Category Archives: Commentary

Pray for Pope to Correct Current Errors

Three heroic bishops are today calling all the faithful to pray that the pope would rouse himself to the exercise of correcting current errors. The current error is many-headed. But its surface point is this: The idea that one may receive the Eucharist without repenting of an adulterous lifestyle.

SEE THIS ARTICLE.

Our Christianity Deplorable Because of our Bourgeois Lives

I am more and more of opinion that one major reason why Christianity is not the fire that lights up the world because we have embraced the worldliness of the world.

We make a big deal about “using the things in the world” and “embracing them with moderation.” But really, we are gunning after pleasure. A moderate life of pleasure is our norm, that which governs our activity. But that is basically Epicurean. Not hedonism, but Epicurean navigation of this life’s opportunities. We are tapping this life for pleasure and banking on eternal rest as well.

How did the Early Christians promote the fire of Christ’s love to the pagans who lived worldly lives? By showing them [the pagans] just how normal and worldly they [the Christians] could be? Well, the Christians did not point out how odd they were. They denied their being odd and outlandish. However, they stressed how other-worldly, how heavenly, is there moral doctrine. Let us listen to the great Athenagoras:

What, then, are those teachings in which we are brought up? “I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven, who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Allow me here to lift up my voice boldly in loud and audible outcry, pleading as I do before philosophic princes. For who of those that reduce syllogisms, and clear up ambiguities, and explain etymologies, or of those who teach homonyms and synonyms, and predicaments and axioms, and what is the subject and what the predicate, and who promise their disciples by these and such like instructions to make them happy: who of them have so purged their souls as, instead of hating their enemies, to love them; and, instead of speaking ill of those who have reviled them (to abstain from which is of itself an evidence of no mean forbearance), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against their lives? On the contrary, they never cease with evil intent to search out skillfully the secrets of their art, and are ever bent on working some ill, making the art of words and not the exhibition of deeds their business and profession. But among us you will find uneducated persons, and artisans, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth: they do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbors as themselves. (ANF, vol. 2, p. 134).

Just how equipped are we, before today’s pagans, to make this argument? I dare say: Just as the Sultan refused to convert because St. Francis was alone following Christ’s doctrine, so the pagans of today will refuse to convert, because we are living such “balanced” lives. What at all is desirable in Christianity? What at all is distinctive? Are we really ordering our lives to God? Or are we rather pegging sundry “basic goods”: A good amplifier, a good car, a good home, a good set of values, oh … — and a good religion.

I count myself guilty above all. This is a call to conscience, not a pharisaical rebuke.

Irenaeus Condemns Heretic Marcion’s Notion of Jesus’ Descent into “Hell”

Irenaeus rebukes Marcion for holding that Cain and the men of Sodom and other great sinners were saved by Jesus’ descent into “hell”:

“In addition to his blasphemy against God Himself, he advanced this also, truly speaking as with the mouth of the devil, and saying all things in direct opposition to the truth—that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom.” From Book I, chap. 27 of his monumental Against Heresies, as found in ANF, p. 352.

Irenaeus Exposes Secret Heresies

From Book I, chap. 1 of his monumental Against Heresies, as found in ANF, p. 315:

“Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith, and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. One far superior to me has well said, in reference to this point, A clever imitation in glass casts contempt, as it were, on that precious jewel the emerald (which is most highly esteemed by some), unless it come under the eye of one able to test and expose the counterfeit. Or, again, what inexperienced person can with ease detect the presence of brass when it has been mixed up with silver? Lest, therefore, through my neglect, some should be carried off, even as sheep are by wolves, while they perceive not the true character of these men,— because they outwardly are covered with sheep’s clothing (against whom the Lord has enjoined Matthew 7:15 us to be on our guard), and because their language resembles ours, while their sentiments are very different—I have deemed it my duty (after reading some of the Commentaries, as they call them, of the disciples of Valentinus, and after making myself acquainted with their tenets through personal intercourse with some of them) to unfold to you, my friend, these portentous and profound mysteries, which do not fall within the range of every intellect, because all have not sufficiently purged their brains. I do this, in order that you, obtaining an acquaintance with these things, may in turn explain them to all those with whom you are connected, and exhort them to avoid such an abyss of madness and of blasphemy against Christ. I intend, then, to the best of my ability, with brevity and clearness to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori on Luther and his Marriage

The words of the man of God, Alphonsus:

“Luther was now quite taken with Catherine Bora, a lady of noble family, but poor, and who, forced by poverty, embraced a religious life, without any vocation for that state, in a Convent at Misnia, and finally became Abbess. Reading one of Luther’s works, she came across his treatise on the nullity of religious vows, and requested him to visit her. He called on her frequently, and finally induced her to leave her Convent, and come to Wittemberg with him, where, devoid of all shame, he married her with great solemnity, the Elector Frederic, who constantly opposed it, being now dead; and such was the force of his example and discourses, that he soon after induced the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order (6) to celebrate his sacrilegious nuptials, likewise. Those marriages provoked that witticism of Erasmus, who said that the heresies of his day all ended, like a comedy, in marriage” (Alphonsus Liguori, History of Heresies [Dublin, 1857], p. 267).

AND TODAY SIGHS DEEPLY, “OH, THE IRONY.”

Does Justin “Judge” by Preaching Truth?

The question will be raised, By preaching to his Jewish companions the Truth of Jesus as Christ and God, does he not judge their persons?

The response: Why should God bind Justin in an impossible situation? For command him to preach He our God did do. And not to render definitive judgment on the soul of another he did do. Justin can share the good news, while not rendering definitive judgment on those who are slow to or finally reject his words (see Dialogue with Trypho, chap. 9, opening lines). Yet, he knows that if he shares not the Love of Truth, he shall not be able to say “That I myself may be innocent in the day of judgment” (chap. 38).

The Gospel is a gift from God to be shared, prudently and with tact, but really and truly. To take shame in sharing it is to suggest that it is the invention of man, and what mere man could Lord a Gospel over another?

Did Justin “Proselytize”?

St. Justin the Martyr (2nd Century) addresses his Jewish companions out of love:

“Since I bring from the Scriptures and the facts themselves both the proofs and the inculcation of the, do not delay or hesitate to put faith in [my words], although I am an uncircumcised man; so short a time is left you in which to become proselytes” (Dialogue with Trypho, chap. 28, from ANF, vol. 1, p. 208).

Of course, there is a form of spreading the faith that is lacking in prudence and tact. Such we call nowadays “proselytism.” However, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a form of spreading the faith enjoined upon every disciple of Jesus Christ by none other than the Master Himself, Jesus Christ. This we call “Evangelization.” To it all Christians are obliged. The Second Vatican Council also reminds Catholics of this obligation in Lumen gentium. Justin so loved his neighbor that he risked losing a friendship by his effort tactfully and lovingly to present the faith.

Thank you, O Great Saint!

Continuing, For Now, And Two Publications Available

I have decided to continue, for now.

Where to go? What to blog on? Of course, there are the sundry imminent dangers to the Church, posed by her enemies, within and without…, especially within. The faith does not change. The faith gives life. True mercy leads towards repentance. Anything else is Presumption (Romans 2). But presumption is a lie about God, a falsification of his Beautiful Face. For God is the Power by which we are saved. And salvation is both from and for. It is from the narrow confines of sin, which hem us in. It is for the broad vistas of truth and love and life. Salvation is life with God. But the sinner cannot live with God. Now amount of declarations that the sinner is “ok” or that he should just “follow his conscience” can produce that life within him. Only imitation of God is life. All else is death. True mercy leads towards that imitation and hence towards life and hence towards God. Do we want good for the sinner? Or rather, his death? If we want his good, we want his repentance. All messages that falsify or obstruct this call to repentance are false; if wittingly uttered, they are lies.

So, I could blog on these matters, and perhaps I will.

However, I think I will get a series of Podcasts going on Systematic Theology. What the heck is Systematic Theology? What are its resources? What, its manner of proceeding? What does it treat? Who is God? Can we answer the atheists? Can the One God be also Triune? How? Is it any use speaking of God, or should we all fall silent? What is “creation”? Etc. Etc.

It may help the hearer to have organized outlines of these Podcasts, with a few footnote references here and there. To do so, you could purchase the Outline Booklets that are geared towards the contents of these coming Podcasts. There are two such booklets:

  1. Systematic Theology One
  2. Systematic Theology Two

I am one day going to get round to publishing a two volume Systematic Theology. The podcasts will help me organize and formulate the text to be submitted. However, currently, I have a monograph under contract and several articles that need to be finalized.

All the best on a New Year that promises to be very significant in various ways (__17),

Christopher Malloy

Historical and Speculative Theology

Huge issue. Time running out. Quick but important post.

The “historical” approach to theology has dominated for 70 years or so. But in the past 15 years, the “speculative” approach has been gaining practitioners. This is welcome, since the historians stare at trees and diversity, coming to a stammering. The speculative approach, though seemingly too difficult for many, more readily lends itself to long-lasting formulations, many of which are able to be taught relatively quickly (3 persons, 1 nature).

Problem: We do need both. Another problem: The historical narratives are often written by those with less than keen speculative judgment. However, one cannot write a narrative without having endorsed some speculative judgment. Thus, flawed judgments lay behind many historical narratives. For instance, some historical approaches claim that “instrumental causality is a dated concept”; hence, they explain inspiration in some other way. However, here, they show less than keen appreciation of this highly analogical and deeply explanatory concept. In fact, no other concept can usurp the explanatory function of instrumental causality. That is not to say other concepts are not complimentary. None can usurp its rightful place. However, it takes speculative rigor to have this insight.

Task: Hence, a new effort at grand historical narratives on sundry theological topics is necessary. Development of Trinitarian doctrine.

I close with one example: P. 113 of the Oxford Handbook of the Trinity. This is a new publication. I have found flawed and unhelpful speculative judgments to mar some of the otherwise decent historical narratives. Example is this page. Towards the top of p. 113, J. Warren Smith praises the homoiousians for allowing a “difference” between Father and Son and upholding that their essences are “similar”.

The praise is not without point; but the judgment is flawed. What is properly praiseworthy is that they allow a “distinction” (not difference). The implication that the essences are “similar” voids the divinity of the Son. Period. It is indeed an “identity” that must be upheld. Athanasius was correct to contend that “similarity” implies diversity. Further, for those who grasp it, the Uncreated essence is infinitely different from all other essences. Ergo, however much you “pump up” the Son’s similarity, there remains an infinitely greater difference between his and the Father’s essence IF, that is, you say their essences are not identical.

Newman combined excellence as a historian and as a speculative thinker. His narratives also read the Fathers in pious way, covering their awkward formulae and searching for their real meaning. This is not ‘pious lies’ but a properly grounded speculative framework for working out historical narratives. To be sure, one might disagree with him here or there. However, he would not thrust a 21st century person’s head in the sewer of as broken a reading of the fathers and of historical development as is reasonably possible. The reverse. He would narrate as harmonious a narrative as is reasonably possible.

Conclusion: Calling all those who practice speculative theology. Time to lay sound groundwork for historical narratives. Time, also, to identify sound historical narratives. Calling all those who practice historical theology. Time to find sound speculative groundwork whereby to narrate findings and even to judge well the data and even to discern and determine well the data. Time also to produce sound historical narratives.