A Quick Note About What An Anathema Does Or Does Not Mean

The Church has a doctrine. The Church exists (among other things) to proclaim the Gospel, and is being led by the Spirit into all truth, and in a sinful world, that entails not only saying what is the case, but also what is NOT the case. The way this is often done in authoritative Church documents (conciliar or papal) is through anathemas. An anathema is an official declaration that someone who believes something erroneous is placed outside the visible boundaries of the Church, because he does … [Read more...]

When All Earthly Hopes Fade, That Old-Time Religion Can Be A Lifeline

Christ of saint john of the cross

I'm sure I'm not the only person who can be aggravated by what is often described, not wrongly, as the pietism, quietism and even masochism of some versions of pre-Vatican II Catholicism and spirituality.Against a spirituality that looks at suffering as something to be accepted and borne quietly, I find myself kicking and screaming about the Biblical message that God's purpose is not to allow a select few to escape from this "vale of tears" to a place called Heaven, but rather of a good c … [Read more...]

The Religion-Gospel Dichotomy

TIm Keller Karl Barth gospel religion dichotomy

I've often resisted writing about this, because what can be written about Karl Barth's religion-Gospel dichotomy other than the obvious?Namely, that like all dichotomies based on semantics, it is inherently vacuous?Namely, that while it's already ridiculous to, in any but the most cursory way, lump together arguably the most profound, the most complex, the most variegated, the richest set of human experiences and cultural institutions under the label "religion", it is ridiculous-squared t … [Read more...]

How To Rebuild Your Life In One Simple Step


Dogmatic theology is a funny thing. I assume most people who even know what the phrase refers to think of it as, if not just boring, then certainly theoretical, abstract, and removed from the concerns of daily life. Nothing could be further from the truth.Take the venerable Patristic and Scholastic doctrine that God is not ens summum, but ipsum esse subsistens, not the highest kind of being there is, but the sheer act of "to be" itself. The mystery of existence is the most profound there is i … [Read more...]

Pope Francis Should Institute A Year of Confession


It's too bad that the great expression associated with the Holy Father, "the Pope of Mercy" (I believe John Allen coined it), has become polluted by the ecclesiastical politics surrounding the Synod of the Family. The Pope is absolutely right: what Christians need right now is an avalanche of mercy (which, as the Pope is well aware, is not the same thing as cheap grace).I'm prompted by his excellent decision to make today a worldwide day of confession to write about an idea that's been going … [Read more...]