Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arlington Diocese parishioners question fidelity oath

Kathleen Riley, left, and Alison Carroll
resigned as teachers at St. Ann's
Sunday School.
Michelle Boorstein at the Washington Post has written another in a long string of articles misrepresenting and/or disparaging Catholicism, not that an anti-Catholic story in the Post isn't regular fare. In this installment it seems that two catechists at St. Ann's Parish in Arlington felt put upon by the Bishop when they were asked to sign a Profession of Faith in conjunction with their role of teaching Catholic children. Hmmm, really?  I would only ask how professing that you will teach the authentic Catholic faith somehow controversial? They ARE charged with teaching the Catholic faith as the Church teaches it after all. Would this be a story if a Presbyterian Pastor asked the same thing of his staff? Would it be newsworthy when Baptist Pastors disassociate themselves and their churches from other Baptist churches over doctrinal issues? Uh...somehow not. But when it's the Catholic Church, somehow the rules of the game change for our intrepid newshound. A friend put it well in a Facebook com box this afternoon,
"...Michelle Boorstein is notorious for cherry-picking her stories, her quotes and her sources. She stuffs the first 75% of the article with things she likes and saves the "fair and balanced" stuff for the end when nobody's reading anymore."
That sort of covers it concerning Boorstein's brand of journalism.

The current slate of American Bishops aren't making up new stuff here. They aren't inventing teachings out of whole cloth, you know, like Salvation by Faith Alone or something. If you disagree with the Church's teaching on salvation, abortion, contraception, so-called same-sex marriage, etc, etc, then the issue is yours not the Church's isn't it? For the church, despite Boorstein's innuendo to the contrary, has been utterly consistent. Open your heart and educate yourself. Yes, you have a right to your conscience, but shouldn't it be a well-formed conscience?  If you, in all humility, still don't believe what She teaches, there are tens of thousands of other options available to you. It is, after all, still a free country...for now.

All of that said however, as a Catholic, I EXPECT to be taught (and to ensure my children are taught) what the Church teaches. The teachers have the obligation to teach what the Church teaches and not confuse people with their opinion when it differs from settled teaching. And we, as parents, are our children's primary catechists. Make sure you are ALWAYS driving the bus that is their faith formation! Get to know your catechists and most of all, endeavor to KNOW AND GROW IN YOUR FAITH!

I'm sure it would be very telling to know what specific issues these (thankfully former) catechists have with Church teaching.
Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama endorses Gay Marriage

Not that his statement comes as a surprise to anyone, but I think we definitely get a clearer view of President Obama's value system from it. For me it is the antithesis of the Pope's quote running in the masthead of this blog. Quoting the Washington Post article on his announcement,

"Obama hinted at the rapidly shifting political fault lines on Wednesday, saying he had weighed the teachings of his Christian faith against a growing pro-marriage consensus among younger Americans — a key target group for his reelection campaign."
He has confirmed me in my belief that he has no objective moral compass. In utter contrast to the Holy Father's quote above, our President believes that "truth" IS in fact, determined by majority vote. Additionally, it seems to me that he, in much the same way he has with the HHS mandate, is gambling. In this case on his base being energized more than the supporters of traditional marriage. In my opinion, his statement isn't coming from conviction but is instead motivated by political expedience. And as he did with the HHS mandate, he's made a serious tactical error. He is escalating the culture war that, if North Carolina's vote yesterday can be any indicator, will cost him the Presidency.

If we haven't already, we need to come to terms with the multiple front assault on this nation's traditional Christian values that has been underway since January of 2009. Take heed from Cardinal Dolan's response to the President's announcement,

"...we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better."
Some might consider that hyperbole, but it is plainly the unfortunate reality we face...don't be silent...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Questions for a Roman Apologist" - Peter's Primacy

Saint Peter and The Keys
in stained glass.
This will be the first in a series of basic apologetic responses (possibly as many as 28) to some of what I have experienced in the lively world of online apologetics. An arena that can be a cross between debate club and pro wrestling, where Christian charity sometimes, unfortunately, gets left at the door. The impetus of this response was the document, Questions for a Roman Apologist, posted by Pastor Miguel Jurna of the First Baptist Church of Olivehurst in Olivehurst, California, I will attempt to present a Catholic response and where necessary correction the context of his questions. The first question I'll address is:

Q: Where does the Bible say that one man is the head of all churches?

A: First of all we can look to Simon Bar-Jonah's name change as a significant sign of his importance among the Apostles. Let's look at several other examples of biblical name changes were there is a deliberately expressed symbolism: Abram becomes Abraham, "father of a multitude"; Sarai becomes Sarah, "princess"; and Jacob becomes Israel, "prince of God". Finally, Simon becomes Peter, the "rock". I believe it can be safely argued that in most, if not all, biblical name changes, God is making a point about the individual in question: commemorating their spiritual
potential or achievement, and/or His blessing upon them. In Peter's case, it is hard to ignore or explain away the fact that the first thing Christ said to him when Andrew introduced them was that he would be called "Cephas". In Matthew 16:17-18, Christ again tells Peter of his name change but also tells him why, his spiritual potential if you will, that he will be the rock on which Christ builds His Church.

The second argument for Peter being the "one man" is found immediately thereafter in Matthew 16:19, where Christ tells Peter,

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
The disciples would have understood instantly the symbolism of the keys of the kingdom for it was based in the Davidic Kingdom as illustrated in Isaiah 22:15-25. The Bible teaches that this Kingdom, which Jesus restored, includes a Prime Minister, one who holds "the key of the house of David," who is given "power," who is "as a father" to the citizens of the kingdom. Eliakim would be that father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and would be given the key symbolizing that power, the very same power that was clearly given to Peter in Matthew 16. Did Christ give the keys to anyone else? Who was plainly the chief Apostle throughout the whole of the New Testament?

Thirdly, in Luke 22:31-32 Christ tells Peter,

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you* like wheat, but I have prayed for you** that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."
* υμας personal pronoun - second person accusative plural humas hoo-mas': you (as the objective of  a verb or preposition) -- ye, you (+ -ward), your (+ own).
σου personal pronoun - second person genitive singular sou soo: of thee, thy -- home, thee, thine (own), thou, thy.

The significance of these verses should not be lost in translation. Christ tells him that Satan has demanded "you". The you in verse 31 is plural in the Greek, signifying that He is speaking of all the Apostles. Then in verse 32 He tells him that He has prayed for "you", this time it's in the singular signifying Peter alone. Ironically, for my KJV-Only friends, the King James version retains the meaning of the original Greek showing Christ prayed for Peter specifically.

Next, you have John 21:15-19, where Christ tells Peter he is to lead His flock,

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, 'Follow me.' "
This threefold confession of Peter is meant to counteract his earlier threefold denial of Christ and specifically assign him the role of chief shepherd of Christ's flock. How can this be read in any other way?

In addition to these proofs, you have the practical examples of Peter's leadership/primacy throughout the New Testament, to include: Mark 16:7, where an angel was sent to tell Peter of the Resurrection; Luke 24:34, where the risen Christ first appeared to Peter; Acts 1:13-26, where Peter headed the meeting that elected Mathias to replace Judas; Acts 2:14, where Peter led the Apostles in preaching on Pentacost; Acts 2:41, where he received the first converts; Acts 2:6-7, where he performed the first miracle after Pentacost; Acts 5:1-11, where he inflicted the first punishment on Ananias and Saphira; Acts 8:21, where he excommunicated the first heretic, Simon Magnus; Acts 10:44-46, where he received the revelation to admit Gentiles into the Church; Acts 15, The Council of Jerusalem, where Peter led the Council and pronounced his first dogmatic decision; and Galatians 1:18, where after his conversion St. Paul comes to submit himself to the chief Apostle.

Lastly, I find the phrasing of the question troublesome. To say, " man is head of all churches" implies that the writer believes in the correctness of multiple "churches" as a norm.
Where is that in the Bible? Is that what Jesus taught? No, Jesus prayed for our UNITY in John 17, just as St. Paul did in Ephesians 4,
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all." (emphasis added)
All of this through Scripture alone. The case is even stronger when you consider what the early Church believed and taught about Peter. But we'll stick to Scripture for now. Pax.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,
All Bible quotations are from the Revised Standard Version.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sebelius, with friends like these...

Dazed and Confused?
I am sure by now that many of you have seen the video of Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-S.C.) April 26th questioning of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the balance standards used in the Administration's propagation of the HHS Mandate. Outside of the fact that Representative Gowdy is dead right, what struck me most about this video is that "the law" and by extension the Constitution clearly had no relevance to the Secretary or the Administration in their decision. Let's grant, for a moment, that the Administration HAD actually done proper due diligence and in their view determined that a proper "balance" was struck between the "rights of women" and religious freedom. Don't you think that with the inherent constitutional issues surrounding the mandate that they could have better prepared their HHS Secretary to answer what should have been expected, not to mention reasonable, questions?  I may be crazy, but was it incompetence or were they simply not anticipating that someone would have the audacity to question them? Either way, it's scary.

If the HHS mandate withstands Supreme Court review a great travesty will have been perpetrated on the American people and the Constitution blatantly ignored. Once there, a slippery slope that will be my friends. I may be being naive, but I don't believe that will happen, for exactly the reasons outlined by Rep. Gowdy. As sad a public example as Sec. Sebelius has been for her fellow Catholics, she just may be our ace in the hole. With friends like her representing his position, the President's attempt to usurp the First Amendment will certainly fail. I say keep her testifying on the Hill until, say, November...

Technorati Tags:
religion, politics, HHS

Monday, April 23, 2012

Salvation, The Gospel of Christ and Understanding

I have found it to be inherently difficult to discuss the doctrine of Justification and how we are saved with my non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters. For the sake of this discussion, I'll refer to them as Protestants with my apologies to those who would chafe at that label. This difficulty is due, in large part, to the many differing, sometimes contradictory, and seemingly ever-changing caveats of belief within the realm of Protestantism. Equally responsible, I have come to believe, was the dearth of quality orthodox Catholic catechesis in the wake of Vatican II, leaving a whole generation poorly catechized. Thankfully this situation has been and continues to be addressed. Proper faith formation is on the rebound church-wide. By way of example, I offer the large, active, thriving, and wonderfully orthodox Parish of nearly 4000 families to which I belong, it offers an awesome CCD program and so many opportunities for adult faith formation that you basically have to intentionally ignore them not be able to grow in your faith.

I've given this a lot of thought and where I do not doubt the sincerity of my Protestant brothers and sisters convictions, I would say that the "Gospel" according to the Catholic Church is more fully formed than what I've heard proclaimed by many Protestants. It's not just saving sinners, but it's the transforming of sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God. At the same time there are Catholics who proclaim their own misunderstandings of the Gospel, such as the "Peace and Justice Gospel", the "God loves you Gospel", or the "Believe in Jesus Gospel" (i.e., Jesus and Me Protestantism). As I mentioned above, the post-Vatican II melee did proper catechesis no favors. What it did do, I believe,
was to foster to a great extent, the exodus of a good many Catholics to Protestant communities.

First let me say I wholeheartedly believe that there is truth in Protestantism, just not the whole truth. Things like "we are all sinners", "Jesus died for our sins", and "we must believe in Christ to be saved" are not only true, but are Catholic teaching as well. But they are not the full truth. They lack the "rest of the story" as it were, which can open the door to serious doctrinal misunderstandings. For example, The Doctrine of Justification, a well-worn topic of disagreement on the front line of the Catholic/Protestant debate, Luther considered it to be a legal act of juridical imputation, as in a guilty man being acquitted and declared innocent. While this is partially true, aren't we also, as Scott Hahn is fond of saying, "terminally ill patients"? Are we as Christians only at the mercy of a just judge? No, quite to the contrary actually, we are children of a loving Father, something I am sure that my Protestant brothers and sisters can agree with. So for the Catholic, it's not simply God the judge acquitting the guilty, it's God the Father, bringing his prodigal children home. Yes, Christ paid the price we couldn't pay, but He also heals the terminally ill patients and thereby makes us His adopted sons and daughters. As St. Paul says in Galatians chapter 4:

"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir."
and again in Romans chapter 8:
"...but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry "Abba! Father!"
Moving forward, it is also held by Protestants, starting again with Luther that we are justified by faith...alone. Many have told me that "saving faith" will produce good works, and that not only will it, but it must by definition. Now a properly catechized Catholic will tell you that good works are necessary for salvation. Here is where we get to the crux of this post...aren't we all really saying the same thing from own perspectives? (Hopefully my Protestant friends will take me at my word that Catholics don't believe that our own works will save us and that we are talking about works done in the grace of God here -- Phil 2:13) Can you see what I'm saying here? Let me take this a bit further...a Protestant who has a friend who falls away from the faith might tell you that this person never had that "saving faith" and was therefore never saved, and would have to really "accept Jesus into their heart" to be truly saved. Whereas a Catholic will tell you that if you commit a mortal sin you have chosen to turn your back on God, the same way as the Prodigal Son did his father, and you must repent of that sin to return to familial communion.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke to this issue in his General Audience on November 19, 2008. Speaking on Luther's Doctrine of Justification, he said,

"For this reason Luther's phrase: "faith alone" is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14). Paul knows that in the twofold love of God and neighbour the whole of the Law is present and carried out. Thus in communion with Christ, in a faith that creates charity, the entire Law is fulfilled. We become just by entering into communion with Christ who is Love."
A thorough read of the Holy Father's General Audience is highly recommended, to avoid seeing contradictions where there are none.

In conclusion, sometimes it may seem that when you, as a Catholic are discussing the faith with a Protestant (and vise versa), that your interlocutor is speaking a totally different language. It makes discussions difficult if you don't think you're talking about the same thing when you really are. So here is what I'd ask before you begin such a discussion. Take a moment, before launching into established rhetoric, to try and understand the framework of their faith tradition. While it is important that we work to resolve our doctrinal differences, we will never do it without understanding on what ground we each stand now. Give them the consideration that they, just like you, are a Christian on a journey, a journey to where all of our hearts can finally rest in the Beatific Vision of the Blessed Trinity.

God Bless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

40 Days of What?

LifeSiteNews reported yesterday that the Six Rivers Planned Parenthood (SRPP) in Eureka, California, launched a campaign called the 40 Days of Prayer: Supporting Women Everywhere. Coming across this article totally ripped me out of the zone I was in working on a series of posts on Baptist Successionism (hopefully I'll get the first of them out before the end of the month). 

I was flabbergasted! Simply astonished that anyone, let alone "clergy" could be either as blatantly dishonest or, if you'll pardon the expression, just plain stupid enough to put something like this out there! Labeling themselves as "Clergy For Choice" they offer these comforting thoughts, 

"We are religious leaders who value all human life. We accept that religions differ about when life begins. We are here to help. We believe that human life is holy. That's why we believe in your right to choose to be a parent or not."
Is it just me or do they seem not to realize that the issue of when life begins has actually been settled. SO then, you really have to ask yourself if they actually do believe that human life is holy. Lets look at a sampling of the 40 "Prayer Intentions" they list in their brochure:

Day 2: Today we pray for compassionate religious voices to speak out for the dignity and autonomy of women.
...and for all human life, that should be regarded as "holy"?

Day 3:
Today we pray for our daughters and granddaughters, that they will always know the power of making their own good decisions.

...and what of the daughters, sons, granddaughters and grandsons that were never given the opportunity?

Day 14: Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.

...the same Jesus whose Father knew all us all before we were formed in the womb?

Day 17: Today we pray for increased financial support for low income women to access contraception, abortion, and childcare.

...why is it that adoption seems to be a glaring omission here?

Day 20: Today we pray for the families of yesteryear who still mourn the loss of their mothers, sisters, and aunts due to illegal abortion.

...and of the 53+ million innocents slaughtered since Roe v. Wade?

Day 22: Today we pray for an end to all violence against abortion providers.

...the logical inconsistency is overwhelming...

Day 23: Today we give thanks for the strong women in our lives who have given us examples of good decision-making.

...Yes, Thanks for having the strength to give birth to me Mom!

Day 29: Today we pray that all women will know that they are created in the image of God, good and holy, moral and wise.

...see day 20 and day 22 for a response to this one...amazing!

Day 31: Today we pray for all discrimination against women to cease.

...including those in the womb...

Day 36: Today we pray for the families we’ve chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.

...families are a gift from God, the sooner we realize that, the sooner we'll realize that the blessing IS the GIFT...

Day 38: Today we pray for a cloud of gentleness to surround every abortion facility. May everyone feel calm and loving.

...a cloud of gentleness, everyone feeling calm and loving, with only the sound of the suction to disturb us...

Day 39: Today we pray for a contagious love to overflow from our spirits.

...if this ACTUALLY happens all the Planned Parenthood clinics would all spontaneous start closing...

last but not least...
Day 40: Today we give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.
...and I was like...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Family

My children will be receiving their First Holy Communion on May 5th, They did their First Reconciliation in February. Yesterday was also a special first for the Pryor household. It was the first time we were able to partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family. My intent has always been, once the boys were of age, to go to Confession as a family, but sitting there with them and the twenty or so others in line last night, I found myself uncharacteristically distracted, praying for their second confessions to go smoothly. Josh, at his request, was the first one to go and the ear-to-ear grin on his face upon exiting the confessional proved my concerns unwarranted.

Since converting to Catholicism I have never been nervous about Confession. I have never had a single bad experience during confession, as a matter of fact I have never left the confessional feeling anything but the amazing joy of renewal. So I'll attribute my trepidation for my sons to simple "parental-overprotection". It was, in the end, extremely edifying for me to see my boys kneeling and doing their penance. It was in that moment I was struck once again by my awesome responsibility as their father. Not just the responsibility to give society good, moral young men, but far more importantly, my responsibility to give them to God. To ensure they know their Savior and His Church, so that in the end, they too enjoy the Beatific Vision of the Blessed Trinity. That is my prayer for them and my life's mission.

To my Catholic friends I would suggest that if you're not doing so already, make regular Confession a family event, it will be as much of a joy for you as it will be a blessing to your children.

To my non-Catholic friends, I would only ask that you give John 20:22-23 another reading:

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Simply consider why Christ gave the Apostles this power...His power.

I wish you all a Blessed Holy Week!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Morality, Objective Truth and the Obedience of Faith

In his OpEd, "Birth Control, Bishops and Religious Authority" published March 15th in the Opinionator Blog on, Gary Gutting takes us on a rolicking ride of ridiculousness. For a philosopher, I suppose I would have expected more, but I'll let you judge the veracity of his argument for yourself. One of the first unfortunate comments (sadly, there were many) I read was from a Connie Boyd of Denver, Colorado. She wrote,
"Blind obedience isn't morality. By definition, there is no morality without free will and choice."
I do not consider my adherence to the teachings of the Church to be "blind obedience" at all. Christ founded His Church for a reason: to teach the faith and thereby lead mankind to the Beatific Vision. No where does that imply we should be undiscerning. Serious Catholics should be doing all they can to continue deepening their knowledge of the faith and have properly formed consciences, informed and fed by authentic Catholic teaching. Having done that, we should, according to Lumen Gentium, submit to the teachings of the Church.

Conversely, an erroneous conscience can lead us to do things like say...try and justify abortion as a moral good or, it might even be argued, write articles such as Mr. Gutting's or make comments like Ms. Boyd's. I only would wish Ms. Boyd understood that there is no morality without objective truth as well.

Knowing Mr. Gutting is a Catholic and assuming, for the sake of argument, that Ms. Boyd is as well, I would ask them one question. As Christians, what is the better barometer in our faith life, free will or what St. Paul calls the "obedience of faith"?

Just sayin'...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What More Could Be Expected of The Post?

To this point I have resisted commenting on this situation, but I can do it no longer. In their March 17th story Denying Communion: A priest and a lesbian set off a Catholic culture clash,   Michael S. Rosenwald and Michelle Boorstein seem to go to great lengths to paint Father Marcel Guarnizo as some sort of right-wing extremist and to paint Ms. Johnson as a victim.

Here are some of my observations:
1. Ms. Johnson, as the story duly noted, was raised Catholic and should be expected to know the Church's 2000-plus year-old teaching on homosexuality. The Church's teaching doesn't change because you disagree with it.

2. Ms. Johnson, however it was done (giving some leeway here due to the difference in Father Guarnizo's and Ms. Johnson's recollection of events), made Father aware of the fact that she was an actively practicing Lesbian in the moments immediately before her mother's funeral Mass.

3. Ms. Johnson then presented herself for Communion to Father Guarnizo. She could have easily and without any fear of rejection, presented herself to one of the Extraordinary Ministers.

4. The point is, Ms. Johnson, if she were truly a Catholic, should not have presented herself for Communion in the first place.

5. Does the number of "Catholics" who disagree with or ignore Church teaching in any way change Church teaching? See Pope Benedict's quote at the top of my blog please.

6. It seems to me that Ms. Johnson could have avoided all of these issues if she had not confronted Father Guarnizo before the Mass. Therefore, it can easily be concluded that she intended a confrontation in the first place.

7. Does Father Guarnizo's past matter any more than Ms. Johnson's? So it seems to the Post...

8. Are Rosenwald and Boorstein seriously expecting us to take the "testimony" of LeRoy Carhart, a "physician" who makes money doing late-term abortions, about Father Guarnizo seriously?

9. This is not a conservative/liberal discussion. This is a orthodox/heterodox discussion; and from that standpoint the ground Ms. Johnson is standing on seems, at best, very shaky.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 4

And finally, Part 4 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog.


Couching religion as only "A PERSONAL set of beliefs", is a fallacy. Did the Founders of our country take this tact? Thankfully no. A little over a year ago, I published a post entitled, Our Civic Responsibility as Christians. In it, I quoted Fr. Frank Pavone from a Washington Post article, where he said,
"Religion isn't just private. Beliefs have consequences on public policy, morality, and the safety and rights of citizens."
As I said then, it's a particularly American attitude, being the ultimate individualists that we are, to feel the need to keep our faith in our pocket and not let it out, because it's PRIVATE and PERSONAL, don't ya know. But ultimately, as I said then, it's our responsibility as Americans, to take a stand for what we believe in, and to act on that belief, otherwise we are just hypocrites, right? If, I as a Christian, belief that all human life is sacred, is it not my responsibility to act on that belief in the public square? Is that then, ME forcing my religion on YOU? I can't see how. Isn't that the point of a democracy? Divergent voices coming together to discuss, debate and ultimately vote on the issues? But discussion and debate aren't politically correct any longer, are they?

It is unrealistic, and I would have to say un-American, to expect that citizens of faith just sit on their hands, go to Church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, etc) and just shut up when it comes to socially and
constitutionally relevant issues that directly affect us. Let's look, for example, at the current situation with the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. This current tension over religious freedom comes down to a simple fact. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion. It really is that simple...the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion; and that includes the right of religious institutions to define and carry out their ministries. Unlike how it is being portrayed, this issue is not about contraception. It's not even about abortion. And is certainly isn't about "healthcare". It's about the guarantees of the First Amendment. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate that compels virtually all employers to provide sterilization and contraceptives without a co-pay does have religious exemption to it, but it so NARROW that Jesus Christ himself wouldn't qualify for it. The Administration is in effect attempting to redefine what a religious ministry is. A specific ministry would qualify for an exemption only if:
  1. the people providing the service are (insert your religion/denomination here);  
  2. the ones being served are (insert your religion/denomination here) in their entirety; and  
  3. the service itself comes packaged with (insert your religion/denomination here) religious instruction.
What about the innumerable religiously-based hospital ministries, soup kitchens, private non-profits, etc, etc, etc? It seems to me, as I stated above, that it's the church (whatever religion/denomination) that defines its ministries, not Caesar. Christians, for example, are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the imprisoned. That is why these ministries exist. There is no "ID Check" before service, that's simply antithetical to the principle of serving your fellow man (and by "man", I of course, mean "mankind" ;-) ). So by DEFINITION this mandate PROHIBITS the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet the Administration and a majority of the media continue to attempt to frame this as a "women's healthcare" issue...and some people are buying that. Scary. And contrary to modern pop-culture belief, the First Amendment was designed to keep government out of the religion business, not the other way around.

So when someone tries to tell me not to FORCE my religion on them, I'll say, I'm not. I'm acting with a fully-formed conscience on the social and political issues in this country that affect me.

In speaking on religious liberty George Washington said,

"For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” - from an August 17, 1790 letter to Moses Seixas and the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.
How sad is it that we have reached a point in this country where the Government itself is giving said assistance to a persecution of its own making?

In the end, how should we all respond to hate and persecution? My faith tells me, "with love". God Bless You.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 3

Part 3 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog.


Getting straight to the point, I do not have an axe to grind against homosexuals, except to defend against the specious argument for "gay marriage"; for it is an oxymoron and I cannot support it. Marriage is and has always been an institution between a man and a woman. Political correctness requires, nee demands, the re-definition of such words, but that doesn't change what marriage truly is. Now, having said that, some will immediately want to label me as "intolerant", "hateful" or a "bigot". Anyone who knows me, knows that isn't anywhere close to being true. In Part 2's discussion on sexism I illustrated some of the societal problems created in part as a by-product of the feminist movement. The calling into question of the family, centered around a mother and a father, and the making of homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of sexuality. To be clear, I am not laying that responsibility solely at feminism's door, but it was, without question, a significant contributor.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines homophobia as:

irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
This doesn't describe my position at all. I do not discriminate against homosexuals. Nor do I have an irrational fear of them. I do, however, contend that homosexual acts are objectively morally wrong; and that contention is neither irrational or discriminatory. I base that argument on the Natural Law (see below) as well as the moral guidance of my faith. My disagreement is not the same as a fear. I can reasonably disagree with something without fearing it, and the attempt, as is unfortunately so often the case these days, to end any rational discussion with the cry of "homophobe!" really falls flat to me; as it is nothing more than an ad hominem attack.

Listen, I understand this is a very emotionally charged issue. I've had the opportunity to discuss the issue in-depth with a former co-worker who is gay and have experienced the emotion first hand. But there is such a thing as objective truth. If you don’t believe in objective truth, then I can see how my contention above would be a problem for you. Relativism by its very nature is flawed. To quickly summarize the basic problems with relativistic truth: 

  1. It is self-defeating.
    The relativist believes that subjective truth is true for everyone, not just from them. This is the one thing they cannot believe, if they are relativist. Therefore, if a relativist thinks it is true for everyone, then he believes it is an absolute truth. Therefore, he is no longer a relativist. 
  2. It is full of contradictions.
    If I believe God exists and you believe God does not exist both would be right. God would have to exist and not exist.
  3. It means no one has ever been wrong.
    No one could ever be wrong since there is no standard for right and wrong. As long as something is true to the holder of that truth; it is true even if it is held to be wrong based on someone else's truth. 
We all intuitively know truth is objective. Admitting it is another issue. Even the Hindu, who denies that truth and reality objectively exist, will look both ways before he crosses the street. Everyone, whether or not they admit it, believes that truth and reality objectively exist. Consequently they also believe that there are actions/behaviors that are objectively right and wrong as well. Isn't this what we teach our children? How can there be a sliding scale of truth? On what is society basing the attempted redefinition of truth?

A Basic Argument against homosexual acts from the Natural Law:
People have a basic, ethical intuition that certain behaviors are wrong because they are unnatural. We perceive intuitively that the natural sex partner of a human is another human, not an animal. The same reasoning applies to the case of homosexual behavior. The natural sex partner for a man is a woman, and the natural sex partner for a woman is a man. Thus, people have the corresponding intuition concerning homosexuality that they do about bestiality—that it is wrong because it is unnatural. Natural law reasoning is the basis for almost all standard moral intuitions. For example, it is the dignity and value that each human being naturally possesses that makes the needless destruction of human life or the infliction of physical and emotional pain immoral. This gives rise to a host of specific moral principles, such as the unacceptability of murder, kidnapping, mutilation, physical and emotional abuse, and so forth. Homosexual acts are contrary to the Natural Law and, by definition, close the sexual act to the gift of life (I am in no way saying "you have sex only to procreate"). They also do not represent a genuine affective and sexual complementarity (see Part 2). In the Christian perspective homosexual acts are not treated any differently than say abortion, the exploitation of children, adultery and rape. All of these are opposed by the call to a high sexual ethic.

There is no hate in what I write, only an attempt to be morally consistent. With no intent to sound trite, this truly is the proverbial case of, "hate the sin, love the sinner". People want to try and equate "gay rights" as part and parcel to the civil rights movement, yet these same people (more than likely), see no problem with the killing of an unborn child. It seems to me that the pro-life movement is infinitely more commensurate to the civil rights movement than the "gay rights" movement, not to mention infinitely more logically consistent.
** Paragraph on Natural Law reproduced in large part from the Catholic Answers tract, Homosexuality. Many other resources on the Natural Law Argument exist and are accessible via the Internet.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 2

Seriously!? As if a pound and
a half of shaved pressed beef
product isn't enough to make
you hit an Arby's Drive-Thru?
If there were only more than 24 hours in a day, I'd get these posts out quicker. Part 2 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog: 

Does sexism still exist in society today? Sadly, yes. And I would tend to agree with her that society (both men and women) and the media are to blame. I would ask, "How does American companies' use of sex to advertise nearly EVERYTHING not tell viewers, especially impressionable children, that it's "ok" to view women as simply objects?" (please note the ridiculous Arby's ad to the left). It's definitely a problem that needs to be addressed, but where does free speech end and pornography begin? However, there are some feminists that exasperate the problem themselves. An example of this can be seen in an op-ed written by Soraya Chemaly for the Huffington Post. A refutation of which can be found in a blog post by Emily Stimpson. Chemaly's original op-ed is linked therein. My point being that everything done in or by society, or by a church, or even in advertising, is not done for the suppression of women. Is it really about control Soraya? Her presuppositions are based on a misguided feminism and an utter misunderstanding of Catholic teaching and practice.

What IS equality between the sexes? I think it is a mistake to define equality as "equality for a woman is that she is treated as if she were a man". There are some in the feminist movement that use this as a premise (I am by no means saying all). That is a mistake and in and of itself is a disservice to women. Now don't misunderstand my meaning, I am not in anyway saying woman are less valuable or less capable than men or should be dependent upon men. What I am saying is, to my mind, women don't have to "be men" to be equal, nor should they want to "be men". Should women be treated equally in the workforce? Of course, and as I stated earlier, it is sad that that equality does not yet exist in some areas.

However, what needs to be recognized is that the sexes are meant to be complimentary. THEY WERE CREATED THAT WAY. Any biology textbook can show you that. And that complementarity extends WAY BEYOND biology and is one of the foundations of the interpersonal communion between the sexes that IS marriage. What we are talking about here is the concept of integral gender complementarity. Hopefully you'll pardon my referencing Catholic works and writers, but it's there, I believe, we find that complementarity best explicated. Pope John Paul II expressed it well in Mulieris Dignitatem/On the Dignity & Vocation of Women as did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his Letter to the Bishops on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World. Additionally, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary of the University of Oslo, Norway wrote an excellent article based on the Ratzinger's letter in the January 12th, 2005 edition of L'Osservatore Romano expounding on feminism and a way to approach it that is truer to our nature. It is reproduced here.
Finally, in the Letter to the Bishops, Ratzinger partially outlines the problems of the feminist fight for equality:
"...In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality." (emphasis added)
The road that feminism has traveled in search of a solution to "sexism" has unfortunately, in many cases, spawned more societal issues than it has resolved. The differences between men and women should not be causes for strife, but properly viewed, the means to a deeper union. The problems spoken of in the quote above, I am afraid, are our segue to Part 3...a full reading of all material referenced here is advised.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 1

The other day I read a post from a friend's blog that I found rather thought provoking, and therefore felt the need to offer my one and a half cents. The following 4-part series of posts' titles parrot the four topics she listed as things that she has a passion for and I will attempt to articulate my take on each of them.


Stated plainly, I believe racism of any kind has no place in society. In the study she cited Muslims were the race under consideration. However, it should be noted that adherents of Islam, like those of Christianity, span all races. If you have never read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, you should. His involvement in Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam and their race-based hate was shattered by his participation in the Muslim Hajj. He experienced, as he wrote in his "Letter From Mecca", that,
"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue eyed blonds to black skin Africans.But we were all participating in the same rituals, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had lead me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white."
Now his belief that Islam was the answer to the race problem is something with which I wholeheartedly disagree, but my disagreement with Islam cannot, in any way, shape or form, be construed as racism, unless we expand its definition. Malcolm's epiphany, however, should be a beacon for race relations (I dislike even using the phrase "race relations"). We are all brothers and sisters on this Earth, or in the Christian parlance "sons and daughters of the same God" and we should treat each other accordingly. All that said, simply put: racism, of any kind, is intolerable.

NEXT - Sexism.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Catholic Reply to a Baptist Response. . .

Pastor Calvert,

My apologies for taking this long to reply. 

I would like to start this response where I ended my initial letter:
Philippians 2:12 says, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This is not the language of self-confident eternal assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out with the grace of God.

I think you may misunderstand what I, as a Catholic, believe about my salvation. Maybe I was somehow unclear, for I don't believe that it is "magic" at all. The Catholic Church teaches that we are all sinners in need of a savior (Romans 5:12-21). We have inherited original sin and all its consequences, and by actual sin we distance ourselves from God. We can't save ourselves, but we don't need to: Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins. The Catholic Church teaches that salvation comes through Jesus alone (Acts 4:12), since he is the "one mediator between God and man" (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The saving grace won by Jesus is given as a free gift, accessible to us through repentance, faith, and baptism; should we turn away from our sins, are penitent for them, and believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. I think you have acknowledged in your sermons that even Christians sin and must be remorseful and confess those sins to God. Our repentance shows the willingness to turn from things that keep us from God, and baptism renews, i.e. washes, us (John 3:22, Acts 22:16), filling us with the grace necessary to have faith and to live it. This belief is more than just intellectual assent, even the demons have that (James 2:19). It's more than just believing you're saved, even the Pharisees had that (John 5:39). True, saving faith is one lived and exhibited daily: It is "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6,  James 2:1-26).

Catholics have been accused of teaching "salvation by works," but this is an empty accusation. Much as you have in your sermons, this idea has also been consistently condemned by the Church. Good works are required by God because He requires obedience to His commands (Matthew 6:1-21, 1 Corinthians 3:8, 13-15) and promises to reward us with eternal life if we obey (Matthew 25:34-40, Romans 2:6-7, Galatians 6:6-10, James 1:12), i.e., "continue in His kindness" (Romans 11:22). But even our obedience is impossible without God's grace; even our good works are God's gift (Romans 5:5, Philippians 2:13). This is the real biblical plan of salvation.

The Council of Trent brings together the necessity of grace and works:
"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or by the teaching of the Law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (Session 6; Canon 1).
The Council Fathers continued by saying:
"If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema" (Session 6: Canon 9).
With respect to your comment regarding my statement about dying in a "state of grace". Do you not admit that when we sin, we are by definition, rejecting the grace given to us; and subsequently if we repent we are again given God's grace? This is to what I was referring. To be an adopted son of God IS to live in His grace. I would therefore be hard pressed to say that it has "no biblical backing".

In your analysis of the Parable of the Prodigal Son you overlooked what I see as its main point. The son confessed his sin to his father, as was forgiven and was accepted back into the family. In his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia Blessed Pope John Paul II used the parable of the Prodigal Son to explain the process of conversion (I would hope you would recognize our life as Christians on this earth as a continual conversion in our love of Christ) and reconciliation, and that God the Father is "rich in mercy" (as illustrated in the parable) and is always ready to forgive and that reconciliation is a gift on His part. In concluding your comments on this parable you said,

"When he comes to senses and returns to God he will not be able to relive the missed opportunities, but neither will he have to enter God’s house as a hired hand—he is still God’s child."

I would agree with that statement with one not so minor caveat. I would instead say, "—he is once again God’s child." I think this fits the entirety of the New Testament message more completely. I agree God gives “eternal life” to all who believe in Christ (John 3:16; 5:24, etc.). I agree “no one can snatch followers of Christ out of Jesus’ hand” (John 10:29-30). And I agree we are kept by the power of Christ who is “able to keep [us] from falling and to present [us] without blemish before the presence of his glory…” (Jude 24; cf. Ephesians 1:14).  However, no biblical text (despite your assertion that, "There is no thing or no person (most definitely, including our own selves) that can cause us to be plucked from His hand.") denies that followers of Christ can walk away from Him. To assert such a thing would be a denial of our God-given Free Will and therefore have God contradicting Himself, wouldn't it Pastor Calvert?

Moreover, the New Testament repeatedly sets conditions upon our salvation:
1. We must be baptized (Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3-4).
2. We must continue to abide in Christ in order to receive the promise of eternal life (1 John 2:23-25).
3. We must be obedient (Matthew 19:16; Romans 6:16; Hebrews 5:8-9; Acts 5:29-32)
4. We must endure until the end to be saved (Matthew 10:22; Revelation 2:10). 
If we refuse to obey, we will be lost (cf. Matthew 24:45-51). My Church teaches we can “know we have eternal life” if we understand “knowledge” as St. John does in 1 John 5:13. In verse 14 the Blessed Apostle refers to this “knowledge” as a “confidence” analogous to the “knowledge” we have of our receiving what we petition God for in prayer. We use the term similarly in English: “I know I am going to get an A on that exam tomorrow.” Contrary to your assertion, I most certainly did not discount this verse. I simply don't discount the conditions St. John also enumerates for our attaining eternal life in this same epistle (1 John 1:7-9; 2:23-25; 3:15). By these and others we know this confident assurance is not absolute. The main point is this: The eternal life we can “know” we possess and that is promised to us can be lost
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:22-23 KJV; cf. John 15:1-6, Hebrews 12:14-15, 2 Peter 2:20-22).
If Christians cannot lose their salvation, as you claim, then why would St. Paul warn his audience about a "danger" that couldn't happen to them? St. Paul's warning here is most definitely to a Christian audience (the Church in Rome). He warns them that they could lose their salvation if they do not remain in God's grace. St. Paul's clear teaching here applies to all Christians, most especially US. Additionally I think the conclusion you draw about Hebrews 10 "not talking about saved people" is incorrect. The only people who had "received the knowledge of the truth" and had thereby been "sanctified by the covenant blood" were Christians. So it's clear to whom the warning in verses 26-29 applies. Simply put, the Christian who turns away from God and returns to a life of sin suffers worse punishment than the person who never was sanctified by the "covenant blood" of Christ.

In conclusion, I think you tend to emphasize the texts that speak of God's power and protection and the blessed assurance that the faithful possess that are rooted in hope to the exclusion of the texts that plainly say that Christians can fall away from the living God or walk way from God's protection (Hebrews 3:12; cf. Matthew 5:32-33; Ephesians 5:3-6). This is never more evident than your use of St. Paul's "confidence" in his own salvation in chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians as an example, while simultaneously ignoring him when he blatantly states that even he could be lost in chapter 9. In doing so, I believe you fail to declare, as St. Paul does, the "whole counsel of God" that is necessary for salvation.

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my letter, you are a gentleman and I consider you a brother in Christ. I will make it a point to introduce myself should I have an occasion to attend one of your services. However, if you are available this Saturday, I'd like to extend an invitation to the Arlington Diocese's 2012 Men's Conference that is being held at St. Joseph's Parish Hall in Herndon. This years topic is, ironically enough, Sharing Our Faith with Others: Evangelization and Apologetics. Let me know if you are interested, I believe I can get you free admission.

Lastly, I appreciate your concern and would like to assure you that everything I believe as a Christian is most assuredly resting 100% on the saving work of Christ on the Cross and the power of His resurrection as taught by the Church He himself founded. My prayer for you is for an open heart and a desire, drawn by the Holy Spirit, to know the fullness of the Christian faith that is found in the Catholic Church. God Bless.

In the Love of Christ,

Craig Pryor

A Response from a Baptist Pastor

Dear Craig,

Thanks again for your interest in the message I preached on our position in Christ after salvation.  Hopefully I am going to try to answer your questions.  But if you have additional questions please do not hesitate to follow up.

We do believe wholeheartedly that we can know with absolute certainty that we are saved.  This is one of the most precious doctrines of the Scriptures.  The passages you allude to in Matthew (24 & 25) must be taken in their original context.  Christ is here addressing the future in a prophetical sense.  He was not talking in the sense of the “end” when every one eventually dies.  He goes to great lengths to describe what it will be like in the end times(something that I might add, seems not too far off from where we live now).  It is the knowledge that a child of God is in fact saved that helps him to keep going and that will help him in the end time of tribulation to maintain his faith in God.  It would be totally incorrect to imply that every person throughout history who has been saved has faced the type of persecution and tribulation that Jesus describes in both of these chapters.

You are correct in that there are different aspects of our salvation.  But since our salvation is free gift from God (Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”), should He give us a gift and then take it from us would make Him less than God.

You may recall that one of the key points I emphasized in the message is man’s heart.  We do know our own hearts.  Although we may put on a masterful mask and fool others (seems like we see this all too often in the lives of those in power, and sadly, even in the pulpit) we will never fool God.  Our Lord Himself warned us of those who come in sheep’s clothing but, in reality, they are wolves(Matthew 7:15).  This is why Paul emphasizes that salvation is not a matter of the head, but of the heart: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9,10).  Note also in both of these verse that no room is left for doubt whether or not the individual is truly saved when he has confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart.  The Bible clearly states “shalt” be saved; not “might” or“possibly”. 

Your question regarding the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is a good one.  There are several observations that must not be overlooked.  Although the son foolishly took his inheritance and wasted it in the world, while he was living in absolute squalor eating what he was feeding the pigs, he was no less his father’s son in that condition.  He tried to state otherwise when he decided to seek better living accommodations back at his father’s house and said so:“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18,19).  Yet his father refused to look at him as a servant and immediately recognized him as his son.  On the other hand, the other brother who did not waste his substance in the world, became angry with his father over the welcome home celebration that occurred.  But the father let him know that all of his inheritance was yet to be enjoyed.  The prodigal son did not receive a second inheritance; that was already spent.  But he was nonetheless still a part of the family and hence, still saved.  The older son who had not wandered in the world still had his inheritance in tact.  So, too, when a known child of God wanders from Him and goes in to the world he will no longer enjoy the benefits of close fellowship with the Father, but he is still God’s child (assuming he has genuinely accepted him as Savior prior to his wandering).  When he comes to senses and returns to God he will not be able to relive the missed opportunities, but neither will he have to enter God’s house as a hired hand—he is still God’s child.

With all due respect, I would also remind you that your statement [One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to Heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to Hell; for they have chosen it and God will respect that choice.] has no Biblical backing.  There is no such “state of grace.”  Grace is a gift from God extended to all but enjoyed only by those who personally accept it.  (Ephesians 2:8,9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Also Titus 3:5 makes mention of the fact that our works have nothing to do with our salvation:“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”  And 2 Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”)

The Hebrews 10 and 2 Peter 2 passages are not talking about saved people.  They refer to those who have heard the truth but who have decided to reject Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Since Jesus is the only way to heaven, there is no other option for them but eternal damnation in hell.  Jesus Christ talks of this when He shares with us the parable of the sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). He mentions that some of the seed (i.e. the word – Mark 4:14) fell on stony ground and did spring up, but was scorched by the sun because it had no root.  There are those who hear the truth and who may for a time appear to be a child of God but when difficulty arises they quickly turn from God because they were never truly part of His family.

The Apostle Paul was one who from the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus firmly believed he was saved and at no point doubted whether or not he would enter heaven’s gates.  1 Corinthians 4:4, the passage you cited, is given in a context of nay sayers who were trying to dismiss Paul’s authority.  To them he responded that he was not the one who had to justify himself, it was God alone.  He continues in the same passage to state that he was made “a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (4:9).  He further states that he was reviled and defamed.  In Acts 20 he also talks of the afflictions and persecution that he faced but he went on to say “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course withjoy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (24:16).  He hits on the same thing in 2Timothy 1:12, “For the which cause I also suffer these things:nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  He was very confident of his security in Christ. 

In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul asserts his confidence in his own salvation and in the salvation of many of his hearers: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  He does not say “which hope to be saved” but rather, “which are saved.”  And he also confirms that it is all the working of God’s power.

Please do not misinterpret what salvation is.  It is not a “lucky rabbit’s foot” that allows me to live like the devil and yet, still enter heaven.  Salvation is the gift of God which allows me as a hell-deserving sinner to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and rest assured that heaven will be my eternal home someday.  For me to add to Christ’s shed blood even one of my single works (which Isaiah calls “filthy rags” – Isaiah 64:6) would render the work of Christ of no effect.  Christ is not part of my salvation; He is all of my salvation.  But it is up to every individual to accept or reject that free gift.  He offers it to the whole world, but there are millions who refuse to receive it. 

When a person receives Christ as his Savior he becomes a “new creature.”  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  As I repent of my sins and receive Christ I now desire to please my heavenly Father.  I now desire to do what is acceptable in His sight, although I am still far from perfect.  The Holy Spirit will work in the heart of the true believer to sanctify him and cause him to be more like Christ.

In Philippians 2:12 Paul is reminding the believers of the importance of sanctification regarding their salvation; he is not referring in any way to justification.  That is clear from the very next verse where he states that it is only God who saves us: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”  He also states in the next chapter that he has “no confidence in the flesh,” (3:3).  He was not in any way thinking that he was able to play a role in the justifying aspect of his salvation.

John 10 provides a beautiful picture of who Christ is.  He tells his followers that “the sheep follow Him:for they know His voice.”  He also tells us that He is “the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out,and find pasture.”  In verse 14 He says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”  He gives us a beautiful promise of eternal security when He continues later on in the same chapter: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Father’s hand,”(v. 28).  This makes it extremely clear that once a person is saved and receives the gift of eternal life it is God alone who keeps us in His hand.  There is no thing or no person (most definitely, including our own selves) that can cause us to be plucked from His hand.  If I could somehow cause myself to be plucked from His hand it would imply that I am stronger than God, or that Christ was lying when He made this promise. 

I close with the same verse you discounted: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that he have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God,” (1 John 5:13). The chapter builds on this theme of knowledge and assurance.  We can have confidence in our prayers (v. 14) if we have believed on the name of the Son God.  If we know that He hears us then we can know that we will receive our petitions according to His will (v. 15).  We can know that we are born of God (v. 18), we can know that we are of God (v. 19), we know that the Son of God has come, and “we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.”  (vv. 20,21).

My personal prayer for you, Craig, is that you will take to heart the message of God’s free gift of salvation and receive it today, resting 100% solely on the saving work of Christ on the cross and the power of His resurrection.  He died and rose again not so that you might hope to have your sins forgiven but so that you might know you can have your sins forgiven.  It is through no merit of our own, but solely through the grace of our great God.  Should you desire to hear more I would love to meet you personally in one of our services.  Not knowing where you live and whether or not you are familiar with where our church is located, we are right at the intersection of the Fairfax County  Parkway (Rt. 7100) and Burke Lake Road.  If you do happen to come please introduce yourself.  It would be a joy to meet you in person.

In His Strength,

Fairfax Baptist Temple

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Letter to a Baptist Pastor

I have been remiss in my attention to this blog for a while. Work, family, and my boys seemingly constant involvement in sports have kept me busy and not allowed me to devote the time I had wished to writing. For that, I apologize.

I usually spend my hour-long train ride to work each day listening to the various podcasts I subscribe to. My commute is a blessing in this regard, for it affords me the time that I simply don't have at home. "Craig Time" as my wife calls it. One of the podcasts to which I have subscribed for a while is from Fairfax Baptist Temple in Fairfax, Virginia; and consists of the sermons of their Pastor, Dr. Troy Calvert. In the time I have been listening to his podcast, I have found Pastor Calvert to be a good and sincere leader of his flock and as with other Protestant ministers I've listened to, I find that a great deal of what he teaches is in utter agreement with Catholic teaching. However, the sermon I listened to on Friday, December 23rd was decidedly NOT compatible with it. I felt the need to write Pastor Calvert on the subject of that sermon, eternal assurance of salvation.

UPDATE: Pastor Calvert has, true to his word, responded to my letter and I am currently working on a response. I will post them both when my response is complete.

Pastor Calvert,

I subscribe to FBT's Podcast on iTunes and have for a while. I was listening to your December 6th sermon entitled “Kept in His Ever Secure Hand” last Friday morning on the way to work and I felt compelled to write you.
To be upfront and honest with you, I am a Catholic and a convert at that. Regarding my salvation, I believe, as the Bible says, that I am already saved (Romans 8:24, Ephesians 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15, Philippians 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Romans 5:9–10, 1 Corinthians 3:12–15). Like the Apostle Paul, I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Romans 5:2, 2 Timothy 2:11–13).
I believe that the Bible teaches that salvation goes beyond the standard question that I hear often posed in your sermons: "Are you saved?" On your website in Section J of your Declaration of Faith, you define your beliefs on Salvation as:
'We believe that salvation is of the Lord (Philippians 1:6) on the merit of the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24, 26). Salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 6:23) which excludes any possible merit on the basis of works (Ephesians 2:8, 9; II Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). We believe that the two essential doctrines that must be present in every lost person that wants to be saved are repentance (Acts 2:38) and faith (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9, 10). We also believe that once a person has been saved that there is no chance of his ever going to hell and that he is eternally secure in Christ (John 3:16, 36; I John 5:11-13).'
I have found that scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus himself tells us, "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to Heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to Hell; for they have chosen it and God will respect that choice.
Certainly, Christ died on the cross once for all and has entered into the holy place in Heaven to appear before God on our behalf. Christ has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals. Obviously, there is, or we would have been saved and justified from all eternity, with no need to repent or have faith or anything else. We would have been born "saved," with no need to be born again. Since we were not, since it is necessary for those who hear the gospel to repent and embrace it, there is a time at which we come to be reconciled to God. And if so, then we, like Adam and Eve, can become un-reconciled with God and, like the prodigal son, need to come back and be reconciled again with God, after having left his family. In a "Once Saved, Always Saved" theology, the parable of the Prodigal Son makes no sense.
Some contend that the sinner did nothing to merit God’s grace and likewise he can do nothing to demerit grace. Unless I am misunderstanding, this is not your contention. You seem to hold that once a claim of "acceptance of Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior" is made you are saved (if you truly made said acceptance in your heart), but that if you subsequently fall back into habitual serious sin, you were NEVER saved. Am I correct in this conclusion?

Regarding the issue of whether Christians can have an assurance that they are "eternally secure" in their salvation, consider this warning the Apostle Paul gave: "See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:22; see also Hebrews 10:26–29, 2 Peter 2:20–21).
Related to the issue of whether one can lose one’s salvation is the question of whether one can know with complete certainty that one is in a state of salvation. Even if one could not lose one’s salvation, one still might not be sure whether one ever had salvation. Similarly, even if one could be sure that one is now in a state of salvation, one might be able to fall from grace in the future. The "knowability" of salvation is a different question than the "loseability" of salvation. You called upon 1 John 5:13 as proof of eternal security: ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.’" Places where Scripture speaks of our ability to know that we are abiding in grace are important and must be taken seriously. But they do not promise that we will be protected from self-deception on this matter. You have to admit that there is such a thing as a false assurance. Didn't Jesus declare: ‘Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of Heaven’ (Matthew 7:21)?"
In my discussions with some Fundamentalist Christians they have tended to portray Catholics as if they must every moment be in terror of losing their salvation since Catholics recognize that it is possible to lose salvation through mortal sin. They then hold out the idea that, rather than living every moment in terror, they can have a calm, assured knowledge that they will, in fact, be saved, and that nothing will ever be able to change this fact. But this portrayal is in error. Catholics do not live lives of mortal terror concerning salvation. It is true we believe that salvation can be lost through mortal sin (1 John 5:16-17 "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal."), but such sins are by nature grave ones, and not the kind that a person living the Christian life is going to slip into committing on the spur of the moment, without deliberate thought and consent. Neither does the Catholic Church teach that one cannot have an assurance of salvation. This is true both of present and future salvation.
One can be confident of one’s present salvation. This is one of the chief reasons why God gave us the sacraments—to provide visible assurances that he is invisibly providing us with his grace. And one can be confident that one has not thrown away that grace by simply examining one’s life and seeing whether one has committed mortal sin. Indeed, the tests that John sets forth in his first epistle to help us know whether we are abiding in grace are, in essence, tests of whether we are dwelling in grave sin. For example, "By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10), "If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20), "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation. It is this Paul speaks of when he writes to the Philippians and says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). This is not a promise for all Christians, or even necessarily all in the church at Philippi, but it is a confidence that the Philippian Christians in general would make it. The basis of this is their spiritual performance to date, and Paul feels a need to explain to them that there is a basis for his confidence in them. Thus he says, immediately, "It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (1:7). The fact that the Philippians performed spiritually by assisting Paul in his imprisonment and ministry showed that their hearts were with God and that it could be expected that they, at least in general, would persevere and remain with God.
There are many saintly men and women who have long lived the Christian life and whose characters are marked with profound spiritual joy and peace. Such individuals can look forward with confidence to their reception in Heaven.
Such an individual was Paul, writing at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day" (2 Timothy 4:7-8). But earlier in life, even Paul did not claim an infallible assurance, either of his present justification or of his remaining in grace in the future. Concerning his present state, he wrote, "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby justified [Greek., dedikaiomai]. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:4). Concerning his remaining life, Paul was frank in admitting that even he could fall away: "I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Of course, for a spiritual giant such as Paul, it would be quite unexpected and out of character for him to fall from God’s grace. Nevertheless, he points out that, however much confidence in his own salvation he may be warranted in feeling, even he cannot be infallibly sure either of his own present state or of his future course.
The same is true of us. We can, if our lives display a pattern of perseverance and spiritual fruit, have not only a confidence in our present state of grace but also of our future perseverance with God. Yet we cannot have an infallible certitude of our own salvation, as many Protestants will admit. There is the possibility of self-deception (cf. Matthew 7:22-23). As Jeremiah expressed it, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). There is also the possibility of falling from grace through mortal sin, and even of falling away from the faith entirely, for as Jesus told us, there are those who "believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). It is in the light of these warnings and admonitions that we must understand Scripture’s positive statements concerning our ability to know and have confidence in our salvation. Assurance we may have; infallible certitude we may not.
For example, Philippians 2:12 says, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This is not the language of self-confident eternal assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out with the grace of God.
In the Love of Christ,

Craig Pryor

Search This Blog