Protestants, Catholics, Communion–oh my! (Happy Corpus Christi!)


Today is a Christian Holy Day called “Corpus Christi” (Latin for “the body of Christ”). Today we meditate on the mystery of Communion/Eucharist/The Lord’s Supper.

I’ve mentioned some of my Communion views before and what I articulated is a synthesis and summary of the ideas of many theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. And so today, I want talk to all my fellow Protestant brothers and sisters out there.

In my opinion, the popular Evangelical idea of the Catholic view on the Eucharist is not really right or helpful (as is the popular conception of most of Catholic doctrine). Today I want to argue that Catholicism’s “Eucharist problem” is more historical and rhetorical than theological.

Some History

In the earliest decades and centuries of church history, people were able to simply maintain the simple doctrine that at Communion, they are receiving the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine (source, albeit biased). In the middle ages, though, people starting asking themselves “Wait, what does that actually mean?” Differing answers started forming and a diversity of opinion about the Eucharist began taking place. The leaders of the Church tried to bring some commonality to this. In fact, the medieval Catholic church made a few “errant” teachers affirm these statements in 1078 and 1079:
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Meet Catherine of Siena, the Saint I Pray To.


st__catherine_of_siena_iconNote: this weekend, I wrote a post collecting all of my responses to people’s Protestant concerns with praying (or “talking”) to saints. Before you express your disagreement to this present post, I’d ask that you’d at least read some of that. Thanks.

Especially on Facebook, my previous post on praying to saints caused a lot of conversation, with maybe slightly more than half of people disagreeing (strongly) with my post, with the other half appreciating it. So before I begin this post today, I want to make something clear: I don’t like being that guy. This blog’s purpose is not to start flame wars or set off long disagreements among friends. I genuinely want to be helpful to people–even when that means challenging and stretching them, and even when they strongly disagree with me. One need not be convinced of a position to be helped by reading about it.

With that being said, let me tell you some of my experience with finding a saint to pray to (or, as my previous post said, maybe a better word is simply “talk”), and then let me tell you a little bit about her.

Throughout history, there seems to have been saints that have gone before us that God has given unique grace to in certain areas of life. Those saints that the Church knew of and was able to recognize ended up being declared “patron saints” of those things they seemed to have unique, almost unparalleled grace for.

And so, in times of need in a certain area, much of the Church throughout history has felt comfortable praying to those saints from times past that seemed to be especially graced for those kinds of situations.

So…here’s my funny story.
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Some Protestant Saint-Praying Clarifications & Responses


Wow. Last week’s post about praying to saints really brought out more passion in people than I thought it would. Both here on the blog and on Facebook, here were some clarifying comments I left. By the way, this was the best comment on that post that challenged my thinking. I hope this helps.

First, here is my final, quick summary clarification of my position and why Evangelicals need not be freaked out about all this. If you read nothing else on this post, let it be this:

I really wish there was a different and better word than “prayer” for this. I agree that what most of us Protestants think of when we think of prayer really should only be directed at God.

Further, I’m simply advocating for this to be one more optional means of grace a Christian can participate in, depending on how they are wired. This shouldn’t take away from anyone’s participation in union with Christ or praying to him anymore than Bible memorization, fasting, listening to sacred music, or reading a devotional book does.

Everything everyone on the comments has said they think should only be reserved for God, I absolutely agree with. I am certainly not suggesting we turn our affections, praise, adoration, or even our hearts towards those that have died. I just think we can talk to them, and they can intercede for us to God. I don’t think they talk back, that we experience their presence, or that they magically impart any more of God’s favor than asking a friend to pray with us would.

As Paul said, our outer selves are wasting away, while inwardly we’re being renewed day by day. Those that have died are, in a very real sense, just as “alive” as we are now, albeit absent from the body. All I think is (1) they can see and know what’s going on down here, and (2) they talk to God. If those two things are true, then I don’t see the inherent evil, harm, or soul-destroying error it might be to simply “talk” to those that have gone before–not “commune with”, “worship”, or any of the other dimensions of “Godward prayer”. Just sending up some prayer requests to the part of the Body of Christ that is absent from the body, but present with the Lord.

What’s the harm in that?
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Advent & Mary: Ordained as Prophetess, Priestess, & Queen


Tanner-the-anunciation-mary

This Advent, we’re seeing how this season affects parts of our lives we usually don’t associate with it. Follow the series here. This post is also filed in the series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” and “Women Leading Stuff in Churches“.

If a woman is revered by the church for giving the faithful their savior, then surely women are good enough for leadership roles in the church to save it. –Vishwanath Ayengar

I ran across that quote in some letters to the editor of Newsweek a couple of years back in response to a cover story arguing that if women were ordained as priests in the Catholic Church, there wouldn’t have been any sex abuse scandal. I don’t know if that’s true, but the quote is insightful and (hopefully) thought-provoking.

I can hear conservatives now: Well, God used a donkey to speak! He used Caiaphas the high priest to unknowingly prophesy about Jesus before sentencing him to death! He used Judas to bring about Christ’s crucifixion and therefore our salvation! It doesn’t mean that they were fit to be ordained pastors!

Yeah, yeah, I get it. This post isn’t necessarily meant as a “proof” or “defense” of women’s place in ministry (though it’s a part of my on-going series on the topic). I just want to revel a bit in some divine mystery. Can we all just put our swords down and marvel?
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For Theology Nerds: a satirical dictionary (don’t miss this!) [casual fri]


Andrew Wilson, over at The Theology Forum has done us a great service my creating this “Brief A–Z of Theological Jargon”, and it is great. Everyone gets some elbows in the ribs. Check it out. You don’t want to miss it. Here are some of my favorites:

Complementarianism 
1. The belief that men and women are complementary.
2. The antiquated and repressive notion that wives should submit to their husbands, and women should not teach or have authority over men.
3. The attempt to disguise (2) by referring to (1).

Egalitarianism 
1. The belief that men and women are equal.
2. The modern and liberating notion that women can do everything a man can, sister, including wearing trousers, leading the home, leading churches and teaching and having authority over men.
3. The assumption that (1) necessitates (2).

Roman Catholicism
The belief that the church is universal, apart from Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and pretty much everyone except Roman Catholics.

In Defense of Douthat: a response to Patrol Magazine


Last night I had the privilege of going to a book talk and signing by Ross Douthat (a new hero of mine), promoting his new book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. It was, more or less, a summary of the book’s primary lines of argumentation, followed by a Q&A.

The book itself (which I am only half-way through) lays out some pretty provocative ideas that are sure to ruffle the sentiments of most anyone that finds themselves securely in allegiance with either of the left-right poles of society. I have yet to find someone who sits in ambivalence concerning this book. It evokes. It calls out. It leads to introspection and reaction. You either love it, or you hate it.

This is further complicated by the times we live in. In a world of blogs, podcasts, comment boxes, and the online immediacy of opinion, there is an unspoken and unrealistic expectation of comprehensiveness in any person’s expression of thought. There was a time where an author would write a book, others would write whole books in response, and then the original author would respond with a follow-up book. This process then moved on to newspapers and magazines (the Federalist Papers come to mind).

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Catholics Aren’t Crazy: Paul Ryan & the 2013 House Budget


Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their own 2013 budget to counter President Obama’s proposed budget.

Now, neither of these have (or will) become law. These annual budgets are merely proposals and are often political statements of priority. Both the President and the House write their budgets, not realistically, but extremely, hoping that once negotiation begins, they’ll walk away with more of what they want.

But still, like I said, these proposals are expressions of priority and direction to which a party will try and “bend” the nation’s spending. The House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, said as much when he unveiled the plan (upon which he bears the final word), calling it “a choice between two futures” (others called it “careless”).

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Weekly Must-Reads {3.7.12} | abortion & Obama’s abuses


In light of the recent birth control controversy, there’s been a revived discussion about abortion and the “personhood” of babies, especially after a paper justifying the aborting of newborns was published in a major journal. Also, in response to rising criticisms for how the Obama administration has abused their seizure of Executive power to pretty scary levels, Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, gave a speech [transcript] at Northwestern University on Monday defending the administration’s actions. Today’s articles deal with these issues.

Grab some coffee, and let’s go.

__________

__________

HIGHLIGHTS

The New Scar on My Soul | American Thinker

If you read nothing else from this post, please let it be this. I found myself crying in the middle of the coffee-shop I was in as I read this. Please, anyone, help give me a reasonable framework from which to respond to this. I need something beyond empty rhetoric, powerless outrage and sadness, and unrealistic policy aspirations. And also, please, if you find yourself on the pro-choice side of this, I would love your thoughts on this topic after reading this post. I’m really struggling here.

The Obama Administration and Targeted Killings: “Trust Us” | Council on Foreign Relations

Such a good article giving a brief–yet substantive–analysis of Holder’s speech and how it holds up to legal, moral, and common-sensical scrutiny. Please read this. Also, for a very comprehensive (yet fairly brief and easy-to-read) summary of the history and background of this all-important topic and its relevance today, CFR put together this Backgrounder.

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the political animal in me is stirring…


Here we go again. This usually happens every four years in the summer after the major Party Conventions, and the full-blown presidential campaign is in full swing. This time, though, it’s happening about six-months early in January (I wrote about this quadrennial event back in ’08).

And so, I just wanted to give everyone a quick heads-up that my political self is rousing from his hibernation, and I tell you what–he’s more passionate and (this is new!) clear-headed about what he thinks and why.

(Attached to this post, you can see a picture of my inner “political animal”. He’s been around for a while now. Thanks, Dad.)

So expect a shift in the content of this blog. Yes, there will still be plenty of pastoral and theological musings, but you’ll also see an increasing number of political posts on this site in the coming weeks and months (hey, maybe I can try and start writing for Patrol Magazine again!).

I feel like I’m  finally settling into a cohesive and articulate (and defensible) set of beliefs concerning politics-influenced-by-faith: where we’re off the mark, we’re we need to be, and how to get there. So, expect some ideological posts on that stuff, but also expect some commentary on the unfolding politics as they move forward toward November.
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Catholics Aren’t Crazy: an Advent & Communion Theological P.S. (for those who care) | Advent {7a}


After my previous post on how Communion is no more a “symbol” than Advent itself, I can already hear some people right now thinking: “Wait. Isn’t this the Catholic idea of communion?” (As if that would be the worst thing.) I’ve mentioned some of my Communion views before in this ongoing series, and what I articulated is a synthesis and summary of the ideas of many theologians, both Protestant and Catholic. The pop idea of the Catholic view on the Eucharist is not really right or helpful (as is the pop conception of most of Catholic doctrine). Catholicism’s “Eucharist problem” is more historical and rhetorical than theological.

In the earliest decades and centuries of church history, people were able to simply maintain the simple doctrine that at Communion, they are receiving the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine (source, albeit biased). In the middle ages, though, people starting asking themselves “Wait, what does that actually mean?” Differing answers started forming and a diversity of opinion about the Eucharist began taking place. The leaders of the Church tried to bring some commonality to this. In fact, the medieval Catholic church made a few “errant” teachers affirm these statements in 1078 and 1079:
Continue reading