Divine Providence

When we speak of divine providence it can be hard to understand how free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist can fully exist within its context. If God knows how everything will turn out, then how can we truly exercise free will? These topics can be confusing to those who are just beginning their journey in faith, but they do have an explanation.

We must remember that God is not limited to time. In fact, he is outside time. Imagine that you had the ability to travel back in time to your childhood. You have the strange opportunity of observing how you interact with others. Though you know the outcome as an adult, you are observing your childhood self-using the gift of free will to make decisions. You know how those decisions will turn out, but you as a child still used your gift of reason to decide. This analogy is, of course, a hypothetical one.   Within the context of divine providence, we use our free will to cooperate with efficacious grace. Efficacious grace is grace given when we consent to it and always leads to good actions (Journet 2.10).

So, what of perseverative grace? Does God not grant us the power to persevere in grace? Regarding perseverance St. Thomas Aquinas writes that man “needs the Divine assistance guiding and guarding him against the attacks of the passions” (ST II, Q 109, A 10). This relates to free will and efficacious grace because, though it is freely given, it is still something that must be asked for. God will not deny this special help or deny his grace because of his divine providence (Hardon Ch. 3). Free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist really and truly within the mystery of Divine Providence because they require an accent of the will and must be asked for.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

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Farewell Amazon

It isn’t easy being an indie author.  It is difficult to get reviews, and Lord knows the royalties one gets are very little, though there are some exceptions.  I know this post is very different than others I do, but hear me out.  I have published a few books, and praise God those have helped people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  Those books have been available for a low price pretty much everywhere…until today.

I made the difficult decision to pull my ebooks from listing on Amazon.  Amazon seems to get deeper and deeper into the bullying business when it comes to indie authors.  I made the decision before Amazon told my current distributor to remove them.  Why?  It would seem that Amazon has these built in Algorithms that scan the web to find any remnant of your material.  Once in a while I post a small section of an upcoming, or previously published, book as a tease to generate interest,  On the surface this would appear to be basic marketing.  After all I own the material adn am only posting a small section of around 450 words out of a book that may have 23,000.  To the brain trust at Amazon this is unacceptable in there mind because I am giving the “book” away.

I have gone around and around and the frustration isn’t worth it to be honest.  Most of my sales come from Apple and Kobo, so it really won’t hurt sales much.  While I am talking about sales I do have to mention one other thing.  I don’t write for the sales.  I write to spread he message of Christ and His church.  I’m sure Amazon has been burned in some fashion and that is why they are choosing this route, and maybe since they are the largest dog on the block they feel the need to show their teeth.   Long story short, my books will no longer be available on Amazon.  All books are the lowest price I can make them, and I do that intentionally.  If for whatever reason you are not able to afford the 99 cent price tag please email me, and I will gladly send you a free pdf of the book you want.  No strings attached.  God bless you all and thank you for your patience through my rant.

Instruments of Grace

Within the theology of grace, we see a connection between the sacraments as instruments of grace, and Christ who is the instrument of grace. Opponents of the church argue that Christ is the sole mediator and cite 1 Timothy 2:5 as a prooftext. Regarding Christ being the only mediator between God and man the church agrees and has also taught it to be so. However, Christ can mediate in any way he desires since he is the second person of the blessed Trinity. Christ chose to mediate through the sacraments. Charles Journet describes this as, “Christ was to come as Mediator, to teach, to give his grace through the sacraments” (Journet 6.6).

It is important to make the distinction instruments of grace, and the instrument of grace. The two are quite different and the distinction is vital. The sacraments are instruments of grace because they were established by Christ to convey grace. He is the instrument through which the sacraments convey grace. St. Thomas Aquinas sums it up quite nicely when he writes, “The principal cause works by the power of its form, to which form the effect is likened; just as fire by its own heat makes something hot. In this way none but God can cause grace” (STIII, Q62, A1).

This is seen in all sacraments and in a profound way in the sacrament of reconciliation. In John 20:23 Jesus tells the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (NRSV). We go to the priest to confess our sins. We are not confessing our sins to a man, but a man who is acting in the person of Christ. It is not a man that is forgiving our sin, but Jesus is working through the priest to do so.

Reconciliation is a part of repentance, and the sinner shows his intention by word and deed. The absolving of sin done by the priest is the work of God who forgives sin (STIII, Q84, A1). This shows that the sacraments are instruments of grace, and that Christ is the cause. Christ is the instrument as he instituted the sacraments.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed September 15, 2018.

Stevens, P.G. The Life of Grace. New York: Prentice Hall, 1963.

Book Review: Early Jewish Literature

Wright, Archie T., Brad Embry and Ronald Herms. Early Jewish Literature: An Anthology. 2 Volumes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. Click Here To View

This book is an anthology that is made up of two separate volumes.  Each volume is well over 500 pages long and includes early Jewish works from the second Temple period.  For those unfamiliar with this period, it extends from 516 BC to 70 AD with the destruction of the temple by the Roman empire.  It is a crucial period, not only in Jewish history, but in the development and early years of Christianity.

Volume one details scriptural texts and traditions, this includes additions to Daniel, danielic texts recovered in Qumran, and the Maccabean books.  Each book has a detailed introduction detailing how it relates to the second temple period, who the likely authors are, and the theology behind it.  It is very fascinating a  must read for scholars of the Old and New Testament.  This volume also details the romanticized texts such as Tobit, and lastly delves into the Dead Sea scrolls and their importance during this period.

Volume two begins right away with ancient wisdom texts like Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.  Next it describes ancient apocalyptic literature such as the books of Enoch.  Lastly delving into Testamentary literature.  Volume two is laid out the same at volume one with detailed introductions, theologies, and excerpts that the reader can enjoy.

Works like this are important because it gives us an idea of what shaped Jewish thought during these pivotal years of the Second Temple period.  Students and scholars will benefit from the brief, but detailed introductions that this anthology provides.  If you like big books, then this one is for you.  It is well worth it.

{Note:  This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

A Blessed Lent

It is that time of year again.  A time where millions of Christians the world over observe the season of Lent.  Lent is a time of reflection and abstinence and teaches us that there are things more important than our carnal desires.  Lent has been observed since the beginnings of the church and looks to the time that our Lord spend fasting in the desert before the start of his public ministry.  St. Ignatius of Antioch in 110 AD said “Despise not the fast period of forty days, for it comprises an imitation of the conduct of the Lord”.

It is during this time of year that we hear of people giving up things.  Some give up chocolate, social media, and coffee.  Others give up something totally different.  We give up these things to offer it up to God in prayer.  Fasting without prayer is just dieting.  If we are not praying and reading scripture then what are we doing?  Chances are we are missing the point of what Lent is all about.  A time of reflection, realigning priorities so God is in the forefront, and growing in love for Christ an our neighbor.

I urge you to not look at it as giving something up, but as taking something up.  Use this forty day period to make a habit of a spiritual practice.  If you are not currently praying on a daily basis you can give up 15 minutes of sleep or 15 minutes of your lunch break to pray.   The same if you are not reading scripture.  Adding these two practices to your day to day life will help you grow in your walk with Christ and remind you of what is important on a daily basis.  Have a blessed Lent my friends.

Book Review: The Maxwell Leadership Bible

The Bible is full of examples when it comes to leadership.  As a Christian it would only make sense that there be a Bible devoted to the issue.  After all, we are all leaders of some kind.  Whether at work, home, or in our churches there are circumstances in which we are a leader.  John Maxwell has been a pastor of a large church, and he is also one of the most sought after speakers and authors on the topic of leadership.  His notes about leadership in this volume are second to none.

The Bible itself is the New King James translation of scripture.  The translation itself is great, and the only qualm I have is that the deuterocanonical books are not included (I’m Catholic…what can I say).  The notes in this Bible are amazing.  As previously stated, Maxwell has notes and articles on leadership throughout this volume.  He lists the 21 laws of leadership, 21 qualities of a leader, a detailed index that point to leadership issues, as well as over 100 biographical profiles.  If you are a leader of any kind, and we all are, this is a great addition to your library…if only for the notes and articles alone.

[Note:  This book was received free of charge from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

Infanticide Is Here

My eyes have seen it, and I still can’t believe it.  I read multiple news reports and thought I was trapped in some sort of alternate universe.  However, it did happen, and no, I was not in an alternate universe.  On February 25, 2018 the United States Senate voted down a bill that would protect babies who were born as a result of a botched abortion.  Pamela Murray, who is a Senator from Washington, said she did so because it was not her job to get between a woman and her doctor.  There is just one problem with this line of thinking.  The child is outside of the womb.  By voting against this bill the Senate has essentially endorsed infanticide.  This is an event that I feared would come, but prayed that I would never see it.

This bill is heartless, callous, and goes against all senses of morality.  Life begins at conception.  This is something proven by science.  Even if one doesn’t believe that, there is no doubt that the child born breathing after a botched abortion is very much alive.  We have entered into a whole other realm of debauchery now.  This is a slippery slope that will result, at some point, of Euthanasia for the elderly and infanticide for those born with disabilities.  Pandora’s box has been opened.

To read more about the vote visit this link

Brief Overview of James and Jude

The Epistle of James is a work that is written the diaspora and possibly Christians that are conservative in their appreciation for Judaism (Brown, 726).  James is best known for its description of faith in relation to works in chapter two.  James 2:17 states “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  Also James 2:24 states “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  James basically says that if you say you are a Christian there better be something to substantiate your claim.  Anyone can say they are a follower, but the proof needs to be made manifest in how we treat others, and how we help alleviate the suffering of other members of the Christian body.  Brown states “In any period outsiders judge Christians by the commonsense standard of 2:26 that faith without works is dead; for them it would be a case of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is (Brown, page 731).

Another Catholic epistle is short but deals with those who stray from the faith, and that is the Epistle of Jude.  Most scholars think that it was written to Christians in Palestine due to the “brothers of Jesus” reference.  Jude is harsh and to the point when it comes to contending for the faith.  Jude’s approach to teaching the faith is to be harsh and condemning of those who stray. The advice is good, but it is necessary to be aware of how Jude delivers it.  According to the text it seems that intruders, or false teachers, have infiltrated the priesthood and corrupting the Eucharistic meal.  Brown states “The most interesting image is that of corrupting the love feasts, since it reminds us of the early Christian agape meals, linked to the Eucharist (Brown, page 752).”  The epistle calls us to stand fast and stand up for what we believe in.  Jude 3 states “Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Works Cited

Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997

Procession of Trinitarian Persons

The Trinity is a complex subject, and at times is very misunderstood. Some try to rationalize and fall into error by declaring a type Tritheism, or even Modalism. However, the persons of the Trinity are three persons of one essence. The Trinitarian Godhead is made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all within the Trinity are two processions.
To understand this further it is helpful to define what a procession is. Within God there is a two-fold procession as was mentioned earlier. A procession is a general origin of one thing from another. There are two types of procession by which something can come. The first type of procession is known as Ad Extra. This type of procession speaks of something final springing from another. A good example of this would be a human father producing a son. From a theological perspective this is when something springs from God because God is the cause. The second procession type is Ad Intra, and this procession happens when something remains within its principal.
As previously stated, there are two typed of procession within the Trinity. It is also important to note that though different processions are present does not mean that there are different natures. Regarding this Garrigou-Lagrange state, “In the divine processions, for example, there is no diversity of nature (the nature remains numerically the same) but only a diversity of persons according to the opposition of relation” (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).
The Father proceeds from no one, and simply is because he has always been. The Father was never created nor begotten, but he does have the operations to know and to will (Lecture Notes). From these operations the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed respectively. To some this may seem that the Son and the Holy Spirit were somehow created? If that is the case then Church History needs to make amends with those who were condemned for heresy, but this is not the case. All are God, and it is from the Father that the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed in God (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. VII).
The Son proceeds from the Father for all eternity through generation. This type of procession we can see in several places in sacred scripture and also tradition. One such passage is John 1:18 which states, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (NRSV). Here we see the generation procession that indicates the special relationship and all-knowing nature of the Son. It is through him that we can have a knowledge of the Father. It is the Father’s principle that is being imitated, and this is because they are one essence (Garrigou-LaGrange Ch. VIII). In the tradition of the church, that is through the councils and writings of the early fathers, there is a constant teaching about the nature of Christ in relation to the Father. That teaching is that the Son is consubstantial and of the same substance of the Father, even though he is begotten. One cannot be begotten and consubstantial at the same time. The Son is the Son because he proceeds from generation.
The procession of the Holy Spirit varies from that of the Son. That is because the third person of the Trinity proceeds from the Father and the Son through spiration and as one principle (Lecture Notes). This is also seen in sacred scripture and tradition. One such verse is John 15:26 which states, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf” (NRSV). This passage shows that the Spirit proceeds from the first two, and this is supported in early church writings from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the Councils of Florence and Lyons.

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed November 27, 2018.

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