Papal “Infallibility”

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: A SHORT HISTORY by Hans Kung, Pp.60-61:

    Under Justinian, of all emperors, Pope Vigilius presented such contradictory theological viewpoints in the face of the heretical monotheism at the Fifth Ecumencial Council, in Constantinople, in 553 that he lost all credibility. Later he was not even buried in St. Peter’s, and down the centures was ignored even in the West.

    Pope Honorius I was even worse. At the Sixth Ecumenical Council, in Constantinople, in 681, and then also at the Seventh and Eighth Ecumenical Councils he was condemned as a heretic; this was confirmed by his successor Leo II and by subsequent Roman popes.

Historical research, notably that of Yves Congar, has shown that down to the twelfth century, outside Rome the significance of the Roman church was not understood as a real teaching authority in the legal sense (magisterium) but as a religious authority, which was given with the martyrdom and tombs of Peter and Paul. No one in the whole of the first millennium regarded decisions of the pope as infallible.

sola Scriptura

I’ve found that the longer I go without reading at least a bit of scripture, the further I drift from fulfilling life. I’ve just started using some online commentaries to help me try to understand verses that confuse me a bit. This has been very helpful, yet, also very frustrating. It does seem like any verse can be used to support multiple positions. But, then I realize that there is a constant, identifiable thread of truth when the bible is looked at as a whole and not in dissected, distorted parts.

My family is bi-denominational. As a family we alternate weekly attendance to a Catholic church (my wife) and a Presbyterian church (me). She does so very much because it is familiar to her and is tradition while I, though I admit this view could be considered slanted, attend hoping to really come closer to God’s will for my life. She doesn’t seem to have any real rationale for following the Catholic template, but, refuses to let go.

This family dynamic provides a lot of opportunities for me to raise questions, though. By referring to a couple of online commentaries, reading the scripture in different translations, e-mailing my wife’s priest and my pastor, I have resolved my confusion about Matthew 16 when (as the Catholic interpretation implies) Christ named Peter the leader of the church and established the beginning of what Catholics would come to refer to as apostolic succession. Basically, there is no evidence in scripture that Peter was ever the high leader of the original church. Under the concept of ‘sola Scriptura’ (scripture alone), if its not in the scripture, it is not valid. Therefore, the concept of apostolic succession is not valid.

Once you peel back the legitimacy of the foundation of Catholic doctrine (a perverted series of traditions established by fallible men and not “holy fathers” or “popes”), the real power of Martin Luther’s break and the superiority of scripture over religious bureaucracy is evident.

Finding Life Through Sacrifice

The beauty of God is the grace of God. The splendor of life as a follower of Christ is the utter humility that Jesus has called us to live in. To sacrifice personal gratification in favor of truth in giving is favorable to He who gave all for us. To do so when nobody is watching is to live as Jesus called us to. It is a perspective that runs counter to the predominant sentiment of our culture. While the reality of our self-centered nature often wins out over the ideal of putting first what is right and good, it is an ideal that is reflective of His character and an ideal that, by His grace, we are able to meet through Him.

Questioning His Limits

I remember growing up and believing myself to be the face of future Christianity. I thought I was going to be a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor. I wore my GOD DOESN’T BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS t-shirt, listened to Petra, Michael W. Smith, and DC Talk sing songs like “I Am On The Rock,” “Place In This World,” and “Jesus Is Still Alright With Me.”
I got out of the pool during swim practice and left my teammates like a good Adventist at Sundown each Friday. I didn’t drink or party with my friends. I had a HE LOVES ME bumper sticker on the back of my 1980 Toyota Corolla right next to an anti-abortion bumper sticker. I read Christian books, attended Christian youth conferences, and even spoke sermon-style to a group of church members at a vespers meeting.
But, there were some issues that weighed heavily on me at that time. They were issues that would continue to weigh on me for years to come: What was I supposed to think about my dear grandparents who loved me, provided breakfast for me each morning before college classes, co-signed a loan for me to buy a car, but, didn’t attend church? What was I to think about the Contemporary Christian Music artists that I so avidly adored and that I perceived to be so sincere, but, in reality were no better than I? Or, wait a minute, maybe they were better. Maybe they were closer to God. No. That can’t be right. They weren’t Seventh-Day Adventists! What about babies born in China or third-world aboriginal cultures where they will never hear about Jesus? Are they going to hell just because they didn’t have the technology to get the Billy Graham broadcast that included an altar call? What about those friends of mine who, though they taught me to get drunk, smoke cigarettes, and do other things I shouldn’t do, also taught me what it meant to have somebody I could rely on?

The truth is that God’s grace surfaces in so many different forms throughout our lives. Nobody in this world is as they should be. We are all lost: The condescending Christian that responds to your apology with an I-told-you-so-type attitude. The Pope, Ellen G. White, Ghandi, John Lennon, Trent Reznor, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton, Bono, Tony Blair, my in-laws, and myself.

If any of us had to lay our hope in our own pathetic efforts to be good, attend church services, pay tithe, perform rituals, or argue our way into heaven, we would all face eternal seperation from God. I don’t know if there is an eternal Hell or if all the damned just cease to exist. What I do know is that our only hope is in God’s grace. His grace and his Love far supercede any church doctrine, any liturgy, any papal mandate, and any governmental law. The Creator knows the hearts of those who have never heard the gospel and He knows the hearts of those who have heard, but, persistently deny the gospel. His justice will be served.

Its strange indeed that anybody on earth would have the audacity to try to outwit God. Instead, I admit my flawed self. I concede that my own direction will only lead to pain for myself and those around me. My hope rests in my faith. My faith built on His grace. God offers his fatherly, unconditional, loving, eternal acceptance to me. I accept it. I pray that you do, too.

Celebrating The Single Biggest Event In the History of Mankind

Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, one must admit that the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is arguably the most significant event in history. The perspectives, lifestyles, and hopes of generations ride on the simple fact that Jesus beat death when he rose from the dead. The moment when he exited the tomb lit the fuse of the Christian church. Now, because the church has consisted of humans throughout its existence, it has had its share of ups and downs. However, with every up and down, God has remained faithful to those who honestly sought to fulfill his commandments to love God above all and to love others as they love themselves. Whether celelbrating the resurrection is important to you or not is dependent upon whether you have accepted His unearnable grace and love. To those that have accepted, it is a celebration of the most beautiful gift that could ever be given and was given by Creator to creation.

Foolish Christian Child

Running laps in the shadow of the sun
Visible light was only a reflection
But the Real Light was made clear

Faith is a used word
The letters strung together to form sounds in sequence
They fall flat when faced with the relevant glory of the underlying meaning

His infinite, unearned favor rips through the sediment that the ages employed to bury the record of His truth
Ruthless trust in this old story is childish in the eyes of the world’s wisest
I am His child

Not Religion, But, Relationship

Rituals and practiced prayers work to pull us farther from God rather than bringing us closer to him. The joy of salvation, while folly to some, is born out of despair. The word salvation has been drained of the transforming, real-world meaning that it held before it bacame a more common mass-culture punch line.

I’ll be going to mass with my wife to take part in ritual. I pray and trust that some are there who recognize all of the pomp and pagentry as merely a framework for worship of the real Messiah. The biggest disappointment for me is that such recognition is likely more the exception than the rule. There simply isn’t much evidence for me to conclude otherwise. Though, I must ask myself why it is that I should have to conclude anything about the beliefs of others when my focus should be elsewhere.

As much as the ritual of religion has deceived us about what pure Christianity is, so has the cliched tag of having been “saved.” It is, I believe, a result of people wanting to put out there the minimal admittance (mumbling “I’ve been saved,” under their breaths) just so that they can feel better about having said it out loud – barely.

This assessment, too, comes at a price with my personal life. I have to admit that, just last night, I told someone that I listen to music that has Christian lyrics because, “It is where I’m at in life now,” rather than enthusiastically grabbing the opportunity to share the history of my own undeserved, monumentous, grace-laden salvation.

My prayer must be, at this point, for God to focus my eyes on him and to let his joy flow from me without pretense. Amen.