Category Archives: World View

In defense of Scholasticism

In confronting the “new atheists,” Dr. Edward Feser offers Scholasticism (or “new scholasticism”) as the proper answer. I like his ideas. I have my own ideas of the role and place of apologetics, and often I struggle with its importance in comparison to other forms of witness, but it’s still important.

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Not yet perfected in unity: Church divisions in the U.S.

I am wondering how divided the Church is, or at least how divided Protestantism is today. I am reposting this from June 28, 2012. At that time I was on my way to becoming Catholic, and Church disunity was one of the primary reasons for my abandoning Protestantism. But do people even care much anymore about denominations? Are not the majority of Christians today mostly just choosing a kind of buffet-style evangelicalism? Even a lot of Catholics seem to essentially be merely post-modern pop-evangelicals in their faith and merely post-conciliar Catholics in there actions. And yet, perhaps this means we are even more divided than ever with each individual representing their own, personal denomination.

This was originally posted in June 2012.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22-23, NASB)

I continue to be astounded by the number of Protestant church divisions in this country alone (not including divisions elsewhere). For most of my life I’ve only had vague notions of these divisions, and never considered them as serious. I have also lived mostly with the view that they can be ignored (because I believed they are someone else’s problem) and all I need is faith and the Bible. Now I am inclined to see these divisions as having informed my thinking more than I realized, as deeply troubling, as a testament to the questionable “fruit” of the Reformation, and I want to seek resolution for my own faith and life.

The following set of images gives a high-level overview of some of the more obvious divisions we find within Protestant/Reformed churches in this country. I understand there are many more divisions than listed here, but I think this is enough to choke on for now.

American Christian branches
to European founded churches

Click on the first image to begin the slide show:

These images came from a slid deck I found on a Catholic apologetics web site.

The copyright for the slides are held by:
Peterson, Susan Lynn (1999).
Timeline Charts of the Western Church.
Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI

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Filed under Authority, Church History, Curious, Kingdom of God, Links, Protestantism, Religion, Tradition, World View

Chartres Cathedral: Beautiful 1962 Encyclopedia Britannica documentary

HERE it is on archive.org, if you want to see it larger.

“An in-depth study of this famous cathedral. ‘What is the special character of Chartres Cathedral that we should call it the greatest of the medieval churches?’ Narrated by New York Times art critic John Canaday, Chartres becomes a visible fusion of faith, engineering and architecture. The camera pictures the cathedral in its awesome entirety, with detailed closeups, and as an enduring triumph of man’s skills.”

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Beauty, Catholic Church, Church History, Kingdom of God, Language, Liturgy, Tradition, Video, World View

Into Silence with Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah has been getting some attention lately because of statements he has made regarding the proper celebration of the Mass (I think the controversy is silly and Cardinal Sarah is clearly more wise than his detractors). The cardinal has also just written a book called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, which I am reading as part of a book group. His first book, God or Nothing, our group read earlier, and both book s are excellent, though very different.

There are so many great quotes from The Power of Silence, but for now I just want to highlight this one:

How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside of God. (51)

I am also reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which I am enjoying (I don’t really get most of the criticisms of this book). But I find the strategies and tactics suggested by Dreher to, basically, sit on top on Cardinal Sarah’s deeper insights, as indicated in the short quote above (but evidenced throughout his book). The cardinal’s quote points to a fundamental and, I believe, profound problem with our world today, and especially with Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — we are addicted to noise, which is damaging us, and we no longer understand the importance of asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility in fighting that noise. The cardinal’s insights also point to the fact that we think we know what noise is, but we don’t — not at the spiritual level.

In fact, I believe if Christians followed the cardinal’s words seriously, then the kind of place, role, and actions of the Church in the world could take any number of forms, not only Dreher’s form(s), because it’s not really about carving out an alternative society so much as it’s changing one’s heart, will, passions, etc. — the rest will follow, and do so in countless ways.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. Print.

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. Print.

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Gregory Wolfe on Christian Humanism

always worth hearing Greg Wolfe’s thoughts…

References:
Gregory Wolfe
Image Journal

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An inhuman experiment

body2

Imagine a medical experiment that goes like this: Doctors, searching for the most basic essence of the human being, decide to determine just how much of the human body can be removed and the subject remain alive and human. They take a willing or unwilling subject and slowly begin removing parts of his body. They remove feet, then legs, hands, then arms, some organs – appendix, a kidney, part of the intestines, genitalia, etc. – they remove eyes, tongue, lips, ears, then they start to remove some bones – part of the pelvis, some ribs, etc. The subject is still alive. He does need help and care to live, but so do babies, and don’t we all at some level. Is the subject still a human being? Yes. But have the doctors answered their question? Perhaps. At one level at least they have made a possible determination of the minimum physical requirements to sustain a kind of minimum human life. And yet, can we not say there is something more than gruesome and immoral about this experiment? Is it not also grotesquely wrongheaded?

How is it wrongheaded? It is wrong in two ways. The most obvious is that a human person is a combination of body and soul. To focus only on the body is to miss at least half of the equation, but more importantly it is to miss the combination of the soul with the body, and the vast mystery that combination produces. The other reason is that reductionism is not the way to understand the essence of the human person. There is no minimum, basic essence. Rather there is an immensity. One does not understand the human person by owning, controlling, dominating, dividing, dissecting, compartmentalizing, possessing, or compressing the human person. Statistics are interesting, but they cannot tell us about you, not really. Experiments might divulge some fascinating aspects of the creature called me, but we are ignoring more outliers than any good scientist would allow if we are to think the experiments got to something more than mere hunches about only rudimentary things. Human beings are profound, crazy wonderful creatures carrying within themselves the imago Dei. We cannot be reduced.

There is a similar tendency among some Christians to do with Christianity what those doctors did with their human subject above. Their goal is to get to the absolute essential, non-negotiable core that defines a true Christian from all other persons. The idea is to find the absolute minimum that must be present in order for a person to be a Christian. Favorite questions include such gems as “how can a man be saved if he lives on a desert island and has never heard of Jesus?” or similarly “what about those tribes in the deepest jungles?” Some Christians have taken traditional, historical Christianity and sought to strip away all that is unnecessary. Like cutting apart the human body, out go the sacraments, the Eucharist, going to church once a week or even at all, doing good works, fellowship and community, and everything else. Catch phrases like “I love Jesus and hate religion” are popular symptoms of this mindset.

But can we reduce Christianity to an essence? Some have a natural urge to make things simple, so they might say “faith” or “Jesus” is all it’s about. But both of those words are vast galaxies to explore. They are really pointers to riches and nuances and complexities that a lifetime is too short to come to their end. There is something more. Christianity is not a belief or a practice, it is not merely a religion, nor is it a culture. It is something of all those things, but more fundamental is the nature of it. Perhaps it is best to think in this way: Divine law is the mind of God, natural law is the expression of Divine law as the creation. Human nature is fallen, in other words it is the natural law corrupted. But even in our fallen state, we are still primarily the Divine law expressed in our createdness. And the rest of creation is also, in its fallen state, primarily the Divine law expressed as creation. In other words, there is a fittingness between us and the Divine law, and a fittingness between all that is properly natural law.

From Divine law comes the natural expression at the center of creation, the human being. Placed in the garden, made priests of creation, taught to worship and offer sacrifices, later fallen and struggling with corruption, human beings have within their souls and their bodies the design of religion, the hunger for cult, the patterns of worship, the need for meaningful action and sacred practice. That is why in all cultures everywhere there has always been religion. It is the way God fashioned human beings. To fight against this is to deny our Creator’s design, to deny the human composition. Humans are made for religion, for cultic worship, for liturgy and praise, for sacraments and sacrifice, and for embodying a priestly function in terms of the creation – we are to re-present the creation back to God as our offering to Him, as thanks for His goodness and love towards us. And it is important to see the interconnections of all this. Religion is not an add-on to the person. Religion is one of the most fundamental, essential, interwoven elements that constitute any human being. It is inseparable from our humanness.

To reduce Christianity down to the most basic, most simple of formulas or one-word creeds, is to go too far. To say “I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” is to make an inhuman statement. It is to go against the Divine law by going against the natural law. Many who say we are saved by faith alone misunderstand what faith means in light of human nature, in light of the creation. To say we are save by grace alone can also be misunderstood and abused, but properly understood it puts the action on God and thus opens the door for the riches of that grace, to all of the Divine law expressed in the natural law and making us fully and properly human. “Grace alone” points to the Creator and His design of creation, the deep imago Dei in all of creation, and most fully in human beings, coming into fullness through worship as the proper response. To dissect Christianity, removing anything that seems to be unnecessary may be a way to rid oneself of false doctrines and perverse practices, but all too often it becomes an ideologically driven means of drawing lines between those historical, liturgical, sacramental, and traditional kinds of Christians and the so-called pure Christians who are unencumbered by religion. In short, they have unencumbered themselves from the rich gifts that God has offered them, from the truth, goodness, and beauty of the natural law, and from their own createdness. This so-called unencumbered church is all too often the inhuman church.

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