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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Should Protestantism Still Be a Thing?


Roger-Smith-cc-rosary-bibleFor years now, I have described my place in the Christian family as a “Protesting Catholic“. I love Catholicism (by the way, Orthodoxy, I’m so sorry you are so frequently left out of these discussions–I’m as guilty of doing this as any). I love the entire Church family, in fact, and I can’t think of a tradition from which I have not benefited greatly from it nuancing, sharpening, refining, or deepening my theological thinking in some way. A friend posted this interview with Stanley Hauerwas, on his new book on the “end times”. It’s a brief interview with some nice quotes and sentiments from the elder public theologian, but this set of lines particularly caught my eye:

My suggestion [that Protestantism may be coming to an end] is meant to be a reminder that Protestantism is a reform movement. When it becomes an end in itself it becomes unintelligible to itself. Protestants who don’t long for Christian unity are not Protestant. There is also the ongoing problem that Catholics have responded to the Protestant critique in a way that the Protestant critique no longer makes much sense. Accordingly, the question is: why do we continue to be kept apart?

I wholeheartedly agree with Hauerwas about the heart of Protestantism and how it should long for unity and, eventually and hopefully, end. So why is Protestantism still a thing I embrace? Why am I not fleeing to Rome, to our Mother Church? Let me offer a few words. Continue reading

Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (iii): conclusions


sit-inOver the past couple of posts, we’ve been looking at Acts 4, to see if it has any lessons to teach us about how Christian engage with the political realm when they disagree with what the government is doing.

So far, we’ve talked about three things: (in Part 1) how Christians should engage with a political realm that comes in conflict with their faith; what is worth Christians disobeying the civil authorities over; and (in Part 2) the cultural and societal work we are called to that facilitates our Christian living and possible disobedience.

Today, we’ll finish this up with some principles and applications for moving forward.

Some Personal Contraceptive Conclusions
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Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (ii)


Nicolas-Poussin-peter-john-healing-lame-manOkay, I lied. This will be three posts, not just two.

Last week, in light of Catholic institutions moving more towards Civil Disobedience in light of certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act, we looked at Acts 4 to see if there was any guidance we could get in this. We talked about how (1) Civil Disobedience is not warfare against the laws of your geographic home, but simply living in light of your spiritual home–the Kingdom of God. We also pointed out (2) that the State is not around to comply with our every theological preference and whim, and therefore some discretion needs to be used to evaluate what’s “worth” Civil Disobedience.

Today we keep going. I want to offer some summary conclusions, but first let’s point out the last thing the Acts 4 passage helps us see: the work we do in society prior to our Civil Disobedience.
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Christians, Contraceptives, & Civil Disobedience (i)


laureti-triumph-christianity-pagan-statueWith the Affordable Care Act kicking in, it has certainly stirred up its fair share of controversies. It’s regulations are pretty far-reaching and have started to encroach on some territory held pretty sacred by some major parts of our Christian family. The biggest friction has been with the ACA’s requirement that non-church and ecclesial organizations still have to cover contraception coverage for their employees. Catholics who run non-ecclesial organizations have not taken too kindly to this. NPR recently had an interesting profile about this intersection of faith and politics.

Catholic leaders have vowed Civil Disobedience in response to these regulations, insisting on a religious exemption, even for private companies. In the past, religious organizations have done similar things in response to abortion regulations as well as gay marriage statutes.

Reading through Acts 4 the other day, I read again the account of Peter and John being arrested in Jerusalem and thought it had some powerful things to say about this and how Christians in America have been acting towards their government recently. So, I thought we’d walk through that passage over a post today and on Monday, and discuss some principles behind when and how Christians should fight their government tooth-and-nail for their convictions.
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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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Ross Douthat: a new hero of mine


Look at that face. If I saw him walking down the street, I would think he was just another guy; I’d have no idea the kindred spirit that lay in this man’s mind.

Ross Douthat (don’t ask how to say his last name), like myself, seems to be a man that life has continually thrown from one-extreme to the other: born in San Francisco, and then transplanted to New Haven, Connecticut; attended Harvard and then turned around three years later and wrote a book denouncing the Privileged culture there; started out as a Pentecostal, then converted to Catholicism; wrote for his college newspaper and is now the youngest-ever Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times.

These extremes seem to have helped him settle in nicely with a well-informed and balanced view, able to to comfortably exist, engage, and critique in a world of poly-everything.

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen (and been sent), a few of his articles and blog posts, but I think I was missing something. All I knew of him was that he was a Catholic writer with a sharp mind, and I didn’t pay him much proactive attention.

And this was to my great detriment.

Somehow I stumbled upon this set of exchanges on Slate, where Will Saletan, one of the most thoughtful secular liberals I’ve ever read, engages Douthat on some issues raised in Douthat’s newest book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. This exchange cemented Douthat’s stature in my mind, as well as his place in my reading repertoire. It’s great. You all need to read it.

I’ve started to read the book, and it’s definitely going to be a personal classic for me and a turning point in my development as a solidly religious person firmly engaged in the body politic. I also have the privilege of attending a book talk/signing with him next week here in Philly.

I have much more I could say and commend about him (including the fact that he’s a Catholic who fully-embraces praying in tongues–kindred spirit indeed!), but to do so would steal precious time from you, the gracious reader of this blog post, that could be spent reading Douthat’s work itself. Here’s a representative piece to get you started.

Oh. And you’re welcome.

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

Catholics Aren’t Crazy: The Eucharist & Economics (pt.1 of ?)


I haven’t written a post in this series in a while, but I’ve been reading William Cavanaugh’s amazing book Being Consumed: Economics & Christian Desire as a counter to Jack Cashill’s Popes & Bankers, which I just finished.  It’s pretty remarkable.  Every Christian–nay, every person–should read this book.

Cavanaugh is a Catholic and this influences his thought greatly and wonderfully.  I’ve only made it through the Introduction and I already feel like I’ve been taken for a ride, with my economic thought swirling.  Once I’m done I’ll surely be posting a review here for all of you to enjoy.  He has this amazing paragraph in the Introduction I wanted to share here with all of you:
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Catholics on Scripture and Inerrancy


Oh, the Bible. It’s the lifeblood of the Church. It’s our backbone. But there’s so much we don’t get, and the culture both within and without the Protestant Church hasn’t helped. In its response to the Enlightenment, Evangelicals adopted the ground rules and assumptions that undergird modernism, namely, that Truth must be something that has a one-to-one correlation to things in created reality (as opposed to Ultimate Reality–God Himself), therefore making science and history the only vehicles for this Truth. This has caused so many problems with the rest of the world when talking about a little doctrine: Inerrancy which means, at its simplest level, that the Bible contains no “errors”. What does that mean?

Catholics can help us answer this. I fear that Evangelicalism is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the current discussion on nearly every front because of these improper assumptions about Scripture.   Catholics, though, were having these discussions in the Middle Ages! They have largely already dealt with the things that we Protestant are only now encountering issues with. This gave them a foundation that let them maintain intellectual and biblical credibility in light of the Enlightenment and now modernism. Here’s what they say about Scripture in the Catholic Catechism:

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Catholicism on Torture, the State, & the Eucharist


I know, I know — this seems like a weird topic to inaugurate this series. Today, in my ongoing series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” I wanted to put up a post on a Catholic view of Scripture, inspiration, and inerrancy. They have some amazing things to say on these topics that Evangelicals could do really well to embrace. But alas, current events have changed that plan. Tomorrow I’m posting up a potentially controversial article here on a Christian view of Torture. I’m writing it in light of the recent developments, publications, and interviews concerning the legal and ethical exoneration of the “Torture Memo” authors, John Yoo and Jay Bybee. In my research I stumbled upon the following wonderful article by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, posted on his blog on Ash Wednesday:

“May the Judgment Not Be Too Heavy Upon Us” — The Daily Dish

The article concerns Marc Thiessen, former speech writer for President Bush. Thiessen is on a tour of every news outlet it seems (I’ve seen him on like four different ones just this past week) to promote his brand new book, Courting Disaster, the point of which is pretty much as follows: Our “enhanced interrogation” techniques were moral, effective, and NOT torture; and President Obama has ended them, thereby “inviting the next attack” and putting everyone in America at risk of being slaughtered by Islamic extremists.

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Catholics Aren’t Crazy (New Series)


As some of you may have noticed, weekends are pretty quiet here on the blog. In an ideal world, I would post every day during the week and then take weekends off (as I’m not too sure people are surfing much on the weekends. Am I wrong?).  Anyway, I want to try something.  Beginning yesterday, I’m trying to start a little tradition where on Saturdays I’ll post a more personal, meditative post and Sundays I’ll do the series I’m kicking off today.

I was raised in the Bible Belt as a Southern Baptist where there is absolutely no diversity in Christian denominations: there are only Baptists and Catholics — nothing else. This was, at least, my exposure growing up in Dallas, Texas. Throughout my years as a “good ol’ boy” Southern Baptist, I was regularly taught by my Sunday School teachers that Catholics aren’t actually Christians. Let me unpack this briefly.

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Review: John Navone’s “Toward a Theology of Beauty”


In my attempt at writing shorter and more frequent posts (rather than feeling the burden to produce daily meaty posts), I thought I’d put up this little review of a little book (91 pages) I just finished called Toward a Theology of Beauty by John Navone (1996, The Liturgical Press).  I had originally started reading it for the Beauty message I gave, but I never finished it.  As time went by, though, the things I had read in this book began creeping back into my thoughts, so I decided to finish it, and let me tell you, that was a good call.

This is an incredible book. I’m still in awe of it. It seizes your soul and takes it to the highest realms of the mind and heart of the Beautiful Triune God. I have almost an entire journal filled with notes I have taken form this book.  I will look over these notes often for years to come, to let myself get swept away by the ideas present here.  Navone doesn’t have progressive outline, so it’s difficult to lay out exactly everything he talks about.  The best thing one could do is shoot over to the Amazon.com page for the book and “Look inside” to peer at the Table of Contents for his topics.  Suffice it to say, the book is theologically comprehensive.  It doesn’t answer many of the more practical questions we may have about art, human beauty, and such, but it does help in a much greater understanding of the more ethereal and abstract realities of Beauty, especially as it originates in and delights God Himself.

I guess my only critique is a common one I had with most things I read during my preparation.  It assumes the validity, and authority of ancient Greek philosophy, especially the distinction between the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  He uses this Hellenistic concept throughout.  Many things I read used this “trinitarian” framework to shape and organize their thoughts.  I don’t know how valid this is and I would argue this limits us in many ways.  but this is minor, and doesn’t really take away from the wonder and awe of this book.

Navone is a Catholic theologian, and if I learned one thing from reading this book, it’s that Catholics understand Beauty in a way that only 2,000 years of thought and reflection can provide. We Protestants can learn a lot from our Catholic brothers and sisters. Heck, after reading this, I’m practically Catholic now myself.

Navone’s writing is beautiful, his thoughts profound, and theology rich. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to increase their worship of a Beautiful Transcendent God.