Monday, June 13, 2016

So, you wanna go to heaven . . .

This morning on the Son Rise Morning Show I was talking about the "Plan of Salvation" as revealed in the New Testament. Hebrews 10:19-25 seems to encapsulate it perfectly:


 
The New Covenant Process of Salvation



Hebrews 10:19-25

Jesus’ Life

Given to the Father in the Holy Spirit

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh


We enter by

Faith and Baptism

and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.


We continue and grow in Him by our
Grace-Filled Works,  

Membership in Jesus Body
 
and Participation in her Prayer/Eucharist


Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful;

and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,


not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and

And, in the end,
inherit Final
Salvation

all the more as you see the Day drawing near.






Monday, May 23, 2016

Development of the N.T. Canon

A New Testament canon of 27 books took time to develop. That is an historical fact.  Here is part of the chart I compiled on the formation of the NT for The God Who is Love. (This excerpt was tailored for a talk on the Book of Revelation.) The full chart can also be found in Appendix I of The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics:


Key
The final column indicates whether the author proposed a New Testament Canon or was simply commenting on the books in question.                  
 “–” indicates that this book was not yet recognized
Year
Author
Location
Work in which information is found
Canon or Comments
        


300 – 325 A.D.
Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea
Palestine
History of the Church, Book III
Labels  Apocalypse of John “spurious”
343 – 381 A.D.
Council of Laodicea (Local council, NOT an infallible statement)
Phrygia, Asia  Minor
Canons [or Rulings] of Laodicea
Canon
– Revelation
350 A.D
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem
Palestine
Catechetical Lectures

Canon 

– Revelation
367 A.D.
St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria
Alexandria, Egypt
Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter
CURRENT  CANON
380 A.D.
St. Ampholichius of Iconium, Bishop
Iconium (Present day Turkey)
Iambic Letter to Seleucus

Comment

“the Revelation of John some accept, but most will call it spurious. . .”
382 A.D.
St. Damasus I, Pope
Rome, Italy
The Decrees of Damasus[1]

CURRENT CANON
383 – 389 A.D.
St. Gregory of
Nazianz, Bishop
Arianz,
Eastern Asia Minor
Collected Poems

Canon

– Revelation
393 A.D.
Council of Hippo
Hippo,
Africa
Canons of the Council of Hippo
CURRENT CANON


397 A.D.
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
Hippo,
Africa
Christian Instruction
CURRENT CANON
405 A.D.
Innocent I, Pope
Rome, Italy
Letter to Exsuperius (Bishop of Toulouse)
CURRENT CANON


[1] The Decree of Damasus appears to have originally been part of the Decrees of the Council of Rome (a local council, not an Ecumenical). As such it is not considered an infallible statement.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Visiting Matthew Leonard's "The Art of Catholic"


I recently had the opportunity - on my birthday no less! - to record a podcast with Matthew Leonard, Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. I've written about Matthew's work before, so having the chance to talk with him about The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics was a huge honor. Matthew has released our chat in two parts. Here are links to each with a brief description of the content:


Who wrote Hebrews and why it’s one of the most argued topics in Scripture study
Why Hebrews has special relevance today given the current condition of the world
How Hebrews bridges the gap between the Old and New Testaments
The Jewish background of Hebrews (does that sound redundant?)
How the doctrine of the Trinity is unveiled in Hebrews

How Hebrews lays out the Catholic “plan of salvation” in 7 verses
The grittiness of Jesus’ humanity and how he learned obedience through suffering
What the famous faith “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 teaches us about heaven and the communion of saints
Why critics of Catholicism who say there’s no mention of the Eucharist in Hebrews (“so it can’t be a Catholic book”) are dead wrong


Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: "The Porch and the Cross" by Kevin Vost



Christianity has long held that our Faith is a reasonable one. From the recognition of God’s existence to the right use of our sexuality, human reason powerfully reaffirms our deepest convictions as Catholics. Not only do we Christians need to be able to present our beliefs in a logical way, but as our society descends further into secularism it behooves us to be able to show how the traditional understanding of morality and family life are not simply “antiquated religious notions,” but are demonstrably true to any person willing to employ their reason in living according to nature. This is where philosophy, and Stoic philosophy in particular, has always been of value to Christians. As St. Justin Martyr explained in the second century, “In moral philosophy the Stoics have established right principles, and the poets too have expounded such, because the seed of the Word was implanted in the whole human race” (Second Apology VIII, 1). And that brings me to the new book from my friend Dr. Kevin Vost, The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living. I am incredibly gratified that Angelico Press recognized it as an ideal complement to my work of biblical exegesis/apologetics, The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics.


In The Porch and the Cross, Dr. Vost introduces us to the lives, teachings, and legacies of four of the most influential Stoic philosophers – Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Seneca, and the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. (Amazingly, two were historical contemporaries of the Lord Jesus; we even read of Seneca’s brother, Gallio, in Acts 18:12-27!) Unless you are already steeped in the Stoics, I have no doubt that, like me, you will be amazed at what you discover in this book.


Allow me to follow Dr. Vost’s lead and begin with Musonius Rufus. The man was a first-century “pro-life” activist! Not only did he publicly protest the gladiatorial games in Athens, but he also extolled the ancient laws prohibiting abortion and contraception. He taught that marriage was the natural union of one man and one woman, entered into for the beauty of life-long companionship and the welcoming of new lives (hopefully, many new lives) into the world. Parents, and not an amorphous state, bore the responsibility for educating their children –and that applied equally to sons and daughters (since both possessed the same powers of reason).


Dr. Vost then presents us with pride of the Stoics, Epictetus – the slave (his very name means “acquired”) who gained his freedom and rose to prominence as a professional philosopher. Epictetus taught that happiness, no matter one’s state in life, lay in interior freedom. It is what we say to ourselves, and not our circumstances, that determine our emotions and actions; and it is our moral purpose that distinguishes us from animals. He addressed practical means of growing in virtue and combating what we Christians would come to call the seven deadly sins. Is it any wonder that his Handbook was adapted for use in Christian monasteries? Further, Epictetus’ insights  served as the basis for psychotherapists Albert Ellis’s rational-emotive therapy and Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy.


I realize that I have two Stoics yet to discuss: Of Seneca let me simply note that his maxims were especially loved by the early Dominicans and that St. Thomas Aquinas made copious use of them when extolling the virtues in his Summa Theologica. (Is there a stronger endorsement?) Dr. Vost’s chapters covering Marcus Aurelius are truly inspirational – a Roman emporer who embraced simplicity, sexual purity, and was convinced that all human beings, no matter their station in life, possessed dignity. Listen to him for yourself: “[M]y philosophy means keeping that vital spark within you free from damage and degradation, using it to transcend pain and pleasure, doing everything with a purpose, avoiding lies and hypocrisy, not relying on another person’s actions or failings. To accept everything that comes and everything that is given, as coming from the same spiritual source” (Meditations, II, 17). It is the grace of Christ that makes it possible for us to do just that!


The Stoics had their short comings, but Christians have always recognized them as powerful cultural allies in explicating a morality rooted in the natural law and the inculcation of virtue. Dr. Kevin Vost’s The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living (Angelico Press, 2016) is a much needed reminder that Christianity, and especially Catholic Christianity, has always valued its Jewish and Gentile heritage:  We embrace Revelation and philosophy, faith and reason – all in the service of Christ, Truth incarnate.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Thought from the Road to Emmaus

I have shared before how the story of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is one of my favorites. It overflows with meaning. After years of meditating upon it, I am still coming to new realizations.

This morning, and I don't know what triggered it, I was struck by the way that the disciples' "eyes were kept from recognizing Him" as Jesus, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk. 24:16, 27). It is a reminder to us of the innumerable times that the Lord addresses us through the members of His Body. We do not register that it is the Lord addressing us; but it is. Let us rejoice anew at the promise Jesus made to His apostles and disciples, "He who hears you hears me" (Lk. 10:16; Mt. 10:4), because He continues to make good on it today through their successors!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Book Review: "Meditations on Mary" by Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

"Elegant" strikes me as the perfect word to describe Meditations on Mary (Sophia Institute, 2015). From the simple beauty and feel of its cover to the profound prose within, one comes away from this collection of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet's meditations with the distinct sense of having been elevated above the coarse and mundane. These meditations from the famed 17th century French bishop and orator are appearing in English for the first time; my sincere thanks to translator and editor, Christopher O. Blum.

This is a compact book but not a "quick read." Like all rich fare it is best consumed slowly. Bossuet's insights are so striking, and his call to self-examination so constant, that I had to limit myself to one or two meditations (there are twenty-four in all) at a time. This makes it ideal to bring into your prayer time.

His reflections upon our Blessed Mother are strike me as "modern" - scriptural, with an abundance of awe, and phrased in such a way as to be sensitive to, and to kindly lead, our separated brothers and sisters to a recognition of their spiritual mother. I fell in love with these words from the first meditation, "The True Eve." After quoting Irenaeus (c.180 A.D.), Tertullian (c. 210), and Augustine (c. 410) as to Mary's role in our salvation, Bossuet continues:
Truly we misunderstand God if we think that his glory would be diminished by being shared with his creatures. God is not like us: in giving away a part, he retains the whole. If this seems strange consider that God is the only one who can give without loss...When he joins his creatures to his work, it is not to unburden himself, but to honor them, and so all of the glory remains his. When the Fathers taught us that Mary was associated in a singular way with the great work of the Son of God, they in no way diminished the Savior's glory (p.3-4).
Or consider the way Bossuet's meditation on the Assumption anticipates John Paul II's Theology of the Body:
Mary's sacred body, the throne of chastity, the temple of Incarnate Wisdom, the instrument of the Holy Spirit, and the seat of the power of the Most High (Lk 1:35), could not remain in the tomb. The triumph of Mary would have been imperfect if her holy body, which was in a way the source of her glory, had not participated in it (p.117).
Authentic Marian devotion is focused not upon our Lady, but the Lord Jesus; and so, Bossuet's meditations constantly progress from Mary to Jesus, and from pondering God's activity to directly addressing Him in prayer. Like the best religious works, it flawlessly weds theology and devotion. I may not affirm every minuscule point that Bossuet makes - likely shortsightedness on my part - but Meditations on Mary is a work of spiritual elegance that I hardily recommend.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Conquering Pornography - A New Course from Devin Rose

Devin Rose is a masterful apologist with a fire for seeing men become all that they were intended to be in Christ. I want to draw your attention to a new, online course that Devin is offering.
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Allow me to set the table for you. In this course you will be getting:
  • Nine exclusive videos giving you the strategy to follow.
  • Devin's ebook, Unbreakable Purity, the guide to conquering pornography
  • Access to his Bootcamp, with daily instructions on specific actions to take
  • The option of joining a private forum with other men in the course to encourage one another and share tips
  • The opportunity to email Devin personally anytime you need support or encouragement
If you or anyone you know is suffering from this addiction, I urge you to take advantage of this course. There is a great deal more to say, and you can view course content more in-depth by visiting Devin's website. May the Lord grant you the freedom you are seeking!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Review: "Hounds of the Lord" by Kevin Vost


Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints Every Catholic Should Know is one of four new books from Dr. Kevin Vost that I have read in the last twelve months. To call his literary output "astounding" hardly does it justice. The amount of research alone, not to mention the exquisite prose and meaty content, is beyond anything I could even imagine producing.

In Hounds of the Lord Kevin widens his gaze from his spiritual mentor, St. Thomas Aquinas, to contemplate the religious order that molded him, the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), now celebrating its 800th years. Using the Thinker-Doer-Lover paradigm, already familiar to readers of his Three Irish Saints, Kevin provides chapter-length biographies of:  The order's founder, St. Dominic de Guzman, Bl. Humbart of Romans, Bl. Fra Angelico, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. Kevin has also included additional page-length biographies of Bl. Jordan of Saxony. St. Hyacinth of Poland, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, St. Vincent Ferrer, Pope St. Pius V, Ven. Louis of Granada, St. Catherine de Ricci, St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, and Servant of God Mother Mary Alphonsa Hawthorne.

I don't think one could read of these incredible men and women without finding new inspiration to study, pray, and pour oneself out in love. Kevin's style of writing takes me back to an earlier time; he writes with the intellectual flare and wit of a Bishop Sheen or Frank Sheed. Hounds of the Lord is ideal reading for Lent or any time of year.