Saturday, May 24, 2008

Magesterium and Infallibility?!?

I have plenty of problems with Roman Catholic teachings and traditions. Particularly with the traditions. I have spent many hours in the past studying Catholic doctrines in the light of the Scripture and seeing things that didn't wash in the Truth. Recently as I have studied more in the Hebraic roots vein, I am finding more things that simply blow my mind. I know that it was a Catholic Pope(Gregory XIII) who handed us the currently dominant calendar, which is a warmed over version of an earlier pagan calendar. The RCC systematically eradicated the timekeeping method that God had given us. Rather than use the timekeeping method of the one that created time, the RCC saw fit to make their own. In doing so, they also did away with God's appointed times and seasons. But since legalism is a tricky thing and seems to be ingrained in human nature, they found a way to retain the legalistic thinking of our earlier Jewish brothers. They moved the Sabbath to Sunday, which isn't possible when you think about it. How arrogant is it to change God's Sabbath? But notice this from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The express teaching of Christ and St. Paul prevented the early Christians from falling into the excesses of Jewish Sabbatarianism in the observance of the Sunday, and yet we find St. Cæsarius of Arles in the sixth century teaching that the holy Doctors of the Church had decreed that the whole glory of the Jewish Sabbath had been transferred to the Sunday, and that Christians must keep the Sunday holy in the same way as the Jews had been commanded to keep holy the Sabbath Day. He especially insisted on the people hearing the whole of the Mass and not leaving the church after the Epistle and the Gospel had been read. He taught them that they should come to Vespers and spend the rest of the day in pious reading and prayer. As with the Jewish Sabbath, the observance of the Christian Sunday began with sundown on Saturday and lasted till the same time on Sunday. Until quite recent times some theologians taught that there was an obligation under pain of venial sin of assisting at vespers as well as of hearing Mass, but the opinion rests on no certain foundation and is now commonly abandoned. . .
. . .The obligation of rest from work on Sunday remained somewhat indefinite for several centuries. A Council of Laodicea, held toward the end of the fourth century, was content to prescribe that on the Lord's Day the faithful were to abstain from work as far as possible. At the beginning of the sixth century St. Caesarius, as we have seen, and others showed an inclination to apply the law of the Jewish Sabbath to the observance of the Christian Sunday. The Council held at Orléans in 538 reprobated this tendency as Jewish and non-Christian. From the eight century the law began to be formulated as it exists at eh present day, and the local councils forbade servile work, public buying and selling, pleading in the law courts, and the public and solemn taking of oaths. There is a large body of civil legislation on the Sunday rest side by side with the ecclesiastical. It begins with an Edict of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who forbade judges to sit and townspeople to work on Sunday. He made an exception in favour of agriculture. The breaking of the law of Sunday rest was punished by the Anglo-Saxon legislation in England like other crimes and misdemeanours. After the Reformation, under Puritan influence, many laws were passed in England whose effect is still visible in the stringency of the English Sabbath. Still more is this the case in Scotland. There is no federal legislation in the United States on the observance of the Sunday, but nearly all the states of the Union have statues tending to repress unnecessary labour and to restrain the liquor traffic. In other respects the legislation of the different states on this matter exhibits considerable variety. On the continent of Europe in recent years there have been several laws passed in direction of enforcing the observance of Sunday rest for the benefit of workmen.

I find it interesting that the Catholic Encyclopedia has this in its entry about Judaism:
The high-priest, a person most sacred, stood at the head of the hierarchy, and acted as final arbiter of all religious controversies. The Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, or supreme tribunal of Judaism, watched zealously over the strict fulfilment of the Law and issued decrees readily obeyed by the Jews dispersed throughout the world. In the Holy Land, and far and wide beyond its boundaries, besides local Sanhedrins, there were synagogues supplying the ordinary religious and educational needs of the people, and wielding the power of excommunication against breakers of the Law, oral and written. A learned class, that of the Scribes, not only read and interpreted the text of the Law in the synagogue meetings, but sedulously proclaimed the "Traditions of the Elders", the collection of which formed a "fence to the Law", because whoever observed them was sure not to trespass in any way against the Law itself. Legal righteousness was the watchword of Judaism, and its attainment by separation from Gentiles and sinners, by purifications, fasts, almsgiving, etc., in a word by the fulfilment of traditional enactments which applied the Law to each and every walk of life and to all imaginable circumstances, was the one concern of pious Jews wherever found.

What is it that keeps them from seeing the parallels with this situation in Jesus' first coming with the RCC vision of themselves as the one true church? In place of the High Priest they have a Holy Father or Pope who is the final arbiter of all doctrine. He is in fact considered infallible and must be obeyed. The RCC is the only correct group and excommunicates those who are breakers of the "law" either Scriptural or tradition. I love my Catholic brothers and sisters in the faith and I am not hostile to the Church despite what this post may indicate. I wish to see the RCC come to a realization of where she is at and I pray that it happens. When Luther attempted to reform the Church, he was booted out and his life was threatened. Times are different now as the RCC has recently acknowledged that Luther's desire for reform was correct and good and well-meaning. They have even said that he might have been right about a few things.
I have more to say but this post is already quite long. I will post another discussion of the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord next time, but let me leave you with one other comment about the primacy of Rome that fits this discussion. In the debate over the celebration of Easter, the churches were not all in agreement.
At the end of the Second Century, Victor, the bishop of Rome began to threaten other Church leaders in an attempt to get them to abandon Passover in favor of the Roman Easter celebration as a means to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus, wrote to Victor his response to these threats.
“We for our part keep the day [14th of Nisan = Passover] scrupulously, without addition or subtraction. For in Asia great luminaries sleep who shall rise again on the day of the Lord's advent, when He is coming with glory from heaven and shall search out all His saints – such as Philip... there is John, who lent back on the Lord's breast… there is Polycarp, bishop and martyr… All these kept the fourteenth day of the month as the beginning of the Paschal Festival [Passover], in accordance with the Gospel, not deviating in the least but following the rule of the Faith. Last of all, I too, Polycrates, the least of you all… and my family has always kept the day when the people put away the leaven [Feast of Unleavened Bread]. So I, my friends, after spending sixty-five years in the Lord's service and conversing with Christians from all parts of the world, and going carefully through all Holy Scripture, and not scared of threats. Better people than I have said: 'We must obey God rather than men'."
-Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, p.231
Despite what the Catholic church teaches, there has not always been a deference to the opinions of Rome. In fact, this recognizable quote of obeying God rather than men was first uttered by Peter and here used to denounce the so-called Petrine authority of Rome.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional 5/23/08

Lamentations 3:18-23
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD."
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Many of you probably heard the tragic news about Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter recently. Or maybe you heard the story of the pastor and his teenage son who died in a plane crash a short time back. Life is full of unexplainable and seemingly senseless tragedy. If you haven't been touched by it recently, then you will be someday. Christ never promised us an easy road, despite what some preachers would have you believe. There are times in any believer's life that are more suited to mourning than to dancing. In those times, we must be honest. And if we are not going through it personally, we must allow those who are to be honest. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to lament. And it is good to remember that the Lord's compassions never fail. He meets us in the darkest moments and loves us even still.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/22/08

Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

All of us like to be appreciated. We like approval. That isn't wrong. God made us that way. The problem comes when we seek to get that approval in the wrong ways or from the wrong place. There is only One we need to "impress" and I put that word in quotes so you won't misunderstand. God's approval isn't the same as His love. He loves us no matter what. As humans, we can have a hard time understanding that concept. His approval is the confirmation of His character in us. When we follow His ways, we automatically have His approval. But we can be tempted by the siren song of the praise of people we can hear much louder than His voice. Paul is telling us here that we have to make a choice which is more important to us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/21/08

1 Corinthians 8:1-3
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But the man who loves God is known by God.

This is an interesting verse. Paul says that everyone knows something about something basically. And he says that our knowledge has a tendency to puff us up. When we think we know more than our brother or sister in the Lord we can get a big head, but when we stop trying to fix them and start trying to love them instead we build them up. Paul even says that those of us who "know" something, might be too sure of ourselves. We should all focus on loving God and through Him love each other as well. We might be surprised at what we "learn" in the process.

Shifting gears a bit

Is it time to worry yet about our "freedoms"?
“Your right to your religious belief ends when it violates the law.”
- Judge Thomas Gossett

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
- The First Amendment

I mean, I know we no longer live in the free country that our Founding Fathers envisioned. But they must be feeling pretty cocky to be this blatant about it. This comes from the situation with the FLDS church in Texas, but it could be any other religious group on the radar next.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Emmaus Experience

Luke 24:13-32
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19"What things?" he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
25He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Have you ever felt like you were walking blind? I have read this story many times before, but I have never felt more affinity with these guys than I do now. I have related here how I have been studying the Jewish roots of Christianity lately. I have been doing intensive study in the festivals in particular and it is amazing to me how Christ has been opened up in a way I had never known before. One of the men, whose studies I have been listening to, calls the Feasts of the Jewish calendar rehearsals. As I hear and understand what they have done for centuries (millenia, actually) it is as if the blinders are removed for the first time. Verse 27 is amazing to me: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Jesus took the Hebrew Scriptures and told them everything that it said about Him. We can know what God was trying to say about Christ before we even get into the New Testament. The New Testament is important of course, but so much of the time we make it the end all be all of faith or we insist on filtering the Old Testament through it.
God didn't change. He has never changed. A few months ago in one of my classes online for school I discussed with another student who thought that the God of the Old Testament was vengeful and would kill people at the drop of a hat so to speak and that the God revealed in the New Testament was more loving and patient. I told him then that this was bad thinking, as God has never changed His attitude toward sin. He has always been patient and longsuffering. There are plenty of OT passages that point this out. And there are times in the NT that God acted swiftly to judge. Just look at Acts 5.
Let me ask a much bigger question. I was taught and heard growing up about the age of Law and the age of Grace. It was a very dispensational thing. But I think from looking over Scripture that it was a very unScriptural thing to say. Paul talks about the Law repeatedly but many misunderstand what is being said. The so called Age of Law was a fallacy and still is. God has always operated by grace and only grace. The children of Israel were not saved by their sacrifices or their circumcision. The were saved by trust in the grace of God. Look at Romans 3:21-31:
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Look at verse 21. A righteousness from God, apart(beside, independent of) from law(God's commands), has been made known(plainly recognised, thoroughly understood) to which the Law and the Prophets testify(see the relation to Emmaus here?). Paul is making it plain(look at chapter 4 if you don't understand yet) in Romans that God has never justified anyone by the basis of the Law in any manner shape or form. The Law had one BIG purpose: to show us God's perfection. This way, when Jesus kept the Law perfectly, we would be able to recognize Who He was and what He had done. Look at Romans 10:4-5
4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them."

The word end in verse four would be better understood as goal or aim. Verse 5 is talking about Christ. He did all of those things and lived. God raised Him from the dead. It happened so we could know He is who He said He is. I am sitting here trying to understand why it is that we have taken what was laid out so that we could plainly understand and then obscured it all over again.
I have a lot more to say, but I am going to take a break and ponder and pray some more.

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/20/08

Romans 15:5-7
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Sometimes I think I get a little too preachy. There are probably a few of you reading this who are now saying AMEN! : ) I have gotten better over the years at letting things go and not arguing over every little thing I disagree with(just ask someone who has know me for a long time), but some days that is hard. But Paul makes it clear here that unity comes from a encouragement and endurance. We don't always agree with everyone, but if we can agree that all the glory and praise belongs to God our Father and Jesus Christ; we have a good starting point. As we follow Jesus and accept those who are trying to do the same with grace, we bring praise to God.