The following quote is from Marcus Grodi’s testimony on how he journeyed from being a Presbyterian pastor to being a Catholic:

Every Sunday I would stand in my pulpit and interpret Scripture for my flock, knowing that within a fifteen mile radius of my church there were dozens of other Protestant pastors—all of whom believed that the Bible alone is the sole authority for doctrine and practice—but each was teaching something different from what I was teaching. “Is my interpretation of Scripture the right one or not?” I’d wonder. “Maybe one of those other pastors is right, and I’m misleading these people who trust me.”

I don’t want to make a judgement here on Grodi’s conversion to Catholicism, but I do think this quote captures the tension in brief of what every Protestant minister feels, or should feel, when he (or she) steps into the pulpit.

Found in Surprised by Truth, ed. by Patrick Madrid, page 38.

There can be a tension between the movement of faith and the desire to grasp with the mind the essence of faith. God gave us our minds and our rationality. We bear the image of God, in part, because we are rational. And we must keep in mind that rationality is not something cold. There is no such thing as cold rationality; there is cold logic, but rationality is, if anything, a hot, passionate, totality of the person kind of thing. Thus our rationality includes our passions, our intuitions, and our logic. We often misuse our rationality for sinful purposes. One of those sins is the desire to circumscribe the essence of faith in such a way as to turn it from something given and believed to something controlled and, perhaps, created by the individual. Theology should be the study of God (to state simply) but too often it becomes an attempt to control God, to demarcate and proscribe God so that one can handle God rather than be handled by God. So it often is with studies of faith. The result is something that looks like faith but becomes, instead, a “system” of faith, or an artifact of the individual to which the individual then, naturally, claims as his own. With this in mind consider these words from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI):

“Faith comes from what is heard”, says St. Paul (Rom 10:17). This might seem like a very transient factor, which can change; one might be tempted to see in it purely and simply the result of one particular sociological situation, so that one day it would be right to say instead, “Faith comes from reading” or “from reflection”. In reality it must be stated that we have here much more than the reflection of a historical period now past. The assertion “faith comes from what is heard” contains an abiding structural truth about what happens here.  It illuminates the fundamental differences between faith and mere philosophy, a difference that does not prevent faith, in its core, from setting the philosophical search for truth in motion again. One could say epigrammatically that faith does in fact come from “hearing”, not—like philosophy—from “reflection”. Its nature lies in the fact that it is not the thinking out of something that can be thought out and that at the end of the process is then at my disposal as a result of my thought. On the contrary, it is characteristic of faith that it comes from hearing, that it is the reception of something that I have not thought out, so that in the last analysis thinking in the context of faith is always a thinking over of something previously heard and received. (Ratzinger, p. 91)

The use of our minds to comprehend the Gospel is important. But the Gospel comes to us from without, unlike philosophy which emerges from within. We hear the Gospel. It is something about which we have to make a choice—do we believe it or do we reject it? Could it be, however, that in our modern world Christians have become, in a manner of speaking, “pro-choice” in all things (except abortion, which many Christians unfortunately accept as well)? Being “pro-choice” in all things is to take a smorgasbord approach to faith where any and every “Christian” option is open, any denomination or system of thought, any so-called Christian “life style” option is open, and we can all call ourselves Christians just as long as we play the game of “let’s not think about it”. In other words, as long as we consider truth as a vague, warm confidence in our general rightness surrounded by Christian-sounding language, and a love for Jesus, then all is fair game. And if all is fair game, then we can march ahead. We are a “pro-choice” culture, and Christians have helped create, and continue to support, this culture. But the Gospel comes from without. We don’t make it up. We don’t change it. We don’t merely add a little bit of it to what we already have and stir it in to make something of our own creation. Perhaps that is the sin of denominationalism, where men became too confident in their (ever so slightly reductionist) systems and began to separate themselves from each other based on those systems. Many see the problem with denominationalsim, and yet vague, warm “christiany” feelings are not the antidote. The Gospel, which comes from outside, is the antidote. And that Gospel proclaims Christ. Ratzinger continues:

[I]n faith the word takes precedence over the thought, a precedence that differentiates it structurally from the architecture of philosophy. In philosophy the thought precedes the word; it is after all a product of the reflection that one then tries to put into words; the words always remain secondary to the thought and thus in the last resort can always be replaced by other words. Faith, on the other hand, comes to man from outside, and this very fact is fundamental to it. It is—let me repeat—not something thought up by myself; it is something said to me, which hits me as something that has not been thought out and could not be thought out and lays an obligation on me. This double structure of “Do you believe?—I do believe!”, this form of the call from outside and the reply to it, is fundamental to it. It is therefore not at all abnormal if, with very few exceptions, we have to say: I did not come to believe through the private search for truth but through a process of reception that had, so to speak, already forestalled me. Faith cannot and should be a mere product of reflection. The idea that faith really ought to arise through our thinking it up for ourselves and finding it in the process of a purely private search for truth is basically the expression of a definite ideal, an attitude of mind that fails to recognize the intrinsic quality of belief, which consists precisely in being the reception of what cannot be thought out—responsible reception, it is true, in which what is heard never becomes entirely my own property, and the lead held by what is received can never be completely wiped out, but in which the goal must be to make what is received more and more my own, by handing myself over to it as the greater. (Ratzinger, pp. 91-91)

The movement of the faithful, in terms of understanding, is to hear the truth, receive it, and make it one’s own—except never entirely one’s own, for it remains outside as it dwells within. The action between the Gospel and the individual is not an interplay, it is not a synthesis where both are changed. Only the individual is changed. What appears to be change within the Gospel is, and can only be, discovery. The Gospel does not change, but one can spend time, forever perhaps, in plumbing its depths and scaling its peaks. New territories discovered only yield more beauty of what is already there. The heart and mind of faith is not unlike that of the scientist. To study the Gospel is to study the creation, what God has made and made available to all who would submit to its unequaled riches.


Work cited:
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Introduction to Christianity. Trans. J. R. Foster. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004. (Note: First published in German in 1968)

From The Early Church by Henry Chadwick:

[T]he Christian Gospel spoke of divine grace in Christ, the remission of sins and the conquest of evil powers for the sick soul, tired of living and scared of dying, seeking for an assurance of immortality and for security and freedom in a world where the individual could rarely do other than submit to his fate. The terms were those of the baptismal vows: a renunciation of sin and everything associated with demonic powers, idols, astrology and magic; and a declaration of belief in God the Father, in the redemptive acts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and in the Holy Spirit active in the Church. Though it is improbable that all converts knew themselves to be sick souls (perhaps relatively few found their way by guilt and tears and there is no evidence that many were hag-ridden with anxiety in this age more than in others), baptism and admission to the sacred meal meant a break with the past and a gift of grace by which the individual could live up to ideals and moral imperatives recognized by his conscience. In a word, Christianity directly answered to the human quest for true happiness—by which more is meant than feeling happy. (p. 55)

I am increasingly curious about the expected and necessary relationship between being “saved” and the existential experience of guilt and shame which Christ’s death and resurrection solve. Is that relationship truly necessary? It seems clear that the relationship is real and necessary in many believer’s lives—consider the tradition of personal stories of conversion. However, what of those who might merely hear the Gospel, believe it is true, and go through the process of becoming a Christian, can they also be “saved”? Does one have to experience an objectively sick soul, feel profound guilt, experience tears, and be hag-ridden with anxiety? Can one become a Christian without these existential marks?

A related question: Is Christian baptism (with renunciations and declarations, etc.) efficacious in the economy of salvation? Consider some of the baptism stories in the New Testament. Rarely are we given a picture of a guilt ridden individual wracked by existential angst who only gets baptized as an after-conversion act for the sake of making a public statement. What we read are stories like Philip and the Ethiopian where Philip explains the scriptural foundations of the Gospel and the Ethiopian asks to be baptized. After his baptism the Ethiopian rejoices, which shows his joy and thus his heart, but the conversion process was “hearing the truth + believing the truth + baptism = Christian.” Right? Can one truly convert and not have go through either Luther’s angst and fear or the modern evangelical’s emotional ecstasies? Are not renunciation, declaration, and baptism existential enough?

Works cited:
Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church: The story of emergent Christianity from the apostolic age to the dividing of the ways between the Greek East and the Latin West. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Commenting on the early use of the Christian creeds, namely the proto-apostles creed, with which the initiate (the one being baptized) would three times renounce the devil (“I renounce the devil, his service, and his works”) and three times proclaim belief in God (I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, and I believe in God the Holy Spirit), and then go under the water three times (“die” three times) and come up from the water three times (“resurrect” three times), Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in his Introduction to Christianity:

[F]aith is located in the act of conversion, in the turn of one’s being from worship of the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible. The phrase “I believe” could here be literally translated by “I hand myself over to”, “I assent to”. In the sense of the Creed, and by origin, faith is not a recitation of doctrines, an acceptance of theories about things of which in themselves one knows nothing and therefore asserts something all the  louder; it signifies an all-encompassing movement of human existence; to use Heidegger’s language, one could say that it signifies and “about-turn” by the whole person that from then on constantly structures one’s existence. In the procedure of the threefold renunciation and the threefold assent, linked as it is with the thrice-repeated symbolization of resurrection to new life, the true nature of faith or belief is clearly illustrated: it is a conversion, an about-turn, a shift of being. (p. 88)

Work cited:
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Introduction to Christianity. Trans. J. R. Foster. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004. (Note: First published in German in 1968)

After Pope John Paul II died many people reminisced about his life and the immense impact he had on the world. Peggy Noonan wrote a piece for the WSJ on the Pope’s first visit to his homeland of Poland in 1979. Noonan mentioned the efforts of the communist government of Poland to try to diffuse the impact they feared John Paul II would have. She wrote:

Two months before the pope’s arrival, the Polish communist apparatus took steps to restrain the enthusiasm of the people. They sent a secret directive to schoolteachers explaining how they should understand and explain the pope’s visit. “The pope is our enemy,” it said. “Due to his uncommon skills and great sense of humor he is dangerous, because he charms everyone, especially journalists. Besides, he goes for cheap gestures in his relations with the crowd, for instance, puts on a highlander’s hat, shakes all hands, kisses children. . . . It is modeled on American presidential campaigns. . . Because of the activation of the Church in Poland our activities designed to atheize the youth not only cannot diminish but must intensely develop. . . In this respect all means are allowed and we cannot afford any sentiments.”

Of course, the Polish government had no idea what they were getting themselves in for. And we know, looking back, that the world was never the same.

Perhaps John Paul II’s greatest homily of his tenure was given during the mass at Victory Square in Warsaw. This was the Pope’s first mass in Poland. The communist authorities were worried thousands, even tens of thousands of people would show up. Instead, over a million showed up. And then the Pope gave this homily:

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II

Victory Square, Warsaw, 2 June 1979 

Beloved Fellow-countrymen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
Participants in the Eucharistic Sacrifice celebrated today in Victory Square in Warsaw.

1. Together with you I wish to sing a hymn of praise to Divine Providence, which enables me to be here as a pilgrim.

We know that the recently deceased Paul VI, the first pilgrim Pope after so many centuries, ardently desired to set foot on the soil of Poland, especially at Jasna Gora (the Bright Mountain). To the end of his life he kept this desire in his heart, and with it he went to the grave. And we feel that this desirea desire so potent and so deeply rooted that it goes beyond the span of a pontificateis being realized today in a way that it would have been difficult to foresee. And so we thank Divine Providence for having given Paul VI so strong a desire. We thank it for the pattern of the pilgrim Pope that he began with the Second Vatican Council. At a time when the whole Church has become newly aware of being the People of God, a People sharing in the mission of Christ, a People that goes through history with that mission, a “pilgrim” People, the Pope could no longer remain a “prisoner of the Vatican”.  He had to become again the pilgrim Peter, like the first Peter, who from Jerusalem, through Antioch, reached Rome to give witness there to Christ and seal his witness with his blood.

Today it is granted to me to fulfil this desire of the deceased Pope Paul VI in the midst of you, beloved sons and daughters of my motherland. When, after the death of Paul VI and the brief pontificate of my immediate Predecessor John Paul I, which lasted only a few weeks, I was, through the inscrutable designs of Divine Providence, called by the votes of the Cardinals from the chair of Saint Stanislaus in Krakow to that of Saint Peter in Rome, I immediately understood that it was for me to fulfil that desire, the desire that Paul VI had been unable to carry out at the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland.

My pilgrimage to my motherland in the year in which the Church in Poland is celebrating the ninth centenary of the death of Saint Stanislaus is surely a special sign of the pilgrimage that we Poles are making down through the history of the Church not only along the ways of our motherland but also along those of Europe and the world. Leaving myself aside at this point, I must nonetheless with all of you ask myself why, precisely in 1978, after so many centuries of a well established tradition in this field, a son of the Polish Nation, of the land of Poland, was called to the chair of Saint Peter. Christ demanded of Peter and of the other Apostles that they should be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Have we not the right, with reference to these words of Christ, to think that Poland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness? The right to think that from herefrom Warsaw, and also from Gniezno, from Jasna Gora, from Krakow and from the whole of this historic route that I have so often in my life traversed and that it is to proclaim Christ with singular humility but also with conviction? The right to think that one must come to this very place, to this land, on this route, to read again the witness of his Cross and his Resurrection? But if we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?

2. Today, at the first stopping place in my papal pilgrimage in Poland, it is granted to me to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in Victory Square in Warsaw. The liturgy of the evening of Saturday the Vigil of Pentecost takes us to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where the Apostles, gathered around Mary the Mother of Christ, were on the following day to receive the Holy Spirit. They were to receive the Spirit obtained for them by Christ through the Cross, in order that through the power of this Spirit they might fulfil his command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Before Christ the Lord left the world, he transmitted to the Apostles with these words his last recommendation, his “missionary mandate”. And he added: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

It is good that my pilgrimage to Poland on the ninth centenary of the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus should fall in the Pentecost period and on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Fulfilling the desire of Paul VI after his death, I am able to relive the Millennium of the Baptism on Polish soil and to inscribe this year’s jubilee of Saint Stanislaus in the Millennium since the beginning of the nation and the Church. The Solemnity of Pentecost and that of the Most Holy Trinity bring us close to this beginning. In the apostles who receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost are spiritually present in a way all their successors, all the Bishops, including those whose task it has been for a thousand years to proclaim the Gospel on Polish soil. Among them was this Stanislaus of Szczepanow, who paid with his blood for his mission on the episcopal chair of Krakow nine centuries ago.

On the day of Pentecost there were gathered, in the Apostles and around them, not only the representatives of the peoples and tongues listed in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Even then there were gathered about them the various peoples and nations that, through the light of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, were to enter the Church at different periods and centuries. The day of Pentecost is the birthday of the faith and of the Church in our land of Poland also. It is the proclamation of the mighty works of God in our Polish language also. It is the beginning of Christianity in the life of our nation also, in its history, its culture, its trials.

 3a. To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ.

Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland, especially the history of the people who have passed or are passing through this land. The history of people. The history of the nation is above all the history of people. And the history of each person unfolds in Jesus Christ. In him it becomes the history of salvation.

The history of the nation deserves to be adequately appraised in the light of its contributionto the development of man and humanity, to intellect, heart and conscience. This is the deepest stream of culture. It is culture’s firmest support, its core, its strength. It is impossible without Christ to understand and appraise the contribution of the Polish nation to the development of man and his humanity in the past and its contribution today also: “This old oak tree has grown in such a way and has not been knocked down by any wind since its root is Christ” (Piotr Skarga, Kazania Sejmove IVBiblioteka Narodowa, I, 70, p. 92). It is necessary to follow the traces of what, or rather who, Christ was for the sons and daughters of this land down the generations. Not only for those who openly believed in him and professed him with the faith of the Church, but also for those who appeared to be at a distance, outside the Church. For those who doubted or were opposed.

3b. It is right to understand the history of the nation through man, each human being of this nation. At the same time man cannot be understood apart from this community that is constituted by the nation. Of course it is not the only community, but it is a special community, perhaps that most intimately linked with the family, the most important for the spiritual history of man. It is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nationthis great thousand-year-old communitythat is so profoundly decisive for me and each one of us. If we reject this key to understanding our nation, we lay ourselves open to a substantial misunderstanding. We no longer understand ourselves. It is impossible without Christ to understand this nation with its past so full of splendour and also of terrible difficulties. It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, that undertook in 1944 an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own ruinsif it is not remembered that under those same ruins there was also the statue of Christ the Saviour with his cross that is in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswiecim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.

The Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, of which Saint Stanislaus is the first mature fruitthe millennium of Christ in our yesterday, and todayis the chief reason for my pilgrimage, for my prayer of thanksgiving together with all of you, dear fellow-countrymen, to whom Christ does not cease to teach the great cause of man; together with you, for whom Jesus Christ does not cease to be an ever open book on man, his dignity and his rights and also a book of knowledge on the dignity and rights of the nation.

Today, here in Victory Square, in the capital of Poland, I am asking with all of you, through the great Eucharistic prayer, that Christ will not cease to be for us an open book of life for the future, for our Polish future.

4. We are before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the ancient and contemporary history of Poland this tomb has a special basis, a special reason for its existence. In how many places in our native land has that soldier fallen! In how many places in Europe and the world has he cried with his death that there can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map! On how many battlefields has that solider given witness to the rights of man, indelibly inscribed in the inviolable rights of the people, by falling for “our free­dom and yours”!

“Where are their tombs, O Po-land? Where are they not! You know better than anyoneand God knows it in heaven” (A. Oppman, Pacierz za zmarlych).

The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!

I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one’s brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned“all that of which Poland is made”.

All that in the hands of the Mother of Godat the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!

All thatthe history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.

All thatincluding the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.

All that I embrace in thought and in my heart during this Eucharist and I include it in this unique most holy Sacrifice of Christ, on Victory Square.

And I cryI who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul III cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:

Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth,
the face of this land.

Amen.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This homily can be found here.

This article was first published on the Classical Conversations Writer’s blog.

“[A]s I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship…”
(Paul speaking to the Athenians)

“Wandering about in a twilight where all cats are grey is not seeking truth.”
(Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society)

Will our children grow up to be thinking adults who understand their beliefs, know where those beliefs came from, and know how those beliefs fare in comparison to competing beliefs? Let’s begin to answer these questions by first looking at the world in which our children will grow up.

Our present age

This world is disordered and has been since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, but the modern soul suffers from a particular disordering. For millennia human beings lived within cultural boundaries of ready-made worldviews about nature and man, history and morality, life and death. Even as western societies expanded during the age of discovery they took with them the intellectual and social glue known as Christendom. They also brought along what we today call Christian, classical education (they would have merely called it education). But with modernity came a shifting of intellectual, social, political, economic, and spiritual tectonic plates possibly greater than any historical event save the coming of Christ. The shift (occurring mostly between the years 1650 to 1950) has been well documented, but it simply boils down to the movement from theism (with all its implications) to naturalism (with all its implications) to various reactions to naturalism.

A simple version of this shift might look something like this:

God exists, is infinite, personal, transcendent and
deeply involved in every aspect of His creation,
as seen most fully in the Incarnation.

God is transcendent but impersonal. He created the
world and set it in motion like a clock to run on it’s own.

Matter is all there is. God does not exist.

Therefore human beings are only complex, natural machines.
Therefore there is no basis for meaning and significance.

Human beings must create their own meaning.
One’s existence precedes one’s essence.
We are condemned to being free.

It is a downward path, from reason to irrationality, from God’s image in us to man is merely another animal. At this point one might seek answers elsewhere, perhaps in Eastern pantheistic monism, which says the soul of every human being is really just part of the Soul of the cosmos. Or one may find something more loosey-goosey, such as postmodern New Age spirituality, where one can create one’s own spiritual journey from a buffet of choices. And of course we often seek meaning in sports, politics, work, education, the arts, family, and the god of our age, consumerism. But it is still meaningless without an infinite, personal, transcendent and deeply involved creator God. The tragedy of mankind’s sinful nature includes the startling evidence that many choose ultimate meaninglessness rather than bowing the knee to God.

We are much like the frog in the pan of boiling water, unaware that we’re slowing cooking to death. We swim in these worldviews like fish in the sea. If we consider the world of just two hundred years ago and see what happened between then and now, we might see something like what Richard Tarnas described:

As the twentieth century advanced, modern consciousness found itself caught up in an intensely contradictory process of simultaneous expansion and contraction. Extraordinary intellectual and psychological sophistication was accompanied by a debilitating sense of anomie and malaise. An unprecedented broadening of horizons and exposure to the experience of others coincided with a private alienation of no less extreme proportions. A stupendous quantity of information had become available about all aspects of life—the contemporary world, the historical past, other cultures, other forms of life, the subatomic world, the macrocosm, the human mind and psyche—yet there was also a less ordering vision, less coherence and comprehension, less certainty. The great overriding impulse defining Western man since the Renaissance—the question for independence, self-determination, and individualism—had indeed brought those ideals to reality in many lives; yet it had also eventuated in a world where individual spontaneity and freedom were increasingly smothered, not just in theory by a reductionist scientism, but in practice by the ubiquitous collectivity and conformism of mass societies. (Tarnas, p. 388)

Consequently, we live in a pluralistic age, much like the age of the first Christians. The Apostle Paul in Athens was confronted by a people who had an endless capacity for both credulity and incredulity. Athens was the center of the intellectual world, a place where the love of speculation and debate ruled. It was also a highly religious city. Athens was full of the enticements of idols and opportunities for worship. However, both stiff incredulity and groundless credulity will eventually produce cynicism born from an inevitable and corrosive relativism. Our present age is also corrosively cynical. But we do not need to visit a geographic location like Athens to be surrounded by gods. Our world comes to us, and it does so with an intensity and vehemence such that one either becomes quickly overwhelmed or must take the defensive posture of numbness.

I feel this pressure constantly. I find everywhere the cynicism of relativism. We must be prepared to understand and carefully judge the constant opportunities for belief that confront us daily. Let us not lose sight of the truth as so much flotsam and jetsam in a sea of ideas and competing worldviews. As a homeschooling parent I have the responsibility to prepare my children to be in the world but but not of the world. I must help form their minds so that they are capable of making wise judgements about “objects of worship.” And, hopefully, that they come to love the adventure of discernment.

Among the best gifts I can give my children are great questions and the time to think them through.

The questions

Can truth be known, understood, and communicated? Are some dogmas worth believing and holding fast, and others to be rejected? What is it that my neighbor believes? What is it that I believe? Is there even any value in trying to find the answers, or are we just playing games?

Children traverse a chasm on the way to adulthood. That crossing is the process of leaving the comfort of belief for the sake of family to the passion of belief for the sake of self. It is the journey from childhood to adulthood, and it is a journey God created as an important part of human nature. It is, in short, a necessary part of coming to faith. Needless to say, eventually our children will be among wolves, whether they are thrown among them or discover they walked willingly (and perhaps naively) into their midst. If we believe that the grammar stage of learning can help prepare a child for the dialectic stage, and the dialectic for the rhetoric, then perhaps we can prepare our children for the chasm which begins in the dialectic stage. Perhaps we can encourage right thinking that still allows for the natural and necessary struggle to proceed as a ship handles rough seas with a good rudder and plenty of ballast. What is committed to memory provides the ballast and good principles of dialectic provide the rudder.

To help our children (and ourselves) with the dialectical engagement with worldviews we might begin with seven questions that can be asked of any worldview, any philosophical or theological system, and even of the core beliefs at the heart of any book or film. These questions I am stealing from James W. Sire’s book, The Universe Next Door. They are:

  1. What is prime reality─the really real?
  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
  3. What is a human being?
  4. What happens to a person at death?
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
  6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?

Consider how powerful these questions can be as they lie in the background of our discussions. For most students (for anyone really) these questions are very difficult to answer. Surprisingly, most college graduates have never seriously considered these questions, or even know of their existence. But we are called to live examined lives. We are called to raise our children to live examined lives. We need to gently make these questions mandatory.

Belief has to come from within. We cannot make our children into authentic Christians. At some point they must personally choose to follow Christ or not. Like us they will feel the pressures of this age and the next. They will experience the chaos of competing ideas, the tensions of modernity, and the longing in their hearts for meaning. As parents we must acknowledge the reality of the world they live in, including its very real dangers. We must also model for our children good habits of thinking. And we must recognize that it is God’s design that our children will question the faith in which we have raised them, perhaps even rebel against that faith for awhile. One thing we can give them is a set of questions that will not let them off the hook.

Works cited:

Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. Grand Rapids: Eardmans, 1989.

Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988.

Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that have Shaped our World View. New York: Ballantine, 1991.

It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

(from the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

I’m pondering the Catholic belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist−something I know nothing about. I begin with a couple of passages, one from the Gospel of John and the other from Pope John Paul II.

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:48-56).

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.

Pope John Paul II, from the intro to his encyclical: Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Last Communion of St. Jerome (frag.) by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1494-1495)

So… is Christ really present in the Eucharist? The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not merely symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. But many Protestants believe the Eucharist is merely symbolic, that the real presence of Christ is not in the bread and wine. What makes the most sense−real presence or merely symbolic? Did Jesus mean us to understand his words as pointing to a symbolic rather than a literal interpretation?

Consider these verses

  • (John 6:53-56 RSV) So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; {54} he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. {56} He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
    • In the Aramaic language that Our Lord spoke, to symbolically “eat the flesh” or “drink the blood” of someone meant to persecute or assault them. See the following… (Psa 27:2 KJV) When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
  • (Isa 9:18-20 RSV) For wickedness burns like a fire, it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. {19} Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land is burned, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no man spares his brother. {20} They snatch on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours his neighbor’s flesh,
  • (Isa 49:26 RSV) I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
  • (Micah 3:3 RSV) who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron.
  • (2 Sam 23:17 RSV) “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.
  • (Rev 17:6 RSV) And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
  • (Rev 17:16 NIV) The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

Thus, if Jesus were only speaking symbolically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, as the Protestants say, then what He really meant was “whoever persecutes and assaults me will have eternal life” − which, of course, makes nonsense of the passage!

Bread and wine are not normal or natural symbols of flesh and blood. To call a man a “fox” is an understandable symbol for cleverness. To call a man “bread” is not an understandable symbol, without some explanation. Either the symbols would have been clearly explained (which is not the case) or Jesus spoke literally (which is the case!).

I found the text above here. Although I think it possible that Christ was creating a new metaphor to understand a new symbolic act, the argument above makes enough sense that a quick dismissal of a literal understanding seems foolhardy. Minimally the doctrine deserves a close look rather than the wave-of-the-hand dismissal I was taught to give as a Baptist and semi-Reformed Christian.

Still, while I wonder if the Protestant position suffers from certain anemia, I also wonder if the Catholic position is too much of a forced overlay on the text. Sometimes it feels that way (I say this with little understanding). I do not yet have an answer.

Last Supper (1446) by Fra Angelico

Although I am not sure where I stand, my leanings are toward a more Catholic view. My Baptist training taught me to understand communion (God forbid we call it the Eucharist) as a merely symbolic act−something we did only 4 times a year with tiny crackers and tiny plastic cups of grape juice. Some Protestants might chafe at saying communion is “merely symbolic” by arguing that it is a symbolic act loaded with meaning, but once we turn our remembering of the incredible sacrifice of Christ into a liturgical activity without anything deeper than an act of outward piety and an inward emotional moment, then it is only “merely symbolic.” It cannot be anything more, except on a personal, emotional level, which is what so much of Christianity has become in the past 150 years. But should we see the Eucharist (or communion) as nothing more than a Christian version of saluting the flag or shooting off fireworks? Is it more than merely a memorial (not to denigrate memorials)? Sometimes I think the Catholic Eucharist, that is, the real presence, is calling to me. In fact I’m rather sure it is.

My more recent quasi-Reformed non-denominational non-liturgical almost-not-a-church experiences were fundamentally, and I should say radically, non-sacramental. Thus communion was extremely rare and only symbolic. Sadly, on the few occasions that we did have communion in a formal sense it felt strange. On the one hand it seemed like it didn’t belong (what a strange thing for us to be doing). On the other hand I, and I think many others in the group, had strong positive emotions to the act such that I wondered why we didn’t do it more often. The more I look back the more I realize a kind of hollowness of culture in that communion experience (and in the more general experience with that group of “doing” church), though the friendships are real and good. If I am right about that hollowness, then it follows the teaching (which was the primary reason for that “church’s” meeting on Sundays), however excellent in many ways, must also be skewed toward some level of falsehood. I can’t put my finger on it exactly. I was blessed frequently by the teaching, but just like bad Christian art evidences bad theology, I wonder about an anemic church culture−what does it declare? Is it an essential kind of purity and clarity of understanding, or a malnourished and truncated offspring of the Reformation? Personally I have felt malnourished for years.

My most recent experience is in a church that celebrates the Eucharist every Sunday. I love this. Where has this practice been all my life? And even though some emphasis is placed on preaching, the whole liturgy points to, and culminates in, the Lord’s table. There is something right about this that words don’t fully convey. But it is still not Catholic, which may or many not be an issue, but it has me curious. Do we have the real presence at our Lord’s table?

I have been trained to think there is no real presence, except for Jesus in my heart (which is a very vague doctrine if we pause to think about it). The problem is that if one has been trained to think a certain way, then one is predisposed to presume some doctrines are more likely true and some must obviously be false. I was trained to presume that all things Catholic must obviously be false. So the difficulty of accepting the real presence as true may come more from a deeply ingrained refusal to accept it because it is a Catholic doctrine rather than from good arguments and evidence. But isn’t that the typical response of Protestants confronting Catholicism? Maybe it is a typical defense mechanism of anyone comfortable in their social group. I have been feeling less and less comfortable in the Protestant Christianity in which I live, thus my defenses are lowering.

Why is it the more I study Church history, Christian classical education, theology, and the lives of notable Christians, I keep finding more and more heroes that are Catholic? Why is it that again and again comparisons show me the poverty of Protestant culture (not entirely) and the richness of Catholic culture? This has me very curious.

Finally:

“That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’ For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is my body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.'”

(from the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

So which is true, real presence or merely symbolic?

From the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom

Priest:
     Wisdom. Arise. Let us hear the holy Gospel. Peace be with all.

People:
     And with your spirit.

Deacon:
     The reading is from the holy Gospel according to (Name).
     Let us be attentive.

People:
     Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You.

(The Deacon reads the designated pericope of the holy Gospel.)

People:
     Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You.

I am grabbing the list below from this site (a great site for lots of information on Bible translations, etc). Some of the information in this list is a little strange, such as when so-and-so became President of the U.S., but it’s still interesting to anyone who loves history. I am thinking it should be titled “An Historical Chronology of Christendom and Post-Christendom with the Inclusion of Significant English Bible Translations.”

Listing the events in the history of the English versions
of Scripture, and of the place of Scripture
in the church and in society.

  • 440. Roman legions withdraw from Britain.
  • 450. Anglo-Saxon invasions and settlement of Britain displace the native Celts in the south.
  • 597. Pope Gregory sends missionaries to Ethelbert of Kent, in the southeast of Britain.
  • 629. Mohammed becomes ruler of Mecca in Arabia, publishes the Koran.
  • 633. Christian churches in Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem are seized by Mohammedans and turned into mosques.
  • 669. Theodore of Tarsus becomes archbishop of Canterbury, promotes episcopal hierarchy and Roman culture in the south of Britain.
  • 670. The herdsman Caedmon in northern Britain composes poems based on Biblical narratives in Old English.
  • 700. Beowulf, Nordic epic poem, written about this time.
  • 768. Charlemagne begins rule in France.
  • 825. Vespasian Psalter gives interlinear Old English translation.
  • 856. Danes begin large scale invasion of eastern Britain. Destruction of monasteries there.
  • 878. King Alfred halts Danish invasion, divides Britain by treaty. Danes inhabit northeast half of Britain.
  • 900. Paris Psalter gives Old English version of the first fifty Psalms.
  • 924. Ethelstan becomes King and pursues conciliation and fushion with the Danes. Oda (a full-blooded Dane) appointed archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 950. Aldred (Bishop of Durham) writes Old English between the lines of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
  • 970. Faerman (Priest in Yorkshire) makes the first Old English version of the Gospel of Matthew in the Rushworth Gospels, based upon Aldred’s gloss.
  • 1000. England overwhelmed by new invasion of Danes. King Ethelred flees to allies in Normandy. Aelfric (Abbot in Oxfordshire) translates abridged Pentateuch and several other portions of Scripture into Old English. Wessex Gospels give first Old English version of all four gospels.
  • 1042. King Edward, brought up in Normandy, attempts to Normanize the English Court, appoints a Norman archbishop. Godwin (Earl of Wessex) opposes him and causes the deposition of the archbishop.
  • 1066. Norman conquest of Britain, sponsored by Pope Alexander II, destroys Old English literature, makes Norman French the language of the nobility.
  • 1150. Old English yields to Middle English as the common language of Britain.
  • 1200. Orm composes poetical paraphrase of Gospels and Acts in Middle English.
  • 1300. Midland Psalter gives metrical version of the Psalms in Middle English.
  • 1309. Pope Clement V moves the headquarters of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon under domination of the French King.
  • 1320. Richard Rolle’s Middle English Psalter.
  • 1330. Birth of John Wyclif.
  • 1340. Birth of Chaucer.
  • 1348. English replaces Latin as the medium of instruction in schools (except at Oxford and Cambridge).
  • 1360. Various gospel narratives translated into Middle English.
  • 1362. English replaces French as the language of law in England. English used for the first time in Parliament.
  • 1377. Pope Gregory XI moves the Papacy back to Rome.
  • 1378. French Cardinals create schism in the Roman Catholic Church by electing a rival Pope and returning to Avignon. Rival popes excommunicate one another.
  • 1380. Oxford professor John Wyclif publicly rejects Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, begins translating Latin Vulgate into English.
  • 1381. Peasants revolt in England. They seize London, but are soon overcome.
  • 1382. Wyclif expelled from his teaching post at Oxford for heresy. Completes translation of Bible with help of his students.
  • 1384. Death of Wyclif. His disciples continue to preach against the clergy, copy and sell manuscripts (mostly the Gospels).
  • 1388. Wyclif Bible revised by his student John Purvey.
  • 1400. Death of Chaucer.
  • 1401. English parliament decrees the burning of heretics. Statute is aimed against the followers of Wyclif, called Lollards
  • 1408. Arundelian Constitutions enacted by Convocation of bishops at Oxford forbids unauthorized translation, distribution, or public reading of the Scripture.
  • 1411. Bonfire of Wyclif’s writings at Oxford.
  • 1415. John Hus, the radical Bohemian reformer and advocate of Wyclif’s anti-clerical teachings, is burned at the stake.
  • 1417. Concil of Constance elects Martin V as Pope, and ends Roman Catholic schism.
  • 1450. Middle English yields to Early Modern English as the common language of Britain about now.
  • 1453. Moslems take Constantinople. Great exodus of Greek scholars from there to Western Europe, bringing with them Greek manuscripts of the Bible.
  • 1456. First printed book: Gutenberg Bible, containing the Latin text.
  • 1466. Birth of Erasmus.
  • 1476. First English book printed by William Caxton (The Recital of the Histories of Troy, translated from French).
  • 1478. Caxton prints Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
  • 1483. Birth of Martin Luther.
  • 1484. Birth of William Tyndale.
  • 1485. Henry Tudor becomes king Henry VII of England.
  • 1488. Birth of Miles Coverdale. • Hebrew Old Testament first printed by Jews at Soncino, Italy.
  • 1489. Birth of Thomas Cranmer.
  • 1491. Greek first taught at Oxford University.
  • 1496. John Colet gives lectures on Romans at Oxford.
  • 1499. Erasmus at Oxford.
  • 1500. Birth of John Rogers.
  • 1504. Birth of Matthew Parker.
  • 1505. Birth of Richard Taverner. • Birth of John Knox. • Luther enters the Augustinian Order.
  • 1506. New Cathedral of St. Peter begun in Rome (completed in 1590).
  • 1509. Henry VIII becomes king of England. • Birth of John Calvin. • Erasmus professor of Greek at Cambridge University.
  • 1510. William Tyndale at Cambridge.
  • 1514. Coverdale ordained.
  • 1515. Luther begins lectures on Romans at Wittenberg University. • Tyndale gets M.A. degree at Oxford.
  • 1516. Erasmus’ first Greek New Testament (First printed Greek New Testament).
  • 1517. Pope Leo X decrees preaching and sale of indulgences for the benefit of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. • Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg on October 31. Reformation era begins.
  • 1518. Septuagint printed by Aldus in Italy. • Zwingli begins Reformation in Switzerland.
  • 1519. Erasmus’ 2nd Greek New Testament • Birth of Theodore Beza.
  • 1520. Luther excommunicated. • Tyndale goes home to Gloucester, begins translating.
  • 1522. First edition of Luther’s German New Testament • Parker at Cambridge. • Complutensian Polyglot (including Septuagint, Vulgate, Hebrew Old Testament) published. • Erasmus’ 3rd Greek New Testament • Tyndale goes to London in search of financial help.
  • 1524. Tyndale leaves England for Germany. • Peasants revolt in Germany. • William Whittingham born.
  • 1525. Tyndale’s English New Testament (first printed English text) published in Germany. • Rogers gets B.A. degree at Cambridge.
  • 1526. Copies of Tyndale’s New Testament enter England, many burned.
  • 1527. Erasmus’ 4th Greek New Testament
  • 1528. Coverdale preaches against the mass, is compelled to leave England.
  • 1529. Tyndale and Coverdale work together at Hamburg. • Luther’s Small Catechism. • Cranmer commissioned by king Henry to write a treatise justifying his divorce from Catherine.
  • 1530. Augsburg Confession.
  • 1531. Tyndale’s Pentateuch is published. • Zwingli killed in battle.
  • 1533. Cranmer made Archbishop of Canterbury, approves Henry’s divorce.
  • 1534. Tyndale’s New Testament and Pentateuch revised. • Henry VIII excommunicated by the Pope, severs English churches from Rome, becomes head of the Church of England without any intention of reforming it. • Cranmer petitions Henry for creation of an authorized English version. • Luther’s first complete German Bible. • Anabaptists establish short-lived socialist community at Münster. • Geneva becomes independent Protestant commonwealth.
  • 1535. Tyndale’s last revised New Testament • Tyndale betrayed to Roman Catholic authorities, charged with heresy and imprisoned. He continues to translate the historical books of the Old Testament • Coverdale’s Bible published in England. (first printed English Bible). • Erasmus’ 5th edition of the Greek.
  • 1536. Tyndale’s New Testament reprinted in England. • Tyndale condemned. He commits his manuscript to his friend John Rogers, and is burned at the stake. • Calvin publishes his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
  • 1537. “Matthew’s Bible” published by John Rogers in Germany, giving Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament, Pentateuch, and historical books of the Old Testament • John Calvin preaches in Geneva. • Matthew’s and Coverdale’s Bibles licensed for unhindered sale in England.
  • 1538. Coverdale in Paris editing Great Bible. • English bishops instructed to display largest English Bible in parish churches.
  • 1539. Coverdale returns to England. • Great Bible (dedicated to Henry VIII) published and authorized in England. • Taverner’s Bible (a revision of Matthew’s Bible) published. • English parliament adopts the Act of Six Articles, reaffirming various Roman Catholic teachings. “Lutherans” subjected to persecution.
  • 1540. 2nd edition of Great Bible with preface of Cranmer, called Cranmer’s Bible. • Coverdale, under pressure as a “Lutheran,” leaves England again.
  • 1543. English Parliament bans Tyndale’s version and all public reading of Bible by laymen.
  • 1545. Council of Trent convened.
  • 1546. Death of Luther. • Council of Trent decrees that the Latin Vulgate (with Apocryphal books) is authoritative version of Scripture. • Henry VIII bans Coverdale version. • Stephens publishes his first Greek New Testament
  • 1547. Death of Henry VIII. • Edward VI becomes king of England. • Parliament repeals the anti-Protestant Act of Six Articles, and removes restrictions on printing and reading of English versions. Cranmer begins Protestant reformation of the Church of England. • Coverdale, Rogers return to England. • John Knox preaches Reformation in Scotland.
  • 1549. English Book of Common Prayer compiled by Cranmer. • Stephens’ 2nd Greek New Testament
  • 1550. Stephens’ 3rd Greek New Testament
  • 1551. Last edition of Matthew’s Bible. • Coverdale appointed bishop of Exeter. • Stephens’ 4th Greek New Testament
  • 1552. John Knox refuses offer to become an English bishop.
  • 1553. “Bloody” Mary Tudor becomes queen of England. • Last edition of Coverdale Bible.
  • 1554. Mary reverses the reforms of Edward and enforces Romanism in England. • Knox leaves England for Geneva.
  • 1555. John Rogers burned at the stake. • Cranmer burned at the stake. • Coverdale and other leading Protestants flee England for Geneva. • Peace of Augsburg ends wars between Lutherans and Romanists in Germany, legitimizes Lutheranism.
  • 1556. Beza’s Latin New Testament
  • 1557. William Whittingham’s English New Testament published in Geneva. English exiles there begin work on English Old Testament
  • 1558. Elizabeth becomes queen of England.
  • 1559. Elizabeth repudiates Romanism. Act of Supremacy makes her head of Church of England. Romanist bishops expelled. Coverdale and other leading Protestants return to England. Matthew Parker made Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 1560. Geneva Bible with revised New Testament published by Whittingham in Geneva. • Whittingham returns to England. • Knox’s Scots Confession ratified by the Scottish parliament.
  • 1563. Whittingham made Dean of Durham. • Archbishop Parker and eight of his bishops begin work on the “Bishops’ Bible.” • Thirty-nine Articles of Religion adopted as doctrinal standard for Church of England. • Heidelberg Catechism published. • Apostolic Constitutions (ancient book of church order and dogma, purporting to be from the apostles) published by the Jesuit Turrianus.
  • 1564. Death of John Calvin. • Birth of Shakespeare.
  • 1565. Beza’s Greek-Latin New Testament
  • 1566. Last edition of Tyndale’s New Testament
  • 1567. Mary Stuart abdicates throne of Scotland, is succeeded by her son James under Protestant regency.
  • 1568. Bishops’ Bible (dedicated to Elizabeth) published by Archbishop Parker, and authorized for church use.
  • 1569. Last edition of Cranmer’s Great Bible. • Death of Coverdale.
  • 1571. Every bishop and cathedral in England ordered to have Bishops’ Bible.
  • 1572. Bishops’ Bible revised and published with the old Great Bible Psalter. • Antwerp Polyglot published. • Death of John Knox.
  • 1575. Death of Taverner and Parker. Parker succeeded as Archbishop of Canterbury by the strongly Calvinistic Edmund Grindal, who actively promotes the Geneva Bible during the next eight years.
  • 1578. Martin begins Rheims version of the New Testament (authorized Roman Catholic version, translated from the Vulgate).
  • 1579. Geneva Bible reprinted and authorized in Scotland. Every Scotch household of sufficient means is required by law to buy a copy. • Death of Whittingham.
  • 1580. Lutheran Formula of Concord.
  • 1582. Rheims New Testament (translated from the Latin) published by English Roman Catholics living in France. • Beza’s 2nd Greek New Testament
  • 1583. Grindal succeeded by John Whitgift as Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 1587. Death of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.
  • 1588. Destruction of Spanish Armada.
  • 1589. Beza’s 3rd Greek New Testament
  • 1592. Sixtine-Clementine Latin Bible.
  • 1598. Beza’s 4th Greek New Testament
  • 1602. Last edition of Bishops’ Bible.
  • 1603. James I made king of England.
  • 1604. English bishops and Puritan leaders meet with King James in the Hampton Court Conference. Revision of Bishops’ Bible proposed. King James nominates revision committee of 54 scholars. • First English dictionary published by Robert Cawdry.
  • 1605. English Romanists attempt to blow up Parliament in the “Gunpowder plot,” arousing great and lasting public indignation against Rome. • Death of Theodore Beza.
  • 1607. Work on King James Bible begun.
  • 1608. Pilgrim Fathers leave England for Holland.
  • 1609. Douay Old Testament (translated from the Latin) published by English Roman Catholics living in France.
  • 1611. King James Bible (dedicated to James) published and authorized in England.
  • 1615. Archbishop Abbot forbids printing of the Bible without Apocrypha.
  • 1616. Birth of John Owen. • Death of Shakespeare.
  • 1618. Beginning of Thirty Years War on Continent.
  • 1619. Synod of Dort condemns Arminianism as heresy, propounds five points of orthodox Calvinism.
  • 1620. Pilgrims land at Plymouth.
  • 1624. Elzevir’s first Greek New Testament • Louis Cappel publishes his opinion that the vowel points of the Hebrew text were added by rabbis in the fifth century.
  • 1625. Charles I (Romanist) made king of England.
  • 1627. William Ames’ Marrow of Theology spreads knowledge of Dutch Covenant Theology in England.
  • 1633. Elzevir’s 2nd Greek New Testament • William Laud (Romanist) is made Archbishop of Canterbury, begins to persecute Puritans. Forbids importation of the Geneva Bible.
  • 1643. Puritan Solemn League and Covenant for Reformation and Defense of Religion sworn throughout Scotland and England.
  • 1642. Parliament raises an army and makes war against the despotic king Charles and his Romanizing bishops. • Brian Walton (Romanist) deprived of office. • Parliament closes theaters of England.
  • 1643. Westminster Assembly convened.
  • 1645. Archbishop Laud put to death.
  • 1647. Westminster Confession published.
  • 1648. Parliament adopts the Westminster Confession of Faith, establishing Calvinistic doctrine and presbyterianism in England. • Buxtorf assails Cappel’s view of the Hebrew vowel points. • Peace of Westphalia ends the Thirty Years War on the continent, legitimizes Calvinism.
  • 1649. King Charles I put to death. Cromwell rules as “Protector of the Commonwealth.” • John Owen (Puritan) preferred to offices. • George Fox disrupts church service in Nottingham, begins preaching Quakerism.
  • 1650. Louis Cappel’s book advocating critical reconstruction of the Hebrew text is published in Paris by his son Jean, after turning Roman Catholic. Publication of the work had been prevented by Cappel’s opponents in Protestant lands.
  • 1651. Thomas Hobbes’ The Leviathon.
  • 1657. Brian Walton publishes the London Polyglot with revision of Hebrew vowel points, several ancient versions, and appendix of various readings of the Greek manuscripts.
  • 1658. Death of Cromwell. • John Owen deprived of office.
  • 1659. Walton’s Polyglot assailed by John Owen.
  • 1660. Monarchy restored with king Charles II. • Walton made a bishop.
  • 1662. New England churches begin to admit unconverted members under the “Half-Way Covenant.”
  • 1665. Great Plague of London kills over 68,000.
  • 1666. Great Fire of London.
  • 1667. Milton writes Paradise Lost.
  • 1675. John Fell’s Greek New Testament with critical annotations. • Helvetic Consensus Formula maintains verbal inerrancy of Scripture, extending to vowel points in the traditional Hebrew text (against Cappel and Walton).
  • 1678. Bunyan writes Pilgrim’s Progress.
  • 1679. Publication of the first volume of Francis Turretin’s Institutio Theologiae Elencticae.
  • 1683. Death of John Owen.
  • 1685. Death of Charles II. He is succeeded by a Roman Catholic king, James II.
  • 1688. James II deposed by Parliament, and replaced by William of Orange, with regulation for Protestant succession and greatly enlarged powers of Parliament. Threat of Romanism forever ended in England.
  • 1689. Toleration Act of parliament grants freedom of worship to all Protestants except Unitarians. • Richard Simon (French Roman Catholic) publishes first treatise on textual criticism in Paris.
  • 1690. John Locke publishes his Essay concerning Human Understanding.
  • 1695. Abolition of censorship in England. • John Locke publishes The Reasonableness of Christianity as Delivered by the Scriptures.
  • 1697. Blasphemy Act of Parliament bars Unitarians, Deists and atheists from public office.
  • 1702. Publication in London of the first regular daily newspaper in English.
  • 1704. Publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s Optics marks the point at which significant scholarly work begins to appear in English instead of Latin.
  • 1705. Humphrey Hody’s De Bibliorum textis originalibus (“On the Original Text of the Bible”) thoroughly examines the text of the ancient versions and the ancient canon of Scripture.
  • 1707. John Mill’s annotated Greek New Testament displays 30,000 various readings of the Greek manuscripts. • England and Scotland are united under the name of United Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • 1711. William Whiston’s Primitive Christianity Revived.
  • 1714. Death of Matthew Henry.
  • 1720. Richard Bentley publishes his Proposals for critical revision of the Greek New Testament
  • 1725. Johann Albrecht Bengel publishes his prospectus for a critical revision of the Greek New Testament
  • 1726. Jeremiah Jones publishes first English translation of several “apocryphal New Testament” books in his New and Full Method of Settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament.
  • 1729. American Presbyterians constitute first Synod in Philadelphia, requiring subscription of ministers to “essential and necessary” doctrines of the Westminster Standards.
  • 1730. Wettstein’s treatise on textual criticism.
  • 1734. Bengel’s revised Greek New Testament with notes. • Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man.
  • 1739. John Wesley organizes the first Methodist Society, begins widespread preaching.
  • 1740. Frederick the Great becomes king of Prussia. German culture flourishes under his patronage. • George Whitefield draws large crowds in revivalistic preaching tour of American colonies.
  • 1741. Jonathan Edwards preaches Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. • George Frideric Handel composes The Messiah.
  • 1742. Bengel’s Greek textual commentary. • Height of “Great Awakening” revivalism in America.
  • 1743. First Bible printed in America at Germantown, Penn. (Luther Bible). • Revivalist James Davenport instigates public bonfire of Puritan books. End of “Great Awakening.”
  • 1745. William Whiston’s Primitive New Testament
  • 1750. Jonathan Edwards forced from his pastoral office for withholding Communion from the unsaved. • Death of Johann Sebastian Bach.
  • 1755. John Wesley’s New Testament revises the KJV with use of Bengel’s Greek New Testament • Samuel Johnson publishes his comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language.
  • 1769. “Oxford Standard Edition” of King James version published.
  • 1771. Francis Asbury arrives in America.
  • 1774. Griesbach’s critically revised Greek Testament.
  • 1775. J.S. Semler (the German “father of rationalism”) advocates re-examination of the Biblical canon in his Treatise on the Free Investigation of the Canon. • American Revolutionary War begins.
  • 1776. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
  • 1783. American Revolutionary War ends. • First daily newspaper in America begins in Philadelphia.
  • 1784. Ethan Allen’s Reason the Only Oracle of Man rejects the authority of the Bible. • John Wesley organizes Methodists as a separate denomination in the American colonies, prepares his Twenty-Five Articles of Religion for their constitution. Francis Asbury appointed as general superintendent.
  • 1785. New York’s first daily newspaper begins.
  • 1786. Woide publishes facsimile of Codex Alexandrinus.
  • 1788. Birch’s collation of Codex Vaticanus in the Gospels published.
  • 1789. Federal Constitution ratified by American states. • French Revolution begins.
  • 1790. America has eight daily newspapers.
  • 1791. Death of John Wesley.
  • 1793. Reign of Terror in France. • Eli Whitney invents the Cotton Gin.
  • 1795. Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason bitterly attacks the Bible and Christianity.
  • 1796. Griesbach’s 2nd Greek New Testament
  • 1797. First Sunday newspaper in America begins in Baltimore.
  • 1798. Birch publishes collation of Codex Vaticanus for entire New Testament • Napoleon wages war in Egypt and Palestine.
  • 1800. Birth of John Nelson Darby, first theologian of modern Dispensationalism.
  • 1801. “Plan of Union” adopted by American Presbyterians and Congregationalists for cooperative ministry in frontier districts. • Barton Stone directs giant camp meeting revival at Cane Ridge in Kentucky, sparking “Second Great Awakening” in America.
  • 1802. Marsh publishes English translation of Michaelis’ Introduction (basic source of text-critical information for English scholars).
  • 1803. U.S. purchases Louisiana territory (Great Plains) from France, doubles in size.
  • 1804. Napoleon declared Emperor in France.
  • 1805. Griesbach’s last Greek New Testament • Unitarian control of Harvard College becomes evident with the appointment of Henry Ware to Chair of Divinity.
  • 1807. Slave trade abolished in England.
  • 1808. “Improved” Version of the New Testament published by Unitarians in England.
  • 1812. London has 18 Sunday newspapers.
  • 1813. English Parliament extends Toleration Act (cf. 1689) to cover Unitarians.
  • 1814. Richard Laurence (English Archbishop) publishes defense of the traditional Greek text against Griesbach.
  • 1815. Nolan publishes defense of traditional Greek text against Griesbach. • Napoleon defeated by British and German armies at Waterloo.
  • 1816. Death of Francis Asbury.
  • 1819. Political agitation leads to labor riots in Manchester, put down by troops. • Revivalist movement known as the Second Great Awakening underway in America. • William Channing publicly espouses Unitarianism in his “Baltimore Sermon.” • U.S. purchases Florida from Spain.
  • 1820. William Hone publishes in popular and inexpensive form a collection of early Christian writings under the title Apocryphal New Testament. • America has forty-two daily newspapers.
  • 1821. Richard Lawrence publishes English translation of The Book of Enoch. • Death of Thomas Scott.
  • 1824. Premiere of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony in Vienna. • First steam-powered cylinder newpaper press in America.
  • 1825. American Unitarian Association formed at Boston.
  • 1826. Alexander Campbell publishes his edition of the New Testament. • British and Foreign Bible Society stops printing Apocrypha.
  • 1827. Charles Finney emerges as leading American revivalist.
  • 1828. Noah Webster publishes his American Dictionary of the English Language. • Liberal English journalists called “a fourth estate of the realm” by essayist Thomas Macaulay.
  • 1829. Catholic Emancipation Act removes legal disabilities of Romanists.
  • 1830. Scholz’s Greek New Testament published. • Revivalist movement known as the Second Great Awakening reaches its high point in America. • John Nelson Darby leads the Plymouth Brethren movement in Dublin. • Alexander Campbell breaks with American Baptists to found the independent “Restoration Movement” in America. • Joseph Smith publishes The Book of Mormon in New York.
  • 1831. Karl Lachmann publishes first thoroughly revised critical Greek New Testament
  • 1832. English Parliament adopts Reform Bill, extending voting rights to the middle class.
  • 1833. Abolition of slavery in the British Empire. • Revivalist Charles Finney conducts abolitionist rallies in America • American Antislavery Society formed by Christian abolitionists. • First “penney” newspaper begins in New York.
  • 1835. David Strauss, Leben Jesu (Atheistic critical treatment of the life of Jesus) published in Germany. • Charles Finney becomes professor of theology at newly-formed Oberlin College in Ohio. Oberlin becomes center of perfectionist teaching, feminism, and abolitionist movement.
  • 1836. Union Theological Seminary founded by liberal-Arminian “New School” Presbyterians.
  • 1837. Calvinist majority in General Assembly of PCUSA abrogates 1801 Plan of Union; New School Presbyteries organize separate church. • Victoria made Queen of England.
  • 1838. Romish “Oxford Movement” party in the Church of England is at its peak of influence about now. • Ralph Waldo Emerson espouses mystical transcendentalism in an address at Harvard Divinity School.
  • 1840. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit.
  • 1841. Tischendorf’s first Greek New Testament • Bagster’s English Hexapla. • Emerson’s Essays.
  • 1842. Lachmann’s 2nd Greek New Testament
  • 1843. Greek text of Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus published by Tischendorf. • Phoebe Palmer’s The Way of Holiness.
  • 1844. Year of Christ’s return as predicted by William Miller, founder of the Adventist movement. • Methodists split over the slavery controversy in America.
  • 1845. Baptists split over the slavery controversy in America. Sothern Baptist Convention is formed. • Texas annexed by the U.S.
  • 1846. Potato famine in Ireland leads to emigration of nearly a million Irish Catholics to American cities. • Strauss’ atheistic Life of Jesus translated into English. • U.S. claim to Oregon country recognized by Great Britain.
  • 1848. Karl Marx publishes his Communist Manifesto in England. Revolutions break out in several nations of Europe. • Perfectionistic Oneida commune established by John Noyes. • Kate and Margaret Fox of New York cause public sensation with claims of ability to communicate with the dead: beginning of Spiritualist séance craze in America. • Southwestern territory ceded to the U.S. by Mexico.
  • 1849. Tischendorf’s 2nd Greek New Testament • Alford’s annotated Greek New Testament • Cholera epidemic kills 14,000 in London.
  • 1850. Antoinette Brown becomes first woman to complete theological course at Oberlin. • Ellen White begins to publicize “visions” fundamental to Seventh-Day Adventism.
  • 1851. Great Exhibition of science and industry held in London.
  • 1852. Greek text of Codex Claromontanus published by Tischendorf. • Publication of Roget’s Thesaurus.
  • 1853. Antoinette Brown becomes first woman formally ordained as a minister in the U.S. (in an independent Congregational church in New York).
  • 1854. Tregelles’ Account of the Printed Text. • Dogma of Immaculate Conception promulgated by the Roman Pope. • Cholera epidemic kills 11,000 in London.
  • 1855. Charles Spurgeon preaches to thousands in public halls of London. • Abolition of Stamp Tax in England removes financial burden from newspaper publishers; cheap and vulgar daily newspapers begin to flourish.
  • 1856. Tregelles’ Introduction to Textual Criticism. • Tischendorf’s 3rd Greek New Testament • Wordsworth’s Greek New Testament • Western Union Telegraph Co. formed • Slavery controversy rages in America. Southern scholar Albert Taylor Bledsoe’s Essay on Liberty and Slavery presents a Scriptural defense of slavery.
  • 1857. Tregelles’ Greek text of Gospels.
  • 1858. Brief “Prayer Meeting Revival” sweeps America. • Act for the admission of the Jews to the Parliament adopted in England.
  • 1859. Vercellone’s edition of Codex Vaticanus. • John Nelson Darby’s New Translation of New Testament with critical notes. • Darwin’s Origin of Species. • John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.
  • 1860. Liberal scholars in the Church of England “come out of the closet” in Essays and Reviews.
  • 1861. Scrivener’s Plain Introduction to Textual Criticism. • American Civil War begins. • President Lincoln attends Spiritualist séances in Georgetown, receives advice from the famous medium Nettie Colburn Maynard in the White House.
  • 1862. Greek text of Codex Sinaiticus published by Tischendorf. • Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible.
  • 1863. President Lincoln proclaims Thanksgiving Day holiday.
  • 1864. John Nelson Darby visits America for the first time, promotes fully developed Dispensationalism among Presbyterians in lecture tour. • “In God We Trust” first put on U.S. coins.
  • 1865. American Civil War ends. • President Lincoln assassinated.
  • 1866. Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable connects England and America. • Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution greatly increases Federal power.
  • 1867. Tischendorf’s edition of Codex Vaticanus. • Parliament adopts Second Reform Act, giving vote to the working class.
  • 1868. Vercellone’s facsimile edition of Codex Vaticanus.
  • 1869. Tischendorf’s 4th Greek New Testament • New and Old School American Presbyterians reunite. • American transcontinental railroad line completed • Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton organize the National Woman Suffrage Association.
  • 1870. English parliament asks bishops of the Church of England to form a committee for the revision of the King James version. Revision committee is formed, and work begins on the English Revised Version. • Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church sets forth dogma of Infallibility of the Pope. • German principalities unified under imperial crown of Prussia by Bismarck. • Manufacture of new wood-pulp paper greatly reduces cost of newspaper publishing.
  • 1871. J.N. Darby’s 2nd edition of the New Testament • Darwin’s Descent of Man.
  • 1872. Last portion of Tregelles’ Greek New Testament published. • Alford’s New Testament for English Readers.
  • 1875. Premillennialist evangelist Dwight Moody begins sensational preaching tour of American cities. • Foundation of annual Niagara Bible Conference. • Mary Baker’s Science and Health publicizes principles of Christian Science.
  • 1876. Charles Taze Russell begins publication of Zion’s Watchtower.
  • 1878. Rotherham’s English translation of Tregelles’ text. • Julius Wellhausen, History of Israel. • William Blackstone’s Jesus is Coming. • Ninth edition of theEncyclopaedia Britannica makes critical arguments and essays on the Bible generally available in English. • First commercial telephone exchange set up in Boston.
  • 1879. Robert Ingersoll attacks the Bible in popular lecture tours, publishes his Some Mistakes of Moses.
  • 1881. English Revised Version of the New Testament is published, immediately followed by the innovative Greek New Testament of Westcott and Hort.
  • 1882. Death of John Nelson Darby. • Charles Darwin buried in Westminster Abbey with full Christian rites.
  • 1883. Dean Burgon leads strong conservative attack on the English Revised Version and against all critical Greek texts. The new version is eventually refused by the British churches.
  • 1884. Parliament adopts Third Reform Act, granting vote to agricultural laborers. • Telephone service between New York and Boston.
  • 1885. English Revised Version of the Old Testament
  • 1886. Benjamin Warfield appointed Professor of Theology at Princeton.
  • 1888. British Baptist Union censures Charles Spurgeon for his campaign against liberal Baptists.
  • 1890. J.N. Darby’s English Old Testament • Great labor strikes throughout England. • National American Woman Suffrage Association formed.
  • 1893. Ecumenical and inter-faith “World’s Parliament of Religions” held in Chicago. • Dwight Moody preaches to huge crowds at Chicago World’s Fair.
  • 1895. American Anti-Saloon League founded in Washington, D.C. • Elizabeth Stanton’s Woman’s Bible repudiates Biblical teaching on woman’s place.
  • 1898. Eberhard Nestle’s Greek New Testament • Spanish-American War.
  • 1899. Death of Dwight Moody, foundation of Moody Bible Institute.
  • 1900. Final meeting of the Niagara Bible Conference.
  • 1901. American Standard Version.
  • 1903. First edition of Weymouth’s New Testament (modern English version).
  • 1904. Twentieth Century New Testament (modern English version). • Sigmund Freud, Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
  • 1906. Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles inaugurates modern Pentecostal movement.
  • 1907. The foundation of Hollywood as a film-making center. • Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis articulates the “Social Gospel.”
  • 1908. Delegates from 33 denominations meeting in Philadelphia establish the Federal Council of Churches to promote Social Gospel. • Ford Motor Company introduces the “Model T.”
  • 1909. First edition of Scofield Reference Bible.
  • 1910. First volume of The Fundamentals is published to counter liberal theology in America. • General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. adopts “Five Point” doctrinal test (Biblical inerrancy, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, and reality of miracles).
  • 1913. Von Soden’s Greek New Testament • Moffat New Testament (popular paraphrase).
  • 1914. British declare war on Germany. • Ford Motor Co. installs chain-driven assembly lines.
  • 1915. Telephone service between New York and San Francisco.
  • 1917. Improved edition of Scofield Reference Bible. • U.S. declares war on Germany. • Communist revolutionaries gain control of Russian Empire.
  • 1918. English Parliament adopts the “Representation of the People Act,” giving women the right to vote. • Treaty of Versailles humiliates Germany, ends First World War. League of Nations established.
  • 1919. Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits manufacture and sale of alcohol.
  • 1920. Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires all states to give voting rights to women. • First commercial radio station in U.S. (KDKA Pittsburgh) begins broadcasting.
  • 1922. Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. approves ordination of women as deacons. • Harry Emerson Fosdick preaches against Second Coming of Christ, Biblical inerrancy, Virgin Birth. • Lincoln Memorial dedicated in Washington, D.C.
  • 1923. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism. • Time magazine founded. • Radio becomes popular craze in America.
  • 1924. Methodist Episcopal Church approves ordination of women as local preachers.
  • 1925. Major newspapers ridicule conservative opposition to theory of evolution in coverage of Scopes “Monkey” Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. • Liberals of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. overturn the “Five Point” test adopted in 1910. • Canadian Mehodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists merge to form the United Church of Canada.
  • 1928. Moffat Bible published with Old Testament
  • 1929. Exodus of conservatives from Princeton; Westminster Theological Seminary founded in Philadelphia.
  • 1930. Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. approves ordination of women as elders • First television program with sound broadcast by the BBC.
  • 1932. General Association of Regular Baptist Churches formed by fundamentalists leaving the Northern Baptist Convention.
  • 1933. Eighteenth Amendment (prohibiting alcohol) repealed.
  • 1935. Moffat Bible revised.
  • 1936. Orthodox Presbyterian Church founded by conservatives leaving the PCUSA. • United Church of Canada (uniting Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists) approves ordination of women.
  • 1937. Charles Fuller begins weekly nation-wide radio broadcasts of “Old Fashioned Gospel Hour.”
  • 1939. Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism. • Britain declares war on Germany.
  • 1940. Lamsa translation of Peshitta New Testament
  • 1941. U.S. declares war on Japan after attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • 1942. National Association of Evangelicals formed by anti-fundamentalist “neo-evangelicals” in St. Louis, to promote conservative Christian involvement in public affairs.
  • 1943. Pope Pius XII issues encyclical letter Divino Afflante Spiritu, giving Roman Catholic Bible translators permission to base their translations on the Greek and Hebrew texts instead of the Latin Vulgate.
  • 1944. U.S. Army lands at Normandy. • Youth for Christ founded by neo-evangelicals in Chicago.
  • 1945. U.S. Air Force destroys 2 Japanese cities with atomic bombs. End of 2nd World War.
  • 1946. Revised Standard version of the New Testament published with great fanfare.
  • 1947. Dead Sea Scrolls (dated c. 150 B.C. to A.D. 75) discovered in Qumran. • Conservative Baptist Association founded by conservatives leaving the Northern Baptist Convention. • Fuller Theological Seminary founded by neo-evangelicals in Pasadena.
  • 1948. Communist agents discovered in U.S. State Department. “Red Scare” begins. • World Council of Churches constituted in Amsterdam.
  • 1949. Billy Graham’s evangelistic campaign in Los Angeles attracts national attention.
  • 1950. National Council of Churches constituted in Cleveland. • Billy Graham begins television broadcasts.
  • 1952. Revised Standard version of the Old Testament published by National Council of Churches. The version is severely denounced by conservatives. • One third of all American homes have television. • Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.
  • 1954. Methodist Episcopal Church approves full denominational ordination of women. • U.S. Supreme Court mandates racial integration of public schools. Beginning of “Civil Rights Movement.”
  • 1955. United Bible Societies constituted by union of Bible societies of England, Scotland, America, Germany and the Netherlands. Committee appointed to produce a Greek New Testament • Robert Schuller opens drive-in theater church in Orange County, California.
  • 1956. Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. approves ordination of women as ministers. • Christianity Today founded by neo-evangelical writers.
  • 1957. Bertrand Russel’s Why I am not a Christian. • United Church of Christ formed by association of various Reformed churches.
  • 1958. Phillips New Testament (paraphrase) • Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology.
  • 1959. Revised Standard version New Testament slightly revised.
  • 1960. Revised Standard Version adopted by most “mainline” congregations. • 80% of American homes have television.
  • 1961. New English Bible New Testament (British)
  • 1962. New American Standard Bible New Testament
  • 1963. Blacks riot in Birmingham, Alabama. • President Kennedy assassinated.
  • 1964. Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (southern) approves ordination of women as ministers. • Fuller Thelogical Seminary opens its Graduate School of Psychology. • Civil Rights Act passed by U.S. Congress.
  • 1965. Catholic edition of Revised Standard Version.
  • 1966. United Bible Societies’ first Greek New Testament • Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic). • “Good News for Modern Man” New Testament published by the American Bible Society.
  • 1967. New American Standard Bible Old Testament • Living Bible New Testament (paraphrase). • Blacks riot in Detroit.
  • 1968. United Bible Societies’ 2nd Greek New Testament • Blacks and college students riot in several U.S. cities. • Martin Luther King assassinated.
  • 1969. Homosexuals in New York City riot against enforcement of sodomy laws. • American astronauts land on the Moon.
  • 1970. New American Bible (Roman Catholic). • New English Bible Old Testament (British) • Lutheran Church in America approves ordination of women. • Robert Schuller begins weekly “Hour of Power” television broadcast.
  • 1971. 2nd ed. of Revised Standard Version.
  • 1972. Neo-evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary officially renounces doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. • U.S. Supreme Court rules that all existing death penalty statutes are unconstitutional.
  • 1973. Neo-evangelical scholars publish the New International Version New Testament • Chicago Declaration of Social Concern expresses neo-evangelical support for liberal political agenda. • U.S. Supreme Court legalizes abortion nationwide. • Presbyterian Church in America founded by conservatives leaving the PCUS. • Executive Council of the United Church of Christ recommends ordination of homosexuals.
  • 1975. United Bible Societies’ 3rd Greek New Testament • Bill Hybels organizes Willow Creek Community Church in a suburban movie theater near Chicago.
  • 1976. Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) published by the American Bible Society. • Episcopal Church approves ordination of women as priests. • Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible exposes widespead liberalism among neo-evangelicals. • Jimmy Carter elected U.S. President.
  • 1978. Neo-evangelical scholars publish the New International Version Old Testament. • Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
  • 1979. New King James Version New Testament • American Lutheran Church approves ordination of women. • Jerry Falwell founds “Moral Majority” political lobby to promote Reagan election campaign.
  • 1980. Ronald Reagan elected U.S. President.
  • 1982. Hodges and Farstad “Majority Text” Greek New Testament • New King James Version Old Testament • Robert Schuller’s Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.
  • 1983. General Synod of the United Church of Christ recommends ordination of homosexuals. • AIDS epidemic begins.
  • 1985. New Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic).
  • 1987. Pentecostal television preacher Oral Roberts says that God had threatened to kill him if supporters did not send him 8 million dollars immediately. • Pentecostal television preacher Jim Bakker disgraced in revelations of vice and fraud. • Pentecostal television preacher Pat Robertson enters race for U.S. Presidency.
  • 1988. Pentecostal television preacher Jimmy Swaggart disgraced in revelations of vice.
  • 1989. Revised English Bible (British).
  • 1990. New Revised Standard Version.
  • 1992. Bill Clinton elected U.S. President.
  • 1993. “Re-Imagining” conference of female mainline ministers in Minneapolis features worship of pagan fertility goddess. • Federal agents attack Adventist sect in Waco.
  • 1995. Holy laughter breaks out at Pentecostal Vineyard Christian Fellowship church in Toronto. • Contemporary English Version.
  • 1996. NIV Inclusive Language Edition published in Great Britain. • New Living Translation.
  • 2000. George W. Bush elected U.S. President.
  • 2001. Holman Christian Standard Bible New Testament. • English Standard Version • World Trade Center towers in New York destroyed by fanatical Mohammedans.
  • 2002. Today’s New International Version New Testament.
  • 2008. Barack H. Obama becomes first non-white man to be elected President of the United States.

Question: Why is it that in Protestantism fasting is not promoted much?

The following Six reasons to keep Meatless Fridays is from a Catholic blogger:

  1. The tradition of eating fish and not beast flesh (now beef, pork, poultry) goes back to Noah’s Ark where for the 40 day flood, they ate only fish and not beasts.
  2. The mystical institution of Friday penance is Luke 5:35 “The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them: then shall they fast in those days.” Christ was “taken away” from us on Friday and so we fast on “those days,” i.e. on Fridays. Every Sunday is a “little Easter,” which means that every Friday is a “little Good Friday.” If you’re going to party on Sunday, you need to do penance on Friday.
  3. The Friday abstinence from meat goes back to the Apostles. The first-century document Didache records that the earliest Christians observed fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays: “But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day {Wednesday} and the Parasceve {Friday}.”
  4. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that abstaining from beast flesh and animal products inhibits your libido and reduces lust. See Summa theologiae II-II q. 147, a. 8 for more details!
  5. A pejorative slur for Catholics is “fisheater” or alternatively “mackerel snapper.” Wear these slurs as badges of honor. Eat fish on Fridays.
  6. Christ expects us to fast. In Matthew 6:17-8, Jesus says “But when you fast.” He does not say, “But if you fast.” So then, why not try to work in a penance related to food every week? If you don’t make it a habit, you’ll never do it. Friday penance is the time-honored practice. It’s hard and it will be inconvenient when you have to go with the cheese nachos instead of the hot-dog at the baseball game…but it’s worth it.

If you get discouraged, just think of Saint John the Baptist. He ate locusts!

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Would it be a good thing for American Christians to make fasting a common part of their life?

Should Raskolnikov have murdered Alyona Ivanovna?

This should sound like a strange question. And it does sound strange. Of course Raskolnikov should not have committed murder. But wait, does Raskolnikov exist? This is a crucial question in light of the question of transcendence. If Raskolnikov exists at one level of reality (as a character in a story) then Dostoyevsky must exist at a higher, more substantial, more transcendent level of existence. Which leads us to another question: Is Raskolnikov free of Dostoyevsky, that is, does Raskolnikov have free will, did he freely choose to kill Alyona Ivanovna? If not, should Dostoyevsky have been arrested for murder?

What strange questions. And yet they help us triangulate toward an understanding of our relationship to God. We think of God as being the author of creation. If so, then we can think of ourselves as being players in the story He is authoring−History. Raskolnikov is a real character within the world of the work we call the novel Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is real, but Dostoyevsky is more real. Raskolnikov’s existence, including his every choice, and even his thoughts, are contingent on his author, on Dostoyevsky. We are also contingent. We are real but God is more real. Or to put it another, more difficult to swallow way, if God is real (the standard of reality) then we are not real.

Of course, in a very critical and important sense, we cannot say we are not real, for “not real” is not the category of existence that God has given us in terms of our experience and in terms of our moral choices. We are real, for that is what we know. God may be more real, or so much more real that in comparison we seem merely like characters in a novel, but the reality we live is very real to us. Our reality is a gift of God’s creative act. We are real and we must come to terms with it. But we also must come to terms with God being more real, being our author, our creator. Or perhaps we do not “come to terms” with God, for that is a kind of negotiation. Instead we bow the knee, lie prostrate, tremble before God, who is both loving and terrifying.

God is sovereign, thus in an important sense we are not free from God, for we cannot be free from God and continue to exist. And yet, it is clear that it is God’s will that we are free to make choices, especially moral choices. Raskolnikov is not free from Dostoyevsky, and yet Raskolnikov’s choices (willed by the creative act of Dostoyevsky’s mind extending onto the page) are free and thus can be judged. He is not a puppet of his master, rather he does what he himself wills, and we read it that way even though we know an author is behind it all. We know we have free will because we experience free will. We know God is thoroughly sovereign because nothing can exist apart from God, and nothing can be counted on−including God’s promises−unless God is sovereign. But we cannot live fatalistically nor can we blame God, for we do what we will−and we know it. If we are held accountable for our free choices then we have met justice.

So, should Raskolnikov have murdered Alyona Ivanovna? At the level of the world of the work, at the level of the story, the answer is no, and Raskolnikov should have to pay for his crime. And yet, at the level of the author, at the level of reality in which Dostoyevsky lived, the answer is yes, for it was the will of the author that it should be. This is the prerogative of all authors, and if we call God the author of creation and of our existence, then we must understand the prerogatives that are properly assigned to God, our creator, our author.

Now, the end of each thing is that which is intended by its first author or mover. But the first author and mover of the universe is an intellect, as will be later shown. The ultimate end of the universe must, therefore, be the good of an intellect. This good is truth. Truth must consequently be the ultimate end of the whole universe, and the consideration of the wise man aims principally at truth. So it is that, according to His own statement, divine Wisdom testifies that He has assumed flesh and come into the world in order to make the truth known: “For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth” (John 18:37).

From CONTRA GENTILES, BOOK ONE: GOD
by Thomas Aquinas (translated by Anton C. Pegis)

From Verbum Domini:

Creation is the setting in which the entire history of the love between God and his creation develops; hence human salvation is the reason underlying everything. Contemplating the cosmos from the perspective of salvation history, we come to realize the unique and singular position occupied by man in creation: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This enables us to acknowledge fully the precious gifts received from the Creator: the value of our body, the gift of reason, freedom and conscience. Here too we discover what the philosophical tradition calls “the natural law”. In effect, “every human being who comes to consciousness and to responsibility has the experience of an inner call to do good” and thus to avoid evil. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, this principle is the basis of all the other precepts of the natural law. Listening to the word of God leads us first and foremost to value the need to live in accordance with this law “written on human hearts” (cf. Rom 2:15; 7:23). Jesus Christ then gives mankind the new law, the law of the Gospel, which takes up and eminently fulfils the natural law, setting us free from the law of sin, as a result of which, as Saint Paul says, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it” (Rom 7:18). It likewise enables men and women, through grace, to share in the divine life and to overcome their selfishness.

Pope Benedict XVI writing about the The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met in the Vatican from 5-26 October 2008, and had as its theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

*snark*

I have become increasingly sensitive to the character of the reformers. This comes, in part, because I have become increasingly interested in the character of the early and medieval Christian saints. I have also become more sensitive to how bad is my own character, and yet how easy it is for me to be hypocritical and  judgmental.

Martin Luther was a hero of mine for many years. I love that scene at the Diet of Worms when he stands up to the “bad guys” and declares he will not recant. There is something powerful in standing up for one’s convictions. But my views on Luther have changed. I no longer see him as a hero, but as a deeply problematic figure in the history of Christianity, perhaps even someone who has caused far more harm than good. And though I am still terribly ignorant of Luther’s teaching, I have grown to distrust his gospel−not all of it, but some important parts. Perhaps that’s my fault. But more than doctrine, my perspective on Luther has come about because of what I’ve learned about Luther’s character. And tell me if I am wrong, if I am.

In reading some of Erasmus’ letters, and other accounts of Luther’s life, I get the idea that Luther tended to be petty, mean, and prone to vindictiveness. He too frequently lacked graciousness and humility, and that this is often overlooked by Protestants. He tends to typify something opposite of what we see in the Apostles, even though one could say Luther was merely fighting heresy like the Apostles did. But he did not fight like the Apostles. He didn’t fight for truth with love. Paul says the greatest of these (of faith, hope, and love) is love. I think Luther turned Paul’s saying on its head. That, at least, is the impression I get in the little I have studied of Luther. I say this and I still love some of his quotes, and he wrote some provocative essays, and I’m all for closely examining one’s beliefs and raising objections to falsehood. In some ways he was a brilliant man. But I don’t like him like I did. Tell me if I should.

And then I came across Luther’s Small Catechism (see below) and my negative opinion of him deepened. When I read the introductory paragraphs I was somewhat shocked at his approach. Rather than lifting up, he tears down. He berates and openly (rather than privately) chastises. And he lacks pity on the bishops while he entreats them to have pity on their flocks. Certainly he might have been right in his assessment, but what he does not own up to is the reality that what he saw wrong with other Protestants was the direct result of what he created, the inevitable result of fomenting rebellion, of applying an innovative progressive “man is the measure” philosophy to Christian faith. He makes every man a pope and then berates them for not following pope Luther. Though I believe he was not as bad in this regard as John Calvin.

Just as I would have a very difficult time in being an Anglican because they established their rebellion, in part, by murdering Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher, I cannot be a Lutheran because their hero is Luther. Of course, I lack all generosity myself much of the time. And I’ve been in rebellion most of my life. So, really, I’m no better. God have mercy. Fortunately there are no churches named after me. I do hope to see Luther in God’s kingdom someday (as long as it is God’s will that I get there too) and I hope to get to know him. Still, for now at least, he and his legacy trouble me.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Introduction

Martin Luther to All Faithful and Godly Pastors and Preachers:

Grace, Mercy, and Peace in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it]. Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.

O ye bishops! [to whom this charge has been committed by God,] what will ye ever answer to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people and never for a moment discharged your office? [You are the persons to whom alone this ruin of the Christian religion is due. You have permitted men to err so shamefully; yours is the guilt; for you have ever done anything rather than what your office required you to do.] May all misfortune flee you! [I do not wish at this place to invoke evil on your heads.] You command the Sacrament in one form [but is not this the highest ungodliness coupled with the greatest impudence that you are insisting on the administration of the Sacrament in one form only, and on your traditions] and insist on your human laws, and yet at the same time you do not care in the least [while you are utterly without scruple and concern] whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or any part of the Word of God. Woe, woe, unto you forever!

Therefore I entreat [and adjure] you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young. And let those of you who cannot do better [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to] take these tables and forms and impress them, word for word, on the people, as follows…

From Verbum Domini:

Scripture tells us that everything that exists does not exist by chance but is willed by God and part of his plan, at whose center is the invitation to partake, in Christ, in the divine life. Creation is born of the Logos and indelibly bears the mark of the creative Reason which orders and directs it; with joy-filled certainty the psalms sing: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6); and again, “he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth” (Ps 33:9). All reality expresses this mystery: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19:1). Thus sacred Scripture itself invites us to acknowledge the Creator by contemplating his creation (cf. Wis 13:5; Rom 1:19-20). The tradition of Christian thought has developed this key element of the symphony of the word, as when, for example, Saint Bonaventure, who in the great tradition of the Greek Fathers sees all the possibilities of creation present in the Logos, states that “every creature is a word of God, since it proclaims God”. The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum synthesized this datum when it stated that “God, who creates and conserves all things by his word (cf. Jn 1:3), provides constant evidence of himself in created realities”.

Pope Benedict XVI writing about the The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met in the Vatican from 5-26 October 2008, and had as its theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

Is this statement true?

I have been told that Protestants and Catholics have different views of the Bible. I grew up a Baptist, and thus a Protestant, and we looked down our noses at Catholics for many reasons, not least of which was “we knew” Catholics didn’t care much for the Bible.

I was taught from an early age to bring my Bible to church. That is what Baptists do−at least they did when I was a kid. This makes sense given the apparent high value placed on the Bible by Protestants. I was also told that Catholics do not read their Bibles because they don’t need to, They are told by the Pope what to think. Though I still feel “naked” without my Bible with me in church, I now see things differently.

Below are some observations I’ve been musing over, tell me if you’ve noticed the same things, agree, or disagree. Note, if it sounds like I am being critical of Protestants a little, I am, because I am being critical of myself.

  • The Bible is a difficult book to understand. Knowing how to read it well is more important than just having it open on your knee in church. In my experience, most Protestants, like most Americans, in general do not know how to read well, let alone read the Bible well. This is probably true for most Catholics too.
  • When we bring our Bibles to church, those Bibles were given to us, that is, the books of the Bible were collected and made canonical, by the Catholic Church. Protestants did remove a small number of books from the Catholic Bible, but most Protestants cannot tell you what books were removed, why they were removed, and if they should have been removed. Protestants have their Tradition too.
  • If we believe in the Trinity, that Christ is fully man and fully God, and if we believe that scripture is inspired by God, then we are in line with the tradition of the historical (read Catholic) Church. If we recite any of the old traditional Christian creeds (Apostles creed, Nicene creed, etc.) then we are reciting Catholic creeds. If we believe that any doctrines we hold and any traditions we follow must conform fully to scripture, then we are hold the same position as does Rome.
  • The doctrines we hold dear should conform to what the Bible says, but most of us, Protestants and Catholics, hold to doctrines given to us by the church we are in, and not because we discovered them on our own in the Bible. We believe what someone else has told us.
  • When Catholics read the Bible they will likely see scripture conforming to what they already believe.
  • When Protestants read the Bible they will likely see scripture conforming to what they already believe.
  • Both Protestants and Catholics claim their dogmas conform to what scripture says.
  • The reasons we find certain doctrines to be obviously true has a great deal to do with what Peter Berger calls the “plausibility structures” in which we live. We are, in countless and subtle ways, molded by our culture and circumstances to accept some beliefs over others. This is a normal part of how humans come to believe anything, but it must be called out. Yet, each of us tends to disbelieve our own beliefs could possibly be the work of plausibility structures. But we tend to believe other’s beliefs are.
  • The reasons we tend toward one church or another has a great deal to do with where we feel most comfortable. That comfort comes largely from such things as the way we were raised, the friends we have, and the social environments to which we gravitate. These factors generally play a much bigger role in what Christians believe and where they go to church than does strict adherence to doctrinal orthodoxy.
  • Catholic teaching, especially Catholic apologetics, is deeply scriptural, just like Protestant teaching and apologetics. Most Protestants don’t know this because they don’t read Catholic apologetics.
  • Protestants tend to dislike the idea of having someone telling them what to think, thus they dislike the idea of a pope or a centralized church. But then they tend to believe what someone tells them to believe (their pastor) and conform their thinking to a semi-or-non-centralized church (the one they currently attend) that gets its dogmas from a centralized organization somewhere (from its own tradition−Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, or one of the 35,000+ denominations in the U.S. alone).
  • Sola scriptura takes authority away from the Pope (or the church) and makes every man a pope. Though this also confuses the real idea or purpose of the Pope.
  • We tend to confuse the idea of “be true to yourself” with truth, which it is not, unless one is Christ.
  • All Catholic doctrines that Protestants dislike are argued similarly from scripture as are Protestant doctrines. The issue is not so much Catholic tradition versus Protestant scripture, as it is one interpretation of scripture against another. For a Catholic, tradition plays an obvious role in interpretation. The same is true for a Protestant, but Protestant tradition tends to be carefully obfuscated and its existence often denied, yet it plays just as big a role in interpretation.
  • Protestants have very strong opinions about Catholicism, but generally know very little of Catholic doctrine, even those Protestants who were formerly Catholic. This may be, in part, a failing of the Catholic Church.
  • Most Protestants generally know very little of Protestant doctrines, but believe them passionately anyway.
  • Most Protestants cannot say why they are called Protestant or what they are Protesting.
  • Most Protestants, though they bring their Bibles with them to church, cannot adequately use their Bibles to defend Protestant doctrines that they insist are derived from the Bible. Thus they trust in their church, and the social context of similar thinking Christians, for that assurance. This is the same for Catholics. But Catholics are less likely to carry their Bibles around with them, or pithily quote Bible verses (in or out of context) at the drop of a hat.
  • Finally, when and wherever Pope Benedict XVI (who can read Greek, Hebrew, and bunch of other languages) travels he has with him an old, well-worn Greek Bible which he reads and studies everyday. Most Protestants who hold firmly to sola scriptura, or some similar presupposition, cannot read the Bible in any of the original languages.

I do not believe that any of the observations above are reasons for a Protestant to become Catholic, or vice versa. However, I do know there are strong opinions between Protestants and Catholics about doctrine, the Bible, and about each other, and that some of those opinions unravel just a bit if we are honest with ourselves. We should also remember that an ignorant member of a particular belief system does not negate the validity of that system.

Thoughts on the picture at the top: The statement, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t,” may be true. It is difficult to be in the word on a regular basis and not have at least some Biblical worldview enter one’s life. That worldview gives one the kind of perspective one often needs to weather the storms of life. However, I’ve met too many people who pour over the Bible in a near obsessive way who also seem somewhat skewed in their understanding of God, God’s creation, and their place in it. And I’ve seen their lives fall apart as well. And I’ve seen many faithful, God fearing, Bible loving people suffer. So a well-worn Bible is no guarantee of a life incapable of falling apart. Plus, we must be clear on what we mean by a life falling apart or not falling apart. Sometimes I am convinced that those Christians I see whose lives are all “together” may not, in fact, be destined for the kingdom of God. This world (the flesh) is all about having one’s life together, solid, not falling apart. It is in fact the way of the world. And there are so many ways to get one’s life together, to be in control, to live the good life. Conversely, it is possible, even probably, that a life that is falling apart is a life in God’s hands, for it is through the trials of life that we gain wisdom and our faith is tested. One way God shows His love and commitment to us is to bring trials and suffering into our lives. The goal in this life is not to have a life free of suffering and strife, rather the goal is faith, hope, and love. The goal is the kingdom of God. The goal is union with Christ.

From Verbum Domini:

From “God in dialogue”

[W]e would not yet sufficiently grasp the message of the Prologue of Saint John if we stopped at the fact that God enters into loving communion with us. In reality, the Word of God, through whom “all things were made” (Jn 1:3) and who “became flesh” (Jn 1:14), is the same Word who is “in the beginning” (Jn 1:1). If we realize that this is an allusion to the beginning of the book of Genesis (cf. Gen 1:1), we find ourselves faced with a beginning which is absolute and which speaks to us of the inner life of God. The Johannine Prologue makes us realize that the Logos is truly eternal, and from eternity is himself God. God was never without his Logos. The Word exists before creation. Consequently at the heart of the divine life there is communion, there is absolute gift. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16), as the same Apostle tells us elsewhere, thus pointing to “the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny”. God makes himself known to us as a mystery of infinite love in which the Father eternally utters his Word in the Holy Spirit. Consequently the Word, who from the beginning is with God and is God, reveals God himself in the dialogue of love between the divine persons, and invites us to share in that love. Created in the image and likeness of the God who is love, we can thus understand ourselves only in accepting the Word and in docility to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI writing about the The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met in the Vatican from 5-26 October 2008, and had as its theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

From Verbum Domini:

How can I fail to mention that throughout the Synod we were accompanied by the testimony of the Apostle Paul! It was providential that the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly took place during the year dedicated to the great Apostle of the Nations on the two thousandth anniversary of his birth. Paul’s life was completely marked by his zeal for the spread of God’s word. How can we not be moved by his stirring words about his mission as a preacher of the word of God: “I do everything for the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:23); or, as he writes in the Letter to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (1:16). Whenever we reflect on the word of God in the life and mission of the Church, we cannot but think of Saint Paul and his life spent in spreading the message of salvation in Christ to all peoples.

Pope Benedict XVI writing about the The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met in the Vatican from 5-26 October 2008, and had as its theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”