Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Form, Substance, & the Church of Rome

April 25, 2010

One of the more pernicious ideas that has entered modern conscience is that form doesn’t matter. That provided you get the “substance” right, it doesn’t matter how you do it. We see the tentacles of this odious concept intrude into all forms of life, whether it be the law, politics, or interpersonal relationships.

Perhaps no-where is it more readily evident, however,  than in the sphere of religion.

I had the privilege to attend the Pontifical Solemn High Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (aka Tradstock); the first Extraordinary Form Mass held there in 50 years. Despite not being a a member of the Church of Rome, and indeed generally being quite critical of it (yeah, I’m a filioque hawk), I was still deeply impressed and moved by the beauty and solemnity of the event, and thought I would offer a few words of comment.

As tempting as it is, I shall not use this as an opportunity to opine on the beauty of the traditional liturgy, or the importance of ensuring the House of God is actually treated as such. Rather, I shall stick to the more abstract point of why such things are of importance. Specifically, that  form matters.

So many people in our society say “well, it doesn’t matter about the external form, it’s what you intend that is important”.

Well no, it doesn’t work like that. Form does matter, and it matters greatly. Because the external directly affects the internal. The way we present ourselves, the way we act publicly, affects who we are. If the Sacred Mass is replaced with a caricature of what it should be, whether using puppets or dancing deacons (and don’t even get me started on the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey”), then this actually affects stuff. If you abolish ad orientem, and turn the celebrant into some sort of magician-performer playing for the crowd, then this has consequences.

The liturgical poverty of the Church of Rome in the last few decades has had profound consequences for the spirituality of their flock. The way you present yourself in the House of God has a direct effect on how you worship. The fact that this isn’t actually obvious to all really does baffle me.

Allow me to use an example. Persons unaware of how such things work often query why Orthodox fast, saying it’s simply following rules, at the expense of spirituality. The thing is, that these “external” things you do, this “rule-following” actually has an effect on your deeper spirituality. (I will not claim that engaging in a fast reduces my propensity to sin, but it does at least make me  feel a lot more guilty about it!). A friend of mine once stated something along the lines of “if you wear a mask long enough, it seeps into the skin”. Truer words were never spoken. Because the more you are able to keep the form up, the more it affects the substance.

If you choose to throw away centuries of liturgical tradition simply because you think form doesn’t matter, then you throw away something that has the power to shape and affect who you are. You throw away the sanctity and spirituality of the Church – something created by God, and instead replace it with something created by man.

Without the form to guide us, with the form to mould us, we can have no true virtuous substance. As such, the question isn’t “form vs substance”. Rather, it is simply how without form, substance is nothing.

Form matters. A lot.

Christian Or Heretic – The Results!

April 18, 2010

We live in a religious culture that has become dominated by the conception that in order to be Christian, all you need to do is say you love God, clap your hands and rejoice occasionally, and that’s all there is to it. Where actual knowledge of the nature Christ has become optional – even, in some cases, frowned upon.

Well no, it’s not quite as simple as that. Because questions of theology actually matter, and an Incorrect understanding (ie heresy) prevents proper understanding of the Word of God, placing a barrier between us and God. It is for this reason that for most of Christian history, if you rejected basic, fundamental tenants of the faith, you were not considered part of the Church of Christ. Sure, there were differences of opinion, but there were certain core doctrines that in order to be a Christian, you had to accept.

It was in this vein that I put up my “Christian or Heretic” quiz the other day. Now, I’ll admit that it was done in somewhat of a hurry, and some of the questions could have been worded better, but, ultimately, anyone with a basic understanding of Christianity ought to have gotten them all correct. None of them should have been controversial. All are accepted without question by the Orthodox Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican/Episcopalian Communion, Lutherans, Calvanists, and other mainstream Protestant Churches. Sure, some might place emphasis slightly differently here and there, but at the end of the day, none of these are In question if you consider yourself a mainstream Christian.

Yet, 90% of self-professed Christians fell into heresy (and I use the term heresy in its most technical sense) on at least one question.

This is rather disturbing, because, whilst the questions might initially seem abstract, they are in effect at the core of the message of salvation. The reason for this is simple. If humans are to share in God’s glory, if they are to be perfectly one with God, this means in effect that humans must be what the Orthodox call ‘deified’: they are called to become by grace what God is by nature (other Churches phrases this somewhat differently, but the point is effectively the same). Accordingly,  St. Athanasius summed up the purpose of the Incarnation by saying “God became human that we might be made God”. Now if this ‘being made God’ is to be possible, Christ the Saviour must be both fully God and fully human. No one less than god can save humanity; therefore if Christ is to save, He must be God. But only if He is truly human, as we are, can we humans participate in what He has done for us. A bridge is formed between God and humanity by the Incarnate Christ who is divine and human at once. As such, misunderstanding the nature of Christ has serious consequences as to how Salvation is to occur. It is precisely because this is so important that the Orthodox & Catholic Churchs recite the Nicene Creed every liturgy, which spells out the answers to almost all of these questions (the Anglican communion usually uses the creed of St. Athanasius, which, to all intents and purposes, is identical on these questions)

With this in mind, let us look at the questions (I should note that some of my comments are taken from Met. Kallistos Ware). I have also inserted the percentages of self-described Christians (taking away the few obvious joke responses, and also ‘don’t knows’) in the test who got an answer “wrong”. (more…)

Are You A Christian, or Actually a Heretic?

April 12, 2010

In the first few centuries AD, there were numerous debates within the Christian Church as to the precise nature of Christ. These were resolved in the early ecumenical councils, and are accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Church (excluding the Oriental “Orthodox”), the Catholic Church, the Anglican/Episcopalian Church, and virtually all Protestant Denominations.

These were debates that gripped the entire religious world, and have deeply profound implications for humanity.

But I’m curious. How many people who consider themselves Christians would actually get the exact nature of Christ/the Trinity right? How many people actually have orthodox doctrine?

So, I created a short questionnaire with some basic questions about Christ & the Trinity. I’d be very interested to see the results, and, again, these are all basic, fundamental, core doctrines accepted by all mainline Christians, so there should be nothing controversial/difficult here.

Due to silly security restrictions, I can’t seem to embed the questions into wordpress, but click here to do the survey – will only take a few minutes, and I’ll post the results and crosstabs in a few days!

Easter at a Russian Soccer Stadium

April 9, 2010

Interfax reports:

Fans greeted each other on Easter at a Sunday evening soccer match at Moscow Lokomotiv stadium. At the beginning of the second half of the match thousands of fans of Dynamo team started chanting “Christ is Risen!”, an Interfax correspondent reports.

Thousands of fans of Lokomotiv teeam on the opposite side of the stadium responded by chanting “Truly He is Risen!” The exchange took place several times.”

This is just beautiful. It really is.

(H/T Mystagogy)

Catholicism and Liberty

June 8, 2009

No, sorry to disappoint, this isn’t going to be a discussion on how Catholic Church doctrine is inherently left wing. Rather, it’s the name of a great new blog a good friend of mine just started that I’d urge you all to check out!

To quote from its first post:

“There seems to be a lot of journals that I read that deal with religious issues, and a lot that deal with political issues, but few if any that combine the forms of each that I’m passionate about – traditional Catholicism and libertarianism of the Austrian-school variety.

Who am I? I’m a university student and soon-to-be Catholic convert who has a great love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and a political junkie who is frightened by the expansion of government across the world and the abandonment of even a pretence of small government ideals from any major politican party. I’m a fan of Ron Paul, and Thomas E. Woods Jr is currently my favourite writer as both an Austrian and a traditionalist. I have great respect for the work of the Mises Institute and also of the Acton Institute. I attend an FSSP mass, and I have a great devotion to St. Jude. I’m quite into femininity and modest dressing.  I’d consider myself a bit of an academic and I’ll read nearly anything I can get my hands on.”

Despite the rather unfortunate fact that the author has fallen to the heresy of the Bishop of Rome, I think you’ll all agree that this is a rather splendid endevour and will very much be worth a read! There are already a few very thought provoking posts up.

Check it out here!

The Pan-Orthodox Conference & Church Unity

April 24, 2009

As the Orthodox amongst  you would know, the Orthodox Church holding two preparatory meetings later this year in preparation for a pan-Orthodox conference. The topics to be discussed are:

1. The Orthodox diaspora, where the jurisdiction over the Orthodox flock beyond national borders will be defined. According to the canons now in effect, before the growth in the phenomenon of emigration the faithful outside of their home country belong to the ecumenical patriarchate. (Tim’s note: I do not agree with the second sentence here)

2. The manner of recognizing the status of autocephalous Church.

3. The manner of recognizing the status of Church autonomy.

4. Dypticha, meaning the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the Orthodox Churches.

5. Establishing a common calendar for feasts. For example, some Churches celebrate the Nativity on December 25, others 10 days later.

6. Impediments and canonicity of the sacrament of matrimony.

7. The question of fasting in the contemporary world.

8. Relationships with the other Christian confessions.

9. The ecumenical movement.

10. The contribution of the Orthodox in affirming the Christian ideals of
peace, fraternity, and freedom. (more…)

Connecticut Democrats Plagerize Khruschev’s Anti-Christian Policy

March 10, 2009

Most of you would probably be unaware of a recent bill that went before the Connecticut Judiciary Committee. Even if you are, you doubtlessly would be unaware of its historical precedent.

Connecticut Senate Bill 1098 is entitled “An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations“. It’s stated purpose is “To revise the corporate governance provisions applicable to the Roman Catholic Church and provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations”. Note that the statutory requirements are applicable only to the Roman Catholic Church.

This proposed bill establishes that each (Roman Catholic) parish “shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote”. It then goes into detail about terms, meetings, notices and so forth. And then the kicker – this bill would transfer all administrative and financial control of parishes from the diocese and parish priest and transfer it to a board of elected laypersons.

Of course, this bill is an unconstitutional assault on religious specifically violating the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise of Religion Clause contained in the First Amendment. Similarly, it’s a little rich for the Connecticut Legislature to choose to rearrange the internal workings of a church that traces its origins back over 2000 years. You can find a good summary of recent events at American Papist.

One point however has not as of yet been made. And that is that Connecticut Democrats stated that they are following precedent. Yet they didn’t mention which precedent that really were following. So I’ll tell you, for this law is a direct replica of another famous law. A law in 1961 by then General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev (who upon his ascension to the leadership famously declared there would not be one Christian left alive in the USSR by 1980).

I quote from “A Long Walk to the Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy” by Nathaniel Davis:

“On March 31, 1961, Kuroedov of the Council for Russian Orthodox Affairs, called in the patriarch and three other church hierarchies, denounced the “dictatorial power” of parish priests, and asserted that the lay executive authority in a parish must rule. In April of 1961 the Holy Synod, under official coercion, drew up recommendations for a revision of church statutes that would transfer administrative and financial authority from the parish priest to the laity…These revisions were approved without any openly expressed opposition.

The change in parish governance made the closure of churches easier, as the authorities would rely on compliant churchwardens to overcome priest’ opposition… Clerics who refused to sign an agreement to uphold the revised statutes were denied renewed authorization to function… Government authorities then took advantage of regulations denying standing to a church without a priest and closed many churches where the priests had not been re-registered or had been removed”

Over 12,000 churches (from the meager 20,000 in existence) were closed in the 3 years following this decree.

Update: As a response to public pressure, the bill in its current form has been withdrawn “until its constitutionality can be determined”

A New Way Forward for the Anglican Church?

February 27, 2009

Well, considering atheism and socialism doesn’t seem to have worked out all that well for them…

Via Tim Blair

Obama: “Not the Messiah, but a close second” ?!?!?

January 25, 2009

How do I even begin to comment on this???

Spotted & photographed by Rachel Hills.

UPDATE: Yes I recognize the possibility that exists for Life of Brian jokes. You don’t all need to keep messaging me about it! 🙂

Bishop Robinson’s Un-Christian inauration invocation.

January 13, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama has has decided to pander to the far-left (who he had initially alienated by pandering to socially conservatives with his choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Inauguration Invocation) by appointing V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to deliver the invocation at a Lincoln Memorial inaugural event on Sunday.

Viewing this from the perspective of US political culture, where the church/state lines are far more blurred than back at home, I found this line quite interesting:

“Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”

“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that…Bishop Robinson said he might address the prayer to “the God of our many understandings”

I find the movement in the progressive wing of the Anglican Communion to strip, well, Christianity out of Christianity  rather… odd… to put it mildly. I mean if you want to hold hands and sing Koombayah while praying to “the God of our many understandings” all well and good, but if you’re an Episcopalian shouldn’t you at least make some presence of holding some core beliefs of the Christian faith? Occasionally mentioning Christ when asked to speak? Although I suppose referring to the US Episcopalian Church as Christians can be considered as rather charitable.

I’m reminded of the episode in Yes Minister when Jim Hacker has to choose between an atheist and a socialist for a bishopric. What’s more, it seems that from it’s earliest days the Obama Administration will be one focused on ‘locking in’ votes of special interest groups and placing focus groups and polling above principle and policy.

Via The Other McCain