Mod-Catholics Driving Me to Fundamentalism
I read the letter to the editor (July-Aug. 1994) by Kathy Butzerin, a sister Seattleite, about the problems in the Catholic Church here in Seattle. She is correct that many parishes have gone New Age. They teach pantheism, Buddhist and Hindu precepts, and Sufi and pagan approaches. They do this subtly sometimes, as she says, and overtly when they can. I am being driven away.
I am increasingly finding fellowship with Protestant "fundamentalists" who adhere to our creed. They are not all uncultured. And they often have delightful music and spirited worship which is akin to the new liturgies in our own Church.
No Excuses for Irreverence
Regarding Jan Smith's letter to the editor (July-Aug. 1994) wherein irreverence at Mass is seemingly excused with the claim that "our God is life noisy [and] boisterous": If one were to do a character study of God as we know Him in the Bible and through manifestations to the saints, one would find a completely consistent pattern: Nowhere is there any indication that He is "noisy" and "boisterous."
As for the reverence due Him in Mass, I'd like to quote from The Blessed Eucharist by Fr. Michael Müller: "First, I will propose the example of the Angels. St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom testify to having seen at the time of Mass, or when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, many hosts of Angels in human form, clothed with white garments and standing round the altar as soldiers stand before their king. But what was their attitude and deportment? Their heads were bowed, their faces covered, their hands crossed, and the whole body so profoundly inclined as to express the deepest sense of their own unworthiness to appear before the Divine Majesty. Oh, would we but think of this! The Angels, those pure spirits, shrink before the Infinite Holiness of God, and we allow vain, worldly and even sinful thoughts to insinuate themselves into our minds in His Presence!
"The Angels tremble before His Greatness, and we fear not to talk and laugh in His Presence! The Angels, those princes of Heaven, are all humility and modesty, and we, the dust of the earth and miserable sinners, all impertinence and pride! The Angels veil their faces before His splendor, and we do not even so much as cast down our eyes, but rudely stare and gaze around! The Angels bow down to the earth, and we will not bend our knee! The Angels, full of awe, fold their hands upon their breasts, and we allow ourselves every freedom of attitude and movement! Oh, what a subject of confusion! What humiliating reflections!"
Great Neck, New York
Not Since 1928
Regarding Robert Coles's column "On Divorce" (July-Aug. 1994): I haven't heard such a sermon since 1928. I am 79.
A Baptist Against Private Interpretation
I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Kreeft's trialogue between C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, and Thomas Aquinas (July-Aug. 1994). Even as a Baptist, I found myself agreeing with Aquinas more often than not. Regarding Kreeft's argument about private interpretation: As a Baptist I am a Protestant of Protestants. Yet I hate the private interpretation rampant in my tradition. I hate it in my own ministry. I agonize over it weekly in my preaching and teaching. I suppose I could throw myself into the arms of the Roman Magisterium and be done with my burden. But what if my burden is a cross I must bear? Each week as I prepare my sermon I must pick up my cross and deny myself by repenting of my private interpretation. To do this I must submit to the Scriptures and the historic teachings of the Church. For me to wholly submit to the Roman Church when I know good and well that some of her teachings are wrong would be bad enough. But to join Rome in order to be able to give my cross away, so that I could bask in the false glory of being right, would be cheap grace. I will not accuse Kreeft of thinking that he is always right just because he is a Catholic. I assume that he and all true Catholics find that seeking to know the truth is a struggle. The sin of private interpretation and the cross of repentance required to seek the truth is a permanent, ubiquitous dilemma, and not just a Protestant one. All Christian teachers must grapple with it, as the canonized Aquinas did, until the Lord returns. On that note I heartily agree with Kreeft's eschatology. If the Red Sox ever win the World Series he and I will both be looking for the end of the world. By my figuring, the millennium may break out right in front of the Green Monster. But then, that may be nothing more than private interpretation.
I love the NOR for many reasons. I appreciate your prolife stance sans right-wing politics. I love the vigorous, orthodox thinking it brings to my door once a month. I am very glad that Robert Coles is back!
The Rev. David Hansen
Hear Kreeft 'Do' Lewis, Aquinas & Luther
I read Peter Kreeft's "A Trialogue with C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, & Thomas Aquinas" (July-Aug. 1994) with delight. Your readers maybe interested to know that this trialogue was first "performed" by Kreeft in November 1993 at the annual Aquinas-Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College. Kreeft's performance is vintage material, alternating between the British accent of his Lewis, the New York Italian (Mafia) accent of his Aquinas, and the German (Gestapo) accent of his Luther.
Anyone interested in hearing Kreeft "do" Lewis, Aquinas, and Luther may order audio or video tapes ($6 or $12, respectively, plus $1.50 P & H) and receive information about our upcoming Aquinas-Luther Conference (Nov. 2-4, 1994) by writing me at the following address.
Hickory NC 28603
Peter Kreeft's "Trialogue" piece on Lewis, Aquinas, and Luther in your July-August 1994 issue was brilliantly done. There are, however, points where he could have more clearly explained Catholic teaching instead of articulating the ecumenically preferred reformulation of it.
The first point is in regard to the doctrine of sola fide. Simply put, the Church has consistently taught that this doctrine is, in effect, a non sequitur because the faith at issue is the saving faith that determines man's eternal destiny. And saving faith, as Paul points out, is faith that works through love (Gal. 5:6; cf. Rom. 13:8-10). Indeed, he goes so far as to say that even if we have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Moreover, Matthew stresses that only those who persevere in such faith until the end will be saved (Mt. 24:13).
It follows, therefore, that a genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ cannot be without good works, which is why James says that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:24-26), and why the Church has always taught that salvation is by faith and good works. Thus, anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, but fails to do the will of the Father, does not have the faith that leads to everlasting life (cf. Mt. 7:21-27). What Kreeft should have emphasized more clearly is the Catholic Church's biblical teaching that faith "alone" without good works is simply not enough (cf. Jas. 2:14-17).
The second point at which Kreeft's exposition falls short is in his treatment of sola gratia. To say that "grace is everything" is of course true in the sense that nothing whatever is either brought into existence or remains in existence except by the grace of God. But within that context Christians must not lose sight of the fact that God willed to bring into existence three human attributes by means of which He created us in His own image: the ability to reason, to love, and to will. Why did He give us these attributes? So that when He reveals Himself to us, we will have to willfully choose to know Him, to love Him, and to do His will (cf. 1 Jn. 2:17).
That is why, although it is true that we are saved by grace alone, it is also true that no one is saved who refuses to do God's will (Mt. 7:21-27). And any definition of grace that negates man's God-given ability to refuse to do His will is itself a denial of God's grace because it is a rejection of the fact that it is He, and He alone, who has enabled mankind to reject Him. So how are we to do God's will? Only by freely choosing to follow Jesus Christ with a faith that works through love (Mt. 25:31-46; cf. 1 Jn. 3:17-18, 23). And how can we be assured of our salvation? Only by persevering in this saving faith until the end (Mt. 24:13; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10).
Lloyd M. Hysan
College Park, Maryland