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.

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The Flight from Hell | First Things

The lake of fire

The Flight from Hell | First Things.

Are we so sure of our salvation that we run through life giggling and laughing toward the brink of eternal damnation? It seems we no longer believe that hell exists or even if it does, we will surely not go there: the incredible optimism of a misguided world running headlong toward the abyss with reckless abandon.

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part IV

Church Fathers, a miniature from Svyatoslav's ...

Church Fathers

The History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers

Nothing speaks to us better than getting to know the history of any enterprise that we undertake: we usually learn all we can about the company we work for so that we can relate to others how it came to be and what the philosophy was of the entrepreneurial beginnings of the company. Part of that history is learning about the founder and the early leaders of the company and their vision of the company and their successful leadership as well as their single mindedness in reaching the goal of the founder. At least that is something we salesmen study when we go to work for a new company with a long history. It lends credibility to the company that we are representing and unites us in some small way to a participation in the company’s goals.

It is no different in the new Catholic, who represents the Church in the world to all who meet and talk with them. Why then, do so few Christians spend almost no time at all looking at our history and the Early Church Fathers who forged the beginnings of the largest institution on the face of the planet: 1.2 billion members yoked to the teachings of the Church?

It is this history, which the Bible initiates as our first introduction or orientation to the Catholic Faith. Her structure and our adherence to doctrine were discussed somewhat in the last post; Part III. But for further information which is to our great benefit to read, we have the accounts of the earliest Christians and the beliefs that they held from the beginning. Even a cursory reading of these great men and pioneers of our Faith, add their mark of approval on most of our beliefs and practices still in place over almost 2 millennia.

The belief in the real presence of Christ residing, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, our heightened honor that is afforded our Blessed Virgin Mary, our honoring of the saints and martyrs, our belief in the Pope as being the sovereign leader of the Church, the idea that a priest can forgive us our sins if we are contrite and sorry for them and willing to amend our ways, the need for Baptism and the efficacy of the other sacraments of the Church, the love and adherence that we give to the books of the Bible, the gravity of abortion and sins of the flesh, and the knowledge that we are bound to an authority that is beyond our mortal world but embodied in the ministry that was founded by Christ Himself. All of these things and more can be verified by the writings which came from the earliest Christians: these we call the Early Church Fathers.

The latest historical find which dates back as far as the oldest entries in the New Testament is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve. I would recommend that every Christian read the document and understand that it was a small handbook that was widely carried throughout the Christian world a mere 30 to 50 years after the death of our Lord and Savior.

Much, therefore, that I heard from non-Catholic sources, who mocked and ridiculed Catholic beliefs and practices were, besides being condescending, proved wrong: to be sure, the faith of our fathers is being faithfully carried forward into our modern age by the Catholic Church.

Since this is just a short post, for those who want to get into the meat of the proofs concerning the Catholic Tradition, one should at the very least read the Didache and the writings of the Early Church Fathers for illuminating insight into what our earliest Christians believed.

You will quickly come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church stands with these founding fathers and does not make up new and novel doctrines to force on their members. Without this tie to Christ, the apostles and the earliest known Christians, how could anyone have faith that their way of understanding, living or teaching a particular brand of Christianity is truly authentic? History provides us with that reassurance and gives me the Reason for My Hope within the Catholic construct of the Christian faith.

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part I

Vatican

“. . . sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” __ 1 Peter 3:15

I will in a series of posts try to satisfy the answers of those who might ask my reason for the hope I have in our Lord Jesus Christ. My reasons consist in large part to the very existence of His Church (the Mystical Body of Christ), still active and present from Her founding, that brought Christ Jesus to me in all Truth, in His Word and in His Sacraments. The Catholic Church has provided a living memory and memorial of the original faith of our fathers which She delivers whole and entire to the present generation. So it is my faith which fills me with the same hope that has filled the hearts of countless Christians in an unbroken chain for 2,000 years.

The motivations for becoming Catholic are as many as there are Catholic converts. However faith informed by reason means that my journey will not be complete for it is a continuing conversion and growth in faith that lasts a lifetime. There are both intellectual and spiritual attractions and I will need to address them as such.

My principle intellectual reasons are these: Divine Authority, Scripture, Structure, Continuity of Teaching and, of course, the History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers. While my principle spiritual reasons lie in the Sacraments, the Scriptures again, the Saints and the Mystics of the Church.

Let’s look at each of these in a series of posts though I may not be able to put these together back to back: it takes too long to write them.

The Church Was Founded on Divine Authority

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” __ Matthew 16:18,19

We all know this passage but it is meaningless to those who don’t want to hear it. However, it says what it says and means what it says and no intellectual, mental, interpretational gymnastics will change the verse. Likewise the following verse:

“He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”__ John 20:21-23

Note that God only breathed on man one other time in scripture; when he gave life to the original father of humankind, Adam (Genesis 2:7) who grievously sinned against God. “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”[1] So our Savior has breathed onto these Apostles a new gift of life; the life of the Holy Spirit delivered to the new fathers of humankind, the leaders of Christ’s Church. And Christ gave the Apostles assurances that He had prepared them and given them all that they would need to minister to His Church:

“But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” __ John 14:26

So that which was dramatically displayed at Pentecost (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit given to the Church) was also given in a more intimate way to the Apostles.

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you.” __ John 16:12-15

Now for those who are outside of the Church as I was, it is apparent that the Truth (which is Christ Himself) gave the Holy Spirit and Himself (the Truth) to the Church and will guide them into all truth as the scripture says. Is there any man who can take that gift away? Christ alone would have to do it Himself but it would mean that Christ was not an all-knowing God who knew that he would revoke this gift. That would make all of Christianity null and void. Is there anywhere in Scripture that says Christ would strip His Church of the Truth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Historically do we have a person who claims that Christ took the Holy Spirit from the Church and from the succession of Apostolic Leaders and gave it to them? Has the Holy Spirit failed the Church? These questions seem fundamental in the quest for the Church that bears the marks of Christ’s Church.[2] The answers to the questions are obvious: Christ never revoked any gift or went back on any promise made.

Why then, you might say, can a Church be filled with corruption and sin? I would answer that it is because mankind is still a fallen being, as we are the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, with Original Sin on each of our souls. We are all sinners. Yes, many will scandalize the Church but we have Christ’s assurance that he will always be with us. “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” __ John14:18

So did we become orphans, without Christ’s protection? Did
Christ lie to His Apostles or did His word become impossible? As a believer in Christ, I cannot even entertain such ideas as Christ is Truth and “no word shall be impossible with God.”[3]

Christ knew that we would fail him and cause scandals – he even told them so:

“And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him.” __ Luke 17:1-4

Can we not bear the Truth that Christ foretold? Yes, we are as poor a bunch of stewards of Christ’s Church as were the Jews who sinned and even killed the prophets that God sent to them. Did God divest Himself from his people, the Jewish Old Testament Church? No! He bore with them as patiently as He could and chastised them for their disobedience and sins but he never abandoned them. Is the New Testament God a different God that breaks His covenant with the Church? Or is it that Martin Luther or Calvin or whosoever left the Church has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promises Christ bestowed on the Apostles? According to these, Christ’s breathing on the Apostles and his sending of the Holy Spirit were but a waste of time and came to nothing. And what of the forgiveness of those who did sin against the Church, did the reformers give them a chance to amend their faults and return anew to full communion therein? The Pope had asked Martin Luther for meetings to discuss the matters and Luther refused him. The Church has always had a remedy for heresy and schism and that is the invoking of a Church Council. The Council of Trent made right many of the grievances of Martin Luther and yet they came to believe a new gospel. They did not take the same route of James and the Judaizers as chronicled in Acts 15. They left the Church while James accepted the judgment of the Council and the final decision of Peter.

It is His Church that is the foundation of Truth as Timothy says: “. . . the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”[4] So when was this wrested away and given to another? Can anyone dare claim the authority that was given to Christ’s Church?

If so, give the proof: for “Thou shouldst not have any power (authority) . . . unless it were given thee from above.”__John 19:11     Indeed, it is God who gives true power and authority. And the only authority he gave to any Church that I know was the Old Testament Church of the Jews and the New Testament Church called the Catholic Church.

As a side note: it is interesting to see how God dealt with the sedition of Core in the Old Testament and his followers. [See Numbers 16:6-33]

Is there even a human historical record that corroborates that the authority was transferred from the apostolic Church? Otherwise it is still dwelling in Christ’s only Church. The only answer it seems to me is what Luther was forced to do; make a claim (from his self-appointed authority) that Christians need only the Bible for their authority. So after 15 centuries of constant teaching, Christians need no authority but the Bible alone. I wonder where such a teaching can be found in the Bible. Thus begins the exegesis of Protestantism that redefines the meanings of Biblical passages to justify their positions, with total disregard of the teaching of the Church as constantly taught for 15 centuries and the voluminous accounts from the early fathers of the Church.

Luther taught that the truths were obvious and apparent to anyone who read the texts, but are they? 35,000 Protestant denominations later, we might think that some might take fault with his assertion.

Even Luther’s teachings have changed. For a few examples: his acceptance of indulgences (he only believed that the Church misused them – which it did); belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (many Protestants now deny this); the sinfulness of contraception (no Christian denomination accepted contraception before Margaret Sanger and the Planned Parenthood of the 1930’s). There are others but this will suffice to make the point that the teachings of Protestantism are evolving and changing to mimic the desires or thinking of the secular world.

Likewise, there is more I could say about the topic but this was a quick overview of my acceptance of the Authority of the Catholic Church and of no other.


[1] From the Exultet (or Easter Proclamation) made at the Easter Mass.

[2] The 4 Marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic

[3] Luke 1:37

[4] I Timothy 3:15

Who are the Meek?

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

We have heard or read this word countless times in our lives but do we really understand what it is? In the Old Testament it is usually used regarding the poor, the humble and the afflicted. But that does not get completely to the heart of the meekness that Christ speaks of in the New Testament.

The Sermon on the Mount uses the word in Christ’s second example:Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.”[1] The word in the New Testament Greek is praus which expands the OT understanding to: that disposition of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and therefore without disputing or resisting it. It is not unlike the virtue of long-suffering which allows us to bear patiently with ills knowing that God’s will is being done. There is the hope and understanding that God is accomplishing something for the Good though we cannot see it or understand it at the moment. So we bear with it patiently.

When I was younger I used to think of meekness as being humble but somehow construed to mean apathetic as well. So when Christ says to the Apostles that they should “learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart,”[2] it always made the words of Christ seem a bit too contrived or a bit prideful (though He is God with every right to boast of His virtues). Maybe that was just me. But it did strike me as being a bit different from the usual statements I was used to hearing from Christ.

However, when I look back to the Book of Wisdom I find the following: “Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be. For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words.”[3]

Now that passage seems to foretell the meekness that our Lord was talking about. For He was going to His death on the cross without a whimper, without crying out for mercy or declaring His innocence for the crime He was sentenced. No, He went as meekly as a Lamb to the slaughter.[4]

Now this is not apathy. For if apathy were a virtue, this country in its present age would be a utopia overrun with saints. But meekness is not a virtue you find very much of in this country or in any developed country. It resides mostly in the Third World.

I wonder if we are too far along in our belief in Utilitarianism to ever find meekness as a positive virtue to be practiced. Perhaps, as we continue our slide into the ocean of oblivion which swallows our wealth, freedom and pride, leaving us with shackles and chains of debt to eat the scraps that our lords throw us, we can once again find that God will respect His promise and return the land to the meek.


[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 11:29

[3] Wisdom 2:17-20

[4] Isaiah 53:7 He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.