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    Loss and Gain

    This is a guest article by John Thayer Jensen. John was born in California in 1942 and raised in a non-religious home. At a time of emotional collapse in his life, John was influenced by several Evangelical Christians, subsequently leading to his committing his life to Christ in 1969. He eventually made his way into the Calvinist tradition, and joined a Reformed denomination in New Zealand. He converted to the Catholic faith during the Christmas season of 1995. He has a B.A. in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in linguistics from the University of Hawaii. He lives in New Zealand, where he works at the University of Auckland and plays the horn in a local orchestra. He is also the author of a Yapese Reference Grammar and a Yapese-English Dictionary – Eds.

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November 20, 2017

A Review of Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s The Light of Christ

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 9:38 am

A friend of mine attending the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) — a Catholic adult Sunday school of sorts for those interested in learning more about Catholic doctrine and practice — asked me if I were to recommend one book for him what would it be? I told him this was a daunting, perhaps unanswerable question. Those on the outside looking in have all manner of different objections to or questions about the Catholic faith, largely dependent on their own religious background, education, and life journey. Some are focused on technical definitions of doctrine, others on Church history, still others on prayer and spiritual life. A single, twenty-year-old Reformed seminary student is perhaps more interested in getting a handle on the intricacies of the Catholic doctrine of justification than Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage. I doubt there is any such book adequately suited to address the diversity of interests of every person investigating the Catholic Church. However, one book that covers an impressive amount of ground for its labeling as an “introduction” is Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism. This book, written by one of the preeminent Catholic theologians in the United States, speaks to many, if not most of the most popular questions people have about Catholicism, and is particularly relevant for those most familiar with the Reformed tradition. This is for a number of reasons, including the book’s heavy reliance on Holy Scripture to explain Catholic teaching, its engagement with a number of Protestant theologians and scholars, and its interaction with several Calvinist doctrines.

Scripture as Central

Someone familiar with many Protestant polemics against Catholicism might presume that an introduction to its beliefs and practices would rely heavily on extra-Biblical sources, Church councils, and papal decrees. Fr. White shows the reader that Catholic theology is thoroughly Biblical, especially in his treatises on such topics as the Trinity, Incarnation, and the Last Things. In each of these chapters, Fr. White cites extensively from Holy Scripture to explain Catholic teaching, while also drawing on many other historical and theological sources to clarify and expound on various sub-topics. For example, in his chapter “Incarnation and Atonement,” Fr. White begins with recourse to St. Athanasius and St. Anselm, who reflected on the question of why God became man. In seeking to answer this question, Fr. White delves deep into the wells of Holy Scripture, showing how the Bible teaches that the incarnation serves two fundamental purposes: divinization, the process by which man becomes like God, and atonement, the means by which an atoning sacrifice is made by Christ to reconcile God to man. Christ can do this precisely because He is God, as many Biblical verses explain: Phil. 2:6-11, Rev. 4, Heb. 1:6, Mat. 14:33, 28:9, 28:17; Mark 5:6, John 9:38, and Acts 7:59, among others. Fr. White even spends several pages countering an argument found in modern Biblical criticism that the Gospels do not all teach Christ’s divinity — and relies exclusively on Scripture to support his argument. Other aspects of Christology in this chapter are similarly defended or explained on Scriptural grounds: Christ’s humanity, the kingdom of God, the Eucharist, and the resurrection.

Ecumenical Reliance on Protestants

One investigating Catholicism might also presume a certain triumphalism in Catholic scholarship — if the Church is who she claims to be, the inheritor and guardian of Christ and the Apostle’s teaching, why would she bother to study extra-Catholic sources? Yet Fr. White’s explication of Catholic teaching consistently relies upon Protestant scholars and theologians where their work or ideas are compatible with Catholic doctrine. In his chapters discussing the New Testament, Fr. White draws heavily on Protestant New Testament scholars such as Martin Hengel, Larry Hurtado, N.T. Wright and Ben Witherington III. He also cites C.S. Lewis, a favorite of Protestants of practically every stripe, to explain or bolster various points.

I would also add to this category Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom readers might find an odd choice to lump in with Protestant New Testament scholars and popular apologists. Newman died one of the most well-known Catholic figures in the United Kingdom, as well as a cardinal, having been named as such by Pope Leo XIII in 1879. However, Newman was for many years prior to his Catholic conversion one of the most influential men in the Anglican Church (indeed, an Anglican priest for twenty years), and he accomplished some of the theological work for which is he is known while a Protestant. This is significant in reference to Fr. White’s book, because it refers so frequently to Newman. Indeed, this may very well be the most heavily “Newman-ized” explanation of Catholicism ever written. Six different texts by Newman appear in the bibliography, while the Englishman is cited in the introduction and six of seven chapters. In effect, Fr. White has declared that Newman’s perspective on the most important topics of Catholicism — faith and reason, the Trinity, Creation, Christology, ecclesiology, and the Last Things — is valuable enough to include in an introductory text on the Catholic faith. This is relevant to ecumenism precisely because Newman was for so long a Protestant; his scholarship and theology appropriated by the Catholic Church. Indeed, in some areas, such as the doctrine of development, Newman is considered by many to be the ultimate authority, at least within the field of sacred theology as a discipline. Protestants are thus capable of profoundly enriching the Catholic Church.

Catholicism and Calvinism

Although not publicized in The Light of Christ, Fr. White is himself a convert to Catholicism. His grandparents were Presbyterian missionaries in central Africa. When he began serious study of theology during his undergraduate years. Fr. White explored Calvinist thought before eventually joining the Catholic Church. Indeed, he notes in one place that some of John Calvin’s teachings “function practically as a magisterium of reference for many over the centuries.”1 It is perhaps for this reason that he engages with a number of Calvinist doctrines in the course of his introduction, and why he elsewhere gives attention to some of the most common Calvinist objections to Catholic teaching. For example, among other topics, Fr. White addresses total depravity (p. 118), the role of grace in salvation (pp. 124-125), and penal substitutionary atonement (p. 170). In his explanation of justification, he goes so far as to say:

The Catholic Church teaches that justification occurs in a human person by grace alone and not by any natural moral agency or works of self-righteousness. This is not a subject of contention between Catholics and Protestants, at least so long as the true teaching of the Catholic Church is accurately understood!2

Other topics of possible interest to Reformed readers will be his treatment of the non salus teaching of the Catholic Church (i.e. “outside the Catholic Church, there is no salvation”), and his defense of Marian doctrines on Scriptural and historical grounds.

…And Then There’s St. Thomas…


Fr. Thomas Joseph White

Those familiar with the charisms of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, will not be surprised that St. Thomas Aquinas looms large in Fr. White’s book — indeed, larger than any other source besides Holy Scripture. Readers interested in acquiring an elementary grasp on Thomistic theology — and its role in Catholic theology and practice — will find it here. These were areas I was particularly interested to explore as a Calvinist, since St. Thomas was not “recommended reading” in my Presbyterian church or seminary. Among the Thomistic topics discussed in this book include the relationship of intellect and will, the five proofs for the existence of God, and Aquinas’ Trinitarian theology. I conclude this review with St. Thomas precisely because his teachings are an area I yearn to explore further, and Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s book has helped me achieve this. It is for this reason that I recommend The Light of Christ, not only to interested non-Catholics, but also to Catholics seeking to deepen their understanding and appreciation of their own faith.

  1. Fr. Thomas Joseph White, The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism, Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2017. []
  2. Ibid. 198. []

November 12, 2017

A Return To The “Infinite Regress” Objection

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 2:16 pm

Several months ago an elder from my old Presbyterian church (P.C.A.) and I had an email exchange that hovered around the competing paradigms of authority between Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism. The Catholic paradigm is one in which the Magisterium is the authoritative interpreter of Scripture. According to Reformed Protestantism, in contrast, Scripture is both sufficient and clear, and is thus the authority of the individual Christian to interpret Scripture. The debate ultimately focused on a topic that we have addressed in various forms before on Called To Communion, especially in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” by Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch.  My friend in particular communicated an objection that Cross and Judisch address in that article: the “infinite regress” objection.

The “infinite regress” objection is the following dilemma: either the individual needs the guidance of an interpretive authority when interpreting Scripture, or he does not. If that individual requires an interpretive authority, he will need the guidance of a further interpretive authority to interpret the original authority. He will then need the guidance of another interpretive authority when interpreting the second interpretive authority. Thus the infinite regress. On the other hand, if the individual does not require the guidance of an interpretive authority when interpreting Scripture, no Catholic authority structure is required — the Catholic Magisterial interpretive authority is superfluous. This dilemma, the objector claims, proves that the Catholic is epistemologically acting like any Protestant who must on his own interpret the meaning of a given text. Catholics, though claiming to have a different authoritative paradigm than that of the Protestant paradigm (vis-a-vis an authoritative Magisterial authority), are actually in the same paradigmatic position as Protestants. Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch have addressed this objection here, upon which I will build the substance of the reply I largely presented to my friend.

The “infinite regress” dilemma ignores the qualitative ontological distinction between persons and books, falsely assuming that if a book needs an authoritative interpreter in order to function as an ecclesial authority, so must a living person. Cross and Judisch explain:

A book contains a monologue with respect to the reader. An author can often anticipate the thoughts and questions that might arise in the mind of the reader. But a book cannot hear the reader’s questions here and now, and answer them. A living person, however, can do so. A living person can engage in genuine dialogue with the reader, whereas a book cannot.

As Chesterton observes, while one can place a living person in the dock, one cannot put a book in the dock. A person in this respect can do what a book cannot: he can correct misunderstandings and answer comprehensive interpretive questions. The very nature of a book offers a limited intrinsic potency for interpretive self-clarification. A person, in contrast, by his very nature has an unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification. Cross and Judisch add:

This unlimited potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification ensures that the hermeneutical spiral may reach its end. A book cannot speak more about itself than it does at the moment at which it is completed. A person, by contrast, remains perpetually capable of clarifying further any of his previous speech-acts.

My friend responded to this defense by providing a number of further objections against the Catholic position and Cross and Judisch’s defense of the Catholic paradigm vis-a-vis the “infinite regress” objection. Since my friend’s particular arguments are ones Called to Communion has not previously addressed, I suggested that my friend allow me to articulate his arguments here, and then address them. He graciously agreed. The following is a summary of his objections to the Church’s teaching on magisterial authority, and my response to his objections.

Objection One: The Magisterium Can’t Be Sufficiently Clear All the Time

In response to Cross and Judisch’s point about the comparison between books and persons, my friend first argues that “even the most competent interpreter is not sufficiently clear all the time.” This substance of this objection is that even when an individual (or group of individuals) asks a question of an authority like the Magisterium, the Magisterium’s answer will not necessarily be so clear as to address all questions raised by that individual or group.

I grant this objection — it would be incredibly difficult for any authority, in any circumstance, to understand perfectly all the presumptions, questions, and conclusions that a person has made regarding a given topic. Even if that authority seeks to perform its due diligence in understanding as completely as possible a given question, it is very possible that the question, or some part of the question, will not be addressed to the satisfaction of the questioner. However, this objection does not falsify the response to the infinite regress objection, because Cross and Judisch’s response does not claim that a magisterial response will necessarily address all questions raised by an individual or group.

Moreover, this objection presumes that if Jesus were to establish a visible Church with a living Magisterial authority, that authority must always provide pronouncements of such a quality that they would address adequately all questions raised by individuals. Notice that this presumption requires that the Church meet an a priori conception of what the Church would be like. However, the nature of the Church cannot be determined by the individual conceptions or whims of individuals, no matter how well-meaning. The Church is something given by Christ, rather than defined by individual members of it. Underlying this objection is a rationalist presumption that relies on human reason as the standard by which to determine how the Church should be structured. This is especially problematic for a tradition like that of the Reformed faith, according to which reason is fallen.

Objection Two: The Magisterium Can’t Address All Questions Raised

My friend further claims that, “interpreters can make pronouncements that address all the questions they know require answering, but many readers will have questions they’re unaware of.” What my friend claims here — vis-a-vis the function that the Magisterium serves in the Catholic Church — is that a living person (which is effectively how the Magisterium operates), will address only those questions of which the living person is aware exist. So a living person will fail to address all the questions that other persons have. Furthermore, my friend adds, “while a dialogue with a person is indeed possible, in a practical sense, only a small number of people have the opportunity to participate in such dialog.” My friend here claims that only a small minority of individuals will ever have the opportunity to ask a question of the Magisterium and receive an answer.

I also grant this objection. Yes, it is true, the Magisterium will not be aware of all possible questions that can be raised. It is also true that very few people will ever have the opportunity to pose a question to the Magisterium and receive an authoritative answer. This is however fully compatible with Cross and Judisch’s response to the infinite regress objection, because their argument does not propose that every single question ever asked about Catholic doctrine will be directly answered. Indeed, just because every question will not be answered does not mean or entail that Christ did not or could not have established His Church this way.

This is because, as already observed above, we do not get to establish the Church according to our a priori conception of what it would be like if we were establishing it. Christ is divine, while we are merely human. We should receive the Church as He established it, not as we wish it would be. If the criteria we apply in evaluating different Christian theological or ecclesial paradigms is one of who-has-more-accessibility, then we have already succumbed to what Bryan Cross has elsewhere called ecclesial consumerism. This is a paradigm in which an individual defines the Church (among all the competing candidates) according to the criteria of whichever one gives him the most “x” he wants. In this particular case, “x” would include accessibility. Yet this subjective criteria cannot be the means by which we discover or define the Church He established. There would be nearly as many criteria as there are persons. Rather, we rightly receive the Church as Christ established it; we do not rightly choose it based on what features or qualities we would most like to see in the Church. This objection too presupposes rationalism, by once again setting human reason as the standard by which one decides how the Church is to be structured properly.

Objection Three: The Magisterium Is Incapable of Expressing Itself Clearly

My friend further claims that, “church authorities and readers of their pronouncements can have profoundly divergent worldviews and interpreting frameworks that foil the most sincere attempts at communication.” What my friend claims here is that Church authorities and readers of their pronouncements have worldviews and interpreting frameworks so different from one another that it presents an obstacle for well-meaning Christians to comprehend Catholic teaching fully or properly. This distance between authority and those under authority may exist either linguistically, culturally, historically, or all three. For example, consider the difficulties a twenty-first century English-speaking American will encounter trying to understand the arguments and literary nuances of a fourth century Latin-speaking north African bishop.

To a certain degree, this is indeed accurate. Different worldviews can make communication difficult. But this is a limitation with communication per se, and is thus not a uniquely Catholic problem. Moreover, my friend’s objection again begs the question in two ways. First, it presupposes that the difficulty in communication from one generation or culture to another prevents, for example, a twentieth-century church council from understanding and aligning itself with the proclamations of a fourth-century council. This is not a safe presupposition, since all attempts to read historical documents, including a document such as Holy Scripture, require an attempt at transcending cultural, linguistic, or historically-conditioned differences. If this presupposition were indeed accurate, it would present not simply a problem for the magisterium, but for any person’s reading of history, including that of the biblical record. Second, it presupposes that the Magisterium is incapable of expressing itself clearly in such a way that people of “divergent worldviews and interpreting frameworks” will be able to communicate clearly or understand one another. Both of those claims presume exactly what is in question — namely, the impossibility of the Magisterium’s capacity for clarity and consistency. Furthermore, such an impossibility is not demonstrated by any particular case of ambiguity in a Magisterial text.

I recently returned from spending three years in Southeast Asia. While there, I participated in Catholic liturgies in a number of different cultures: Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. Despite the significant linguistic and cultural differences between these people groups, I experienced the same essential liturgy, and met Catholics who believed the same doctrines as me. This experience helped me see that having a living Magisterium allows for a dialectic that over time clarifies communication and improves mutual understanding. This is how the Gospel can spread to the whole world, namely, in breaking through divergent worldviews and interpretive frameworks. The Great Commission presupposes the possibility of breaking through every such communication barrier. Indeed, we have seen the fruits of this dialectic, given the ability of the Catholic Church through the centuries to communicate the Gospel, Church doctrine, and Church liturgy, to hundreds, if not thousands, of unique languages and cultures.

Objection Four: Most Church Authorities Are Dead and Gone

Finally, my friend claims, “perhaps most importantly, many of the important authorities are deceased, and the Church can only make use of their pronouncements as contents of a book.” Here, the thinking is this: many magisterial authorities (members of former Church councils, the Church Fathers, all but the current pope and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) are deceased. If the Church can only read and interpret these pronouncements as contents of a book, the Church is in the same interpretive framework as that of the Protestant paradigm. This, my friend believes, results in the Catholic Church being in the same position as the Protestant — the “infinite regress” objection discussed above.

However, this criticism presumes that the Holy Spirit cannot be at work in the living Magisterium through Apostolic Succession, a reality the Catholic Church teaches to be precisely the case.  It presumes that the death of various authorities (Church fathers, attendees of ecumenical councils, etc.) prevents the Church from maintaining a credible, consistent witness. This, however, begs the question, by presuming the falsehood of the Catholic conceptions of authority transmitted from one generation to another, and of a living Tradition that is both written and unwritten. If such a living Tradition does indeed exist, it would indeed create continuity between the deceased and living. Moreover, just as Christ’s death did not limit the Apostles only to interpreting Scripture, so the death of the Apostles and their episcopal successors does not limit the present Magisterium only to interpreting what is written. The Apostles interpreted Jesus, who was not physically present to answer questions regarding faith and practice.

Conclusion

My friend ends his series of objections by claiming that the “infinite regress” criticism still applies. He further proposes that what is required to apply the doctrine of sola scriptura properly is the right interpretive method, one that maintains “intellectual honesty and a submission to God’s authority.”

I have addressed my friend’s further objections regarding the “infinite regress” criticism above. As for my friend’s claim about the proper “interpretive method” — this begs the question, by again presupposing the Protestant paradigm. If Christ established His Church such that Scripture was to be understood and interpreted in light of Tradition and by the guidance of the Magisterium, then what my friend claims is the “proper” method simply begs the question. It presupposes the very point in question, by already answering a prior question in the order of inquiry. This question, namely, is how are we to determine what is the proper interpretive method in relation to Scripture.

In this post I have responded to my friend’s further objections to the Catholic interpretive paradigm — vis-a-vis the “infinite regress” argument. I have argued that many of these objections beg the question, by presuming the Protestant interpretive paradigm, without proving its veracity. Some of the objections also de facto presume the invalidity of Catholic magisterial authority without proving this presumption. The Catholic paradigm is based on the authority of Scripture and Tradition, communicated through the Magisterium. The Protestant paradigm, by contrast, as we at Called to Communion have argued, reduces to the interpretive opinions of the individual, who, though he may apply wisdom and humility, still retains ultimate interpretive authority because of the maxim we have often articulated: “when I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.”

October 2, 2017

Recommending Mary: A Review of Marian Veneration by Francis Cardinal Arinze

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 2:58 pm

For Protestants interested in better understanding the subject of Mary and Marian devotion in Catholic faith and practice, there are many good books, including several that have been published within the last ten years.1 One of the most accessible — both in terms of clarity of writing, doctrinal precision, and breadth of subjective address — is Marian Veneration, written by Francis Cardinal Arinze, and published earlier this year. Arinze, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the current Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, succeeds in providing a strong, surprisingly crisp (122 pages!) explanation and defense of the Catholic Church’s doctrine on Mary. This book is a great resource for both Protestants and Catholics. (Continue Reading…)

  1. I recommend specifically David Mills’ Discovering Mary and Tim Staples’ Behold Your Mother, which I will mention in a little more detail at the end of this post. []

August 31, 2017

Bryan Cross on The Journey Home (2017)

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Bryan Cross @ 6:20 pm

In 2011 I received an invitation from the folks at The Journey Home to come tell my story, but at the time I had to decline the invitation because of other responsibilities. This summer I was re-invited, and was traveling through Ohio anyway, so I stopped in Zanesville and sat down with Marcus Grodi, a most gracious host, and described the events leading up to my being received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

(Continue Reading…)

August 16, 2017

Racial Reconciliation and the Most Segregated Hour

Filed under: Blog Posts — Bryan Cross @ 7:22 pm

My daily commute in St. Louis, Missouri used to take me down a three mile stretch of north Grand Avenue from I-70 to Saint Louis University in Midtown St. Louis. Each time I would drive that stretch, I would count the number of churches on either side of the road. I would count them because in driving regularly across and through these racially segregated areas, I could not but wonder what role the proliferation of divisions among Christians contributed to the racial segregation, economic disparity, and poverty I witnessed in those areas. And counting them reminded me regularly to pray for unity. The number was fourteen. Fourteen separated Christian places of worship, in only a three mile stretch the northern end of which is less than six miles as the crow flies, from where Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson on August 9, 2014. (Continue Reading…)

June 14, 2017

Finding a Shared Colonial History: A Review of Kevin Starr’s Continental Ambitions

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 1:29 am

In approaching American history, there is a tendency among Protestants and Catholics to view the social, political, and religious narrative of our country (and continent) through only the lens of one’s own faith community. In my own former Presbyterian church (PCA), I remember cookouts on the fourth of July during which a leaflet would be distributed, with quotations recounting the principal Calvinist influence on American politics and society. Alternatively, since becoming Catholic, I’ve noticed that various Catholic websites feature content on every major holiday, usually explaining that various public observances (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) are truly the possession of Catholics, not Protestants. I don’t find the latter particularly edifying, since it seems inherently competitive and triumphalist, as if history’s main purpose is to serve not as a wellspring of shared knowledge of our past, but as a useful storehouse of ammunition from which to launch polemical grenades at one’s adversary. Welcome, then, is a recent work by revered (and, sadly, recently deceased) historian Dr. Kevin Starr, Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in North America, The Colonial Experience, which combines rigorous scholarship with a just and highly engaging treatment of both Catholics and Protestants in the New World. (Continue Reading…)

April 30, 2017

The Scriptures, the Spirit, and the Sheepfold: A Reply to Dr. Wes Bredenhof

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: , — Guest Author @ 5:31 pm

Jeremy de Haan was born and raised in the Canadian Reformed Churches, and completed a Master of Divinity at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario in 2016. In his fourth year of seminary, Jeremy discovered more deeply the Catholic roots of the Reformed tradition and the way in which that tradition necessarily depends on those roots. He has recently described that discovery in “With Faces Thitherward: A Reformed Seminary Student’s Story.” He and his wife, Arenda, and three children were received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. (Continue Reading…)

April 25, 2017

Reading St. Paul Through the Book of Acts

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 8:55 pm

Ecumenical Bible studies: they are often demonstrations of the best and worst of Christian dialogue. In their most beneficial form, they offer opportunities for members of various Christian traditions, be they Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, or various strands of Evangelicalism, to share their own rich understandings and applications of Biblical literature. Alternatively, they can devolve into unprofitable contests of “name that Scripture verse” to support some particular doctrine — justification by grace through faith alone, Petrine primacy, infant baptism, you name it. A tendency among those Christians eager to “keep the peace” in a setting featuring divergent theological beliefs and practices is to try to find common ground, lowest common denominators, and “non-negotiables.” Such attempts can themselves be profitable, though at times the result is a conversation lacking any theological depth, the participants so frightened of controversy and of offending one another that folks reduce themselves to “this is how this Scripture verse speaks to me” comments. Better than nothing, I suppose, though certainly less than what we are called to do as Christians when approaching Holy Scripture. It’s hard to imagine St. Paul walking into a synagogue in Corinth and declaring in firm confidence to the Jews present: “You may have your own interpretations of the Torah, which may be equally true, but let me tell you what this Scripture means to me!” Is there any way for Christians of different theological stripes to bridge the gap? In this post I will propose an alternative way to read and discuss Scripture that I think offers opportunity for more fruitful exchanges between Christians. (Continue Reading…)

March 5, 2017

The Gospel Coalition and the Vividness Criterion

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 4:35 am

This is the first in an occasional series on how cognitive biases frequently — and often unknowingly — affect ecumenical dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.  (Continue Reading…)

December 17, 2016

With Faces Thitherward: A Reformed Seminary Student’s Story

Filed under: Blog Posts — Guest Author @ 2:11 am

Jeremy de Haan was born and raised in the Canadian Reformed Churches, a denomination grounded in the Dutch Reformed tradition. He drifted from his Reformed roots in his early twenties, spending a few years in a Vineyard church but ultimately returned to the Reformed tradition. Sometime later, he decided to pursue the ministry, and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Fraser Valley in 2012 and a Master of Divinity at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario in 2016. In his fourth year of seminary, Jeremy discovered that the search for the fullness of the Christian faith that had brought him from the Vineyard back to being Reformed was incomplete. He found that the Reformed faith remained strong insofar as it held to its Catholic roots; and insofar as it was worked out according to its own principles it weakened and became unorthodox. This meant that the final step was to return to the bosom of the Church the Reformers had left, to seek her not with the hardness of hostility and prejudice, but with the softness of a child turning to his mother in loving obedience. He and his wife, Arenda, and three children hope to be received into the Church at Easter, 2017. – eds. (Continue Reading…)


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    August 17, 2015

    A Catholic Assessment of Gregg Allison’s Critique of the “Hermeneutics of Catholicism”

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , , , , — Guest Author @ 12:58 am

    This is a guest article by Eduardo Echeverria. Eduardo was born in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, in 1950. His family immigrated to Manhattan, NY, in 1952. He was raised Roman Catholic, but only responded to the Gospel in the summer of 1970 through the ministry of L’Abri Fellowship,  founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer, and located in the small Alpine village of Huémoz, Switzerland. His journey home to the Catholic Church took him from Evangelical Protestantism to Reformed Christianity (particularly, Dutch neo-Calvinism), on to Anglican Catholicism and from there ahead to Catholicism. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and an S.T.L. from the University of St. Thomas, the Angelicum, Rome, Italy. He is the author of dozens of articles and several books, most recently, Berkouwer and Catholicism: Disputed Questions (Brill, 2013), and Pope Francis. The Legacy of Vatican II (Lectio Publishing, 2015). He is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology, Graduate School of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI, and a Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is also a member of the American ecumenical initiative, Evangelicals and Catholics Together.  – Eds.

    (Continue Reading…)

    November 8, 2014

    The Shaping of Biblical Criticism: A Catholic Perspective on Historical Criticism

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , — Casey Chalk @ 6:31 am

    Reformed Protestantism and Catholicism share common ground in their centuries-long interaction, and often battle, with the historical-critical method of Scriptural interpretation. Protestants and Catholics alike have often viewed this method as a direct threat to the historical and theological integrity of the Biblical texts. Many other Protestants and Catholics have alternatively embraced historical criticism to varying degrees, either by appropriating it to replace traditional interpretive methods, or attempting to harmonize it with those same methods. This article revisits the history of the historical-critical method through a summary and review of Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker’s 2013 book Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300 -1700. We also seek to present a Catholic perspective on this controversial and still potent force in contemporary Biblical scholarship. This article was written by Ray Stamper and Casey Chalk. (Continue Reading…)

    August 3, 2014

    To Enter the Sanctuary by the Blood of Jesus: A Literal Account of Becoming Catholic

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Andrew Preslar @ 6:00 pm

    What follows is the story of how I became a Catholic, as best as I can remember it. I have called this a “literal account” in order to distinguish it from a more ambiguous and allusive telling of the tale that was offered here several years ago as “The Last Road.” In neither version do I say anything about many of the specifically Catholic practices and doctrines that Protestants tend to find particularly objectionable. Instead, I have focused on describing landscape. This reflects the nature of the development of my own theological convictions, which was less a matter of piecemeal deduction than of an entire picture slowly coming into resolution, in which process the various objects became distinctly intelligible. Most of this narrative, therefore, is devoted to describing the contours of the biblical, theological, liturgical, ecclesiological, and soteriological considerations that would lead me to Catholicism. I will also briefly recount the final steps that I took towards and then into the Catholic Church, including the process of navigating through some of the confusing and troubling aspects of her recent history.

    (Continue Reading…)

    June 8, 2014

    The Bishops of History and the Catholic Faith: A Reply To Brandon Addison

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , , , , — Bryan Cross @ 3:00 am

    On March 24 of this year we posted a guest article by Brandon Addison titled “The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant Assessment.” We had invited Brandon some months earlier to write an essay for Called To Communion on the topic of his choice, and we are very grateful for his generosity, trust, and yeoman work in putting together such a thorough essay. Brandon’s essay is one of the first posts we have published written from a Protestant perspective, and we hope it leads to further, ever-more fruitful exchanges of this sort. (Continue Reading…)

    August 11, 2013

    The Freedom of the Church: A Review of Hugo Rahner’s Church and State in Early Christianity

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , — Guest Author @ 10:04 pm

    This is a guest post by Michael Rennier. Michael received a BA in New Testament Literature from Oral Roberts University in 2002 and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School in 2006. He served the Anglican Church in North America as the Rector of two parishes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts for five years. After discerning a call to conversion, Michael and his family moved to St. Louis. On October 16th, 2011, he and his wife were received into full communion with the Catholic Church by the Most Rev. Robert Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. Michael tells the story of his conversion in “Into the Half-Way House: The Story of an Episcopal Priest.” In May of 2012 he wrote another guest post for CTC titled “Immortal Diamond: The Search of Gerard Manley Hopkins for Beauty. He currently works for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

    (Continue Reading…)

    January 27, 2013

    Holy Church: Finding Jesus As a Reverted Catholic; A Testimonial Response to Chris Castaldo

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: — Casey Chalk @ 10:01 pm

    This is a guest article by Casey Chalk. Casey was born and raised in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Casey was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion before leaving the Church with his parents for evangelicalism at the age of eight. Casey attended the University of Virginia, where he was introduced to Reformed theology. Upon graduation in 2007 (B.A. History, Religious Studies; Masters in Teaching), Casey became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary. However, an intensive period of study of the “Catholic question” ultimately resulted in Casey’s reunion with the Catholic Church in October 2010. He was confirmed at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia at the Easter Vigil in 2011. Casey works for the federal government, and joyfully also received the sacrament of marriage in August 2012 with his wife Claire. (Continue Reading…)

    December 12, 2012

    Three Frameworks for Interpreting the Church Fathers

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , — Guest Author @ 2:50 pm

    This is a guest article by Dr. Kenneth J. Howell. Dr. Howell earned an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Linguistics and Philosophy from the University of South Florida, a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science, and a second Ph.D. from Lancaster University (U.K.) in the History of Christianity and Science. He was a Presbyterian minister for eighteen years and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary for seven years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. He taught in several universities until 2012, the last of which was a decade at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) where he also was the Director of the Institute of Catholic Thought. He now serves as the Resident Theologian and Director of Pastoral Care of the Coming Home Network International. He continues his work of translating and commenting on the early Church Fathers, having already authored Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna: A New Translation and Theological Commentary and Clement of Rome and the Didache: A New Translation and Theological Commentary. In June of 2010 we posted the video of his talk titled “The Issue of Authority in Early Christianity,” which he delivered at the Deep in History conference in 2009. (Continue Reading…)

    September 23, 2012

    I Fought the Church, and the Church Won

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , — Jason Stellman @ 9:00 pm

    This is a guest post by Jason Stellman. Jason was born and raised in Orange County, CA, and served as a missionary with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in Uganda (’91-’92) and in Hungary (’94-’00). After becoming Reformed and being subsequently “dismissed” from ministry with Calvary, he went to Westminster Seminary California where he received an M.Div. in 2004. After graduation he was ordained by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America and called to plant Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area, where he served from 2004 until resigning in the Spring of 2012. He is the author of Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet (Reformation Trust, 2009), and The Destiny of the Species (forthcoming from Wipf and Stock Publications). In 2011 he served as the prosecutor in the trial of Peter Leithart in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the PCA. He currently resides in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. He was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on September 23, 2012. (Continue Reading…)

    May 27, 2012

    Joshua Lim’s Story: A Westminster Seminary California Student becomes Catholic

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Joshua Lim @ 8:02 pm

    This a guest post by Joshua Lim. Joshua graduated this Spring from Westminster Seminary California, where he earned his MA in historical theology. He was born and raised in the PCUSA. He spent a few years in college as a Baptist before moving back to a confessional Reformed denomination (URCNA) prior to entering seminary. He was received into full communion with the Catholic Church this year on April 21st, the feast day of St. Anselm. He plans on continuing his studies in systematic theology.

    (Continue Reading…)

    March 14, 2012

    “Have you been Born Again? Catholic Reflections on a Protestant Doctrine, or How Calvin’s view of Salvation destroyed his Doctrine of the Church”

    Filed under: Featured Articles — Tags: , , , — David Anders @ 9:44 pm

    When I first began to study Calvin in earnest, I was puzzled by what seemed a glaring omission in his writings and sermons. He never counseled his readers and listeners to be “Born Again.” This struck me as odd because I knew our denomination (PCA) considered Calvin to be our true founder. I also knew that the evangelical doctrine of “New Birth” (regeneration), understood as the moment of personal, conscious conversion, was the linchpin, the central dogma of our congregation. As an Evangelical Presbyterian, I had grown up constantly hearing these exhortations to be “Born Again.” My pastors and teachers revered evangelistic luminaries like Billy Graham and Bill Bright right along with the great Lion of Geneva. (Continue Reading…)

    For older posts, visit the archives.

    Called to Communion Podcast

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    March 23, 2015

    John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 1:46 pm

    Here is a talk I gave last night (3/22/15) at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery, AL.

    The talk was titled “John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective.”

    Download the mp3 by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here by clicking on the play button below:

     

    August 31, 2014

    Radio Maria Interview with Tom and Jessica Brown

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: — Tom Brown @ 7:38 pm

    Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico’s program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here. (more…)

    April 16, 2014

    An interview with Dr. Thomas Madden on the Medieval Catholic Church

    Filed under: Podcast — Casey Chalk @ 7:52 am

    Protestant criticisms of the Catholic Church frequently target the medieval Catholic Church as a prime example of the Church’s problematic relationship with politics and the secular order. These critics often claim that the medieval Church was ruled by a greedy hierarchy bent on increasing its power in Europe and abroad, eager to silence or even eliminate its detractors or opponents, and rocked by internal scandals, corruption, and ultimately confusion. The seeds of the Reformation, so many Protestants believe, were sown during this tumultuous period where attempts at reform, like conciliarism, were destroyed underfoot by power-hungry popes. (more…)

    November 11, 2012

    How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman

    Filed under: Podcast — Bryan Cross @ 6:16 pm

    Jason Stellman

    In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it. (more…)

    June 17, 2012

    Podcast Ep. 17 – Jason & Cindy Stewart Recount Their Conversion

    Filed under: Podcast — Tags: — Tim A. Troutman @ 6:14 pm

    In this episode, Tom Riello, a former PCA pastor, interviews Jason Stewart, a former pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and his wife Cindy on the topic of their conversion to the Catholic faith in 2011. Jason earned his Master of Divinity from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2005, and subsequently served for five and a half years as pastor of Trinity OPC in eastern Pennsylvania. Jason and Cindy currently live in Rockford, IL, and have four children. He is completing a two year course of study with the Diocese of Rockford’s Diaconal Program.

    (more…)

    February 17, 2012

    David Anders on Catholic Answers: February 13, 2012

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 11:45 pm

    David Anders

    Open Forum for Non-Catholics
    David Anders on Catholic Answers, Monday, February 13, 2012.
    (more…)

    August 2, 2011

    Episode 16 – Stephen Beck’s Conversion Story

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: , , — Jeremy Tate @ 8:00 am

    Stephen Beck

    Stephen Beck was raised Evangelical, but read his way into the Reformed world. He became a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and then the Presbyterian Church in America. Stephen and his family were received into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 2011 at St. Andrew’s by the Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland. He has a Master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America. Stephen is a brilliant thinker with a deep love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In this episode, Stephen’s personal friend and regular CTC contributor, Jeremy Tate, interviews him to find out the reasons behind his conversion.

     

    Right click here to save the MP3 file.

    July 16, 2011

    David Anders on Catholic Answers

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 8:23 am

    David Anders

    On Friday, July 8, I was the guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, taking calls and questions from non-Catholics. The one-hour broadcast featured the following questions and discussions:

    7′ A discussion of John Calvin’s view of his relation to the Catholic Church, the Catholic positions he affirmed, and his rejection of denominationalism.

    15′ A discussion of the Catholic doctrine of communion of the saints, and whether the saints can hear our prayers.

    22′ A discussion of legalism and scrupulosity among Catholics.

    28′ Why is it difficult for Protestant leaders who recognize the truth of the Catholic Church to become Catholic? Wouldn’t remaining Protestant, in order to hold on to reputation, livelihood, etc. be contrary to Protestant theology?

    33′ What are some resources for non-Catholics who want to understand the differences between Calvinism and Catholicism?

    36′ What is the Catholic understanding of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom?

    41′ How does the Catholic understanding of justification address the Reformed claim that the scriptural evidence supports the Protestant notion of justification by the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ to the believer?

    51′ What is the Catholic position on eternal security and the possibility of apostasy, and what is the support for that position?

    Listen to the program:

     

    Or download it by right-clicking here.

    November 24, 2010

    Episode 15 – The Conversion of Annie Witz (OPC)

    In this episode, Tom Riello, former PCA minister, interviews Annie Witz, a convert from the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).  Annie’s father is an elder in the OPC church and serves on the board of Westminster Seminary California.   Annie shares her personal conversion story from being a devout OPC member to a Catholic in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church).  Of particular interest is the role that the women saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in her conversion.  We are thrilled to have our first female guest on the show!

     

    To download the mp3, click here.

    August 25, 2010

    Episode 14 – A Presuppositional Apologist Becomes Catholic

    Tom Riello interviews Marc Ayers on the topic of his conversion to the Catholic Church. Marc was a ‘disciple’ of Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Hear him tell how his presuppositional apologetic method helped him see the need for a divinely instituted authority, namely the Catholic Church.

     

    To download the mp3, click here.

    For older posts, visit the archives.

    Called to Communion Radio

    CTC Radio can be heard Tuesday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media: Live with video, Podcast, EWTN.COM, Sirius Sattelite, Iheart Radio, The EWTN app, Short wave, and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.



    December 1, 2014

    CTC Radio Update

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 1:59 pm

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    Called to Communion Radio is now available four days a week.
    CTC Radio can be heard Monday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media:

     

    EWTN Youtube Channel

    Live with video

    Podcast

    EWTN.COM

    Sirius Sattelite

    Iheart Radio

    The EWTN app

    Short wave,

    and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.

    October 20, 2014

    Divorce & Remarriage Revisited

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 10:29 am

    A few weeks back I wrote an article titled: “Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod on the Family.” In the article, I discussed the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage and what it means for civilly divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Based on the teaching of Christ, the Church’s longstanding practice has been to deny communion in these cases.  As to whether the Church could change her doctrine on marriage or her discipline based on that doctrine, I wrote this:

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.”

    In the weeks since I wrote that article, the Synod of Bishops generated a lot of media attention and, quite frankly, a lot of confusion. Did the Synod suggest a change to the Church’s doctrine or practice in this matter? Some media outlets would have you think so.  The main source of confusion was a “midterm report” supposedly summarizing the discussions at the Synod. The document suggested that “some synod fathers” were in favor of a change of “present regulations.” The report was neither seen nor approved by the Synod Fathers prior to its release. Instead, it provoked vehement protests among the bishops. (The most controversial statements of the report were not concerned with divorce and remarriage.)

    Days after the release of the relatio, the synod Fathers insisted that their objections be made known.  Reports of each of the discussion groups (organized by language) were published on the Vatican’s Website Thursday, October 16.  The following selections are some of the remarks from synod Fathers on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments.

    Circulus Gallicus A (French language group) wrote:

    On the connection between the divorced/remarried and the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist . . . it is important not to change the doctrine of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the non-admission of the divorced/remarried to the sacraments.

    Circulus Angelicus A (English language group) wrote:

    We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.

    Circulus Angelicus B (English language group) wrote:

    On the subject of the admission of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist the group stressed two principles flowing directly from God’s Word: 1) the clear affirmation of the indissolubility of a valid sacramental union, while humbly admitting that we need a more credible way of presenting and witnessing to that teaching; 2) The strong desire to invite and embrace sincere Catholics who feel alienated from the family of the Church because of irregular situations.

    Circulus Italicus A (Italian language group) directed attention on this issue to the teaching of St. John Paul II in his Familiaris Consortio, section 84. In that document, the Saint wrote:

    The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

    It is true that the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church are were not universally acclaimed at the Synod.  The final version of the Relatio (released October 18) ackowledged this. Clearly, some of the Synod Fathers were searching for a way to “soften” the Church’s position.  In his final speech, Pope Francis also acknowledged division among some of the bishops. Strangely, he did not make his thoughts plain on the controversies in question. He did, however, conclude the Synod by beatifying Pope Paul VI. Of his predecessor, Pope Francis said:

    Before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

    To what was Pope Francis referring when he spoke of Paul’s holding fast in the face of a secular and hostile culture? He didn’t say. But we we remember Blessed Paul today mostly for his courageous stand on behalf of the Church’s long-standing tradition on human sexuality and the necessity of openness to life.

    Neither the the Synod nor the Pope issued any teaching documents, nor has there been any change to Church law. The final message of the Bishops, published on October 18, ended on a postive note of continuity:

    Conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education.

    September 25, 2014

    Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod of Bishops

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:31 am

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    Listeners to CTC Radio often ask about the Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. With them in mind, I have attached a brief article I wrote for One Voice, the newspaper for the diocese of Birmingham.

    To listen to CTC Radio, tune in to EWTN at 2:00 PM Eastern Tuesday through Thursday.
    Podcasts are available here

      Here is the Article:

    There will be an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops in October to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” No doubt the synod will discuss many issues, but none has garnered more media attention than the status of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. In particular, the media have focused on the question of their eligibility to receive communion. Cardinal Walter Kasper encouraged speculation about a change in the Church’s discipline by asking a consistory of cardinals in February whether or not the Church should continue to refuse communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. As the synod approaches, it seems appropriate to reflect on what the Church can and cannot change about her doctrine and discipline.

    What is the rationale for barring the civilly divorced and remarried from Holy Communion? The answer to this requires an understanding of Christian marriage. According to the teaching of Christ and the Catholic faith, Christian marriage is by definition a lifelong union, effected by a promise of fidelity and the intent to raise a family, elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. It is always indissoluble under any and all circumstances.

    To understand the current discussion, the key point to emphasize is the indissolubility of a valid Christian marriage. The Catechism states:

    Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom. (CCC 1640)

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.” In this regard, the Church’s Magisterium is a servant of the truth, not its master. The Catechism says, “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.” (CCC 86)

    Because marriage is indissoluble, a validly married Catholic who obtains a civil divorce from a judge and then contracts another civil marriage is objectively in the state of ongoing adultery. Jesus said, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Again, following the teaching of Christ and the words of Sacred Scripture, the Church has no choice but to withhold communion from those deemed to be in grave sin. (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Matthew 18: 17)

    Some have asked whether or not a person could “repent” for a failed first marriage, receive the sacraments of reconciliation, and then be admitted to communion while remaining in an invalid second marriage (i.e., a relationship the Church deems adulterous). This proposal fails to take into account the doctrine on Christian marriage and the doctrine on reconciliation and penance. By definition, there is no forgiveness of sins and no reconciliation as long as one intends to persist in grave sin. St. John Paul II explains, “Without a sincere and firm purpose of amendment, sins remain ‘unforgiven,’ in the words of Jesus, and with him in the Tradition of the Old and New Covenants.” (Dominum et Vivificantem) If a valid marriage exists, all subsequent unions are adulterous by definition. “Repentance,” in this context, must mean repentance for the subsequent union, whatever else may be involved.

    The Church does recognize some situations in which reconciliation with a spouse is impossible and in which subsequent civil unions have resulted in children being born. In these cases, the Church sometimes permits the parents in these unions to remain together for the sake of the children, provided they agree to live as brother and sister. This is not a tacit recognition of the subsequent marriage, but rather an unusual and, quite frankly, difficult concession that Catholics must make for the sake of children.

    What then could the Church change? Theoretically, some change is possible to the process by which Catholics obtain annulments. It is highly unlikely, however, that such changes could dispense with canonical expertise or judicial process, since the declaration of nullity is a finding of juridical fact and requires moral certainty on the part of the judge. The most likely outcome to the Synod is a deepening pastoral emphasis on the means and the virtue of chastity, and a renewed catechesis on the meaning of Christian marriage. A good deal of ink has been spilled on this topic and I fear that many people may have unfulfilled expectations for what the Church can and will do. Let us remember the Bishops and the Holy Father in our prayers, and ask that they have wisdom and grace to communicate the Church’s teaching with compassion and clarity.

    September 11, 2014

    Television Interview with Johnette Benkovic

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 5:00 pm

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    My television interview on Women of Grace is now available here.

    We discuss the new radio show, Called to Communion, as well as my path to the Catholic Church.

    September 9, 2014

    Do We Really Meet Christ in the Sacraments?

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 7:53 am

    R_main_call_communion_14

    Catholics and some non-Catholic Christians disagree about the nature of the sacraments. Are they merely signs? Do they really conform us to Christ? (more…)

    September 4, 2014

    Scripture and Tradition

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:09 am

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    How do we know the will of God for the Church? On CTC Radio today, I hope we can generate discussion about Scripture and Tradition.

    I welcome your emails at ctc@ewtn.com

    There is also live video feed from the Radio Studios at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/radiolive.asp

    Here, finally, is a short text I prepared for One Voice, the Diocesan paper for the Diocese of Birmingham. (more…)

    September 2, 2014

    Called to Communion Radio

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 12:33 pm

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    Dear Friends,

    Today at 2:00 PM Eastern, we launch the new EWTN Radio Show Called to Communion.

    We hope to encourage collaboration across media (internet and radio) as we continue to discuss what divides us as Christians and as human beings. (more…)

    For older posts, visit the archives.

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Recommending Mary: A Review of Marian Veneration by Francis Cardinal Arinze

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CTC Radio Update

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John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective

Here is a talk I gave last night (3/22/15) at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery, AL. The talk was titled "John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective." Download ...


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The Shaping of Biblical Criticism: A Catholic Perspective on Historical Criticism
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Reformed Protestantism and Catholicism share common ground in their centuries-long interaction, and often battle, with the historical-critical method of Scriptural interpretation. Protestants and Catholics alike have often viewed this method as a direct threat to the historical and theological integrity of the Biblical texts. Many other Protestants and Catholics have alternatively embraced historical criticism to varying degrees, either by appropriating it to replace traditional interpretive methods, or attempting to harmonize it with those same methods. This article revisits the history of the historical-critical method through a summary and review of Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's 2013 book Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300 -1700. We also seek to present a Catholic perspective ...



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