Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Twisted Words? On Presenting the Faith Whole-Heartedly

“As far as theological views of this sort are concerned, finally, quite a number of people have the abiding impression that the church’s faith is like a jellyfish: no one can get a grip on it and it has no firm center. It is on the many halfhearted interpretations of the biblical Word that can be found everywhere that a sickly Christianity takes its stand—a Christianity that is no longer true to itself and that consequently cannot radiate encouragement and enthusiasm. It gives, instead, the impression of being an organization that keeps on talking although it has nothing else to say, because twisted words are not convincing and are only concerned to hide their emptiness.” 
—Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and Fall (1981), p. 8.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a homily given when he was Archbishop of Munich and Friesing, hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head here in describing the typically modern approach to theology and faith. The sense you get from some folks is that it's all a mystery, there are various schools of thought, it's all so hard to sort out, and who can really say? And anyway, what with all the modern advances in something or other, and our superior knowledge and insight—I mean, it's 2016!—we surely have progressed beyond the conclusions of Bronze Age tribes and medieval monks, haven't we? So instead, let's re-cast our faith in the mold of whatever the prevailing opinion of the day is, always ready to cast it aside when it too becomes, gasp, outdated.

This seems the default position among many, and no wonder it's been a less than attractive option on the spiritual menu. Who wants lukewarm soup? Who wants half-cooked potatoes? Who wants kale... at all? A watered down wine will be spat out by anyone with any taste for the stuff, and a watered down faith will not satisfy anyone in any lasting way. It is a fact easily established by sociological data that parishes and dioceses that preach sound doctrine and celebrate beautiful liturgies have high Mass attendance, attract high numbers of converts, and produce high numbers of vocations, while parishes and dioceses that bend over backward to accommodate the direction the winds are blowing this week are sparsely populated and quickly dying out.

This is due to the simple fact that the truth fulfills us and makes us free to live our lives in accordance with our God-given nature, to live in friendship with God and fulfill the call to goodness, and that the truth of beauty and the beauty of truth are more attractive than any amount of ear tickling. Truth satisfies, beauty satisfies, goodness satisfies, because these are of God, and God alone satisfies.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Catholic Crusader,

    Five hundred years ago in 1517, Martin Luther made public his 95 complaints against the Roman Catholic church (hereafter, RCC). Today, we shall do likewise, with another 95 reasons. However, in this critique, we will exclusively fixate on the nucleus of all Catholic doctrine called, Transubstantiation. This teaching is built on the premise that when the priest utters “This is my body” over bread and wine that the “combustible” syllables of these four words ignite with such power and energy that, unbeknownst to our cognizant senses, the substance of bread and wine miraculously change (“by the force of the words” says the Council of Trent; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1375). They are then abruptly replaced with something else entirely; namely, the very body, blood, soul and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ in some mysterious form which leaves only the outward appearance of bread and wine (i.e., the color, shape, size, taste, weight and texture -- or "accidental" properties, remain unchanged in objective reality). It is claimed that the supernatural power that creates this miracle on a daily basis, 24 hours a day in Masses worldwide, “is the same power of Almighty God that created the whole universe out of nothing at the beginning of time” (Mysterium Fidei, 47). The question is: does the sacred rhetoric of Jesus lead us to conclude He intended it be recited like a magician recites his incantations? (Reason 6, 74). That at the recitation of these four words, the world is obligated to be transfixed on Transubstantiation???

    We should think that a rollercoaster of 95 reasons against this doctrine should at least pique your curiosity, let alone make you wonder if, like the calmness of a ferris wheel, you can so calmly refute them. The issue is far from inconsequential, since it’s claimed our very eternal destinies are at stake. So while sensitive to the fact that many are captivated by this doctrine, we are persuaded that the theological framework of the Bible conveys a persistent and vigorous opposition to this theory. God's word tells us to, "study to show yourself approved" (2 Tim 2:15) and we have indeed done just that.

    The almost “romantic fidelity” to Transubstantiation springs forth from the opinion that consuming the “organic and substantial” body of Christ in the Eucharist is necessary for salvation (CCC 1129 & 1355; Trent, "Concerning Communion", ch. 1 and “Concerning Communion Under Both Kinds”, ch. 3; Canon 1; Mysterium Fidei, intro). Our burden here is to safeguard the gospel (Jude 1:3). If a religious system professing to be Christian is going to demand that something be done as a prerequisite for eternal life, it is vital to scrutinize this claim under the searchlight of Scripture and with “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Proverbs 25:2 says, "the honor of a king is to search out a matter". We shall do likewise.

    Determined to test all things by Holy Writ (1 Thess 5:21; Acts 17:11, 2 Cor 10:5), the following 95 reasons have been compiled to an extravagant length to provoke you to consider the cognitive complexities of this doctrine which we conclude are biblically unbearable. We are so convinced the Bible builds a concrete case against this superstition, that we will not allow the things we have in common to suppress the more urgent need to confront the differences that divide us, such as Transubstantiation. We are told this issue directly impacts our eternal destiny, so it must not be ignored. The Lord Jesus came to divide and conquer by the truth of His word. He said, "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12:51-53).

    For the full essay of 95 reasons, kindly e-mail me at