Monthly Archives: February 2010

A conversation with Steve Kellmeyer on Cardinal Tauran’s statement that “We must not fear Islam”

I have mentioned Catholic apologist and adult educator Steve Kellmeyer on this blog before. You can access much of his material at Bridegroom Press, including books and podcasts.

Much of what Steve has to say is good and helpful, but in some areas he goes too far. One is in his statements about non-Catholic Christians. He does not properly appreciate the Church’s teaching and attitude toward our separated brothers and sisters. The other is in his statements about Muslims. His statements in this area match the level of vilification and misinformation displayed by Danny Nalliah and Catch the Fire Ministries and their ilk. In other words, he does not approach the subject of Muslims and Islam with the mind of the Church. He thinks he does. But he doesn’t. He ridicules and mocks Muslims and their faith in the sincere belief that he is acting with the mind of the Church.

I have been wanting to find an opportune moment to challenge him on this score, and it arose recently when Cardinal Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, gave a speech in Spain in which he declared “We must not fear Islam”. Here is the guts of the speech as reported by Zenit (I am giving this in full so you can get the context):

“We must not fear Islam,.. but I would say more: Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to serve society, constitute a richness for the latter.”

He pointed out that “in these five years, the climate of dialogue with Muslims has improved, although contrasting elements still remain.” Islam is the religion with which the council maintains the most structured relations. Among these differences, the cardinal mentioned discrimination of women and freedom of worship, which is absolutely denied in Saudi Arabia. Cardinal Tauran said that each one of us must address a “triple challenge: that of identity — to have a clear idea of the content of our faith; that of difference — knowing that the other is not necessarily an enemy; and that of pluralism — acknowledging that God is working mysteriously in each one of his creatures.” He affirmed that “for a Westerner, Islam is difficult to understand.”

“It is at the same time a religion, a society and a state,” the prelate explained, “which brings together 1.2 billion people in one great worldwide entity, the ‘ummah’. The members of this community practice the same rites, have the same vision of the world and adopt the same conduct,” he noted. “Moreover, they do not distinguish between the private and public sphere.” “This religious visibility disturbs secularized societies,” the cardinal added. “However, the new fact is that in the Western world, Muslims and non-Muslims are obliged to live together. In Europe, for example, we live with third-generation Muslims.” He observed that “we find Muslims in everyday life,” which “does not impede Christians and Muslims many times being victims of prejudice, consequence of ignorance.” “It often happens that a Christian has never spoken with a Muslim, and vice versa,” he added.

The council president affirmed that “dialogue alone allows us to overcome fear, because it allows each one to experience the discovery of the other and to bring about a meeting, and this meeting is precisely what the interreligious dialogue is about in reality.” This happens “because it is not two religions that meet, but rather men and women that the vicissitudes of life, the circumstances, favorable or unfavorable, have made companions in humanity,” he added. The cardinal stressed the need to “make an effort, on both sides, to know the religious traditions of the other, to acknowledge what separates us and what brings us close and to collaborate for the common good,” which “is no easy task.”

It calls for “interior liberty that gives place to an attitude full of respect for the other: to be able to be silent so as to listen to the other, to give him the opportunity to express himself with all freedom, and not hide or sweeten one’s own spiritual identity,” he said. The prelate continued, “Once trust is established, both sides will be able to examine freely what separates us and what unites us.”

In regard to the differences between Christians and Muslims, the cardinal explained that we are separated by “our relation with the sacred books, the concept of revelation — Christianity is not a ‘religion of the book’ — the identity of Jesus and of Mohammed, the Trinity, the use of reason, the conception of prayer.” On the other hand, he affirmed that the two religions hold several things in common: “the oneness of God, the sacredness of life, the conviction that we must transmit moral values to young people, the value of the family for the emotional and moral growth of children and the importance of religion in education.”

Cardinal Tauran affirmed that “we, Catholics, are guided and animated by the luminous teaching of Benedict XVI, who has made interreligious dialogue one of the priorities of his pontificate.” He referred, for example, to the Holy Father’s interventions in Cologne, Germany, the United States, France and the Holy Land. The council president affirmed that his dicastery has been building relations with Islam, and since 1976 meetings have been held every two years with the World Islamic Call Society of Libya. Moreover, in 1995, the Comite de Liaison Islamo-Catholique was created and, since 1998, there has been a mixed committee for dialogue between the dicastery and Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, which meets every year. The council also collaborates with the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies of Amman, Jordan, the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Tehran, Iran and the Catholic-Muslim Forum, created in 2008.

“Thanks to these human and spiritual contacts,” Cardinal Tauran pointed out that there have been several achievements such as an interreligious conference held in July, 2008 in Madrid. It took place at the invitation of the king of Saudi Arabia, and participants made unanimous affirmations on common values. The prelate also recalled the first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, held in the Vatican in November 2008. Representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed an open letter to their Christian counterparts participated in this seminar. He listed among the recent advances the interreligious meeting organized last May by the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies in Jordan on the theme “Religion and Civil Society.” This meeting “enabled Christian and Muslim participants to state that religious liberty can be adequately exercised only in a democratic society,” the cardinal noted. He added that all this represents progress, although “the great problem for me is to know how to effect it so that this change will reach the base.”

Cardinal Tauran pointed out that pastors of the Catholic Church and professors of Catholic schools and universities still rarely take into account this new context of religious pluralism. He also lamented that “European Catholics have a very weak knowledge of their faith.” “Genuine interreligious dialogue cannot be established in ambiguity or when the interlocutors do not have a defined spiritual profile,” the prelate asserted. “Thus relativism and syncretism are born.” He noted that “thanks to Islam, or better said, to Muslims who live with us, we are called to deepen our faith and to renew our catechesis.” The cardinal explained that “to engage in interreligious dialogue is not to put our own faith in brackets but, on the contrary, to proclaim it with words and behavior.” “We proclaim that Jesus is the Light that illumines all men who live in this world,” he continued. “Hence, all the positive aspects that exist in religions are not darkness, but participate in this great Light which shines above all lights.” In the Church, Cardinal Tauran stated, “we do not say that all religions have the same value, but that all those that seek God have the same dignity.”

He quoted John Paul II, recalling that the formed Pontiff affirmed that “other religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church of today.” “In fact, they lead her to discover and recognize the signs of the presence of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit, and also to deepen her identity and to witness the integrity of revelation, of which she is trustee for the good of all,” the prelate affirmed. He said that “‘Dominus Iesus’ reminds us that we must keep two truths together: the possibility, for all men, to be saved by Christ, and the necessity of the Church for salvation.”

“For those who do not belong to the Church, Christ is accessible in virtue of a grace that illumines them mysteriously and that comes from Christ,” the cardinal said. He pointed out that “Lumen Gentium” affirms that “those who without fault are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and his Church but yet seek God sincerely and, with the help of grace, make an effort with their works to fulfill his will, known through the dictate of conscience, can obtain eternal salvation.” The cardinal affirmed that truth is proposed and not imposed, and “interreligious dialogue and the proclamation of Christ are not interchangeable.” Other participants in the congress included Archbishop Javier Martínez of Granada and Bishop Adolfo González Montes of Almeria, Spain, who delivered a lecture entitled “Christianity, Enlightenment, Laicism: Reason and Faith Before Transcendent Revelation.”

I sent this report to Steve and asked him how much of this article he can assent to. This was his reply. With his permission I reproduce it in full.

I can assent to everything in the article.

There is nothing for a Christian to fear from a Muslim, because a Muslim can only take the life of a Christian, he can’t take our salvation.

I absolutely LOVE and totally agree with this quote:
“We must not fear Islam,” the prelate affirmed, “but I would say more: Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to serve society, constitute a richness for the latter.”

That’s exactly right. Christianity provides a richness to the Muslim.
That’s the point of the dialogue – to bring the Muslim to the fullness of the Catholic Faith.

Similarly, I found his remarks on other aspects of Islam to be dead-on accurate:
“…interior liberty that gives place to an attitude full of respect for the other: to be able to be silent so as to listen to the other, to give him the opportunity to express himself with all freedom, and not hide or sweeten one’s own spiritual identity.”

I am sure you are not accusing me of hiding or sweetening Catholic identity, nor do I hide or sweeten Muslim identity. Accurately representing another person’s position is the height of respect, and I work hard to accurately represent Muslim positions.

“Once trust is established, both sides will be able to examine freely what separates us and what unites us. …[we are separated by] our relation with the sacred books, the concept of revelation — Christianity is not a ‘religion of the book’ — the identity of Jesus and of Mohammed, the Trinity, the use of reason, the conception of prayer… [the two religions hold several things in common] the oneness of God, the sacredness of life, the conviction that we must transmit moral values to young people, the value of the family for the emotional and moral growth of children and the importance of religion in education.”

Exactly, exactly exactly.
Of course, in his list of similarities, the good cardinal doesn’t point out the differences – the subjugation of women, polygamy, the fact that women die at a very early age in Muslim countries as compared to non-Muslim countries (just check the demographics on that), but what he says is completely right.

He’s just being deliberately elliptical in what he says.
But so are the Muslims.

Take this, for instance:
This meeting “enabled Christian and Muslim participants to state that religious liberty can be adequately exercised only in a democratic society,” the cardinal noted.

Well, yes. But as the cardinal had just noted above, in the same set of remarks, Islam is a single social-political-religious package. Islam the religion is not democratic. So, what the cardinal notes, what Muslims and Christians agreed to, was that Islamic nations will never be democratic, and democratic nations cannot be Muslim. Democracy has to be overthrown as part of Islam making inroads into any country. There will never be religious freedom in Muslim countries. Both sides agreed on that. Why wouldn’t they? It’s true.

In the Church, Cardinal Tauran stated, “we do not say that all religions have the same value, but that all those that seek God have the same dignity.”

EXACTLY!
Islam is a lesser religion than Christianity.
So is Hinduism.
Pope Benedict recently said as much in his last encyclical letter.
But how nicely they put it!
You have to hand it to them.

I don’t believe I’ve said anything that disagrees with what the Cardinal said.
I don’t see why I would – I agree with them entirely.

Your problem is you read these documents and ASSUME they mean all kinds of things. You have to read the statements as a canon lawyer would

The rule in canon law is that words mean EXACTLY what the words say.
No more, no less.
You aren’t allowed to project meaning, implication or unsubtantiated opinion onto them. Read through the article again and tell me where I disagree with the Cardinal.

Steve

I was more than a little shocked at the way in which, it seemed to me, he was deliberately misreading the Cardinal’s statements. My reply to him gave two examples:

Dear Steve,
I find your reply more than a little surprising – I hardly think we are reading and talking about the same text. We are certainly not reading it in the same way.

You say “There is nothing for a Christian to fear from a Muslim, because a Muslim can only take the life of a Christian, he can’t take our salvation.” This is surely not what the Cardinal meant.

You say “I absolutely LOVE and totally agree with this quote: “We must not fear Islam,” the prelate affirmed, “but I would say more: Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to serve society, constitute a richness for the latter.” That’s exactly right. Christianity provides a richness to the Muslim.”

Again, you misinterpret the Cardinal and misread what he wrote. “The latter” in the sentence you quote refers to “society”, not to “Muslims”, so that the passage is to be read: “Christians and Muslims, …when they dialogue and make and effort to serve society, constitute a richness of the latter”, ie. for society.

Nevertheless, Steve persists in saying that I am the one misreading the text. His reply to me was:

“I find your reply more than a little surprising – I hardly think we are reading and talking about the same text. We are certainly not reading it in the same way. “There is nothing for a Christian to fear from a Muslim, because a Muslim can only take the life of a Christian, he can’t take our salvation.”
This is surely not what the Cardinal meant.

Really? How do you know this is not what he meant? Keep in mind that Rome has repeatedly asked for religious freedom in Muslim countries, and has repeatedly been denied. Churches cannot even be physically maintained in those countries, no external signs of Christianity are allowed, no open displays of the Bible, much less sale or availability, dozens of Christians killed every year by Muslim mobs in these same countries…

Rome is certainly very aware of all of this. She protests it constantly. So, how do you know this is not what he meant?

You said: “I absolutely LOVE and totally agree with this quote: “We must not fear Islam,” the prelate affirmed, “but I would say more: Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to serve society, constitute a richness for the latter.” That’s exactly right. Christianity provides a richness to the Muslim.”

Again, you misinterpret the Cardinal and misread what he wrote. “The latter” in the sentence you quote refers to “society”, not to “Muslims”, so that the passage is to be read: “Christians and Muslims, …when they dialogue and make and effort to serve society, constitute a richness of the latter”, ie. for society.

Really? Are you SURE??? Read through Benedict’s last encyclical, /*Charity in Truth*/, especially the following sections. My commentary is in red brackets:

#55 Some religious and cultural attitudes, however, do not fully
embrace the principle of love and truth and therefore end up
retarding or even obstructing authentic human development. There are
certain religious cultures in the world today thatdo not oblige men
and women to live in communion but rather cut them off from one
other in a search for individual well-being, limited to the
gratification of psychological desires. [Both Islam and Orthodox
Judaism forbid men and women from praying together – Islam is
especially harsh about segregating the sexes in all things through
purdah].
.. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions
persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical
beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in
attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. [“Rigid social
groupings”… hmmm… Hindu caste system, anyone?]
… Religious
freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply
that all religions are equal

#56 /Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith/: this
also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself
omnipotent. For its part,/ religion always needs to be purified by
reason /in order to show its authentically human face. Any breach in
this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human
development. [Remember, “development” is a spiritual term. This is a
commentary on both Protestantism and Islam, both of which have
historically rejected the role of reason in faith.]

Islam specifically and explicitly rejects the idea that God is bound by rationality. Tell me how Benedict is NOT condemning Islam as inflicting “an enormous price to human development” here. Tell me how the Cardinal is not simply echoing Benedict’s position. …

So in the end I asked him whether we could put this discussion to public debate and see what you think. Am I misreading Cardinal Tauran’s speech or is Steve? Who of us is approaching Muslims with “the mind of the Church”?

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Will the iPad replace the Codex?

Here is a story on Busted Halo that got me thinking: Will the iPad (or other ebook of some sort) ever replace the Codex in the liturgy?

I expect not. In religion you end up with the technology that you had when your rituals got started. The Jews never updated their liturgical ritual when the Codex was invented. They still use the Scroll, and have invested it with immense ritual significance. We have done the same with the book, carrying it in in procession, enthroning it on the reading desk, right up to blessing people with Gospel book in pontifical liturgies.

All this is possible because the book itself is an object of veneration, not simply a medium to convey information. Words are things – in classical Hebrew the word for “thing” is the same as the word for “word”. The holy words inscribed in the scroll or the book make the book itself holy. The iPad or the ebook on the other hand – like the computer – is as capable of conveying words of blasphemy and sacrilege as it is the word of God. The sacredness of the object is accordingly to vulnerable to violation.

Not that technology has not made its way into our liturgies. As we all know, the hymnbook has virtually given way to the powerpoint projector. But such objects have not gained a ritual place in our liturgy. They are more like the light bulbs in the ceiligs above our heads, which have more or less – except for on the altar – replaced candles. And the candles have survived on the altar and else where in our liturgy precisely because they HAVE been invested with a ritual significance that the overhead lighting never was.

So, while iPhones etc may be very useful for praying dailing prayer, I don’t think we are ever likely to see the “Gospel iPad” being brought in at the opening Procession!

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Is the Church Holy?

I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. (I put all the adjectives AND the noun in capitals just to ward off any reading this blog who might quibble about “big C” and “little c”). We talk a lot on this blog about what it means to be “One” and “Catholic” and “Apostolic”, but what about “Holy”?

Well, Zenit recently askd the question of Fr Miguel De Salis: “Is the Church holy?” – a challenging question in the light of current revelations.

Two of Fr Miguel’s responses are worth emphasising:

1) The Church is objectively holy because the Holy Things of God are to be found in her: “the Sacraments, the Word of God, the Presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the moral law an all the other gifts that God has given her to carry out the mission he has entrusted to her.” Thus, the holiness of the Church depends upon God, not upon the holiness (or otherwise) of her members. This objective grounding of the Holiness of the Church in a sure and certain reality beyond us is of utmost importance – in effect, to say that the Church is holy is to say that Christ – God – is holy. The Church’s Holiness is entirely derivative.

2) While we are used to likening sin in human society as a “disease”, sin in the “visible society” of the Church is more to be likened to a “wound”. For a disease affects the whole body; when one has a disease, no part of the body is healthy. That is what the human race is like. However, sin in the Church is like a wound – the part that has committed the sin is sick, but this does not preclude other parts of the body being healthy. Of course, the whole body suffers from the sin of the member, and needs to work hard to effect the healing of that member for the sake of the health of the whole boy, but the sin of a member is not a negation of the health of the body as a whole.

Both thoughts are very encouraging and worth keeping in mind.

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Pillaging the Fathers

In the same Public Square column to which I referred in the post below, Joseph Bottum tells of a new “Center For Early Christian Studies” at that bastion of Evangelicalism Wheaton College. He quotes the newly appointed director:

“What is missing in American Protestantism is an understanding of the richness of the early Church. One looks at reformers such as Calvin, Luther, and Wesley and one sees the dependence on the early Church. The Reformation itself is a call to come back to the Church. It is a call to the Church to come back to the tradition of the Church.” This is meant to go beyond “pillaging” the Fathers of the Church by mining their writings for quotations to support preconceived positions. Rather, says Kalantzis, we “need to delve into it and truly live with them and understand them, where their conflicts were and what their thought patterns were. How else are we going to understand our faith if we don’t understand those who delivered it to us?”

My emphasis, of course, but not my words. Note that this is a Protestant who sees the danger of “pillaging the Fathers” to support preconceived ideas. May he who has ears to hear listen to what the Fathers are saying to the Churches!

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An issue of Religion or Race? A UK Court decision

Here is a story that I missed back in December, but picked up due to a reference in Joseph Bottum’s Public Square column in First Things. Bottum had written:

With the way things are going in Britain, though, that is by no means assured. A few weeks ago, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled “that the admissions criteria of the Jewish Free School, which gave preference in the event of oversubscription to children who are Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law (either by descent or conversion), were in the definition of the 1976 Race Relations Act, directly racially discriminatory” (from the press release of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks). It’s been decades since the U.N. passed a resolution characterizing Zionism as racism; by their logic, if not by intent, the highest court in Britain has now all but defined Judaism itself as racism.

Here is the full story as it appeared on the JTA (Jewish News) website:

Supreme Court: London Jewish school discriminated
December 16, 2009

LONDON (JTA) — A Jewish school in London discriminated against a child denied entrance because his mother was not recognized as Jewish, Britain’s Supreme Court said.

The court on Wednesday narrowly rejected an appeal by the Jewish Free School against an earlier ruling stating that its admission policy was illegal and that the North London school broke the Race Relations Act.

An Appeals Court had ruled in favor of a 12-year-old boy, known as M, who claimed that the school’s rejection of his application was discriminatory. M’s father is Jewish and his mother converted to Judaism, but not through an Orthodox synagogue. The school rejected his application because he is not considered Jewish according to the office of the Chief Rabbi.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school’s admission criteria are discriminatory on the grounds of ethnicity. The ruling means that Jewish schools in Britain can no longer base their admission on whether a child is Jewish according to the Orthodox tradition.

The justices made it clear that they do not think that the school or the chief rabbi acted in a racist way, adding that they are free from moral blame.

The school said it was disappointed by the court’s decision but would work out a new admission policy for 2011.

British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said the closeness of the decision illustrates the complexity of the case, adding that “I welcome the justices’ indication of the good faith in which the United Synagogue, the London Beit Din and our office had acted.”

Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Movement for Reform Judaism, was pleased with the decision.

“We are delighted that the admissions policy of the JFS, which actively delegitimizes our converts and our rabbis, has been confirmed as unlawful and unacceptable by the highest court in the land,” Bayfield said.

He did express reservations as to the applicability of the Race Relations Act to the issue of Jewish status and to the involvement of the courts in matters that should be dealt with by the Jewish community.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews was disappointed by the court’s decision, saying in a statement released Wednesday that “We will be exploring, as a matter of urgency and after consultation across the community, the possibility of a legislative change to restore the right of Jewish schools of all denominations to determine for themselves who qualifies for admission on the basis of their Jewish status, which we consider to be a fundamental right for our community and one with which the members of the Supreme Court had great sympathy.”

It seems to me that this could be an intra-Jewish issue – a division of opinion between Reformed and Orthodox Jews – as some seem to welcome the decision and others seem to reject it. But it certainly does raise very interesting questions about religious freedom, self understanding of a racial group, and questions of racial discrimination – AND the place of the law in the whole mix.

Here is a comment from the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, in an article titled “The Pope is right about the threat to freedom”:

That is why using the ideology of human rights to assault religion risks undermining the very foundation of human rights themselves. When a Christian airport worker is banned from wearing a cross, when a nurse is sacked after a role-play exercise in which he suggested that patients pray, when Roman Catholic adoption agencies are forced to close because they do not place children for adoption with same-sex couples and when a Jewish school is told that its religious admissions policy is, not in intent but in effect, racist, we are in dangerous territory indeed.

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On the “Catholicity” of the Lutheran hermeneutical distinction between “Law” and “Gospel”

In the discussion about Justice and the Gospel, Pastor Mark Henderson suggested that the Lutheran hermeneutical distinction between “Law” and “Gospel” would help understand the matter. I objected that this hermeneutic is quite unique to Lutheranism (it is, in fact, one of the aspects of Lutheranism to which I DON’T subscribe as a “Lutheran in communion with the Bishop of Rome” – and in it’s more extreme forms, such as that of C.F.W. Walther, I didn’t even hold to it as a Lutheran). He responded that the distinction could be found in the Fathers. “Show me”, I said. His response was:

OK, David, start with the Law and Gospel category over at Lutheran Catholicity, and I’ll get some more quotes together to show that the “Law-Gospel” paradigm is not confined to Lutherans.

Below I address all the quotations listed on the category of Law and Gospel on Lutheran Catholicity (only one entry, as I can see). In a post on February 7 Mark said that he had updated this entry, adding:

that this hermeneutical rule was not a Reformation innovation but a truth known by the early church and ultimately drawn from scripture itself. To be sure, the Fathers did not always grasp the distinction between Law and Gospel with the clarity that would be shown by the Lutheran Fathers, but these quotations show that this aspect of Reformation theology was a legitimate, organic development of doctrine by Luther and subsequent exegetes.

For the sake of simplicity, I will give my own understanding of what the Lutheran distinction is and is not (there is a Wikipedia article that isn’t too bad on this although a more authorative statement will be found in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord.)

Put simply, “the Law” is taken by Lutherans to mean any statement or teaching in Scripture which demands a human action. Such demands have at least two (or controversially three) “uses”: to curb us from doing evil, to show up and condemn our sin, and (this is the controversial one), to show us how to live a holy life before God (yes, really, this is controversial among Lutherans!). “The Gospel” on the other hand is taken to mean every statement in Scripture where God promises to act in mercy, grace and forgiveness toward us. Usually this means what God has done for us “in Christ”, but this does not have to be explicit.

Thus, anything that says what we “must” or “should” or “ought to” do is taken as “Law”, and anything that tells us what God does for us is “Gospel”. For eg. if we take the idea of the “Law of Love”, which for Catholics and many other Christians is undoubtedly a part of the Gospel, Lutherans would say that it is in fact part of “the Law”, at least in so far as it makes demands upon us in terms of action in response to God’s grace.

For eg.

You must love God = Law
God loves you = Gospel
God forigves you = Gospel
You have sinned = Law

Some bible passages can be interpreted both ways, for eg. Lev 19 “You shall be holy as I the Lord your God am holy”. It could be “Law” in that it demands holiness from us, or “Gospel” in that God promises to make his people holy.

In this terminology, “Law” does not mean:
1) simply the 10 Commandments
2) the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah)
4) Nor the whole Old Testament of the bible
5) Nor the Old Covenant in general
6) Nor even more broadly the Jewish “Halakah”
7) Nor Judaism in general

Likewise, “Gospel” does not mean
1) the announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of God in Christ
2) The first four books of the New Testament
2) the New Testament of the bible
3) the New Covenant in general
4) all the teachings of Jesus
5) The Christian faith

All these ways of speaking of “Law” and “Gospel” are, I will admit straight out, completely Catholic, and can be demonstrated to have existed in the Church from the very beginning. But this is not what a Lutheran is talking about when he uses the term “Law and Gospel”.

That said, let’s look at Mark’s examples. I’m going to admit straight out and admit to being a bit naughty by showing scholarly laziness in not going back to the entire passages in their context from which Mark lifted these quotations (I plead lack leisure for this endeavour). Due scholarly reflection would require also to consider the historical context in which these passages where said or written. Please don’t judge me too harshly for this – I think I can make my case nevertheless.

Both testaments belong to God, who says, “I kill, and I make alive,; I wound and I heal” (Deut 32:39). We have already made good the Creator’s claim to this twofold character of judgment and goodness, “killing in the letter” through the law, and “quickening in the Spirit” through the Gospel (2 Cor 3:6).
Tertullian, Antei-Nicene Fathers, 3:452-453

Tertullian is quite clearly using “Law” and “Gospel” here to refer to the Old and the New Covenants respectively (the translation “testaments” could give the impression he is talking about the books of the OT and NT, but I don’t think that fits his statement). He is not distinguishing “Law” and “Gospel” in the Lutheran sense.

The Gospel’s promise is distinguished from the law, and since it is different it cannot be mixed with the Law, for a condition invalidates the promise.
Ticonius (d.circa 390AD), Book of Rules.

Tertullian is here using the words “Gospel” and “Law” in the same sense Paul did. The “Law” is the Jewish law or Torah, the “condition” for membership in God’s people according to the Old Covenant. The New Covenant, “the Gospel”, Tertullian says, is not like that. It is a promise, not a condition. Still, this is not the Lutheran hermeneutic.

Therefore, whenever you hear sinners cursed in Scripture, understand it concerning the proud, as I said, that is, those who defend their sins. Likewise, as often as you hear the poor praised, do not consider it with regard to all the poor, but only those Christians who are meek and humble of heart. Of these it is written: ‘Upon whom shall my spirit rest, but upon the humble and meek, upon him that trembleth at my words?’ Caesarius of Arles, Homily 48

Not quite sure how this is supposed to illustrate the Catholicity of the Lutheran hermeneutic, other than that it refers to sinners being cursed and humble and meek Christians being praised – which a Lutheran would naturally interpret through his conception of “Law” and “Gospel”.

In the Law, he that has sin is punished,; here, he that has sins comes and is baptised and is made righteous, and being made righteous, he lives, being delivered from the death that sin brings. The Law, if it lay hold of a murderer, puts him to death; the Gospel, if it lay hold on a murderer, enligtens, and gives him life.
John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, I, 12:307

Now, it is my guess that “the Law” Chrysostom is talking about is actually not religious law at all, but the law of the Emperor, as it is not “the Law” which puts to death a murderer, but the Emperor. “The Gospel” in this case would also, practically speaking, mean “the Church”.

Paul’s words are, “The righteousness of God is shown forth…”This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in other words, the law and the prophets each testify about it. The law, indeed, does this by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no-one. It shows well enough that it is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a person is justified. Augustine, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, I, 5:88-89.

Righto, Augustine. But it is clear here that he is not using he Lutheran scheme as “the Law” to which he refers has been coupled with “the prophets”. This can only lead us to understand “the Law” to be “the Torah”, which, taken together with “the prophets” can only mean the books of the Old Testament. Note that this is not contrasted here with “the Gospel”, nor even, “the New Testament”, but with “God’s Gift”, by which he probably means “God’s Grace”, given the reference to the Holy Spirit’s help.

If God has commanded that His precepts should be diligently kept (Ps 119:4) it is in order that, seeing our constant imperfection and our inability to fulfill the duty that we ought to do, we may fly to His mercy, and say, “Your steadfast love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3a). And not being able to appear clad in innocence or righteousness, we may at last be covered in the robe of confession.
Bernard of Clairvaux, Advent and Christmas Sermons.

You were sinning, O man, in darkness and in the shadow of death through ignorance of truth. You were sitting bound by the chains of sin. He came down to your prison not to torture you, but to rescue you from the power of darkness. And first the Teacher of truth dispelled the darkness of ignorance by the light of His wisdom. Then by the righteousness of faith he loosed the bonds of sin, freely justifying the sinner.” Bernard, Canticles ch.XV

Ah! From what great bitterness of soul have you often delivered me, O Good Jesus, coming to me!… How often has prayer taken me on the brink of despair, and then restored to me the state of soul of one exulting in joy and confident forgiveness. Those who are afflicted in this way, behold they know that the Lord Jesus is truly a Physician Who healeth the broken of heart and bindeth up their bruses”
Bernard, Canticles ch.XX

Okay, it is beyond me how this demonstrates that the Lutheran use of the term “Law and Gospel” is “Catholic”. Bernard describes what is the experience of Christians everywhere in relation to our sin and God’s forgiveness. This is not in dispute. It is the Lutheran “Law and Gospel” paradigm that I am disputing.

Nothing here has proved what Mark set out to prove, namely that “this hermeneutical rule was not a Reformation innovation but a truth known by the early church and ultimately drawn from scripture itself.”

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La Sacrada Familia to be consecrated by the Pope?


I was a fan of Alan Parsons when I was younger (still am sort of). It was their Gaudi album and the title song about the Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia which first drew me to this incredible work by the Spanish architect.

According this Zenit story, the Archbishop of Barcelona has invited Pope Benedict to consecrate the Cathedral “before it is opened for use”.

A couple of things spring to mind immediately:

1) I am astounded that the building is still not being used for worship! Gaudi started work on it in 1883, and it was still uncompleted when he died in 1926. Apparently work restarted in 1952 and current projection for completion is the late 2020’s. But this news must indicate that it is almost ready for use even in its incomplete state, given that they are asking the current pontiff (who, baring a miracle, will not be around in the 2020’s) to consecrate it.

2) Benedict is heading to Spain for the Madrid World Youth Day next year. Perhaps he could do the job then?

To get an idea of this incredible building, take a look at this 3-D virtual view on Youtube:

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