27 October 2007

Review of "Q&A"

My review of the new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel "Q&A" is now up over at TrekMovie.com.

Feel free to pop over and have a look-see.

26 October 2007

Transubstantiation Unsubstantiated

In a recent series of postings on a mailing list I am a part of, a discussion got started on the topic of Transubstantiation, a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the way in which Christ is present in the Eucharist. In the process, an article from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was quoted. One portion of the document really got my dander up...

That portion, and my response, follow.

Does the bread cease to be bread and the wine cease to be wine?
Yes. In order for the whole Christ to be present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—the bread and wine cannot remain, but must give way so that his glorified Body and Blood may be present. Thus in the Eucharist the bread ceases to be bread in substance, and becomes the Body of Christ, while the wine ceases to be wine in substance, and becomes the Blood of Christ. As St. Thomas Aquinas observed, Christ is not quoted as saying, " This bread is my body," but "This is my body" (Summa Theologiae, III q. 78, a. 5).

This is just plain lousy theology. First, it limits God based on our understanding. Second, it works against reinforcing the Dogma of the Incarnation because it promotes displacement theology - the idea that when God moves in, humanity (or, in this case, breadanity) moves out. This is in direct conflict with the Dogma of the Hypostatic Union, which states that God united with Man in the Incarnation. Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. The man did not have to move out to make room for God, and if he had, then Jesus Christ couldn't bridge the gap between God and us.

A theology of Transubstantiation, as explained above, does far more violence to Christological truth than most any other dogmatic view concerning the Eucharist - except possibly the concept of blessed memorial (a concept that denies the plain words of Jesus).

Further, whoever prepared this particular response, while rightly quoting Thomas Aquinas, missed the boat... namely Saint Paul. Paul was able to speak of the consecrated Eucharist as bread and cup... heck, the modern Roman liturgy does too, paraphrasing Paul (When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death Lord Jesus, until you come again). Thomas Aquinas may have been a learned, pious, and holy man, but he really overstepped what was needed and appropriate with much of his writing. This is one glaring example of that fact.

25 October 2007

Thought Provoking...

I happened to run across the following quote today.

"Separation of Church and State becomes problematic when the State is one’s church. No moral judgement outside its parameters will be permitted."

22 October 2007

How Should Christians View the Old Testament?

"We further affirm our belief that the Old Testament is not contrary to the New, for in both the Old and New Testaments eternal life is offered to mankind through Christ." from Article Four: The Scriptures (CC-SST)

Indeed, the statement from the Synod of St. Timothy's Articles of Religion (which is drawn from the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion) is true and accurate. But what does it mean? This is a matter that many Christians study and discuss. I'd like to share some of my views with you today.

1) The Old Testament is a reliable source of historical information.
In spite of the many contemporary scholarly assaults on the reliability of the historical information contained in the Old Testament, I accept its historicity as genuine and valid. Far from disproving the Old Testament, science has an uncanny knack for proving the truth of Scripture (including many Old Testament 'fables') more often that it disproves them.

2) The Old Testament is a reliable source of prophecy.
Obviously, as a Christian believer, I see the Old Testament as the prophecy of Christ. From Christ's presence in the Creative act (see Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew), to the promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3, to the Burning Bush, the Prophetic voices, and even the visitor in the Firey Furnace, Jesus Christ is testified to throughout the Old Testament.

3) The New Testament is the fufillment of the Old Testament.
Let's take a look at this concept more deeply. The New Testament takes Old Testament principles and morphs them into something greater. While the New Testament is not contrary to the Old, the New Testament supercedes the Old in matters of faith and morals. As a result, things that we see in the Old Testament do not set precidence for Christians of the New Testament. War, a common occurance in the Old Testament between Israel and other nation-states, is transformed into a spiritual reality. Christians are not to care for the changes and chances of this world's nations, for they are soldiers of God's Kingdom against the forces of Satan. We have a different battle to fight. The Death Penalty, once demanded for many immoral and sinful acts, was commuted by Christ himself when he pardoned the woman caught in the act of adultery. The genuine death penalty that exists is no longer a civic concern but a spiritual one - the ultimate separation of the evil from God's eternal love at the day of Judgement.

4) The New Testament and its covenant supercedes the Old Testament and its covenant.
The Church is the Israel of God. No DNA lineage or national identity can lay claim to being God's Chosen People. Only the Church, called by Christ's name, washed by Water and the Spirit, and earnestly seeking Christ the Savior can rightly be called the Israel of God. This belief, often called supersessionism or replacement theology, is an integral part of the message of the New Testament. This is not a form of anti-Semitisim, though sadly many people have twisted it to become anti-Semitic. All people, Jew and Gentile, have access to God through Christ Jesus.

Indeed, the Old Testament is not contrary to the New; it is a foreshadowing of it; but its morals and practices have been given new and deeper meaning by Jesus Christ in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament.

20 October 2007

Jury Duty in Indianapolis (Updated)

So Indianapolis, Indiana has a wonderful idea to inspire cooperation with jury duty. The idea? Jail time if you don't show up.


Just one problem. They forget about those, such as myself, who cannot in good conscience participate in a jury in any fashion.

Back in July when this potential change was first announced, I wrote to the county's Jury Duty office. Their response? In essence, "too bad".

Today's Indianapolis Star (click the title of this post to read the IndyStar.com article) has outlined, however, the new rules. You show up for jury duty, or you'll get called to court to get a new jury duty date. You fail to show up a second time, fines and/or jail time for you.

This may be a good idea from a civic perspective, but the civic perspective fails to take into account people who absolutely object to participating in the system... people like me.

Now, people don't seem to understand my insistence on not responding to a summons for jury duty. Let me try to explain. First, let me outline my view on clergy participation in civic life...

Christian clergy, in imitation of the primitive Church, and as an example to their own flocks:
-should refrain from pledging allegiance to any nation
-should refrain from saluting the emblems of any nation
-should refrain from service in the Armed Forces of any nation in any capacity
-should refrain from holding any elected office
-should refrain from endorsing or opposing any candidate for elected office
-should refrain from permitting the use of sacred space for governmental purposes
-should refrain from permitting elected officials to speak on political matters on Church grounds
-should refrain from serving on any civil jury
-should refrain from taking any oath
-should refrain from disclosing any information gained under the seal of the confessional
-should refrain from filing a lawsuit against any Christian believer
-should refrain from casting a ballot in a federal, state, or local election
-should in all other respects obey just laws
-should give all due cooperation to officers of the law as Christian obedience demands, within the confines permitted by Christian conscience
-should pay the taxes due in the location of their residence

Extreme? Sure... but it absolutely reflects my commitment that the Church has no business participating in the state, and the state has no business participating in the life of the Church.

I realize not all Christians share this view (though look at where that has gotten us!), but it is definately my viewpoint based on study of the Church Fathers, and of Scripture itself.

As far as jury duty goes, well... I have no right to sit in judgement of another human being. Even moreso, I have no right to give the impression that I have the right to sit in judgement of another human being. Some have pointed me to 1 Corinthians 6:2 as justification for participating in judicial proceedings. To them I say, balderdash! I may be called to sit in judgement by God at the end of time, but my conscience will not allow me to sit in judgement of a human being at the order of another fallen, flawed, fallible human being - no matter what his title.

Others have asked why I don't just go to the courthouse on Jury Duty day and tell the judge how I feel and seek a dismissal. Again, I answer, because it would signal that I, as a priest of God, endorse or accept the idea of Christians participating in secular trials. I can never accept such a view, nor can I in conscience consent to give such an appearance.

So, where do things stand?

I have again written to the Jury Duty office seeking clarification on my situation - which is more than I am comfortable with... but which I feel is far better than giving public witness to the idea that a Christian (particularlly a priest) can be called by the state to stand in judgement of others.

If this policy isn't amended, then may God give me wisdom to make the best choice, and show mercy to anyone who tries to force me to violate my conscience and faith.


I decided to attempt to make an end run around the Jury Pool Office and write directly to the Presiding Judge of the County and to the Judge in Charge of the Jury Pool. Here is the text of my letter, directed to judges Zore and Stoner:

I am writing to you today after reading an article in the Saturday, October 20th online edition of the Indianapolis Star concerning new enforcement rules for jury duty in Marion County. Because of your position and a quotation from you in the article, I felt it would be appropriate to contact you.

When the new enforcement rules were first noted in the Star over the summer months, I contacted the appropriate office at the City-County Building because of my personal concern over this issue. The response I got was very disheartening. Now that these rules have been crystallized, I feel I have no option but to bring my concerns to the attention of a judge proactively, before I am placed in a position where I must violate my conscience or face civil sanction.

As a Primitive Catholic, my faith compels me to abstain from sitting on a jury, taking any oath, or acknowledging in any way that right of any human being to sit in judgment of another. I recognized that not all Christians hold to the same interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, but my faith will not permit me to cooperate with the civil judiciary system by sitting on a jury, or by giving the appearance that any human being –particularly a priest of the Church- has the right to sit in judgment of another.

When I tried explaining this to the individuals in the office that handles jury duty, I was dismissed offhand without a genuine response to my concerns. While I have sent them an electronic mail message again this afternoon, I hold little actual hope that they will respond any differently than the last time.

My allegiance is to God alone, and not to the State. As a Christian it is my duty to obey all just laws of the State, but compulsory service to the State (in this instance, through Jury Duty) requires me to compromise my faith to suit the State. I cannot in good conscience respond to a request to sit in judgment of a fellow man, or to give the impression that I have even the right to do so (more the less the ‘responsibility’). To that end, I am asking that you and your fellow judges make provision for people such as myself to proactively opt-out of jury duty on religious, moral, or ethical grounds.

04 October 2007

What Would Jesus Do... the Iraq War

A very compelling reminder of why we cannot, as Christians, assent to the slaughter of innocents in a time of war.

The Legacy of Sputnik

Fifty years after a beach-ball sized hunk of metal 'beep-beep'ed its way around the globe, instilling fear and terror in some, and wondrous hope in others, what is the legacy of Earth's first artificial satellite, Sputnik?

As a man of faith, I have often been asked what God thinks of spaceflight, and it is my belief that God has given us a magnificent sense of wonder and inquisitiveness. We must use it to the fullest advantage that we can, and that extends to exploring space.

Spaceflight today is entering its painful adolescent state. Still in some ways childish (spy satellites, anti-satellite weapons, etc...), while at the same time trying to be mature (observation telescopes, geological study satellites, missions to the planets and beyond). We are still growing into our identy as a spacefaring people.

People of faith must be involved in this great endeavor, however. To go to the stars without acknowledging God's creative hand and his awesome granduer in the fabric of space does only a disservice to people of faith who might seek to foreswear spaceflight as some evil, demonic attempt to build a modern Tower of Babel.

Space is the future of humanity (at least until the Lord returns), and we need to -as people of faith- be ready to move into the future with the rest of our species.

At the same time, the deep call of both God and space should renew our goals to set aside our petty, pathetic differences here on earth. The killing needs to stop, borders need to be torn down, warfare needs to cease, and the poor, orphaned, downtrodden of our civilization need -desperately!- to be cared for. Some say that the money for space should be spent on the poor. I agree, to an extent... but I'd prefer to see the money we use to build guns and bombs to kill (largely) the poor turned to helping them stand and exist in a modern world where everyone has an acceptable standard of living.

In a way, I think Saint Francis would be proud to share his feast day on the western calendar with the launch of Sputnik... for as Sputnik causes us to think of that newly-expanding frontier of Space, a part of the creation that Francis loved so much, so it forces us to think about the rest of his message - one where we live in harmony with nature and with our fellows.

Just some thoughts on this day, October 4th... the fiftieth anniversary of the 'beep' that changed the world.

03 October 2007

Does God Really Forgive Sinners?

Today the question was posed on a list I frequent:
Should mistakes in someone's past automatically preclude them from the opportunity to accomplish any good in the future?

According to a clergyman... any future good works are forever overshadowed by the mistakes of the past. Indeed, even false accusations, it appears, should cause an individual to be shunned forever.

I thought I would share an expanded version of my response...

The immediate response I think of is found in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 which reads,
"Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (NLT)

Paul's basic message? Well, you were sinners once, but you have been washed clean.

Jesus (and Paul!), of course, requires us to change our ways... we have been called from darkness and self-preoccupation to the light of existence in the community of faith. God truly meets us where we are and walks with us through our struggles as we strive to become better than when we first encountered him.

When Jesus encountered the woman who was about to be stoned for committing adultery, he challenged the crowd (particularly the popular religion-mongers who had caught the woman) by seeking a sinless person to cast the first stone at her. Everyone dropped their stones and went home. They were all sinners. He then turned to the woman and said, "Go and sin no more." (John 8: 11b)

He sent the woman away forgiven, with a call for her to never do it again.

There will be difficult times on that walk. The apostles can tell you about difficult times. Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, and then -after a brief interlude- is called Satan by the very man he glorified by his declaration. In fact, Peter went on to deny Jesus... and yet Jesus reversed the denial and turned it into a threefold affirmation of Peter's call to serve - and it turned Peter inside out.

So, the next time someone tells you (any of you!) that God holds the sins we have repented of against us, challenge them to show you some New Testament proof. Next time someone tells you that God does not have abundant mercy, kindly request some evidence of the claim.

(Finally, just point to the Montanists if the individual in question needs some proof of a condemed heretical sect that practiced shunning to the degree this individual is advocating.)

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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