Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saint Karol?


It’s not surprising, really, that mere days after the passing of Pope John Paul II, there are calls for his sainthood. As a fundy Evangelical, I find such talk interesting, and so here is today’s post.

First, the downside. People can be really, really superstitious. We think of ourselves as rational and scientific, but when it comes down to it, we still hold on to “lucky” coins and colors and so on, some listen to what their horoscope or what a fortune teller says, and yes, we see that in religion as well, where people act as if a complete or relative stranger can answer questions they can’t handle themselves. People trust ministers and priests, sometimes to an unwise degree.

What this has to do with Sainthood, is the notion that a Saint can intercede, that asking for a Saint to help in a certain manner will help more than praying directly to God. That comes perilously close to Idolatry, because it replaces God as the object of worship with Man, even a godly man.

That said, however, there is much to recommend the practice of commemorating lives devoted to Christ. In our own lifetime, the example and virtuous work of Mother Teresa is well worth memory, especially as time passes and we may lose sight of such devotion and love; it simply makes sense to remind our children and fellow believers, of what a single person can do. While there have been many good Baptists and other worthy servants who are Protestants, we don’t hear much about them, and that is unfortunate - effective lessons are lost by neglecting the memory of them. In that regard, I would agree that Karol Wojytla should be sainted. I don’t know about the specifics of the decision, whether there has to be some sort of verified miracle and such, but as an object lesson, I cannot imagine anyone who would deny that we should be reminded, Roman Catholic or otherwise, about the life and work of this man.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Way of Fellowships


With the Pope's passing, renewed interest has come up regarding the separate Christian denominations. one argument in particular involves the relationship Protestants (in general) to Roman Catholics. I might suggest that both sides are correct to some degree in their positions? Up to Arias, the Church was Catholic. Then it became Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox, and the RCC held sway in the conventional thought until Luther. The New Testament, the recited Creeds, the essential Doctrines, all were established by the RCC. In fact, I believe it would be fair to say that all of Christianity either follows the Roman Catholic position, or reacts to it.

With that said, however, the Church has always had dissent within its ranks, often in the capacity of what I may call ‘followers of Christ, but not of Men’. We see this in the many debates as the Church separated heresy from true obedience, and also in the arguments, even among the princes of the Church. We do not often consider it, but there are distinct differences between the Augustinian and Marionite orders, between the Jesuits and the Benedictines. Luther wanted, very much, to remain in the Catholic Church, but found it in conflict with the Gospel too much to accept the order. Say what you will about Luther’s anti-Semitism and other flaws, his motive certainly stands up well as he wrote, especially compared to, say, King Henry VIII’s purpose in setting up the Anglican Church. John is correct to say that there is little substantive comparison between the Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, where doctrine and effect are considered. We follow the same Lord, but are clearly on different sides of the mountain. What the Protestants did not agree with, they discarded, and what RCC had that they found valid, they confirmed in their own method.

That is one of the great questions for Christians to resolve. All who call on the Lord shall be saved we are taught, but beyond that, there is much disagreement. It leads many who do not believe in Christ to doubt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and even among believers, it can be rancorous to discuss the intricacies of God’s will. Baptism, confession, penance, contrition, consequence, miracles, prophecy, mission, eschatology, judgment, all are myriad in interpretation, and there are more denominations and sects every year. Small wonder but sad, that so many people end up accepting Christ only as a concept.

This is one reason why the work of Karol Wojytla is so important. Like Mother Teresa before him, Karol is a true emissary of Christ, by everything I can see of his work. Did he kiss a Koran? Yes, but that does not mean he accepted Islam as the same as faith in Christ, nor even once mouth the words of the Islamic Shahada, ‘There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger’ Did he stand with Protestants, even Atheists, on political matters? Yes, but not once did he deny his faith to do so. Did he let the crimes of priests against children go ignored for too long? Unfortunately yes, but in that case, Karol trusted his Monsignors and Archbishops and Cardinals to clean their own house, and we do not know the specific actions and words done and said in private; it has been reported by some that where other popes sugar-coated the scandal, Karol demanded the Church cooperate with secular authorities where these crimes were discovered, and that corrections be made, privately but directly. There are many points where people can criticize the Pope, but this one did as well as we can reasonably demand from one man, and excelled many times beyond what we see from any other world leader. Reagan was a great leader, but he did not publicly forgive John Hinckley. Ayatollah Sistani is a great man, revered for his tolerance, but he did not implore Muslims to consider Jews and Christians their brothers before God. Billy Graham is a great man in God’s service, but even he took vacations and time for himself. By any human measure, Karol excelled, and we would do well to consider his example.

Jesus warned His disciples long ago, that the Kingdom of Heaven was designed for little children. Our knowledge can be useful as a guide to our daily walk, and can also help us discern what is and is not from the Lord, but in the end, we must be childlike in our hearts. Roman Catholic or Protestant, to be Christian is to accept God as ‘Abba’, and this is the Way. This speaks also, to the question of other faiths. I will not speak to their Way, except to acknowledge that if God accepts them, I shall not be an obstacle. It is my belief that God wants us to know and accept Christ, but that again is a matter of faith and hope, rather than restriction.

Shalom, Insh’Allah.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Why Die?

Just a short thought for the moment.

We can all understand something of the value of life, but why must we die?

I know and accept the theological purposes, but it seems to me there is also a functional component. As literally millions of people file past the body of Pope John Paul II in respect and love, it occurs to me, that it is the signal of that death which highlights life, by reminding us there is an end to these things. As Christians, we believe in the eternal life granted by God through Jesus Christ, but even so, we take note of death, to mark the lesson of a life we come to know.

Even in death we may learn something of love, goodness, and hope.

God rest you, brother Karol. Your example is one to remember and remind others.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Baylor vs. Michigan State Tonight


Last night, a local sportscaster admitted it. When the Big 12 Athletic Conference decided to accept Baylor into its membership, the Conference was thinking about raising its academic credentials. The conference never seriously believed that its first chance at a National Championship in Basketball would come because of Baylor.

Tonight, Baylor plays for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship against Michigan State.

Neither MSU nor Baylor has ever won a National Championship in any Women's sport.

Prayer, Scholarship, Faith, Perseverence, Hope, Practice, Excellence. Whatever happens tonight, well done ladies.

Go Bears!


Baylor 84, Michigan State 62.





Monday, April 04, 2005


My series on the 'Judgment of God' has produced some interesting e-mails and questions, particularly the matter of my personal Doctrine. CharlyG, in his blog “Reformed Politics”, has a neat recap of the major themes and doctrines through the Church’s history here, which is well worth your time, even if you count yourself familiar with the terrain. These days, there are many people who seem to approach Religion only from an emotional perspective, and discernment is neglected to later cost.

However, with that said, in response to the question about my personal Doctrine, I would have to say that to I, to some degree, reject them all. This is not to disparage the worth in their consideration, or to pretend that they are all equal in their truth and validity. The problem with them, however, is that they are all human constructs, and so to some degree erroneous. That is, God alone understands His ways, and I have found many times, that I need to set aside my voice on the matter and accept His truth alone.

Speaking to a particular point in debate, I want to review my point about man accepting Grace, and God’s Sovereignty. I am one of those people, who believes the Bible is true and trustworthy. That is, if the Bible states a thing as a historical event, I believe it really happened, and if the Bible quotes a saying, I believe it was said in just those words (although the passage of time brings up controversy, as we have to go back to the original language to find the exact words used). So, it is important to me, to note that nowhere did Jesus say to someone that they were saved, unless they first asked for that Grace in some way. The thief on the cross is a favorite example to me; he did not have a fancy phrase to toss out, but simply asked Jesus to remember him, when Christ came into His kingdom. You may recall the Lord’s response. So also through the Bible, we see people encountered by God or His emissary, and God allows us our choice. Therein lies the confusion.

We humans love to think ourselves important, and so naturally believe that even if we are not the center of the Universe, the Universe still acts in relation to us at all times. Many among us would even apply that to God. Now, here is the paradox – God allows free will to us, because He is no slaver. No one will be dragged into Heaven, or made a believer against his or her will. Thus, it must be so, that we can choose to accept or reject what God offers. At the same moment, however, God is truly and perfectly Sovereign, so that no man may say that he was able to deny God, in anything. Accordingly, it must be that no may enter Heaven, except that the Lord orders it to be so. Form this, many arguments on Ordo Salutis have risen, and they make the same mistake: They assume the matter follows an order that human minds may comprehend. This is hubris, and should be set aside. I might make analogies to try to explain the matter, but it really comes down to accepting that God is both just and merciful, and somehow no one will make a single choice that defies God’s own will, nor will God be in any way cruel, wrong, or mistaken in His judgment.

I trust the Lord. The rest are details

The Congressional Championship


Here are the Semi-Final results:

Senate Majority Leader (Dr.) William Frist (R-TN) defeats Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) defeats Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL)

The Championship match-up then, is

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) vs. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tx)

Presidents’ Tourney Championship

The semi-final round of the POTUS Tourney is done, and here are the results (recall that I hid the actual match-ups, asking for 1-10 ratings on the basis of seven key skills):

Ronald Reagan defeats Dwight Eisenhower, 270-265
George Washington defeats Teddy Roosevelt, 217-197

The scores were the results of multiplying the average rating for each skill, by the historical factor for that skill (using the 1-10 ratings for each skill in the six historical areas), then adding the resulting sub-totals for the final score).

The third round is now ready to begin, with 8 Presidents competing head-to-head. To avoid subjective influences, I am again asking the readers to submit 1-10 ratings (1 = lowest, 10 = top) for the Presidents in each of the following skill sets:

Economic Policies
Judicial Doctrine
Military Command
Social Policies
Tax and Tariff Policies

So, here is the Championship Matchup:

Ronald Reagan vs. George Washington

If you want to make a pick, please remember that the method here is to show a 1-10 rating for each President in the seven categories.

And remember, if you don’t enter your ratings, that means the decision will go to those who do enter their choices.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


I have been trying to think about what to write, on the passing of Pope John Paul II. After reading so much from others, I realize the grand and profound stuff is already up.

I did, however, think of one point I wanted to make. When I was a boy, I knew about popes the same way I knew about ministers, elected leaders, or celebrities. There was nothing especially great about a Pope. Pope John Paul II changed that, on many levels.

When I was young, there was a nickname commonly used for some of the older men; 'Pop'. Some used it disparagingly, to suggest a person was past their prime, but it was more commonly used to refer to someone who was like a family member, respected and with some affection. It was not commonly used in connection with an authority figure, but more someone who taught by how they lived and worked, and with whom young people sought a conection. When that older person passed on, or even when they retired, it was as important to the younger people as a family crisis.

For many of us, Pope John Paul Ii was "Pop". He was much more than a guy we heard about on the news, or who was only a triviality. He mattered, from what he did to what he said and stood for. Even for non-Catholics like me, he was family.

We'll miss you, Pop.