Sunday, February 29, 2004

Civil War #1: Slavery as Stated Primary Cause for Secession

This will be the first of what I hope will be many threads about the Civil War, or War Between the States, or War of Northern Aggression (as it is variously known). I've asked several Southern or "Southern sympathizer" friends of mine (I'm a lifelong Michigander who loves the South and whose mother's father was born in Alabama -- my father was born in Canada, too, so I am half-Canadian) to write a guest post. So far, one has said he would in the near future. I am very interested in this topic and would like particularly to learn more about the Southern perspective on it.

One of my friends up here in Michigan is fond of telling me that slavery was not the primary cause of the Civil War (as I will call it, because of normative usage -- I don't begrudge people using the other terms at all). In digging up some resources for a new post on this topic today, I ran across the following very interesting information, which (I would contend) highly suggests otherwise.

It is from a website called "Declaration of Causes of Seceding States" and it simply cites the documents of secession from four Southern states: Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Here are some highlights, but I would urge anyone who wishes to pursue this discussion to read the documents in their entirety, which will make abundantly clear that slavery was the overwhelmingly dominant reason for the secession of these states. I can't demonstrate that by the selected quotes I have chosen for (relative) brevity's and summary's sake (all bolded emphases added):

Georgia

[Beginning]: The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war.

. . . A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party . . . anti-slavery is its mission  and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution. While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen.

. . . The North demanded the application of the principle of prohibition of slavery to all of the territory acquired from Mexico and all other parts of the public domain then and in all future time. It was . . . her fixed purpose to limit, restrain, and finally abolish slavery in the States where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity.

. . . The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its [i.e., the Republican Party's] leaders and applauded by its followers. With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers. The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.

. . . for above twenty years the non-slave-holding States generally have wholly refused to deliver up to us persons charged with crimes affecting slave property.

. . . In several of our confederate States a citizen cannot travel the highway with his servant who may voluntarily accompany him, without being declared by law a felon and being subjected to infamous punishments . . .

For twenty years past the abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions and to excite insurrection and servile war among us.

[End]: . . . by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquillity.

[Approved, Tuesday, January 29, 1861]

Mississippi

[Beginning]: In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

[Short paragraphs of grievances follow -- eleven of which give specifics: of those, six mention slavery or race; e.g., "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst."]

[End]: Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.

South Carolina

[begins with an exposition on the sovereignty of states, but as soon as specifics are mentioned, slavery is obviously the primary consideration]

. . . The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.

. . . In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

. . . We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

[End]: . . . A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.

We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

[Adopted December 24, 1860]

Texas

[begins with the history of Texan independence and conditions of joining the United States as a state]

. . . She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other
slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

. . . The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions-- a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation . . .

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with
nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law
. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

[ten short paragraphs of grievances follow: seven of which mention slavery]

. . . We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding
states.

[adopted: February 2, 1861]


* * * 

Lenten Meditation #1: NT on Suffering With Christ

From my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, pp. 158-161.

Matthew 10:38 / 16:24 And he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

(see also Mark 8:34-35)

The disciple of Christ is called to suffer (Matthew 10:22, Mark 10:37-39, Luke 6:22, Acts 14:22, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Philippians 1:29, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 2 Timothy 1:8, 2:3, 3:12, Hebrews 5:8, James 1:2-4,12, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2:20-21, 4:12-19, Revelation 1:9).

No biblically-informed Christian would dispute that. Controversy only arises over whether such sufferings can improve one's estate vis-a-vis salvation, or help anyone else in the Body of Christ. Catholics believe that all our sufferings can be a source of grace for the one experiencing them as well as helpful with regard to the spiritual graces of another (Romans 15:1, 1 Corinthians 12:24-26), to whom these penitential sufferings are applied (as in intercessory prayer), thus giving suffering the highest possible purpose and meaning.

Furthermore, the painful experience of being corrected by God, as parents discipline their children (Leviticus 26:23-24, Deuteronomy 8:2,5, 2 Samuel 7:14, Job 5:17-18, Psalm 89:30-34, 94:12, 103:9, 118:18, 119:67,71,75, Proverbs 3:11-12, Isaiah 48:10, Jeremiah 10:24, 30:11, 31:18, Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:3, 1 Corinthians 11:32, Hebrews 12:5-11, Revelation 3:19), is quite similar to the Catholic notion of temporal punishments for sin, which can be lessened by penance.

St. Paul explicitly expounds the Catholic doctrine of penance, suffering, and vicarious atonement in the following sixteen passages:

Romans 8:13,17 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live . . . and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

(see also 1 Corinthians 15:31, 2 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Peter 4:1,13)

1 Corinthians 11:27,30 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 . . . That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

(see also 11:31-32, 1 Corinthians 5:5)

2 Corinthians 4:10 Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

(see also 2 Corinthians 1:5-7)

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

(see also 2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

(see also Galatians 2:20)

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.

(see also Romans 12:1)

In this verse and in Philippians 2:17, the Greek word for libation and sacrifice is spendomai. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was the Bible of the early Christians, this term is used for a variety of offerings and sacrifices commanded by the Mosaic Law (for example, Genesis 35:14, Exodus 29:12,38 ff., Leviticus 4:7 ff., 23:37).

Most intriguing is its occurrence with reference to the Messiah, Jesus, in Isaiah 53:12: . . . he poured out his soul to death . . . It appears, then, that St. Paul is stressing a mystical, profound identification with Jesus even in His death (as also in 2 Corinthians 4:10 and Philippians 3:10 above).

This comparison leads inexorably to the Catholic doctrine of vicarious atonement among members of the Body of Christ. In some mysterious, glorious way God chooses to involve us in the very Redemption (always in a secondary and derivative sense, but actual nonetheless), just as He voluntarily involves us in His Providence by means of prayer and evangelism, and in His Creation by our procreation and childbirth.

Our sufferings become identified with those of Christ (instances of the stigmata, whereby saintly persons -- such as St. Francis of Assisi -- actually receive the wounds of Christ in their bodies, are an extremely graphic image of this scriptural teaching).

Since we are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:30, Colossians 1:24 below), such a "radical" convergence is not to be unexpected. For instance, when St. Paul was converted to Christ, Jesus said to him, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:5). This couldn't literally refer to Jesus the Divine Person since He had already ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Rather, Jesus meant that Christ's Church really was His Body, whom Paul (Saul) was persecuting (Acts 8:1,3, 9:1-2).

Jesus also identifies the Church with Himself in Matthew 25:34-45 (25:40 -- brethren. Compare Matthew 12:50, 28:10, John 20:17). Thus, Jesus' sufferings are ours, and ours are His in a very real sense, as St. Paul unmistakably teaches, particularly and most strikingly in Colossians 1:24:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

(see also 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, Galatians 6:17)

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Why Catholics Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The following is based on a chat on a blog with two Protestants (both Presbyterian, I believe, and one a
pastor). It is, therefore, written in the first person.

* * *

[It was stated that nothing in the New Testament "even remotely suggests" the perpetual virginity of Mary.]

But there is nothing in the Bible that even remotely suggests the biblical canon, either, yet you accept a tradition handed down to you by a local council, approved by the pope (excepting the "apocryphal books" which were also accepted by that council and never separated from the other books in Scripture until the 16th century).

This is the point: we all accept some traditions which are not, or may not be (arguably) explicitly biblical, or in the Bible at all. You haven't answered my question yet (this is now my 3rd time asking -- Ted Koppel style) about why Protestants have shifted away from this and why Luther and Calvin accepted it, but I am happy to answer your question (Why do I believe in this doctrine?). I believe it first of all because it is received Christian tradition; denied by virtually no one until liberal theology started becoming a force. That's an argument in and of itself, of course, but we all accept received traditions in some manner.

You accept the Westminster Confession and TULIP and the Protestant canon, and so forth. A Catholic accepts the perpetual virginity of Mary, as it is a dogma, proclaimed early on by an ecumenical council (Ephesus, 431). That's more than enough reason for us, given our epistemological presuppositions and our Rule of Faith.

But of course you are probing beyond that and want to know the biblical and theological "why's". That's fine; that's what I do as my profession: an apologist, and I appreciate the opportunity and your congeniality and graciousness to this Catholic guest on your blog.

The Catholic believes about this the same thing that he believes about the Immaculate Conception of Mary: neither doctrine is ontologically, intrinsically necessary. Rather, both are seen as "fitting" and the way things should properly be. I can't think of a Protestant parallel to this offhand but I'm sure there are some.

It was fitting (but not absolutely necessary -- where it couldn't have been otherwise in any other world) for Mary to be without sin (actual and original) because she was the Mother of God (Theotokos). Likewise, we think it is altogether fitting that she remain a virgin after bearing Christ.

Partly this is because of the nature of the miracle itself: Mary was a virgin and we believe that even the birth was miraculous (that Mary's virginity -- without getting physiologically graphic -- was retained even during and after the birth). This is traditional Catholic dogma (and, I believe, Orthodox, too).

It strengthens and supports the doctrine of the Virgin Birth (Mariology is always christocentric). It's a miracle to have a virgin birth: a conception without the participation of a man. If Mary had had other children, and a normal sexual life after, people could always say, "well, how do we know that Jesus' birth was before she started being sexually active? Why should we believe all this Holy Spirit 'overshadowing' foolishness?"

I believe that is part of the traditional theological reasoning on this, though I am basically speaking for myself here, not necessarily "officially" for what the Catholic Church would say. If we pursue this, of course I could look up what Aquinas and Augustine and others said about it.

The second thing is the appropriateness or propriety that the womb which bore the God-Man should not bear another child. One either grasps and accepts that notion or they don't. It is not an argument from reason or Bible but from propriety (which is a very subjective thing and often culturally-determined). It can't and won't be perceived or understood by the usual Protestant outlook of "everything must be fairly explicit in the Bible or else we reject it utterly."

Traditional Catholic thought (particularly regarding Mary) does not operate along those lines. The Church ponders things for centuries. It did so with regard to christology (up to 451 and even after if we include the Monothelite controversies); it did with regard to the biblical canon (up to 397) and it did so with Mariology.

So that is the argument from tradition and "fittingness." I know it sounds very foreign to Protestant ears, but I can't help that, in explaining why we believe as we do, and how I understand the belief, in my apologetic, reason-loving mind. The biblical data is another matter; of a different nature. What we have would not require (and perhaps not even suggest) this belief on the surface, but I think that when we examine it closely, it at least suggests it, or at the very least shows us that the data we do know about is perfectly compatible with the notion. One can make many deductions from what we know: some of which rule out that blood brothers are being referred to in specific instances of "adelphos."

There are other "situational" arguments from plausibility, such as: "where were Jesus' siblings when He went to the Temple at age 12? If he had them, certainly they would have been around, no? -- unless there was a 12-year gap between births. The narrative (Lk 2:41-52) gives not the slightest hint that there were any brothers involved. When Joseph and Mary were looking for Him, it doesn't say they went to His supposed five brothers and four sisters (I would certainly do that first, as a parent); rather, "they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances" (Lk 2:44; RSV). When they leave, it reads, "And he went down with them and came to Nazareth . . . " (2:51).

Now, this doesn't technicaly rule out siblings, true, but it sure doesn't positively suggest them, does it? If I took my three sons and a daughter down to Cedar Point for a day of fun, would I talk about it as "I took my first son . . . " without mentioning the other three? No, not likely. You could do that if you were talking about one child specifically in another context ("Joe's a good kid; we have a lot of fun together; the other day I took him to the carnival . .," etc.), but chances are if you were simply describing the day, you would mention all the children.

Why did Jesus ask John to in effect be Mary's son after He died? Semitic custom would have dictated that He ask His blood brothers to do so. All you have to go by, on the other hand (that I can see) is mention of "brothers" -- but this proves nothing because there is such a wide range of meaning for the word adelphos.

[The pastor stated that the Bible gives "explicit" reasons for not accepting perpetual virginity.]

This I deny. It's based on an interpretation of the meaning of adelphos in specific instances that is by no means necessary or certain (or even plausible, I would contend). Unless you have some new arguments I haven't run across before . . .

[The second person said that much of my biblical argument was merely an argument from silence.]

I don't see how. I gave two positive arguments: Jesus at the temple at age 12 and John taking Mary as his "mother" rather than all these supposed siblings running around everywhere. I also noted that there were deductive arguments that ruled out blood brothers in various specific instances. I have yet to present that, so all my cards aren't on the table yet.

Tradition trumps the (current, not traditional) Protestant position on this one. The ancient Church was right when its councils proclaimed on things like the Holy Trinity and the canon of Scripture. I see no reason to believe that it erred with regard to the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin in 431.

And what is the "positive" evidence to deny this? Interpreting adelphos literally as "blood brothers" when any lexicon will quickly show you that it has a very wide range of meanings.

Sometimes Protestants will say, "well then, why didn't the Bible use the Greek term for "cousins"? The reason is simple. Adelphos and the Hebrew equivalent (I forget what it is) functioned much like our word "brother" in English. We have the word "cousin" too, but we use "brother" for friends, ethnic groups, religions (e.g., how Catholics say "separated brethren" and Protestants will say "my Catholic brother"). We say "brother in Christ," "brothers" in terms of fellow soldiers, the "big brother" mentoring system where the man is not a sibling and functions like a father in some cases, etc. So the word can mean sibling, but it can also mean much else. In Semitic culture, extended family was much more important too, so a cousin could be called a "brother."

The biblical evidence can be summarized as follows:

1. Many Protestants assume that whenever they read of Jesus' "brothers," this is referring to His siblings, other sons and daughters of Mary. But it is not that simple. "Adelphos," the Gk. word for "brother" in the NT, has multiple meanings (like the English word), and they all appear frequently in Scripture. In addition to sibling, it can also denote
(1) those of the same nationality (Acts 3:17;
Rom 9:3);
(2) any man, or neighbor (Mt 5:22; Lk 10:29);
(3) persons with like interests (Mt 5:47);
(4) distant descendants of the same parents (Acts 7:23,26; Heb 7:5);
(5) persons united by a
common calling (Rev 22:9);
(6) mankind (Mt 25:40; Heb 2:17);
(7) the disciples (Mt 28:10; Jn
20:17);
(8) all believers (Mt 23:8; Acts 1:15; Rom 1:13; 1 Thess 1:4; Rev 19:10).

Clearly, then, this issue is not at all settled by the mere word "brother"/"adelphos" in the Bible, and a more in-depth examination of the biblical data will be necessary.

2. "Brethren" - Biblical Exegesis

A. By comparing Gen 14:14 with 11:26-7, we find that Lot, called Abraham's "brother", is actually his nephew.

B. Jacob is called the "brother" of his Uncle Laban (Gen 29:10,15).

C. Cis and Eleazar are described as "brethren", whereas they are literally cousins (1 Chron 23:21-2).

D. "Brethren" as mere kinsmen: Deut 23:7; 2 Sam 1:26; 1 Ki 9:13; 2:32; 2 Ki 10:13-14; Jer 34:9; Amos 1:9.

E. Neither Hebrew or Aramaic has a word for "cousin." The NT retains this Hebrew usage by using "adelphos," even when non-siblings are being referred to.

F. In Lk 2:41-51, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple at the age of twelve, with no sign of any other siblings.

G. Jesus Himself uses "brethren" in the larger sense (Mt 23:1,8; 12:49).

H. By comparing Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; and Jn 19:25, we find that James and Joseph - mentioned in Mt 13:55 with Simon and Jude as Jesus' "brethren" - are also called sons of Mary, wife of Clopas. This other Mary (Mt 27:61; 28:1) is called Mary's "adelphe" in Jn 19:25 (two Marys in one family?! - thus even this usage apparently means "cousins" or more distant relative). Mt 13:55 and Mk 6:3 mention Simon, Jude and "sisters" along with James and Joseph, calling all "adelphoi". Since we know that James and Joseph are not Jesus' blood brothers, it is likely that all these other "brethren" are cousins, according to the linguistic conventions discussed above.

I. Even standard evangelical Protestant commentaries such as Jamieson, Fausset & Brown admit that the question is not a simple one: "an exceedingly difficult question . . . nor are opinions yet by any means agreed . . . vexed question, encompassed with difficulties." (commentary for Mt 13:55)

J. Some Protestant commentators maintain that Mt 1:24-5 ("Joseph knew her not till . . .") implies that Mary had marital relations after the birth of Jesus. This does not follow, since "till" does not necessarily imply a change of behavior after the time to which it refers (cf. similar instances in 1 Sam 15:35; 2 Sam 6:23; Mt 12:20; Rom 8:22; 1 Tim 4:13; 6:14; Rev 2:25).

K. Likewise, "firstborn" (Mt 1:25) need not imply later children. A mother's first child is her "firstborn" regardless if any follow or not (Ex 13:2). Also, in the Bible, "firstborn" often means "preeminent," and even applies to those who are not literally the first child (Jer 31:9), or, metaphorically, to groups (Ex 4:22; Heb 12:23). Thus, "firstborn" in Mt 1:25 actually is more of an indication that Jesus is Mary's only child, than that there were others. This position is held by many evangelical Protestant scholars on these criteria, rather than Catholic dogmatic grounds.


* * *

Friday, February 27, 2004

Reply to Dr. James White's "Random Thoughts" on The Passion

From his website / blog, 2-25-04 (White's words will be in blue):

Random Thoughts on The Passion

OK, saw it.

Yes you did, but you have seen "with" but not "through" the eye, as William Blake would say.

. . . 1) When Jesus said "I AM" to the soldiers, they fell back upon the ground. Why on EARTH delete that even when Jesus says "I am"?

This seems to have been overlooked. Perhaps it is a sinister Catholic plot?

2) "It is accomplished" and "It is finished" are not, in the context of the atonement, the same things.

That's interesting, since in the KJV, John 19:28, using the same word, "teleo," reads, ". . . all things were now accomplished." They gave Jesus vinegar, and He said "it is finished" (19:30). It's not rocket science to see that it is the same thing. NEB translates 19:30 as "accomplished."

Strong's Concordance gives as a possible rendering of the word for "finished", "teleo" (word # 5055): "accomplish," along with several other synonyms.
"Teleo" is translated as "accomplish" in the KJV at Luke
12:50, 18:31, and 22:37. Much ado about nothing . . .

3) Jesus was wearing clothing when He came out of the grave. *Not* the way to end.

He wasn't wearing the same clothes He was buried in (see John 10:6-7), and the film doesn't show Him leaving the tomb, so this is a non sequitur.

4) The apostles addressed Mary as "Mother"?

Why not? After all, Jesus told John that she was his mother (Jn 19:27).

5) Mary had supernatural knowledge even prior to the coming of the Spirit?

Yes; it is called the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel came to her and told her she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and would bear the son of the Most High. What do you call that? "Natural knowledge"? It is also written that Simeon was "inspired by the Spirit" to speak about Jesus to Mary (Lk 2:27; c. 2:26). That ain't "natural" either, and it is the same Holy Spirit.

6) Relics, relics, and more relics (straight out of Emmerich).

Straight out of the Bible too: Elisha's bones raised a man from the dead; Peter's shadow and Paul's handkerchief healed people, etc.

Stations of the cross,

Heaven forbid any Christian meditate on the cross. The Greeks thought it was foolishness. Funny that certain anti-Catholic Reformed Baptists would, too.

"St. Veronica," the whole nine yards.

I saw nothing whatever contrary to the Bible in the movie. I don't see you condemning the host of Protestant beliefs that can't be found in the Bible, such as altar calls and church buildings. The canon of Scripture is an extra-biblical tradition. Is that to be condemned too because it isn't in there?

7) We might well see the founding of the Roman Anti-defamation League as a result of this.

That, too? If anything, Pilate was portrayed too sympathetically.

8) What on EARTH was that hideous baby thing in the devil-woman's arms?

A demon who was mocking the nurturing love of a mother at the worst time in Jesus' life. What did you think it was? A Muppet?

9) Most, but not all, of the overt Roman Catholic elements were kept at the "subtle enough not to catch the mind of the evangelical, prominent enough to assure the Roman Catholic that all is well" level.

Thankfully, the Passion of Christ itself is often an "overt Roman Catholic element" since Protestants of your sort have been minimizing it for hundreds of years. Why they do so, I have not the slightest inkling, as it is the central act of redemption in salvation history, and central in the New Testament.

10) The emotional element was not quite as strong as I expected, but then again, I have never gone into a film more primed to be watching it closely, so I am hardly a meaningful barometer. Besides, I'm Scottish.

Me, too. And I had to wipe my eyes three times. Even anti-Catholicism could not blind one to the exceptional power and profundity of this film.

11) Will I think of this film at the next Lord's Supper? Probably.

Good.

12) Will I envision Jesus as Jim Caviezel? No. Not for a moment. Not once during the film did I make that connection. That was Jim Caviezel up there, not my Lord.

No kidding? Likewise, your caricature of yourself on your blog is a painting, not you. You don't need to point that out; nor do you need to remind anyone that an actor is not Jesus.

13) Will the emotions over-run commitment to the why of the cross, leaving people emotionally committed to whatever traditional lens through which they viewed the film? For many, yes.

Why do the two have to be opposed to each other? How could a Christian not be emotional, in seeing portrayed the biblical theme of God's unfathomable love for us?

14) Does the film open the door for proselytization of "evangelicals" by zealous Roman Catholics? Yes and no. Outside of the unbiblical and extraneous Marian elements, the issues are what they were before the film was released, and, sadly, evangelicals remain just as ignorant of the importance of sound doctrine regarding God's purposes in the atonement as they were before. This just opens up more opportunities either for that ignorance to be corrected, or, negatively, to be taken advantage of.

I have no idea what you're talking about. The movie had nothing about the four spiritual laws or TULIP. It presented the gospel in its original meaning: "Good News" (i.e., Jesus died for us so we can be saved and go to heaven and be reconciled to God).

15) Could an evangelical successfully "filter out" the extraneous stuff? I suppose so, but it would take a conscious effort.

One you obviously did not pull off . . .

So, to see or not to see? Tough call. It is culturally relevant. A person who has seen it is in better position to speak to its issues than one who has not. On the other hand, it is not nearly as accurate as we were told; it is truly a prize for Rome, and it may well bother many believers with its portrayal and presentation. If you go, don't go because of the herd mentality. Go realizing what you are seeing, or don't go at all.

Thanks for the advice. At least you are not an iconoclast. You watch movies to keep up to cultural speed. Good for you.

Did you say anything at all good about the film? If so, I missed it. But you did say it was "random thoughts," so I look forward to unrandom coherent thoughts from you.

God bless,

Dave

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Lowly Apologists and "Parachurch" Groups

The following is a brief reply to comments by Reformed Protestant Kevin Johnson on his blog (see the sidebar): 2-6-04. He is off the computer for Lent, but I couldn't resist this. His words will be in blue.

In Protestantism, particularly in conservative evangelical circles, we're quite used to parachurch organizations that are apologetic in nature. But, over the last few decades more than one Roman Catholic lay apologist

I'm proud to be of that tribe . . .

(often with little or no formal theological training)

That's me too. But TONS of informal training and experience. But I don't see the twelve disciples having much "formal theological training" either (some of 'em could fish pretty well, though). And I don't see St. Pater's injunction to "stand ready to make a defense" (1 Peter 3:15) confined to the educated types or the scholars, either. It's not as if every person who defends Christianity or Catholic Christianity has to have taken courses in theology. That quickly becomes to a reductio ad absurdum.

has entered the arena among Christian churches to defend (as well as proselytize among Protestants) what they view as the "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". This defense, from what I've read and experienced, is often bound to emotional appeals, unsophisticated treatments of Catholic doctrine,

Is it "often"? I guess that depends on how Kevin defines "lay apologist." If it is anyone who writes anything at all in defense of Catholicism anywhere on the Internet (or off it), then I'm sure one can find many shortcomings (just as in Protestant circles).
If he is referring, however, more to the well-known and established apologists and apologetic groups like Catholic Answers, Envoy, Mark Shea, Steve Ray, etc., then I don't see this tendency at all. It's more than a bit broad-brushed . . .

and a heavy and dogmatic emphasis on the antiquity of the Roman Church and her head, the papacy.

One would expect that; these people being Catholics (so that is no surprise or scandal).

In general, they very much resemble mainline evangelicals (except for all that Catholic stuff).

In other words, we don't resemble Reformed. :-)

Kinda makes you wonder how far apart we think we are from those on the other side of the Tiber.

Well, these are asusmptions built upon unproven assumptions.

Of course, responses from the apologetic evangelical community are found in force and typically counter with classic restatements of sixteenth century formulations of evangelical and Reformed doctrine on issues such as justification by faith alone, the inadequate claims of the papacy, purgatory, the Roman mass, and the atonement. Debates are scheduled, performed, and executed with all the pomp and ceremony that doubtless attended such events some 500 years ago (maybe even more). But, is there any lasting value attached to such debates here in our own century?

Not if anti-Catholics are involved. But I think there is great value in two ecumenical Christians (like Kevin) who regard each other as Christians, amiably discussing differences.

And, among both Protestant and Roman Catholic laymen, does the apologetic work in this regard tend to isolate and keep people in their respective communions or do we see a tremendous amount of in-one-door-out-the-other activity?

I don't know. I see a lot of conversions to Catholicism. And these are largely people who knew their faith well as Protestants, whereas I don't see a lot of people like that converting to Protestantism. I see many Catholics who knew very little about their faith and saw stuff in Protestantism that appealed to them. Just my impression, and a generalization, of course. I'd like to hear from Kevin or other Protestants what their perception is.

Aside from practical concerns, perhaps it is time for Protestants to question the legitimacy of parachurch organizations designed to function in the place of the Church herself.

Insofar as they do that, yes. Of course, defining the "Church," let alone functioning practically in it, is a huge problem itself. I think parachurch (either Protestant or Catholic) can supplement the Church and not compete with or replace it. Speaking for myself; I am just an individua. I don't have an organization. I just write and do apologetics and evangelism for a living.

Perhaps we need to sit back and learn from some in the Roman Catholic world who are questioning both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of such self-appointed laymen and others who have felt that they are to take the place of the teaching office of the Church in defending the faith.

I agree. A Presbyterian apologist would, I imagine, submit himself to the creeds and confessions of that faith tradition, just as I submit myself to Catholic dogmatic teaching and always try to express myself in complete harmony with it.

Does the defense and existence of parachurch apologetic organizations call for an extremely low view of the teaching office in our churches?

No. I wouldn't abolish either Inter-Varsity or Catholic Answers. They are both wonderful organizations. My niece is involved in the former (as I was, in college) and she is a lovely young Christian lady (Protestant).

Are we content to allow the Lord to work through the ministers in our churches

I hope so, but sometimes they are lax in their teaching duties and could use a little help.

or are we more satisfied with creating artificial organizational constructs to provide what the Lord has presumably failed to give us?

I think this is more of a problem in Protestantism because it has difficulty defining "Church" in the first place, let alone "parachurch."

Would such parachurch organizations have survived during the Reformation--would they even have been thought of?

I dunno. Good question. Back then most folks believed that their group was the best and truest one in Protestantism, and tended to anathematize others. Now Protestants are one big happy family, and "isn't diversity" great?, etc. A big change has occurred.

What is different between the monasticism of Roman Catholicism so harshly rebuked during the Reformation and a group of men committed to live their whole lives separate from the ecclesiastical accountability of the Church in order to adequately defend the faith in this day and age?

A big difference, because Catholic monks were entirely accountable to the Church. I don't see much of a comparison here.

How is the personality cult of a Christian apologist any different from the creation of monastic orders that almost always wind up centering on the personality of certain individuals such as Ignatius Loyola.

If there is any such "cult" around me, I haven't seen any particular benefits from it (esp. financial ones). I thihnk this depends on how the individual approaches things. There are proud apologists with an arrogant streak and desire for fame, etc., I'm sure. But I don't thnk they are nearly as prevalent as critics of apologetics claim.

Are we to believe that Loyola somehow had more influence among his followers than men like Hank Hanegraaf?

I don't see anything wrong with starting a new order, in submission to the Church. That's not "parachurch," and it is a lot better than starting an entirely new denomination.

Last, where is the biblical justification for parachurch apologetic organizations?

Where is it forbidden? If it doesn't contradict doctrinal standards according to legitimate ecclesiastical authority, I see nothing wrong with it, any more than the organizational structure of a local Methodist women's group clashes with the governmental structure of Methodism. I think Kevin is assuming that they must inevitably clash. This is not the case at all.

Are we really to believe that they should exist, as Deborah did for the Israelites, because there was no suitable or qualified male leadership among the people of God to do His bidding?

Individuals can do lots of stuff. I agree that they should be in submission to their church. No argument there. I am to mine.

Thanks for the stimulation!

In Him,

Dave

Thoughts on Mary in The Passion and So-Called "Catholic" Elements

Hi CM,

>First, let me note that I've been reading your material for quite some time, but never contacted you. I love your website and refer to if often. I was excited to learn that you now have a blogspot.

Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm glad my website has been helpful to you and a hearty welcome (to you and everyone else here) to Cor ad cor loquitur!

>On to the movie. As you mention, words cannot explain the emotion one feels, especially as a Christian. The one thing I think you failed to mention was that the symbolism was entirely Catholic and the film, I believe, was quite Marian.

There were a few reasons for that. First of all, I am always interested in speaking the language that my Protestant brothers and sisters can relate to, according to the dictates of Vatican II, ecumenism, and my emphasis of building bridges between the two camps (stressing things where we entirely agree) and working for greater mutual respect and understanding. So in the present context, I naturally tended to write in ways which did not sound specifically "Catholic." St. Paul urged us to "be all things to all people."

Secondly, I actually don't believe there is all that much in the film specifically "Catholic" at all. What is there is explicitly biblical, for the most part. We can all agree on this. It has been said a lot that Protestants don't emphasize the suffering of Christ as much as we do, and tend to go right to the Resurrection and Glorified Jesus (I heard a Protestant scholar from Fuller Seminary on a news show yesterday humbly concede this very point).

This is true, but I wold contend that it is not intrinsic to Protestantism. I think it is a failure in practice and in emphasis that has come about probably largely due to over-reaction against Catholicism.

It's not inherent in Protestantism because Lutherans (the original Protestants) have a robust theology of the cross, and traditional or "Anglo-Catholic" high church Anglicans hold to many of the same beliefs and emphases that we do. Many individual Protestants of many stripes do not fall into this trap. I was never of this mindset when I was a low church evangelical Baptist-type Protestant -- who didn't care much for liturgy or sacramentalism -- (though I certainly understand these things better as a Catholic than I used to). We would put out our little sculpture of Michelangelo's Pieta during Easter season just as we do now. We understood this. It was common (biblical) sense.

I have a little semi-humorous response that I make when a Protestant asks me why I am concentrating on Jesus on the cross when He is in heaven now. I ask them, "then why do you reflect upon Jesus in a manger as a baby at Christmas, then?"

Failure in practice in Protestantism is the same as the failures in practice of Catholics; e.g., our abysmal lack of Bible knowledge and Bible study. That is not intrinsic to Catholicism, but it is, sadly, the way things are for many, many Catholics (for a variety of reasons), and Protestants understand this far better than we do. We can help each other and complement each other. Likewise, the ignorance of Church history among many Protestants . . .

That said, I do think there were arguably some particularly "Catholic" elements in the film (in some sense) and I will now note them. One was the wiping up of the blood of Jesus after the scourging. That is very "Catholic" because it constitutes a relic. But even here, this is a "biblical thing" at bottom, not a "Catholic thing," because the Bible reports how the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life; the shadow of Peter healed people, and Paul's handkerchief did the same. Therefore, to the extent that Protestants would frown upon this, they are not being as "biblical" as we are. Ironic, isn't it? Opposition to this would be every bit as irrational and unbiblical as opposition to crucifixes or meditation upon Jesus' sufferings in the Rosary or in other ways. It so happens that we Catholics "get" this and many Protestants don't, but that doesn't make it intrinsically "Catholic" -- just "Catholic-practiced" and (mostly) "Protestant-ignored."

One might say that the big role for the Blessed Virgin Mary in the film was a "Catholic thing." I don't see how, because this is simply historical fact. We know from the Bible that she and John and a few other women were the only followers of Jesus present at the crucifixion. So it is not unreasonable to assume that she was present for some or all of the other proceedings (especially since it was all on one day and mostly in one area). Mainly it shows her following Jesus and suffering with Him, empathetically and maternally.

This is simply history (or reasonable assumptions about what probably occurred). It is no more "Catholic" (whatever one's Mariology might be) to show a mother concerned about her son being tortured and killed than it is to show John watching the whole thing, too, or for any of us "watching" vicariously through the medium of cinema.

The film presents a visual representation of the "Pieta": Mary holding her dead Son Jesus (as in Jesus of Nazareth which had a very moving similar scene -- that gets me every time -- , but with Mary wailing uncontrollably). Is this peculiarly "Catholic"? If it is, it is only insofar as Protestants wish to deny that it might have happened just like that, since Mary was at the cross, and loved her Son, and would want to hold Him even in death, as the natural impulse of any mother (or father) would dictate. So I just don't see it. That is not Catholic theology (i.e., no more Catholic than Protestant): it is simply being a normal human being and a mother.

What I found very "Catholic" myself was the careful way in which Gibson portrayed Mary: she was (of course) extremely distraught and in agony, yet it was with a certain stoicisim and acceptance that this was the way it had to be (and this interpretation was followed through in the "pieta" scene as well).

She knew her Son came to die and redeem the human race and she knew it early on (arguably from Simeon's prophecy (Luke 2:35) but in all likelihood earlier, because she knew He was the Messiah (right from the angel at the Annunciation) and if she knew her Scripture she would have known that Messiah was to suffer and even die for us (e.g., Isaiah 53). Furthermore, He talked about it quite a bit. The disciples may have been dense about that, but it doesn't follow that she was, too. She heard this and understood it. Views about the "ignorance" of Mary with regard to Christ's mission are unbiblical, implausible, and "liberal" in the same way that views about Jesus' "ignorance" are.

Therefore, Mary willingly accepts His passion and death. That doesn't mean she was overjoyed about it (any more than Jesus Himself was); only that she suffered in a way that excluded the total despair of a person who has lost all hope and sees no meaning whatsoever in some suffering or calamity. There is a huge emotional and existential difference between despair and a distraught state and utter, black despair without hope or meaning.

I believe Gibson was consciously aware of this and incorporated it into the film; otherwise Mary would have cried and carried on much more than she did (just as we viewers cried and carried on).

Lastly, here is what I thought was perhaps the most distinctively "Catholic" moment in the film (and no one I have yet read caught it). It's just my opinion and mere speculation, but see what you think: During the "pieta" scene, Mary looks straight at the camera for a long time and I agree that this could be read as her saying "why did you do this to my Son?," or "look what love my Son had for you."

But a detail I noticed was that her right hand was opened, either heavenward or towards the viewer (I'd have to see it again). That might be construed as Mary offering Jesus her Son up to the Father, much in the way that we participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday. This is quite Catholic. My wife noted that it might also signify Mary saying, "come accept the salvation that my Son just made possible by His horrible suffering." Mary in turn helped make that possible by bearing Jesus in the first place (being the Theotokos); thus participating in the Incarnation, without which there is no Redemption. Does that make Mary equal to God or Jesus, or make her role in salvation history at all equal or on the same level as the work of Jesus. No, no, and NO (with the highest emphasis). But it does make her a key human "player" in redemptive history. And that is very "Catholic" indeed, but also -- I firmly believe -- not contrary to biblical teaching, even if not explicitly spelled out in it.

But I admit that this is speculation based on one observation of a gesture in the movie. Take it for what it's worth. If Gibson ever confirms this, then my impression will have been justified.

In Him,

Dave

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Passion: My Reaction (and Yours)

The following is one of the most difficult things I have ever written (and writing comes very easy for me), because words are so utterly inadequate to describe the impact of this film. One could cite Holy Scripture, but Christians are already familiar with that, and the biblical passion is a different thing than the filmed version of it (i.e., one is real; the other is artistic depiction, which can be done in many kinds of ways). I'll try to do the best that I can do, given these limitations. I wanted to write "fresh" from seeing the movie . . .

One could talk about the now-familiar phenomenon of the silent audiences after it is over (so I will). I didn't look around too much because I was almost in front (I didn't want any distractions), but I did see many people sitting in stunned shock, teary-eyed, in a daze.
The two women about ten seats away from me in my row certainly broke down several times, but that wasn't all that different from my own reactions (I maintained general composure -- being a guy and all -- but I had to wipe my eyes three times so I could keep watching).

The most difficult scene to endure for me was the one where it shows the Blessed Virgin Mary comforting Jesus as a child, juxtaposed with His carrying of the cross and His mother watching in agony and yearning to comfort Him again. I don't think any mother in the world could get through that dry-eyed (and fathers are not all that different, when it comes down to it). It's enough to break your heart all by itself in a film otherwise far and away the most emotionally intense imaginable.

Driving home, about 15 minutes after it ended -- in a daze and moved beyond words, I happened to look over to a car at an intersection and I noticed a couple waiting at a red light, both with their heads tilted to the side and buried in their hands.

This is the way to do a biblically-based movie. It is absolutely realistic; it shows what it would have been like to be there at the time. It took over a hundred years for the movies to finally show the day of crucifixion as it was. We have long since known all the technical and physiological details of crucifixion, scourging (and those scenes in the movie are arguably more excruciating than even the crucifixion, apart from the unbelievably graphic "nails" sequences), the brutality of Roman soldiers, etc., from historical research.

But no one (for some odd reason) ever put it all together in one film, as Mel Gibson has done. The Passion, in its extraordinary realism, makes the similar scenes of Jesus of Nazareth (my favorite Christian movie up till now, and superb in its own right) look like a tea party in the park.

It is real and gory and gruesome and almost impossibly painful and gut-wrenching to watch, while at the same time the direction and cinematography and acting and editing and music are all first-rate (so that it is so much more than what a video recording of the same events might have looked like).

It is art gloriously at the service of history and Christianity. The use of slow motion and flashbacks to related incidents; the devil figure, insinuations of demons (both outward and inner ones) the crushed-yet-accepting reactions of the Virgin Mary, the mocking soldiers and sneering Jewish leaders: all are brilliantly done.

What I felt as I watched it, is fairly simple to at least summarize, if not to fully describe: how it feels "on the inside". I kept thinking to myself: "God loves us THIS much; He was willing to go through all THIS! What love, what love, what love, what mercy, what forgiveness; what an awesome, GOOD GOD we have! How unworthy WE are to deserve any of this . . . "

Those who know a bit of theology about what God had to do and what He chose to do, may know that both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas held that there could have been another way to accomplish redemption: God being God (with all power and knowledge). That only makes the impact of this film all the more profound: Jesus went through these unspeakable tortures for our sake.

He did it willingly. He knew what was to happen (many passages in Scripture). He chose to suffer for us and with us, because that is such a prominent characteristic of life for most human beings throughout history -- for the purpose of saving our souls (we who are absolutely unworthy of such salvation).

And beyond that, the biblically-literate person knows that our Lord Jesus had the load of the entirety of human sin on His shoulders as well. There is no way to adequately portray the unfathomable horror and ugliness and "cosmic catastrophe" of that, even in a remarkable film like this. It can't be described in words, either (even the Bible doesn't attempt to say all that much about it). It can scarcely be comprehended by our small human minds.

That's what I thought of and felt soul-deep while watching this film. You can read the well-known passages in the Scripture, such as "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). We Christians hear and read that all the time and casually process it into our brains, more or less abstractly.

But a film like this shows what the kind of love that the God-Man Jesus has for us, entails. We believe it, but The Passion gives us a chance to SEE it and experience this love, right before our eyes and deep down into our hearts and souls.

And that is the beauty and power of dramatic presentations of the biblical events -- especially of the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They appeal to the whole person and make the Bible come to life. I've always been very moved by the better biblical films (sadly, there aren't many which don't have some phony or corny or "Hollywoodish" elements in them).

This one is perfect. I don't see how it could have been done any better. I'm no film expert, but I could easily see how someone might think this is among the best movies ever made, in any genre. After all, Gibson won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Movie for Braveheart, so he is not without great skill as a filmmaker.

How one reacts, watching this, is not just the emotion that any normal human being would feel, seeing a person tortured and mistreated for the better part of two hours; it is the realization of what redemption cost God. And the more we realize what it cost Him, the more we see how utterly lost in sin we all were before the spiritual power of regeneration was graciously applied to us by God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, as a result of what Jesus did for us on that dreadful, horrific Good Friday.

If this film doesn't move a person down to their bones and fingernails and the deepest recesses of their souls, -- both emotionally and (hopefully) spiritually -- then they are as un-alive as a rock. And no one who is not changed in some way for the better by watching this, has any inkling of the sublime events which it portrays.

To recognize that level of spiritual deadness in oneself (itself only by the grace of God) would be even more terrifying that what the sin of mankind caused Jesus to have to endure -- what this film enables us to SEE as we never have before; "Jesus died for you" -- , yet it would be the first step towards redemption and salvation (which, in a word, is the entirety of what this film is about).

May all Christians unite in our prayers and efforts: that this extraordinary movie may bring about many changed lives, and more and more committed disciples of our Lord Jesus. This is our moment. The time is now. Let's stop our stupid and petty in-fighting (over these basic issues where we should all readily agree) and show the world what Christianity is really all about. The film is the first step: our behavior as Christians is the crucial second part of the witness. Please God, be with us; it's the least we can do to thank You for what You have done for us . . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Luther Favored the Death Penalty for Anabaptists

If I hear another Lutheran try to deny that this is true, I think I'll scream. It's happened once again, and comically (for those who love irony as I do), from one who has been a vocal critic lately with regard to my supposed profound ignorance about Luther. He wrote on the Catholic Message Board:

. . . he was imperfect too. But not all the stuff you have read is true. He was not a fornicator, he was a good father and husband. His language was sometimes enough to make your skin crawl. He was "rough", but not evil. There were Lutherans who took things too far and yes they killed people for their beliefs. Not a good thing, not Luther either.


Here are the documented facts:

Luther sanctioned capital punishment for doctrinal heresy most notably in his Commentary on the 82nd Psalm (vol. 13, pp. 39-72 in the 55-volume set, Luther's Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan et al), written in 1530, where he advocated the following:

If some were to teach doctrines contradicting an article of faith clearly grounded in Scripture and believed throughout the world by all Christendom, such as the articles we teach children in the Creed -- for example, if anyone were to teach that Christ is not God, but a mere man and like other prophets, as the Turks and the Anabaptists hold -- such teachers shuold not be tolerated, but punished as blasphemers . . .

By this procedure no one is compelled to believe, for he can still believe what he will; but he is forbidden to teach and to blaspheme.

(Luther's Works [LW], Vol. 13, 61-62)

Is this merely my interpretation of his words and thoughts? Hardly. The famous Luther biographer Roland Bainton wrote:

In 1530 Luther advanced the view that two offences should be penalized even with death, namely sedition and blasphemy. The emphasis was thus shifted from incorrect belief to its public manifestation by word and deed. This was, however, no great gain for liberty, because Luther construed mere abstention from public office and military service as sedition and a rejection of an article of the Apostles' Creed as blasphemy.

In a memorandum of 1531, composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, a rejection of the ministerial office was described as insufferable blasphemy, and the disintegration of the Church as sedition against the ecclesiastical order. In a memorandum of 1536, again composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, the distinction between the peaceful and the revolutionary
Anabaptists was obliterated . . .

Melanchthon this time argued that even the passive action of the Anabaptists in rejecting government, oaths, private property, and marriages outside the faith was itself disruptive of the civil order and therefore seditious. The Anabaptist protest against the punishment of blasphemy was itself blasphemy. The discontinuance of infant baptism would produce a heathen society and separation from the Church, and the formation of sects was an offense against God.

Luther may not have been too happy about signing these memoranda. At any rate he appended postscripts to each. To the first he said,

I assent. Although it seems cruel to punish them with the sword, it is crueler that they condemn the ministry of the Word and have no well-grounded doctrine and suppress the true and in this way seek to subvert the civil order.

. . . In 1540 he is reported in his Table Talk to have returned to the position of Philip of Hesse that only seditious Anabaptists should be executed; the others should be merely banished. But Luther passed by many an opportunity to speak a word for those who with joy gave themselves as sheep for the slaughter.

. . . For the understanding of Luther's position one must bear in mind that Anabaptism was not in every instance socially innocuous. The year in which Luther signed the memorandum counseling death even for the peaceful Anabaptists was the year in which a group of them ceases to be peaceful . . . By forcible measures they took over the city of Munster in Westphalia . . .

Yet when all these attenuating considerations are adduced, one cannot forget that Melanchthon's memorandum justified the eradication of the peaceful, not because they were incipient and clandestine revolutionaries, but on the ground that even a peaceful renunciation of the state itself constituted sedition.

(Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: Mentor, 1950, 295-296)

Moreover, Luther wrote in a 1536 pamphlet:

That seditious articles of doctrine should be punished by the sword needed no further proof. For the rest, the Anabaptists hold tenets relating to infant baptism, original sin, and inspiration, which have no connection with the Word of God, and are indeed opposed to it . . . Secular authorities are also bound to restrain and punish avowedly false doctrine . . . For think what disaster would ensue if children were not baptized? . . . Besides this the Anabaptists separate themselves from the churches . . . and they set up a ministry and congregation of their own, which is also contrary to the command of God. From all this it becomes clear that the secular authorities are bound . . . to inflict corporal punishment on the offenders . . . Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then . . . we conclude that . . . the stubborn sectaries must be put to death.

(Martin Luther: pamphlet of 1536; in Johannes Janssen, History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages, 16 volumes, translated by A.M. Christie, St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910 [orig. 1891]; Vol. X, 222-223)

The person who denied this has been urging others to now "ignore" and "forget" Luther because he has been dead for 450 years and his life "shouldn't mean a thing."

I found this to be a quite curious and surprising development, since a search on that site revealed that he had talked about Luther in posts 96 times in the last 42 days, for an average of 2.29 times a day. In the same time period he mentioned our Lord Jesus only 58 times, faith 43 times, and the Bible 25 times. Aren't search engines a load of fun?

Utterly unable to resist (due to the incorrigible influence of Malcolm Muggeridge and G.K. Chesterton) the inherent and rather spectacular comedic possibilities of this turn of events, I wrote:

One can readily see, then, what a revolution this newfound realization will be in [so-and-so's] day-to-day life. Luther has nothing to do with one's faith; should be forgotten and ignored, yet he has talked about him in the last six weeks more than twice as much as "faith" and almost twice as much as Jesus, and nearly four times as much as the Holy Bible. He mentioned him ten times yesterday alone, or almost four times more than his average frequency. So this will be quite a change. Just in time for Lent . . .

People have tried to discredit my Luther research before, with the same dismal and semi-humorous result.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Reformed View of "The New Ecumenicity"

[Unrelated Note on the movement of topics: I have set my blog controls so that no more than seven posts are on the front page at any given time. When they roll off the page they are still in the archives. The speed at which the front page moves will be determined by the amount of participation. If it is relatively slow (as it seems lately), I will keep adding material until I can achieve more participation. If there are a lot of comments, then I will make sure the post getting them stays on the front until the discussion dies down]

Bravo! and kudos to P. Andrew Sandlin, whose blog, Center for Cultural Leadership I link to on my sidebar. Writing on February 20th, about The Passion and its larger cultural and ecumenical implications, he states:

Less noble, it seems to me, is the more than a little anti-Roman bigotry that has accompanied some of the criticism of the movie. As a proud Protestant, I stand against certain Roman Catholic distinctives (the papacy, synergistic soteriology, the sacerdotal mass), but I gratefully acknowledge the Roman Church’s historic contribution to basic orthodox theology and to Christian culture. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism are the three main sectors of Christendom, and we do no good by denying to any one of them its rightful place.

. . . In fact — and this is my chief point — the Christian groundswell created by Gibson’s “Passion” is largely the result of — and will likely only enhance — today’s New Ecumenicity at which all orthodox believers can be elated. As Thomas Oden observes in his fine work The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, the New Ecumenicity is far removed from the Old Ecumenical Movement, epitomized in the World Council of Churches in the 20th century. The old movement, now in decline and disarray, shed the bold tenets of Christian orthodoxy in favor of a vague religiosity, interpreted cultural relevance as capitulation to the depravities of secular culture (abortion, homosexuality, radical feminism, goddess worship, socialism), and bandwagoned with political Leftism in supporting Marxist regimes in the Third World.

In bold contrast, the New Ecumenicity champions without apology historic catholic orthodoxy and its creeds, resists the secularized ethics of the 20th century, and refuses to be held captive by a political ideology — from the Left or Right. The New Ecumenicity, pervasive not only among the evangelicals and conservative Protestants and in the free churches but now also gaining entrance into the mainline denominations and Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, poses a direct threat to the older, tired, toothless religious liberalism, as well as to the secular ideology of the cultural elites in Hollywood and elsewhere. It is an event in which I am proud to participate and to play a small role.

Gibson’s “Passion” is a testament to this valid ecumenicity, and let us all pray that God uses it to further His Son’s righteous Kingdom in the earth. Great days are ahead. Let us rejoice.






Sunday, February 22, 2004

Guest Post: C.S. Lewis, Romanticism, & Asceticism (Keith Rickert, Jr.)

If God, alone IS, then evil is merely a privation, a subtraction of good. Evil is what is not. Therefore sin is the preference for what is, in the end, not even real. The good that we attach to sinful activities, is illusive, a lie. Sin is, literally, a rejection of reality, of what really is--of being. As such, it is a rejection of real goodness, real beauty, real truth—and real joy. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, makes the point that only those go to Hell who refuse Joy. God’s grace brings everyone to a place where they choose—imperceptibly and in the deepest, innermost parts of themselves (but in the most real way possible)—between (1) evil: cheap, counterfeit, illusive “good” which is really a privation of goodness, being, reality, and, as such, doesn’t satisfy, but it does afford one the illusion of being in charge, or (2) genuine goodness: which really is because it “comes from” God who, alone, is, but is so captivating that it takes one’s heart away, demanding all.

In The Great Divorce, souls from a place Lewis defines as either Purgatory or Hell, take a bus trip to the outer perimeter of Heaven where they are met by souls from Deep Heaven who try to help them choose to reject miserable unreality for joyous reality. The narrator, one of the souls visiting Heaven, relays this from one of the Heavenly souls:

* * *

“Milton was right,” said my Teacher. “The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality... There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

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“No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.” How true this is! Joy can only be found in being--in truth, goodness, and beauty--and the soul which seeks this out ends in finding the aim of all his desires—God, the source of all being. In hindsight, I can see, prior to my re-conversion to Christ, God’s grace calling me toward Him. I thought I was simply seeking good feelings. I slowly started to notice that some good feelings I sought clashed with other good feelings I sought--feelings which seemed more real, of more substance. This is because the former had sinful activities as their object, while the latter had genuine being as their object. God’s grace brought me to a place where the two could no longer coexist. If I sought the good feelings, which, as it turned out, were derived from sin, I found myself curiously incapable of enjoying those other, “deeper” good feelings, which, as it turned out, were derived from tending to being—truth, goodness, beauty. This clashed with the relativism to which my intellect had conceded, but I could not discount my experience. I only knew that there were things that felt more real and there were things that, although they felt good, they detracted from what felt more real. Here, there emerges an element of choice; I had to chose, and it was difficult indeed, because what was becoming less real to me involved powerful addictions. I had to chose between, on the one hand, release and relief accompanied by a strange emptiness, or, on the other hand, inklings of joy accompanied by the anguishing torments of going without release and relief.

This, I think, is the nitty-gritty of conversion. A person either holds on through the anguishing torments, believing and choosing the more real, or he opts for relief and release, and placates himself with the lie that it is just as real as that other. As Lewis wrote: “There is always something they [the damned] prefer to joy—that is, to reality... No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.” And Fr. Dubay: “Those who love goodness and beauty will find God.” (For a particularly haunting depiction of a human soul choosing the unreal—Hell—see Charles Williams’ Descent Into Hell.)

Under this light, asceticism is highly romantic; for it is the purging of the false, the unreal. The Fall has bequeathed us an inordinate appetite for good things, which falsely makes them ends in themselves or downright perverts them altogether. Because of the Fall, we no longer tend to God as our last end. Asceticism is the denial of the appetite for lesser or distorted things for the purpose of redirecting it to God as our first love and last end. Suddenly, fasting, penance, mortification become the stuff of fairy tales. The prince will complete any journey, risk any danger, endure any hardship in order to be reunited with his lover—for he knows that life without her is no life at all. Likewise, the princess, separated from her lover, will not pacify herself with the love of other men, but will hold onto her first, true love as she longs for their reunion. This is Catholicism: Lent, salvific suffering, the sacrament of confession, abstinence vs. artificial contraception, the fantastic mortifications of the saints (esp. in the stigmata), purgatory. It is no mere coincidence that St. Francis of Assisi was a Catholic—with his profoundly joyful romanticism side-by-side with his crushingly rigorous asceticism.

At the Fall, we were cast out of Eden and into a world where what is real coexists with what is not real. Lewis called our world “the shadowlands” because it is tainted by evil, and, thus, it is not fully real; it only bears the shadow of the fully real. Our longing for the fully real inspires a bittersweet asceticism, a painful abstinence from the less real, as we wait in joyful expectation for the coming consummation of the fully real...which will be in Heaven. (Brian: this deal with the points you raised.) In The Last Battle, the concluding book in the The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis describes how Heaven will be a realization of the fully real:

* * *

Suddenly Farsight the Eagle spread his wings, soared thirty or forty feet up in the air, circled round and then alighted on the ground.

“Kings and Queens,” he cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are. From up there I have seen it all—Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great Tiver, and Cair paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea. Narnia is not dead. This is Narnia.”

“But how can it be?” said Peter. “For Aslan told us older ones that we should never return to Narnia, and here we are.”

“Yes,” said Eustace. “And we saw it all destroyed and the sun put out.”

“And it’s all so different,” said Lucy.

“The eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all 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 a waking life is from a dream...”

The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was...that...the new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real county! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”. . .

Lucy said, “Were so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“Never fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning”

And as he spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.



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Guest Post: More on Romantic Theology (Keith Rickert, Jr.)

Just some further thoughts and comments on Romantic, Imaginative Theology...

Re: lightning, forest fires, earthquakes, cancer, AIDS, famine, drought, F5 tornadoes:

Romantic Theology does not blithely rule out the reality of natural evil. Charles Williams (I’m thinking specifically of Descent Into Hell) talks about a “terrible good”. One who experience it experiences terror, dread, as well as goodness in full potency. And I’ve noticed, when reading Narnia to my children, C.S. Lewis visit this idea, specifically in Aslan. Aslan is at once both good as well as terrifying. When Peter, Susan, Lucy, Edmund, etc. approach him, they are always filled with a strange admixture of joy and dread—both emotions at full strength, in a manner they’ve never experienced before. There are other instances; this is a recurring theme in Lewis.

I sense this in nature. Being out on the sea, one experiences a lot of beauty, but there is a terror that lurks deep down. An eruption of a volcano is, at once, beautiful as well as terrifying. And while death may not be beautiful, why does it haunt us so to see it, to meditate on it? All these things seemed to me to speak of the transcendental—something beyond the material world.

Now, as a Christian, I explicitly meditate on God’s power when I come into contact with it in nature. The terror that lurks in my heart while out on the sea, or watching a volcano erupt, or seeing an F5 volcano blow houses around like paper bags—is an itsy bitsy teeny weenie hint of the terror I will feel when I come before my Lord and my God. This is a part of Romantic Theology, too.

But, usually, as I understand it, the object of Romantic Theology is the religious impulse man finds arising within himself as he comes into contact with beauty and goodness in the created order, in myths, and in the arts. Stated less succinctly, Romantic (or Imaginative) Theology is the rational exploration of the phenomenon in which, through contact with goodness and beauty encountered in creation (including, of course, man himself) the arts, and stories (more properly, myths), a person experiences moments of joy and inexplicable bittersweet longing for some indescribable, elusive, transcendental “other-ness”, which, in turn will (if he so chooses) lead him onto a path by which he will (if, again, he so chooses) come to truth, that is, to God.

This is eminently Catholic. From the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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33 With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence.

35 Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God.

41 The manifold perfections of creatures—their truth, their goodness, their beauty—all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures’ perfections as our starting point, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” (Wis 13:5).

46 When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the cause and the end of everything.

288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step toward this covenant, the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love.

299 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the “image of the invisible God,” is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the “image of God” and called to a personal relationship with God. Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.

315 In the creation of the world and of man, God gave the first and universal witness to his almighty love and his wisdom, the first proclamation of the “plan of his loving goodness,” which finds its goal in the new creation in Christ.
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Vatican Council I, reiterating explicit biblical teaching, declared dogmatically and infallibly that “God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” As I see it, Romantic Theology is merely about the influence of non-rational experiences of goodness and beauty upon this process.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M, a foremost Catholic spiritual director, retreat master, and teacher of philosophy and theology asserts in Faith and Certitude, “Those who love goodness and beauty will find God.”

I find that the Catholic Church recognizes this reality more so than any other religion or theological system. Romantic Theology is exceedingly at home in the Catholic Church. The path my romantic experiences set me upon led me not only to God and Christianity, but, ultimately, to the Catholic Church, where I found everywhere in her worship, teaching, and saints not only eminently biblical truth but unrivalled romanticism.

So, I don’t see Romantic Theology as some alternative, esoteric theology. It is a philosophy of “Being”, just as is the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is venerated by the Church as not only a profoundly mystical and holy saint, but her primary theologian, philosopher and doctor. I find Romantic Theology all over the Summa Theologica:

-God, alone, is His very being; God, alone, is without contingency; God, alone, is. [1; q. 2-26] -Everything that is, that has being, gets its “is-ness”, its being, from God. [1; q. 2-26] -Therefore, when we, through contact with the created order, experience goodness and beauty and seek the essence thereof, we put ourselves on a path leading directly to God, who, alone, is good essentially—the source of all goodness. [I; q. 6, a. 1-4]

The late great Thomist, Walter Farrell, O.P., S.T.M., in his A Companion to the Summa, puts it succinctly in his description of the fourth of St. Thomas’ five ways to demonstrate the existence of God:

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In the world about us we see these perfections existing in things in greater and lesser degrees: that is, we see things that are more good and less good, more and less true, and so on; we see life within human limits, animal limits, plant limits. Now these limited degrees of limit-less perfections can be explained only by the existence of something to which these perfections pertain in their fullness, something which does not possess this or that degree of goodness, truth, life, but which is, by its very nature, limitless goodness, limitless truth, limitless life. . . . we cannot contact anything of reality without confronting divinity...
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Later, Farrell, expounding on the philosophy of the primary doctor of the Catholic Church hits dead center upon the very heart of Romantic Theology (Sorry for the length, but this is too good to edit down any further):

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That there is an all perfect being means that all the beauty, the love, the goodness that lift the heart of a man out of himself are but the shadows of the infinite on the pool of life, vague hints of the ineffable that lies at the beginning and end of life. . . . The conclusion that all reality is godlike is quite true. What we see in the world of existence, of beauty, of goodness, of grace and all the rest is had from God Who is overflowing with perfection. These creatures share, participate in the perfection of God. This was a truth close to the heart of Francis of Assisi and Martin de Porres, a truth that made all irrational creation and the whole world of men a lover's note to be read slowly, tenderly, repeatedly, to be treasured caressingly until the writer in person made plain all the beauties that could not be squeezed between the lines. It is right that the strength of a storm at sea, the innocence of a child, the calm of a country twilight should stir us to the depths of our being for these are shadows of divinity passing by... The notion of goodness adds nothing to being but the smack of desirability, that is, a thing can be good, desirable, only insofar as it is possible or thought to be possible; it can be pursued and enjoyed only insofar as it has being.... Bluff, defect, incapacity have nothing desirable about them because there is nothing real about them. But He Who is, the cause of all reality, the perfect Being, is the highest goodness for He is the most real Being. Not that He has goodness; rather He is goodness, as He is reality. On His goodness all other goodness is modeled, from His goodness all other goodness proceeds; all other goodness is a similitude, a participation, a limited miniature of the limitless goodness of God. Because of the smack of desirability which goodness adds to being, God is most desirable, most lovable. So true is this that everything in the universe hustles eagerly to this goal of goodness, each in its own way: man with alert steps along the dangerous road of knowledge and love, brutes with the unerring aim of instinct, the inanimate world with the blind, plodding step of physical necessity devoid of all knowledge. For each creature in the universe is spurred on to action by the goal of its own perfection, a goal which is nothing but a similitude, an image, a mirroring of the goodness of God... In a very real sense, this utterly limitless God overflows the limits of the universe. He is everywhere within it, yet not contained by it. Everything in the universe comes from God; existence is His proper effect. Where anything exists, there is God. Understand, now, this is not merely a matter of God first giving existence and then abandoning the universe to its fate; He does not give us a pat on the back as we leave the corner of nothingness to jump into the ring of life, leaving us to take the blows while He shouts advice that takes none of the sting out of the blows. Existence belongs to God; as long as existence endures, there is the hand of God sustaining it as a mother supports her infant or the throat of a singer sustains his song. God is everywhere, and only God; for only God is the infinite, the first cause explaining every existent thing. The ubiquity of God, in common with all the divine perfections, is not a cold, abstract thing meaningless to men. Its significance for human living is inexhaustible. In the concrete, it means, for instance, that God is in the surge of the sea, the quiet peace of hills and valleys, the cool refreshment of rain, the hard drive of wind-driven snow. In the cities He is in the bustling of crowds, the roar of traffic, the struggle for pleasure, for life, for happiness, in the majesty of towering buildings. In homes He is not to be excluded from the tired, drowsy hours of night, the hurried activity of morning, from the love and quarrels, the secret worries and unquestioning devotion, the sacrifice and peace that saturate a home. In every individual one of us God is more intimately present than we are to ourselves. Every existing thing within us demands not only the existence of God but also His constant presence, from every rush of blood from our hearts to every wish, every thought, every act. In other words, everything that is real must have God there as the explanation, the foundation, the cause of every moment of its reality.
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This is pure, undiluted Romantic Theology. It is fully biblical, fully Thomistic, fully Catholic. Again, from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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213 The revelation of the ineffable name "I AM WHO AM" contains then the truth that God alone IS. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and following it the Church's Tradition, understood the divine name in this sense: God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is.

290 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth":[Gen 1:1] three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara - always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.

291 "In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." [Jn 1:1-3] The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."[ Col 1:16-17] The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the "giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".

292 The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit,[ Ps 33:6; 104:30; Gen 1:2-3.] inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith: "There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom", "by the Son and the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands".[St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres] Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.

293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God." St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it", for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand." The First Vatican Council explains:

This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . .

294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us "to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace",[Eph 1:5-6.] for "the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man's life is the vision of God: if God's revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word's manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God." [St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres] The ultimate purpose of creation is that God "who is the creator of all things may at last become "all in all", thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude." [1 Cor. 15:28].

299 Because creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "And God saw that it was good. . . very good" [Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,31] - for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world.
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