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.

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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...

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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!

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