Commemorating or undoing the Reformation?

On Reformation Day, October 31, the Pope will commemorate the Reformation in a common service with Lutherans in Sweden.

Michael Root, in The Christian Century, discusses the event, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, and gets into the difficulties it and related events scheduled for the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses have been posing for Catholics.  Nothing is said about the difficulties they might pose for Lutherans.

But such unionistic services raise the question:  Is the intention to celebrate (what Protestants are saying), commemorate (what Catholics are saying) or undo the Reformation (what would seem to be the ecumenical agenda)? [Read more…]

St. Teresa of Calcutta, saint of darkness

Mother Teresa was canonized on Sunday, officially declared to be a saint.  It isn’t necessary to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate this woman, who ministered to the poor and the dying on the streets of Calcutta.

Her example and the sense of holiness she conveyed persuaded many, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, to become a Christian.  Nevertheless, it is said that she experienced spiritual doubt and depression, a “dark night of the soul” that lasted some 50 years.

She wrote, “If I’m going to be a saint, I’m going to be a saint of darkness, and I’ll be asking from heaven to be the light of those who are in darkness on Earth.”  According to a priest involved with her canonization, she experienced both the physical poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

I have heard this period of darkness referred to as evidence that Teresa “was not perfect,” but I think it makes her holiness more believable.  The life of faith is not “perfection,” nor constant joy; rather, it often involves what Luther called “tentatio”–struggle, conflict, agony of conscience–and her descriptions of her depression shows that her faith was in Christ and not her own good works, which she had in such abundance.

In honor of her canonization, I will link and excerpt the speech she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, in which she gave a compelling critique of abortion.  Afterwards, she received a standing ovation, with President and Mrs. Clinton, also on the dais, staying in their seats.

[Read more…]

The six signs of demonic possession?

Beliefnet has an interview with Father Gary Thomas, a Vatican-certified exorcist that is very interesting, though I’m not sure what I think of it.  After the jump, I give his “six classic signs of demonic possessions,” as well as what he says about how to protect yourself from demons.

Two of the signs are “aversion to the sacred” and “the rolling of the eyes.”  I knew it!  Teenagers who don’t want to go to church and give you that eye-rolling look are possessed by the devil!

But, really, being in thrall to Satan is surely less dramatic than what is described here, a matter of being in bondage to sin and unbelief.  Just as protecting yourself from Satan is also undramatic–go to church, pray, have faith in Christ, etc.–which Father Thomas says, though in terms of Roman Catholic theology.

And yet, I’m not denying that these extreme cases exist.  What do you think?  What is the distinctly Roman Catholic theology in what Father Thomas says? [Read more…]

Why won’t bishops discipline Joe Biden? 

Vice President Joe Biden performed a gay wedding earlier this month, getting special certification from the District of Columbia to allow him to do so.  He also supports the right to an abortion.  Both put him squarely against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet he remains an active member in good standing.

Westminster Seminary theologian Carl Trueman asks, why doesn’t the appropriate bishop discipline him?  Is there anything a Catholic politician could do that would get him in trouble with the church?

Trueman is Reformed, not Catholic, so he sees church discipline as one of the marks of the church.  Since, as we have seen, Catholics can go to Hell, perhaps church discipline is not so important in that tradition, though one would think such a possibility would be a matter for pastoral care.  How would other church bodies, such as Lutherans, come down on this? [Read more…]

ELCA makes new accord with Catholics

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the theologically liberal Lutheran denomination) has arrived at a new accord with the Roman Catholic Church, focusing on church, ministry, and eucharist. Read the document here.

After giving all of the agreements that were found, the document gives the issues of disagreement that remain:  the papacy and women’s ordination (which ELCA practices).

That would sound like Missouri Synod Lutherans, who agree that only men may be ordained into the holy ministry, are even closer to Rome than the ELCA, disagreeing only on the authority of the pope!

To be sure, there would be quite a bit of agreement even with the LCMS on church, ministry, and eucharist–though also quite a lot of disagreements that have been papered over.  (Find them.)

If the ELCA wants to heal the breach with Rome, I would encourage them now to discuss abortion, gay marriage, and sexual morality.  The differences would be much greater, though perhaps in the name of ecumenism the ELCA would change its permissive teachings. [Read more…]

“There’s no such thing as an ex-Catholic”

J. D. Flynn explains that a person who has been baptized into the Roman Catholic Church is always a Catholic and can never leave it.  Those who later reject the church’s teachings, lose their faith, join another ecclesiastical body, become atheists, or rebel against the church–such as pro-abortion politicians–are still Catholics.  But they will have to face their judgment.  The Church, he says, includes those who will be damned.

Does any of this way of thinking apply to other theologies? Can we say that there is no such thing as an ex-Lutheran? Lutherans distinguish between the visible church–which does include sinners, hypocrites, and others who are lost–and the invisible church of those who have faith in Christ.  We are baptized into the latter.  Roman Catholicism rejects that dichotomy.  But presumably someone might no longer belong to a Lutheran church but still belong to the invisible church.  And someone might not belong to the invisible church, but still be a Lutheran.  Right?  Someone help me out here.  And how does the Lutheran doctrine of baptism fit into all of this?

Also, how would this apply to once-saved-always-saved Baptists and elect Presbyterians? [Read more…]


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