Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Spirit Magnus... on Twitter!

I don't know why I haven't mentioned this already, but I'm on Twitter. My tweets aren't anything fancy, just a few thoughts and musings in 140 characters or less. You can send me a tweet at @TheSpiritMagnus if you're on Twitter yourself. 

Tweet you later and feel free to add me to your 'Follow' list.

God bless.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal/Movement: My Thoughts and Reflections

Before I begin my commentary I would like to make it very clear that I have nothing against Catholic charismatic movements or communities and certainly don't want to smear a particular community's reputation by sharing my thoughts about the charismatic movement itself, but having said that, now being on the outside looking in, there are a few things that I would like to say that some may not see as being favourable. I only say what I'm about to say in this entry because of my own heartfelt desire to live an orthodox Catholicity, faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me as it is conferred to me through the Sacraments of Church. If I make a comment about a particular unnamed charismatic group, please be aware that what ever my thoughts on this are they are not indicative of all charismatic groups and I fully acknowledge the good work they do and the gifts they offer to Catholic Christians wishing to deepen their relationship with almighty God.

* * * * *
If the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is something you're unfamiliar with, then I suggest you do some background reading first (here's a little something for that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Charismatic_Renewal and http://iccrs.org/index.php/ccr).

So I'd like to begin with my own experiences first. I spent a great deal of my life in a charismatic Catholic community (which shall remain nameless), and now that I stand from the outside looking in, I realise although they were a Catholic community much of what they did and said was very, very Protestant. For example, if you weren't or could not pray in tongues, then you apparently did not have the Holy Spirit in you at all and that you needed to be baptised in the Holy Spirit (baptism of fire/spirit) to receive the spiritual gifts. When I told them I received the Holy Spirit at my Confirmation, they insisted, which effectively treated my Confirmation and the Holy Spirit that is conferred to me through the Sacraments as superfluous. They also insisted on mandatory tithing (the first 10% of your income) which is something Christians are not bound to due to it pertaining to Mosaic law. Christians should certainly give alms and give to their local parish, but not a prescribed amount.

Some comments about some charismatic "trademarks":

"Vibrant Masses" (Charismatic Masses) - All I see them as now is as a highlight reel of liturgical abuses.

"Prophecy" (Prophetic Word) - Private interpretations of scripture where it was being - in a sense -"horoscoped" and welcomed as a form of public revelation.

"Healing" (Healing Ministry) - I've had personal experiences of being healed physically; this, by my own admission, is what kept me from leaving this particular community I was in any earlier.

"Speaking in Tongues" (The Gift of Tongues) - All I hear now is babble and there were some that made attempts to interpret this "tongue wagging" as prophetic word.

As I said in the prelude to the formal part of this blog entry, I'm certain this is not indicative of all charismatic Catholic communities and I am aware that there are other charismatic communities that devote their energies more to charismatic praise and worship (which I personally haven't got a problem with). In other words, they avoid emulating Protestant-Pentecostal models of praise and worship; the focal point is always on the Mass (i.e. on Jesus Christ, the bread of life which came down from Heaven) and faithfulness to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church..

But let's get a bit more specific. I'm going to cite a few paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in lieu of a couple of the things I've spoken about above. The rest I'm going to leave up to you. I've shared with you my own personal thoughts and feelings on the charismatic movement, but I don't want my personal experiences to be that influences your own position or thoughts of the charismatic movement. The following is merely food for thought.

First, in response to "prophecy" (Prophetic Word):
"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 66-67 
In response to charismatic Masses:
The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate. Hence "religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services," in conformity with the Church's norms, "the voices of the faithful may be heard." But "the texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical sources."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1158 
In response to "healings" and the "gift of tongues" (i.e. charisms):
Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.
Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.
It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good," so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 799-801 
And further to that, one of the key documents to be promulgated by Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI said this:
These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.
Lumen Gentium, par. 12
In summary, all Catholics should exercise careful judgement and discernment when involving themselves in charismatic movements. Scripture tells us:
"Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil." - 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
I hope you have found this insightful.

Thank you again for reading and God bless you. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Concept Flaw: The Calvinist "Reprobate"

Catholics have a different understanding of what "predestination" means. All people are created with the capacity and intention to love and do good and to, ultimately, relate with God. That is to, through His Son, Jesus Christ, become a friend of God and seek Him to one day live in heavenly glory. Calvinists believe that God has predestined those (i.e. predetermined) who will be with Him in Heaven and who will go to Hell. The reprobate is the latter of these predestined: one that has no hope of salvation.

"Reprobation, in Christian theology, is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which derives that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation. Therefore, the remainder are left to their fallen nature and eventually to eternal damnation." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reprobate)

What Calvinists also believe in that it is Christ/God alone that enables a man (sic.) to come to faith and be saved and there's nothing they can do to resist this grace (i.e. "irresistible grace"). Again, these are men (sic.) that have been predestined to come to faith and accept his God's grace in the first place, unlike the reprobate who, like mentioned earlier, has no hope of salvation also due to this predestination.

So here's the problem with the Calvinist concept of the reprobate: theoretically it's impossible for them to exist.

The Calvinist concept of the reprobate actually makes it impossible for any sinner to come to faith and be saved, which in key is the problem with the Calvinist understanding of predestination.

The reason why, however, the reprobate cannot even theoretically exist is because of free will. Much in the same way "irresistible grace" (that men, once they come to faith, cannot reject this grace) cannot exist. Even those who have been "saved" have sinned (mortally) and by doing so have rejected God's grace; they are no longer "saved" (unless of course they repent and seek to restore their relationship with God through and penitent act, e.g. the Sacrament of Reconciliation). There have also been those that were sinners that have come to faith through Christ and have been forgiven of their sins.

The reprobate is, according to Calvinist understanding, to do anything beyond the realm of sin due to their "fallen nature". But here's the thing: if all men have sinned (Romans 3:23) and if those who claim to be without sin live in deceit (1 John 1:8-10), then how does anybody at all come to faith?!? We already know that the notion of God predestining people to go to Him and the rest to damnation is completely and utterly ridiculous - in other words God creating people intentionally for Heaven/Hell - and not to mention not at all in the character of God: we're created in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) and that means if some are depraved beings (i.e. reprobates), then God himself had to infuse that depraved nature within us which would have to have been part of His own nature (i.e. His "image" and "likeness"). We know this is also impossible because God, our heavenly Father, is perfect:

"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48 (RSV)

And since we've touched on Genesis let's talk a bit about The Fall...

Man (Adam and Eve) created in the image and likeness of God, living in paradise (Eden), were perfect, that is they were free from sin and did not sin... until... ol' Lucifer comes along, takes advantage of Adam and Eve's naivety, makes them think that God is oppressing them and thus convinces them to disobey God's instruction to them knowing full well what would happen to them if they did (Genesis 3:3). Now if God created us in His "image and likeness" then it's impossible for him to make beings with a fallen nature, i.e. it's impossible for Him to create reprobates. What corrupted us was sin; what destroyed our friendship with God was sin; willing disobedience of God's instruction.
Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. - CCC, par. 1850
 Every man (sic.) inherits the sin of Adam and Eve: Original Sin; but this is not to say that we are no longer created in the "image and likeness" of God who is perfect. The stain of Original Sin is overcome by baptism; baptism is the outward sign of our relationship with God, as children of God the Father.
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." - CCC, par. 1213
 So here's another problem with the reprobate: if there are those destined for damnation, why is it that all ma be baptised and have Original Sin remitted, and according to scripture be saved?

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." - 1 Peter 3:21

Looking at it from a purely practical perspective and based on that verse of scripture alone: how can one that has been baptised and still be a reprobate, i.e. still have nothing more to hope for than the pits of Hell? If even the baptised have no hope of salvation, then this makes St. Peter a liar, scripture itself errant, and Christ's work on the cross completely and utterly pointless!

Of course we know that we must remain in God's friendship through Christ in order to be saved (Matthew 24:13; Romans 11:22; 2 Timothy 2:11-13), and that all may come to faith through Jesus Christ, but we must be perfect (i.e. to act and continue to grow in holiness) just as our Heavenly Father is (Matthew 5:48).

Even if a person is not baptised and not made one of the people of God, it's possible even for them to be reprobates and even they may be saved:

"Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men." - CCC, par. 848
Please note the bolded part: the Church still exhorts all Christians to evangelise and bring more to Christ. Paragraph 848 does not mean we can sit back and leave the rest up to God; it is better that all come to the Church, but I digress slightly...
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. - CCC, par. 847
We're talking about the invincibly ignorant here. These people, obviously, differ to those who are aware of the Gospel message and its salvific power, but knowingly and willingly reject this truth. The individual that rejects this truth and makes erroneous judgements brings condemnation upon themself (CCC, par. 1790), and if the parables in Luke 15 are anything to go by, this is applicable to those who already know the truth and walk in holiness but later reject it and those who are "lost" from the very start (salvation is there for them too).

Then there's the matter of the nature of salvation itself: offered to all...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

It's true that while all may not choose to believe in Christ in order to merit salvation, the fact that God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) is another nail in the Calvinist reprobate coffin: it means that absolutely nobody is beyond the hope of salvation and that all may be saved.

The reprobate cannot exist because even grace is extended to them. No, not all accept this grace (as mentioned above), but it is still offered to them, and consider this: if God makes it possible for all men to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then why did He make those - a certain elect - that are destined for damnation and have no hope of it? And it would seem that the Calvinist reprobate is punished/damned simply for according according to how God made them, i.e. what He destined them for.

*     *     *     *     *
Want more?

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

"And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." - Acts 2:21

"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" - Romans 10:12-13

I'd like to thank you all for your patience over the last couple of weeks; things have been very hectic at work and I've had to put blogging on hold for a little while, but things are starting to settle down a bit and I've been able to complete this particular blog entry which was promised just over a month ago now.

Thank you very much for reading. :-)

God bless.