This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Friday, October 20, 2017

My Journey to a Comp Exam - What I Have Learned Part VI

As I embark on the sixth part of this series, I am still in preparation for the comprehensive exam I have for my Master's program, and that exam is in January 2018.  I am writing this series of articles based on the questions I will need to know for the exam, and this one happens to be what is called Historical Foundations.  There is a lot entailed in this area, and therefore it will be well-illustrated as well as documented.  

Again, my appreciation to Patti Christensen for organizing the collaborative effort among all of us to prepare for this, and the outline I am using for the "skeleton" of this part of the series is the effort of two of my classmates, Sister Andrew Marie, and Nancy Duey.  They both did a fantastic job with the effort they put into condensing the material into a systematic form, and as with the other sections I will be using their outline as the framework to write this article.  

The history of Christianity is complex, and it entails a lot of very specific information that addresses key issues and events in the growth and development of the Christian faith.  In the particular course, the professor divided that history into four distinct eras, and they each had their own challenges, their own key figures, and each also entailed the development of essential doctrines and schools of thought that impacted Christianity for centuries to come.  The purpose of the first part of this is to focus on some key issues from each era.

The first era to be discussed is the era of Patristics, which lasted from roughly the Ascension of Christ until the 9th century AD.  This was an era that was shaped by two main things.  In the earlier centuries of this era, persecution had an impact on the growth of the Church, and the overarching testimony is its amazing growth and spread despite tremendous adversity from the ruling Roman authorities of the time.  As Christianity eventually did "conquer" the Roman Empire and persecution ceased, a new issue came up as the Church was now able to codify its beliefs, and that was the rise of heresies.  In this outline, we'll deal with those first, and then come back to the effects of persecution.

Heresies tended to bear both good and bad fruit.  The bad fruit was that many people embraced doctrines and practices that were in contradiction to what the Bible and the Church held, and therefore many people either left on their own accord as a result or they were excommunicated and condemned for that heresy.  However, the good fruit of heresy is that it helped the Church define her doctrines better, and therefore the scourge of heresy may have been used of God to give the Church an idea of what she truly believed, as well as weeding out "tares" in the "field of harvest."  There are at least three major heresies that were addressed by major Ecumenical Councils that were called in the 4th and 5th centuries, and those are the source of the discussion now.

The first major council that dealt with issues of doctrine was the Council of Nicaea which was convened in AD 325.  The main purpose of this council was to address a new heresy that was being spread by a bishop named Arius, and that heresy entailed two different aspects.  Arius (250-336AD) was actually a presbyter of the Church in Alexandria, and in 318 he began to trigger controversy over his unorthodox views on the Trinity (Prokurat, Golitzin, and Peterson, ed. Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church. Lanham, MD:  Scarecrow Press, 1996. p. 42).  Therefore, the heresy of Arius focused on how we understand three Persons being in one God.  The problem was complicated by not so much common convictions of the time, but rather how they were articulated - the East, for instance, emphasized the distinction of the three Persons.  While correct in doing that, the weakness here was in the formulation; it was couched in language that made the Persons of the Godhead subordinate rather than equal.  Likewise, in the West, the problem was not how the West believed - the West rightly emphasized the unity of the Godhead.  But, there was a problem here as well - the West's language in articulation of that essential fact could be weakened potentially in that it could insinuate splitting the Godhead into three separate beings (or tritheism) rather than keeping them as one.  Arius's approach to the problem was to take away the deity of Christ the Son, which led to outright heresy and rightly garnered condemnation.  Arius's reasoning was that the Son was created by the Father to serve as the latter's instrument in creation and redemption (ibid.).  This centered as well around the term Homouisios, which articulated that the Father and Son were of the same substance, an idea that Arius had problems with and that his issues garnered support for him from many Alexandrians.  However, the language of the Homouisios was adopted in AD 381 at the Council of Constantinople, and this was incorporated into what is commonly called the Nicene Creed that many of us confess at Mass every Sunday.  The one important thing about heresies is that they never are original, and they tend to emerge in different forms in later centuries - we then call the resulting movements cults.   In the case of the Arian heresy, it has resurrected in the past couple of centuries in the form of a number of cultic groups, and here are some examples.  In the Mormon religion, for instance, they teach that the three Persons of the Godhead are three separate beings, and that God is only an exalted man, and the Holy Spirit is depersonalized totally - The Holy Spirit is subordinate to Jesus, but Jesus is subordinate to the Father (Mark J. Cares, Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing, 1993. p. 273).  This is articulated in Mormon theology as what is called the "Adam/God Doctrine."  Jehovah's Witnesses likewise hold to some Arian convictions, including that Jesus pre-existed as Michael the Archangel, and is thus a created being - he is for Jehovah's Witnesses, the Son of God but not God the Son (Everett Hullum, ed. Beliefs of Other Kinds. Atlanta: Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, 1983. p. 81).   Another cult, the Way International, denies Jesus's preexistence and says that the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 was the result of "pagan influence," and thus they also deny Christ is God and the Holy Spirit is a person (Hullum, p. 92).  Another group that also carries on the Arian heretical tradition is the Unitarian-Universalist Church, which doesn't view Jesus as divine, and therefore there is no salvation in Christ according to them (Hullum, p. 60).  Unitarians are perhaps the most Arian of all these cults, in that much of their own theology can be traced back to the 16th-century Spanish Arianist Servetus.  The views of Arius, however, are rightly condemned by all actual Christian traditions - Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox.  We owe much today to St. Athanasios, as well as the Armenian Saint Gregory Nazianzus, for rescuing the Church from Arius and his heretical teachings, and they were instrumental in getting the Council of Constantinople to codify orthodox Trinitarianism as well as the deity of Christ in the Creeds.

St. Athanasios of Alexandria, champion of Trinitarian Orthodoxy

The next major issue that arose involved the question of how Jesus could be both fully human and fully divine, and this would lead to a codification of the hypostatic union of Jesus as both human and divine at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431.  Again, the question centered around how two theological schools within the Church defined the doctrine.  The Alexandrian School, for instance, emphasized a close union between Christ's divinity and His humanity, while the Antiochene School emphasized a distinction between the two natures to avoid confusion.  In the midst of this debate rose a bishop of Ephesus named Nestorius, who was a pupil of the more orthodox Assyrian Theodore of Mopsuestia, but Theodore was weak in his explanation of the completeness of Christ's humanity, which cast doubt over the hypostatic union of Christ as fully human and fully God.  In AD 428, Nestorius denied that the Virgin Mary could rightly be called the Theotokos, and thus should only be considered the Christotokos (Prokurat, Golitzen, and Peterson, p. 85).  Many Alexandrians were converts to Nestorius's views, and it caused such a problem that in AD 431 the Council of Ephesus was called to address the issue.  The Council condemned Nestorius's view that Mary was only the mother of Christ's human nature and not His divine nature, and affirmed Mary as the Theotokos and mother of the person Jesus, who is fully God and fully man.  Nestorius's followers, mostly in Mesopotamia and largely ethnic Assyrians, formed their own Church at that point which today is still known as the Assyrian Church of the East.  However, as a positive note, in 1995 Pope St. John Paul II and the Assyrian Catholicos Mar Khananiah Dinkha signed a Common Christological Agreement which established a sort of Communio in Sacris between both Churches, and for the most part the Assyrian Church now accepts orthodox Christology. 

The third major issue was related to Christology but sort of went opposite of Nestorius, and this led to an issue that was addressed at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.  That council centered around the teachings of Eutyches, an archimandrite of the Church in Constantinople who advocated a union of God and man in Christ (Prokurat, Golitzen, and Peterson, p. 85).  Although Eutyches was a very vocal opponent of Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus, he went to the other extreme of even denying Jesus was truly human, but rather a unique "God-man" who transcended humanity.  His followers would later be called "Monophysites" and would encompass a large portion of the Syriac-speaking Christian community (Western Assyrians), the Armenians, the Copts in Egypt, and their daughter Churches in Ethiopia, India, and Georgia (although Georgia later accepted the Chalcedonian decision). Prokurat and cohort in their text say though that this was not so much a heresy as it was a schism, and in 1973 the Coptic Pope Shenouda III signed a common Christological agreement with Pope Paul VI, and for the most part the "Oriental" Churches today embrace a more orthodox Christology as a whole.  Much of the credit for clarifying the doctrine, however, was to go to Pope Leo the Great, whose response to Eutyches served as the basis for the doctrinal definition of the Council.

Pope St. Leo the Great, who helped define orthodox Christology at the Council of Chalcedon by his refutation of Eutyches

Now that we have dealt with heresies and schisms, we come back to the early adversity faced by Christians in the formative centuries of the Church's existence.  There were many reasons why Christians encountered persecution first from Jewish authorities in Judea, where it started, and later from Roman authorities as it spread throughout the Empire.  The one thing noted in the outline was that although Christians performed commendable works, they were also suspected of being a secret society.  Secret societies made the Roman authorities a little gunshy because the true secret and clandestine groups (one being the Essenes in Judea) had a potential to incite unrest against Imperial authority.  Also, because of their doctrine of the Eucharist, Christians were wrongly assumed to be "cannibals" due to the fact they took Jesus's command to "eat His Body and drink His Blood" seriously, and this was often misunderstood as literal rather than as the mystery of faith that the Church taught.  Ironically though, Christians would later accuse Jews of the same thing - rumors in medieval times, for instance, alleged that Jews kidnapped Christian children and used their blood to make matzoh (Deborah Wigoder and Rabbi Ben Isaacson, eds. The International Jewish Encyclopedia. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, 1973. p. 16, 234), also known as "blood libel."  One of the unfortunate side effects at times of the Church gaining acceptance is that some among its professed members spread horrific allegations in order to sanctify and justify anti-semitism, but anti-semitism has always been condemned by the Church, and these actions in no way constitute official Church teaching.  And, for those professing Christianity who would believe such garbage, they need to look at how pagan Romans used to view us.  It sheds a whole other dimension on this issue for sure.  A third unjust allegation against Christians by the Roman authorities was sexual immorality, which is ironic due to the fact that many of the accusers were more debauched than any Christian ever was.  However, sex rites were actually a part of what were called "mystery religions" of the time, including temple prostitutes at Ephesus in Diana's temple (the same one Paul encountered in Acts) and also rampant ritual homosexual acts by such cults as the Mithraic sect.  Due to the fact that Christians were often persecuted, they had to meet in secret, and were often due to their isolation thought of as just another one of those "mystery religions," which in reality they had little in common with.  Another allegation that was brought against Christians often was a trumped-up charge of "atheism."  This stemmed from two things.  First, the refusal of Christians to worship Roman state gods or the Emperor made them suspect.  Secondly, as former Anglican writer David Bercot points out in his book Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Tyler, TX:   Scroll Publishing, 1989), Christians at that time had no organized temples or images of any god, so they were assumed to be atheistic as a result (Bercot, p. 2).  These allegations naturally intensified persecution against the Christians, but it also served to make them grow, as it encouraged two things we will discuss next. 

First, with persecution came martyrdom for many Christians, as many were so committed to their faith that they accepted death rather than denying Christ.  A vivid example is recorded by David Bercot regarding St. Polycarp when he was martyred in an arena.  When the procounsel who was "judging" his case threatened to unleash wild beasts on St. Polycarp, his response was simply "Unleash them then!  Who has heard of repenting from what is good in order to follow what is evil?"  Keep in mind that St. Polycarp was 86 years old at this point, and when the procounsel saw that a fear of wild animals didn't work on the old saint, he threatened fire instead, to which St. Polycarp said, "You threaten me with a mere fire that burns for an hour and then goes out. Have you not heard of the fire of coming judgment and of the eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly?  Why do you keep delaying? Do whatever you want with me!"  (Bercot, p. 3).  Rather than being a means of intimidating other Christians, martyrdoms like this inspired them instead.  Another fruit of the persecution was the development of the discipline of apologetics.  With so many allegations about what Christians were alleged to be doing, the need for a sound defense was evident in light of many false accusations.  Through the efforts of those like St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and others, the discipline of apologetics became integral to the Christian faith, and would also play a role later on in refuting heresies. 

Artistic rendering of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp

We now move forward many centuries to the Protestant Reformation, and as discussed in Part IV, much of what the Protestant Reformation has birthed has also led to a rise in secularism as well concerning a philosophical/social context.  The main impetus of Protestant Reformers was a protest against what they perceived (correctly, in some cases) as abuses within the Church.  However, the problem was, with the possible exception of the English Reformation, that the Reformers took this to an extreme and even a rejection of all things "Popish," even discarding the good with the bad.  The whole thing started with Luther, who we will discuss first.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Although the Eastern Orthodox differ on this, the Protestant Reformation was not so much a heresy as it was a schism, and as such there are actually many cardinal doctrines of the undivided Church that the Protestants maintained.  However, there were also major differences, and one of those centered around the justification vs. works issue.  Luther, like many of his theological descendants, believed that only Christ could justify, and that works had no part in it.  This was actually a misunderstanding on his part of the definition of salvation itself as well as the role of works - Luther, and more radically in later centuries his disciples, would reduce salvation from a process to an event, equating it with conversion.  In doing this, the need for works was either ignored or written out completely, and this led to some other problems.  Luther was essentially failing to understand that works did not make salvation, but rather were a fruit of supernatural grace that should be manifest as a result of conversion and the pilgrimage of salvation.  Instead, as he redefined salvation as a one-time event, for him it was only gained through Christ alone (which is partially correct) and (also correctly) was a free gift offered by Him.  While there is much truth in that conviction, it fails to commit the individual Christian to the task of willingly submitting to God's will to allow supernatural grace to aid in the transformative process - this was something Wesley tried to correct later, but was still largely lacking with his followers as well.  Luther also rejected indulgences as a whole due to some abusive practices associated with them, and he also rejected the Scholastic tradition that had rich roots in the works of Aquinas and others.  As a matter of fact, education actually began to suffer as a result of Luther's schismatic revolt, and as Fr. John Laux notes in his book Church History (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2012), a gradual decay of education resulted from Luther's actions, although he himself lamented it in his writings (Laux, pp. 435-436).  In a sort of Newtonian process, Luther's reaction against legitimate excesses of the Church would later lead to a rejection of both Papal authority and the Ecumenical Councils, as they were replaced with the idea of Sola Scriptura.  The problem with this, however, was that now it was not so much Sola Scriptura as it was the various interpretations of Scripture that conflicting opinions were allowed to run rampant with, and this would lead to both Enlightenment-era rationalism infecting theology, as well as the theological liberalism that would contribute to the downfall of many mainline Protestant denominations in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Their "conservative" heirs, the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, are starting to be likewise affected by this same mindset in the 21st century.  If one takes away grounding and moorings, the resulting adrift state of theology and Biblical studies then begins to have disastrous consequences.  Compared to other Reformers though, Luther would be mild, as we will now see.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)

In 1516, a Swiss priest from Einsieden, Switzerland, began preaching some radical and negative doctrines - he preached against the Virgin Mary and against pilgrimages to holy places.  He was then banished for his abherrent views and found his way to Zurich, where he began preaching his own version of Sola Scriptura (Laux, p. 434)Zwingli would become the "herald" of what would be called the "Radical Reformation" as he would go further than Luther did to divorce himself from the Church, and his convictions are largely similar to many Evangelical Protestants today.  On many things, Zwingli did remain orthodox in doctrine - for instance, although he railed against Mary, he also did believe her to be Ever-Virgin, which is what the Church had historically taught (Luther did likewise, as later did Wesley).  But, it was in other areas where Zwingli was problematic, and those are what we will deal with here.  First, Zwingli launched a crusade to essentially eliminate anything not specifically found in Scripture - this was now taking Sola Scriptura to an entirely new level, in that many things the Church did practice were not specifically mentioned in Scripture, but were part of the Tradition of the Church that was handed down by the Apostles.  This of course would later mean a radically altered interpretation of some aspects of Scripture (again affirming that true Sola Scriptura does not exist, but is rather the whims and fancies of the one reading the passage) to the point that certain "Catholic" practices (the use of incense, for one example) would be allegorized, and even a quasi-Gnostic understanding of signs and symbols that viewed anything material as "worldly" and "evil" would become a hallmark of Zwingli's successors, in particular the Anabaptists and later Evangelicals.  This being said, sacramental grace was irrelevant to Zwingli, and therefore the Eucharist, infant baptism, and other sacraments were radically redefined to mesh with his reading of Scripture.  The Eucharist in particular suffered Zwingli's scrutiny in that he reduced it to a mere memory-meal and denied the Real Presence. His views still carry implications to this day, as the modern "Emerging Church" proponents among Protestant Evangelicals - people such as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others - have taken this to new depths.  And, it has caused a disconnect among Protestants that has also fostered a sort of "spiritual amnesia" that is reflected in their prayer life and worship. 

A third group of "Reformers" were more or less modern Arians, and owed much to the legacy of Michael Servetus and others - these would be the Socinians.  The Socinians rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ as well as His Incarnation, and unlike other Reformers they actually did become heretical.  They grew from a movement called the Polish Brethren that in turn grew out of the work of one Fausto Sozzini (1539-1604), after whom the movement was named ("Socinianism," at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socinianism, September 7, 2017.  Accessed October 20, 2017).  Sozzini was an Italian theologian who eventually settled in Poland, and with Servetus in Spain he could also be considered a key figure in the development of Unitarianism later. He and his followers denied almost every cardinal Christian doctrine, including original sin, and in time Sozzini was beaten up by mobs in 1598, and died in 1604 from an illness resulting as a complication of those beatings. 

Fausto Sozzini (1539-1604)

The final Reformer to discuss probably had the most impact negatively on the Reformation, and that of course was John Calvin.

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Protestant Evangelicals - at least 50% of them - revere John Calvin as almost a saint, and his role on the Reformation and influence on Protestantism for decades to come cannot be underestimated.  Calvin was also one of the first to codify his doctrine by what is known as the "TULIP" acrostic, and it looks like this"

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistable Grace
Perserverence of the Saints

That whole scheme would define Calvin's convictions for centuries to come, and although some (such as Baptists and more moderate Presbyterians) have softened it somewhat, that scheme still remains cardinal to the theology of many Evangelicals.  The one in particular has to do with the L in the "TULIP," and without getting into a lot of biographical details of Calvin or other specifics, we will address this one first.  Limited atonement, to Calvin and many of his later disciples, translated to one thing - double predestination.  What that meant was that some were predestined to spend eternity in hell, while others are elected to go to heaven, and there was nothing anyone could do to change that. This second aspect of double predestination then led to the U in "TULIP," which is unconditional election - no matter what one does, if you are predestined to heaven you are going, and that is why the "P"- perserverance of the saints - comes into play here; to redefine it in modern terminology, perserverance of the saints translates as "once saved, always saved."  And, as free will and chance were looked at by Calvin as illusionary, this meant that the sovereignty of God was over-emphasized to the extent that free will was not even possible.  And, naturally that followed that nothing is reversible - if it is predestined, then it has to be.  There are many, many problems with this scheme, and it really creates a conflict with a believer in Sola Scriptura, as verses like John 3:16 stand in utter contrast to this scheme.  That is why more moderate Calvinists - such as many Baptists - have had to redefine some of Calvin's "TULIP" to fit with evangelistic endeavors, and in the 18th and 19th centuries that caused some problems among Baptists in particular when the "Primitives" who were strict Calvinists split from the more evangelistic-minded "Missionary" Baptists.  

The bottom line here is that the Reformation created a whole hornet's nest of theological and later political and social issues, and much of the fruit is still being seen today.  But, thankfully, there were true Catholic reformers as well, and those will be discussed briefly.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

One thing the Reformers did bring to light was the fact that there were indeed some abuses and problems in the Church, and they did need to be addressed.  It must be understood that the Church, although a holy institution, is also subject to the human limitations of her leaders at times, and it is important to understand that human beings, even among the clergy, can and do fall.  Many faithful Catholics who were loyal to the Church saw this too, and one of those was St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish military man who later was consecrated to religious life.  When he was engaged in a military campaign, Ignatius received a bad injury and was forced to recover.  While in convalescence, he began his own independent study of the lives of the saints and of Christ, and it led to a personal conversion.  As a fruit of his conversion, Ignatius was led to found a religious order that we know today as the Jesuits, and it was an order marked at its beginnings by loyalty to the Church and to the Pope in particular, as well as producing great educators and missionaries.  They became, in a true sense, warriors in defense of the Faith.  Unfortunately, in recent decades many Jesuits have fallen into theological liberalism, and no longer reflect St. Ignatius's vision, and that can be evidenced in some of the institutions of learning they founded.  One in particular is a Jesuit college in my home state of West Virginia, and I can testify of classmates who went into that school as altarboys and came out atheists.  Now, not all Jesuits are guilty of this, as there are still many fine priests who are faithful to the Magisterium - Fr. Mitch Pacwa comes to mind here.  But, as an order, the Jesuits don't often reflect the great heritage of St. Ignatius, and that is unfortunate. 

There were other stellar figures of the Counter-Reformation as well, such as St. Peter Canisius, who authored a magnificent Catechism that even garnered the respect of Protestants for its Biblical fidelity.  Additionally, there was St. Robert Bellarmine, who participated in the Council of Trent and also had many influential works that he had written.  And, there was St. Philip Neri, who led perhaps what was one of the greatest renewal movements in the Church.  Also of note were mystics, such as the reforming Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila and also St. John of the Cross.  France likewise produced St. Francis de Sales, whose prolific writings contributed much to the Church, and St. Vincent de Paul, who as "Champion of the Poor" is still synonymous with the virtue of charity.  However, St. Vincent was also known as a proponent of priestly renewal as well, as he organized retreats and also addressed ways to alleviate growing ignorance and abuse among clergy.  Many seminaries as well could be attributed to his work.  These and many others show an effort of the Church to take responsibility for where it had fallen short in some areas, and perhaps the one positive fruit of the Reformation was an awareness that the Church needed to present a better witness of itself to the society it was called to reach out to.  Therefore, good fruit resulted from even the scourge of schism.

This is pretty much a summary of the two areas I wanted to focus on, although there is a whole other section to this question I didn't address.  Next week, I will have Part VII ready to share.  


Friday, October 13, 2017

My Journey to a Comp Exam - What I Have Learned Part V

Again, this is the fifth in the series in which I am sharing my learning experience based on questions from an upcoming comp exam I will be taking to finish my Master's at Steubenville.  The purpose of this exercise and the series is twofold.  First, it is a sort of study aid for me, in that I can practice writing out the essays in the form I will be doing so when I take the exam.  Secondly, it is to share with the reader what the discipline of catechetics entails, as it has many facets to it.  In essence, these articles in this series sum up what I have been taught and have learned in regard to the core course curriculum in my program.

As has been the case with the other articles in this series, I am working from a study guide that one of my classmates, Patti Christensen, organized and to which all of my classmates preparing for this exam have contributed.  In this part, the outline is the work of my classmate Katie Sukley, and the course we had is called Pedagogy of God II, which I actually have taken back in Spring 2016.  Katie, like my other colleagues, has done a phenomenal job with the outline, and it will be the "skeleton" of my own article here, but the content in the article is of my creation, as it will contain insights that I will add which were neither covered in class or part of the curriculum, but rather insights I have discovered and have incorporated. 

When it comes to catechetical work, there are two very important factors that have been incorporated into the catechetical process which are going to be discussed here at length.  The first are the three attributes of beauty, truth, and goodness, which will primarily rely on Fr. John Saward's text The Beauty of Holiness and Holiness of Beauty (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1997).  The second factor is what is called the Ecclesial Method, which will primarily be based on the model that Monsignor Francis D. Kelly outlines in his book The Mystery Proclaimed: Catechesis at the Third Millennium (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1993).  Although these two works are the primary texts for this discussion, other material will be incorporated into the proper spots as well as the discussion progresses.  We will now turn to the attributes of truth, beauty, and goodness first. 

What Saward refers to as the three attributes is also known in metaphysical terms as transcendental properties of being.  As Fr. Norris Clarke points out, a "transcendental property of being" is essentially a positive attribute that can be predicated of every real being, and thus is convertible with being itself (W. Norris Clarke, The One and the Many. Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.  pp. 290-291).   Three of these transcendental properties, as Fr. Clarke points out as well, are that being is true (Clarke, p. 294) and thus intelligible, being as good (Clarke, p. 297), and being as beautiful, noting the Aristotelian reasoning that proportion is an essential ingredient of beauty (Clarke, p. 298).  Saward brings this to a catechetical (and thus theological) dimension when he notes that if the average Christian is deprived of sacred art, the Christian can become blind to the beauty of divine Revelation (Saward, 25).  He notes further that without holy imagery, we as Christians are in danger of forgetting the face and thus the flesh of the Son of God.  As St. John of Damascus notes in relation to this, "For the image is a triumph and manifestation and inscribed tablet in memory of the victory of the bravest and most eminent and of the shame of those worsted and overthrown (St. John of Damascus, Three Treatises on the Divine Images, Andrew Louth, trans.  Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir Press, 2003. p. 68).  Now, Saward does acknowledge that Satan can corrupt and abuse beauty in order to entice man to worship himself and reject God, and he does so in two ways.  First, Satan incites the passion of lust through beauty of the body.  In modern times, we see this both in the extreme form of pornography, but also in the crass commercialism of sex being used to sell everything from bon-bons to barbecue grills.  Secondly, Satan incites the vice of pride through the beauty of the mind.  That is the greatest sin of our age by far, as it is the sin that has its roots in the Enlightenment of the 18th century, via people such as Rene Descartes, and seeks to make man more important than God in his own thinking.  The worst thing, Saward notes, however is more subtle; Satan tries to sever the beauty of Christian art from the truth of the dogmatic Creeds of the Church and the goodness of moral virtues (Saward, p. 35).  When that separation is allowed, it secularizes and diminishes art, and then more shocking and less-aesthetically pleasing forms of expression dominate in place of true art (such as rock music and the Dadaism of Dali, for a couple of examples).  It is also important to remember as well that evil in itself has no beauty - it can appear beautiful, but the beauty is a facade and has no depth.  Evil is both the privation of good and the privation of the beautiful as well (Saward, p. 36).  Therefore, now in dealing with beauty specifically, a discussion of what Saward calls the "Three Hallmarks of Beauty" is warranted at this point.

In opening this aspect of the discussion, Saward notes that one hallmark of beauty entails how it shines clearly through its outward appearance (Saward, p. 45), as well as it being a splendor of form which also gives beauty a theological anchor as well (Saward, p. 46).  The imagery he uses here is of a ray emanating from the brilliant wisdom of its Creator.  In the past couple of centuries, in particular with the rise of Enlightenment-influenced thinking, the ideologies of godlessness (namely secularism, but also other factors) have attacked both the Church's beautiful holiness as well as her holy beauty (Saward, p. 186).  The Anglican Thomist theologian E.L. Mascall notes this particularly in the area of literature, as he describes literature of the present day (he is referring to the late 1960's) as being "a dead sea alive with corpses" as the themes of squalor, frustration, putrescence, downright futility, and pointlessness are characteristic in the writings of many novelists and dramatists (E.L. Mascall, The Christian Universe.  New York:  Morehouse-Barlow, 1966. p. 28).  In recent news in the past few months, we have seen the fruits of this, as the Antifa terrorists want to tear down anything they feel is "offensive," and naturally religious art has been targeted (of note being the statue of Fr. Junipero Serra in Los Angeles, which was vandalized recently).  Mascall notes almost prophetically that if people will not behave themselves because they love God, they are not likely to take up loving God as a help to behaving themselves, and nor is there any reason they should (Mascall, p. 35).  In other words, when the ideologies of godlessness do attack the Church and the beauty and morality she has expressed, it leads to a dumbing-down and diminishing of true beauty and of "beautiful truth" as well.  This is why it is important to understand Saward's "Three Hallmarks," as it also aids us in preserving true sacred art from the vandalous rampages of the Leftist/secularist iconoclast.  The first of these hallmarks is what is known as radiance.  Radiance is the primary hallmark of beauty, because it is easier to remember that beautiful things shine (Saward, p. 47).  This special radiance, called in Greek claritas, is found in Christ alone as the Word of the Father.  When we speak intelligibly and thus intelligently, the light of the mind shows through the words and gives clarity to them.  If our thinking is clear, therefore, so are our words (Saward, 51).  Radiance is therefore seen by Saward as synonymous with clarity. 

A second hallmark to discuss in Saward's thesis is the hallmark of harmony.  This is also synonymous with another term called due proportion.  In referencing Aquinas, Saward notes that if an image is a perfect likeness of the original, we call it beautiful even if what it copies is ugly.  Christ models this due proportion for us just as He does radiance (Saward, p. 51).  Another prime example of this is to be seen in the Genesis account to earth just prior to the Fall.  Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony initially in Eden, and that perfect harmony was also with God.  As Saward notes, Adam was originally created in grace and therefore in supernatural beauty (Saward, p. 53).  Therefore, when one thinks of harmony, they also will synonymously think of balance as well. 

The third hallmark Saward discusses is that of wholeness.  Again, with Christ as the model, wholeness is also meant to convey that the creator who is perfected in Christ is complete, with nothing missing, and in willful giving of one's will to the Father, nothing is lost but one is perfected in supernatural grace. 

God by his very essence is beauty, but when Christ came to us, that divine beauty was hidden by the lowliness of Christ's humanity. However, just as He was made whole at His resurrection, so are we promised when at our resurrection of the body we are made whole again as well.  As Saward notes, Christ will make our bodies like His own, and we will be entire and complete (Saward, p. 65). 

The next part of this discussion centers on what is called the Ecclesial Method of Fr. Francis Kelly, and it is a particular method of catechesis that entails everything from how the learning environment is structured to the atmosphere of welcome in the setting.  This Ecclesial Method has five stages that closely resemble parts of the Mass, and Kelly identifies five steps in the process, which will now be discussed individually. 

The first step is that of preparation.  This is what truly entails everything from the atmosphere of the classroom, and it resembles the introductory Rites of the Mass.  Its aim is to prepare the learner to be open and receptive to the truths of God's Word (Kelly, p. 139). 

The second step is that of proclamation.  This is the announcing of God's Word.  A catechist's teaching is not their own, and therefore should be free of emphasis on the life experience, politics, doctrine, personal agenda, and perspective of the catechist.  It corresponds to the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass, as the reading and hearing of Scripture takes central focus. (Kelly, 132, 142).

The third step is that of explanation, and this entails the part of the lesson where the learner comes to a deeper and more personal understanding of the faith.  The power of image, story, and symbol helps the proclaimed Word have its fullest impact, and these things are not to be underestimated.  Jesus's own example in His rich use of parable and story is a great inspiration for the catechist in designing creative explanations of the Word (Kelly, 144). It corresponds as well to the homily, where the priest or deacon further explains the Word of God and how that Word proclaimed should be applied to the hearer's life.  It also helps the faithful foster maturity in faith (Kelly, p. 143).

The fourth step is that of application, which is where conversion really begins to take place.  The learner at this point has been equipped with the truth and knowledge of God's Word from the prior steps, and now is called to active participation.  As each of us is called to be a witness for Jesus Christ, this step challenges the learner to do so actively.  It is a step that most resembles the recitation/prayer of the Creed, as the believer is stating publicly, both in word and action, that they truly believe the doctrines of the faith.  At the final blessing in the Mass likewise, the believer is literally sent on the mission of being a witness of Christ to the world around them.  This is done by action and service to others.  Faith becomes therefore not merely a profession, but a way of life.

The fifth and final step is that of celebration.  This is the climax and conclusion of the lesson, where the believer shares in prayerful gratitude their praise to God (Kelly, p. 146).  This closely mirrors the celebration of the Eucharist specifically, as it is the source and summit of the Christian life.  It also connects and brings together all the other steps.  It is where, in catechetical terms, mystagogy takes place as a result of pedagogy.  

Within these five steps are some defined keys to teaching Catholic doctrine that we were given in this class as well, and they include the following:

1.  Teach the PREMISE or divine perspective - the premise of the doctrine is the underlying truth upon which the doctrine is based, and is not necessarily synonymous with defining the doctrine.

2.  Teach the ESSENTIALS - those aspects of the doctrine which cannot be taken for granted when teaching the doctrine itself.

3.  Teach what is COMMONLY MISUNDERSTOOD.  There is a problem many times (especially in the Anglican group I was once part of) where catechesis has left many with a false understanding of the faith.  It is important to clarify those misunderstandings as much as possible.

4.  Teach the SCRIPTURAL BASIS - We must always remember that doctrine is grounded in Sacred Scripture.

5.  Teach RELATED DOCTRINE - at some point, one doctrine is going to relate in some way with another (for instance, the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, for an example).  However, care must be taken to keep in mind the organic unity of the doctrine which is the focus of the teaching.

6.  TEACH TO AND FROM THE LITURGY - As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, the Church prays what she believes (CCC 1124).

Now that we have talked about truth, beauty, and goodness as being both qualities of art as well as transcendant attributes of being, it is now important to note how the Church defines these three things.  First, the fullness of these things can only be found in God Himself, as otherwise they will endeavor an unending search on the part of man - without that aspect, man's efforts are incomplete and futile (CCC 27).  Secondly, these transcendent properties of being are connected in a real way to the moral virtues, in particular that of charity.  The moral virtues, if embraced and followed, lead us toward true beauty.  Charity is the form of these virtues, as Aquinas taught, and it shapes, elevates, and sweeps them up into new heights of spiritual beauty via supernatural grace.  These virtues direct man to their own proper object, which is the super-beauty of the Trinity (Saward, p. 64).  And, that leads to a very important part of this discussion next.

The National Directory of Catechesis notes that while the particular expressions of sacred art vary from culture to culture, authentic sacred art turns human minds, hearts, and souls toward God (NDC 148).  God created this diversity, and each expresses its own beauty for a variety of reasons.  For example, we take the art of the Mar Thoma Syriac Christian community in India, which incorporates cultural symbols of the society it is part of into iconography.  A perfect example of this is noted below:

For some Fundamentalist Protestants, this image would make them recoil in horror, as it looks almost like syncretism.  However, Christian symbolism is seen all over it, but two distinctly Indian ideas do stand out.  One is the posture of Christ in the icon, as He is depicted in the pose of a holy man.  The second is the split coconut to the left of the lower part of the icon.  In Indian culture, the coconut is a symbol of submission which Indian Christians incorporated into their spirituality in that it was transformed to signify a submission of our will to God's will, and thus is the embodiment in the Our Father of the petition "Thy will be done."  However, it has another symbolism as well - the coconut is not a fruit, but is a husk-wrapped seed, and when it falls to the ground, it dies so that it gives life to a new tree.  Jesus died to give us life, and thus the coconut is a great symbol of the Passion of Christ (James Baghwan, "Coconut Christ - Augustine's Christology in the Symbolism of Oceania" p. 7).  Here is another example that is even more radical, but no less symbolic:


At first glance, the above statuary looks like a Buddhist idol, but in reality it is not - it is a representation of the Virgin Mary that can be found among a group of obscure Japanese Christians known as the Kakure Kirishitan.  Originally converts from St. Francis Xavier's mission to Japan in the 17th century, these clandestine Japanese Christians had to hide their faith for many centuries to protect themselves from persecution, so they used Buddhist and Shinto-inspired art to do so.  Over the centuries, a unique Christian art and subculture developed in secret embodying this type of art, and it still continues today.  There is yet another example from recent times, as illustrated in the following icon written by Robert Lenz:


At the conclusion of the Holocaust, many Hebrew Catholic Christians began to incorporate Jewish elements into their spirituality, including contextual icons like the one above.  Many writers - notably Fr. Elias Friedman, who founded the Association of Hebrew Catholics apostolate in the early 1980's - associate Christological imagery with the Holocaust itself - the Holocaust is a typology of the Crucifixion, while the re-establishment of the State of Israel is a picture of the Resurrection (Fr. Elias Friedman, Jewish Identity.  Ypsilanti, MI:  The Miriam Press, 1987.  p. 68).  This icon could be used to express that in such a way that the true and beautiful merge, and a tragic circumstance is seen in light of the higher good. 

In wrapping up this part of the discussion, sacred art is affirmed by the Church as true and beautiful when its form corresponds to the particular vocation it represents - evoking, glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God.  This is embodied in the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love made visible in Christ.  Genuine sacred art, therefore, draws man to adoration, prayer, and to the love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ (CCC 2502). 

There are a few important observations to make in regard to understanding truth, beauty, and goodness, which in their fullest essence is God Himself. God is truth, God is beauty, and God is goodness, although God is also true, beautiful and good as well.  However, if we don't understand that essence of truth, beauty, and goodness, we don't understand art. And, further, we don't understand how to use art.  This can lead to some catechetical problems if not addressed. God also revealed Himself in creation and nature before revealing Himself to man in words. A dogma of the Church, as a matter of fact, is that God can be known through nature.  This makes perfect sense, as Aquinas and other Doctors and Fathers of the Church have affirmed this truth as well.

I have skipped over a lot of the rest of the content here for brevity's sake, but there is a quote from St. Gregory the Great that is also important to understand in lieu of the discussion.  St. Gregory noted that painting is employed in churches (particularly in that period of time) so that those who cannot read or write may at least read on the walls what they cannot decipher on the page.  We see this particularly in the iconography of the Christian East, where churches are covered in iconography that tells the divine Kerygma in imagery that the people understand.  A perfect example of this is the church in Romania we see below:


The creators of this beautiful ancient church realized something we should keep in mind in conclusion of this discussion.  We as catechists in particular have to always be aware of our audience, and make sure that what we teach and what we are using will appeal in such a way as to provide contextualization without conformation.   We cannot put out or even scandalize or shock people in order to try and teach them the truth (although the Holy Spirit can use conviction to draw them), but we must understand the age of those we teach, their capabilities, cultural backgrounds, as all of these things are very important.  It is reaching our people where they are at, but at the same time keeping in mind that the tradition and the Deposit of Faith are to in no way be compromised.  If that can be done effectively, we have done our job as catechists.  I will see you next week with the next part in this series.

Friday, October 6, 2017

My Journey to a Comp Exam - What I Have Learned Part IV

In completing my Master's degree at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I have arrived at my last semester now.  It has been a busy, albeit good, four years, and part of the final stretch of getting the degree I have been working toward is taking a comprehensive examination of several courses I have had in the course of the program.  The questions on the exam are LONG, and they require a LOT of writing, as they are all essays.  But, in doing this, I see the potential to share with you some of the content I have learned, as it is very sound and much of it is also extremely practical.

In the process of preparing for the comps, which many of us are taking at different times (mine is in January), my classmates and I have embarked on a cooperative study effort that consists of each of us taking one of the nine questions, and then creating an outline for it for study purposes.  The credit for this idea goes to Patti Christensen, one of my classmates who truly orchestrated the organization in this valuable effort.  The particular subject matter I am sharing here today has to do with a class called Biblical Foundations, and the outline that is providing the skeleton for this article is the creation of another of my classmates, Jen Arnold.  Jen did an amazing job with the outline for this question, and I am going to use her outline to build my article here.  

The discipline of Bibical studies in a Catholic context can be one of interest, as it is a little more complex than either the simple Sola Scriptura approach of the Protestant or the demythologizing tendencies of the secularist who studies Scripture as an outsider.  At the fundamental level, the understanding of divine Revelation from a Catholic perspective comes from an interaction of three realities - Magisterium, Tradition, and Liturgy.  I want to examine each of these individually, as they are also of vital importance in their own right as well.

First, we start with Tradition.  The document Dei Verbum gives an idea of how Scripture and Tradition are related when it states that "sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church.  Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of bread and in prayers, so that holding to, practicing, and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and the people a common effort."  (Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum.  18 November 1965, published at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html - accessed 6 October 2017. paragraph 10).   In the previous paragraph in this document, Paul VI notes that regarding Holy Scripture and Tradition, they are "flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end (DV 9)"  So, what is Tradition?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as coming from the Apostles, being distinct from Scripture yet in close connection to it (CCC 78, 83), and that it is living transmission.  It is also entrusted by the Apostles to the whole of the Church (CCC 84) as the "Deposit of Faith."  There are also two things it communicates specifically with Scripture.  First is what is called the Kerygma, which is the central legacy of the divine economy of salvation in human history.  The Kerygma is perfectly embodied particularly in the Gospels.  The second is called dogma, which entails teachings that have been passed on "in a mystery" by Tradition.  Tradition is more specifically that which has been handed down by the Apostles through their successors as well under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and this means that the Church needs both Scripture and Tradition.  This presents a big dilemma for Protestants, who often treat the "T word" as if it were the F-bomb, and later here we will see where that came from.  Tradition also precedes the canon of the New Testament as we know it, as many aspects of it were transmitted orally before the canon of the New Testament was even written down - much of it precedes as well the official establishment of our current New Testament canon, as that took place at the Council of Carthage in AD 397.  Tradition is also interconnected with liturgy as well, as that is where many of our liturgical traditions come from.  To simplify the differentiation between Scripture and Tradition, late Orthodox priest (and former Evangelical) Fr. Peter Gillquist notes that in reality both of these embodied Tradition, but in two forms.  The first is what the Apostles said and taught, and the second that Scripture represents is what they wrote - Scripture then is the inspired, written Tradition (Peter Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox.  Ben Lomond, CA:  Conciliar Press, 1992. p. 64).  This is also affirmed by Scripture itself, citing passages such as II Thessalonians 2:15, which says "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or letter."  Liturgy, of course, is the proclamation of the Gospel message by both word and action, as the actions are an essential part of the transmission, but they are conveyed through Tradition.  This transmission of the Tradition is then animated and given life by the Holy Spirit, and it lives in its fullest in the liturgy of the Church. In Verbum Domini, this is expressed in this way:  "The Living Tradition is essential in enabling the Church to grow through time in the understanding of the truth revealed in the Scriptures" (VD 17).  Also, the following paragraph notes the importance of the people of God (the Church) being taught and trained to approach the sacred Scriptures in relation to the Church's living Tradition, as this is really the only place where it can be fully understood (VD 18).  Many Protestants and postmodern secularists today cannot come to terms with this reality simply because of the individualist mindset they possess - to them, we are to "find our own path," and when we start to do that with Scripture by divorcing it from the Church, it opens the door for heresy.  Archbishop Mark Haverland, who serves as Primate and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Original Province of the Anglican Catholic Church, makes a sober observation of this when he notes that when private conscience, or the mind of the individual, starts radicalizing Protestant hermeneutics, it results in a confusion because the idea of Sola Scriptura is not clear, and therefore the private whims of the individual are prone to moral relativism (Mark Haverland, Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice. Athens, GA:  Anglican Parishes Association, 2011. p. 57).  Over time, the Archbishop further notes, this mentality will produce secularization - it has been seen in "mainline" Protestant denominations, and now is starting to affect Evangelicals as well in recent decades (Haverland, p. 63).  As we will see later, the earliest manifestations of this among certain key individuals has created a very negative impact on Western civilization, and it is mostly because of this aversion to and eschewal of Tradition as the Church has historically understood it.  Tradition is integral to the Church of Christ, and it constitutes its memory - that memory is nourished by the liturgy, and without it, Christians suffer what Dr. John Bergsma calls a type of "spiritual amnesia."  That is what makes Tradition as it relates to Scripture an important reality.

The second reality we want to touch upon is called the Magisterium.  Defined, the Magisterium is an authority invested in the Pope and bishops of the Church to establish the authentic teachings of the Church.  In other words, it is the Church's vehicle for safeguarding and transmitting Holy Tradition to her faithful.  The Magisterium likewise then has a vested interest and relationship to Holy Scripture, in that it has established criteria for its interpretation.  First, the text of Scripture must be interpreted with attention to the unity of the whole of Scripture, also known as canonical exegesis.  In other words, to put it in language our Protestant brethren would understand, it means this - Scripture interprets Scripture.  Although Scripture is a library rather than a single volume, it has a certain flow and continuity within it that must be understood together - cherrypicking passages because they "sound good" to us, in other words, is not in itself Scriptural.  Secondly, when attempting to interpret Scripture, account is to be taken of the living Tradition of the whole Church.  What that means is that in reading a given passage in Scripture, we must ask ourselves "how has the Church traditionally seen this passage?"  And by the whole Church, it means just that - East and West.  Reading Orthodox Church Fathers and writings is integral also for the Catholic student of the Bible, in that many of their Fathers and writers concur with the living Tradition.  It is fine, therefore, to read what an Orthodox scholar such as Lev Gillet or Alexander Schmemann has to say.   Thirdly, there is a respect to be shown for the analogy of faith.  So, what is the analogy of faith?  The Church Father Tertullian has the best definition of it in his writings when he notes that it is linked to core Christian teachings - it is the authoritative standard of faith as contained in both Holy Scripture and Tradition.  The respect shown to it by one's hermeneutic would be that it would be necessary for it to concur with that standard of faith, and can in no way contradict it.  This is why the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers testified to the need for "office bearers" (bishops, presbyters, deacons) of the Church who can authoritatively transmit the Tradition, and they discern the standards for interpreting Scripture.  As Pope Leo XIII points out in Providentissimus Deus, it is foolish and false when a false disagreement is injected into interpretation, and if it seeks to divide the sacred writers of Scripture contradict one another, or if they deny or go against the authority of the Church (PD 14).  That is why in the same document, Leo XIII establishes three infallible guides for the study of Scripture.  The first is the Magisterium, which infallibly judges true sense of Scripture due to the gift of Apostolic succession.  The second is unanimous agreement of the Fathers themselves.  Here however, there is an important point to make.  On the major doctrines and core Tradition, the Fathers do all agree, but on lesser issues they did at times vary in observation (good example is interpretations of Genesis 6).  The things on which they do vary are not things upon which salvation depends, but are just legitimate areas of difference that the Church on those issues leaves up to the individual.  The third guide is the analogy of faith itself - it is vital to consult established doctrines of the Church when reading unfamiliar passages in Scripture, and as God is author of both doctrine and Scripture, there can be no contradiction.  One proper place for the exposition of these obscure passages is the homily, and it is in the context of the liturgy that the mystagogical aspect of conversion is lived out and often those obscurities are illumined by the Apostolic authority of the Church.  Bottom line, Scripture is not totally self-interpreting - some parts of it can shed light on others, but the counsel of the Church and its authority is vital in the process.  As we will see later, the further one strays from the Church, the less reliable one's interpretation becomes.

The third reality of note is the liturgy.  As noted in my earlier articles, liturgy comes from two Greek words, one being laos, meaning "people," and the other being ergon, meaning "work" or "effort."  Depending on how one translates the Greek connector tou, the translation of this can be either "a work of the people" or " a work for the people."  Many writers are beginning to opt for the second translation, as it also explains the role of the "office bearers" as well.  As Fr. Jeremy Driscoll notes, "The Scriptures are heard rightly when they are read in the heart of the Church, and this happens at the heart of the liturgy."  (Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., "Forward," in Scott Hahn, Letter and Spirit.  New York:  Doubleday, 2005. p. xi).  The one area we look at in Scripture regarding in particular the Eucharistic liturgy is a passage in Luke 24:13-34.  It was after the Resurrection, and some of the Apostles were traveling en route to a small village called Emmaus.  All of a sudden, they understood someone else was walking along with them, and was also engaging in conversation.  They didn't realize at first that Jesus Himself was with them but by verse 30 He was in the town "breaking bread" with them, and when they partook, it says "their eyes were opened."  What Jesus did there is a picture for us of the Eucharist, and the passage gives a pattern for the Mass that is followed faithfully to this day - the proclamation of Scripture, followed by the breaking of bread.  It connects the Eucharistic table in a real way to the pulpit, in that the proclamation and the sacramental act are integral and together.  It is also of note that St. Athanasios (my own patron) in his biography of St. Antony of the Desert shows us that the proper place for Biblical interpretation then was the Church, as it should be as well now. It is more specifically within the context of the liturgy as well.  Dr. Hahn notes that this was a continuity that early Christians carried over from the worship of Israel, which also proclaimed and chanted the Scriptures within the context of the worship of both the Temple and later the synagogue (Hahn, p. 9-10).  Biblical religion, therefore, was liturgical!  The Bible was, as Dr. Hahn also points out, made for liturgical use (Hahn, p. 46).  However, Scripture is also proclaimed in liturgy, as well as being canonized by it (Hahn, p. 51).  In a cursory reading of the Old Testament, for instance, we see liturgical terminology and contextualization in the various ceremonial aspects of the Pentateuch, where it is even explicitly stated in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  In the individual households of the ancient Israelites, the father took the role of a priest, and he also offered sacrifice on the household's behalf and passed on that same authority to his sons.   Jesus also honored the Jewish liturgical rituals in the New Testament, which warrants a brief discussion.  When Protestant Fundamentalists in particular read the Gospels, they wrongly assume that when Jesus spoke out against the religious leaders He was condemning their worship and traditions, but that is incorrect and also doesn't make sense.  Jesus is part of the Trinity, and as God Incarnate He was also involved in the creation of the world and the establishment of the Jewish liturgical rites.  To say He totally condemned them is to call God fickle, which is foolish.  If one truly reads Scripture the way the Church has taught, you begin to see that it wasn't the rituals Jesus came against when He rebuked religious leaders, but their attitudes in approaching those rituals.  The rituals themselves were good, but they were often abused or wrongly practiced by some who didn't have their hearts or minds in the right place, and that's what Jesus was addressing in those circumstances, not the rituals themselves.  Knowing that, it should give us a renewed interest in the Mass and how we really should approach the Lord's house and table - meaning, we should check our attitudes at the door of the Church, and center the worship demonstrated in the liturgy on Him.  The Apostles also followed these same rituals in Acts, and St. Paul models them in his epistles as well when he assumed that these were to be read in the assembly of the Church and therefore he employed obvious liturgical language in writing them.   Having dealt with these material contexts, we also look at formal context as well.  As mentioned, Scripture was canonized for liturgy, and is derived from liturgical tradition by none other than its Author, God Himself.  This is self-evident in many of the Psalms, which were in essence a liturgical hymnal, but also in the intent for public reading of the Scriptures as opposed to private study.  Now, that being said, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with studying Scripture as a part of private devotional practice; as a matter of fact, the Church encourages it.  However, the Scriptures are primarily a liturgical book, and not merely a private devotional, although it can be used for private devotion. That is important to understand as we learn about the truths Scripture contains.

The major binding factor in Scripture and liturgy is the concept of covenant.  Scripture serves the primary purpose of fostering and maintaining, as well as establishing, covenant relationship.  It is the concept of covenant that helps to understand the interrelationship between Scripture and liturgy.  A covenant relationship is essentially a family bond (Hahn, p. 55).  The patterns of covenants often involved intense rituals which presaged liturgical worship, and the monumental import of covenant oaths gives a sacramental dimension to salvation history.  The sacramental act signifies the mystery of a covenant oath,  and these covenants are ratified in the proclamation of the canon of Scripture.  This proclamation is not merely a recital or reading, but is in reality a type of recommitment, and they are celebrated regularly (weekly, annually, etc.) to renew and recommit the covenant-holders to the promise and its implications.  The writing down of Scripture is a ratification, but it is also only for the sake of liturgical proclamation that it is written - the word must be heard to be fulfilled, in other words. The truth they contain is for the sake of our salvation (DV 11) and the traditions of kissing Gospel books, enthroning them, and surrounding them with lights and incense are ancient practices that date back to the earliest days of the Church, illustrating the inerrancy of Scripture as the Word of God.  The sacraments then give a mystagogical revelation of the mysteries of Christ, therefore allowing us to participate in Christ's mystical body in a real and personal way.  Reading of the Scriptures in liturgy is also a way of making present the memories of the Apostles in a real way too. And, the more we hear them, the more likely we recall them, so repetition is integral.  In the sacramental context as well, there is the idea of anamnesis (a recalling of salvific events in a mystical way, as a type of "time travel") which recalls the event by making it present.  Does this mean that we Catholics "re-crucify Jesus" every time we celebrate the Mass?  Not at all!  On the contrary - we don't have to anyway, because in the Mass Christ brings us to Him by a mystery of faith that puts us at the foot of the Cross, and therefore it is not God that needs to remember anything, but us. We remember as a source of self-identity as well, and the liturgy (in particular the Eucharist) is the Church's living memory.  Reading the Scriptures publicly in the liturgical context is a provision of the Church of a living interpretation of the Scriptures, which is sanctified and protected by the Holy Spirit.  The fallibility of private interpretation is also false, and leads to heresy.  Apart from the Church, there are many things in Scripture we cannot just figure out for ourselves, as it can lead to a disaster.  Therefore, according to Verbum Domini, the liturgy is the privileged setting for Biblical hermeneutics, reminding us that the people of God were used by God to write the Word of God for the people of God, and therefore by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have the Word of God and the Church endowed with the authority to help us avoid the confusion of private interpretation. 

Unfortunately, over the years, in particular since the Enlightenment gained hold in Europe and later North America, some "mainstreaming" of Biblical interpretation has had disastrous consequences due to the fact some figures who were prominent in philosophy, theology, and other disciplines attempted to separate Scripture from the Magisterium, Tradition, and liturgy.  It is some of these individuals that we want to look at now.

William of Ockham (1287-1347)

The first figure we want to look at is William of Ockham, an English Franciscan friar and philosopher.  In his basic approach to Scripture, Ockham inadvertently placed the Bible out of the Church where it rightly belonged into the hands of the state.  His views, particularly his rejection of universals in favor of a philosophy called nominalism, which he was said to have pioneered, paved the way of the via moderna (Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, Politicizing the Bible. New York:  Herder and Herder, 2013. p. 47), and this would later impact postmodernist philosophers such as Merold Westphal.  This also paved the way for both materialism and the rise of Charles Darwin and the religion of evolutionism.  This position of Ockhams also denies the metaphysical idea of first principle, which as Fr. Ripperger notes is a thing from which something in some way follows, and is a cause in itself. That means a first principle is self-evident, true, necessary, and immediate.  And, it applies as God as the first principle of all Creation then (Chad Ripperger, FSSP.  The Metaphysics of Evolution. Norderstedt, Germany:  Books on Demand, undated. p. 13).  Ockham's rejection of this universal truth in favor of the particular divorced from the first principle is a stepping-stone to the heresy of evolution.  This also means that Ockham rejected the analogy of being, which undermines the typology and typological reading of Scripture. Ockham would have believed then that nature doesn't say anything about God (which would put him at odds with the great Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas, who taught that Nature was a "book" authored by God and perfected by God's Revelation via supernatural grace), and therefore only a literal sense of hermeneutics is left when reading Scripture. In addition to undermining Scripture, Ockham also sought to remove temporal power of Papacy and appeals to giving that power in the Church to "experts" in regard to Biblical interpretation (Hahn and Wiker, p. 44-46).  And, although Apostolic authority affirms that their successors receive their authority on matters of faith, Ockham wanted to give "veto power' to those who would disagree, and thus undermine authority of the Church.  In that regard, he also bore a lot of influence, at least indirectly, over the Reformation later on. And, he was by no means the only one.

Marsilus of Padua (1275-1342)

The next figure we look at is Marsilus of Padua, who was an interdisciplinary scholar who was a contemporary of William of Ockham.  Marsilus's basic approach to Scripture was known as the Averroist philosophy, a term derived from a Muslim philosopher named Averroes (1126-1198) who was from Spain. Although influenced by Aristotle and Plato, he used their philosophy to question the authority of the Quran (not necessarily a bad thing in itself), but the consequence was the elevation of reason over Revelation, which of course presaged the Enlightenment (Hahn and Wiker, p. 23).  Marsilus adopted this Averroist approach in a "Christian" context to advocate the subordination of the Church to the state, citing reasons that because Jesus didn't claim to possess temporal power, then He didn't intend the Church to exercise it either.  It led to an interpretation of Scripture in a purely secular way.  His impact on Biblical studies was felt in later theologians, who in their haste to serve the crown would sacrifice their loyalty to the Church - we see this later in the Reformation, when many theologians in England validated Henry VIII's break with Rome over marrying any woman he pleased.  Naturally, this would espouse for him and his successors a hermeneutic of suspicion toward religion, viewing it as merely an invention of "philosophers" to control the masses.  His conviction on this sounds eerily similar to Karl Marx some centuries later, who notoriously declared "religion is an opiate of the people" based on similar reasoning.  Unfortunately, these attitudes were later incorporated into the systems of some theologians as well as philosophers and politicians, and none more evident than the next figure we will discuss.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

The very name "Machiavelli" rightly raises some negative connotations, and even this old painting of his likeness depicts a sinister demeanor in his facial expressions.  Although primarily remembered as a politician, it is odd that he also had a lot of influence over some aspects of Biblical studies as well, albeit possibly more indirect than direct.  Machiavelli saw Scripture as something to exploit - he had little use for it himself, but he used it at his whim to construct a philosophical and political framework by viewing it totally in a secular context. Machiavelli was antagonistic toward tradition, the Church and its attributes, and toward anything in general that would impede his own ambitions (Hahn and Wiker, p. 13).  He viewed Moses, for instance, as a prototypical leader who used religion/Scripture to control people (Hahn and Wiker, p. 144-145).  In this way, he is not much different from the self-proclaimed "Liberation theologians" such as James Cone and others who use personal soapboxes as ways to justify the Bible for their own ambitions.  Then there is his subscription to the "hermeneutic of suspicion" which is cause for concern.  Machiavelli had a purely utilitarian motivation for using Scripture when it met his needs - he was more interested in what works rather than what is true.  He also was a master at using his own ulterior motives to deconstruct text.  And, naturally, miracles were not real to him either, as the natural and temporal were more important than the supernatural and eternal. So, how did he impact Biblical studies?  For one, he saw religion as false but politically necessary as a powerful tool for irreligious leaders to control their subjects (Hahn and Wiker, p. 122, 129).  In this way, he also echoes to some degree some "career politicians" in our own time who use the "God and Country" platform to get votes, and when they succeed, often their real colors are exposed.  Definitely something to be learned as an important lesson.  So, to Machiavelli, the writers of the Bible were masters of political survival, and not to be trusted for faith. 

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The inclusion of the Reformer Martin Luther in this list may be a shock to some, but in reality it isn't as shocking as it may initially seem.  Although almost having a saint-like status among some Protestants, Luther was no saint - he was a notorious anti-Semite, and he was also ruthless against his enemies (even other Protestant factions, such as the Anabaptists).  In a lot of ways, he also shared that with his fellow Reformer John Calvin, who could also be included.  The paradox of Luther, however, is that he didn't deny Christianity at all as did many of the people in this study, but still his negative impact on Biblical studies is worth noting.  Luther was one of the first to champion the Protestant battle cries of Sola Scriptura (Scripture as sole authority, nothing else), and Sole Fide.  Although I wouldn't go as far as to say Luther rejected Tradition, there is little doubt that he did have a pivotal role in redefining it.  This naturally meant that Luther cherry-picked which aspects of Tradition he would keep and which he would discard, and that even extended to the Bible - Luther's legendary rejection of the book of James as an "epistle of straw" is well-known, and it has a lot to do with his rejection of aspects of Tradition he didn't like.  In addition, he also made the sacrament of Baptism the only requirement to interpret Scripture - therefore, if you could read and were validly baptized, you could interpret the Bible for yourself independent of the Church (Hahn and Wiker, p. 170).  His embrace of what was called the dialectical mode of exegesis - seeing the Old Testament in a negative light rather than typologically and wholistically with the rest of Scripture - led to his rejection of the traditional "Fourfold Hermeneutic of Scripture" (literal, allegorical, moral, anagogical) which also obscured a lot of things in Scripture as well (Hahn and Wiker, p. 175).  As far as the significance this all had to Biblical studies, Luther began (perhaps unintentionally) a desacramentalization - he began a process that was fully realized later in Protestant Evangelical traditions of the mentality that "Jesus and me we don't need three" in that sacramental mediation was not necessary (the basis as well of the whole "priesthood of the believer" emphasis in Protestantism as well).  To that degree, Luther also began to remove books he didn't like personally from Scripture or that didn't agree with his views, including the Deuterocanonicals.  His Sola Scriptura cry though would have the uninhibited consequence of endless debates, disputes, and schisms among his spiritual descendants, and therefore today we have in the United States in particular over 35,000 denominations, fellowships, and independent church bodies, and new ones forming every day over what an Orthodox priest eloquently observed once as "a coffeepot and a disagreement."  Also, the state-sanctioned "experts," many of whom had no form of conversion whatsoever, became the prime Biblical "interpreters."  

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

Descartes is one I have read extensively in the course of my graduate studies, and turns out he was probably a very negative influence on both Western civilization and the Church.  Although known as a philosopher (noted primarily for his "Wax Experiment" as seen in his Meditations) he held some sway over Biblical interpretation in some circles as well. In his approach to Scripture, Descartes wanted to banish any evidence of the supernatural from reading of the Scriptures, and thus he aided in the birth of modernity and its problems later (Hahn and Wiker, p. 14).  This was a natural extension of his approach to metaphysics as well, as he believed only mathematical equations could explain the universe.   As a result, for him, revealed truths were beyond our understanding and the truths of faith were completely unknowable by reason (Hahn and Wiker, p. 165).  Doubt, rather than faith, was the starting-point for Descartes in regard to Biblical interpretation, and this also meant that Tradition was of no use and needed to be divorced from reason.  And, as he was a committed rationalist, supernatural miracles were to be disregarded as natural reason could not explain them.  Like Machiavelli then, the significance of this is the embrace of a secularized version of salvation that cast aside Christ and instead embraced temporal authority (Hahn and Wiker, p. 273).  It also meant that revealed truths for Descartes were to be set aside because they were non-rational, and thus the Bible and its traditional interpreters were ignorant and prone to what he called "nonrational fideism" (Hahn and Wiker, p. 275).  The will of the interpreter then, for Descartes, takes precedence over the text itself, and this leads to a radically monistic outlook.  The result was, for the first time, religion and philosophy were divorced from each other, as were faith and reason.  The self-deification of the individual took precedence over a supernatural God, and mathematical reductionism as well as rationalism took precedence over Revelation.  Like so many though, a look at Descartes' personal life reveals a lot as well, as he was not the most morally responsible individual and to me it looks as if he was doing away with things in the Bible he was uncomfortable with to justify his own indulgences.  

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher whose heritage was Converso (his forebears were Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition).  As Rabbi Ben Isaacson and Deborah Wigoder note in their International Jewish Encyclopedia (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, 1973), although Spinoza did receive a traditional Jewish education, his own philosophical positions were opposed to many basic principles of Judaism (Isaacson and Wigoder, p. 285).  For one thing, he advocated a thoroughgoing pantheism, rejecting a transcendent God who is apart from nature - God becomes nature for Spinoza.  He also adopted a very critical attitude toward the Bible, and was in many respects a forerunner of modern Biblical criticism.  As I come from a similar heritage as Spinoza personally, I can understand some of his animosity toward religion - he had been persecuted for being Jewish, and then more or less rejected for his folks accepting Catholicism, but he took it to some unnecessary extremes.  His view of the miraculous as documented in Scripture for instance was that miracles were not real events, but only misunderstood - as God was the same as nature to him, it was only par for course that he would reject the supernatural aspects of faith.  Although in class Dr. Bergsma identified Spinoza as essentially atheistic and materialist, I would concur more with Isaacson and Wigoder that he was more of a pantheist, as to him, God was the sum total of material reality.  This led Spinoza to problemize the Biblical text as much as possible, which he made an easy task by denying the existence of a transcendant, supernatural Godhead.   Denying the supernatural then for Spinoza meant a radical reshaping of rational criticism.  He ended up then taking the literal interpretation further than the Reformation by identifying literal with temporal and profane understanding. For him, then, the Bible was too difficult to take the effort to understand.  As far as Biblical studies were impacted, dogmatic Christianity (and also Judaism) must be overcome by reason.  It would have some dire consequences in centuries to come for both Jewish and Christian Biblical scholarship. 

Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860)

As we approach the modern era, the first person that stands out, according to Hahn and Wiker's text, is F.C. Baur.  Starting out as a theologian/historian wanting to originally embark on a comprehensive study of the origins of Christianity, Baur turned Biblical critic and his "research" was bold in challenging the verbal inspiration of Scripture (Roy Harrisville and Walter Sunburg, The Bible in Modern Culture. Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans, 2002. p. 106).  Of the Gospels, for Baur only Matthew was genuine, which at this point now shows Baur as "demythologizing" and dissecting Scripture (Harrisville and Sunburg, p. 109).  There is also a doubt on Baur's part regarding the divinity of Jesus as well, as Baur sees Jesus as a self-conscious moral Messiah who for him may not have been God the Son (Harrisville and Sunburg, p. 109).   As far as significance for Biblical studies is concerned, Baur made the writers of the New Testament to be in conflict (Petrine vs. Pauline) and thus cast doubt on Pauline authorship due to lack of reliable dates, etc.  Also, because the New Testament tradition is "composed of fragments," for Baur it presented a problem - total reality of its content was debatable because of only fragments (Harrisville and Sunburg, p. 121).  These type of "insights that Baur expressed would be a pivotal influence upon others who would succeed him, such as Bultman, Jurgen Moltmann, Paul Tillich, and Stanley Hauerwas. 

David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874)

Of the theologically liberal Tubingen School  that owed its roots to early theological liberals such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, Strauss's claim to fame was the denigration of the divinity of Jesus Christ.  Like Spinoza, he denied the miraculous (Hahn and Wiker, p. 281) and he also reduced Jesus to a "mere consciousness" of the Church, a Church which to him objectified Jesus as divine.  The Gospels, for Strauss, had to be "demythologized" and so did Jesus.  In a quasi-Nestorian fashion, for Strauss, the Incarnation was an impossibility as the God-Man could not make its home in a solitary individual (Harrisville and Sunburg, p. 98).  

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

The figure of unrepentant Nazi-sympathizing philosopher Martin Heidegger deserves discussion too, as he was a sort of synthesis in his thought of many of the others.  Like Machiavelli, Heidegger thought of nature as a sort of "standing reserve" for human purposes, and there was no room for God in Heidegger's cosmology.  Human existence is always for Heidegger a "becoming," echoing in some aspects Descartes and his assertion that revealed truth was beyond our understanding - Heidegger took that one step further by asserting that revelation was not important, but "becoming" was, thus also making room for a sort of theistic evolutionism as embraced by his contemporary, Tielhard de Chardin.  It was these attributes of Heidegger's views that made them at variance with Scripture as well - if man was still "becoming," then revelation cannot be final, and thus open interpretation was necessary to "update" views on Scripture.  Although Heidegger never claimed to be a Biblical scholar, his influence on people such as Jurgen Moltmann and Rudolf Bultmann cannot be underestimated.  And, he also has a big role in the development of postmodern attitudes toward Tradition and the role of the Church as well.  And, it is often reflected in many people who were influenced by him. 

In concluding these thoughts, we now turn away from negative influences on Biblical studies and back to the task of reintegrating Scripture back with Tradition, the Magisterium, and the liturgy. Again the true way to study Scripture is as a threefold method - literary sense, historical truth, and divine meaning. This reading corresponds then to the threefold themes in the Kerygma of economy, typology, and mystagogy.  It also is important, as Dei Verbum emphasizes, to examine what the authors (or writers) of Scripture intended as well.  We do that by reading Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church (CCC 113) and within the context of Tradition, salvation history, and typology.  And, attentiveness to the analogy of faith is also vital (CCC 114).  Applying these principles will help one avoid the errors of these people we have talked about, and also both extreme literalism and allegorism.  Tradition therefore insists upon a literal-historica sense of Scripture that seeks to exalt the historical literary integrity of the Old Testament.  And, it is symbiotic with liturgy in dependence upon the historical concepts of anamnesis, covenant, and rituals.  Scripture orients us toward communion, as it is the place for partaking in the divine nature.  Those sacramental rituals then impart the holiness of God to us.  As it does so, it is reflexive in our behavior, as it reflects supernatural grace in us. This is why sacred Scripture must be studied in the context of the liturgy, as it prevents flawed reasoning from corrupting our reverence for God's Word and for His Church, and ultimately our worship of Him.