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.

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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.

Sabellianism, Arianism, and the Need for Trinitarian Formulation

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchian ism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father, and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

No Gift Too Small

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

I was on social media a couple months ago and came across a post that shocked me.  It shocked me because you can sense by the tone that she was hurting.  Her tweet basically said that she has nothing to offer to the church.  This post was heartbreaking, and it had me wondering how many other people within the church may feel like this.  A priest responded with reassurance that she has a gift that nobody else in her church may have.  The next response was from a Southern Baptist pastor who said that there is no gift or deed to small, and that God can use anything for his glory.  It was encouraging to see over two hundred comments encouraging this individual.

What is the point of all of this?  In today’s passage we read that the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different people.  No organization can function if everyone was doing the same thing, and the church is no different.  We all can’t be pastors or teachers.  Yes, sometimes those gifts get all the attention but if you ask any pastor, they would say that there is so much more going on behind the scenes than people may realize.  This was the point of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church.  Charles Spurgeon once said that the greatest gift that one could give him was to pray for him.  We can certainly do that a little more, thee are things in the church that can always be cleaned, Sunday School to be taught, ushers, greeters, and people to put together the bulletin.  There is no gift that is too small, and every gift is needed.

So what gift do you possess that could be used for the benefit of the church?  At the church I grew up in there was a woman named Delores who greeted everyone with a smiling face.  She made everyone feel welcomed, and when she passed to her eternal reward over 500 people attended her funeral.  Her story is a perfect example of something that seemed small, but had a huge impact for the kingdom.  Perhaps your gift is the same.  Let it shine and let God turn it into something that helps bear fruit for his kingdom.  You have a gift that we all need and the Lord will utilize it in a way that you can’t even begin to fathom.

 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus I humbly asked that you take the gift I have and use them for your glory.  Help me to understand what my gift is and submit it to your service.

The Need for Formal Formulation of Trinitarian Dogma

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchianism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father (Lecture Notes), and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

Bernard Lonergan and Apologetic Methodology

In the Post-Reformation era theology, which had once been standard curriculum at universities, was pushed in the seminaries.  One of the unintentional results was that theologians began to only spoke with those in whom they were already in agreement.  In his essay Theology in its New Context, theologian Bernard Lonergan gives a critique of classical apologetic methodology.  The differences between a classicist mentality and historical consciousness will also be given.

The classicist mentality regarding apologetics has a starting point with proving the existence of God.  One with this mentality will employ classic argument such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments to prove God’s existence.  The classicist mentality relied on things that had always been assumed, and sometimes it continues to do so even considering new scientific discoveries or developments.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “The classicist thought standardized, but tended to overlook, that modern studies have brought to light, thematized, elaborated, illustrated, documented” (Lonergan, 413).  In this form we see that God becomes known to us through divine revelation (i.e. Scripture and Tradition), and in the material universe.  This approach falls into the category of Dogmatic theology as they were considered “considered settled beliefs of the universal Church” (Lecture notes).

In the 19th and 20th centuries a movement call historical consciousness began to creep into the church.  It raised a series of questions, with one of those being how traditional texts and teachings to be interpreted in the contemporary church?  This method became even more popular after the second Vatican Council, as the church began to seek unity among other Christian groups.  They seek to see historical Christian writing as something that can be applied the same way as they were when originally written.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “One type of foundation suits a theology that aims to be deductive, static, abstract, universal, equally applicable to all places and to all times” (Lonergan 415).

Though both methodologies have their place in apologetics, it is important to make way for new developments or discoveries.  This is not to say that some new doctrine will be unearthed, but our knowledge of apologetics is growing more by the day.  One example is when dealing with those who identify with the new atheist movement.  This movement seems to be more a religion than anything else, but they know all the arguments from classical apologetics.  The firmest adherents have taken the time to answer classical methods of proving the existence of God.  In is my experience in interracting with them, that they shut down when these arguments are brought up.  This is similar to what Lonergan describes when he discusses arguments being the same in all times.  We must be able to adjust and make room for new developments in physics and science when arguing for the existence of God.  In addition to presenting those facts from science and reason, it is also important to live a life that has been transformed by the Gospel.  This has been my experience when applying ideas classicist assumptions in apologetics.

 

WORKS CITED

Lonergan, Bernard J. F., et al. The Lonergan Reader. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly     Publishing Division, 1997. Lonergan Studies. EBSCOhost, accessed December 10, 2017.

 

Adoptionism and Docetism in the Early Church

When we think of the early days of Christianity, there is a tendency to think about our ancestors in the faith in today’s terms.  We may think they met in churches when they actually met in homes.  That every doctrine that we hold to today was laid out the same back then.  Unfortunately, this line of thinking could not be further from the truth.   The early Church dealt with many issues, and one of those issues was over Christology.

When it comes to Christology the early Church specifically had to deal with Adoptionism and Docetism.  These are two Christologies that were heretical in nature, but they were attractive to people because they answered some lingering questions that had not yet been answered.  Before those answers are discussed it is prudent to define these two terms.

Adoptionism is a Christological belief that Jesus was adopted as the son of God either after his baptism, resurrection, or ascension.  This view was seen in many parts of early Christianity, but a writer by the name of Apollinaris wrote about it extensively.  Regarding this Richard Norris writes, “The divine Logos ‘became human’ in the sense that he became embodied and thus shared the structural constitution of a human being” (Norris 22).  In the view of Adoptionism Christ only became Christ after he was adopted after spending his life doing God’s will.  In other words, the He was not born with two natures.

 

 

 

The other Christological view to be discussed is known as Docetism.  Docetism was an early form of Gnosticism which taught that all matter was evil.  Since all matter was evil it stands to reason that Christ was not crucified.  They saw no need for the Son to make himself involved in physical matters (Norris 13).  Many Church Fathers such as St. Irenaeus and Tertullian fought against the growth of this sect. The sect hated the flesh and taught that the divine spirit left the person of Christ before he died on the cross.  They failed to realize that man was made in God’s image, and even with all its faults the flesh is an object of God’s love and grace (Norris 13).

These two theories became popular, and even thrived, because they answered two questions.  Firstly, can a “whether a mediatorial Logos, when he becomes incarnate, can honestly be understood as God present in person” (Norris 8).  Secondly, if the idea of the incarnation is a contradiction.  There were several reasons why they were rejected.  In the case of Adoptionism it simply contradicts scripture.  Scripture teaches in many places that the Son always was and was not something that came later.  One such passage is John 1:1 which states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NRSV).  This shows that Christ always, and since the womb Christ was fully human and fully divine.  For his sacrifice on the cross to be redemptive it had to be a sinless offering.  Tis could not have happened if it was a man who was adopted at thirty years of age.  In the case of Docetism scripture also states that Christ willingly put on flesh.  We see this in Hebrews 2:14, “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil” (NRSV).  This shows again that if Christ was not also flesh then the cross meant nothing, and the Gospel is nullified.

 

WORKS CITED

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press.  1980.

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