A few links that might be of interest while I keep my head in the books:
And finally: Go Reds!
Why We Were Created
a blog by Eric Sammons
A few links that might be of interest while I keep my head in the books:
And finally: Go Reds!
Two announcements that might be of interest to my blog readers:
1) I got a note from my hosting company that they are physically moving my server to another data center tonight. The last time I had a hosting server moved, I was down for a week (different hosting company, though). Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time.
2) I know blogging has been light the past month or so. I had a book deadline at the end of February and I have my comprehensive exams for my Master’s Degree this Saturday, both of which have taken over all my “free” writing time. Hopefully after my exams I’ll be able to blog more (that is, if my brain hasn’t exploded by then).
Until then, I pray that everyone is having a blessed Lent!
This is awesome – I would have never thought my favorite Catholic musician would rock with my favorite Catholic biblical scholar:
John, a cradle Catholic, has lukewarmly practiced his faith for his whole life. However, he has begun to realize that there is more to this life than earthly things, and so he begins to re-engage in his practice of Catholicism. Perhaps he begins to watch EWTN or read a Scott Hahn book or listen to a talk by Patrick Madrid. His enthusiasm for the Church and our Lord increases and he goes out and buys a Catholic Bible so that he can draw closer to Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. He knows reading the Bible regularly is important, but because he has no real biblical training, he depends on the footnotes of his Bible to help him to understand what it means.
But then he notices that the footnotes constantly question the veracity of biblical accounts, imply that certain Catholic beliefs are not really biblical, and in general do everything they can to question the inerrancy of the Bible. At this point, John doesn’t know who to trust or what to make of the Bible.
How often has this scene, or something quite like it, played out in the past few decades?
Why is it that the footnotes in most Catholic Bibles are so bad? Instead of bolstering our love for the Scriptures, they seem to want to denigrate it. There are a variety of reasons, but I think much of the problem lies in two fundamental presuppositions most Scripture scholars (who write the footnotes) have, presuppositions that are founded on Enlightenment thinking and are rarely questioned:
1) Religious thought develops in a strictly linear fashion
One of the basic assumptions of Enlightenment thinking is that everything develops – biological life, political thought – and that this development always goes from simple to more complex. This is one of the reasons so many moderns arrogantly look down on previous generations – we are clearly more developed in every way than our forefathers, so we have little to learn from them. This strict development is also assumed for religious thought – what men and women believe today is necessarily more advanced than what they believed centuries ago.
This idea impacts biblical studies in that it is assumed that any text that appears to be more simple MUST chronologically precede a text that is more advanced. Thus the Gospel of Mark MUST come before any other Gospel, because it is supposedly more “simple”. But more importantly, this means that Paul’s writings, which came over 20 years after the death of Christ, MUST involve some advancement from the original teachings of Jesus.
But there is no evidence that religious thought develops in a strictly linear fashion, from simple to more complex. In fact, the history of religious thought shows that it is dominated by certain bright lights which are far ahead of their times and which takes many years – even decades and centuries – to process. For example, the writings of St. Paul are far more advanced than those of St. Clement of Rome, who lived after Paul, and the writings of St. John are far more advanced than those of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who lived after the beloved disciple. The same could be said in comparing Paul, Augustine and Aquinas – in different ways each of the three is more advanced than the other two – there is no strict line which advances from Paul to Augustine to Aquinas.
And of course Jesus is the brightest light of them all. Instead of seeing later religious thinkers as more advanced than Jesus, we should instead realize that he was way ahead of his time, and future thinkers had to digest what he preached and that this takes centuries (and actually will never end).
2) There is a fundamental disconnect between an event and its later presentation
Rudolf Bultmann was one of the most influential biblical scholars of the early 20th century. One of his main assumptions, which was based on Enlightenment thinking, was that historical events had to be separated from their later written presentation. Thus the event of Christ healing a sick person is fundamentally different from Matthew or Mark or Luke or John writing about it. In other words, we can’t trust that the written presentation really reflects what actually happened.
Furthermore, there is a disconnect between the written presentation and later interpretation. So the Church’s interpretation of a passage is not directly linked to the written word, but is instead something that must be disconnected from it and studied in isolation from the text itself.
This leads to setting up the Scripture scholar as the final arbiter of “what really happened”. Only they can discover what in a text is later embellishment or interpretation and what reflects the actual historical event. For some scholars, this means that we can never know what really happened, but for others it allows them to make the biblical text a playground in which they dissect the text so that it says what they want it to say.
The problem with both of these presuppositions is that they neglect the role of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we believe that our understanding of doctrine does develop over time, but this development is not some linear, mathematical process which is simply guided by human reason. The Holy Spirit guides the Church throughout time, and He at times inspires certain men or women with insights which defy a simple linear development. So the whole idea of “simple to complex” is not applicable to the development of Christian doctrine.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit inspires the presentation of the events as found in the Sacred Scriptures and then later guides the Church in her interpretation of those writings. When Matthew was writing about the events of Jesus’ life in his Gospel, he was assisted by the Holy Spirit so that those events were accurately depicted (even if theologically presented). Likewise, when the Church reads Matthew’s Gospel and interprets it, the Holy Spirit ensures that the Magisterium does not err in its official interpretation.
Unfortunately, most Bible editors – and especially editors of Catholic Bibles – do not recognize the powerful role of the Holy Spirit but instead make false presuppositions which influence their understanding of the Sacred Text. If you want to see how a scholar approaches the Scriptures without these false presuppositions, and within the mind of the Church, there is no better place to start than Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series.
Thirty years ago someone coined the term “reality distortion field” to describe the effect on an audience when Steve Jobs made a presentation. Due to his charisma, Jobs is supposedly able to convince others of his viewpoint even when reality says otherwise. In other words, he could convince Eskimos that they need the ice-making machine he has built.
While this may or may not be true, I think there is a similar effect that occurs with every media personality. When we regularly see someone on TV, or hear him on the radio, or even read his blog, we begin to believe that we really know him personally. We believe that we have developed a relationship with this person, much like the relationships we have with our family and friends. But this is not reality: having access to someone solely via media grants us no real knowledge of a person, at least not the type of knowledge that comes from interacting with someone in person. Although we think we know him, we are in truth strangers. Of course, one can be fooled even when in close personal contact with someone, but this is much more unlikely than if our only contact is through some technological medium.
Which brings us to Fr. Corapi. As most people know by now, he has been accused of immoral behavior and has been put on administrative leave. It is also important to note that he has denied all the charges against him. What I am most surprised by, however, is how many people have strongly defended him (and attacked the accuser) in spite of only “knowing” him through his TV and radio shows. If we have learned anything over the past few years, it is that someone who is orthodox in his public preaching is not immune from personal failings and sins (which we should have known from our reading of the Bible – see St. Peter). Most of us don’t know Fr. Corapi (or the woman who is accusing him), so how can we know whether the accusation is true or not? Because he’s a good preacher?
Does this mean that whenever someone is accused of immoral behavior we should never defend him before all the facts are out? No, but it does mean that we should withhold judgement regarding people we don’t really know. If one of my good friends were accused of something like this, and he denied it, I would defend his good name until any facts contradicted his story. This is because I have built a personal trust that allows me to give him the benefit of the doubt. But if a stranger were accused and protested his innocence, I would wait until all the facts were in before forming a judgement. And in reality, Fr. Corapi is a stranger to me, as my only knowledge of him comes from seeing him on TV and hearing him on the radio. He is as much a stranger to me as the woman who made the accusations against him – so why should I assume that she is guilty (of slander)? Of course I hope and pray that the accusations are false, because if true they are a great scandal, but until the facts are out, I will simply assume that both parties – Fr. Corapi and the woman – are innocent. I realize that it is probably impossible that they are both are innocent, but I see no reason to assume guilt on the part of either party at this point.
I am disturbed by how much we Catholics have let the media influence our judgement. Just because you see someone on TV, or hear him on the radio, or read his blog, doesn’t mean you truly know them. The best reaction in these situations is not to assume guilt by either party, but to pray that the truth might come out and justice served.
One of the great things about going out and publicly practicing your faith is that you never know who you will meet. I received the following report from someone who was participating in our local 40 Days for Life campaign:
There were the five of us [there] from our church. Poured rain, cold but well worth it. Father led us in 3 complete rosary’s.
Lots of folks honked as they went by, not sure if that was in agreement or since it was dark we did not see the universal hand gesture.
Another car pulled over and dropped off eight cups of coffee from McDonalds. Thanked us for what we were doing.
Another guy pulled over and asked if we were collecting money, said he agreed with us, asked how long we were doing this for, so I told him 40 days. Then he proceeded to tell me that he has given up smoking pot for lent. That made my day.
I love this story. Many people disparage Lent, saying it is a relic of an earlier era when Catholics beat themselves up and were too negative. Or it is a “tradition of men” that is too ritualistic. But Lent is a time the Church gives us for purging ourselves from those bad habits which keep us from God. This man who gave up smoking pot for Lent has made a real step in the direction of our Lord, and we know from the Parable of the Prodigal Son that whenever we take a small step to the Father, He runs towards us to embrace us in love. I’m sure that this man’s sacrifice will be honored by the Lord.
Let us be sure to pray for all those who are trying to draw closer to God in some way this Lent.
Today is Catholic Media Promotion Day, so I think it is fitting that I make an announcement about a new Catholic media program I’ll be involved in:
Starting next Tuesday, March 22nd, I will be co-hosting a local Catholic radio show on WMET 1160AM, which airs in Washington, DC. Called “Catholic Matters DC”, we will be talking to local Church officials, political and cultural leaders and other Catholic figures about issues that matter to Catholics. My co-host will be Irene Lagan, the General Manager of WMET, and the show will air on Tuesdays at 12noon.
I’m very excited about this show, as we plan to address a whole gamut of issues – even controversial ones (in the first episode we are going to discuss the whole Live Action deception issue that has been so heated the past few weeks). We also plan to involve our audience via the new media by allowing our listeners to email and text in questions during the show.
If you are local, please listen in – and if you are not, you can still listen online at grnonline.com.
Two new blogs have come to my attention:
The first is Speaking of Scripture, which is hosted by the editors of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, a series I highly recommend. If their work on the CCSS is any indication, then their blog will be quite useful for deepening our understanding of God’s Word.
The second blog is The Browning Version, a blog with the tag-line “Catholicism in Practice” – it also looks to be quite good!
Check them out!
Note: I meant to post the following last week, but it fell through the cracks. So to make the first talk, you’ll need to enter your time machine and go back to this past Sunday:
I will be speaking at two parishes in the coming week. On March 13th at 6pm I’ll be speaking at St. Katherine Drexel parish in Frederick, Maryland. And on March 19th at 9am I’ll be speaking at St. John the Baptist parish in Tipp City, Ohio. At both parishes I’ll be discussing how Catholics can personally encounter our Lord through their reading of Scripture. Hope to see you there!
I am excited to announce the release of WIJC, the iPhone Companion App for my book Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew.
My book revolves around the titles given to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, contemplating each one in the context of Matthew as well as all of Scripture and the Catholic Tradition. There are 25 different names or titles given to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, and some are used over 20 different times. So, if you want to read all the Scriptural passages with each title while reading my book, you have a lot of flipping and searching to do.
That is where the WIJC App comes in. It contains the Biblical verse for each instance of every title, categorized by the chapters of the book. So if you are reading the chapter on the title “Son of Man”, you can simply select that title in the App and easily read all the relevant Scriptural passages.
Here are a couple of screen shots from the App:
The App also contains the Foreword and Introduction to my book, as well as the complete first chapter (which cannot be found anywhere else outside of the book). So if you haven’t yet purchased my book, download the App to get a taste for the book.
And the best part is that WIJC is free! I created this App to help readers to dive deeper into Scripture and encounter Christ there more fully, and I hope it helps to do that. But feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions for improvements for the App.
My OSV article for Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week is now available online:
New ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ book is pope’s opus
In the second volume of his series on Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI shows himself a master theologian, pastor and mystic
The greatness of a great man is not always recognized in his own time. Although some figures are so incredible that everyone immediately realizes their significance, others are only later recognized for their full import. This is true for popes as well. When Pope John Paul II reigned from the chair of Peter, almost everyone realized what a world-changing man he was. But when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became pope, few considered him as much more than a “place-holder” pontiff. Now that he has been pope for almost six years, most pundits would still dismiss his achievements on the stage of Church history.
Yet Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — is one of the greatest theologians to ever hold the office of the papacy, and his impact on the life of the Church — especially in theological studies — can hardly be overstated. Centuries from now, his works will still be studied and examined, and will be impacting Catholic theology in ways we cannot today imagine. He is one of the great minds of our day, despite the fact that the unthinking still paint him as a hard-line “conservative” Catholic.
I was honored to receive an advanced copy of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week last month, so although it is just being released today, I have already completed it. I have written an article about the book for OSV which should appear shortly, but I also hope to write a few blog posts about it here as well.
It is hard to write anything about this book without sounding like a teenage girl gushing about Justin Bieber. Like the first Jesus of Nazareth book, this volume was outstanding, combining the Pope’s immense talents as a scholar, pastor and mystic. The Pope is able to stand toe-to-toe with any scholar, yet he always keeps a single-minded focus on directing his readers to a personal encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I found many deep insights in this book, but perhaps the most stunning statement made by Pope Benedict is found on the very first page of the Foreword. Our Holy Father writes,
One thing is clear to me: in two hundred years of exegetical work, historical-critical exegesis has already yielded its essential fruit. (Emphasis added)
I had to read that sentence two and three times before I accepted that the Pope really wrote that. In this statement the Pope is challenging the very foundations of the biblical scholarship world. For two hundred years, there has been a race by academics to come up with the “latest” theory about Jesus, resulting in a plethora of contradictory and often ludicrous ideas about “who Jesus really was.” Yet behind this race is not a desire to really know the identity of Jesus, but to create the latest sensation in the academic world, which leads to book contracts and better jobs. If you write that Jesus is who the Church claims him to be, then your academic career will become sidetracked. But if you write (with scholarly authority) that he was a transvestite Muslim, then you are surely on your way to academic fame.
The Pope undercuts all of this. He sees the Historical-Critical Method as a tool with limited applications – and those applications have now yielded their “essential fruit.” In other words, the focus of studies of Jesus should no longer be driven by the Historical-Critical Method, but instead should be driven by a desire to know the Jesus confessed and proclaimed by the Church: the eternal Son of God who saves us from our sins.
And this is the Jesus presented to us in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. He is not a figment of some scholar’s imagination, but instead the God-man who millions throughout history have lived and died for. The pope is urging us to encounter this God-man in our own lives today.
Lent starts this week and that means we will be greeted by now-annual tradition from some quarters that “Lent isn’t really about giving things up – it’s about being nice”. Just yesterday I saw an article that pooh-pooh the whole notion of giving things up for Lent and said instead we should focus on being kind to others during Lent.
It is true that there are three things we are called to intensify during Lent – fasting, almsgiving and prayer – but the fact remains that in the Catholic Tradition, the focus of Lent has always been about sacrifice, specifically, increasing our sacrifices in union with the One Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. In our modern culture, there is little or no emphasis on the importance of sacrifice and suffering in the Christian life; we are bombarded with the message that Christianity is mostly about being kind to others. Lent just becomes an extension of this watered-down message.
But Lent specifically calls us to detach ourselves from this world by giving up the goods of this life. And in fact, by detaching ourselves from the things of this world, we are empowered to become more kind to others. Who do you think was more willing and able to help others – Mother Teresa or Donald Trump? The person who is weighed down by his physical desires – for food, for gadgets, for money – is less able to see the needs of others and to respond to them. But the one who has detached himself by choosing to give up the many goods of this world is able to truly be kind to others, serving them and putting their needs before one’s own needs.
So this Lent make an effort to really give up something that is difficult to give up. You may find that by doing so you will also naturally become more kind to others as well.
A few links for your reading (and viewing) pleasure:
Check them out!
Last week there was a firestorm of controversy in New York over the following pro-life ad:
Eventually the ad was removed for being “tasteless” and “offensive”. I have a suggestion for a replacement, which just takes the words right out of the mouth of the founder of Planned Parenthood:
Something tells me that my idea wouldn’t go over any better…