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Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 | 4 comments

The Nicene Creed: “One Church”

The Nicene Creed: “One Church”

**This post is part of a series reflecting on the Nicene Creed** << Previous post View series Next post >>     “And we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” “Pope Says Having A Personal Relationship With Jesus Is Dangerous” ran the headline. Of course, the Pope had said nothing of the sort. He had only called dangerous the temptation to think that you can “go it alone” in your faith, without the support of others, a statement with which most Protestants would heartily agree.[1] But the accusation points to a crucial question with which the Pope and his accusers probably nonetheless differ: Is Christian faith communal by its very nature, or only by accident? Can someone be authentically Christian, a true disciple of Christ, if they have nothing to do with the Church? At first sight the answer would seem that faith can be individual. Believing in Jesus and following his teaching matters more than going to church services. Aren’t there millions of hypocrites who attend church but...

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Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 | 0 comments

The Nicene Creed: “…for us and for our salvation…”

The Nicene Creed: “…for us and for our salvation…”

**This post is part of a series reflecting on the Nicene Creed** << Previous post View series Next post >> “Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man” But did God become human only for our salvation? Would Jesus have been born even if we hadn’t sinned? Although it seems like an irrelevant question, far from a believer’s practical concerns, the answer carries unexpectedly important consequences. The Western Church has been divided on this issue for hundreds of years. The Franciscan John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) argued that the incarnation would have happened anyway (called the supralapsarian position). Human beings are chosen by God for eternal bliss, before there was any sin to save them from. But Jesus was also chosen by God (Luke 9:35), and God’s choice of Jesus precedes his choice of humans. So it follows that God chose Jesus before there was any sin.[1] The Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274),...

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Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Pacifism and Politics: The Tank and the Letter

Pacifism and Politics: The Tank and the Letter

One has to be careful not to project onto the past what is known to have occurred later, as if, in those days, people had before them two alternatives, with full knowledge of their consequences. We have to admit that certain choices were made in a kind of fog.[1] The most famous pacifist whom Hitler prompted to change his mind was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As is well known, Bonhoeffer concluded that pacifism, while almost always the right approach, could on rare occasions become a way of avoiding responsibility for the hard decisions politicians have to make. But Paul Ricoeur had a similar trajectory. Years before becoming famous as a gentle and irenic philosopher, Ricoeur was a militant pacifist and Marxist, writing revolutionary tracts in French socialist journals.[2] In the 1930s he and his circle demanded that France lay down her arms and not engage in any warfare. We should learn our lesson from the First World War, they said: conflict of nations is nothing more than a bored Bourgeoisie who have...

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Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 | 3 comments

How Should We Do Apologetics?

How Should We Do Apologetics?

Throughout my life I’ve been simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by apologetics. As a teenager I wanted to help people (including myself) who had sincere questions about the Christian faith. But many of the apologetics books I read seemed overly confident and simplistic in their approach. They gave the impression that their answers were conclusive and final, that nothing more needed to be said on the subject. If that was the case, then why did so many people find these answers insufficient? Should we even want irrefutable answers to every question? Furthermore, I grew up in an environment that often treated “faith without evidence” as a virtue, as if it was commendable to believe something without good reasons. To me, this seemed to obliterate the difference between Christianity and any cult that keeps control of its members by praising blind obedience and punishing honest doubts. But neither could I ignore the way the Bible praises faith as a virtue. What could it all mean? What follows is a three stage...

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