Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why did Jesus rename Simon?

The apostle Peter is one of the most well known individuals from the Bible. In fact, he is mentioned in the New Testament more than any other person except for Christ Himself. Peter is a favorite of many because of his personality; he is a man whom modern readers have a very easy time relating to. This is because Peter's personality is timeless. It is not bound by the culture and age in which he lived. He was a working man, a fisherman. He was a passionate man, a trait which sometimes got him into trouble. He was also quick to speak his mind, seldom holding back or taking the time to think. Peter was the man who promised Christ he would follow Him wherever He went, yet he was also the man who denied Him three times. Every Christian can relate to this immediately, and every Christian takes comfort in Christ's forgiveness of the fisherman for even so great a sin. Yes, Peter was all of these things and more, expressing qualities in which perhaps any human in any age could easily identify with. Yet for all of this, for being so many things to so many people, Peter was not the one thing that is most central to his own identity; He was not born with the name Peter.

The man whom gave the first sermon in the history of Christianity was born Simon, son of Jonah. He grew up with his brother Andrew, who also would be an apostle, and together they fished the Sea of Galilee as their trade. However, it was when Christ, the God-man, came to make them fishers of men that Simon first learned that he was to be called by another name:

"Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Rock.)" (John 1:42)

The word Cephas is Aramaic, the language of Jesus and the apostles, and it means rock. Yet Simon continued to be called by his birthname as he followed Christ, learning from the Saviour's wisdom. It was not until he had spoken that earth-shaking truth revealed to him by the Father, the truth that his rabbi was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, that Simon would be given that most famous of names, as His Lord said to him, "I say to you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

This name Peter, so common in our age, most certainly resounded as none other ever had in the newly renamed apostle's ear, for it had so different a meaning for he as it does now to us. He did not hear, as we read, the word 'Peter,' but instead the Aramaic word Kepha, the word we say in English as 'rock.' The New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek, andin fact the name "Peter" is nothing more than the Anglicanized Greek word for rock, 'Petros.' Whenever we see the word 'Peter' in our English Bible, if we turn to the same passage in the original Greek it says, 'Petros' - Rock. The significance of this is made more clear by the knowledge that Christ's declaration is the first recorded usage in all of history of the name Peter. To Christ, and to Peter, and to the apostles, he was not Peter in the way we know him. No, he was simply Rock.

The modern equivalent is to be found in the entertainment industry. Former WWF wrestler and current actor The Rock helps us to understand just what this name meant to those who lived with Peter. If one were to speak to this man, one would say something such as, "Hello, Rock, how are you doing?" When fans of his discuss his latest film, they might say, "Rock was particularly good in that last scene!" This is how Peter was spoken of throughout all of the Christian world in his days as an apostle. When news came to Anitoch that he was on his way to visit, the people said "Rock is coming here soon." When it was time to eat dinner at the house where Peter was staying, the children were instructed to "go and tell Rock that it is time to eat." And when the Holy Spirit inspired Scripture through the apostle Matthew, the Lord and giver of life said, "you are Rock, and on this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

Yet when they wrote, Matthew and the other Gospel writers chose to write 'Petros' instead of 'Kepha.' It very interesting that they did this, because 'Kepha' was Simon's new name, not Petros. Consider English translations of the French Masterpiece Les Miserables. Characters' names are kept in the original language even though all the other words, words such as 'go' and 'run' and 'eat' and 'he' and 'cat' are translated into English. Jean is still called Jean in the English translation, while 'pomme' is translated into 'apple' and 'vous' is translated into 'you.' Even though the French name Jean is equivalent to the English name John, translators keep names in their original language because names are not like other words. A name is just a way of referring to people. A name, in a certain sense, is just a particular sound by which we identify ourselves. Should a man from France named Jean travel to the US and be called John, he may be confused or offended because, though it is equivalent, John would not be his name - Jean would be.

Therefore it is indeed interesting that the Gospel writers, writers inspired by God Himself, used the Greek word for 'rock,' Petros, instead of the apostle's actual name, Kepha. Throughout the rest of the Scriptures, there are many examples of the New Testament writers preserving the names of Old Testament personalities in their original languages instead of writing their Greek equivalent. For instance, the name "Moses" means 'drawn from'; it was given Him by Pharoah's daughter because she drew him from the river. Just as translating 'Rock' into Greek yields Petros, translating 'drawn from' would result in Anaspaoek. Yet when Matthew and the other Gospel authors described the transfiguration, they did not write, "and standing there with Him were Anaspaoek and Elijah." No, they wrote "Moses and Elijah." Similarly, in his language, Abraham's name meant "father of nations," yet the Gospel writers referred to him as Abraham, not Paterekethnos. They do this because these words were the people's names. Names are not meant, like nouns verbs and adjectives, to be translated for each language in whic they are used; they are meant to be universal identifiers, identifiers that are in fact so deeply connected to the people they identify that they actually become part of their identities.

Yet in the Gospels, the authors do not call Peter by His name. Instead, they call him by what his name means. They do not call him by his identifier, but by his identity. These gospels were written by the power of the Holy Spirit to convey the truth of Christ to all future generations. Every word was carefully chosen by God to teach His people everything that He wished to. In doing this, Peter's name was ignored. That name by which every Christian living in the apostolic age knew him was not selected. Instead, the word which conveys a particular meaning was recorded. It would be as though a historian chose to write 'President' in the place of 'George Bush,' emphasizing the office and identity over the person. As they recorded Holy Writ, the "word settled forever in the Heavens" (Psalm 199:89), the inspired scribes said Petros. It is a part of the eternal word of the Creator, that same Word by which He created the Heavens and the Earth. As they wrote for all God's people for all time, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and even God Himself didn't care about telling us what Peter's name was. They cared about telling us that he was Rock.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mary's Role in Heaven

Joh 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Joh 2:2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
Joh 2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
Joh 2:4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."
Joh 2:5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Joh 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
Joh 2:7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
Joh 2:8 And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it.
Joh 2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom
Joh 2:10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."
Joh 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

There are several very key points here. First, note how it starts off:

Joh 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Joh 2:2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

John introduces this scene by putting the emphasis on Mary. He says, this is what's going on, and this is who is there. Then he says, "Jesus was also invited..." This doesn't mean Jesus isn't important, but John begins by making sure we are paying attention to Mary. The reader is naturally inclined to be focused on Jesus, and the fact is that Jesus is prominent in this passage as well, so the reader would simply take no notice of Mary while reading this passage. However, John wants to make sure there is attention on her by immediately putting her in the forefront in the beginning before the narrative starts focusing on Christ. This way the reader will not pass her over, whereas if it began by saying "On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and Jesus was there. His mother was there also," Mary would fall into the background too quickly and the reader wouldn't pay any attention to her.

Next we see that Mary intercedes for the wedding guests so that Jesus will grant them something, which ends up being wine. So at a bare minimum this passage is showing us Mary in an intercessory role.

But there's something far, far more interesting about this passage. If we go back to John chapter 1, we see a summary of Christ calling the apostles. He is starting to build His kingdom. The last line of John chapter 1 says:

Joh 1:51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Immediately after John records Jesus saying "you will see heaven opened," he writes "On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there."

So John tells us that the kingdom of Heaven will be opened, then he says "on the third day there was a wedding." Again and again and again Heaven is described by Jesus as being a wedding. John, who wrote this very passage, uses the image in Revelation where he describes Heaven as the "marriage supper of the lamb." On top of this, Heaven was opened to all believers on the third day after the crucifixion.

So if we read through John chapter 1 into John 2, we see Jesus building the kingdom, then we are told we will see Heaven opened up, then we are told that there was a wedding on the third day. This happens to be the only wedding in the entire New Testament, a New Testament filled with the use of weddings to represent Heaven. What we are seeing in the wedding at Cana is Heaven. What we see in John 1-2 is a description of Christ building His kingdom, then of Heaven being opened on the third day in which Jesus brings desciples to Heaven.

There's more. John starts his gospel by paralleling Genesis 1:1, when he says, "In the beginning..." He then describes the creation, saying, "all things were made through him..." He then mentions the Mosaic Covenant, saying "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."(17) He then mentions Isaiah and John the Baptist, two of the prophets, quoting John saying, "He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said."(23) John the prophet is leading the way to Christ. Then Jesus comes, and we are told "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (29) Then John mentions the coming of the Holy Spirit in verse 32. Then we see Jesus gather desciples.

Then So really, if we read John 1-2, we see John summarize:

1) The Creation
2) The Law
3) The Prophets
4) The coming of Christ (the Nativity)
5) The descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost)
6) The The Building of Jesus' Kingdom

John is paralleling his account to the entire history of the world. Then when this is done, he says we will see Heaven opened and then describes a wedding on the third day.

The wedding is, again, the only description of an actual wedding n the New Testament, even though the enitre New Testament, including John himself, use weddings again and again and again to describe Heaven. He presents this right after saying Heaven will be seen opened, and he places it on the third day, which is when Heaven was opened up. The wedding at Cana is a description of Heaven.

And in that description, John calls our attention to Mary, and Mary intercedes and Christ as a result performs a miralce involving wine, which connects directly to the concept of the Eucharist. Then the master of the feast rewards the bridegroom because the wine the bridegroom has provided is the good wine, the best wine, wine that is better than the previous wines. This is a description of the Father rewarding the Son for His good blood. This miracle, we are told, manifested Christ's glory.

After this, John introduces a new scene, this time keeping Christ in the forefront by introducing it, " After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother..." (12) This further makes the point that John's introduction of Mary first, almost in away describing the main character of a story and describing Christ the way one would describe a lesser character, is not just a fluke (nothing in Scripture could be anyways), but is significant.

Of course if you try to take John 1-2 as a literal timetable of the history of the world, it won't work, because He's already shown up in John 1 before Moses and Isaiah and so forth. The point is that John is drawing a parallel, not giving a summary. Protestant commentators have also noticed this parallel, in fact many of them. Same thing with the wedding. The analogy is not perfect, but Jesus' parables aren't either. Parables and anaolgies are things which are similar to other things; by their very nature, they are also dissimilar, or else they would be the things they represent, which they are not. The sorts of things I am describing here are what are called polyvalent symbolism, something studied in the Scriptures by Catholics and Protestants alike, in which one symbol has multiple meanings.

(By the way, this doesn't really have to do with the post but it is so related I will put it up anyways. We see that after this description, John turns attention to the Passover feast. Then he makes another reference to "three days" and says that also at the Passover feast He did signs which led people to believe, just as His sign at the wedding was described as leading people to believe. This seems to be a comparison between the Heavenly goings-on and the Mass.)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Is Mortal Sin a Sort of "Lightbulb" Salvation?

In having a dialogue about mortal sin here, the objection was raised that this is a sort of "lightbulb" salvation, where one moment it is on, the next it's off. One moment you are saved, the next you are not. This sort of salvation was said to be unbiblical. There are two problems with this, the first being that Catholic theology doesn't look at it this way. From our perspective, with our human minds, the linear "first you're saved, then you're not, then you are again" is actually correct and biblical, but Catholic theology does not limit God and force Him into our human understanding of time. In reality, how this would work is much more complicated than we could understand. So the short answer is, it's not a sort of lighbulb salvation.

However, the fact is that salvation as an on again off again thing is quite Scriptural. I posted this example over there, and I thought it would be beneficial for you to see here. If you want to see the entire dialogue, read the comments over at the other site. Here you go!

Again, I would not call it lightbulb salvation, but if you want to, I have Scripture for that.

Mat 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
Mat 10:33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Mat 16:25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Ok, that premise is clear. A little later in Matthew:

Mat 26:33 Peter answered him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away."
Mat 26:34 Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."
Mat 26:35 Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same.

Now we have another premise that strengthens the first: Christ equates denying Him with falling away. Not only this, but the parallel is drawn in that Peter denied Christ to save his life, whereas Christ says if one did that he would lose his life. When Peter denied Christ to save his life, he did not physically die, so earthly life could not be what Christ was talking about, though very few, probably mostly modernists and demythologizers, would have tried to say that it was anyways. So we have a few premises:

1) Whoever denies Christ, Christ will deny Him before the Father
2) Peter denied Christ

Conclusion - Christ denied Peter before the Father


1) Whoeve would save his life over Christ will lose it
2) Peter saved his life over Christ

Conclusion - Peter lost his life

There are plenty of other ways to put this, and it is even more obvious without having to use my syllogisms because there is a lot more evidence, even in this post, then I have put into the syllogisms. In Luke, Jesus says to Peter:

Luk 22:31 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
Luk 22:32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

So Peter was going to turn back, and as we know he did. Here is what we know:

A) Whoever denies Christ will be denied before the Father
B) This is the same as falling away
C) Whoever saves his life over Christ will lose it
D) Peter denied Christ and saved his life over Christ

Conclusion - Peter lost his life and fell away, and would be denied before the Father.

If he had died that moment, he would be in according to the Bible.However, Christ says that he would turn back. Turn back from what? From his denial. He did, in John 21, where Christ asks Peter if he loves Him three times. If Peter had died after this, we can be pretty confident that he would have gone to heaven.So here we have a clear, unambiguous case of 'light-bulb' salvation.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Eucharist - Is it Really Jesus?

There are many different issues seperating Catholics and Protestants today. Each is extremely important in its own way. Ought we to base our doctrines on the Bible alone? Is a man saved by faith alone, or isn't he? Was Mary conceived without sin? These are clearly very important issues, and issues that are not to be taken lightly. Most of them may have an impact on our eternal destination, but if one really loves God, getting them right is important even if they didn't. With all the complexities of these issues, a person hardly knows where to begin and where to turn to determine the truth.

However, there is one doctrine that really stands out above the rest, and that is the Eucharist. The importance of the Eucharist cannot be understated. If Catholics are wrong, they are guilty of daily committing what is by far the most stupid act of idolatry in the history of man by worshipping a small piece of bread. On the other hand, if Protestants are wrong, they mock and denigrate God, and pass up the chance to be with Him every day, while Catholics have the strongest testimony to the truth of their beliefs possible: God Himself. This question, then, could be a great aid to those trying to decide who just don't have the ability or the time to go through an endless supply of theological books, documents, and arguements.

So then, the pivotal, all important question is simply, is the Eucharist really Jesus Christ? Does the evidence support this view? And is this evidence independent of other areas of disagreement, such as the authority of the Church?

Undeniably and overwhelmingly. In fact, the Bible provides all the information one could ever need to show this.

The last supper accounts provide some of the information. Matthew's gospel records this in chapter 26, starting in verse 20 when the 12 apostles sit down to eat the passover meal. It is critical to remember that this was a passover meal. The passover sacrifice was always to be an ublemished lamb (Ex. 12:5), and its bones were not to be broken (Ex. 12:46, Num. 9:12) Jesus was a passover sacrifice, and in keeping with the statutes of the Passover, He was unblemished, being without sin, and His bones were not broken (John 19:36). It is for this reason that He is called "Lamb of God." This is so important because God required that the Passover lamb be eaten in its entirety after shedding its blood (Ex. 12:8-10, 34:25, Num. 9:12) If the lamb was not eaten, the Passover sacrifice had not been kept. The Lamb of God had His blood shed on the cross, and after it must be eaten for the sacrifice to be kept. This is done through the Eucharist. In fact, the Passover sacrifice was instituted to save the firstborn sons, and sons are exactly what we become when we enter into faith with Christ (Mat. 5:9, 5:45, Luk 6:35, 20:36, John 12:36, Rom. 8:14-15, 8:23, 9:26, 2 Cor 6:18, Gal. 3:26, 4:5-6, Heb. 12:7-8). We must consume the Lamb if we, as sons, are to be saved.

The language that Jesus used at the last supper is also a big help in answering this question. As He said "Take this, and eat it, this is my body," He instructed the Apostles to "do this in remembrance of me." To our modern english ears this sounds as though the Lord simply wished the apostles to recall Him. However, the greek word which is translated as "remembrance" is very insteresting. It is anamnēsis, a word which had two important uses during the time of Christ. To the greeks, the word referred to a process by which an abstract idea moved into the material world. For example, Plato used the word to refer to the forms becoming realities to the people of this world. To the greek speaking Jews, the word had sacrificial meaning. In the greek Old Testament that was used by Christ and the apostles, the word is used to mean "memorial sacrifice" in Leviticus 24:7, Numbers 10:10, Pslam 38, and Psalm 70. In the book of Hebrews, the word is also used in a sacrificial way "There is in these sacrifices a reminder [anamnēsis] of sin year after year." (10:3) Therefore, from one standpoint Christ's words indicate the moving of His heavenly body into the material world, and from another they indicate the sacrificial nature of what He was commanding the apostles to do. In fact, even the word which is translated as "do this," poiein, carries sacrificial meaning. In the greek Old Testament, it is used 70 times in this way, such as in Exodus 29:38: "Now this is what you shall offer (poieseis) upon the altar: two lambs a year old, day by day, continually." Translating Luke 22:19 most literally and according to these etymological facts would mean Jesus said, "This is my body given for you; offer this as a memorial sacrifice of me."

The Bible continues to point to this idea in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul gives his great instruction on the Eucharist. He uses the very same words as does Luke: anamnēsis and poiein. This gives even further insight into the meaning of anamnēsis. Jesus spoke the words of the last supper in Aramaic, not greek. Paul's letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest writings existing about the Eucharist, even earlier than Matthew. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he had to translate Christ's words into greek. Corinth was a greek city and Paul chose the word anamnēsis realizing that the Corinthians would have understood it according to the greek usage, the passing from a heavenly existence to a material existence. On the other hand, Paul was Jewish rabbi who was very familiar with the Greek Old Testament. He understood the term also in its sacrificial meaning. Paul's use of the word conveys both the sacrificial and the transcendental meaning. (In fact, the Hebrew equivalent of anamnēsis, zikaron, also carried the transcendental meaning.)

Paul's Letter the the Corinthians holds even more evidence that the Eucharist truly is the body of Christ. In chapter 10, he asks, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." (16-17) The only way that the cup could be a participation in the blood of the Lord, and the bread a participation in his body, would be if the cup contained His blood and the bread was His body. Paul then writes, "Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." (18-21) He speaks of eating sacrifices in the same passage as speaking of the Eucharist. He says that eating sacrifices is a participation in the altar, just as receiving the Eucharist is a participation in calvary, the altar of Christ's sacrifice. He then goes on to make the distinction between sacrifices to idols and those made to God, saying that one cannot both participate in the sacrifice of pagans and also participate in the sacrifice to God, which he has just identified as the Eucharist.

In chapter 11 Paul continues to discuss the Eucharist, strengthening the case even further. In verse 27, he says that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord." The only way that one might profane the body of the Lord would be if the Eucharist really were His body. Paul then goes on to explicitly say that the Eucharist is the body of the Lord, as he warns that, "anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself." (29) Lastly, in verse 30, he says that many were sick and dying from committing this sin. This is very reminiscent of the Jews who died from touching the Ark of the Covenant, where the Lord truly dwelt, because they were impure with sin.

Even given all of this, the most strong evidence that the Eucharist is truly Christ's body may be found in John chapter 6. This chapter overflows with Christ speaking of eating His body and drinking His blood. Those who reject that the Eucharist really is Christ make one criticism of this passage. They say that the context shows Christ is speaking symbolically. In the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000 with his maraculous bread. Then , in verse 34, the people ask Jesus to always give them this bread. Christ then replies that He is the bread of life, and in verse 35 says that those who come to Him will never go hungry. This context, some say, shows that Jesus' references to eating Him are merely symbolic.

However, the passage clearly shows that this is not the case. After Christ speaks of giving the people His flesh, the desciples ask "how can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (52) Here they are interpreting Jesus' words to mean He will give them His literal body to eat. Instead of correcting them, Jesus uses even more direct and strong language. First, he makes the well-known statement, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (53) He then continues in verse 57 to say, "Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who eats me will live because of me." The greek word used in this verse, trogon, is not the standard word for eating, but actually conveys the idea of chewing. Christ does not then simply say that we must eat his body, but that we must chew His body. Chewing is not symbolic. After this, the desciples question Jesus again, asking, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (60) Jesus does not ease their fears by clarifying that He is speaking symbolically, but rather says that the fallen nature of flesh cannot comprehend spiritual truths, and that the desciples must think spiritually, and listen to His words of truth: "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (61-63)

Some claim that Christ's statement that "the words I have spoen to you are spirit" is a claim that the words are symbolic. However, in asking the question "does this offend you," Christ affirms His previous statements. Moreso, the fact is that the word "spirit" is not interpreted as meaning"symbolic" anywhere else in the Bible. More importantly, and perhaps most importantly of all, immediately after this we are told that many stopped following Jesus after this. If the Eucharist is not the body of Christ, then Jesus allowed many desciples to walk away from Him, and to walk away from eternal life, simply because of a misunderstanding. Twice the desciples voiced their concern over His statement that they must eat, even chew, His flesh, and twice He reaffirmed His words, even letting many leave Him instead of clarifying further. In fact, there are other Bible passages where Christ does correct such a misunderstanding, as He does in Matthew 16:5. He does not even call them back as they start to leave. Instead, He turns to the apostles and asks, "Do you want to leave too?"(67)

The biggest problem with the idea that Christ is speaking symbolically in John 6 is that the statement to eat someone's flesh was a Semitic expression which meant to persecute and betray them. Just as we have expressions today, like "its raining cats and dogs," or "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse," the Semitic peoples did, too. This was one of them. In fact, The Bible uses this expression several times. Psalm 27:2 says, "When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. " In Micah 3:2-3, the prophet writes, "Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel. Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people's flesh..." Isaiah uses the form of speach in chapters 9 and 49 as well. If Christ was speaking symbolically, He would have been telling the desciples that if they did not persecute and betray Him, they would have no life in them. The Jews who followed Christ would not have gotten the symbolic meaning oout of Jesus' statements that we do today.

There is in fact far more evidence that the Eucharist is indeed the body of Christ than I have presented here. The early Church fathers were unaninmous in their belief that the Eucharist was the body of Christ, many of them even using language that is similar to the language of transubstantiation. Those men who learned directly from Peter and Paul, men such as Ignatius of Antioch, deemed the opinions of those who did not confess the Eucharist to be the body and blood of Christ to be heretodox. On top of all of this are the many Eucharistic miracles that have occured over the centuries, such as the breathtaking miracle of Lanciano. In these miracles, hosts have visibly become flesh during consecrations What's more, the blood types of all of them have been the same, AB, the same as the blood that was found on the Shroud of Turin. However, even discounting all of this, the fact is that the Holy Bible itself shows clearly and inarguably that the Holy Eucharist is indeed the body of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is Mortal Sin Too Harsh?

The reason that people have a problem with mortal sin is because they look at things from the standpoint of God punishing the sinner. That's not really the best way to look at it, and it’s not entirely theologically correct either.

To make it really simple, let me explain it this way. God is infinite. Men are not. Men are not compatible with God. For a man to live in the realm of God would be like for a man to live in the ocean - we just aren't born with what we need to do that. Now man has devised a piece of equipment to let him survive under water - scuba gear. God has also devised a sort of "equipment" to allow man to survive in Heaven - sanctifying grace. When a person is baptized, he is given the sanctifying grace, which is a bit like "God's scuba gear." Much like the Protestant understanding of things, God gives us this "scuba gear" totally free based on faith. Through Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, so He does not take away the gear every time we sin. That's a good thing, because as we go through life we commit sins all the time.

But the thing is, this divine scuba gear really is pretty bulky, and it takes up all the room there is on the soul. Just like a scuba diver can't fit a football uniform on over his gear, we can't fit anything else on over God's sanctifying grace - His eternal scuba gear. But sometimes in life, some, or most, people see something they want to put on their souls. Maybe it is the overcoat of fornication, or the three piece suit of murder, or even the casual dress of missing Mass on Sunday. When we want to put these things on our soul, we have to take that scuba gear off, first.

That may sound a bit silly, and it sort of is, the way I explained it. But it makes the point. Mortal sins don't send us to Hell so much because God is punishing us. They send us because in committing them we reject the sanctifying grace that lets us exist in Heaven. We can't do them without rejecting that grace. People don't understand mortal sin because they see it as God rejecting us for one act, whereas in reality, it is us rejecting God. As everyone knows, it only takes rejecting God once to reject Him.

This is where Catholic theology is far closer to mainline Protestantism without Protestants really realizing it. They say that God gives us justification completely free, regardless of if we sin or not, by the merits of Jesus Christ. The thing is, Catholics say that too, we just recognize that we can still reject God. You can reject Him by literally saying it, or by doing something that conveys the same meaning. Does a husband have to actually tell his wife he is mad at her, or would, say, punching her do the same thing? Obviously our actions can convey messages. The mortal sin isn't just in the sin - it’s that the sinner is rejecting God and His offer of salvation. It's the act of saying, "I want this more than I want God."

That's another good way to look at it. Part of the problem is the term salvation. It's a correct term, but it tends to make us look at things the wrong way by our own faults, not the fault of the word. Even St. Paul used the word, after all. But remember that Jesus didn't really talk about salvation. He talked about inheriting eternal life, or inheriting the kingdom of God, or attaining eternal life. St. Paul did, too. This is a much better way to talk about things. Salvation carries the notion of a person being rescued from something, in this case sin and hell. This is truly what Christ does, but its more than that. God created us as free creatures. He deeply wants us to come and live with Him, but He won't force us. He offers us heaven, and we then have to make the choice. That's what life is all about - making that choice. As we start our Christian life, we are on the 'yes' side.

This may be a little off color, but it’s the best thing I can come up with now. When two people are starting to engage in the marital act, the woman may at any time decide she doesn't want to do it and she may ask to stop, even though she already made the major choice to start in the first place. Now some men won't listen to this, and it becomes rape. God doesn't do this. If we decide we don't want to be with Him, even after we've made the choice to at first, He stops. He doesn't force us. He respects us. If we decide, after accepting His invitation, that we'd rather go live somewhere else, He will accept that. That is mortal sin. It is turning down God's invitation after we have accepted it. The thing is, as we walk away from His house, God is always begging us to come back. "Please," He says, "come in - I will really make you feel at home!" But He never forces us. If we reaccept His invitation, this is confession. It is all about our choices, not God simply punishing us.