaven (cf. Rev 12:1, Song of Solomon 6:9, Psalm 44:14-16 and Judith 15:10 - More HERE)

Reason 4 - The Rosary Honors Mary, Something the Makes us 
More like Jesus

A popular acronym in the non-Catholic world is WWJD, What Would Jesus Do, and it serves as a great reminder to always focus on what Jesus did to help us act rightly in our lives. Applying the principal to the Rosary gives us yet another reason to pick up those beads. As we saw above, the Bible tells us that "all ages will call (Mary) blessed." Praying the Rosary is one way we Christians fulfill this prophecy. Jesus, as the Word Incarnate, fulfilled many prophecies of the Old Testament, so fulfilling this New Testament prophecy is a way to do what He does. 

Further, Jesus was like us in all things except sin (cf. He 4:15), we all sin, He never did. But breaking the Ten Commandments is a sin (in fact a very serious sin). The Fourth (or Fifth depending on how you count) Commandment demands that we honor our parents (cf. Exodus 20:12). Thus, it would have been a sin for Jesus not to have honored his parents. Jesus, being without sin, then definitely honored his father and his mother (Mary). If Jesus honored Mary and we want to do what He does, then we too will honor Mary and there is no better way to do so than by praying the Rosary.

Reason 5 - Following Mary Means Following Jesus

Anti-Catholic Meme that Perfectly Demonstrates Catholic Marian Theology

Mary always points to Jesus. She is the moon to His sun, only able to reflect His light. The above meme is perfect because Mary always tells us the same thing as she said at Cana "do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). Following Mary's example (who followed Jesus right to the foot of the Cross) is a way to grow closer to Jesus, just like listening to your pastor is, except she knows Jesus a whole lot better than the pastor! She knows him as only a mother can know her son.

With all that in mind I implore all of you to start praying the Rosary, whether you are Catholic or Protestant, it can change your life.

Still Skeptical?

Why not give it a try? With atheists I'll sometimes recommend they try living a holy life - praying, going to church, reading the Bible - and see what happens. The same is true of the Rosary. Try this powerful prayer and see what happens. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ratzinger on Scientism

A few weeks ago we saw how the Catholic Church values science and how it opposes the science destroying ideology of "scientism" (the belief that all knowledge comes from science). This basic critique of the "psuedo-religion" of scientism is echoed here by none other than Pope Benedict XVI, in a quote I wanted to share as a follow up,

When science becomes the dominant element in a view of the world... This absolute value becomes exclusive; it develops into the theory that scientific knowledge is the only valid knowledge and becomes a denial of the absolute value of religion, which is itself on a different level of reality.... To maintain that it is only with these (scientific) categories that man can know anything at all is an unfounded presupposition, which in any case is shown by experience to be untrue.
(Card. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, p. 31)

If you missed the original post you can read it here -  Can We Only Know Truth Via the Scientific Method?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Last Judgement as seen in The Chronicles of Narnia

Yesterday, we took a brief look at a passage in CS Lewis' great Chronicles of Narnia series, one in which the author predicted perfectly the coming "dictatorship of relativism" and the necessary enslavement that would follow. Another passage from the same volume in the series, is well worth reflecting on after the sober thoughts of yesterday and that is what I'd like to turn our attention to today. While the Ape and his cronies, the Calormenes, seemed to have won the day by convincing the poor Narnians to accept their relativistic creed their end is ultimately doomed by the existence of the real Aslan (the real God). As much as the forces of the anti-Aslan seek to use him and his image to dominate his people, as much as they seek to push a perverse understanding of relationship with him on them - Aslan finally uses them to bring about his will. It is a classic case of God bringing good even out of evil. Here, in The Last Battle, the good brought about is the ultimate good of all Creation as he calls each and every creature home, to meet him face to face.

The creatures came rushing on, their eyes brighter and brighter as they drew nearer and nearer to the standing Stars. But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don't think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly - it was fear and hatred... And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow... I don't know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all of these came in at the Door, on Aslan's right. (Ch 14)

Those on left are not heard from again, although we may have some hints of their ultimate fate when we see the Dwarfs who, having been taken in by the Ape, have decided to be too clever to ever fall for any such nonsense again. They too come face to face with Aslan, but they can't recognize his presence. He gives them food and drink to feat upon, at the request of our heroes, and lays them in a breathtaking land. The dwarfs, however, can't see the beautiful blue sky, smell the fragrant flowers, or even taste the mean given them in this grand land, they can only "see" the inside of the small stable through whose door they entered Aslan's country. Aslan even roars, but they respond only with
"Hear that? That's the gang at the other endow the Stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don't take any notice. They won't take us in again!"
Our heroes are distraught over the self-imposed fate of the Dwarfs (who weren't really evil like the Ape and the Calormenes) and beg Aslan to help them, but Aslan explains,
"They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning over belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out." (Chapter 17)

 It is then that we are, with the crowd of creatures who ventured towards the right, bidden to travel "further up and further in" leaving behind a now cold, lifeless, indeed dead Narnia. As the group travels deeper and deeper into "Aslan's country" they come to see their lost friends - those who have passed into Aslan's Country ahead of them - from both Narnia and, surprisingly, England. In amazement they stare at the country side around them seeing what seems to be Narnian landmarks, but somehow they are more Narnian than Narnia ever could be. Digory, who witnessed the birth of Narnia in The Magician's Nephew, explains,
"that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. it was only a shadow or a copy of something real in Aslan's real world. You need not mourn over Narnia... All of the old Narnia that mattered, all of the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream." His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet when he spoke these words: but when he added under his breath "It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!" the older one's laughed.
And indeed it is "all in Plato" and the Book of Revelation.

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