Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UK Telegraph: US 'spied on future Pope Francis during Vatican conclave'

Read about it here. Wonder how many breaches of the confessional our government participated in? 

Malcolm & Alwyn: The World Needs Jesus

This song was released 40 years ago by my favorite Christian music duo, Malcolm & Alwyn. They influence of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel is all over their work. (I imagine that Pope Francis would love this song)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfd_COiJwzI[/youtube]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Protestant Theologian on Reformation Day: Timothy George

Here is my latest entry in my week-long commemoration of Reformation Day (October 31).

In an October 30, 2009 piece published in First Things, Timothy George offers a different Protestant perspective on Reformation Day than the one offered by Stanley Hauerwas, about which I blogged yesterday.  A friend with whom I have participated in several public dialogues concerning Evangelicals and Catholics, George is the Dean of the Beeson Divinity School

[caption id="attachment_3077" align="alignright" width="300"] Timothy George and Pope Benedict XVI[/caption]

at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Here's how his essay begins:
It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg and nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. At Beeson Divinity School, for example, we do not celebrate Halloween on October 31. Instead we have a Reformation party.

But did this event really happen? Erwin Iserloh, a Catholic Reformation scholar, attributed the story of the theses-posting to later myth-making. He pointed to the fact that the story was first told by Philip Melanchthon long after Luther’s death. Other Luther scholars rushed to defend the historicity of the hammer blows of Wittenberg. In fact, the door of the Castle Church did serve as the official university bulletin board and was regularly used for exactly the kind of announcement Luther made when he called for a public disputation on indulgences.

But whether the event happened at two o’clock in the afternoon, or at all, is not the point. Copies of Luther’s theses were soon distributed by humanist scholars all over Europe. Within just a few weeks, an obscure Augustinian monk in a backwater university town had become a household name and was the subject of chatter from Lisbon to Lithuania.

It was not Luther’s intention to divide the Church, much less to start a brand new church. To the end of his life, he considered himself to be a faithful and obedient servant of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Though Luther renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun, Katarina von Bora, he never forgot that he had received a doctorate in Holy Scripture. His vocation was to teach the written Word of God and to point men and women to the Lord of Scripture, Jesus Christ.

On this Reformation Day, it is good to remember that Martin Luther belongs to the entire Church, not only to Lutherans and Protestants, just as Thomas Aquinas is a treasury of Christian wisdom for faithful believers of all denominations, not simply for Dominicans and Catholics. This point was recognized several weeks ago by Franz-Josef Bode, the Catholic Bishop of Osnabrück in northern Germany, when he preached on Luther at an ecumenical service. “It’s fascinating,” he said, “just how radically Luther puts God at the center.” Luther’s teaching that every human being at every moment of life stands absolutely coram deo—before God, confronted face-to-face by God—led him to confront the major misunderstanding in the church of his day that grace and forgiveness of sins could be bought and sold like wares in the market. “The focus on Christ, the Bible and the authentic Word are things that we as the Catholic church today can only underline,” Bode said. The bishop’s views have been echoed by many other Catholic theologians since the Second Vatican Council as Luther’s teachings, especially his esteem for the Word of God, has come to be appreciated in a way that would have been unthinkable a century ago.

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Protestant Theologian Stanley Hauerwas on Reformation Sunday

Stanley Hauerwas in one of America's truly great public intellectuals, and perhaps the most influential theologian alive today. The Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Studies at Duke Divinity School, Hauerwas is a Protestant.  On Reformation Sunday 1995, he delivered a sermon that began in the following way:
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.

For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.

Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Essays on the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics

In this latest installment for the week of Reformation Day (October 31), what follows are links to a few articles of mine in which I discuss the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics.



R.I.P. Lou Reed

Lou Reed, founding member of The Velvet Underground, has died. Although I did not always agree with Reed's politics or views on religion, I was deeply moved by his art. As my friend, Rod Dreher, notes, "He was a broken man — he wrote and sang about very dark things, including drug addiction and prostitution — but out of that brokenness came beauty, at times, and even grace." Other than Bob Dylan, Reed was about the only performer that I would have liked to have met.

What follows are videos of two songs. The first, "Jesus," is performed by the Velvet Underground, and is sung by Reed. The other, "Romeo Had Juliette,"  is from Reed's amazing 1989 album, New York.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-SD90fws3w[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_8-Fm1vfw0[/youtube]

I confess that Reed is not everyone's cup of tea. Given my own beliefs, I probably should not like his work. But I do.

Five doctrinal issues that divide Catholics and Protestants

In my second installment for the week of Reformation Day are links to five articles I published over at The Catholic Thing. Each deals with a doctrinal

[caption id="attachment_3046" align="alignleft" width="300"] Yours truly in St. Peter's Square holding a copy of his book, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic[/caption]

issue over which Catholics and Protestants disagree:

Over the next couple of days leading up to October 31 (Reformation Day), I will also post links to articles about how we can learn from each other, including something about the perils of intra-Christian apologetics.

 

 

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The week of Reformation Day: "Reformation Day and Schism"

Today begins the week that includes, October 31, the day that Protestants have traditionally called "Reformation Day." For it is the day that in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. We are now only 4 years away from the 500th anniversary of those earth-shaking events that transformed the trajectory of Western Christianity. During this week I will be posting links to several articles in commemoration of Reformation Day. These articles either deal with the Reformation in particular or with Catholic doctrines with which Protestants disagree.

The first article is

Published in 2010 on The Catholic Thing, here's how it begins:
Sunday, October 31, is Reformation Day. It marks 493 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the famous church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The Augustinian monk set in motion a sequence of events that reverberated through Western Christendom and continues to mark and separate us today.

Since returning to the Catholic Church in late April 2007, I find Reformation Day has taken on a different meaning than when I stood on the other side of the Tiber. Nevertheless, even as a Protestant, my enthusiasm for October 31 never rose higher than modest appreciation for what I thought were Luther’s, and later Calvin’s, significant contributions in helping Western Christians to retrieve what had been lost. I say “modest appreciation,” since it always seemed to me rather unseemly to get too excited about schism and mutual charges of apostasy and heresy. It would be like celebrating the tenth anniversary of your divorce. You may think that the divorce was a good idea, but not because you think divorce itself is the proper end of a marriage.

Luther himself, though excommunicated, never saw his movement as anything more than a renewal movement within the Church. We, of course, know now that the movement he started had a life of its own, resulting in scores of different and often conflicting understandings of Scripture, sacrament, and Church, and each finding something in Christianity’s traditions to challenge.

>>>continue reading

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Caution! Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Jesus" is historically flawed

Read the review of the book over at The Catholic Thing. The reviewer is David G. Bonagura, Jr., who teaches theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. Several years ago I penned a piece on O'Reilly and his theological acumen. Entitled, "Don't Know Much About Theology," you can read it here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Don’t call it a pullback; we’ve been here for years." Why I love Russell Moore; he appropriates LL Cool J

You can read it here on National Review Online. As for LL Cool J, here's what I'm talking about.

Bob Dylan's amazing live version of Mr. Tambourine Man from 1995

[youtube]http://youtu.be/vlPQiiHuWmM[/youtube]

When my brother, Jim, and I saw Dylan in Vegas on May 13, 1995, he sang it just this way during that live performance.

Redskins, Racial Slurs, and Social Justice

That's the title of my latest installment over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
During halftime of an NFL game broadcasted on NBC on October 13, sportscaster, Bob Costas, opined that the ownership of the Washington Redskins should change its name.  Following the lead of President Obama, who said that he would change the team’s name if he were the owner, Costas argued that “Redskins” is “an insult, a slur no matter how benign the present-day intent.”

Team owner, Dan Snyder, reacting to the President’s comments, defended the name, appealing to the team’s 81-year old tradition, that the name is employed by the ownership without malice or bigotry, and that a vast majority of Native Americans are not troubled by the name.

This is a very weak argument.

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A question I didn't think anyone was asking: Where did all these Calvinists come from?

Read all about it at The Gospel Coalition. BTW, I think it's a great question!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great cover of Bob Dylan's pro-Israel song, "Neighborhood Bully."

[youtube]http://youtu.be/USpGVpJUf-Y[/youtube]

The band is called "Daniel Israel and Blood on the Tracks." The lyrics to the song follow:
Neighborhood Bully (music and lyrics by Bob Dylan)

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully
Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music

Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/neighborhood-bully#ixzz2iVE1AEEM

 

My cousin Tony Sclafani's new book: Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History

My cousin Tony Sclafani recently published a book, Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History (Backbeat Books, 2013). Here's a summary of it:
The Grateful Dead rose out of San Francisco's 1960s underground rock scene with an unprecedented sound and image. The group's members were steeped in rock, folk, classical, and blues, and their instrumental prowess and refusal to bow to commercial conventions helped originate jam band music. Unapologetic in their advocacy of drug use as a means toward mind expansion, the musicians also helped usher in the era of psychedelic music. After performing at the Monterey International Pop Festival and Woodstock, the group became iconic without ever scoring a hit single. A large, devoted fan base, called Deadheads, began to follow the band from concert to concert. Bandleader Jerry Garcia slipped into a coma in 1986, but returned the next year with a top-selling album and surprise hit single, "Touch of Grey," which led to the band becoming more popular than ever. By 1993, the Dead was the top-grossing live act in the United States. The band ended when Garcia died in 1995, but the music lives on through the constant stream of live releases that continue to this day. In Grateful Dead FAQ, Tony Sclafani examines the band's impact and influence on rock music and in popular culture. This book takes a fresh look at what made the band unique but also ventures into unexplored areas, making it a must-have for both Deadheads and casual fans.

My mom, the sister of Tony's mom, bought me a copy of this book for my birthday. Looking forward to reading it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Underground Thomist: J. Budziszewski's scholarly website

J. Budziszewski, professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, has a new website, The Underground Thomist. I was perusing it this morning. It is really amazing.  You should check it out

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gerald McDermott: Is Evangelical Liberalism an Oxymoron?

Just saw this essay this morning on First Thing's On the Square. Here is Professor McDermott's conclusion:
The lesson Evangelicals should learn from this new dust-up over evangelical theology and modernity is that sola scriptura is necessary but not sufficient for maintaining theological orthodoxy. Only a “single-source” view of scripture and tradition in which hermeneutical authority is given to the mutual interplay of Scripture and orthodox community—the method that the church practiced for most of Christian history—can protect evangelical theology from going the way of all flesh, to liberal Protestantism.

Post-conservatives claim conservative Evangelicals elevate tradition—both evangelical tradition and early church tradition—above Scripture. But Great Tradition Evangelicals say they want to submit their individual interpretations of Scripture to those of the wider and longer orthodox church, and interpret Scripture by thinking with the Great Tradition.

You can read the whole thing here.  One could add to Professor McDermott's conclusion--and he may very well be implying this--that Scripture itself arises out of the Church and its practices, and thus it is itself, not so much a product of tradition, but authoritative writings that were recognized as such in an organic relationship with the Great Tradition.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gerald McDermott on The Emerging Divide in Evangelical Theology

Here's the introduction:
Imagine the scene. Ancient Jerusalem is at war. Its army is fighting far away. Behind the city walls, its old men, women and children nervously await word on what happened in battle. Their lives and future are at stake. Suddenly, a cry rings out from the sentries watching from the look-out points on top of the wall. "Your God reigns.." A rider approaching the wall has signaled victory. The whole city explodes in celebration. The word "evangelical" comes from this Hebrew idea of announcing the good news that God now reigns with power and grace.

This essay will argue that while evangelical theology has come into its own in recent decades, it is also deeply divided. One branch contributes to the development of historic orthodoxy, while another follows a trail blazed by Protestant liberals. The future will probably see further distance between these two kinds of theology, with one perhaps becoming "evangelical" in name only. I will begin the essay by outlining recent successes, and the ways in which evangelical theologians since the 1970s have understood their own distinctives. Part II will uncover the divisions in today's evangelical theology, and Part III will highlight the doctrines that evangelical theology is re-examining. I will conclude with projections for the future (Part IV).

It's really worth a read.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

George Weigel on the upcoming double papal canonizations

Weigel writes: "I doubt that Pope Francis has heard of Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame shortstop. But like “Mr. Cub,” whose love for baseball led him to exclaim “Let’s play two!” before Sunday doubleheaders in the 1950s, the pope from the end of the world seems to think that papal canonizations are better in tandem: hence the Sept. 30 announcement that Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II will be canonized together on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014." >>>continue reading

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John Howard Yoder: Pacifist Aggressive

From Mark Oppenheimer at The New York Times:
Can a bad person be a good theologian?

All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.

By that standard, few have failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. In his teaching at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and in books like “The Politics of Jesus,” published in 1972, Mr. Yoder, a Mennonite Christian, helped thousands formulate their opposition to violence. Yet, as he admitted before his death in 1997, he groped many women or pressured them to have physical contact, although never sexual intercourse.

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