Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Scripture: Jesus Gave the 12 Apostles & Their Successors Authority to Forgive Sins

Posted by Tony Listi on May 7, 2014

“Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?‘ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them…’For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk?” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’–he then said to the paralytic–‘Rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Mark 2:6-8/Matthew 9:5-8/Luke 5:24

 

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them…. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples….” Matthew 28:16, 18-19

 

“Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” John 20:20-24

 

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:16-18

 

“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” James 5:14-16

 

 

 

And this authority of the apostolic office (including to forgive sins) was passed on to others by the laying on of hands:

“‘Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry…. For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it;” and “His office let another take.” So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must be ordained a witness with us to his resurrection.’ And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:16-26

 

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth…. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you.” 1 Tim 4:14

 

“Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” 2 Tim 1:6

 

“Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Titus 2:15

 

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” Col 1:24-26

 

“If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.” 1 Tim 3:1

 

“This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you….” Titus 1:5

Posted in Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Theodoret Did Not Deny Transubstantiation

Posted by Tony Listi on February 13, 2013

Some Protestants claim that the early Church father Theodoret denied transubstantiation, citing the following excerpt:

“The mystical emblems of the body and blood of Christ continue in their original essence and form, they are visible and tangible as they were before [the consecration]; but the contemplation of the spirit and of  faith sees in them that which they have become, and they are adored also as that which they are to believers.”  (Theodoret, Dialogue ii, Opera ed. Hal. tom. iv p. 126).

Did Theodoret deny transubstantiation? No. Let’s look at this quote in its proper context (emphases mine):

Theodoret/Orthodoxus— I will however endeavour to point out to you several instances of substances which are mixed without being confounded, and remain unimpaired….

Orthodoxus— Tell me now; the mystic symbols which are offered to God by them who perform priestly rites, of what are they symbols?

Eranistes.— Of the body and blood of the Lord.

Orth.— Of the real body or not?

Eran.— The real.

Orth.— Good. For there must be the archetype of the image. So painters imitate nature and paint the images of visible objects.

Eran.— True.

Orth.— If, then, the divine mysteries are antitypes of the real body, therefore even now the body of the Lord is a body, not changed into nature of Godhead, but filled with divine glory.

Eran.— You have opportunely introduced the subject of the divine mysteries for from it I shall be able to show you the change of the Lord’s body into another nature. Answer now to my questions.

Orth.— I will answer.

Eran.— What do you call the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation?

Orth.— It were wrong to say openly; perhaps some uninitiated are present.

Eran.— Let your answer be put enigmatically.

Orth.— Food of grain of such a sort.

Eran.— And how name we the other symbol?

Orth.— This name too is common, signifying species of drink.

Eran.— And after the consecration how do you name these?

Orth.— Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.

Eran.— And do you believe that you partake of Christ’s body and blood?

Orth.— I do.

Eran.— As, then, the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the priestly invocation, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing; so the Lord’s body after the assumption is changed into the divine substance.

Orth.— You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they have become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the right hand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord.

Theodoret is not even discussing the Eucharist itself specifically but rather only analogously to the human body of Christ. He is debating a heretic who believes that the risen Jesus was/is no longer human and thus had/has no human body.

If Theodoret does not believe in transubstantiation, then why does he say that the Eucharistic elements “are worshipped (Greek word proskuvnei’n, according to Protestant scholar Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3, 501-502)”? Compare the Greek word with how it is used in the Bible

Theodoret also uses the language of being, not mere representation: “But they are regarded as what they have become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be.” Yes, earlier on in the dialogue Theodoret refers to the Eucharist as “mystic symbols,” but symbols in the Greek Eastern theology can communicate the real presence of God (cf. icons in the Eastern churches). The Eucharist is a unique mystic symbol in that it embodies or is the Body and Blood of Christ, not merely an abstract representation of it.

Theodoret explains what he means by substance. He uses other words like “figure” and “form” and “visible” and “tangible.” These terms are exactly how a Catholic would refer to the bread and wine after the consecration: the bread and wine are visible and tangible forms of the reality of Jesus Christ’s body and blood.

And why does Theodoret refuse to “say openly” the name of “the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation”? For fear that “some uninitiated are present.” Seems Theodoret is afraid to say “bread” and “wine.” Why? Seems he believes that the “uninitiated” will be led astray by the use of those words. Seems very Catholic to me.

Even the heretics of this time did not deny transubstantiation but wished to use it to promote their Christological heresies.

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Church Fathers, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

The Real Presence and Substance of Christ in the Eucharist

Posted by Tony Listi on January 31, 2011

Transubstantiation literally means “the change of substance.” It is not dependent on Aristotelian philosophical terminology (though it would help to know it). Transubstantiation rests upon the distinction between accidental change (outward properties are transformed) and substantial change (creation of something new altogether). The Eucharist is a supernatural substantial change in which all physical properties remain unchanged. (Water changing into ice/steam is a natural accidental change. Food changing into ATP is a natural substantial change. The multiplication of the loaves in Mt 14:19 was a supernatural accidental change.)

Weak Philosophical Objections
Transubstantiation requires a lot of faith and is grounded in Scripture. It is beyond reason but not opposed to it. If God can become Man, then it cannot be deemed impossible for bread and wine to become the real body and blood of Jesus. If God can become incarnate (become part of the material world) in order to save the world from sin, then the materials of bread and wine can become God in order to fill us with grace.

Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
John 6:47:63,66
“ ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me has eternal life. 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 anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; 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. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so HE WHO EATS ME will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from Heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’ This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’… After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.”

James Cardinal Gibbons comments on what is so plain: “If the Eucharist were merely commemorative bread and wine, instead of being superior, it would really be inferior to the manna; for the manna was supernatural, heavenly, miraculous food, while bread and wine are a natural, earthly food….” Of course, Jesus says that the bread (who He is) is superior.

Among the Jews of Jesus’ time, the phrase ‘eat the flesh’ was a metaphor for a grievous injury. It is obvious that our Lord did not use the phrase in this sense (which would have been nonsensical), so it is altogether reasonable to conclude that he intended a literal meaning. When Protestants claim that Jesus meant only to “believe” in him, or to “accept” him spiritually and symbolically by faith, they are violating their own hermeneutical tenet of interpreting Scripture according to the Jewish customs, idioms, and usages of the time. The Protestant metaphorical interpretation dates back only to the 16th c.

Surely Jesus would not condemn people to eternal punishment (Jn 6:53) for the neglect of something that they never even comprehended in the first place! Rather, it was the rejection of a divine revelation due to its difficulty that was the cause of the loss of eternal life (6:57-58). The hearers, it is true, did not grasp the miraculous, sacramental way in which Christ was speaking (6:60-61) and balked (somewhat understandably) at the notion of what they imagined to be some sort of grisly cannibalism (6:52). Jesus countered with a statement that his natural human body would ascend to Heaven and not remain on the earth (6:62), and that spiritual wisdom and grace are necessary in order to understand his words (6:63, 65).
The non-acceptance of Jesus’ message was not due to mental incomprehension but rather willful disobedience and the resisting of the Spirit (Jn 6:63-65; cf Mt 13:10-23). Projecting this lesson to modern day Christians, I sincerely hope it is the case that Protestants simply do not fully understand the Eucharist rather than willfully disobey this command of Jesus. Only here in the New Testament do we have an account of followers of Christ abandoning him for theological reasons (Jn 6:66). But Jesus reiterates his teaching of eating his flesh no less than four times! He doesn’t soften his rhetoric but rather kicks it up a notch.
In the Greek, Jesus switches terms for “eat.” At first the word is “phago,” (used nine times in Jn 6:23-53) a generic term for eat used throughout the New Testament. But in Jn 6:54-58, the word used (four times) is more graphic and particular: “trogo,” which literally means “gnaws” or “chews.” Trogo occurs only here and in Mt 24:38 and Jn 13:18. The literal meaning is unmistakable.

This is My Body
Lk 22:19-20 “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (see also Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24)

Jesus says “This is my body” (but which has the appearance of bread), not “here is my body,” which would infer more so the Lutheran view, whereby his body is present along with the bread and wine (consubstantiation). The position that these words are only symbolic− “this represents my body”− is a strained interpretation, since, as in Jn 6, a figure of speech not in common usage (at that time, for that culture) would have deceived the hearers. Bread and wine are not even particularly natural, analogous symbols of body and blood. When the word “is” in Scripture has the meaning “symbolizes,” this sense is readily apparent (e.g. Mt 13:38; Jn 10:7, 15:1; 1 Cor 10:4), whereas in this case it is not.
Moreover, Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover, which involved a literal sacrificial lamb. It strains credibility that the disciples missed the profound significance of Jesus’ words. Indeed, Passover to the Jews was no mere remembrance: they believed that the celebration transcended time in such a way that they were experiencing THE very moment of Passover at every celebration. This is very similar to the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

Other passages
1 Cor 10:16 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (see 1 Cor 10:14-22 for context)

1 Cor 11:27-30 “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

These verses clearly demonstrate that the celebration of the Eucharist was practiced by the earliest Christians.
The second one, the more insightful one, clearly equates the bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus in his admonition against “profanity.” It also emphasizes the seriousness of this practice, whose desecration is even punishable by death (reminiscent of Levitical priests dying in the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament where God Himself was present!). Again, are these early Christians getting sick and dying over some mere metaphor?! The enormity of their crimes can only be derived from a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Posted in Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Christianity is Historically Reasonable

Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011

It seems lately that there has been a resurgence of atheism and agnosticism in American youth culture. With this in mind, it is necessary for young Christians to be able to explain and defend their faith through reason rather than mere appeals to authorities that non-Christians do not accept (i.e. the Bible, Church authority, Holy Tradition). Using inductive reasoning and the historical record, Christians can demonstrate that their faith is reasonable.

In my experience, most atheists and agnostics reject Christianity on the basis of a dogmatic and irrational rejection of miracles and Christian morality. Let me address this briefly before turning to the historical data.

Miracles are philosophically possible for the reasons the skeptic philosopher David Hume lucidly explained with regard to causation: past chronological experience in itself is no guarantee that physical phenomena will always occur in the future exactly like in that past experience. Philosophical skepticism undermines the dogmatic scientism and rationalism that say miracles can’t happen. I also suggest reading C. S. Lewis’ Miracles which explores precisely this topic and asserts that the reality of reason itself is miraculous. To summarize the argument in the book, Lewis quotes J. B. S. Haldane who appeals to a similar line of reasoning. Haldane states “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

Morality, if it is to have any real and signficant meaning apart from human opinion and preference, is a matter of faith. Morality is beyond reason. Reason and logic can never provide foundational moral principles; reason can only expound upon such unprovable principles. You can’t reason your way to unselfishness as a moral principle. Whether egoism or love is moral can be determined only by appeal to a faith, a religion. Atheists and agnostics have no reason on principle to embrace love and altruism. Because God is excluded, any atheist or agnostic “morality” has to be man-made and thus inherently arbitrary. For who is any man to say his morality is better than any other man’s? Moreover, a willful refusal to obey Christian morality says more about the disobedient person than it does about Christian morality; such a willful refusal certainly doesn’t say anything about the truth or reasonableness of Christianity one way or another.

Alright, now on to the historical evidence. 

What we know about Jesus and early Christianity as a matter of history comes from Christian, Roman (Tacitus and Pliny the Younger), and Jewish (Josephus and the Talmud) primary sources. The Christian sources are eye-witness testimonies. They tell us four historical facts that are accepted by sincere and mainstream scholarship and have to be accounted for by the atheist, agnostic, or non-Christian:

  1. Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified by the Jewish and Roman authorities.
  2. The tomb of Jesus was guarded and yet found empty. Neither the Jewish nor the Roman authorities could produce His body.
  3. Afterward, many of His followers, former skeptics among them, claim to have to have seen Jesus alive in the flesh (not a ghost) and to have interacted with Him.
  4. His followers then, in the face of harsh persecution and martrydom, created a revolutionary worldwide movement that converted millions of people to a new way of life based on the life and teachings of Jesus. They achieved this without any significant economic, political, or military power.

The second and fourth facts are particularly significant. 

The Christian explanation for these historical facts (the resurrection) is far more reasonable than all the other theories that non-Christians have come up with over the centuries. It passes historical scrutiny. Let’s take a look at these other theories one by one:

 1. Jesus’ followers created a myth; they lied.

  • The gospels tells us that Jesus’ followers were amazed at the sight of the risen Jesus; they did not expect Him to rise from the dead. Some refused to believe it even after others told them that He was alive in the flesh.
  • It is one thing to create a myth or lie; it is quite another to endure persecution and death for the sake of beliefs that one knows or even suspects to be untrue. Such behavior is highly unlikely. Who would behave like this? (See theory #4 too.)

2. Jesus’ followers stole the body of Jesus. (A very early accusation made against Christianity by Jewish authorities.)

  • The gospels and Jewish sources tell us that the tomb of Jesus was closed with a stone and guarded. It is highly unlikely that the poor, weak followers of Jesus could have overcome the guards nor do Jewish sources make this claim.
  • If the followers of Jesus had stolen the body, then they would have known that Christianity was false. That would bring us back to the previous theory (#1) which has already been rebutted.

3.  Jesus didn’t really die. (This theory is held by Muslims in particular and other non-Christian theorists.)

  • This theory requires us to believe that Roman soldiers didn’t know how to kill people. How reasonable is that?
  • Even if Jesus somehow managed to survive the scourging, crucifixion, and spear in His side. How reasonable is it to believe a man in such a state could have rolled the stone away from his tomb, overcome Roman guards, and made his way to his followers in various locations?

4. Jesus’ followers hallucinated or were insane.

  • Insanity and hallucinations are private, not public. If many people report seeing something that is highly unlikely, it is not reasonable to say they are all merely dreaming, imagining things, or insane.
  • Insanity and hallucination in themselves are very rare statistically. Hallucinations are usually caused by drugs or bodily deprivation.
  • The gospels tells us that Jesus appeared to and interacted with many of his disciples, as many as 500 of them on one occasion according to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The Bible also give us insight into the character and state of mind of those whom Jesus appeared to: the disciples were fearful, doubtful, despairing, skeptical, etc., hardly fertile ground for hallucination.
  • Paul, a Pharisaic Jew, Roman citizen, and persecutor of Christians, according to his own letters claims to have encountered the risen Jesus. How likely is it that such a person would hallucinate such things and radically change his life?

Ultimately, each and every one of us has to come up with a reasonable answer to the question that Jesus posed to His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” The most reasonable answer is the Christian answer. In this way, reason calls us to faith.

This post is indebted to Dinesh D’Souza’s Life After Death: The Evidence and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, both of which I recommend for further reading in Christian apologetics.

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Jesus, Peter, Paul, Matthew, James, and Jude Rejected Sola Scriptura

Posted by Tony Listi on August 16, 2010

If some parts of extrabiblical (non-Old Testament or non-gospel) traditions can be cited as true in the New Testament, then it stands to reason and is quite plausible that other parts can be true (and hence, authoritative) without being cited in the New Testament.

Protestants simply assume without argument that anything that is fully authoritative must be in the Bible. But then why do Jesus, Matthew, Peter, James, Paul, and Jude cite traditions that we can’t find in our Bibles?

Our Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel writer St. Matthew did not believe in sola Scriptura. “Moses’ Seat” (Matthew 23:1-3) is an example of a tradition that is not in the Old Testament and yet confirmed as authoritative by Jesus and Matthew:

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice….”

Jesus says that the Golden Rule can be found in the law and the prophets, but it’s not in the Old Testament (least not in this positive form):

 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Mt 7:12)

Matthew refers to another prophecy that cannot be found in the Old Testament:

And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Mt 2:23)

St. Peter did not believe in Sola Scriptura either. He also cites an oral, unbiblical tradition about Jesus that can’t be found in the written gospels:

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. (1 Pt 3:18-20, emphasis mine)

St. Paul did not believe in sola Scriptura either. He cites the unbiblical tradition of a rock that follows Moses and the Israelites in the desert:

“For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4)

The Torah speaks only about a rock from which water issued, but rabbinic tradition amplified this into a spring that followed the Israelites throughout their migration.

Paul also names Pharaoh’s magicians even though the Old Testament gives them no names:

As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (1 Tim 3:8-9)

Paul also quotes a saying of Jesus that is not in the gospels:

 …remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

St. James also did not believe in sola Scriptura. He refers to a tradition about Elijah and a lack of rain that cannot be found in the relevant Old Testament passage 1 Kgs 17:

Eli’jah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

Jude also refers to an extrabiblical, tradition that cannot be found in the Old Testament:

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9)

Jude also directly quotes 1 Enoch  1:9, which is not in the Bible:

It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14-15)

If Jesus, Matthew, Peter, James, Paul, and Jude were not Scripture Alone Christians, then why should anybody be?

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Sola Scriptura, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Simplistic “Lord and Savior” Christianity is Not Enough

Posted by Tony Listi on February 2, 2010

Scripture challenges us to go beyond a simplistic faith:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” -Heb 7:12-14, 6:1-2

If all these things that St. Paul lists are “elementary,” what are the “mature” doctrines? It seems like there are many Christians and Christian denominations who refuse to go beyond the elementary.

It is not enough merely to say “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” That is just the beginning. Being a Christian is not a mere profession of faith; it’s living out the faith to the end with all its commands of obedience and traditions (living works, not “dead works”).

Indeed, being a Christian means joining the “communion of saints,” as professed in the very ancient Apostles’ Creed. But how can one be in communion with the earliest saints who have gone before us if we do not believe and practice the faith as they did, if we don’t even care what they believed and did? How can we be in communion with them if we reject the traditional faith that they handed down to us from the very beginning?

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Exhortation to a Homosexual on the Right Path

Posted by Tony Listi on January 24, 2010

Here is a message I received from someone anonymously:

i’m still gay, i’m still looking for an answer why. i totally completely believe in christ, that he rose from the dead. i am doing my very best to rely on Him alone. i do not have sex anymore, but i have thoughts. i want so bad to not have these thoughts. i want to go to heaven so bad. i like jesus, and i love jesus. i am having a tough time right now. i am absolutely 100% certain god can make me straight. but he has not yet. i suspect that making me perfect and sinless in this life is not god’s goal. the goal is to aim in that direction and go as far as i can, or rather for jesus and me to go as far as we can together, but there is a chasm that i cannot cross, only jesus can take me across it to perfect sinless heaven. on the outside, i probably look like the nicest kindest gentlest and most ‘christian’ person you will meet. i truly love people with all my heart and those who have hurt me i pray with all my heart for god to soften their hearts. sometimes i think i am only alive just to pray for people. i have loved people with all my being. i have loved christ with all my being. but i will admit not 100% of the time. and sometimes not 100% of my being. actually i probably never have done anything with 100% of my ability and 100% correct and 100% real. i hate these flaws, they are really embarrassing and shameful. i believe if i were 100% heterosexual i would still be a man whore and greedy and full of pride. but please pray for me. there is not one thing i can do to save myself, only christ can save me. i have prayed and i believe and i try and fail but i try to follow christ. i do not try to so i can get saved, i try to do so because god says i am saved already. but why am i still a homo? it’s very hard not to just be a hermit and move out into the desert and stay there without internet or electricity and just spend my days reading the bible and growing vegetables for my food. can i be both gay and saved? it will be such a relief when i am in heaven, and i pray i am going. sometimes i get really scared though, as if i were cursed before time began.

Please pray for this person. The following is my response to him:

Thank you for sharing your very personal experiences.

God can indeed remove the homosexual urges from your body, if it be His will. Continue to pray that He may. For Jesus is the Great Healer and nothing is impossible for God.

However, consider the possibility that He may never remove these urges from you in this life. That is quite likely considering the empirical evidence on homosexual rehabilitation. Sexual urges are very strong and very ingrained early on, it seems.

If this be the case, do not despair! Be not afraid, for Jesus is stronger! And He has revealed to us that the lot of the Christian in this world is to suffer, to carry his own cross and follow Him. Each Christian has their own cross (maybe many) to bear. Sometimes it is a struggle with a deadly vice: malice, lust, greed, envy, pride, sloth, and gluttony. And though we pray to have these crosses lifted from our backs, often God sees fit not to do so. Why? Because it is precisely through suffering that we learn in the deepest way to rely on Him, to love Him above all things, above even our own interests and deepest desires.

The Christian is not cursed; he is crossed! And it is through these crosses that we may be purified for holiness and draw closer to Him. Just as Jesus offers us salvation through His cross, our crosses can be a means to our own salvation. So rejoice in your predestined cross! Let us unite our crosses to His for the sake of His glory and the eternal destiny of our souls!

If these homosexual urges are indeed your life-long cross, then humbly accept it, saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” In this case, you are called to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God. No one is any less human or of any less dignity because he abstains from sexual behavior. Quite the opposite! It is a greater gift, a greater virtue, to proclaim the kingdom to come by transcending sexuality in this world.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed over urges you do not consciously initiate! By Christ’s grace and strength, you are in control of your actions. You can overcome all desires and urges that do not conform to His will. Cling to Him in faith and He will not fail you. Your urges alone cannot damn you.

The only thing worthy of shame and guilt is deliberate mental indulgence in and actually acting upon homosexual urges. And God forbid, if you choose to fall from grace with these sins, you can and must sincerely confess, repent, and be reconciled to Our Lord Jesus again, whenever you sin. There is no forgiveness without this process for each sin. No sexual sin is unforgivable, and His endless mercy is always there for the truly repentant.

I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with lust and temptation, sometimes failing and needing reconciliation. It is hard to imagine a male who doesn’t. So I know what it feels like, if not in exactly the same way. You can become stronger with each struggle. You are not alone in your struggle. Innumerable fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this world and the next are praying for you. Mary the Mother of God and the whole choirs of saints and angels, who have gone before us and remain in Jesus and He in them, will intercede on your behalf, if you but ask them in faith. Here and now in this world, while becoming a hermit is a possibility, I’d encourage you to surround yourself with chaste brothers and sisters by joining a community and a church that accepts you and your cross but not your sins and that will help you bear your cross in holy chastity.

I cannot help but think that the reward in heaven for a person like you, if you do persevere to the end during these perverted modern times, will be very great. My heartfelt prayers are with you. Let me know if I can ever be of any assistance to you. May God bless and strengthen you in your spiritual journey home to Him.

Posted in Catholicism, Homosexuality, Religion and Theology, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

The Gospel According to Marx

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2008

In the beginning was the Government, and the Government was with God, and the Government was God. All things came to be through Government, and without Government nothing comes to be.

Now Mary was with child, though she was not married to Joseph. And it came to pass during the reign of Herod that Jesus Christ was born out of wedlock in a Bethlehem stable (for Planned Parenthood had not been established yet).  Poor Mary and Joseph had sought shelter in many places, but the greedy Jewish innkeepers would not let them in. Three travelers from afar, from the distant national capital of Rome, came bearing gifts of universal health care, housing, and education.  And so they prospered as Jesus grew in enlightenment and diversity sensitivity.

As Jesus grew into a man, he saw so much suffering and poverty among his fellow human beings. He decided to become a community activist, the only way he would ever make a difference. And so one day as he was walking beside the River Jordan, he happened upon some fishermen. He began to talk to them about their wages and stir in them a zeal for economic justice. “Fishermen of Judea unite!” cried Jesus.

He befriended tax collectors and Roman officials as well and made them his disciples, for they were doing God’s work in resisting the bourgeoisie. “Let the proletariat with no purse, sell his cloak and buy a sword,” Jesus said. His ministry grew far and wide as he and his naked disciples went door-to-door demanding money from the wealthiest of Jews. Those who refused were threatened by the swords of Rome and easily surrendered their ill-gotten gain. And thus Jesus went throughout the land performing all manner of miracles, redistributing wealth to the poorest of people. The multiplication of wealth continued until 12 baskets full of coins were left over.

Jesus gathered the people around him and began to preach: “Blessed are the poor, for they deserve to be the kings of the earth. Blessed are those who cry, for government will comfort them. Blessed are the meek, for no one should be stronger or better than anyone else. Blessed are the peacemakers, for war is evil and should be outlawed.” The peace of Christ reigned throughout the land.

He then told them a parable. “The master gave five talents to three servants – to each according to their need. When the master returned days later, he found inequality among his servants. One had made another five talents. One had managed to hold onto his five. One had squandered his five in dissolution. So the master took five from the servant with ten to give to the one who had none. For to everyone who has more, more will be taken away. To he who has little, he shall receive in abundance.”

Now the religious establishment in the region, the Pharisees, was not happy about the revolution Jesus had been leading. They were cold-hearted and increased their power and wealth through the lies they told to the poor about morality and an afterlife.  So this group of bigoted, reactionary, hypocritical religious fanatics plotted to destroy Jesus.

But Jesus was intelligent and sophisticated. A certain disciple of his, Nicodemus, had infiltrated the Pharisees and informed him of their treachery. And in the dark of night, the disciples of Jesus raided the homes of the Pharisees and dragged them and their families onto barges from which they were sent down river to re-education camps in the desert.

With the land cleansed of all iniquity, Jesus performed one last wondrous deed. He gave all his followers eternal life on this earth through the power of science.

And so Jesus was elected emperor of the world forever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Just for Fun, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Child is This?

Posted by Tony Listi on July 25, 2008

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/gerard_baker/article4392846.ece?print=yes&randnum=1216989980152

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth – for the first time – to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child’s very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child’s wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child’s journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Just for Fun, Politicians, Politics and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Bible and Slavery

Posted by Tony Listi on May 17, 2008

There seems to be a lot of ignorance and confusion among Americans (especially on the Left) about what the Bible says about slavery and the impact that the Judeo-Christian tradition had on that peculiar institution. So it’s time to set the record straight: the Bible does not encourage or approve of slavery and it is the Judeo-Christian tradition that provided the moral force to abolish it.

First of all, it is important to realize that slavery was by and large uncontroversial and accepted in the ancient pagan world. Slavery was widely practiced in every ancient civilization, but only one civilization took it upon itself to abolish slavery within its own communities by force of law: the Christian West. In fact, slavery still exists today in some parts of the Islamic world and Asia.

It is not surprising that historically the Judeo-Christian tradition is responsible for abolishing slavery if one takes a careful look at the Bible. Equality before the eyes of God became equality before the law for all.

The Old Testament and Slavery
In ancient times, slavery was not based on racism. In ancient Israel, the slaves were prisoners of war, criminals, or indentured servants. Relative to the time, slavery was a humane alternative to slaughter, cruel punishment, starvation, or debt imprisonment. Most Hebrew slaves were probably bondsmen who voluntarily bound themselves to a master and thus not really “slaves” in the modern understanding of the term.

Keep in mind one crucial point when reading the Old Testament: just because it regulated a practice does not mean that it approved of that practice. For example, the Old Testament regulates divorce, but it also says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And Jesus tells us that the Father tolerated divorce among the Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts (Mk 10:4-5; Mt 19:8) Thus, though the Old Testament regulated slavery, it did not approve of it.

Moreover, compared with the other ancient civilizations of that time, the regulations of slavery within the Old Testament were almost always to moderate the practice. For example, according to the Code of Hammurabi, a person who harbors a runaway slave should be put to death. In contrast, the Old Testament prohibits one from returning a runaway slave to its master: “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has taken refuge from him with you. Let him live with you wherever he chooses, in any one of your communities that pleases him. Do not molest him” (Deut 23:16-17).

Anyone who abducted another person and sold them into slavery (cf. the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis): “A kidnapper, whether he sells his victim or still has him when caught, shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).

It was required that slaves be freed after six years or on the Jubilee Year:

“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, sells himself to you, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall dismiss him from your service, a free man” (Deut 15:12; see also Exodus 21:2).

“When, then, your countryman becomes so impoverished beside you that he sells you his services, do not make him work as a slave. Rather, let him be like a hired servant or like your tenant, working with you until the jubilee year, when he, together with his children, shall be released from your service and return to his kindred and to the property of his ancestors. Since those whom I brought out of the land of Egypt are servants of mine, they shall not be sold as slaves to any man. Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God” (Lev 25:39-43).

A slave could also buy his freedom or be redeemed by relatives: “When one of your countrymen is reduced to such poverty that he sells himself to a wealthy alien who has a permanent or a temporary residence among you, or to one of the descendants of an immigrant family, even after he has thus sold his services he still has the right of redemption; he may be redeemed by one of his own brothers, or by his uncle or cousin, or by some other relative or fellow clansman; or, if he acquires the means, he may redeem himself” (Lev 25:47-49).

Moreover, a slave was to be treated quite generously upon emancipation! “When you do so, you shall not send him away empty-handed, but shall weight him down with gifts from your flock and threshing floor and wine press, in proportion to the blessing the LORD, your God, has bestowed on you.For remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, ransomed you. That is why I am giving you this command today. If, however, he tells you that he does not wish to leave you, because he is devoted to you and your household, since he fares well with you, you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear into the door, and he shall then be your slave forever” (Deut 15:13-17; emphasis added).

A slave not wanting to leave his master? Obviously, this is not the kind of slavery that most Americans envision when they hear the word.

The Mosaic Law recognizes that slaves are human beings, not merely property. The punishment for killing a slave is the same as for killing a free person, i.e. death: “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished…. But if injury, ensures you shall give life for life….” (Exodus 21:20, 23). This was unique in the ancient world at that time.

All slaves were expected to participate in religious ceremonies and duties of the household too, including observing the Sabbath and all holy days:

“…but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you” (Exodus 20: 10).

“In the place which the LORD, your God, chooses as the dwelling place of his name, you shall make merry in his presence together with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite who belongs to your community, as well as the alien, the orphan and the widow among you” (Deut 16:11).

If a household had no heirs, the slave could inherit the estate: “Abram continued, ‘See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir'” (Genesis 15:3).

There are even special regulations for female slaves. Whereas sex slaves were common in the ancient Near East and in the Islamic world, it was forbidden under Mosaic Law: “When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion” (Deut 21:10-14).

And of course, we must not forget the Exodus story, how God freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God continually reminds them of the freedom he gave to them and thus to take it to heart not to mistreat their own slaves. And let’s not forget that black slaves in America looked to the story of Exodus for hope and inspiration.

The New Testament and Slavery
In the Roman Empire (the time of the New Testament), slaves were apprentices and indentured servants. They represented a broad social and legal category. Some slaves were very well educated and thus more valuable to their owners (e.g. Epictetus). It was common for slaves to live apart from their masters with their own home and families. In fact, many slaves did not want to be free, and some owners wanted to be rid of their slaves! Slaves were expensive to feed and house. (The high cost of feeding slaves is a common motif in Roman literature.) With this context in mind, the following statement of St. Paul makes perfect sense: “If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity” (1 Cor 7:21).

Also, when Jesus talks of slavery (which is not often) in the New Testament, it almost always in the context of a parable. Thus, Jesus is not approving of slavery; he is merely using examples of everyday life in Roman Palestine.

Like Jesus, St. Paul does not seem to think it is important whether one is a slave or free man: “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:25-29; emphasis added of course). Thus sprang the Western conception of equality of dignity of all human beings. For the Christian community, there is no slave and free.

Moreover, St. Paul and the early Christians believed that the Apocalypse, Christ’s 2nd Coming, was near. There was no reason for sweeping social reforms if Jesus was to going to establish justice soon enough.

St. Paul also says, “Were you a slave when you were called [to be a Christian]? Do not be concerned but, even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of it. For the slave called in the Lord is a freed person in the Lord, just as the free person who has been called is a slave of Christ. You have been purchased at a price. Do not become slaves to human beings” (1 Cor 7:21-23). He urges people not to bind themselves in servitude to others.

Paul did not approve of slave-trading: “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, slave traders, liars, perjurers,…” (1 Tim 1:8-10).

The most important slavery that concerns Jesus and St. Paul is spiritual slavery, slavery to sin. But even so, the entire book of Philemon is an emotional appeal by St. Paul on behalf of a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul writes to the master, Philemon, and asks him to show mercy and receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ: “Perhaps this is why [Onesimus] ran away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me” (Philemon 15-18).

Slaves and masters are brothers in Christ. This spiritual equality laid the foundation for social and legal equality.

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »