Tag: history

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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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(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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Jewish Purgatory

Ludovico Carracci, An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory (1610)
Are Catholics right to pray for the dead, and to believe that such prayers can help to release souls from Purgatory? Many Christians are unaware that these doctrines are Jewish in origin, and that the Jewish practice of praying for the dead continues on to this day. Even fewer are aware that this practice of prayer is tied to a tradition of temporary purgatorial fires after death.

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The Pope and the Mongols

Vincent of Beauvais, Pope Innocent IV sends Dominicans and Franciscans out to the Tartars. From Le Miroir Historial (Vol. IV).
As the State Department has just acknowledged, we are currently witnessing the attempted genocide of Christians by ISIS. But this isn't the first (and won't be the last) time that someone tries to wipe the Church off of the map. One of the most frightening was the invasion of the Mongolian "Golden Horde" in the 13th century. We could learn a thing or two from Pope Innocent IV's response.

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Trial by Fire: Modernity’s Response to Miracles

Dieric Bouts the Elder, Ordeal by Fire (detail), 1460. In this scene, a woman proves her innocence by holding a red-hot iron without suffering injury.
We moderns think of trial by ordeal as proof positive of the irrational dogmatism of our religious ancestors' culture. The idea of determining someone's innocence or guilt by having them hold a red-hot iron seems, well, insane. But new evidence suggests that the process worked... and might provide documentary evidence of a huge number of miracles. That modern researchers refuse to even consider this possibility reveals a great deal more about the irrational dogmatism of our own irreligious culture.

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