SMALL “c” catholics: by Fr. Paul D. Scalia


Small ‘c’ catholic

Fr. Paul D. Scalia

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2017

“Our Lord concludes His parables of the Kingdom with that of the dragnet: “The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Mt 13:47) This serves as a kind of bookend to the first parable of the Kingdom – the weeds among the wheat. Like the first, this last parable teaches that the imperfections of the Kingdom on earth will be sorted out (literally) at the end of the world.

But on its way to that lesson, the parable teaches us something else about the Kingdom and therefore about the Church. The net cast into the sea collects “fish of every kind.” Yes, this means good and bad, as we learn – but good and bad from fish of every kind. Which indicates the catholic character of the Kingdom, and of the Church.


People typically think of the word “Catholic” (capital “C”) as part of a brand name: the Catholic Church. So we might overlook the significance of the small-“c” catholic. The word “catholic” means universal. It indicates something whole and entire, bringing various parts into unity. We can understand the catholic nature of the Church by way of her threefold mission: to rule, to teach, and to sanctify.


First, the Church is catholic – universal – in the most common sense of that word: she is meant for all people. Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson observes that as our Lord attracted every sort of person – ignorant shepherds and wise men, poor and rich, sinners and saints, Jews and gentiles – so also does His Body, the Church.

The society that is the Church embraces people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Rev 7:9) She excludes no people and no kind of people. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

In this sense, the Church is the most democratic institution in the world. She leaves no one outside her maternal solicitude and pastoral care. She has no class or caste system, no screening process or entrance exam. She requires (as her Lord did) only repentance and faith. At the same time, we cannot reduce her universal mission to something so trivial as “all are welcome in this place.” Which brings us to the second aspect of “catholic.”

The catholic mark of the Church does not mean merely that she welcomes all peoples. After all, Hell does the same. No, the Church not only welcomes all peoples but also brings them into unity. She unites all the disparate people of the earth in the truth. All become one because all profess the same faith. And without this principle of unity, the gathering of all people would be hellish indeed.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church by Giuseppi Rollini, c.1887 [Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio, Rome]


So we can also understand the Church as catholic because she possesses all truth. (By which is meant, of course, the truths about God, man, and salvation. The Church makes no claim to have the all the truths of science, politics, etc.)


Now, every religion possesses some aspect of the truth. They all see the truth somewhat, with varying degrees of clarity. But only the Church possesses and proclaims the fullness of the truth, of God’s revelation. This is a consequence of her being the Body, the continuing presence, of Him Who is the truth. (see Jn 14:6)

To be catholic, then, means to accept all the Church’s teachings, not just those we prefer. Likewise, it requires that we make known these truths “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), not just when convenient. The Church’s members have always encountered the temptation to restrict their acceptance or proclamation of the truth.

Some choose the merciful, gentle teachings, others the harsh and rigorous. If we do not allow the truth to shape us, then the faith inevitably becomes just an expression of our personality, temperament, or mood. Catholic truth should expand our hearts and minds, not be constricted by them.

Finally, the Church is catholic in that she bears within herself every grace necessary for sanctification and salvation. She has the power to forgive all sins and to sanctify all sinners: “[T]he ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father.” (CCC 1476) This treasury of the Church is necessary for her mission. All are called to be saints. So the Church must have the power to sanctify all.

All are called to be saints – which means no one is off the hook . . . or beyond reach. Here again, her children experience the temptation to restrict what Mother Church provides. In this case, it would be to say that either the demands of holiness or the power of grace do not apply to this group or that, to this person or that . . . or to me.

The rigorists of the ancient world would have restricted certain sinners from the Church’s power to forgive. Today, the restriction of grace takes a different form – in the thought that certain Gospel demands (usually of the sexual variety) are beyond people’s ability to live or do not apply to certain groups. Which means that certain groups are beyond the power of grace to redeem and sanctify.

Thus not everyone is called to holiness, or the Church lacks the grace to sanctify. Either way, God’s arm is shortened.

Every Catholic must be catholic. This means, first of all, to desire that all people come into the Church. All people, not just the ones we like, admire, or get along with.

It means also to receive the Church’s teachings as catholic – whole and entire – not picking and choosing what we like and leaving the rest. It means to strive for holiness, confident that Mother Church holds the graces needed for our forgiveness and sanctification.

© 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Fulton Sheen lays out the 12 tricks anti-Christ will use to destroy Christians: by Pete Baklinski

Fulton Sheen lays out the 12 tricks anti-Christ will use to destroy Christians

Pete Baklinski

October 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – It’s been said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In a similar vein, the greatest trick the anti-Christ will pull will be to convince men he is the savior of the world instead of its destroyer, according to a powerful radio sermon given by Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in 1947 that was dug up out of a digital archive and published on YouTube last week.

Like the devil, whose trademark signature is to twist the truth to sell sin, so the anti-Christ, according to Sheen, will twist the minds of men to make them believe he is the “Great Humanitarian” who will “talk peace, prosperity and plenty.”

While Sheen’s description of the anti-Christ was given almost 70 years ago, his words may be more pertinent in our own times than they were in his. His prophetic message is absolutely crucial for every sincere Christian who seeks to be faithful to Christ to the end. He states:

The anti-Christ will not be so called, otherwise he would have no followers. He will wear no red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a spear nor wave an arrowed tail as Mephistopheles in Faust.

Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first “red.” Rather is he described as a fallen angel, and as “the Prince of this world” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world. His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, there is no sin; if there is no sin, there is no judge, and if there is no judgement then evil is good and good is evil.

But above all these descriptions, Our Lord tells us that He will be so much like Himself, that he would deceive even the elect – and certainly no devil we have ever seen in picture books could deceive even the elect. How will he come in this new age to win followers to his religion?

[Signs of the anti-Christ:]

  • He will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity, and plenty, not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves.
  • He will write books on the new idea of God to suit the way people live.
  • [He will] induce faith in astrology so as to make not the will but the stars responsible for our sins.
  • He will explain guilt away psychologically as repressed sex, make men shrink in shame if their fellowmen say they are not broadminded and liberal.
  • He will identify tolerance with indifference to right and wrong.
  • He will foster more divorces under the disguise that another partner is “vital.”
  • He will increase love for love and decrease love for persons.
  • He will invoke religion to destroy religion.
  • He will even speak of Christ and say that he was the greatest man who ever lived.
  • His mission, he will say, will be to liberate men from the servitudes of superstition and Fascism, which he will never define.
  • In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one; he will not believe in God. And because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect.
  • He will set up a counter-Church, which will be the ape of the Church because, he the devil, is the ape of God. It will be the mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the Church as the mystical body of Christ. In desperate need for God, he will induce modern man, in his loneliness and frustration, to hunger more and more for membership in his community that will give man enlargement of purpose, without any need of personal amendment and without the admission of personal guilt. These are days in which the devil has been given a particularly long rope.

Sheen states that he raises his concerns about the anti-Christ, not because he fears for the survival of the Catholic Church, but because of the devastation the anti-Christ will bring upon those who have no faith.

“It is not infallibility we are worried about, but the world’s lapse into fallibility; we tremble not that God may be dethroned, but that barbarism may reign; it is not Transubstantiation that may perish, but the home; not the sacraments that may fade away, but the moral law.”

Sheen has confidence that since the Church has survived other great crises in her centuries of existence, “she will live to sing a requiem over the evils of the present.”

“The Church may have its Good Fridays but these are only preludes to its Easter Sundays, for the Divine Promise shall never be made void: ‘. . . and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.’ (Matthew 28:20) ‘Whosoever shall fall upon that stones shall be bruised.’ (Luke 20:18).”

“Never before in history has there been such a strong argument for the need of Christianity, for men are now discovering that their misery and their woes, their wars and their revolutions increase in direct ratio and proportion to the neglect of Christianity. Evil is self defeating; good alone is self-preserving,” he stated.

Sheen urged his hearers to take concrete action against the evils of the day by tapping into the spiritual resources given by God for battle.

As Christians we must realize that a moment of crisis is not a time of despair, but of opportunity. We were born in crisis, in defeat – the Crucifixion. Once we recognize we are under Divine Wrath, we become eligible for Divine Mercy. The very disciplines of God create hope. The thief on the right came to God by a crucifixion.

[What Catholics must do to survive the evil day:]

  • Catholics ought to stir up their faith, hang a crucifix in their homes to remind them that they have a cross to carry.
  • Gather the family together every night to recite the rosary.
  • Go to daily Mass.
  • Make the Holy Hour daily, in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, particularly in parishes where pastors are conscious of the world’s need, and therefore conducts services of reparation. […]
  • Those who have the faith had better keep in the state of grace and those who have neither had better begin to find out what they mean, for in the coming age there will be only one way to stop your trembling knees, and that will be to get down on them and pray. […]
  • Pray to St. Michael, [saying to him]: O Michael, Prince of the Morning, who conquered Lucifer who would make himself a god. When the world once cracked because of a sneer in heaven, you rose up and dragged down from the seven heavens the Pride that would look down on the Most High. [So now marshal the world and purge of rot and riot. Rule through the world till all the world would be quiet. Only establish when the world is broken what is unbroken, is the Word.]
  • Pray to Our Lady, saying to her: It was to you as the Woman that was given the power to crush the head of the serpent who lied to men that they would be like unto gods. May you who did find Christ when He was lost for three days, find Him again, for our world has lost Him. Give to the senile incontinence of our verbiage the Word. And, as you did form the Word [made flesh] in your womb, form Him in our hearts. Lady of the Blue of Heaven, in these dark days light our lamps. Give back to us the light of the world, that a light may shine, even in these days of darkness. END QUOTES

How Protestants Still Get Justification Wrong by: STEPHEN BEALE

How Protestants Still Get Justification Wrong


The Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary is likely to inspire the usual appraisals of where Protestants and Catholics have lingering disagreements and where there is now common ground. In the former category are the Eucharist, Mary, and the pope, among other areas. In the latter often goes the doctrine of justification.

It shouldn’t. The agreement over justification—that is, how we are “saved”—is an illusory bridge over an enormous chasm in both doctrine and practice.

First, a clarification is in order. The historic debate over justification is commonly stated in terms of faith alone, the Protestant position, and faith plus good works, the alleged Catholic doctrine. This dichotomy plays into a Protestant narrative that Catholics believe that our salvation involves a combination of faith in God and hard “work” on our part. The obvious worry here is that our good works diminish the efficacy of the cross and give us cause to glory in ourselves rather than in Christ.

I carried this false assumption with me in the early stages of my conversion to Catholicism. I soon learned just how untrue it is. Yes, good works matter, but the Church teaches that any good we do is really through the grace of God “working” through us. (See Philippians 2:12-13.) Well, if it’s God’s grace that produces our good works then there is no reason for us to boast in ourselves and still every reason to glory in the cross, so at least I reasoned.

But this wasn’t my biggest revelation. Instead, it was the primacy of the virtue of love in Catholicism. This was everywhere I looked—in the lives of the saints, the theology of the body, the explanation for the difference between moral and venial sin, The Divine Comedy, and the then-new encyclical Deus Caritas Est. (Here I am using “love” and “charity” interchangeably, with the understanding that charity is the more technically accurate term.)

What the Church Teaches: Faith and Charity

It took many years, but I gradually came to the realization that the true dichotomy is not one of faith alone versus faith and good works but faith alone versus faith and love. One need look no further than the Council of Trent’s decree on Justification to see that this is the clear Catholic teaching. For example, here are Canons 9 and 11:


Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.

One can clearly trace this line of thinking back through the doctors of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas summed up the traditional teaching succinctly in the Summa Theologica, “The movement of faith is not perfect unless it is quickened by charity; hence in the justification of the ungodly, a movement of charity is infused together with the movement of faith” (ST, II-I, q. 113, a. 4, ad 1). (A similar conjunction of faith and love in justification also occurs in the first article of Question 113.)

Good works, of course, still belong to the economy of salvation. But they are not ‘signs’ of faith, as Protestants today claim. Instead they are expressions of charity. This is reflected in Aquinas’s own divisions in the Summa, in which he distinguishes between charity itself and acts of charity, both interior and exterior, such as doing good and giving alms.

Aquinas’s explanation of the relationship among faith, love, and good works is consistent with Augustine’s, which is clearly stated in the Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love. Citing Galatians 5:6, where St. Paul declares that faith works through love, Augustine elaborates, “Wherefore there is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith.” (Note that as Augustine indicates here hope plays a role in justification as well.) As Aquinas after him, Augustine associates good works with love:

Thus every commandment harks back to love. … Love, in this context, of course includes both the love of God and the love of our neighbor and, indeed, “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”—and, we may add, the gospel and the apostles.

How the Reformers Minimized Charity

Recent ecumenical dialogues convey the impression that at least some Protestants have finally come around to the Catholic position, accepting the necessity of faith and love in justification. But whether there has been any significant resolution of these issues is questionable.

Consider the Joint Declaration on The Doctrine of Justification, issued with the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, which declares: “The justified live by faith that comes from the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) and is active through love (Gal. 5:6), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22f).” ‘Active in love’ or a variant is repeated three times. It is also used in a key U.S. ecumenical statement, Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1994.

Is such language really progress? Out of context, it seems so. But now hear what Luther says about faith and love in his seminal work, On the Freedom of a Christian:

This is a truly Christian life. Here faith is truly active through love [Gal. 5:6], that is, it finds expression in works of the freest service, cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly serves another without hope of reward; and for himself he is satisfied with the fullness and wealth of his faith.

And also John Calvin, one of the most influential Protestant Reformers today: “We, indeed, acknowledge with Paul, that the only faith which justifies is that which works by love” (The Institutes of Christian Religion3.11.20).

The problem with the phrase should now be obvious. That Luther and Calvin were comfortable with the expression is a warning sign—for surely neither one considered their views on justification compatible with Catholicism. Cleary the expression ‘faith active in love’ is subject, to potentially widely different interpretations by Protestants and Catholics.

Here, for example, is Calvin’s full quotation: “We, indeed, acknowledge with Paul, that the only faith which justifies is that which works by love (Gal. 3:6); but love does not give it its justifying power. Nay, its only means of justifying consists in its bringing us into communication with the righteousness of Christ.” In this scheme, love is more of an outcome of faith. This is confirmed in Calvin’s own commentary on Canon 11, of Trent’s Decree on Justification:

It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone: just as it is the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is not alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light. Wherefore we do not separate the whole grace of regeneration from faith, but claim the power and faculty of justifying entirely for faith, as we ought (Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote).

In Calvin’s view, love is a byproduct of faith, much the same as oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis or fizz and alcohol is of fermentation. This builds upon Luther, who viewed love as a mere “tool” of faith:

He makes love the tool through which faith works. Now who does not know that a tool has its power, movement, and action, not from itself but from the artisan who works with it or uses it? For who would say that an axe gives the power and motion of cutting to a carpenter, or that a ship gives power and motion of sailing to a sailor? (Lectures on Galatians).

Where the Protestant Reformers Erred

This completely reverses Aquinas’s own treatment of the topic. In the above excerpt from the Summa, Aquinas presents charity as that which “quickens” faith. Elsewhere he says charity is the “form”—or animating principle—of faith. Luther not only had it backwards but his figurative paradigm was wrong. Rather than thinking in terms of instrumentality and tools, a better analogy seems to be that of a filament in a light bulb and electricity. Just as it is “electricity” that makes bright metal shine, so also it is charity that makes our faith shine before others. To take another: the relationship could be likened to the water which powers a mill wheel.

As the above examples illustrate, the relationship between faith and love is a complex one, and this is reflected in Aquinas’s extensive discussion of it in the Summa. In terms of the order of generation—which comes first?—Aquinas places faith first, followed by hope, then love. We must first know God by faith before we can love him, Aquinas says. (This point is also a constant refrain of Augustine in De Trinitate.) But in the order of perfection, love is foremost.

This teaching merely restates in distinctly Thomistic terms what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 in which Paul enumerates spiritual gifts that are “nothing” without love. Significantly, this includes “faith that could move mountains.” Paul spells out all that love does winding up to this pronouncement: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

This statement presents obvious difficulties for Protestant interpreters who would make love a mere “tool” or byproduct of faith. Calvin resolves this by simply imposing a completely contrary meaning on the text: “For if we single out the particular effects of faith, and compare them, faith will be found to be in many respects superior. Nay, even love itself, according to the testimony of the same Apostle, (1 Thessalonians 1:3), is an effect of faith. Now the effect is, undoubtedly, inferior to its cause.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, by the way, does not at all say what Calvin claims it does.)

Luther likewise struggles mightily with the passage. “How is it, then, Paul speaks as if faith without love were possible? We reply, this one text cannot be understood as subverting and militating against all those texts which ascribe justification to faith alone,” Luther declares in a sermon. He then muddles his way through three possible explanations—Paul is not talking about true Christian faith, or he is talking about true Christian faith but has in mind those who lost it, or he is postulating an impossible scenario to highlight the inseparability of love and faith. In the latter Luther comes closest to the Catholic doctrine, but remember, he considers love to be a “tool” of faith that has no power of its own—a position that completely misses the whole point of 1 Corinthians 13.

Luther alludes to “all those texts” which limit justification to faith. But the word “alone” is in none of the verses he cites. Luther had to add it. The only place ‘faith alone’ appears in the New Testament is in James 2, where it is described as dead if it lacks “good works” (the expression of charity). Catholics can welcome any verse on justification by faith, because we absolutely hold that faith is essential to justification. But Protestants will struggle with any verse that insists on the primacy and power of love. And there are many more than the few that are identified above (omitted due to space constraints). One thinks especially of 1 John 4:8, which declares that those who do not love do not know God.

Five hundred years after the Reformation, some Protestant and Catholics may have found common wording to describe the doctrine of justification but they are still worlds apart in meaning. Only a culture built on a deep understanding that love is even greater than mountain-moving faith could produce saints like St. John of the Cross, who wrote passionately about the wound of divine love and his mystical longing for God. Think also of stigmatics like St. Francis of Assisi, Eucharistic fasters like St. Catherine of Siena, and visionaries like St. Catherine of Genoa, who described purgatory as a “fire of divine love.” Such saints, whose lives were one long act of radical, otherworldly love, are inconceivable in a faith-alone culture.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a painting of the trial of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. END QUOTES

A Catholic Answers FORUM reply on the Primacy of Peter, by Pat Miron [PJM]


“I’m not a Protestant or non-Christian, so I guess my answer is a little different.

The short answer is I am not significantly convinced by any of the arguments for Petrine primacy. I’m not anti-papal or particularly prejudiced against it (I have generally warm feelings toward both living Roman Popes), but I also don’t think of it as necessary or nearly as clear as Catholic apologists believe.

The longer answer is that the Catholic Church considers me in good enough standing that I could inter-commune anyway, so I don’t feel particularly compelled to make any kind jurisdictional leap. (I haven’t and don’t commune in the Catholic Church.) My own view of the RCC and the sui juris churches is basically a reciprocation of what the catechism says about us.

But if I did feel like switching, the canonical issues are enough to give me pause, including the practical concern that my children would be moving from practicing in a Rite that has allowed them to commune since their baptism/chrismation to one where they would either have to stand out as the only children in the parish of their age who could commune or stop.”


Then, permit me to attempt to reply to your Primacy concerns. I’m at a disadvantage here not knowing what you have already been told & the space restrictions of this NEW CAF.

I just noticed I missed the age concern of your children and communion. In the RCC 1st Communion usually takes place around the age of reason [7]… earlier than that and they are only following along; NOT comprehending what it IS that they are doing.

I Can [space permitting] show you a list of 50 PETER first from the bible [IT CAN be GOOGLED] but check these out: Mt 10 1-3 [then read verses 4-8] & Mt 28:19-20], Mt 16:18-19, and John 21:10-17 ALL of which are to be taken literally.

It is notable that Jesus Choosing Peter was [dare I say “just”] following OT Tradition of Yahweh, who consistently choose 1 MAN to lead His “chosen people” Exo 6:7; which Jesus continues with Peter. “My Church” Mt 16:18

Yahweh choose Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Judges, the kings like David, the Prophets who lead to John the Baptist, who lead to Jesus who choose 12 MEN to be led by Peter, holder of THE KEY’S & His Authority Jn 17: 17-20

BUT my friend, the Pope does NOT operate in a vacuum; as the NORM, he works with, in and through the Magisterium, in union with the Cardinals and Bishops. The Pope can when circumstances call for it, ACT ALONE in teaching on Faith and Morals; but that is very rare. The Bishops too can speak infallibly when teaching on FAITH & Morals and in UNION [agreement/ non -contradictory] with Rome.

The Largest part of the Popes task is Governance of the Universal Church which serves through ROME a worldwide common community of beliefs for over one BILLION Catholics; so not unlike a worldwide corporation; there is a HIGH degree of delegation of his authority as is articulated in Canon Law: 331-359

PERSOANLLY, I struggle a bit understanding this concern. … Mt 16:15-19 seems to ME, to be precisely clear.

Mt 16: & the KEY”S too was following Traditions of that time & place. It was common then for each walled-in-city which did have gates with keys, to have a KING. Who choose a Visar, whom he gave the KEYS & unlimited power of Governance of that cities day to day business ANSWEABLE ONLY to that KING. This is precisely what Jesus knew and was passing on to PETER. And this was completely understood and accepted by ALL that witnessed the transfer of POWER from Jesus to PETER and shared later Mt 18:18 with the others THROUGH Peter.

I do hope and pray this is of help to you,

God bless you & your family,

Patrick [PJM]

The Heresy of Atheism….FR. DAVID ANDREW FISHER

The Heresy of Atheism

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. ∼ Matthew 13:58

 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”∼ Mark 6:6

On November 16, 2006, I was invited to engage in a public debate at The Ohio State University in my home city of Columbus, Ohio against one of the political action leaders of American atheism, Daniel Barkan. Mr. Barkan had been brought up as a child by his parents to be an evangelist, and began preaching publicly as a young boy; but as he approached adulthood he lost his Christian faith and came to embrace the faith of atheism.

I began the debate by speaking of Plato’s notion of Beauty as The One source of all things, then I added ideas from St. Anselm and how the great Notre Dame University philosopher Alvin Plantinga has shown how Anselm’s Ontological Argument for the existence of God has never been disproved. When the time came for Mr. Barkan to give his opening remark, he wanted to know why the Catholic Church was anti-homosexual and why it had never formally excommunicated the Catholic members of the Nazi Party in Germany. Needless to say, we never quite got on the same track and after the debate he told me his debates were never quite so intellectual and quiet, he was accustomed to shouting matches he told me, over questions like why babies sometimes suffer and die.

However, what convinced me that atheism is a religion, and in my opinion a heretical religion was what happened in the question and answer period for the audience. An Ohio State University student got up and asked Mr. Barkan, “if I drew a circle or pie shape that represented all the possible knowledge that exists, how much could you fill in with your human reason?” Mr. Barkan was silent because he knew he was caught, that atheism is not some sort of champion of secularized human reason. The young man went on; “you can’t answer Mr. Barkan, because you or no one else has in their minds the knowledge of all reality, therefore your atheism is a belief, not a fact, a belief just like belief in God, its just that given what you do know you choose not to believe in God, while others with just as much knowledge as you or more, choose to believe in God.”

Atheism is at its core a religious heresy, a rational heresy, and an ethical heresy.

The Roots of Modern Atheism
Atheism is for the most part a modern phenomenon; in the ancient world the idea of denying transcendent reality, denying the existence of God or gods and a spiritual realm was almost unthinkable. Even Greek philosophers like Parmenides who did not believe in a personal God, posited that all things were actually one Entity as he put it and therefore divine. Aristotle said that it was logical after studying biology, physics, metaphysics and ethics, that one had to come to the conclusion that there was only one God, which he called the Unmoved Mover.

Atheism as we know it was given life among the British empiricists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the figures of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume. Hobbes felt that human beings were “savage machines” that could only function under the strong arm of government, and David Hume was the complete skeptic who felt that certain knowledge of anything was impossible, therefore even knowledge of God. This way of thinking was carried into the ethical realm even further in the nineteenth century by the ethical utilitarian movement of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who taught that ethics should be based on the amounts of pleasure or pain any given act produces.

These philosophers in many ways laid the foundations of the modern secular world, where divine revelation is doubted, human reason is fallible yet at the same time ethics is a matter of judging consequences relative to each individual ethical dilemma.

The New Testament and Unbelief
While the world of the New Testament and the early Church was not a world of “modern atheism,” it was a world hostile a times to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. This hostility is explained by two words in the New Testament: (Apeitheia) usually translated from the Greek as “disobedience,” and (Apistia) meaning “unbelief.”

Apeithia can be found six times in the New Testament (Rom. 11:30, 11:32, Eph. 2:2, 5:6, and Heb. 4:6, 4:11). It describes the human characteristic of disobedience, for example in Hebrews 4:11 it states, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” Also, in Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these thing the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Atheism is not just disbelief, it is disobedience, a rejection of human nature which is made in the image and likeness of its Creator. It is disobedience to divine revelation, an active disobedience in much the same manner that Christians experience in parts of the Middle East and Asia where their religious symbols are torn down and disrespected because of their faith. In the western world of Europe and North America we see Christian symbols stripped from public places, and Christian holidays secularized in symbol and in speech. While atheists want their movement to be seen as some type of rationally common sense idea, it carries with it is own doctrines of secularism, ethical relativism, and anti-theism, and is armed with lobbyists and political activists in Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.

Apistia, meaning unbelief can be found eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:6, 9:24, 16:24; Rom. 3:3, 4:20, 11:20, 11:23; 1 Tim. 1:13; Heb. 3:12, 3:19). The Gospel of Matthew records how when Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth he was amazed at their unbelief:

He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)

Their lack of faith stifled the good works, the gifts of grace that the Lord wished to bestow upon them. In this passage we see that unbelief is an active not a passive denial of the Lord’s presence and message. They see and marvel at his wisdom and yet they choose to not believe in him. In the Letter to the Hebrews we are reminded to guard our faith; “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, that falls away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).

The atheist movement is possibly the most politically active “belief system” in America. While various Christian churches, and non-Christian religions in America seek to find common ground, common concern, and peaceful dialogue; atheism seeks to confront, belittle, legally eviscerate, and marginalize religions in the public square, and in the judicial and political arena. It has aligned itself with the most radical movements of secular relativism that seeks to totally discard the traditional Christian values upon which America was founded. If the word religion coming from the Latin religio be translated in its original sense, as “people gathered together for a purpose,” then atheism is truly a religion, a religion of anti-theism.

8 Tips from St. John Paul II on prayer by Philip Kostoski

8 Tips from St. John Paul II on prayer

 Philip Kosloski

Vittoriano Rastelli/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Though our hearts are made for prayer, it is a true art that requires practice and patience. The good news is that the saints have gone before us and learned how to pray in the midst of many trials and tribulations. Their spiritual wisdom is invaluable and can help us in our own spiritual journeys, giving us encouragement in the daily struggle of prayer.If you want to draw closer to God, follow the Polish Pontiff’s prayerful advice. 

St. John Paul II was a master of prayer. He prayed for hours each day, interceding for the world and drawing closer and closer in his relationship with God. This is what sustained him during his early life in Nazi-occupied Poland, and it remained the central part of his life while pope.

He wrote much about prayer, often giving practical tips to young people. Here are eight such tips that address various difficulties in prayer and give hope to the soul tempted to abandon prayer.

Read more: Why pray when praying doesn’t work?

“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to Him in prayer and in love. Ask Him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with Him who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’”

“The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth. In the prayer we repeat many times the words that the Virgin Mary heard from the Archangel, and from her kinswoman Elizabeth.”

“Prayer, intimate dialogue with the One who is calling you to be His disciples, must come first. Be generous in your active life … and be deeply immersed in the contemplation of God’s mystery. Make the Eucharist the heart of your day.”

“Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”

“If you really wish to follow Christ, if you want your love for him to grow and last, then you must be faithful to prayer. It is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer, your faith and love will die. If you are constant in daily prayer and in the Sunday celebration of Mass, your love for Jesus will increase. And your heart will know deep joy and peace, such as the world could never give.”

“How did Jesus himself pray? … we know that his prayer is marked by a spirit of joy and praise.”

 “When it is difficult … to pray, the most important thing is not to stop praying, not to give up the effort. At these times, turn to the Bible and to the Church’s liturgy. Meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Ponder the wisdom and counsel of the apostles and the challenging messages of the prophets. Try to make your own the beautiful prayers of the Psalms.”

“When you pray, you must realize that prayer is not just asking God for something or seeking special help, even though prayers of petition are true ways of praying. But prayer should also be characterized by thanksgiving and praise, by adoration and attentive listening, by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness. If you follow Jesus’ advice, and pray to God constantly, then you will learn to pray well. God himself will teach you.” END QUOTES


Prayer for Deliverance from Evil by St. John Paul II

 Philip Kosloski |



Prayer for Deliverance from Evil by St. John Paul II

The year was 1984 and St. John Paul II was presiding at a Mass for Families during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Redemption. He was faced with a world in turmoil (nearing the end of the Cold War), and recognized the need to beseech God’s help in delivering the world from evil.

The occasion was highlighted by the presence of the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Rome, standing prominently next to the main altar. During the Mass John Paul II led those present in a “Consecration of All Individuals and Peoples of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” He said, “I will today entrust to her Immaculate Heart—in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world—all individuals and peoples, repeating in substance the act that I made at Fátima on May 13, 1982.”

At the end of the consecration John Paul II said a powerful prayer that asks God to deliver us from the many faces of evil. It is a prayer that retains its relevance as evil continues to plague our world.

Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future!

From famine and war, deliver us.

From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.

From sins against the life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.

From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.

From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.

From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.

From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.

From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us.

From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.

Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the “sin of the world,” sin in all its manifestations.

Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope! END QUOTES



“What is Happening at Mass” re-blogged by Bishop Barron

Bishop Barron: What is happening at Mass?

 Bishop Robert Barron | Oct 14, 2017

It is an encounter with the real flesh and blood person of Christ Jesus, and it’s also a dialogue, a prayer and a play.

As many Catholics know, the Second Vatican Council famously referred to the liturgy as the “source and summit of the Christian life.” And following the prompts of the great figures of the liturgical movement in the first half of the 20th century, the Council Fathers called for a fuller, more conscious, and more active participation in the liturgy on the part of Catholics.

That the Vatican II dream of a revived liturgical awareness and practice has, at least in the West, largely remained unrealized goes without saying. In the years following the Council, Mass attendance in Europe, North America, and Australia has plummeted. The numbers of Catholics who regularly attend Mass in those parts of the world hover between 10 and 25 percent. Therefore, it is not surprising that an extraordinary number of those who self-identify as Catholics in the West have very little idea what the Mass actually is. My 31 years of priestly ministry convince me that, even for a great number of those who attend Mass, the liturgy is a kind of religiously-themed jamboree.

So what is the Mass? What happens during this paradigmatic prayer? Why is it the beginning and culmination of what it means to be a Christian? In the course of this brief article, I will share just a couple of basic insights.

First, the Mass is a privileged encounter with the living Christ. Christianity is not a philosophy, ideology, or religious program; it is a friendship with the Son of God, risen from the dead. There is simply no more intense union with Jesus than the Mass. Consider for a moment the two major divisions of the Mass: the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. When we meet with another person in a formal setting, we typically do two things. We get together and talk, and then we eat. Think of the first part of Mass as an exchange, a conversation, between the Son of God and members of his mystical Body. In the prayers and interventions of the priest, and especially in the words of the Scriptures, Jesus speaks to his people, and in the songs, responses, and psalms, the people talk back. There is, if you will, a lovely call and response between the Lord and those who have been grafted onto him through Baptism. In the course of this spirited conversation, the union between head and members is intensified, strengthened, confirmed. Having talked, we then sit down to eat, not an ordinary meal, but the banquet of the Lord’s Body and Blood, hosted by Jesus himself. The communion that commenced with the call and response during the first part of Mass is now brought to a point of unsurpassed intensity (at least this side of heaven), as the faithful come to eat the body and drink the lifeblood of Jesus.

A second rubric under which to consider the Mass is that of play. We tend quite naturally to think of play as something less than serious, something frivolous and far less important than work. But nothing could be further from the truth. Work is always subordinated to an end beyond itself; it is for the sake of a higher good. So I work on my car that I might drive it; I work at my place of employment that I might make money; I work around the house so that it might be a more pleasant place to live, etc. But play has no ulterior motive, no end to which it is subordinated. Hence, I play baseball or watch golf or attend a symphony or engage in philosophical speculation or get lost in a sprawling novel simply because it is good so to do. These activities are referred to in the classical tradition as “liberal,” precisely because they are free (liber) from utility. When I was teaching philosophy years ago in the seminary, I would gleefully tell my students that they were engaging in the most useless study of all. Invariably they laughed—revealing the utilitarian prejudice of our culture—but I always reminded them that this meant the highest and most noble kind of study.

The Mass, as an act of union with the highest good, is therefore the supreme instance of play. It is the most useless and hence sublimest activity in which one could possibly engage. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Mass for the installation of new members of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher. For the solemn liturgy, the Knights wore dashing capes emblazoned with the Jerusalem cross and jaunty black berets, while the ladies donned elegant black gowns, gloves, and lace mantillas. Two bishops, in full Mass vestments and tall miters, welcomed the new members into the order by dubbing them on both shoulders with impressively large swords. As I watched the proceedings, I couldn’t help but think of G.K. Chesterton’s remark that children often dress up when they engage in their “serious play.” Capes, hats, ceremonial gloves, vestments, and swords for dubbing are all perfectly useless, which is precisely their point. So all of the colorful accouterments and stately actions of the Mass are part of the sublime play.

Why is the Mass so important? Why is it the “source and summit” of the Christian life? I could say many more things in answer to these questions, but suffice it to say for the moment that it is the most beautiful encounter between friends and that it is an anticipation of the play that will be our permanent preoccupation in heaven. END QUOTES




One of the central messages that Our Lady of Fatima communicated to the three shepherd children was very simple: pray for the world. The Virgin Mary reiterated this theme during her August apparition when she said, “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners.”Praying for the world on the 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun.”

When the world is in turmoil, prayer is always the answer. It is what Our Lady prescribed in the midst of World War I, and the same message rings true today.

Prayer is a hidden treasure that has the potential to change everything and is the only way to bring about lasting peace on this earth. So on this 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun,” let us join together in prayer, responding to Our Lady’s call to pray for the world and the conversion of hearts.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for our dear country.
Our Lady of Fatima, sanctify our clergy.
Our Lady of Fatima, make our Catholics more fervent.
Our Lady of Fatima, guide and inspire those who govern us.
Our Lady of Fatima, cure the sick who confide in thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, console the sorrowful who trust in thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, help those who invoke your aid.
Our Lady of Fatima, deliver us from all dangers.
Our Lady of Fatima, help us to resist temptation.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain for us all that we lovingly ask of thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, help those who are dear to us.
Our Lady of Fatima, bring back to the right road our erring brothers.
Our Lady of Fatima, give us back our ancient fervor.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain for us pardon of our manifold sins and offenses.
Our Lady of Fatima, bring all men to the feet of thy Divine Child.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain peace for the world.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Let Us Pray:
O God of infinite goodness and mercy, fill our hearts with a great confidence in Thy dear Mother, whom we invoke under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary and our Lady of Fatima, and grant us by her powerful intercession all the graces, spiritual and temporal, which we need.
Through Christ our Lord.

How “Theotokos” became the perfect title of the Virgin Mary… re-blogged

How “Theotokos” became the perfect title of the Virgin Mary

 Philip Kosloski
Two different arguments were presented, one by Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople and the other by St. Cyril of Alexandria.
In the year 431 there was a fierce debate raging in the Catholic Church regarding a specific title of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The debate required a rare Ecumenical Council at the city of Ephesus to resolve the issue.

Nestorius firmly believed that Mary should be called Christotokos, “Birth-giver of Christ” (also translated as “Christ-bearer”). Fr. Dwight Longnecker explains that “Nestorius used language that was perceived as asserting that there were two separate persons conjoined in Jesus Christ. Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary in giving Jesus human flesh could be the ‘Christ-bearer’ but not ‘God-bearer.’”

On the other hand, St. Cyril and a great number of bishops believed that Mary should be called Theotokos, “Birth-giver to God” (also translated as “God-bearer” or “Mother of God”). This terminology affirmed that Jesus is “one person in two natures which are united.”

It was determined by an overwhelming majority that Theotokos was the correct title for Mary, and Nestorius was subsequently removed from his position as bishop of Constantinople.

The title “Mother of God” does not mean Mary somehow existed before God or created God, but that Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is fully God and fully human.

The Catechism puts it like this, “In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos)” (CCC 495).

The Orthodox and Byzantine tradition of Christianity continue to use this title of Mary, preferring it to any other of her titles. An ancient hymn in their liturgy poetically summarizes this complex truth, “He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos.”

The decision to name Mary Theotokos was a pivotal point in the Church’s history. It clarified the Church’s belief in Jesus Christ and gave further confirmation regarding the nature of Christ’s incarnation. What the Church believed about Jesus since apostolic times was ratified at the Council of Ephesus.

Furthermore, the granting of this title confirmed Mary’s privileged role in salvation history and deepened understanding of the great mystery that occurred in her womb.

To honor the memory of this council, Pope Pius XI in 1931 established the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary on October 11, which after the Second Vatican Council was transferred to January 1 and renamed the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. END QUOTES


“Does GOD Harden Human Hearts?” … re-blogged

Does GOD Harden Human Hearts?

Msgr. Charles Pope

One of the more difficult biblical themes to understand is that of God hardening the hearts and minds of certain people. The most memorable case is that of Pharaoh. Before sending Moses to him, God said that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart” (Ex 4:21). There are other instances in which biblical texts speak of God hardening the hearts of sinners, even from among His own people.

Jesus hinted at such a theme in Matthew 13, when He said that He spoke in parables (here understood more as riddles) so as to affirm that the hearts of most people “outside the house” were hardened. He quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 as He does so. Jesus’ own apostles wondered why He spoke plainly only to them and a close company of disciples, but in riddle-like parables to the crowds outside. In His answer we are left to wonder if Jesus has not perchance written off the crowds and left them in the hardness of their hearts. To be fair, Jesus’ remark is ambiguous and open to interpretation.

What are we to make of texts like these which explicitly or implicitly speak of God hardening the hearts of people? How can God, who does no evil, be the source of a sinful mind or hard heart? Why would God do such a thing when Scripture also says this:

  • As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?(Ez 33:11)
  • God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth(1 Tim 2:4).

To be sure, these questions involve very deep mysteries, about the interaction between God’s sovereignty and our freedom, about time, and about causality. The question of God hardening hearts cannot be resolved simply. Greater minds than mine have pondered these things and it would be foolish to think that an easy resolution will be found in a blog post.

Some distinctions can and should be made and some context supplied. We do not want to understand the “hardening texts” simplistically or in ways that use one truth to cancel out others that balance it.

I propose that we examine these texts along four lines:

  1. The Context of Connivance
  2. The Mystery of Time
  3. The Mystery of Primary Causality
  4. The Necessity of Humility

To begin, it is important simply to list some of the hardening texts. These will be referred to as we examine each of the four points above. The following are not the only hardening texts, but they provide a wide enough sample to use in our discussion:

  • The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go”(Ex 4:21).
  • Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country(Ex 11:10).
  • Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance(Is 63:17).
  • He [God] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them(Jesus quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, in John 12:40).
  • They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness(2 Thess 2:10-12).
  • Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. … Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done(Rom 1:24, 28).

Point I: The Context of Connivance – In properly assessing texts like these we should first consider the contexts in which they were made and written. Generally speaking, most of these declarations that God hardens the heart come after a significant period of disobedience on the part of those whose hearts were hardened. In a way, God “cements the deal” and gives them what they really want. Seeing that they have hardened their own hearts to Him, God determines that their disposition is to be a permanent one. In a sovereign exercise of His will (for nothing can happen without God’s allowance), He declares and permits their hearts to be hardened in a definitive kind of way. In this sense there is a judgment of God upon the individual that recognizes the person’s definitive decision against Him. Hence this hardening can be understood as voluntary on the part of the one hardened, for God hardens in such a way that He uses the person’s own will for the executing of His judgment. God accepts that the individual’s will against Him is definitive.

In the case of Pharaoh, although God indicated to Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, the actual working out of this is a bit more complicated. We see in the first five plagues that it is Pharaoh who hardens his own heart (Ex 7:13; 7:22; 8:11; 8:28; 9:7). It is only after this repeated hardening by Pharaoh of his own heart that the Exodus text speaks of God as the one who hardens (Ex 9:12; 9:34; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27). Hence the hardening here is not without Pharaoh’s repeated demonstration of his own hardness. God does this as a kind of sovereign judgment on Pharaoh.

The Isaiah texts (many in number) that speak of a hardening being visited upon Israel by God (e.g., #3 and #4 above) are also the culmination of a long testimony by Isaiah of Israel’s hardness. At the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, God describes (through Isaiah) Israel’s hardness as being of their own doingFor the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him (Is 1:2-4). There follows a long list of their crimes, their hardness, and their refusal to repent.

St. John Chrysostom: Of the numerous texts later in Isaiah (and also referenced by Jesus (e.g., Jn 12:40)) that speak of Israel as being hardened by God (and having their eyes shut by Him), St. John Chrysostom wrote, That the saying of Isaiah might be fulfilled: that here is expressive not of the cause, but of the event. They did not disbelieve because Isaiah said they would; but because they would disbelieve, Isaiah said they would … For He does not leave us, except we wish Him … Whereby it is plain that we begin to forsake first, and are the cause of our own perdition. For as it is not the fault of the sun, that it hurts weak eyes, so neither is God to blame for punishing those who do not attend to His words (on a gloss of Is. 6:9-10 at Jn 12:40, quoted in the Catena Aurea).

St Augustine: This is not said to be the devil’s doing, but God’s. Yet if any ask why they could not believe, I answer, because they would not … But the Prophet, you say, mentions another cause, not their will; but that God had blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. But I answer, that they well deserved this. For God hardens and blinds a man, by forsaking and not supporting him; and this He makes by a secret sentence, for by an unjust one He cannot (quoted in the Catena Aurea at Jn 12:40).

{Inserted by PJM…This is an apt explanation of Protestant unbelief and inability to rightly understand GOD’s Truths, as they are more into self-made religions than God’s singular per defined issue, TRUTHS}

In the passage from 2 Thessalonians, while the text speaks of God as having sent the delusion, the verses before and after make clear the sinful role of the punished.

Of this text St. Augustine wrote, From a hidden judgment of God comes perversity of heart, so that the refusal to hear the truth leads to the commission of sin, and this sin is itself a punishment for the preceding sin [of refusing to hear the truth] (Against Julian 5.3.12).

St. John Damascus: [God does this] so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (The Orthodox Faith 4.26).

The passages from Romans speak of God handing them over only after they have suppressed the truth (1:18), persevered in their wickedness (1:18), and preferred idolatry (1:23). Hence, as a just judgment, God hands them over to sexual confusion (homosexuality) and countless other destructive drives. So although it is said that God hands them over, it is really not that simple. They do not want to serve Him and so He, knowing their definitive decision, gives them what they want.

Thus our first point of distinction in understanding the hardening texts is that the context of connivance is important in assessing them. Scripture does not assert that God takes a reasonably righteous man and, out of the blue, hardens his heart, confuses his mind, or causes him (against his will) to become obstinate. The texts are usually presented as a kind of prevenient judgment by God, that the state of the person’s hardness has now become permanent. They refuse and so God “causes” them to walk in their own sinful ways since they have insisted on doing so.

Point II: The Mystery of Time – In understanding these hardening texts (which we have seen are akin to judgment texts) we must recall that God does not live in time in the same way that we do. Scripture speaks often of God’s knowledge and vision of time as being comprehensive rather than speculative or serial (e.g., Ex 3:14; Ps 90:2-4; Ps 93:2; Is 43:13; Ps 139; 2 Peter 3:8; James 1:17).

To say that God is eternal and lives in eternity is to say that He lives in the fullness of time. For God, past, present, and future are all the same. God is not wondering what I will do tomorrow; neither is He waiting for it to happen. For Him, my tomorrow has always been present. All of my days were written in His book before one of them ever came to be (Ps 139:16). Whether and how long I live has always been known to Him. Before He ever formed me in my mother’s womb He knew me (Jer 1:4). My final destiny is already known and present to Him.

Hence, when we strive to understand God’s judgments in the form of hardening the hearts of certain people, we must be careful not to think He lives in time the way we do. It is not as though God is watching my life like a movie. He already knows the choices I will make. Thus, when God hardens the hearts of some, it is not as though He is trying to negatively influence the outcome and trip certain people up. He already knows the outcome and has always known it; He knows the destiny that they have chosen.

Be very careful with this insight, for it is a mystery to us. We cannot really know what it is like to live in eternity, in the fullness of time, where the future is just as present as the past. Even if you think you know, you really don’t. What is essential for us to realize is that God does not live in time the way we do. If we try too hard to solve the mystery (rather than merely accepting and respecting it) we risk falling into the denial of human freedom, double predestination, or other misguided notions that sacrifice one truth for another rather than holding them in balance. That God knows what I will do tomorrow does not destroy my freedom to actually do it. How this all works out is mysterious, but we are free and God holds us accountable for our choices. Further, even though God knows our destiny already, this does not mean that He is revealing anything about that to us, so that we should look for signs and seek to call ourselves saved or lost. We ought to work out our salvation in reverential fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

The key point here is mystery. How, why, and when God hardens the heart of anyone is caught up in the mysterious fact that He lives outside of time and knows all things before they happen. Thus He acts with comprehensive knowledge of all outcomes.

Point III: The Mystery of Causality – One of the major differences between the ancient and the modern world is that the ancient world was much more comfortable dealing with something known as primary causality.

Up until the Renaissance, God was at the center of all things and people instinctively saw the hand of God in everything, even terrible things. Job said, The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised … if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? (Job 1:21; 2:10) The ancients would commonly attribute everything as coming from the hand of God, for He was the first cause of everything that happened. This is what is meant by primary causality. The ancients were thus much more comfortable attributing things to God, even things that we are not. In speaking like this, they were not engaging in superstitious or primitive thinking; rather, they were emphasizing that God was sovereign, omnipotent, and omnipresent, and that nothing happened apart from His sovereign will. God is the primary cause of all that is.

Of this ancient and scriptural way of thinking the Catechism saysAnd so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes [e.g., human or natural]. This is not a “primitive mode of speech,” but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him (CCC # 304).

The key point here is understanding that the ancient biblical texts, while often speaking of God as hardening the hearts of sinners, did not mean to say that man had no role, no responsibility. Neither did the texts mean to say that God acted in a merely arbitrary way. Rather, the emphasis was on God’s sovereign power as the first cause of all that is. Hence, He is often called the cause of all things and His hand is seen in everything. We moderns are uncomfortable speaking in this way.

After the Renaissance, man moved himself to the center and God was gradually relegated to the periphery. Man’s manner of thinking and speaking began to shift to secondary causes (causes related to man and nature). If something happens we look to natural causes, or in human situations, to the humans who caused it. These are secondary causes because I cannot cause something to happen unless God causes me. Yet increasingly the modern mind struggles to maintain a balance between the two mysteries: our freedom and responsibility, and God’s sovereignty and omnipotence.

In effect primary causality has largely been thrown overboard as a category. Even modern believers unconsciously do this and thus exhibit three related issues:

  1. We fail to maintain the proper balance between two mysteries: God’s sovereignty and our freedom.
  2. We exhibit shockat things like the “hardening texts” of the Bible because we understand them poorly.
  3. We try to resolve the shock by favoring one truth over the other. Maybe we just brush aside the ancient biblical texts as a “primitive mode of speech,” inappropriately concluding that God didn’t have anything to do with this or that. Or we go to the other extreme and become fatalistic, denying human freedom, denying secondary causality (our part), and accusing God of everything (as if He were the only cause and shouldered the sole blame for everything). We either read the hardening texts with a clumsy literalism or we dismiss them as misguided notions from an immature, primitive, pre-scientific age.

The point here is that we have to balance the mysteries of primary and secondary causality. We cannot fully understand how they interrelate, but they do. Both mysteries need to be held. The ancients were more sophisticated than we are in holding these mysteries in the proper balance. We handle causality very clumsily and do not appreciate the distinctions between primary causality (God’s part) and secondary causality (our own and nature’s part). We try to resolve the mystery rather than holding it in balance and speaking to both realities. In doing so, we become poor interpreters of the hardening texts.

Point IV: The Necessity of Humility – By now it is clear that we are dealing with the mysterious interrelationship between God and Man, between God’s sovereignty and our freedom, between primary and secondary causality. In the face of such mysteries we have to be very humble. We ought not to think more of the details than is proper, because they are largely hidden from us. Too many moderns either dismiss the hardening texts or accept them and then sit in harsh judgment over God (as if we could do such a thing). Neither approach bespeaks humility. Consider a shocking but very humbling text in which Paul warns us in this very matter:

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Romans 9:14-20)

None of us can demand an absolute account from God for what He does. Even if He were to tell us, could our small and worldly minds ever really comprehend it? My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways, says the Lord (Is 55:8).

SUMMARY – In this (rather too long) post, we have considered the “hardening texts,” in which it seems that God hardens the hearts of certain people and groups—and so He does. But texts like these must be approached carefully, humbly, and with proper understanding of the scriptural and historical context. At work here are profound mysteries: God’s sovereignty, our freedom, His mercy, and His justice.

We should be careful to admit the limits of our knowledge when it comes to such texts. As the Catechism so beautifully states, when it comes to texts like these they are to be appreciated as a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him (CCC # 304).
This song says, “Be not angry any longer Lord and no more remember our iniquities. Behold and regard us; we are all your people! END QUOTES