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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does it really matter if Jesus physically rose from the dead?


“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Does it really matter if Jesus physically rose from the dead?  What if he was simply "resurrected" in the hearts and minds of his disciples, who went on to preach Jesus' message of love and tolerance?

I first heard the above concept in college (it was a Catholic college!) from our campus minister.  This viewpoint suggests that the entire point of the Incarnation (God becoming Man) was to preach a message of love and tolerance.  This teaching of love and tolerance was what ignited the spirits of his disciples who went on to spread this message to the ancient near east.  Sadly, (that is, in the minds of these adherents), Christianity totally misunderstood Jesus' message and turned Jesus into something he never wanted--the focus of our worship.  In their paradigm, Christianity is not about Jesus at all but about compassion, equity, tolerance, peace and love.


Initially I thought I was being open-minded and a free, independent thinker and accepted this premise. Sadly, I predict that many of us will have a college student return from a university (unfortunately, it's usually a Catholic one) proposing this--"It really doesn't matter if he actually
physically rose from the dead.  Maybe the Gospels were simply promoting a myth."

St. Paul put to rest this nonsense 2000 years ago: 
If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain.--1 Cor 15:17
That is, if there truly was no resurrection, then we, believers, are to be pitied for being so hoodwinked.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.--1 Cor 15:19

Indeed,
the point of Christianity is the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.  He became "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29).  The essence of Christianity is not his message of justice.  Every morally sane person already knew it was good and virtuous to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  In fact, as many modern day "spiritual, but not religious" folks like to correctly point out:  Jesus' message of "do unto others" can be found in a multitude of other faith traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.  In fact, it might be true to say that Jesus really preached nothing new (ethically).   "Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. If he did that, he failed....He healed some people but left most of the world as sick as it was before."--Peter Kreeft.

(Please note that I am not in any way denigrating Christianity's call to love our neighbor through promoting compassion, equity, tolerance, peace and love.  This point is, of course,
crucial in our walk with Christ.)

The question, then, is, if Jesus did not actually physically rise from the dead, then how and why did this "myth" initiate?  Did his disciples lie about his resurrection?  For what reason?  Peter Kreeft address this
here"the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in that bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn't have become Christians."

Finally, those who proclaim that Christianity is about the message and not really about Christ are being a little illogical in their assertion.  For we would not know what Christ's message was were it not for the Church.  It was the Church which preserved, compiled and discerned what Christ's message was and produced it in the book called the Bible.  And if this Church got it right about saying Jesus wants love and forgiveness, it would be reasonable to assume the Church got it right when it says that Jesus actually rose from the dead as well.


For more in-depth study visit these websites:
 
 
 
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, April 18, 2011

Was the need for a priest abolished when the veil in the Temple was torn in two?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Was the need for a priest abolished when the veil in the Temple was torn in two?

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split--Matt 27:51

Many Protestants understand the above verse to indicate that, prior to Christ's death, one needed priests as mediators between God and man.  Because of Christ's atoning death on the Cross, we no longer have a barrier (or veil) between us and God.  Thus, no priest is necessary.  An ex-Catholic explains his position here:  He writes: "Jesus has given me access to the Father (Eph. 2:18). This was powerfully demonstrated at the atoning death of Christ when the veil that partitioned the holy of holies was torn open from top to bottom.  Those who trust the redeeming work of Christ can exchange their ritualistic religion for an intimate relationship with almighty God.

The above quotation, in particular the bolded section, rankles.  I don't like it when someone insults my Mama (that, is, the Holy Mother Church)!  Especially someone who used to be part of the Family.  Sadly, the above quotation demonstrates the poor catechesis this ex-Catholic received during his years as a Catholic.  For what could be more intimate a relationship than having a One Flesh Union in the Eucharist—where the two become One? 

The Catholic understand of the above verse in Matthew is that the tearing of the veil in the Temple at the death of Christ was symbolic of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant Temple sacrifices (sacrifices of animal blood made by the Jewish priests to present atonement for their sins); it did not eliminate the New Covenant priesthood.  In fact, the priesthood is cited in the New Testament in numerous places.  The word "priest" is derived from the Greek word presbyteros, or "presbyters" (also translated "elders"), which is found in the NT.  "The ministry of Catholic priests is that of the presbyters mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 15:6, 23). The Bible says little about the duties of presbyters, but it does reveal they functioned in a priestly capacity." source

"In the New Covenant, we still have, and need, a high priest. Jesus, eternally alive, is our high priest in the true Holy of Holies. (Heb 4:14; 5:5) Because He is eternally alive, serving in that role, it is never necessary for a successor to be chosen (as there was under the Old Covenant when the High Priest died).
 
Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, Thou art a priest for ever.' This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. –Hebrews 7:21-26
 
In the New Covenant, we still have and need priests to make present for us on earth, the true sacrifice offered to God by Jesus on our behalf. But it is not a priesthood restricted to the particular Jewish tribe of Levi, or even restricted to Jews. It is the priesthood Isaiah foretold:
 
..and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; ... And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD." –Isaiah 66:18-21 source.
 
(Note:  The Holy of Holies refers to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and which can be entered only by the High Priest on Yom KippurThe Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses and the Israelites. source.)

The priesthood is necessary because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is necessary.  No priests, no Mass.
And the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is necessary because the Eucharist is necessary.  No Mass, no Eucharist. 
And the Eucharist is necessary because the Church is necessary.  No Eucharist, no Church.
Priest...Mass...Eucharist....Church--they're all tied together intimately and profoundly.  Without one we cannot have the other.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

 
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How does a Catholic respond to the comment, "Well, I believe Jesus was a good man, and a good teacher, and I respect all of his teachings, but he never said he was God."

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  How does a Catholic respond to the comment, "Well, I believe Jesus was a good man, and a good teacher, and I respect all of his teachings, but he never said he was God."

Best answer to the above comment is to cite Christian apologist and author C.S. Lewis who used the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument.  Essentially, Jesus was either God, (Lord), or a bad man (Liar) or a egocentric madman (Lunatic).  What he most certainly could NOT have been was what many modern "open-minded" thinkers seem to profess--"a good man".  Yet it seems that almost every modern day non-believer will claim that while Jesus was a good man, a great philosopher and teacher, he was not divine. 

However, Logic dictates that either Jesus was God, or he was a very bad man. For no good person goes around proclaiming to be God when he is in fact a mere man.  Either he was divine, as he claimed, or he was a corrupt man who tried to fool his contemporaries into worshipping him.
"Now what would we think of a person who went around making these claims today? Certainly not that he was a good man or a sage. There are only two possibilities: he either speaks the truth or not. If he speaks the truth, he is God and the case is closed. We must believe him and worship him. If he does not speak the truth, then he is not God but a mere man. But a mere man who wants you to worship him as God is not a good man. He is a very bad man indeed, either morally or intellectually. If he knows that he is not God, then he is morally bad, a liar trying deliberately to deceive you into blasphemy. If he does not know that he is not God, if he sincerely thinks he is God, then he is intellectually bad—in fact, insane."  Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.

Lewis' "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument is actually derived from an argument proposed by the early Christian apologists who, even way back in the first centuries, had to defend the divinity of Christ. (Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.)  The Early Church Fathers used the Latin phrase, "Aut Deus, Aut Homo Malus."  (Either God, or a bad man.)  Simple, pithy and profoundly true! 

So, did Jesus really never claim to be God, as some New Age/enlightened/"modern" (although, really, not so new) thinkers profess?
Scripture is abundantly clear that Jesus did indeed make that claim. 
In John 8:58, when quizzed about how he has special knowledge of Abraham, Jesus replies, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am"—invoking and applying to himself the personal name of God—"I Am" (Ex. 3:14). His audience understood exactly what he was claiming about himself. "So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple" (John 8:59). source  Jews considered the name YHWH (I AM) to be so sacred, so holy, that any man who uttered the name was guilty of profanation.  (see previous 3 minute Apologetics discussion on this topic)

Not only did Jesus utter the most sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH), but he applied it to himself.  Blasphemy!
Another verse which references Christ's divinity is this:  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"-John 20:28.  And Jesus accepts the worship and praise.

And in John 10:30 Jesus states, "The Father and I are one."  Again, the Jews understood very clearly exactly what Jesus was claiming for himself.  And no pious Jew would stand to hear any man ever claim to be the Almighty Creator of the Heavens.  Interesting to note what the next verse is after Jesus states he and the Father are one-- "The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him."

And in this Sunday's Gospel Jesus proclaims, 
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,--John 11: 25
Another argument some may offer is that Jesus never really said the above words, but he was mis-interpreted by his disciples. In other words, they argue that Jesus never said he was God, but his foolish followers simply went ga-ga over this man's words and mistakenly hero-worshipped a mere man.  Quoting again from Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, "then who were the naive fools who first <mis-interpreted> it? There isn't another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe. Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millenia had strictly forbidden his chosen people to confuse him with a creature as the pagans did -- this Creator-God became a creature, a man -- a crucified criminal. Hardly a myth that naturally arises in the Jewish mind."

"
No Jew would sincerely think He was God. No group in history was less likely to confuse the Creator with a creature than the Jews, the only people who had an absolute, and absolutely clear, distinction between the divine and human. And is far more inconceivable for them to confuse a "mad-man" with God."
If Christ was not divine, this permits modern intellectuals to pick and choose his teachings.  Any unpopular, unpalatable, difficult-to-follow teaching professed by this "good teacher" who's only human can be rejected.  It allows modernists to create a religion in their own image, rather than conforming their beliefs to that which God revealed. Those teachings which they find tolerable they accept.  Those which they find distasteful, they reject.  This paradigm sets up the almighty self as the almighty authority.  Eek!

For more in-depth study visit these websites:
 

 
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15