So, I read a piece today from First Things about a recent homily from Pope Francis. In the homily, the Pope appears to promote universalism. Here's the quote:
"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy...The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
In this homily the Pope make the excellent point that yes, all people should be doing good in the world and are able of doing good in the world. The truth of the Lord is written on our hearts as noted in Jeremiah when he describes the new covenant:
"Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days"--the LORD's declaration. "I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people."
Immediately after this, however, his homily appears to sound like universalism. "All are redeemed..." Mentioning of doing good works and "...we will meet one another there..." Is that a reference to Heaven or a reference to just where the good works are being completed? It's unclear to me.
All the Catholics I know are not universalists. Which is what makes the quote all the more confusing. If the Pope is preaching universalism, I hope he is rebuked. If he is not and the translation was poorly selected words, then I feel clarification is in order. Please, clarify below if you take the above quote differently. The writer at First Things seemed to imply this was a reference to non-believers gaining access to Heaven and referenced Pope Benedict XVI's thoughts on the topic. Again, I hope this is an incorrect understanding.
I have rallied against universalism a few times on this blog. Here are some examples:
So, I ask you, my readers - is the Pope embracing universalism? Is this a poor translation of the Pope's words? Or is he getting at something else entirely which the people at First Things and myself misunderstood? Leave your thoughts below.
EDIT 5/24/2013 - David Perry from the Atlantic has reviewed the homily in Italian and English and came to the conclusion that the Pope did not call for universalism. You can read more here.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came and then morning: the first day.
This is a difficult thing to say in today's society: "I'm a Creationist."
Considering my age (just under 30), my job (engineering consultant), education (BS, MS in Chemical Engineering), and Professional licensing (PE in Maryland) this isn't something many want to be public about. To be an engineer in the modern world and to believe in literal creation as described in Genesis is hard. To be anyone in our modern society and believe in a literal view of Genesis can get you mocked, insulted, or called an extremist.
I have many reasons to trust in the word of the Lord, not the least of which is the fact that it's the word of the Lord. Why would I doubt what I believe to be the literal word of God, God breathed material as written by the pens of various men throughout history. It has proven itself true time and again with prediction after prediction, truth after truth, and the amazing salvation it displays through the life of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Lord's word contains power, it reveals His power. I trust in the Word of the Lord which became flesh in Christ Jesus, my Lord and my Savior. Jesus is God. His truth is what I cling to and His truth includes a Creation story driven by our God who creates everything. If I trust in Him, if I trust in His truth, I should have the faith to trust in what He says about the creation of the world as true. Why would I pick and choose what to believe from the full counsel of God? You don't get to pick and choose - either it's all true or none of it's true. Period. I believe it all to be the literal word of the Lord, so I accept it in faith.
But, what of evolution?
First, I do not doubt that animals can adapt and change based on their surrounding conditions. This, in many ways, is the basics of evolution. I saw it in the laboratory when I forced E. coli to grow green fluorescent protein with a specific antibiotic resistant strain of DNA. Only those who had the strain survived, those without it died. Makes sense. What I do not believe is that one species transitions into another species. I do not believe one species becomes a superior species over time while the inferior species continuing to exist side by side. What's the point? If the point of evolution is for each new species to supplant / replace the previous with better genetic traits, why would the original survive? If we're descended from monkeys / apes, why do they continue to exist? It sounds like a silly question at it's face, but is it? Ask yourself this question - which takes more faith:
A benevolent God created the various species of Earth simultaneously over the course of a number of days
Species' transformed from one to the next over time, but competing inferior species continue to exist side by side with their superior evolutionary followup species.
If it's survival of the fittest, why do these inferior species continue to exist when the superior species has evolved? Maybe because there's more to it than that. Maybe, just maybe, we have an intelligent Creator who developed the species of the Earth and maybe evolution is a flawed theory.
What of carbon dating? Carbon dating appears accurate within the timespan we are able to document dates based on written historic evidence. Beyond that? It's all based on calibrations and estimations from very smart people using their own templates / theories on how to estimate. It's not based on definitive evidence, it's based on estimates. Educated estimates, but estimates nonetheless. It may be entirely right, but these curves could go into crazy shapes we don't fully understand at all instead. There's no way of knowing. Nature rarely follow clear linear paths when doing anything, so I ask, why would this be any different?
We have to accept the fact that those who believe in evolution have to do so with a bit of faith. They require faith in the theoretical science behind it. Not all of it is 100% provable. This is a fact. I can acknowledge what I believe requires faith - can evolutionists?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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The book of Acts is awesome. It shows the power of Christ being worked through the apostles. Beginning with Peter as he realizes the need to truly live alongside and preach to the Gentiles, it then moves onto the conversion of Paul. Paul's conversion and ministry are amazing.
First, we need to remember this - 48% of the books of the New Testament were written by the apostle Paul. Knowing his back story, understanding his testimony is important to understanding the man behind the letters. Luke does an amazing job of relaying the story of Paul's conversion on the way to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul was directly confronted by Christ for his actions against Christians. He saw the risen Lord firsthand and it changed him. Secondly, Paul began some serious ministry to the Gentiles - helping to spread the Gospel message beyond the synagogues across the Roman world. He helped spread it all over, planting small churches and baptizing the nations as he traveled.
But Paul's conversion reminds us of something else important, no one is too far gone for the Lord to save. Let us look at the second discussion of Paul in the book of Acts (the first being his witnessing the murder of Stephen):
Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.
Acts 8:1-3, HCSB
Notice what Paul was doing here. He'd enter homes, he'd drag people out and throw them in jail. He was a murderer and not in defense of a friend like Moses, no - he sought the murder of men due to their faith in Christ. He dragged men and women off into prison. He was the enemy.
There is a reason the early church leaders were skeptical of Paul when he first arrived to visit them. He was the enemy. He had helped lead the charge to kill Stephen. Think about all that for a moment. Paul was an enemy of the church, seeking to destroy it. He persecuted Christians with a vengeance, throwing men and women in prison and being involved in one murder we are aware of. Why would his sudden conversion be trusted unless it was truly led by the Holy Spirit?
We can never forget this fact - no one is too far gone for Christ. To believe that is to limit the power of Jesus. Jesus can reach anyone at their darkest hour, their lowest depth. Paul proves this time and again.
We have seen it in the lives of those in figures outside the Bible and throughout history. Look at the lives of Augustine of Hippo, the former hedonistic Manichean who found faith in Christ and wrote extensively on Christianity; Leif Ericson, the Viking who later spread the Gospel message in Greenland; Chuck Colson, the Nixon dirty trickster who became a powerful Christian missionary to our prisons; Lecrae Moore, the former drug dealer / addict who discovered Christ and now preaches the Gospel through hip hop; or Walid Shoebat, the former PLO activist and self-proclaimed terrorist who rejected Islam and saw a drastic life change through Christ. Christ can change a person like nothing else. Allow the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to enter your soul and change you.
I pray that you continue to join me in my read through the Bible. I'm on to Romans now and plan to continue chronicling my thoughts as I read through. Read the Word of the Lord and I pray it changes you. It changes me, each day.
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It's time for me to discuss the news of the week that I feel you should know about. First, let us all pray for comfort for Rick Warren and his family in this their time of loss. Losing a loved one is hard enough. Losing one to suicide has to be incredibly difficult.
Now, let's jump right on into it, shall we?
- You should read my piece on the PBS cartoon Super Why. No really, the show is awful.
- The courts defied Health and Human Services on Plan B...actually proving to be to the left of the Obama administration. Now, this allows abortofacents to be purchased over the counter - regardless of your age. This is scary.
- Ben Howe of RedState is reporting that Mitch McConnell is getting ready to do the right thing and filibuster Reid's gun control legislation. So...he's doing the right thing, must mean - reelection season is beginning.
- Are you following @BarackObama on Twitter? Cause that's not actually Barack Obama's account. The Atlantic has more and how this could be a violation of election regulations.
- Tim Challies wrote that Josh Harris slapped him in the face. Metaphorically speaking with his new book. Check out the quote, it is a slap in the face and a reminder on faith.
- What group of people are 3 times more likely to be arrested than the average American? New York State Senators.
- Maryland Reporter has a piece out on a recent forum of Maryland GOP candidates. It's an interesting look into the battle for the heart of the Republican Party in Maryland...plus Collins Bailey's gadfly campaign for chair. Realistically, it's a battle between Kline and Waterman. I'm on the side of Kline.
- Mark Newgent at Red Maryland has a piece summarizing the damage done by the Maryland General Assembly this year. It's bad, really bad. Example? A rain tax, gun grabbing, higher gas tax, and a repeal of the death penalty. Read the piece for a good summary of the damage.
- Yoda won this year's "This is Madness" tournament at Star Wars' website. I'll be honest, I voted for Vader.
- Dave Miller of SBC Voices wrote an excellent piece entitled, "Dealing Redemptively with the Hate and Intolerance of the Left." It's mostly from a faith perspective, but it's worth a read.
- Hot Air has some info on some Army Reserve training documentation. What does it say about religious extremists? Well, it lumps in Catholics and Evangelical Christians. So...there's that.
- The Tanooki has a video trailer for...a new DuckTales video game. Yes, seriously. Check it out.
Any news I missed? Probably, but it's what I found interesting this week. I leave you with music from KB, his track "Brand New" from his "Who is KB?" mixtape:
Super Why is a children's show on PBS. It should be something I, as a parent, should love. It encourages reading, talks about letters, and discussing spelling. I don't, though. Because it's awful.
On the show, the "Super Readers" jump into traditional fairy tale stories and try to save the day. In each instance, the creators of the show change the plot so much to make the original story almost unrecognizable.
- Jack and the Beanstalk - Instead of a story about a plucky hero who climbs a beanstalk, and is able to raise his fortune from the evil giant - Jack climbs the beanstalk to hear the giant crying and plays him music to calm him down. The giant is dressed like a giant baby.
- Rumpelstiltskin - Rumpelstiltskin is too busy to help the girl as opposed to being okay helping the girl, in exchange for her first born child.
- Ugly Duckling - Instead of a story about, frankly, racism / bigotry where the "ugly duckling" is mocked based on its appearance, the story is about an ugly baby duck that can't dance.
- Goldilocks - In their second take on the story, Goldilocks didn't make the mess, but was blamed for a mess she didn't make.
- Sleeping Beauty - Not about a mystical sleep which can only be broken by a Prince's kiss, instead it's a story about a princess who really likes sleeping instead of trying new things.
- Boy who Cried Wolf - No one believes him, until the Super Readers convince them he's not a liar.
- Little Miss Muffet - The spider can talk, somehow, and didn't mean to scare away Little Miss Muffet.
- Snow White - Snow White doesn't eat the apple, the Super Readers save the day and prevent her from doing so.
Why are these stories changed? What is wrong with the original intent of the stories. Be them stories to instill a sense of natural fear of certain animals in children which can hurt them, to teach people that hating those who are different is wrong, or a story about a Princess' salvation coming from true love. What is wrong with these messages? Why did the messages need to change to needing help dancing or falsely being accuse of a mess. Why did the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" not realize the error of his ways on his own, why did they need to interact with the story? It's intentional. It's trying to change our values at a very early age.
A few things which I'm noticing.
- Romance is Gone - Romance between man and woman as a serious element of the stories are all removed. I get that it's for little children, but who cares? The love story of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White show that love can triumph over the evils of this world. Love can triumph over those who hate us. Love can defeat the anger which exists in this world. Isn't that a message we want to be teaching our children? Yes, it also displays chivalry by men and the differences in gender roles. Is that a problem? Why is it bad to acknowledge the fact that men and women are different. You can have equality without a sense of sameness. If we were all the same, it would be a boring world.
- Accountability is Gone - The Boy who Cried Wolf is saved by the Deus Ex Machina known as the Super Readers. Snow White doesn't eat the apple. Goldilocks isn't responsible for the mess. In each case, accountability is removed. Something comes in to prevent the people from suffering for their actions. Accountability matters. When we make mistakes, we need to either find a way out of the situation or deal with the consequences. Consequences matter. It helps ensure children grow up to be complete adults. Without consequences, we are creating a nation of really tall children who think they can get away with anything.
- Differences are Ignored - We are all different. We are white, black, men, women, adults, children. That's a good thing. Society would be incredibly boring if we were all androgynous grey skinned individuals with the same personality. The cast is a diverse group of characters of varying ethnicities ..and one pig. But, they all act the same. They all have the same, childish problems. They all are basically a bunch of children, including the adults. This isn't healthy. While we should not mock people for their differences (the entire basis of the actual ugly duckling story), we shouldn't pretend they don't exist. We should be excited to meet people who are different. We should be interested in what they have to say. We should embrace their differences instead of pretending that men and women are the same; that black and white people are the same; that white collar and blue collar people are the same. We're not and that's more than okay, it's something to embrace and be excited about.
- There are No Savages - When differences exist which are clearly wrong - like giants who like to eat little boys or spiders who enjoy scaring little girls eating curds and whey, they're changed on Super Why to be something tamer. I get changing stories to not scare children - Disney was the king of that creating a happy ending in the Little Mermaid which originally didn't have one or removing gruesome tales of feet being cut up by the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. But what's wrong with including a natural sense of fear of those things which can genuinely hurt you. What is wrong with the fact that there are people, monsters, or animals which are mean or evil. Evil exists in the world, look at the murder of Christians in the Middle East or the shooter in Newtown for examples. We do not need to pretend it doesn't exist.
My kids don't hate Super Why, but to them it's mostly white noise in the background while they play. That I'm glad about. It's awful and it's shows like Super Why are are hurting our children. We should be embracing traditional values. We should be embracing chivalry. We should be embracing our differences and enforcing in children that consequences exist for a reason. We should teach our children that there are evil people in the world, not just people who need a hug. There is real evil, be prepared for it.
I hope my wife and I can instill the truth in my children through the way we raise them. I plan to do so through parenting, loving my children, church, and regular reading of the Bible. We need to instill values in our children. Society sure isn't going to and the values they try to instill, are false. True values are found in God's word, teach it at home.
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