Category Archives: Commentary

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.

Luther and Catholic Faith in Contradiction?

Nowadays, nearly all are aware of numerous claims on sin and justification shared by Luther and Catholics.

Some Common Teachings on Sin and Justification

  • We cannot justify ourselves: neither cause ourselves to be just (efficiently) nor merit that we be justified
  • God is the author of justification, the efficient cause
  • That we be justified is merited by the labor of Christ, who suffered died and rose
  • This merit of Christ must be applied to the individual in order that the individual be justified.
  • Just because Christ died, the human race is not thereby justified. Individuals are, one at a time.
  • It is good to imitate Christ
  • Sanctification begins, with justification, in this life
  • In heaven, all are holy

 

 Sadly, some have forgotten crucial differences between Luther’s views and Catholic doctrine. These differences are so crucial that they even color the agreed points. For example: It is agreed that God is the author of justification. But if we diverge regarding what justification is, then our understanding of God’s causality in the first place is divergent. Below, I list some other teachings on sin and justification. In looking at just about any row in this list, one would be hard pressed not to find significant contradiction.

 Some Other Teachings on Sin and Justification

LUTHER’s POSITION                                            CATHOLIC DOCTRINE

Faith, Hope, Love are part of the natural good condition of man Faith, Hope, Love are supernatural gifts
Corrupt human nature is as such totally depraved Corrupt human nature is as such deprived of all graces but not totally depraved
Without grace, present man cannot know God Without grace, man can know the Creator Exists
Without grace, man cannot know the natural law Man can know the natural law without grace
Without grace, man cannot know the one true faith Natural reason can discern signs of the one true religion
All sins are damnable Venial sins are not damnable
Concupiscence (pre-freely chosen tendency to acts of sin) is a damnable sin Concupiscence is not even a venial sin
Concupiscence is the worst sin in us, worse than actual sins (such as adultery on Tuesday) Actual sins are the worst sins; concupiscence is not even a venial sin
Without grace, we sin in every work Without grace, non-sinful works are possible
Even with grace, we sin in every work With grace, non-sinful works are possible
Justification is by faith alone Justification is not by faith alone, but by faith animated by charity
Faith is firm trust in the promise that I am saved Faith is intellectual assent, at the command of the will, accepting as true all that God reveals
Since along with faith there is always charity, and since one can retain faith while committing an actual mortal sin, therefore one can have charity yet have just committed a mortal sin One who commits a mortal sin loses sanctifying grace and charity
It also follows that charity is compatible with the commission of mortal sin Charity is not compatible with the commission of mortal sin
Christ is not a Lawgiver Christ is a Lawgiver, the New Moses
Adequate obedience to the commandments is not possible Adequate obedience to the commandments is possible
Salvation does not require obedience to the commandments Salvation does require obedience to the commandments
God predestines some to hell, not in light of their foreseen sins but apart from them God predestines no one to hell except in light of their sins that he foresees
Because God has foreknowledge of our future acts, there is no free will God has foreknowledge of our future free acts, and these acts are indeed free
The justice by which we are just before God is extrinsic to us (God attributes it to us) The justice by which we are just before God inheres in us (God infuses it into us)
There is no increase in this justice: It is all or nothing There is an increase in this justice: It varies by degrees according to God’s will and our cooperation
The justified are internally worthy of hell The justified are internally worthy of heaven
Even the justified cannot merit heaven by any theological works they do The justified can truly merit heaven by the good works they do in grace

 

Burke: Cardinals May Have to Correct Pope Francis

The National Catholic Register just published Edward Pentin’s interview with Cardinal Burke. The following responses appear at the end of this very important interview. These matters are very serious. Cardinal Burke knows that. He is treating them as such, for the sake of the Good of the Church, which is ordered to the salvation of souls.

What happens if the Holy Father does not respond to your act of justice and charity and fails to give the clarification of the Church’s teaching that you hope to achieve?

Then we would have to address that situation. There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.

 

In a conflict between ecclesial authority and the Sacred Tradition of the Church, which one is binding on the believer and who has the authority to determine this?

What’s binding is the Tradition. Ecclesial authority exists only in service of the Tradition. I think of that passage of St. Paul in the [Letter to the] Galatians (1:8), that if “even an angel should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”

 

If the Pope were to teach grave error or heresy, which lawful authority can declare this and what would be the consequences?

It is the duty in such cases, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.