Did Christ Establish a Church with an Expiration Date?

LAST supper

There is a popular and recurrent theme amongst many non-Catholic Christians that the promises given to Peter and Christ’s gift to him of the keys (to bind and loose), is not indicative of an office per se but a one time gift to Peter and that when Peter died so did the keys vanish with him. Likewise, using the same logic, the powers given to the Apostles after Christ breathed on them and gave them the power to forgive sins was also buried with them at their deaths. Thereby, any Christian Church is no better than any other as nobody has a special gift of the Holy Spirit to lead them to all truths. It died when the apostles died and its a great way to avoid any notion of there being any reliable and lasting authority in the practice and teaching of Christianity no matter the claims.

I like to be logical about these things so here is what bothers me about such notions.

If that is the case then all churches have become corrupted in their belief, teachings and their practices; as fallen creatures, men have a habit of doing that. There is thereby no inerrant authority to pronounce on a doctrine and there is no authority to stop the next generation from altering or actually opposing what was taught previously. There is neither a way to evaluate one church against another nor the changes that are on-going that may and do overturn previous teaching. It is simply ‘growth’ and ‘development’ due to the times and each church has a right to do as it sees fit. Even if people sit up and claim that they are not syncretists or believers in relativism it is all that is left unless an authority is still alive and working in this world.

If we believe that Christ sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell in the Church and to lead it to all Truth then Christ let us down or the Holy Spirit decided to lead a large variety of separate beliefs even though they hold contrary doctrines and teachings. That would make the Holy Spirit capable of blessing the notion that 2+2=4 in one church and 2+2=5 in another church or any other novel answer that a church might come up with. Now that kind of authority is not authority at all but permissiveness which claims that error is on a par with truth. And I doubt that is what Christ had in mind when He said that He would not leave us as orphans; can it really mean that he’ll support whatever anybody wants to believe in their own version of Christianity?

Sadly, if these gifts died with the Apostles, then the Nicene Creed and the Canon of Scripture were simply unauthorized man-made decisions that have no actual authority to compel one to believe them. And if we do somehow believe these for some personal reason, there is no authoritative reason that each of us should understand and interpret their meaning in the same way. A free for all ensues religiously and we are really no better off than the personal preferences that the pagans had for the gods of their choice. We are free to do as we like and nobody is right and nobody is wrong. Its only defensible in as good as are the apologists of each particular church or individual if they think that a personal belief, without a church, is all that is needed. In fact, if the church has no authority, then these people without a church are the most honest of all Christians.

Furthermore, is there then an expiration date on the necessity of Baptism, or of Belief and is it enough to say that God is Love and Mercy and that nobody will suffer loss and that all will find heavenly beatitude? For we can refer to Scripture and interpret our new form of Christianity based upon our personal preferences. For me; I think I very much like the idea that we all go to heaven and nobody will suffer. But others are free to make up their own minds and who is to say that they are wrong. Certainly not an authority that had a very short expiration date which died with the apostles. So, Who am I to judge?

It is very alluring to think that because we hold certain truths in common that the churches are basically the same. And without a clear authority that is the only conclusion one could rationally come up with if we are to believe that Christianity is not a hoax even though Christ did renege on His promises to the apostles and to the Church He founded.

So I chose the Catholic Church and think that it is still the Church that continues to have the authority that was vested in Peter and the apostles. For if it no longer exists then Christianity in my mind no longer is believable and is totally devoid of any veracity that it may once have had. In fact it is proven logically to have been a sham.

Thank God, however, the dogmas and teachings of the Catholic faith are never overturned and continue to operate from their inclusion into our body of faith, until the end of time as we know it. We do not one day wake up and decide that contraception is now OK, or that same sex marriage is now acceptable. We argue these issues and there are some who would love to change our teachings; but alas, they can’t. It is the protection of the authoritative nature that I would have expected the Church founded by Christ to have built into Her very DNA. And that is why I am Catholic. For without this assurance I am not sure that I would believe anything at all.

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Does the Old Testament Matter?

OTNT

Did God create a covenant with the Jews and did He found a church and make of the Jewish People the Chosen Ones or not? If not, then the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses is a fairy tale and the Decalogue a mere fabrication without any meaning at all. It makes no difference to you that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt or that God instituted a hierarchy and a priesthood and led them through the wilderness of this world to a land of milk and honey. Are you sure you wish to throw out the prophets and the psalms of David and the foreshadowing or models of the reformed Church and the NT practices that Christ instituted and commissioned in His own Blood? It is still the work of God and it is the nature of revelation that it should unfold and blossom. Every blossom of beauty starts with a seed; God’s words are not without significance in any age. His instructions are not arbitrarily dismissed until or unless God makes the change and abrogates one practice for another. Let us also not confuse the Law and the law. The small letter law seems to be more like what we call practice; which should reflect the Laws of God and bring them to life in the living of the people from day to day.

Without an understanding of the richness of the OT you will never have a proper understanding of the NT. All of the new testament reiterates and quotes passages from the old. You can hardly read a single book in the NT that does not do this and note that they speak with great honor and respect for what their God has done for them. You would throw out all that which is not in keeping with modern evolution of thought or all that is not based in a mere historical record by men. Your faith would be impoverished by its lack of understanding of the development of Christianity whose roots go back to prehistoric times.

Was Christ wrong to follow the Law of the Jews?  There is no escaping His Jewishness. He did not come to change a jot or a tittle of the Law and yet He did throw out the extraneous dross that had built up within the faith and abrogated many practices (the law) which were no longer appropriate. He interpreted the OT so that it is understandable and thus the OT sheds light on Christ and lives its history in expectation of His arrival.

Parsing the works of God is an impoverished faith without roots and without meaning; and it misses much of the workings of the One True God . . . as in a world bereft of the OT, He is a God that cannot get things right and makes mistakes and does not meet the modern enlightened thoughts of men of our enlightened times.

God to the modern enlightened and moral superior age that we live in, is cruel and unforgiving and violent and yet there is another way of reading the OT. Is there anything more beautiful than the Song of Songs or anything worth gaining from a reading of the Psalms and Proverbs or the book of Wisdom? Is the history of the maturation and corruption by men of God’s Church not a lesson worth studying and learning from? It is a totality that cannot be avoided. It is like chucking your grandparents from your family tree because you are of a different age and understanding of things than they were.

Headlines: God makes a big mistake and tells the Jewish people that He will be their God and that they will be His people. Since we think that the OT is not befitting our New God then He must not be an omniscient God since He makes such fundamental moral, ethical and judgmental errors . . . and so why should you or anyone else accept Him today if He was capable of such big and obvious blunders in the past?

Perhaps more time should be spent looking for the themes (the seeds) of our modern faith and the patience and love God endured on our behalf until such time that He felt that mankind was ready to hear the Word of God in the flesh and complete His plan for our salvation. Give thanks to God for the whole journey of humanity as it was necessary or it would not have occured.

And as to our own sinfulness and disobedience: O happy fault. For it gave to us a most remarkable Redeemer.

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives: Catechism & Catechesis

The following is from the easily followed book by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.  I would like to present a few of the articles that have been troubling a number of folks recently concerning, grace, love, the moral law, the Old Law and the New Law etc. Depending on the response I shall reproduce a few of these to see if we can open a dialogue concerning these principles. The entire section I am working from Part Three: The Life in Christ, can be found here.

Article 1: The Moral Law

The moral law is the work of divine wisdom. It is at once a paternal instruction and a divine pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways and rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude.

(1950)

843. What is law?

Law is a rule of conduct decreed by the competent authority in view of the common good.

(1951)

844. What does the moral law presuppose?

It presupposes the rational order established among creatures for their good and in view of their destiny by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.

(1951)

845. Where does all law find its truth?

All law finds its first and last truth in the eternal law.

(1951)

846. What are the expressions of the moral law?

They are varied and yet all interrelated. Thus, there are:

  • the eternal law, the source in God of all laws;
  • the natural law;
  • the revealed law, which includes the Old Law and the New Law of the Gospel;
  • the civil and ecclesiastical laws.

(1952)

847. Where does the moral law find its fullness and unity?

In the person of Jesus Christ. He is at once the end or purpose of the law and the way of perfection. He alone teaches and confers the justice of God.

(1953)

848. What is the natural law?

It is the law written in the soul of all men because our human reason orders us to do good and forbids sin. Its binding power comes from a higher Reason, which we are to obey.

(1954)

849. Where do we find the principle commandments of the natural law?

We find them in the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, given to Moses and elevated by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount.

(1955)

850. What are some notable features of the natural law?

The natural law is universal; its authority extends to all human beings. Its applications vary, but its basic principles unify the whole human race. It is unchangeable over the centuries of history, and even when denied or rejected, its basic principles cannot be destroyed.

(1956-1958)

851. What are the benefits of the natural law?

The natural law provides a solid foundation for guiding the human community in moral living. It gives the necessary grounds for civil laws and wise judicial decisions.

(1959)

852. Are the precepts of the natural law perceived clearly and immediately by everyone?

No, because of the darkening of man’s intellect by sin. That is why God provided revelation and grace, so that the basic truths of religion and morality would “be known by everyone, with facility, with firm certitude, and with no admixture of error” (First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, 2).

(1960)

853. What is the first stage of the revealed law?

It is the Old Law summed up in the Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

(1961-1962)

854. How is the Old Law imperfect?

It is imperfect because already before the coming of Christ it had to be completed by the prophetic and wisdom revelation of the Old Testament. But it is mainly imperfect because it had to be fulfilled by the teaching and life of Jesus Christ.

(1963)

855. How is the Law of Moses a preparation for the Gospel?

It foretells the work of redemption of the Savior, and provides the New Testament with images, types, and symbols for expressing the life of the Spirit.

(1964)

856. What is the New Law of the Gospel?

The New Law of the Gospel is the perfection here below of the natural and revealed divine law. Moreover:

  • It is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to believers by their faith in Christ.
  • It surpasses the Old Law, as seen in the Beatitudes, which direct God’s promises beyond this world to the kingdom of Heaven.
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, it does not add new external precepts but reforms our actions in the heart.
  • It directs our acts of religion to the Father, who sees in secret. Its prayer is the Our Father.
  • It is summed up in Christ’s teaching to do everything to others as we would have them do to us.
  • It is expressed in Christ’s new commandment that we should love one another as He has loved us.

(1965-1970)

857. How is Christ’s Sermon on the Mount amplified?

By the moral catechesis of the apostolic teaching, for example, the letters of St. Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, and Ephesians. This catechesis shows that we are to treat cases of conscience in the light of our relation to Christ and the Church.

(1971)

858. Why is the New Law called the law of love, grace, and freedom?

  • It is called the law of love because it is animated by the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than by fear.
  • It is called the law of grace because it confers the supernatural power of grace to observe the New Law by means of faith and the sacraments.
  • It is called the law of freedom because it frees us from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law; it inclines us to act spontaneously under the impulse of charity; and it leads us from the state of servants to that of Christ’s friends.

(1972)

859. What are the evangelical counsels?

They are invitations extended by Christ to His followers not only to avoid sin, or whatever is incompatible with love, but to choose ways that are more direct and means that are more effective expressions of love. The counsels seek to remove whatever would impede the development of charity.

(1973-1974)

860. Are the followers of Christ to practice the counsels?

Yes, but according to each person’s grace from God and vocation in life. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, God wants us to observe “only those appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as love requires” (Love, 8,6).

(1974)

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness

A Lecture Addressed to the

Theological Students’ Association

of The Catholic University of America

by Father Jay Scott Newman, J.C.L.

Assistant Professor of Canon Law

at The Pontifical College Josephinum

18 April 2001

In his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, Tertullian famously asked with derision, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”, meaning “What has philosophy to do with theology?” I begin with this reminder because, although I am here to address the Theological Students’ Association, I am not a theologian; I a canon lawyer. And some among you may well ask with derision, “What has canon law to do with theology?” It’s a fair question, so before I explore the topic at hand today, I need briefly to digress and establish something of a lingua franca for our discussion.

Because she is a human society, the Church has had law, and therefore lawyers, since her foundation, but canon law as a distinct science and course of study did not emerge until the twelfth century. Canonists reckon the Italian monk Gratian as the Pater scientiae canonicae because his work provided a systematic and logical ordering of 1000 years of lawmaking. The Decretum Gratiani, completed around the year 1140, remained an indispensable touchstone for all canonists in the Western Church until the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. Now, you might suppose that after nearly nine centuries of doing this thing called canon law, there would be common agreement among canonists about just what their discipline is. You might suppose so, but you’d be wrong.

Among canonists today, there are some fundamental disagreements about the nature and method of their discipline, with two of the major proposals being — for lack of more precise terms — legal positivism and juridic theology. I am not here today to describe this disagreement, let alone to resolve the dispute. But to make intelligible much of what will follow in my remarks, I must explain that I hold canon law to be a truly theological discipline and therefore to have a theological method and object. Within the one science of sacred theology we commonly acknowledge many divisions: dogmatic theology, moral theology, biblical theology, and so forth. To these, I submit, must be added juridic theology-that is, canon law understood as a theological discipline with a specifically juridic character, vocabulary, and purpose.

One of the reasons why there is disagreement among canonists about the nature of their discipline is that there is often a tension between theological language and juridic language, or to put it otherwise, making laws out of theological truths is not simple. And yet, there must be an organic connection between the two if the law of the Code is to be truly the law of the Church. Pope John Paul II addressed this point in the 1983 Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, by which he promulgated the present Code of Canon Law. The pope writes:

“As the Church’s principal legislative document founded on the juridical-legislative heritage of revelation and tradition, the Code is to be regarded as an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and in social life … the Code … fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council…. Indeed, in a certain sense this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same conciliar doctrine and ecclesiology into canonical language.”

Read more: via Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness.

Papal Infallibility

Papal Infallibility was defined as a dogma of the Faith, in the year 1870, during the First Vatican Council.  While most people have heard of this dogma, few understand its true meaning and limitations.  It is not uncommon to find non-Catholics who believe the dogma extends to the moral actions of a pope, in such a way, that he is said to be incapable of sin (impeccability).

Most Catholics realize that the scope of infallibility is limited to papal teachings on matters of faith and morals, but they often err by extending it beyond its boundaries; understanding infallibility as if it were a habitual active charism that prevents a pope from erring when he speaks on the subject of faith or morals.  This misunderstanding on the part of Catholics in recent decades has resulted in two opposite errors.

On the one hand, we have those who erroneously believe that whatever a pope says, regardless of how novel it is and how far it deviates from Tradition, must be accepted as an infallible truth, since “the pope is infallible”.  On the other hand, there are some who see apparent errors in the documents of Vatican II and believe that Papal Infallibility would prevent a true pope from ratifying such documents.  In both cases, the error is a result of extending Papal Infallibility beyond the limits determined by the Church.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the purpose of this article is not to assert that Catholics are only bound to accept what has been infallibly defined by a pope or ecumenical council.  The late Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton referred to this error, which was condemned by Pius IX (1), as minimism.  Catholics must give assent to all that the Church teaches, either by virtue of a solemn pronouncement or by the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  Yet at the same time, Catholics are not bound to give assent to novelties and apparent errors, even if such novelties or apparent errors come from a pope who is not exercising his infallibility.   In the chaos that has followed the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary that the faithful have a correct understanding Papal Infallibility, as well as its limitations, lest the understandably confused or scandalized Catholic be led into error in one direction or the other.

read more . . . THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: Papal Infallibility.

Theologians’ Academic Respectability

The teaching authority of the Church is the only guarantee the theologian has for both his academic respectability, and his intellectual freedom.

via Theologians’ academic respectability – Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

The Person and the Personal: Two Modes of the Same Being – Truth and Charity Forum

Pope John Paul II

In the present-day world of bioethics, it is commonplace for people to believe that they can make morally valid decisions based on the notion that they are “autonomous” beings who act for themselves alone and not persons who are called to love others in a personal way.

Consequently, many believe that they have a “right” to have a baby, to take but one example, and to the technology that could satisfy their desires. The “autonomous” person would also have a “right” to abortion, contraception, and other questionable bioethical procedures.

From the article: The Person and the Personal: Two Modes of the Same Being – Truth and Charity Forum.