Posts Tagged ‘ Jesus ’

This View Will Change Your Life Forever

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, the remembrance of when our Lord appeared in heavenly glory upon the mountain and spoke with Moses and Elijah with Peter, James, and John on looking.  God the father spoke decisively: “He is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; Listen to him.”  One line of the Transfiguration story found in Luke stands out most to me:

They became awake and saw his glory…

The transformation of Peter, John, and James at the Transfiguration mirrors our own.  One moment they were asleep and at rest–encounter with the divine Lord jarred them from the slumber of the universe as they knew it.  Jesus’ divine kingship stirs us to move.  The reality of Jesus’ reign as king directly challenges our will toward self-reliance.  And we must to reconcile this reality with the notion that we are fully in charge of our lives and existence.  Either Jesus is king or he is not.  Either he is divine or he is not.  Either we, in turn, like the disciples become awake upon encounter or we deny his glory.

Jesus’ divine kingship remains true, but in our relativistic culture, it is easy to evade the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Tough questions are gently brushed aside.  People make broad statements such as, “That’s fine that Jesus is divine for you, but he’s not for me.”  We must open ourselves to the possibility of encounter.  When the encounter does occur, the choice remains–Jesus always gives us the choice to follow him!

While God has given me the grace of faith, I struggle with self-reliance.  It’s easy for me to try to do things all myself, which eventually leads to distrust in the Lord and worries and fears.  I lose touch with Jesus quite easily, having more faith in myself at times than I have in the Lord.  This turns my hope sour , and I am unable to give myself to the present moment and to love freely and unreservedly.

Recently, the Lord called me back to him.  I had a steady mental prayer schedule for a few months, at the guidance of a spiritual director.  While God graced me with a spirit of devotion and faith abounded for that time I lost track of that devotion upon a recent move with my family and lost track of prayer.

Minor annoyances became major obstacles as my self-reliance were inadequate for my vocation.  In God’s grace a wonderful priest friend of mine recommended a book that he was reading, Interior Freedom.  I felt compelled to pray over the book, and I have since then re-established my prayer routine.  While I have not been fully free of self-reliance I am again opening myself to the daily encounters with our Lord.  These encounters strengthen me and purify my will.

My prayer routines do not have the same drama as the Transfiguration, but yet I am grateful for prayer as my touchstone with divinity.  I pray that I continue to open myself up in my daily life and “Listen to him.”

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“Liberal” Catholics Are Not Progressive Enough

I don’t understand actions and attitudes quite common in many American Roman Catholic  believers, attitudes which are, at their core, the fruits of the Enlightenment.  Ideals such as freedom and progress, as defined and practiced by today’s standards are fine.  But when mixed with Christianity–I get confused when Enlightenment-defined freedom subverts Christian freedom.  That is merely one example.

For the longest time, I rationalized that perhaps believers of this persuasion were simply heirs to the Enlightenment, and that was all they knew.  Indoctrinated in Enlightenment thought, they learned to emphasize Enlightenment values over any other values.  They received a thoroughly Enlightenment-influenced education and control a media landscape with a tendency toward brainwashing “progressivism.”

But people have a choice.  They are rational beings with a heart and a soul, who can make choices.  Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular presents a starkly contrasting view.  Christianity presents a more progressive view of  life, humanity, the future, death, and all sorts of terribly important aspects of living, compared with the drab gray, literally hopeless Enlightenment landscape.

Enlightenment living is static–for something is only better if it supports the meta-narrative of progress-de jure.  Since objective truths and values are anathema, real, lasting progress is only an ideal and can never be a reality in Enlightenment-influenced living.   Truly, the academy and the media concoct and promote a view of life so limiting, so anti-progress.   The axiom goes something like this: I am who I am and you are who you are, and that’s enough.   How is that progressive?

Want real choice?  Christianity offers expansive freedom and choice.  Want real, deep down hope?  Christianity offers that as well.  Believe in humanism?  The goodness of humanity at the core?  Christianity offers a deeper, comprehensive view of humanity.  Want to help people?  Real, lasting help?  Help which transcends ideology?  That started and ends with Christianity as well.

What I don’t understand is why believers prefer a twisted, anti-Christian brand of Christianity to what is really there. Why, when given the choice between the candy-saccharine heterodox Christianity and the joyous feast which orthodoxy provides, that heterodoxy is ever chosen?

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Beauty” said it better, as always:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to eagerly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Of course in reality, it’s not an either-or endeavor.  None of us is perfect.  None of us is precisely obedient to the Lord and His Church.  All of us land on a continuum between heteropraxy and orthopraxy.

But, I’m not talking about heteropraxy (doing things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthopraxy (doing things in line with the Lord’s teachings and His Church).

I’m talking about heterodoxy (believing in things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthodoxy (believing in things in line with the Lord and His Church).  We all fall short, in practice.  To soak-in, breathe, teach, and argue for non-truth (heterodoxy), to the exclusion of truth–that is what I don’t understand.

Christianity is the true progressive heuristic, as compared with paganism or deterministic humanism/scientism or anything else.  Buddhism, teaching that people can become one, is progressive, but falls short of the progressivism of Christianity.  Christianity believes that people can actually progress–to be more like God–and to unite with God.  That doctrine is infinitely more progressive than any other belief conjured by the Democratic party, or by the overlords of scientism and the Enlightenment.

What is more progressive than knowing that each person’s potential is infinite?  A limited, constricting view of progressivism propagated by contemporary ruling powers falls short of the true progressivism taught by Christianity:

God Himself was born.  He healed and taught.  He suffered, died, and rose again.  Through sanctifying grace we can rise as well, as He did.

Now that’s progress!

Top 10: a postmodern deconstruction of the Francis interview

The pope’s recent progressive manifesto is still fresh.  Soon, leading academics will use their scalpels and deconstruct the meta-narrative of the Real Faith–you know, the one graciously bestowed on those who could read the Vatican 2 documents like tarot cards and intuit the “spirit of Vatican 2.” Well, you saw it here first. Here are the top 10 axioms we can read from Francis’s interview, if we tilt our heads just right and squint:

1. The church (actually, just the hierarchy) has, until this interview, taught with strict moral authority that only those who can read, understand, and follow arcane and old-fashioned rules can be a member of the church.

2. Said individuals, the elect, were said to have a basic, God-given right to disparage and publicly humiliate anyone who didn’t follow said arcane rules.

3. Henceforth, from last Thursday until the end of eternity, issues deemed by elite academics to be sensitive, such as abortion, are to receive the status similar to usury–yes, it’s technically a sin, but we can retire from speaking about it, cause it’s not that big of a deal.

4. Pope Francis, progressive though he may be, is not perfect. He did in fact break his own guideline about staying quiet about abortion by speaking out vehemently against the “throw away culture,” which so easily discards its most vulnerable members.

5. The Church really doesn’t have any business talking about imperatives any more than it has business maintaining traditions of the past.  The Church of now is the Church of reform.  It’s time to get going and get with the times.  The Church doesn’t know exactly where it’s going, but there is sure to be plenty of poor people to patronize…er…help.

6. Magisterium is out.  Collaboration and personal intuition is in.  Francis rejects the idea that there can be a governing body of the Church which, with the authority bestowed by Jesus Christ, teach the world about the human condition and its relationship to God.

7. Similarly, Francis teaches (infallibly) that the Church does not have any authority to teach about morals.  The Church may have some strong “opinions,” but really, whatever suits you is fine, man.

8. The Pope cares more about poverty than religion.  He claims to be a “son of the Church,” when it comes to religious-based  moral teachings, but really, that’s just a cop-out.  He’s not that in to religion, just like you and me!

9.  God is not in the past, but in the future.  We need to look at the signs of the times and read the theology of the now, rather than old, tattered pages from some ancient book.

10. Most importantly, the Catholic Church, especially with regards to its teaching, is malleable because it made mistakes.  Once it starts reading more Slate and less First Things, it will see how despicably counter-cultural and radical it has been for the past 2000+ years.

Pope Francis loves gays and abortion-seekers: Antinomianism or grace?

Pope Francis knows how to shake things up, eh? While I have net yet read the whole interview (another post to come about that), it made me think of a comment that Adam recently posted on this site.  I had posted about how I get caught up in thinking about theology that I fail to encounter the One I study.  Or I argue about a point about the faith, but ignore the reason for the faith in the first place, Jesus.

It’s hard.  I think our intentions are right and true in that we want to seek out God.  But that is the problem.  We are seeking for God, while God is seeking for us.  It’s not like a meet in the middle kind of thing.  When we go looking for God, as if we are on an expedition, we won’t find him.  I think it’s about, rather, allowing God to find us.  Accepting God’s invitation.  The problem is, while that may be true, it seems so ethereal, so touchy-feely.  I get the feeling like holiness is much more simple, much more common, everyday.  If holiness isn’t simply living a bunch of rules (like our pope recently indicated), but rather an encounter, what does that mean?  What are the practical implications?  If it doesn’t actually involve doing something, then what is it?  Holiness isn’t just doing good.  It is accepting grace.  But what does that mean?

How does one encounter the Lord Jesus?  I don’t really know.  But I think it has something to do with mercy, accepting forgiveness, and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I think it involves a search for Truth and Goodness.  I think it involves healing and being and allowing Love to seep through the bark to the place we are most vulnerable.  Rules do not come quite yet.  Once we have this encounter with Jesus, we are given a choice–much like Jesus’ contemporaries had a choice after they encountered Him.  Will I come and follow?  Will I put down my nets, my boat, my family, my friends, my life as I know it, and follow?

But why?  Why would anyone in their right minds follow?  Our post-modern, skeptical self says, “What’s in it for me?”  Everything: living water, eternal life, everlasting food.  It’s the ultimate bargain with implications for eternity.  The question lingers–what will I choose?

Jesus tells those he healed:

“Go, and sin no more.”

After healing, forgiveness, and change of heart, then we are compelled, on our own accord, to seek the Kingdom of God, to know His ways, and to sin no more.  The grace we receive from healing and forgiveness opens our hearts to the longing that we have had all along, to live according to God’s commandments, such as living an authentic person-affirming chastity or living the virtues.

But didn’t you say that the natural virtues–living a good life–should lead unbelievers to Christ?  What now, you equivocating sophist?

I may be a sophist, but I don’t equivocate (here at least).

If we live the virtues, we will have a taste of Truth and Goodness, which can lead us to that encounter.  Living a good life takes us far, but only accepting God’s supernatural grace into our lives–and in response to God’s gift of grace, live our lives according to His will–can we live truly and deeply, with supernatural virtue.  Holiness, ultimate living, requires us to take a step beyond just “being a good person,” or even living a virtuous life.  It requires us to constant encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.

It’s a cycle of encounter, healing, grace, and transformation.  That transformation gives us a deeper sense of Jesus Christ, which in turn leads to a deeper encounter, and thus, the blessed cycle continues.

Transformation without healing and grace can only lead to idolatry.  That is, if I teach my children to follow God’s rules, but don’t teach them about the God who gives the rules, and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent to set me free from the bonds of death, in order that I can have eternal life, I lead my children to an idol.  I need to lead them to the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy:

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.

This is the Gospel. This is what it is all about, and this is, I think (though I haven’t fully read the piece) is what Pope Francis is driving at when he talked about the Church being “obsessed” with homosexuality and abortion. From the little I have read, this is what it is all about. He teaches that it’s not about living a code of rules. Christianity is not a code of rules. It is an encounter with a Person, Christ Jesus.

By his most recently published comments, he is not eliminating rules from Christian Living.  He is not saying that we shouldn’t have rules or follow rules.  Thus, he is not an antinomian.  But rather, he rightly emphasizes grace which only comes through an encounter with the Living Christ, Jesus our Lord.

Things that we shouldn’t be

While chastising religious folk for moralizing and proselytizing, the media juggernaut’s hypocrisy shines through in its language.  They have something to say about life and this world.  They pick a side and argue it, but only implicitly.  One sneaky way they do that is by carefully inserting phrases or descriptors that are meant to give the reader a slight nudge toward a perspective.  The following is one of many things we shouldn’t be, according to our culture.

The New England Patriots have released polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow, [emphasis mine]

We shouldn’t be polarizing.  What does polarizing mean?  It means that the person causes divisions.  The person does not conform to established implicit customs.  They don’t “get along” with the culture, in the sense of going along with what everyone else is doing.

Tebow is polarizing because he expresses his views and his attitude attempts to be Christ’s.  I don’t really know his story very well, but I know that there are a lot of Tebow-haters (and lovers) out there who hate (or love) what he says and how he acts…because he tries to be Christlike.  This is a sin against the (pretentious) established custom that if your views are contrary to the cultural zeitgeist, you should really keep them to yourself.  We don’t want to rustle any feathers.  We don’t want to offend anyone by claiming an alternative perspective.  Ironies about this perspective are many.

  1. If one shouldn’t express strong opinions or values, then there shouldn’t be anyone telling me that, because that meant that they are expressing their strong, polarizing values.
  2. So many others are polarizing, such as politicians.  Most politicians are polarizing.  Religious figures are polarizing.  Whole sports teams are polarizing.  You can’t just be “meh” about the Yankees–you either love em or hate em.

What is most astounding is that the drama of our culture over the past century is a cycle.  The revolutionaries (political, military, or cultural) perceive an injustice.  That take arms (or sometimes pens, or just take over academia) and gain a tremendous amount of power.  One would think that once they have this power, they would use it to achieve justice?  No.  Not at all.  While using and abusing the narrative of justice, they establish their own order of justice.  They change the definitions.  They change the language to teach us deeper realities about life.

Would that we all were so bold as to be polarizing.  That would mean that we would stand for something.  That people identified specific principles we hold dearly upon which we base the actions of our lives.  I think that is partly what Jesus means when he says that he comes not for peace, but for division.

Update:

Not surprisingly, ESPN updated their post about this story.  In that story, there is no mention of “polarizing” or any sort of perspective taken against Tebow.  Kudos to ESPN for staying objective and staying out of the culture wars.  Perhaps they have gotten enough guff with their decision not to produce a piece about the negative effects of concussions on NFL athletes, purportedly due to being bribed by the NFL to stay quiet.

 

The Opening Argument

We are all in the midst of cultural battles.  Some of us are more entrenched than others.  But all of us at some point have made some attempt to fight the good fight, so to speak, against the forces of evil in our culture.

Some focus on apologetics.  Maybe some moral philosophy.  I know that I have been trying to get at first principles, possibly a combination of those.

I keep on coming back to something else though, and a First Things post really summed it up well.

If Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to open the door to eternal life to me, then every other concern takes a back seat to the radical implications of His call on my life.

The author goes on to explain that the reason for his belief and insistence on any number of social positions is because the Gospel is True.  Not because he has explored the ins and outs of the argument, or because Ryan T. Anderson or Peter Kreeft provided yet another slam-dunk argument for it.

No.  It’s about Jesus, and grace.  It’s about forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body.   It’s about the Church.  The author quotes C. S. Lewis:

One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because you think it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will at every moment try to escape from the issue ‘True—or False’ into stuff about a good society, or morals, or the incomes of Bishops, or the Spanish Inquisition, or France, or Poland — or anything whatever. You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine … [t]heir belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.

This last part is the most important part.  The veracity of the faith is the hinge on the door between ecstasy and insanity.  How much easier, the author continues, it would be to be all for all the standard contemporary left-wing causes.  The last thing that our religion is, is easy.  Nietzsche is credited with the phrase that religion is the opium of the masses.  Radical militant non-believers such as Freud argue(d) that religion is just some comfort blanket to help people cope with daily and existential anxieties.

This is true.  For a lot of Christians.  I won’t deny it.  Many Christians turn to the faith in times of distress.  Many lean on their faith.  The faith is comforting, sort of.  If you read what the Gospels actually say, the Gospel is only comforting for those who can stand it.  For those who are willing to suffer.  To give their lives.  To be last.  To carry a cross.  To turn the other cheek.  To fall on the ground and die, like wheat.  To be obedient to a master like sheep.

This doesn’t seem like opium.  But it’s true.  It’s true.  And it’s the only really True thing.  Gay marriage, abortion, all of those things pale in comparison to our striving for holiness.  And it is the veracity of the faith that compels us–beyond natural, worldly reason–to stand up in the public square, and object.