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Showing posts with label Pentecostalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pentecostalism. Show all posts

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Did you really mean that?

Christian Graphic: Words Scripture Papel de Parede Imagem
Gloria Estefan song, ‘Words Get in the Way,’ I think expresses what many of us feel at time when trying to express ourselves; but first the stanza I have in mind—
Won't even start to cry
And before we say goodbye
I tried to say "I love you"
But the words got in the way

This, of course, highlights a common experience that we all have, and that is: We just cannot seem to find the right words to express ourselves. 
Being the amateur philosopher that I am, however, I cannot help but observe that love and other emotions are not something that you can just abstract, refine and pour in a bottle from which you can just take a sip from time to time to get the feeling across. Words in and of themselves are elusive and multifaceted; and as such, of course, mean different things to different folks. 
As Pentecostals (a term I prefer to avoid being lumped in with all the kooks who claim to have the spiritual gifts and, in my opinion don’t—or at the very least fall into the category of those of whom Christ said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you.’” Matthew 7:21-23) … well, in any event, I do prefer to say, as Pentecostals we of all people struggle with trying to pin down an all-inclusive definition of what we sense when under the influence these gifts.  
At times, for instance, as in the gift of knowledge, we find it relatively easy to describe what God has shown us when compared to, say, the gift of tongues. With tongues we may feel good about it, but totally ignorant when it comes to understanding what has been said.  
Thus, we can readily see that words although necessary in understand may not, however, always be available when trying to communicate one’s feelings.
Words, however, are only part of the equation.  Words must be given flesh or if you prefer form, they must be in reference to a common experience or all we hear is “babble, babble, babble.”
So, words at their best are only as good as common experience allows them to be. You may not, for instance, have a notion of what a horse is, if you have never seen a horse, or better yet ridden one. Listen to words about a horse all day long if you wish, but only firsthand knowledge of a horse will bring you closer to what a horse actually is; and even then, certain aspects of the definition will still be lacking.
Therefore, we can reasonably say that words are never any more than approximates.
Let us, now, attempt to take one step beyond approximates. Can we do that? Well, yes and no. Yes, we can experience an iridescent semblance of the reality to which a word may point; however, the ever elusive reality it seems is in an ever elusive retreat mode. We cannot seemingly ever capture the moment, the object of consideration.
That being said, we as Christians are never left abandoned to the mercies of the ersatz. No, there is really something there, it is just beyond expression.
This observation is not without significance, however. I say that because Christ as the living word makes God possible not just as a word, but as an experience. Words are static, lifeless; whereas, the Word is active and full of life.
This to me is the most wonderful part of being Christian. We get to take part in not just understanding at best just a shadow of what The Word means, but we get to participate in the fullest extent of what The Word is and means. It’s not just head knowledge, words. It is actual and meaningful participation in a spiritual reality—that is, Christ the living word.
Is it any wonder then that Paul mused —
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13)”?
Why do I say that? Because God is love, and to understand God, there is no better way than to embrace that love.
Take care,

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Therapeutic Value of Suffering


The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.


Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,  
I met a monk once who wore a drab, prickly old gunny sack robe. When I asked why, I was told that he wanted to offer his suffering up on behalf of the Body of Christ, and that he was simply taking his cue from Paul who wrote—
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
Obviously, he was miserable. Yet, somehow he had convinced himself that his self-inflicted misery for the sake of Church, the Body of Christ was to fill up what was lacking in regards Christ’s afflictions.
He and others of like cloth insisted that a sure path to personal holiness was to “offer up their suffering to God for the sake of others in the Body of Christ.”
Now, does this make sense to you that a self-inflicted wound would somehow benefit the Body of Christ—that is, the Church? I surely hope not; but sad to say, there are millions of poor innocent, well-meaning religious devotees who feel otherwise. Paul, they say, “buffeted or beat up his body (1 Corinthians 9:27)” in order to stay fit for the Kingdom, and so must we. What an amazing theology, I thought. The Bible, however, says that Christ—
“… was wounded for our transgressions, [further] he was bruised for our iniquities and the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5).”
Surely, that is enough, I believe.
Let me, however, be quick to offer the caveat that one man’s weirdness is, however, no excuse to reject all suffering as meaningless.
There is much that we can and should learn from suffering. More about this later, so let us first look at suffering—all types of suffering, to see if we can form some helpful insights. For, I too, have found as did Dr. Kübler-Ross that some of the most beautiful people that I have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.  After considerable experience and research on the subject of death and dying, Dr. Kübler-Ross has identified five emotional stages through which the average person processes painful and life changing events such as facing death, but also including divorce and/or other unpleasant traumas that are common to all. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. None of which, however—with the exception of the acceptance stage, in my opinion, offers any lasting solution to the problem of suffering. As a matter of fact, the other four—that is, denial, anger, bargaining or depression will only acerbate the misery, as far as I can see.
Yet, the choice is ours. We can deny the problem, as many people do, only to discover later that it has only grown worse. Some people may also choose to blame others, or often God for their predicament. I believe in putting blame where blame is due, but believe me, if you are one of those that blames God or even the Devil for all of your ills, you are simply on the wrong track for any solution at all. It’s not God’s fault that your husband left you, or your child has leukemia. It is not as if God or even the Devil is standing around with a big bag of hurts just looking for an opportunity to con them off on you. Listen, we are in the trouble we are in because of a fallen world.  Disease, misery and hurt are part of the warp and fabric of life. God, according to the Bible I read, never promised immunity from the discomforts of life; as a matter of fact, Jesus once said—
"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Thus, I believe that Christ wants us to embrace all that life has to throw at us—and, as it were, bear our cross. Through it all, however, we are assured that—
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In this regard, I believe that Paul’s assurance in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that we will not be tempted beyond that which we can bear is directly related Christ’s  prayer on the night just before he was to make his long arduous journey to Calvary, bearing his own cross until his physical strength gave way. That prayer was not that we would be protected from evil and suffering, but rather that the pervasive power of the Evil One would not overcome us.
Therefore, we must understand that through it all, Christ fully intends for us to experience the journey—the good as well as the bad time. So, make no mistake, the Godly will suffer. For all of us suffering is a given. None escapes it; nor should we try to read something sinister into our experiences when things don’t go as wished.
Suffering is all part of God’s bigger plan for all of us. Otherwise, why would Christ say that we cannot even be his disciple unless we are willing to embrace our cross? However, I don’t believe that whipping ourselves with a cat of nine tails like those poor misguided flagellates Christians in the Philippines and elsewhere do, or wearing a prickly old gunny sack robe is not what Christ has in mind.
On the contrary, I believe that the reason he insisted that we bear our own cross is that he knew that suffering is inevitable—part of life’s journey. He also knew that suffering is a very good teacher, and that we can learn a lot through suffering. One of those lessons, Paul addresses when he writes that when we suffer—
“We are comforted, so that we may comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) 
Furthermore, we know that suffering builds character. Paul went so far as to say that— 
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV) 
Pete strikes a similar chord when he writes—
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV) 
So, we can quickly see from these few verses that suffering serves a purpose. That purpose is also found in found in Romans 8:28, for —
 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” 
One of the hardest lessons to learn about suffering, however, is found when Paul declares—
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)
Now, in order to learn this lesson, we must keep in mind that first of all we are the Body of Christ, and that suffering has the strength to purify us—individually and collectively. As mentioned, Peter says, that as gold is purified by fire, we, too, are made pure in and through the fires of suffering. Although, this is counterintuitive to much of what we have been taught as Pentecostals, we cannot, however, escape God’s word. 
What then is lacking in regards to Christ’s suffering? Certainly not our salvation. That he accomplished through his life and death on the Cross. However, what is lacking in the Body of Christ is our imperfection, individually and collective. As individuals we welcome suffering if and when it builds Christian character, and collectively we embrace these hard and difficult time in our lives so that we may comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I said previously, we must embrace all that God allows—the good and/or the bad, to work in us as a holy catalyst to change us into His image of perfection.
What about divine healing, some will ask? Doesn’t God want to heal us? What about the other trials in life, aren’t these just a hindrance to spiritual progress. Well, I wish I had the answer to each and every question like these; however, I don’t. I simply know this, the purpose of God in our lives is not so much to do something for us, as it is to do something in us.
All that I know in that regard is that—
“We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) 
How he does that is up to him, and if that includes suffering, then I must embrace it. Paul did. He prayed, he said, three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh” as he described it; but God’s answer was—
“No, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” said Paul, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
We serve God's purpose best when we take Paul's example to heart, too, I believe.

Now, may God give us all the wisdom to embrace everything that God allows to cross our path as another opportunity for improvement—
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
Therefore, we embrace suffering in the confidence of knowing that our God is bigger than our circumstances, and that He cares and understands; and further that to embrace life in general builds character.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Holiness . . . don't leave home without it!


 No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness. — Matthew Henry

Dear Friends, financial and prayer partners,

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8).

We Christians often mistake purity of mind and thought as the center of spirituality. The Scripture, however, informs us that impurity does not begin in the mind but in the heart which represents the desires and affections of man. True, as a man thinks, so is he; but thinking in the impure sense means condescending to the baser emotions and dwelling upon these desires.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” Matthew 15:18-20

Here, we are told that purity is to be found in the “heart”—the seat of our desires and affections; whereas, as the “spirit” represents our higher faculties—including our ability to make decisions. Now, it may come as a surprise to some that desires in and of themselves are not necessarily evil. There is, for instance, nothing dirty about sex, unless we make it so—adultery being a prime example. On a more material level, we might say that there is nothing wrong with money; however, that does not give us an excuse to rob, steal, or kill to get it—which, of course, some do.

On a more personal level, allow me to illustrate a case in my own life. I don’t suppose there is a man alive that hasn’t had an impure thought, particularly after puberty. Once I remember after struggling through one such episode, I knelt and began to pray—but for what? I hadn’t given in, or committed any actual sin but I just felt like I needed to wash my soul clean. So, I began to pray—but how? So, I paused and then said, “Lord, forgive me for being human!”

And, of course, that is just the point, being human can get all of us into a lot of trouble. That is why Paul wrote that we must “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”

Notice Paul said that that is a task we must do. We must take charge of how and what we think about. Pray is not the answer, unless you and I are willing to be responsible for what we think.

Recently, I have been doing some extensive studies in Greek Orthodoxy spirituality, and, I must say, I’ve learned a lot from these Christian brothers, particular the ascetic monks. Naturally, over the centuries these brethren have developed a highly organized method of cleansing their thought life from all the impurities we commonly associate with just being human. I won’t go into all of these, however, I will mention just one—that is what they call “the negative or evil logismoi (i.e., thought form).

No evil though comes to us in the naked form—that is, it does not say to us, I want you to go out and commit adultery, or steal, or whatever. No, the though comes to us in pretty clothes, all dressed up for the occasion. Paul calls these aspect an ‘angel of light.’ So, as with the forbidden fruit in the garden there is tremendous appeal—it excites the imagination, makes us desire to at least entertain the thought. Once it gains that foothold, then it begins to engage our passions until we eventually give in.

James makes this abundantly clear when he writes

. . . each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Now, it stands to reason, doesn't it, that the soil in which sin grows is nourished by our own cravings— that is our lustful desires. Now, a word of caution, we often associate the word lust with that of a sexual nature; however, when the Bible speaks of lusts it covers all of our inordinate desires. These we must bring, as Paul says, as previously mentioned, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”

How? Well, I can't think of a better way than to just say "No." The 'no' must be said at the onstart, immediately, time is of the essence, evil has a way of taking root immediately, and once rooted it is next to impossible to stop the growth.

What I am saying in essence, in case you have not already got it, is that spirituality is more a matter of making a choice not to entertain even the appearance of evil, than it is a matter of fasting and prayer. God doesn't tempt you, nor should we expect Him to eradicate our evil desires unless we are willing to take full responsibility for them, including a willful decision by us to make an about face and shun even the thought of disobedience.

In a word, His thoughts must become our thoughts. It is for sure that

Whoever says, “I abide in Christ,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2:6)
May God give us the wisdom to take these words to heart and act accordingly in our spiritual journey each step of the way.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Pentecostal Christian takes a second look at Mary

The Mother of Our Lord

I suppose one of the most distracting Catholic practices that continues to annoy the Protestant community is the adoration (which they see as excessive, and for all intents and purposes unwarranted) ascribed to Mary.

Doctrinal issues aside for a moment; however, let me see if I can help by suggesting that this prejudicial view of Marian devotions is, in my opinion, the same as judging Pentecostals by the practices of their snake handling cousins.

Next, may I also suggest that devotion is not necessarily adoration or worship; it may also result from fear as we seen present as a result of the Fatima aberration—also known as the aberration of Our Lady of the Rosary— when Mary supposedly appeared to three peasant Portuguese children and entrusted them with three secrets which reportedly involved Hell, Hell, World War I and World War II, and the attempted assassination by gunshot of Pope John Paul II (the details of which would be discursive at this point). However, providence would have it, the Lady of the Rosary (Mary) offered a way out which (not so surprising to the critics) included not just wholescale repentance, but a rigorously praying of the rosary, as well. Of course, we all know the results. Apparently, the faithful did not pray the rosary enough; because, God forbid that Our Lady of the Rosary could fail at such a crucial time as that. 

So, in my opinion—because of so far unproven practices such as this, we must set devotional practices aside when considering Marian theology. As someone remarked long ago, “What is, is not necessarily what ought to be.” However, after having made that comment, it should be noted that the Lady of the Rosary cult has a huge following, including the late Pope, now saint, John Paul II who credits her with saving his life.

On the same token, for instance, even a distorted and fearful worship of God although wrong does not necessarily negate the worship of God all together—any more than an excessive Mariolatry, rules out  a proper respect for the role of Mary, The Mother of Our Lord, in the Church.

The problem, however, for the Protestant community (although, not all non-Catholics or Orthodox like high Anglicans; and, yes, even Luther and Calvin) is rooted not in who she was, but who she is. For those that pray to her, she is very much alive—as a matter of fact, more alive than ever. Now, if to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, as Paul said, then we must believe that death for the saint is only a move; and in her case, a move upward.

Now, if these saints—modern or otherwise, are alive and present with the Lord, the reasoning goes, then why can we not also pray to them? Furthermore, they continue, the book of Hebrews tells us that we are surround by a great cloud of witnesses, those heroes and heroines of the Faith that have gone on before us—people like: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and Moses; and, yes, a prostitute named, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, and the list goes on and on to include Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets. Oh, my, quite a cloud, I would say. None-the-less, it is needless to say, that any one of them was saintly than Mary, the Mother of God’s only begotten Son.

Furthermore, is she not the second Eve, if contrasted with Jesus, the new Adam who is God incarnate? If not, the reasoning continues, then who is the woman in the book of Revelation, chapter 12, that was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, who was pregnant and gave birth to a son, if not Mary? Neglecting, of course, to see that even though the vision appears in Heaven, it is on earth that all the action takes place. None-the-less, they are able to get around this by saying that Mary, since she embodied the Son of God—which makes her the Theotokos, the mother of God, also gave birth through Christ in a spiritual sense to all of God’s children. So, if you are able to follow this line of reasoning, since the Church is the Body of Christ, she is also the Mother of the Church which is composed of all the saints living and dead.
Convoluted to say the least; however, this is in essence what is believed.

So, when Protestant theologians say that the lady mentioned in above reference is the Church, they, of course will hardily agree, but they are not willing to stop there.

How then, do make sense of all of this?

We don’t, unless we are willing to admit that it is extra-Biblical, as it were to the naked eye. It makes perfect sense, however, if one is willing to accept the testimony of sacred history. There we find as early as the latter half of the second century. Here is what Father Matthew R. Mauriello writing on the behalf of The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute[i], Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, has to say—
The first insight regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given by the Church Fathers was the vision of Mary as the New Eve. The earliest patristic texts regarding the Eve-Mary parallel begin in the latter half of the Second Century. St. Justin, the Martyr, (+165) in his work, Dialogue with Trypho, states that, "Christ became a man by a virgin to overcome the disobedience caused by the serpent the same way it had originated."
The name Eve is taken from the Hebrew word, HAWAH, a verb which means "to live." "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living."(Gen. 3:20) Eve, the first woman, was a virgin at the time that she was tempted by the serpent in the garden. Thus, Eve, a virgin, conceived disobedience and death, whereas, Mary, a virgin, conceived the Word in obedience and brought forth Life.
St. Ireneus, Bishop of Lyons, (+202) is considered the first theologian of the Virgin Mary. He took up St. Justin's Mary-Eve theme and further integrated it into his theology. Therein, Mary is treated as the New or Second Eve who is the beginning of the second Creation or re-creation of humanity through the Redemption.
He wrote, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosened by Mary's obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith." (Adv. haereses, 3:22)
Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the Lord of the New Creation (I Cor. 15:45-49) and Mary the New Eve who undid what the first Eve had done. The first Eve disobeyed God and thereby brought sin and death into the world. The New Eve, Mary, obeyed and believed God's message which was given to her at the Annunciation (Lk .1:26-38), and brought salvation and life to the world in her son, Jesus, who crushes the head of the serpent. Mary, like us, shares in this victory.
Tertullian (+220), another Church Father, used the Eve-Mary parallel as a secondary argument in favor of the virginal conception of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the act of faith involved. Building on the insights of Justin, Ireneus and Tertullian, the theme of the Eve-Mary parallel was expanded upon after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.
St. Ambrose of Milan (+397) writes, "It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God." St. Jerome (+420) succinctly stated, "Death through Eve, Life through Mary." (Epist. 22, 2 I). St. Peter Chrysologus (+450) picked up on this theme in his writings, "Christ was born of a woman so that just as death came through a woman, so through Mary, life might return."
In our own century. Pope Pius XII is responsible for the principle papal contributions on this theme. In the Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam. Dated Oct. 11, 1954, he wrote: "Mary, in the work of Redemption was by God's will, joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death."
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council recall the Eve-Mary parallel in the document on the Church. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They quote from the Church Fathers, Sts. Ireneus, Jerome, and Epiphanius: "What the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”(L.G. 56)
In the same document, the Eve-Mary parallel is treated in relation to the Church: "For believing and obeying, Mary brought forth on earth the Father's Son. This she did, knowing not man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the New Eve, who put absolute trust. not in the ancient serpent, but in the messenger of God.( L.G. 63) We, the faithful of the Church are called to follow Mary's example of trusting faith and fidelity to the Holy Will of God."
Further, we find that—
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296 – 373) was the main defender of the deity of Christ against the 2nd century heretics. He wrote: “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O (Ark of the) Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.” Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.
(Thus, I find it ironic that we can trust [and quote] Athanasius on matters as delicate as the Holy Trinity, but ignore him on matters pertaining to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.)
Gregory the Wonderworker (c. 213 – c. 270) an early Christian teacher wrote: “Let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the Ark of Thy sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is in truth an Ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.[ii]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words from the earliest centuries, “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God . . . with men.”  (CCC 2676).

In summary, the strongest argument for the Old Testament type that prefigured Mary is The Ark of Covenant over which the Spirit hovered. Contained inside the Ark was the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the table of Commandments—foreshadowing, some feel Christ as the Bread of Life, The  Eternal High Priest, and The body of Jesus Christ—the Word of God in the flesh. Thus, in the true sense Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant—which is illustrated in the charts below:
Mary as the Ark Revealed by the Items inside the Ark
Inside Ark of the Old Covenant
Inside Mary, Ark of the New Covenant
The stone tablets of the Law—the word of God inscribed on stone
The body of Jesus Christ—the word of God in the flesh.
The urn filled with manna from the wilderness—the miraculous bread come down from heaven.
The womb containing Jesus, the bread of life come down from heaven (Jn 6:41)
The rod of Aaron which budded to prove and defend the true High Priest
The actual and eternal High Priest

Mary the Ark as Revealed in Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth
Golden Box: Ark of the Old Covenant
Mary: Ark of the New Covenant
Traveled to House of Obed-Edom in the hill country of Judea (2 Sam 6:1-11)
Traveled to house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:39)
Dressed as a priest, David danced and leapt in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6:14)
John the Baptist of priestly lineage leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Lk 1:41)
David asks “Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)
Elizabeth asks “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)
David was shouting in the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:15)
Elizabeth “cried out” in the presence of the Mary (Lk 1:42)
The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Sam 6:11)
Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months (Lk 1:56)
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:11)
The word “blessed” used three times and surely the house was blessed by God (Lk 1:39-45)
The Ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the Temple (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Ki 8:9-11)
Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where she presents God enfleshed in the Temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22)

The Virgin Mary, too, is easily thought of symbolically as the New Ark of Covenant also overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who miraculously infused God into her womb, after which she gave birth to Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father,  who became the Chief Architect of the New Covenant, Jesus, the Christ, and so-forth.

There are many quotations, comparisons and charts that I could provide because the early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, especially about her being the Ark of the New Covenant.[iii].

For sure, Scripture is full of types; however, we as Protestants without a clear exegetical insight must not accede to our imagination in this regard—unless, we are willing to concede to sacred tradition and take the Catholic Church’s word regarding on this matter. Be that as it may, however, I do not see how we can take the Scriptures serious if we are not willing to concede that Mary was prefigured in the Old Testament by the Ark of the Covenant.

The remaining task, for me—at least, is figure out just what the role of Mary is in contemporary Christianity. That task, I am sure, will begin with a clear understanding of what we are to believe when we recite the Apostles creed and repeat the words—
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
And, further, how all of this is to be acted out as Christians.


[i] The International Marian Research Institute (IMRI) was founded in 1975 in affiliation with Marianum, a pontifical institute in Rome, allowing students to study in America instead of having to travel to Rome to complete their studies. IMRI's programs include a doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.) and licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.); students can also earn credits towards a master's degree through the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Dayton.
[ii]Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius The Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Roman Synod on the Church, Evangelicals and Pentecostals

Bishop Denis Madden

1. The Changing Landscape of Catholic Evangelical Relations

The Second Vatican Council of the mid 1960’s marked a watershed in the Catholic Church with regard to her relationship with other Christian communities in the United States, as was true throughout the world. In the years immediately following the Council, the Catholic Church ventured into emerging and deepening relationships with many of the historical mainline Protestant Churches. But dialogue between the American Catholic community and the American Evangelical community seemed the furthest at reach. Separated by years of difficulties and mistrust built atop strongly held differences on doctrine, there appeared little immediate hope toward warming relationships between the two communities. An illustrative example is Harold Ockenga, the first president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who lead the effort to stop John F. Kennedy from being elected president on the basis that he was Catholic. 1

Yet the tumultuous years of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, with the vast social changes transpiring on America’s cultural landscape, brought an unforeseen consequence. Evangelicals and Catholics increasingly found themselves as players on the same field, and often each other’s most like-minded and dependable ally. There were a number of factors that contributed to this phenomenon.

a. The sexual revolution and Roe v Wade.

The sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s brought radical social change in the US, iconized in the 1972 landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Many mainstream Protestant churches embraced the legalization of abortion and an ever-widening liberality of sexual expression and practice as the cultural norm in subsequent years.

Rooted in strong convictions about the sanctity of human life, sexual morality, and the role of the family in educating children, Catholics and Evangelical found themselves heavily engaged in related social issues, and in one another a partner with political and social will. Everyday Evangelicals and Catholics were encountering each other on the picket-lines in front of abortion clinics, on the streets of Washington DC marching for life, and before the public square defending the nature of the family. A rising cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals in the public square over values we both held dear was becoming the new norm.

b. The Growth of the American Evangelicalism

Evangelical Christianity experienced a demographic burst in the US throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, bringing an increasing numbers of highly educated Evangelicals to positions of greater political, social and intellectual leadership in the US. As a result, the Evangelical community began searching for deeper philosophical traditions and legal language to enhance its argumentation in defense of a Christian world view. They found much forage in Catholic social doctrine. Evangelicals were the first to comment on their surprise at the discovery.

Similarly, many Catholic activists found in the vast Evangelical social institutions, such as Focus on the Family, The Family Research Council, and the Evangelical home-schooling movements, energy, enthusiasm and models from which to borrow, learn, and imitate unhesitatingly.

c. Rise of the Catholic Charismatic Movement-

Since the 1960’s the Catholic charismatic movement has had a presence in the United States, perhaps reaching a climax in the 80’s and 90’s. While retaining a commitment to Catholic teaching, doctrine, and sacramental life, the charismatic movement introduced to the mainstream of the Catholic Church forms of worship and expression that appeared far more akin to Pentecostal revival movements than the liturgical traditions of our Church, emphasizing baptism in the Spirit and the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit and his gifts in the life of the Christian. In this shared experience, Pentecostal, Evangelical and Catholic communities were unexpectedly side-by-side with one another once again, this time in that which is most intimate to the Christian, in his worship. Pentecostal and Evangelical pastors spoke of their surprise to find a growing number of Catholics attending charismatic worship services on Sundays, only to arrive late or leave early because they were rushing to or from their Catholic Mass. Eventually, Protestant charismatic communities began to include well-known Catholic charismatic speakers in their rosters alongside protestant speakers, and vice-versa. 2 This dialogue of shared worship and spirituality went a long way to thaw age-old misconceptions and mistrust between members of the two communities, more easily able to recognize the person in heartfelt worship at their side as a fellow Christian imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit.2

Many Catholic bishops and pastors raised their eyebrows in concern over the emergence of the Catholic charismatic movement. But as the years went on, the presence of the charismatic movement in the US proved to be a force of revitalization in the Church. In many places the charismatic renewal gave birth to a new kind of “dynamic orthodoxy” distinguished for fusing the energy and evangelizing spirit characteristic of the Evangelical churches with a deep love for Catholic tradition. This became particularly attractive to the youth, yielding a new generation of faithful, theologians and vocations in every area of Church life. A phrase has been coined with increasing frequency in young Catholic circles: “Evangelical Catholicism.” Appearing in pastoral programs of dioceses and youth or university student movements around the country, the term is meant to describe a fusion between a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and an enthusiastic commitment to the spreading of the Gospel, both characteristics of American Evangelical Christianity, with a love and appreciation for Catholic traditions and life. This year, George Weigel published his most recent book by the title “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church”3, in which he describes the future era of Catholicism with a vision that resonates with the same spirit.

2. Historical Moments in Our Relationship

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops held official dialogues with the Southern Baptist Convention from 1978 to 2000, engaging in theological discourse over topics such as the environment, poverty, racism, sickness and healing, scripture and salvation. Blessed John Paul II’s historic visit to the United States in 1987 was facilitated by Billy Graham who provided the platform and set for the papal event in the University of South Carolina stadium, and who attended the ecumenical service.

The 1994 document “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” 4 and its 1998 counterpart, while not an official documents representing the United States Bishops but works of independent Catholic theologians and Evangelical colleagues, were landmark documents spelling out the need for Protestants and Catholics to deliver a common witness to the modern world on the eve of the third millennium.

Evangelical and Pentecostal individuals have joined Catholic individuals in sustained conversations on sociological and political research and theology. Jesuit Father Tom Rausch edited a book with help from Richard Mouw and others, Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future?5 Ronald Sider and Dianne Knippers edited a volume, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy, which included one Catholic voice. This was an important volume because it contained the statement that became the National Association of Evangelical’s policy statement, “For the Health of the Nation.”6

Institutes such as the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue of Baylor University and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology of Loyola University in Baltimore have emerged, producing ongoing scholarship on Evangelical-Catholic relations. Georgetown University was host to the Evangelical-Catholic Dialogue on the Common Good and Public Policy from 2008 through 2013, convened by two of America's most prominent religious leaders; Pastor Rick Warren and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.

Last year in Rome, Dr. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society, became the first Pentecostal to address the Synod of Catholic Bishops on the New Evangelization, the 25th session since Pope Paul VI established the synod in 1967.7 Also addressing the synod was an American representing the Baptist World Alliance, Dr. Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University.8 While hardly a comprehensive study, these developments can be seen as signs of the times of a rising tide of Catholic- Evangelical relations in the United States.

3. The Primary Issues Catholics and Evangelicals Face Today

There continues to be an ever-growing list of issues which are of common concern to Evangelicals and Catholics in our nation today. We continue to be strong partners in the fight for a right to life from conception until natural death. We have stood together in the defense of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman. We collaborate on many social justice issues combatting poverty, discrimination, and injustice. And recently we find ourselves side-by-side in an increasing battle to protect the first amendment right to religious freedom in our nation, and a human right for religious freedom abroad.

4. Continued Obstacles to Catholic Evangelical Relations

There are still issues of real concern to our individual communities regarding one another. One such issue that comes to mind is the question of converts and how we relate to one another as fellow Christians. For the Catholic Bishops there is concern over the loss of Catholic identity in immigrant communities in the United States that are traditionally Catholic, as well as among the faithful in largely Catholic developing nations.
Catholics read scripture with critical tools and in light of a long tradition of commentary and application of scripture to daily life, acknowledging the teaching office of the church. Evangelicals hold to a belief in the inerrancy of scripture. This is a point of deep historical difference between us. While Vatican II may not have resolved the issue of the relation between Scripture and Tradition, it clarified it to the satisfaction of those Protestant scholars who were watching its outcome carefully, that it was moving forward from a position that was reactionary to the Reformation’s emphasis on Bible to one acknowledging a serious need for better study and scholarship. In recent years,

Protestant and Catholic scholarship in cooperation has made available better translations and resources.

As we look toward the horizon of Catholic-Evangelical relations in the United States, we can emphasize the positive if we allow ourselves to delve deeper in what we truly hold in common—the Word of God, our love for Our Lord, and our desire to see Him reign in the hearts of all men and in society at large. Differences in theology should not continue to be an obstacle to our warm and congenial collaboration as fellow Christians who, motivated by the values of the Gospel we hold dear, meet together side-by-side in the public square to combat secularism and relativism while building a more just and charitable society on solid Judeo-Christian values rooted in the natural law, with respect for human life, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion as non-negotiable foundational tenets.
End Notes:

1 Mark S. Massa, S.J., Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2003), 77-78.
3 Weigel, George. “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church” Basic Books, 2013.
2 Olson, Roger E. “Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue” March 4, 2012.
5 Thomas P. Rausch, ed., Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future? (New York: Paulist Press, 2000).
6 Ronald J. Sider and Diane Knippers, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Baker Books, 2005).
8 See the paper by Bro. Jeffrey Gros, “The New Evangelization: Unity in Proclamation and the Proclamation of Unity,” soon to be published. Vest’s intervention can be found here:,_PRESIDENT_OF_THE_AMERICAN_BIBLE_SOCIETY_(UNITED_STATES_OF_AMERICA).
George’s intervention can be found here:,_Dean_of_the_Beeson_Divinity_School_of_Samford_University_(UNITED_STATES_OF_AMERICA)_