Tag: Bible

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Reformation Day Ironies, 500th Anniversary Edition

This year, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I've decided to do another round of "Reformation Day Ironies." This year's theme is "Luther against the Reformation," looking at the various ways that Martin Luther spoke against the Reformation he helped to spark, including what he had to say on the papacy, teaching authority, and schism.

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In Defense of Exaggerated Marian Devotion

A Marian procession in San Cataldo, Sicily, for the Feast of the Assumption.
Protestants aren't the only ones who find Catholic devotion to Mary a bit over-the-top sometimes. A lot of Catholics find other Catholics, including great Saints like Alphonsus Liguori and Louis de Montfort, to be a little "much" when talking about the Virgin Mary. I get it. Take the Salve Regina, for example: it calls Mary "Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope." How is that kind of effusive flattery theologically defensible? After all, Our Life and our Hope is Jesus Christ.

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Is Salvation Our Doing, or God’s?

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam (1512) [from the Sistine Chapel ceiling]
What percentage of our salvation is our doing, and what percentage of it is God’s doing? This is a common way of approaching the question of salvation, and it’s a driving force for a lot of bad theology. For example, Steven J. Cole claims that Roman Catholicism "teaches that in order to gain enough merit for salvation, we must add our good works to what Christ did on the cross." That's a common misunderstanding: since Catholics believe human cooperation is necessary, that must mean we're reducing God's credit from 100% to something lower, right? And it's ultimately for this reason that Martin Luther and later Protestants (most famously Calvinists) will argue that man’s free will in the realm of salvation is basically an illusion: we provide 0% to salvation. Why? To ensure that God gets 100%.

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Christianity: A Bargain That Will Cost You Everything

Sometimes, when we talk about Christianity, we present it as a great deal. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus says (Matthew 11:30). But other times, it sounds like Christianity is costly. Remember that Jesus also says “he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). So which view is right? Both of them. Here's are two parables that Jesus gives that explain that apparent contradiction.

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Three Christian Views on Excommunication (And Why Two of Them Are Wrong)

Expulsion of the Cathars from Carcassone in 1209 (1415)
Within Christianity, there tend to be three major views of the place of excommunication: (1) We shouldn't excommunicate anyone, because it's not merciful. (2) We should excommunicate, because we want to purify the Church of the damned. (3) We should excommunicate, because it's merciful to sinners. So which of these views is the one endorsed by Scripture?

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(Why You Can’t Have) Jesus Without the Church

Head of Saint John the Baptist (17th c.)
Contemporary Christianity is fond of pushing Jesus without the Church. Like its secular counterpart (in which people claim to be "spiritual, but not religious"), it's an attempt to have the relationship without the rules. If I'm lonely or going through a tragedy, I can pray, but I don't have to worry about fasting when I don't want to, or being associated with a bunch of fellow believers that I look down upon. But Jesus-without-the-Church is a rejection of Jesus.

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