Blog Template Theology of the Body: March 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Pauline Camp

For those of us who go nuts over the Pauline Epistles, I have fun news from breakfast this morning with Dr. Laurence Welbourn of United Theological Seminary. Apparently Dr. Welborn (who founded the Christ Church Soup Kitchen of New Haven in the late 70's with his wife, by the way) and crazy Dale Martin of Yale will soon complete a scholarly paperback series which explores Paul's situation in the political/social/economic millieu of ancient Rome. The series will reflect the first official collaboration of classical and theological scholars on St.Paul, and will be entitled "Differences in Comparison." I am excited about this. Look for it...

Pray for Those in Chains: What's Really Going on in China

What's really going on in China? It's hard to say. It's a very confusing story. (This post first appeared a year ago, following a trip through Southeast Asia and China with my mother)

1) Blogs are censored and Google signed a deal with the Chinese government this year agreeing to censor internet searches for politically subversive, religious material. Bad bad Google!

2) There are at last Starbucks and tea houses where people can have the possibility of a private conversation. But on Tiananmen Square, there are secret police in uniform who will explicitly listen in on conversations. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. And NO ONE says ANYTHING about the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 (as if we did not all watch it unfolding on CNN). Apparently the upcoming Olympic beach volleyball games are to be held on the Square. Since no memorials are allowed there for the thousands of students who were bulldozed to death because they made a peaceful political protest, I am a little bitter about this information.

3) There is a state sanctioned Church scattered throughout China, in which the Bible is freely available and the confession of the Creeds is permitted. An Anglican Archbishop Ting, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary here in the US, is in cahoots with the Chinese government, and they get on fairly well. The state-sanctioned liturgy seems to be an ecumenical blend from various Christian denominations. However, dissidents who are unsatisfied with the Patriotic Church, and Roman Catholics in communion with Rome, are forced underground and, at least away from the main cities where Capitalism has Helped, they live in great danger. Sadly, relationships are not good between the State Church and their underground brothers and sisters- I think this is heartbreaking. A united Church in China would be such a Force to be reckoned with.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good Things

Keep on the sunny side, Christian soldiers. After all...

1. The Brotherhood of Hope (otherwise known as one of the Church's most faithful conversion and vocation machines) has its new CD out and available: Into the Deep is wonderful. I have been listening to it non-stop, and I love it! Check it out and support the Brotherhood here! -And no one ever again allege that Roman Catholics can't sing.

2. Theologian par excellance Miroslav Volf will be speaking at St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas on April 21- the good professor always brings a little bit of Heaven home when he holds forth, and Texas will probably be a blessing to him as well...

3. Work is well underway for this summer's St. Michael's Youth Conferences, which are just so great. The St. Michael's program is designed to give God's young people a taste for Heavenly worship and Heavenly conquests: we will "help to form young Christians to be witnesses to the world of the Saving Power of Jesus Christ." Awesome! I've been invited to participate as an instructor at St. Michael's this summer, and I can honestly say I've never felt so honored. Send us money for scholarships.

Our Belief: It's in our Genes

Among other biologists delving into the cognitive dimensions of religious experience, Dean Hamer had the social/scientific theorists of religion abuzz with his watershed work, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.

In short, Dr. Hamer posits that it is not at all far-fetched to look for the human predisposition for faith engraved in our genetic code. The implications are obvious. And Dr. Hamer is extremely cute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dhimmi Watch

Friends and I have been talking a lot lately about the plight of persecuted Christians who are suffering under militant Islamic regimes. There is a great web site/blog for keeping up with the latest in this regard- check out DhimmiWatch/ and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dealing with that sad little milk toast of a man

No one really worries any more that Freud's alternative "explanations" for Christian belief might constitute actual refutations of Christianity's credibility; but few have influenced our culture's knee-jerk reactions to religion as much as Sigmund Freud, so for those who still suggest that God may be the fabrication of an over-active imagination for the soothing of a depleted emotion, our friend Gregory Koukl responds as follows:

"If we were to invent god, what would he be like? If left to ourselves to fashion a god of our choosing, would we create a god like the one in the Bible? A god formed by human hands would mirror human sensibilities. He would think and act, more or less, like we do. As our invention, his morality would reflect our desires. When we erred, he'd cluck his disapproval and then dismiss our frailties with an affectionate kids-will-be-kids shrug. After all, nobody's perfect.

The curious thing about the God of the Bible is how unlike us He is. His wisdom confuses us; His purity confounds us. He makes moral demands we can't live up to, then threatens retribution if we don't obey. Instead of being at our summons, He defies manipulation. In His economy, the weak and humble prevail and the last become first.

Did we invent that? Could we invent it? Is this the kind of god we would create if left to our own devices? Or have we seen the true God and trembled, closed our eyes, hid our faces and turned our backs?"

... he has a point.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Feast of the Annunciation: Let it be to me according to your will

"Everyone lives above all for love. The ability to love authentically constitutes the deepest part of a personality. It is no accident that the greatest commandment is to love. Authentic love leads us outside ourselves to devote ourselves to God's people, and above, all, to God.

...All that is yours is mine. I accept your submission in all of God's gifts; give me your heart, oh Maria."

John Paul II, Letter to Teresa and Papal Motto

Friday, March 23, 2007

Gregory the Illuminator, AD 332

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that the pagan king of Armenia had Gregory thrown into a pit with dead bodies and snakes, where he lived for 15 years on the kind assistance of a pious widow who brought him bread. For his wickedness, the king was turned into a boar and possessed by a demon. Only the prayers of Gregory could rescue him, and they did. The king was converted to the faith and Gregory was made a bishop in the year 300.

The Regensburg Lecture

The discussion below has led me to inquire again into the question of individual conscience. Individual conscience is often held up as the sacred cow of Anglicanism, although it has only been in the last century that this could even be said of Anglicanism or of any Anglican. It is, more so, the spirit of the modern age. Along these lines, I have today delved into the Regensbug Lecture of Benedict XVI. Many of you will remember that this is the lecture that gained a great deal of heat from the Muslim world. But, it is a document that is important for a multitude of reasons other than one soundbyte. He states:
...only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity.

A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be “scientific” would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: It is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by “science” and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective.

The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective “conscience” becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.
In this, I think he is right on target. Whether we speak of the ethics of the citizen or of the churchman, we must be speaking of creating communities of virtue, whether the state or the Church. This cannot be the case without some level of authority to which the individual conscience is submitted. When I drive around town, I don't run red lights. This is not because I deem it appropriate, but because it is the common ethic of driving around town, and I have submitted myself to it. It is farcical to say that the community of drivers wrote the traffic laws, because they most certainly did not. The laws were an extension of the exercise of reason by authorities. If all drivers drove according to their own conscience, formed by only the input which they had received, the consequences would indeed be tragic.

I am indeed limited. I do not have the time nor the will to determine these things on my own, and must be guided, yes even corralled towards right action. The disaster of relativism is that it sets up moral anarchy. But, in the Public Square, it is often forgotten what ought to be meant by conscience. It is assumed that the conscience is individual or that it is free, or that it is unbounded. Even worse, that it is atheistic in a way, freed from natural revelation. Anglicanism, in particular, has forgotten that the conscience has as its duty the approval of good action and the denouncing of evil. The Vatican II document Guadium et Spes puts it this way:
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment... For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God... His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."
The problem we face today is that it is difficult to form the conscience without common assent to virtue or common moral judgment. When this relativism invades the Church, the Church begins to resemble not the crucible which refines the person, but merely a mirror of her environment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shoring Up: The End of the Anglican Communion?

I had dinner last night with two of the most ardent young Anglican men that I know- and I know a lot of them. Anglicans like these all inspire me. These men are like warriors in love with Christ and they wish to do battle for His Body. Why are there so many such ardent young men flocking around the earthquakes within the Anglican Communion? -We discussed this. I think it's because the Anglican Communion offers a battlefield ready for the making of modern heroes, and this kind of battle invites and requires... men.

In this regard, the author of Pontifications and FR. WB have recently posted in response to George Weigel's statements on "The end of the Anglican Communion," here: "the Anglican Communion (is) now fracturing into a gaggle of quarreling communities no longer in communion with each other," etc.

I may have been one of the first to ask Weigel to address this issue, as he did publicly off the cuff at a dinner party this past Fall. Weigel's words at the time were these:

MM: "What's the future of the Anglican Communion, George?"

George: "- Anglicans, sell out while you can. Catholics will be generous and charitable."

Weigel is a king of such sound bites.

This is the time when faithful Anglicans need effective sound bites too. So: for those who are heading off to battle, why do it? What's so great about being Anglican? (non Anglican readers, feel free to weigh in here as well)

I will start the thread: -ahem-

It's great to be Anglican because

1) Anglicanism is old and beautiful
2) Anglicanism retains much of the catholicity of Christianity while allowing for the robust exercise of private judgment
3) Anglicans are in full communion with the likes of Richard Hooker and C.S. Lewis...

Your turn.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Confronting the Household Gods

Do contemporary Christians, in the absence of adequate ecclesiologies, tend to idolize the nuclear family as the site of their primary loyalties? Has the American family replaced the Church as the locus of Christian emphasis?
Various concerned theologians consider modern American evangelicalism’s glorification of the family to be the last great stronghold of pagan idolatry. These theologians contest that just as the Christian must submit that his first social responsibility is owed to the Church rather than to the state, so must the Christian regard his family loyalties as relativized under the superceding loyalty demanded by Christ and His "family," the Church. Christian families must thus identify themselves as the Church's families, the Church's creations, and the Church's servants; every Christian home is intended to be the Church's missionary outpost.

Monday, March 19, 2007

And Pocahontas begot Fr. William Leland

... Apparently the great (x's 10?) grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe is an Anglican Rite Catholic priest. Beautiful. Fr. seems to blog at AllTheseThings, here.

Fr. Leland just wrote the following at Doug's Blog:

"As a direct descendant of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, I was absolutely appalled with the revisionist “history” which claims my grandmother (x10) was a rape victim who was forcibly converted to Christianity. What a bunch of nonsense! Thank you so much for defending my ancestors and the real, true history of the events in Jamestown, 1607! May God richly bless you for the work you are doing." Pax et Bonum, Fr. William Leland

Nice. If the chain of Christian History manifest in the US of A, etc. continues to move thusly towards Rome, we will have got somewhere.

"May the spirits who have been sent forth to minister to them who have been called to inherit salvation find a place within us and delight to enter the guest-chamber of our souls... so that they shall find the habitation of our heart adorned by the practice of virtue and holiness."

- Origen of Alexandria, A.D. 185- 254

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane

St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of that hill kindled the Paschal fire.

The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; Patrick's fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished."

And Patrick said:

I bind unto myself today: The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity, The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today

The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,

The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,

The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,

The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today

The virtue of the love of seraphim,

In the obedience of angels,

In the hope of resurrection unto reward,

In prayers of Patriarchs,

In predictions of Prophets,

In preaching of Apostles,

In faith of Confessors,

In purity of holy Virgins,

In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself todayGod's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot seat, Christ in the poop deck,Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

The soul of the aborted

... it has become so glib in our depraved culture to consign murdered babies to their imagined repose in Heaven; somehow, then, abortion does not seem quite so terrible. But our presumptions can so easily become just that- complacent presumptions. We hope in God's mercy. But the souls of aborted infants are doused in Adam's sin, wherein no-one can look on the face of God. In our imaginations we must not resign these infants so easily to the presumptively immediate bliss of Heaven. Rather we should continually lift them up to God's grace in the wounds of the Crucified Savior.

"As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism." -Catechism of the Catholic Church #1261.

...From another source:

"At the instant of conception an eternal soul comes into being. It should be believed that in justice God gives each and every eternal soul a decisive opportunity for salvation. If the opportunity for salvation is not available in this life, then it must, in justice, be made available in an undefined existence of unknown duration after mortal death but before judgement."

More from Priests for Life here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Catholic Praise Music

... apparently it's Matt Maher and it's actually really good. I vouch for it, absolutely. From one of my RC friends: "who knew?"
The Prots have started borrowing...

Check it out, and have a listen.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Simple Life: Laundry...

For quite a while now, I have been thinking about adding a column entitled "The Simple Life." My wife and I live on my stipend alone, and have found a number of great ways to embrace simplicity. From time to time, I plan to collaborate with her to plan these postings. But, today, I thought I would start with laundry.

My wife is the environmentalist of the two of us. The question for us has been how we can be low-impact and still save money. Much of that will be covered in later postings, but I thought I would reveal our money-saving, low-impact tip of the month.

Make your own laundry detergent!

The recipe is this:
1 Cup Grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 Cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 Cup 20 Mule Team Borax

We found the ingredients at our local Central Market and Ela threw everything together, with a few drops of Peppermint essential oil. It smells wonderful, and only takes 2 tablespoons for large loads. It works like a charm, and costs about 2-3 cents per load! We're thinking we'll use lavender oil next time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


"Oh blessed Jesus, look upon me with those eyes which with you looked upon Mary Magdalen at the feast, Peter in the centurion's hall, the thief upon the cross, that with the thief I may entreat you humbly. Remember me Lord, when you come into your Kingdom; that with Peter I may weep in sorrow for my sins; that with Magdalene, I may hear you say, 'your sins are forgiven.'

- From the St. Augustine prayer book

Does this sound at all familiar?

The next time you are sharing the Christian faith with a Buddhist friend, mention the supreme ideal of the Buddhist religion: the Bodhisattva is a redeemer who gives up his own right to heaven and glory in order to help others to attain salvation. Through his own redemptive suffering, the Bodhisattva draws others to salvation. Hmmmm... The Christian is saved by the Bodhisattva; His name is Jesus. Ultimately, He is the only One who can rightfully make the claims stated below, but it strikes me that this is not a bad way of praying for a renewed commitment to Christian evangelism...

The Bodhisattva's Vow

May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road; For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed,
For all who need a servant, may I be a slave.

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power, and the supreme remedy.
May I be the trees of miracles,
And for every being, abundance.
Like the great earth and the other elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their life.
Thus, for every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering.

In reward for all this righteousness that I have won by my works,
I would become a soother of all the sorrows of all creatures.
I will give myself away as a pawn through which the whole world is redeemed, and within my body I must experience for the sake of all beings the whole mass of painful feelings.
On behalf of all beings I give surety for all beings… so have I surrendered my body for the welfare of the world.

John Calvin's Ecclesiology

I will begin with the Church, into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are babes and children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood, and, finally, attain to the perfection of faith. What God has thus joined let not man put asunder. (Mark 10: 9:) Those to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a mother.

But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels, (Matth. 22: 30.) For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify, (Isa. 37: 32; Joel 2: 32.) To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, "They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel," (Ezek. 13: 9;) as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance," (Ps. 106: 4, 6.) By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal.

When the preaching of the gospel is reverently heard, and the sacraments are not neglected, there for the time the face of the Church appears without deception or ambiguity; and no man may with impunity spurn her authority, or reject her admonitions, or resist her counsels, or make sport of her censures, far less revolt from her, and violate her unity. For such is the value which the Lord sets on the communion of his Church, that all who contumaciously alienate themselves from any Christian society, in which the true ministry of his word and sacraments is maintained, he regards as deserters of religion. So highly does he recommend her authority, that when it is violated he considers that his own authority is impaired.

For there is no small weight in the designation given to her, "the house of God," "the pillar and ground of the truth," (1 Tim. 3: 15.) By these words Paul intimates, that to prevent the truth from perishing in the world, the Church is its faithful guardian, because God has been pleased to preserve the pure preaching of his word by her instrumentality, and to exhibit himself to us as a parent while he feeds us with spiritual nourishment, and provides whatever is conducive to our salvation. Moreover, no mean praise is conferred on the Church when she is said to have been chosen and set apart by Christ as his spouse, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," (Eph. 5: 27,) as "his body, the fulness of him that fillets all in all," (Eph. 1: 23.) Whence it follows, that revolt from the Church is denial of God and Christ.

No crime can be imagined more atrocious than that of sacrilegiously and perfidiously violating the sacred marriage which the only begotten Son of God has condescended to contract with us.

- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Faith IV.1

Let those who pray go over: a proposal for grace among the Christians of Uganda

For those of you who kindly cheered me on during my conference presentation at the University of Massachusettes this past fall (and for those of you who charitably asked for a copy of my remarks), I've recenly been honored by the publication of my little talk by the International Institute of Historical Mediation and Conciliation at Boston University. The title is above; the essay is here; and a relevant excerpt goes like this:

"Given that conflicts over discrepant Roman Catholic/Protestant Christian doctrines may tend to aggravate politial instability in a divided 'Christian' such as Uganda nation, it becomes important to appeal to the divided parties on the basis of the theological principles that they hold in common. Celebrated Yale theologian Miroslav Volf urges that the Christian doctrine of grace must become the tool for ecumenical and political reconciliation in nations like Uganda. At this point, I presume to offer a definition: in Christian theology, grace is understood as God’s free and loving determination to act with the utmost mercy towards those who are opposed to Him. Grace is essentially God's will to embrace His enemy. In this way, principles of the Christian doctrine of grace may translate into workable proposals as to how Christians should go about seeking peace among one another. Accordingly, I propose that Ugandan Christians who are divided by doctrine must give rigorous attention to the essential tradition in which all Christian doctrines are situated.

The central principle of the Christian tradition is grace. Any confessing Christian of any denomination will locate the conceptual center of his faith at the Cross, where God is believed to have poured out His very life for the sake of His indebted and impoverished creature, thereby inviting the enemy into his good fellowship. If Ugandan Christians have identified their theological disagreements as irreconcilable, if they have identified one another as the enemy, it remains to them to treat their enemies in the way that Christ treated His enemies: with grace, with service, and with embrace."

Pray for Those in Chains: Unborn Children

We believe that unborn babies are human persons, to whom God calls and whom He thus invests with unspeakable value and dignity, no matter how small their little bodies may be; and yet so many of them suffer unremembered, unprotested abandonment when "excess" embryos (embryonic little children, to be precise), having been fertilized and brought to life for use in modern reproductive technologies, are discarded.

... so imagine my delight when I heard of a beautiful change in the current momentum: while Christian Right interest groups invest, and conservative think tanks think, and lobbyists lobby, and the little man on my corner holds out posters depicting aborted babies, some young couples who follow our Lord have commenced a reasonable service, the kind of quietly decisive action that can change a culture's heart more than its laws.

Janna and Matthew Weiler have "adopted" fourteen discarded embryos to be implanted in Janna's womb. Their first child from this procedure, little Sam, was born in October 2005; you can see his picture and read more about their story here. (Word on the Street is that the Weilers were recieved into the Roman Catholic Church this past November)

This is the kind of thing that will make the jaws of our cultural values drop. The earliest Christians showed their love for the creatures of their Savior by providing decent burials for the poorest of the poor; these modern, true Christians are providing life and a family for the most silent, defenseless, and unknown little people in our universe.

Organizations which sponsor embryo adoption include The National Embryo Donation Center and Nightlight Christian Adoption Center. You might also be interested in Anne Barbeau Gardiner's recent essay on "The Soul of the Embryo."

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Our Belief: No, it's not a construct, projection, etc.

"To say that religion is a human projection does not logically preclude the possibility that the projected meanings may have an ultimate status independent of man. Indeed… the anthropological ground of these projections may itself be the reflection of a reality that includes both world and man, so that man’s ejaculations of meaning into the universe ultimately point to an all-embracing meaning in which he himself is grounded… this would imply that man projects ultimate meanings into reality because that reality is, indeed, ultimately meaningful, and because his own being contains and intends the same ultimate meanings…I want to at least suggest this possibility to the theologian."

- Peter Berger, Boston University
The Sacred Canopy

Strange things afoot at the Yale Divinity School

I think I'll post this article without comment and let our resident Yalies weigh in on it on their own. You must be so proud.

Did Calvin Have Bishop Envy?

Broadly speaking, it seems that Calvin speaks in two very different tones when he describes the office of the church's pastor and the office of the civil magistrate. When describing the office of the pastor, Calvin proceeds rather circumspectly, emphasizing the mutual accountability that should exist between the duly elected and communally ordained pastor and his congregation. On the other hand, when Calvin describes the office of the magistrate, he seems eager to expand on the sanctity of the magistrate’s divine appointment and divine, intrinsic authority.

At the outset of Institutes IV.20.4, Calvin elaborates that when those who bear the office of the magistrate are called gods, let no one suppose that there is little weight in that appellation. It is thereby intimated that they have a commission from God, that they are invested with divine authority, and in fact, represent the person of God, as whose substitutes they in a manner act.

This language of “divine appointment” and the implicit duty of ready obedience vis a vis the magistrate is not so readily apparent when Calvin elaborates on the divinely invested authority of the pastor, who wields authority in a seemingly more modest sense: he is invested with the authority to preach the Gospel, to oversee the sacraments, and to maintain the conditions necessary for a consensus of belief in his local congregation.

Calvin indicates that the government of both the ecclesial and the secular spheres contribute to human well- being in very different ways: the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government “are things widely separated,” and though they are not adverse to one another, “government is distinct from the spiritual and internal kingdom of Christ.” Furthermore, Calvin urges that “it is a Jewish vanity to seek and include the Kingdom of Christ under the elements of this world.” Why then does Calvin seem to cast the role of the civil magistracy in terms of God’s direct deputies, as “patrons of the pious worshippers of God,” whose tribunals “are the throne(s) of the living God,” “whose mouths are ordained organs of divine truth,” and whose “hands have been appointed to write the acts of God”? While the church’s pastors merely maintain and extend the authority that inheres at large in the Church’s deposit of doctrine, Calvin uses language which resonates with Ignatius’ description of the Church’s bishops when he posits that the civil magistrates “in themselves exhibit a kind of image of the Divine Providence.”

Having posited the pastor as mere “dispenser” of extrinsic authority and democratically elected leader, Calvin turns to employ language of God’s direct appointment, mediation, and representation in the person of the magistrate, or “pastor of the people.” In particular, in IV.20.6, the magistrate “judges not for man, but for the Lord;” he is the ambassador of God in a “sacred order.” In IV.20.6, Calvin suggests that the insult of God’s civil servants insults God Himself and the authority and ordinances which He established; furthermore, “the magistrate…acts not of himself but executes the very judgments of God.” Finally, and most significantly, we find in IV.20 notions of obedience to the magistrate as God’s representative, as having been “invested” with intrinsic authority, that are almost entirely absent from Calvin’s discussions on the office of the pastor. In IV.20.22, Calvin insists that obedience with reverence is due even to unjust rulers, recognizing their “delegated jurisdiction from God, and on that account receiving and reverencing them as the ministers and ambassadors of God.” In the same passage, Calvin continues that the king is “joined” with God, and hence appears as the image of God, and is “invested with a kind of sacred veneration and dignity.”

Having admitted the eternal authority of the Church, “the pillar and ground of God’s truth,” Calvin then proceeds to deny intrinsic power and consequent obedience to her ministers and governors, and locates direct divine representation in the civic ruler instead. While the ministers of the Church derive their authority from the authority of the Church’s deposit of faith, civil magistrates “derive their power from none by (God).” While the church’s ministers are democratically elected for ordination, civil magistrates are “raised up by God.” Having been commissioned for their respective offices, the church’s ministers are not granted an intrinsic capacity for their ministry, while the civil magistrates …all alike posses that sacred majesty with which he has invested lawful power… even an individual of the worst character, one most unworthy of all honor, if invested with public authority, receives that illustrious divine power which the Lord has by his word devolved on the ministers of his justice...

What's going on here? Why are the ministers of Christ's Kingdom in the Church cast as bureacrats, while the mere civil magistrate sounds like a demigod in Calvin's thinking? Is it possible that Calvin is seeking to fill a kind of vacuum in his Reformed ecclesiology by elaborating on the civil ruler as being, in a sense, in persona christi? Is Calvin desperately searching for Christ’s vicar- albeit in the secular locale? In the absence of catholic bishops, is Calvin compensating by (unduly) enhancing the role of the magistrate? Is Calvin suggesting that the civil magistrate mediates between God and the people...?

... The One in whom he is does His work through him, for the sake of which he is entirely freed by the witness of God Himself ... who is the worker of this work to the profit of this Soul who no longer has within him any work.

These showings make him deep, large, supreme, and sure.

The liberated soul believes that) there never was, nor is there, nor will there ever be anything worse than she, nor (anything) better loved by the One who loves her.

You have nothing to delay in giving up yourselves, for no one can rest in the highest restful repose if he is not fatigued first -- of this I am certain. Let the Virtues have what is theirs in you by sharpening the will in the core of the affection of your spirit until they have acquitted you of what you owe Jesus Christ.

There is no greater life than always to will His will.

- Marguerite of Poret, 1306

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SS. Perpetua & Felicitas, AD 202

"Now it is I that suffer what I suffer; but then Another will be in me, who will suffer for me, because I also am about to suffer for Him."

Great Article for Single-Issue Voters...

I must admit that I don't particularly care about the upcoming elections in 2008. As much as I hate being categorized, I fall squarely into the "Christian right, one issue voter, with no one to vote for" category. Rudy Giuliani - ugh. John McCain - ugh again. Don't even get me started on the Dems. What they want is for me to lighten my stance on abortion. Even if I did, even a little, I would still seem extreme to these people. For crying out loud, my family boycotts companies that support abortion. We go without Kraft Mac n' Cheese, trips to World Market, and I've even started using old double-edge safety razors since finding out that Gillette Mach3s are verboten.

Lately, I have taken this stance on the politics of abortion, following the likes of Father Frank Pavone - NO COMPROMISES! EVERY LIFE PROTECTED, EVERY LIFE SACRED - DO YOU HEAR ME? NO COMPROMISES!

And I have, wrongly, felt rather brazen and thickheaded in my opposition to these people. Until today, reading the following from the National Catholic Register:
"Rudy’s deal: He’ll promise not to push the pro-abortion agenda, and he’ll nominate judges in the mold of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Pro-lifers in the Republican Party in return would support him, but keep insisting that the party stay pro-life, and fight our fiercest pro-life battles at the state level, where they belong.

That seems like a good deal, at first blush. We’re well aware that “forced conversions” to the pro-life fold are far from the ideal. Think of the candidacy of Bob Dole in 1996. And it is true that the fight against judicial tyranny is an immense front in the battle for the right to life. Transforming the courts is a prerequisite to victory elsewhere.

But what dooms the deal from the start is the fact that it totally misunderstands what pro-lifers care about in the first place.

When they ask us to “be reasonable” and go along with a pro-abortion leader, they assume that there is something unreasonable about the pro-life position to start with.

We’re sorry, but we don’t see what is so unreasonable about the right to life. We’ve seen ultrasounds, we’ve named our babies in the womb, we’ve seen women destroyed by abortion. What looks supremely unreasonable to us is that we should trust a leader who not doesn’t only reject the right to life but even supports partial-birth abortion, which is more infanticide than abortion."
I feel better now.

If you get a chance, read the whole thing, compliments of the editors of the National Catholic Register.

Now now dearie, use your femminine pronouns

I've about had it. The next time a White European Male professor with fewer degrees than I've got tells me that I cannot refer in my extensive writing to "mankind" or the masculine pronoun "he" or "his" for the human being, or the Fatherhood of God, or the Sonship of Christ, etc. I am going to throw a royal fit.

... actually, no time like the present.

Femminists, God bless them, have exploited the rhetoric of The Oppressed! to revise the way we speak about one another. They have thus distorted the beauty of the English language and the dignity of a woman's right to self-expression in the academy. - We have to refer to "humanity," never use the masculine pronoun (though we can use FEMMININE pronouns, which is hilarious when one is speaking about historically male-dominated cultures), and above all, God must be "Mother" and "Nurturer" and "Sustainer," etc. etc. Which makes things very difficult when once wishes to refer to Christ's robust language of His Father. Which makes things difficult when one is perpetually sick of being patronized for (her) refusal to be a femminist.

Even with references to our predominately male-behaving God aside, I prefer to use masculine pronouns. Why?

1. Because I am a Christian. As such, I believe that all of humanity- and especially we baptized- are categorically and really identified by this MAN, Christ the Lord. We are capitulated by this male. We believe that we are from Him, through Him, in Him. We believe that in some sense, every person ever created is from Him, through Him, in Him, even for Him. He is before all persons, and by Him all things consist. We hope, in the end, to be regarded as "in" Him, under His juridical and ontological headship and hence constituted by His merits and safe under His protection from judgment. Thus- from His masculinity- it becomes perfectly rational to refer to persons in general with the masculine pronoun.

2. Because I am my father's daughter. Like it or not, my life has in a very precious way been lived "through" this amazing man who lays his life down to promote the women in his life. He was instrumental in my creation. He protected me and trained me and made sure that I had every opportunity that he and I could imagine. He inspires me. He interrupts his meetings to take my calls. He takes me around the world and insists that I never neglect a single dream. Someday, God willing, I will similarly live my life "through" and "in" my husband. In as much as my whole life is characterized by the gifts, love, and leadership of such men, it makes sense that I would employ... masculine pronouns.

With this in mind, I recall that language is supposed to be an instrument for honoring the other. Language, with its grammatical order and normative clarity, was (and should be) a means of the charity to which we are called in every moment. When this woman refers to the masculine pronoun, I freely honor the men in my life. (If the men in my life were to become so besotted with me that they insisted on always using femminine pronouns in my particular honor, well then, more power to 'em). As a woman who is willing to use masculine pronouns, I honor all men as fundamentally other than myself, and with whom I stand in loving solidarity as persons nonetheless. It's all about charity, people.

All this to say: I am a traditional, conservative, catholic Christian girl who regards herself in the man Christ Jesus, and who honors her Dad among men, and I am thus become a voice of the marginalized.

Off to overthrow the oppressors.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


"The author includes practical exercises in how to shake for physical therapeutic benefit, and he shows how these techniques lead ultimately to the shaking medicine that both enables and enhances spiritual attunement. The book also includes a 40-minute CD of ecstatic drumming music to use while shaking." Here.

I believe I will stick with unction...

God's Names & Ours

Tonight for the home fellowship I lead, I plan on speaking to our group about the many names that God has given us to describe Himself in the Bible. Here is a great website with many of those names: It includes Scriptural references as well. Some of my favorites are Jehovah-Shalom: "The LORD our Peace," Jehovah-Tsidkenu: "The LORD our Righteousness," and El Roi: "God of Seeing." Since many of the kids in our group don't realize that Biblical names revealed an aspect of that person, I am going to have the meanings of all the kids' names in the group, and we shall see if they can guess who's name means what. For a great site to find out the etymology and history of first names, check out: Two questions: 1. Do you have a favorite name for God? 2. What does your name mean?

Jesus in Beijing

This is one of the exciting titles on modern evangelism that I have wanted to read for a long time; one of our favorite readers recently finished it, and wrote this excellent review- below. I was pumped to read his thoughts. Have any of you read this great book?

Do you want to read a story about adventure? -courage? -a grand battle? geopolitics? This book has it all. This is the story of Christianity in China throughout the past 2,000 years or so - with an emphasis on the 20th and 21st Centuries. Written by David Aikman, who is the former Bureau Chief of Time Magazine in Beijing, the book is a very thorough and eye opening journalistic report on modern day trials and victories of the Church in China. Much like the reading about the First Century Church in the Book of Acts, be prepared to be amazed! God’s Spirit is moving and radically changing China, from the common man’s house to the ranks of the Government; proof that God’s will and purposes cannot be thwarted by the plans of men.

But that is not all, God’s purposes are bigger that just China. The Chinese Church has the distinct understanding that their calling is to take the Gospel back to the Middle East and to the Muslim world and they are currently preparing to do so. In a nutshell, this book tells a piece of the story about how the Gospel of Christ is changing the world and the hearts of men as it continues its unstoppable march westward around the globe. This is the piece of the story we are witnessing. You will be encouraged and reminded of the almighty power of our God.

- MB

Also! - Shrine of the Holy Whapping is offering this fun test today, where you can see whether your URL is blocked in China; Theology of the Body is definately blocked. I tested it in Beijing last spring.

Our Belief: It's in our genes

Among other biologists delving into the cognitive dimensions of religious experience, Dean Hamer had the social/scientific theorists of religion abuzz with this watershed work, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.

In short, Dr. Hamer posits that it is not at all far-fetched to look for the predisposition for such beliefs engraved in our genetic code. The implications are obvious. And Dr. Hamer is extremely cute.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Calvin's Institutes

... are available online- yup, the whole austere- and frequently profound and beautiful- shebang.

Sometimes I seriously wonder how anyone ever studied theology before the days of electronically available resources. Now the question for you readers is this: any suggestions of a cliff's notes version????

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Archeoporn: The Discovery Channel's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," etc.

... I have just neglected a huge paper for the past three hours, having become engrossed in The Episode. Here is my charitable synopsis: High Drama. On the other hand, I am more inclined to go with the learned critics on point: ...High Drama.

Once we got past the fun, glossy bits of Jesus and Mary Mags, a'la dear Mr. Dan Brown, punctuated by music that would have been more at home in Amityville, and over-edited commentary from experts who are presently irate about being misquoted, we had Ted Koppel's feilding of conversation between the film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, and various theology professors. (Simcha Jacobovici has been described as "the Israeli-Canadian doppleganger of fellow muckraking American filmmaker Michael Moore, down to the girth and silly hats.") The conversations commenced in "A Critical Look" after the episode aired. The panel included James Tabor of UNC (who seems to have bartered his soul at some point), Fr. David O'Connell of Catholic U (who disappointed), Jonathan Reed, and Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, (who thankfully did a great job- and he has a blog).

Frankly, the critiques of the presentation that came up in this conversation with Koppel are what interest me. They are as follows, for better or for worse:

1) Simcha's selective presentation makes archeology look bad, as though it were a fun and value-laden game in which presumptions and contingencies can be weakly linked together to "substantiate" a prior premise. By extension, Simcha also denigrates the "educational" efforts that host him, since his deceptively over-dramatic presentations do not in any way prompt or accomodate critical thought. Simcha has thus shown himself to be a Very Bad Journalist.

2) Among the overly hasty inferences that are drawn, the presentation in every case draws final conclusions from inadequate samplings. Certainly the experts involved were embarrassed by such conclusions- the panel was constantly handing around emails, documents, etc. from various upset forensic investigators and others throughout the session. In several key instances, Simcha arbitraily decides that DNA evidence and name associations are conclusive where only one test was performed among dozens of possible tests. In every instance where Simcha noted a "conclusive match," experts were really saying "similar" or "possibly linked," or, "impossible to say on the evidence." Hello, dramatic and unjustified inferences. Hello, bad bad science.

...So this leaves us with the theologians who were there to defend the faith. God bless them, but tsk-tsk. For the most part, it was whiny. And weak.
I say: this faith in Christ is handed down from eye witnesses who were willing to die in support of their claims that a crucified man had risen bodily from the grave. Therefore, He must be God. EVERYTHING depends on His bodily Resurrection. We would have no Christian faith at all without it. So thus we have the Christian faith. (Thus you have this particular Christian, up blogging at midnight). As St. Paul puts it in I Corinthians 15, if Christ is not risen, we are of all people most miserable. But I, with millions of others who love that wild young man from Galilee, hold that He did rise. Why? Because the Risen Lord was seen. Because the credibility of the witnesses can carry the day.
The show has a major burden of proof to overcome–about 2,000 years of Christian belief, love, experience, and worship of the risen Christ.

Now I have to finish my paper.

Friday, March 02, 2007

"We are being pushed toward a decision by impatient forces"

..."The majority of this church is willing to live with where we are in regard to human sexuality, or to continue to move ahead in recognizing the full and equal dignity of gay and lesbian Christians, and the appropriateness of their serving in all orders of ministry in this church."

Presiding Bishop Schori spoke to (provoked?) the Church this past Wednesday, exhibiting all manner of inclination towards charitable reconciliation with the rest of the orthodox in the Anglican Communion, both in her tone and content. - After all, as presiding bishop of N. America, such charity and effort towards union is her bounden duty.


The Transcript of the whole irritating thing is here, thanks to Stand Firm in Faith.

Speaking of, has anyone lately checked out the Great Canon of Repentence by St. Andrew of Crete? It's wonderful...

Pray for those in chains: Native Americans

Remember them that are in chains, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in that body.
Hebrews 13:3

American Christians, of all people, need to 'fess up that these innocent and dignified people were oppressed, starved, and in various ways left to die in instances of a most gross injustice. Their struggles with addiction, poverty, and an illiterate culture thus continue today; and it is our fault. We should pray for them with repentance and contrition for ourselves, and where we can, attempt practically to stand with them in hope for a more charitable and promising future in our country.

Hat-tip: various sermons on point by Derek Prince.