Monday, April 28, 2008

Why I'm Catholic - Another Sola

When I had decided to become Catholic, I was still living in student housing at Southeastern. I had a few weeks after classes had started at Southeastern before I moved up north to go to Franciscan. I was, if I can use the word, flooded with emails and Facebook messages concerning my conversion. Some people were curious, quite a few more were "concerned", and a few just went straight for the "You're going to hell" statements.

The "You're going to hell" crowd almost always brought up the doctrine of sola fide. This is one that I had more readily accepted during my time at Southeastern. However, I began to question it when I looked more carefully at the common proof-texts. I took a class on James and I was uncomfortable with the professor's conclusion that James 2:24 isn't really talking about "faith alone" - James really means something different. Or, the usual Eph 2:8 quote. I did an exegesis for an NT elective class of Eph 2:1-10. I've always thought it odd that Eph 2:8-9 are quoted as if that's the end of Paul's thought. The source I cited in my paper on this verse, A. Skivington Wood, stated: “this is by no means a subsidiary postscript to the paragraph. It is the outcome of the whole.” Why is Paul talking about these "good works" (dear lord, not works!) if sola fide is it? Of course, there are about a million different exegetical arguments for what Paul really means - but I find that the Catholic answer satisfies my questions of the text.

But - what really confused me about sola fide is not necessarily the exegetical arguments. Rather, the rhetoric of sola fide is not that faith alone saves - but that one must acknowledge that faith alone saves. Catholics have faith, so this would certainly be an odd doctrine to use in order to oppose Catholicism. Rather, proponents of sola fide have to admit that what they really mean is that one has to believe in the doctrine of sola fide.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Some responses to my Solas Post

Over at the blog The Boar's Head Tavern, a couple of their posters have commented on my Solas post below. One of their posters, Josh S, who commented below, wrote this:

Michael, I would like to venture that Josh’s sloppy “Either the Baptist version of sola scriptura is right, or the pope is the infallible Vicar of Christ, and truth is progressively revealed through him” thinking is a product of the sloppy thinking that permeates so much Christianity.

I'd simply like to point out that if one is going to put quotes around something, perhaps it should represent something actually said by the person they're quoting (or perhaps atleast the idea). I certainly never made the argument in that quote, which is really just opening doors for strawman arguments.

He also writes in the same post:

I think you’re right—conversions to Catholicism generally have something much deeper going on than finding out that all the logical holes of one’s tradition are plugged if one jumps on the Newman hype train.

For one, I've not cited Newman. Two, I didn't read Newman until after I had decided to become Catholic. The Patristic witness was quite enough for me.

His fellow blogger, Michael, writes:

What you have in the RCC is infallible tradition, over scripture, and dogma asserted by an infallible pope. That’s a long way from a few names and incidents mentioned from extra-biblical sources.

I'd like to point out that Tradition is not "over Scripture." Again, in order to avoid strawman arguments, it would be most encouraged to be able to correctly articulate the position of another before deciding to attack it (afterall, Aristotle says this is the mark of a learned man).

Carlson's The Gospel Hoax

Not being in school this semester has afforded me a few positive things - one is that I can read anything I want whenever I want, unhindered by school reading (which I usually enjoy anyway). Last Sunday I checked out a few books from the library and Stephen Carlson's The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark. "Wow" is really all I can say. It was so good that I read it in one sitting. Carlson puts to work his legal training, looking through evidence carefully and even-handedly. There's no sense of a vendetta, there's no condescending tone (in fact, if anything, you get the idea that Carlson is kind of proud of Smith for pulling off such a great hoax). "Hoax" is also something that Carlson explains as being different from an outright forgery. Carlson maintains that Smith, or atleast part of Smith, wanted to be caught, and thus hid clues within the text that allow us to see it for what it is : a hoax. Unfortunately, I've already returned the book to the library, so I can't do an extensive review - but I highly recommend it. It's engaging, obviously well-researched, and precise in its argumentation. I look forward to what Carlson publishes in the future.

Why I'm Catholic - A Look at some Solas

At the request of a variety of Bibliobloggers, I'm going to post a few short posts on why I up and decided to become Catholic. I will say from the beginning that this is in no way an offensive on all things not Catholic. I'm not looking to be an Apologist for the Catholic Church (we have plenty already). I am, however, willing to explain why I went from a very staunch Southern Baptist to a Catholic.

I took a class on Reformation Theology/History at Southeastern. We, of course, learned about all of the Solas upon which the Reformation was founded. However, early on I found myself disagreeing with some of them. For instance, Sola Scriptura itself is found nowhere within Scripture. I found this troubling. One can amass a variety of proof-texts, but they really only ever amount to a high view of Scripture and never Scripture alone.

Because I like to think in historical terms (I'm terrible with systematic theology, but I've really begun to appreciate historical theology) rather than abstract ideas not grounded in a specific movement, I thought about the history of the things written in the Bible, particularly the words of the Prophets or the sermons in the book of Acts. If I believed in Sola Scriptura I felt as if I had to believe that the words of those Prophets and the Apostles in Acts only became true after being set down on papyri.

Thirdly, I began to find texts that pointed me in different directions, away from Sola Scriptura. For instance, I read in 2 Thess 2:15 that Paul encouraged those at Thessalonika to continue in what they had received, both by word and what was written. This seemed to prove to me that one of the earliest Churches could not themselves have maintained Sola Scriptura. Or, Jesus' mentioning of the "chair of Moses" as authoritative in Matt 23, or Paul mentioning the names of the men who opposed Moses in 2 Tim 3:8 - both of these are found nowhere in the OT, and that's because they were part of Israel's Tradition. Now, did it only become historical fact that Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses at the moment of Paul's penning 2 Timothy, or could that bit of historical truth have been just as God-breathed as others?

Particularly in Southern Baptist circles, the Church universal's role is downgraded or over-spiritualized. However, when I came across 1 Timothy 3:15 and read that Paul wrote that the Church is the "pillar and foundation of truth", something really shook me. What Church is the pillar? Why, if sola scriptura were true, would something outside of Scripture be considered the "pillar and foundation of truth"? I knew that if I had a text that read, "and Scripture is the pillar and foundation of truth", I wouldn't hesitate one bit to use that as proof of sola scriptura - so what do I do with a text that points me to something else?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If you could design your own graduate degree...

...what classes would you include and what books would you use for those courses? I'm thinking specifically along the lines of an MA in New Testament, or Christian Origins, or Patristics.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Liturgical Nature of Christ's Death

My favorite Christology text to date is titled The Mystery of Jesus Christ by Ocariz, Seca, and Riestra. I think they've taken a very smart route in writing the book by employing three authors with different disciplines (one has a degree in Biblical Studies, another in Historical Theology, another in Systematic Theology). I read something last semester, however, with which I don't entirely agree. They write:

Some authors have raised the objection (against the sacrificial character of Christ's death) that that death did not have a cult-like character (or, to put it more accurately, lacked the external rite of an act of cult); others (defending the idea that Christ's death was a sacrifice) have sought that ritual character in the interior offering Christ made of himself on the cross...Therefore, it can be stated that Christ's death is cult-like without being liturgical; it is also the origin, the source and the centre of all liturgy. (Emphasis theirs)

I agree that Christ's death is cultic in nature. However, I think there is a liturgy involved - a very ironic liturgy. The irony is found throughout the passion - for instance, Jesus has already prophesied about his own death and resurrection, but the people yell out to him "Prophesy!" (Mt 26:68//Mk 14:65).
So how is the death of Christ liturgical? Jesus is wearing a purple garment (a high-priestly color - Ex 28:6) and a crown of thorns (Mk 15:17, Ex 28:4 and also see Zech 6:11-12). The cross is a mock altar upon which the sacrifice is given, even though it is "outside the camp" (Heb 13:13). Instead of the ritual washing the High Priest was to do before entering the Holy of Holies, Jesus is washed in his own blood after the scourging (Mk 15:15). There is the recitation of Scripture (Mt 27:46 reciting the opening lines of Ps 22). There are even "conversions" (Lk 23:42). There's probably a myriad of other things that I've thought about and since forgotten that seem to parallel the liturgy of the Temple, but certainly in an ironic way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I'm Back!

Well, the hiatus is over. I said that I was going to take time off from blogging until I figured out what I'm going to do school-wise and a solution has arrived. I've been accepted to transfer down to East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. This is one of the 16 UNC campuses, thus it's a state school which makes it exceptionally more affordable than my two previous schools (both private schools). I'm transferring in as a Junior (which makes this my 3rd Junior year - I really just love not ever being a senior). A semester off from school has assured me I'm meant for academia - I've been miserable. I've wanted papers and tests and such. I've gotten a lot of good reading in on my own (re-reading N.T. Wright's New Testament and the People of God, E.P. Sanders Jesus and Judaism, Bultmann's Theology of the New Testament, and a variety of other books). So, this is very good news and I'm really looking forward to moving ahead with my education.