Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, October 31, 2005

95 Theses

Project Wittenberg has the for you to read on October 31, 2005, Reformation day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology

I discovered a new while looking for material on Jürgen Moltmann. I started reading his Theology of Hope (1964: ET, 1967) and I felt that I needed something lighter as an introduction to Christian eschatology.

Reformation Sunday

On this Sunday, Lutherans worldwide celebrate Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of his Wittenberg Church. The 95 Theses, which had been written in Latin, invited the religious scholars to debate the sale of indulgences for forgiveness. The 95 Theses, after being translated into German, were made available to the German people using the printing press invented by Johann Guttenburg in 1450. It was one of the first mass produced publications.

The event sparked a reform movement that eventually led to the formation of the Lutheran Church and separate denominations. Luther established the principle that the church is always in need of reform in light of the gospel. Luther’s primary principle that Christians are justified by God’s grace through faith in Christ has also found widespread acceptance among denominations.

In October 1989, festivities were being held in East Berlin to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The first step toward economic unification came on July 1, 1990, when the Federal Republic's Deutsche Mark became the sole currency of the soon-to-disappear German Democratic Republic. The first week of July 1990, my wife and I were members of the first group of Americans to visit Wittenberg, East Germany and the Castle Church where the Reformation began. We talked to organizers and first participants in the candlelight vigils organized by Lutheran clergymen from Leipzig, beginning I believe Reformation Sunday 1988, that took place on the hillsides outside of the towns, with each successive vigil having larger attendance that the previous ones. By October 1989, everyone knew, Communism had collapsed. I mention the role of the Lutheran clergy in the collapse of East Germany because there is a debate going on about whether or not Rosa Park’s celebrated civil disobedience was contrary to Christian ethics, because she refused to submit to the governing authority.

The reading in Lutheran churches on this Sunday is always from Romans 3:19-28.

Rom 3:19
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
Rom 3:20
For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:21
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it,
Rom 3:22
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction;
Rom 3:23
since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24
they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:25
whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;
Rom 3:26
it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
Rom 3:27
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith.
Rom 3:28
For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.

And the featured hymn is:

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

Copyrighted 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Papercut Theology

I usually read, research and write on the weekends but today I enjoyed the Penn State football game. I have started reading Papercut Theology and have aded it to my daily reading. Provocative.

In Darren makes the point that we need to consider cultural differences in communicating the message. This, of course, would also be true in the first century when the followers of Jesus were preaching the gospel.

Copyrighted 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Does theology change to meet social needs?

In my article entitled “Service of the Heart”, I stated:
“Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both priests, served as prophets in the period of time of great national tragedy, the destruction of the First Temple. In response thereto, they developed different theologies to address the temple’s destruction.”

Thus my question. Did both Judaism and Christianity develop new theologies in response to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.?

My second question may be related. Did Christianity continue to stress repentance in its recruitment efforts because this approach was more successful than an approach based upon what Hengel called the scandalous death of Jesus on the cross?

On September 15, 1851, George Fox wrote a letter to “My Friend” wherein he stated in part:

“Instead of taking my writings for a guide, they should be considered as helps marks for encouragement, and never for a moment as laws to govern others. No written code, however, it may be adapted, will be wholly suited to the time and circumstances for which it was designed, will be wholly suited as an ultimate christian standard--his must be a life ever on the watch, ready to examine whatever draws his attention, and if selfishness is sufficiently subdued, and prepossessions banished from the mind, then with an honest purpose of heart, independent of books or men, a judgment will be formed that will elevate and prepare the mind for advancement while in the body, and will necessarily introduce to a happy eternity.”

This letter was cited as an example of “Quaker Theology in Transition.” The Church of the Latter Day Saints (also called the Mormon Church) provides several additional examples of changes in theology to accommodate social change and/or social pressure. After Mormon leaders agreed in 1890 to refrain from performing plural marriages, Utah was granted statehood in 1896. According to Mormon doctrine, God continues to provide revelations on Earth. On June 9, 1978, then-church president Spencer Kimball, who is considered to be a prophet, announced the revelation that Black males were permitted to be ordained into the Mormon priesthood. "The cynical way is to say revelation is a convenient way to solve any problem Mormons run into," said O. Kendall White, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia who has written articles on blacks and Mormonism. "The other reading is to recognize it as a combination of divine and human sources. I see it as further accommodation to American society and the pressures that existed in society."

I had suggested that the Jewish Christian community described in the Epistle to the Hebrews recognized the logical inconsistency of a belief in the animal sacrificial system and a theology of the cross that does not replace the animal sacrificial system. However one must concede that at times religious beliefs are logically inconsistent. However, it is my opinion that modern exegesis appears to share the assumption of modern theology that religion is a rational matter. Several writers have commented upon the ambivalence shown by Luke towards Jerusalem and the Temple. Perhaps, this ambivalence is a recognition and reflection upon a theology in transition. In addition, perhaps a theology in transition can be seen by comparing the traditional Jewish expression, “the resurrection of the righteous” in Luke 14:14 with the statement made by the Lucan Paul in Acts 24:15 that not only the righteous but also the unrighteous will be raised.

I am very much interested in the concept of theology in transition as it might to be applied to Luke-Acts and the relationship of the Lucan writings to other New Testament writings. Therefore I am looking for resource suggestions.

copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Recruitment & the Parting of the Ways: Response to Michael Bird

Michael Bird writing in discussed evidence supporting an early demarcation between Jews and Christians. There is considerable evidence demonstrating the fluidity between the communities and blurring of boundaries indicating that the parting of the ways is not easily defined nor fixed in time.

Hans Conzelmann has stated that “. . . the principle difficulty for a mutual understanding between Judaism and Christianity consists precisely in the fact that they have the same fundamental ideas and concepts: there is one God, who . . . has chosen one people. . . .”[i] Conzelmann has noted that J. Geffcken established in 1907 with Zwei griechische Apologeten “the continuity between Jewish and Christian apologetic in their motifs and arguments” recognizing that “Indeed, this continuity derives from the fact that monotheism and the Old Testament are the common denominators between Jews and Christians.”[ii] There would be no continuity in motifs and arguments of their apologetics if there were not a close cultural continuity derived and maintained from ongoing recruitment. Yet it is because they have the “same fundamental ideas and concepts” that cultural continuity exists and that it was so easy to recruit in the preexisting social networks represented by the Jewish communities.

The debate with Judaism did not cease at the end of the first century. Jewish and Christian expounders of the Hebrew Scriptures continued to contemplate and debate the meaning of texts. This mutual engagement with scripture is very much evident in the patristic period among Christian interpreters such as Origen of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Eusebius and Jerome. In addition, the Adversus Judaeos genre of Christian apologetic, as in Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, occupies an early place in the history of Jewish-Christian exegetical struggle. Justin is aware of Jewish and Jewish Christian attempts to convince Gentiles Christians to observe the Mosaic law.[iii] Justin seems to assume that some of the attempts were successful.[iv]

Both Celsus and Origen show a firsthand acquaintance with Jewish-Christian communities in their respective works, True Discourse against the Christians and Contra Celsum.[v] Origen has to warn his congregants not to visit Jewish synagogues nor participate in Jewish festivals as did John Chrysostom in the fourth century and others.[vi]

In the fourth century John Chrysostom realized the gravity of the Judaizer's challenge to the church. Chrysostom is aware that many Christians are keeping the Sabbath with the Jews.[vii] In a series of eight sermons delivered to his congregation in 386 C.E. in Antioch he observes, if the Jewish rites are holy, the holy ways of Christianity must be false.[viii] In fact, so many Christians were attracted to Jewish practices that he warns his members not to reveal how many, lest the reputation of the church should suffer.[ix]

Not only did the church leaders issue warnings to their members, they also sought to vindicate Christian scriptural claims against Judaism. Eusebius' exegesis shows that this preoccupation was still strong in the fourth century. Both in his Ecclesiastical History and his Commentary on Isaiah, Eusebius using polemical historiography addressed Christianity's relation to Judaism. Such preoccupation is indicative of the need to demonstrate cultural continuity although admittedly such was not his purpose. Rather Eusebius sought to demonstrate that Christians have been legally constituted as a new people in place of the former people as the Prophet Isaiah had foreseen.[x] Such efforts to provide legitimacy are indicative of the ongoing cultural exchange naturally occurring through preexisting social networks. If such preexisting social networks did not exist both as a source of new members and as a competitor for members, there would be no need in the fourth century to continue to explain one's origins. As noted by Louis Feldman, even after the empire became Christian, “The Jews continued to engage successfully in winning proselytes and especially ‘sympathizers’ to their ranks – a genuine tribute to their inherent vitality.”[xi]

In his Gospel, Luke showed considerable interest in those people who were the religious outcasts of Jewish society. These people although Jewish were excluded from participation in the religious life of the community because of their status. The new Jewish sect targeted the religious outcasts. It also targeted those people whom Luke has identified as 'God-fearers', not without conflicts. Perhaps to the extent that there was a body of people who were not Jewish but who nonetheless attended the synagogues, then Judaism and Christianity in accepting converts from this group each felt the other was stealing their prospects and members. These tensions explain the many passages in Acts where conflict erupted between the Jews and Paul over his proselytizing activities. Evidence of such jealousy appears in Acts 13:45 and 17:5-19.[xii] These tensions also explain the passages in Origen and Chrysostom.

Once the body of Christians of Hellenized Jewish background became a critical mass in the church, then the same principles of cultural continuity and expansion through preexisting social networks explain why Hellenized Gentiles were comfortable in affiliating with the religion. These Hellenized Jews, who became Christians because they were uncomfortable with Judaism, are the cultural bridge to the Hellenized Gentile communities that later dominated the church. What started as a trickle in Acts became a majority perhaps in the third century, but Christians of Jewish background continued to represent a significant portion of the membership and of the results of recruitment into the fifth century. Those who say the mission to the Jews failed made the same mistake in asserting there was a Gentile majority in the first century. They failed to understand the effect of compounding. Just as one could afford to place a penny on a square of a chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, until most of the board is covered but not all of the board, one would not notice the rapid growth of a church in one's lifetime. Stark demonstrated this mathematical concept.[xiii]

The traditional view[xiv] cannot explain the need for the warnings issued by Origen and John Chrysostom. The concepts of cultural continuity and expansion through preexisting social networks explain these phenomena. If Stark is correct, then it is time to re-examine the traditional view regarding the Jewish mission as well as the composition of Luke's audience. It is also necessary to recognize that the so-called “demarcation between Jews and Christians” cannot be defined or set with any certainty. However the discussion about the demarcation can improve our understanding of the parting of the ways.

[i]. Hans Conzelmann, Gentiles - Jews - Christians: Polemics and Apologetics in the Greco-Roman Era, translated by M. Eugene Boring, (Minneapolis 1992), 240-241.
[ii]. Conzelmann, 237.
[iii]. Dial. 47.1-3.
[iv]. Dial. 47.4.
[v]. Alan F. Segal, “Jewish Christianity” in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism edited by Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, (Detroit, 1992), 341.
[vi]. Paul also felt constrained to speak severely against continuance of some Hebraic practices; at the same time he commended the Judean church as a model. Gal. 2; 1 Thes. 2:14.
[vii]. Adv. Jud. 1.5.850; 8.8.940 and Homilies 1.7; 61.623.
[viii]. Adv. Jud. 1.6.85a.
[ix]. Adv. Jud. 8.4.933.
[x]. Comm. Isa. 322, 28-31. Cf. 322, 37 - 323, 3.
[xi]. Louis H. Feldman, “Jewish Proselytism”, in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism edited by Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, (Detroit, 1992), 396.
[xii]. This is understandable in light of Paul's success in Antioch, 13:43; Iconium, 14:1; Thessalonica, 17:4; Beroea, 17:11-12; Corinth, 18:4; Ephesus, 19:8-10; and Rome, 28:24.
[xiii]. Stark, 4-13.
[xiv]. Scholars have often claimed that in Luke-Acts, there is a perjorative use of “Jews” or “the Jews.” However, not often recognized, is that the Greek word for "Jews" is ioudaioi which means, literally, Judean-- i.e., someone who lives in, or is from, Judea. Therefore, we need to recognize that the name was often used as a word that denotes the members of a people or the inhabitants of a place. Those "Jews" are people living in, or from, Judea. I therefore agree with Robert Brawley, Luke-Acts and the Jews: Conflict, Apology and Conciliation, (Atlanta, 1987), 159, that “rather than rejecting the Jews, Luke appeals to them.”

Copyrighted 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles as Jewish Texts

Michael Bird stated: “Still, even texts which seem overtly Christian (like Luke-Acts) should be regarded as a variation of a theme within ‘common Judaism’.” I agree.

In the following articles, I discuss various aspects of the Jewishness of Luke-Acts:

posted 2-2-2005;

posted 1-26-2005;

posted 1-20-05;

posted 1-23-05;

posted 9-20-05;

posted 8-8-05;

Zenon and the wicked tenants posted 7-18-05;

posted 4-24-05.

Copyrighted 2005

Monday, October 24, 2005

Harlots of the Desert

Seeing Jim West’s new format at Biblical Theology, it changes regularly, reminded me that I wanted to discuss Harlots of the Desert with the subtitle, A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources.

Benedicta Ward begins her study with Mary Magdalene, whom she calls the “Biblical Model of Repentance.” Mary Magdalene is one of the many women identified by Luke as followers of Jesus and one of the witnesses to the resurrection.

I understand the attraction of stories of conversion from extreme sinfulness to extreme holiness. But why is it that repentance was such an important subject matter in the early monastic sources? Why is it that the early Church Fathers stressed repentance?

Christine Trevitt has suggested that the second century was a struggle for forgiveness and reconciliation. I again find that I have too many academic books to read containing no pictures and not enough time to read them.

I suggest that the the beliefs of the early church Fathers with heavy emphasis on repentance and the corresponding light emphasis on the salvific value of the death of Jesus on the cross was attributable to the writings of Luke.

Copyrighted 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Apostle’s Creed according to Luke-Acts

Christians proclaim their faith by reciting the words of the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostles' Creed is one of the oldest creeds of Christianity, dating in an early form to at least the middle second century.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. (In Acts 14:15, we read in part: “We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”)

And in Jesus Christ, (Luke 2:11) His only Son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:27), suffered under Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:23-25), was crucified, dead and buried.

See .

The third day (Luke 24:46), He rose from the dead, He ascended into Heaven (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:11) and is seated at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56), the Father Almighty.

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead (Acts 10:42).

I believe in the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2), the catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:48), and the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Copyrighted 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2005

On Repentance

I must have asked my lawyer friend, whom I call the Rabbi, one question too many! Yesterday he had delivered to my office the English translation of Sloveitchik’s On Repentance. I have already read seventy-five pages and it it clear to me this is a must read again book.

There on a number of internet sites containing detailed information on Joseph Soloveitchik, Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and modern Jewish philosopher, (1903-1993). On April 10, 1993, Ari Goldman published his obituary in the New York Times, which you can read .

Copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Service of the heart

Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both priests, served as prophets in the period of time of great national tragedy, the destruction of the First Temple. In response thereto, they developed different theologies to address the temple’s destruction. Jeremiah blamed the people of Israel for their misconduct in ethical behavior. Ezekiel blamed the people for their ritual misbehavior.

Jeremiah developed a theology of repentance, exile and restoration. He told the holy remnant in Babylon to repent and to wait until God restored them. In Ezekiel, repentance is required for individual physical salvation, but outside of a description of cessation of idolatry (14:1-11; 18:30-32; 20:30ff.), there is no hint that human activity is needed to effect restoration to the land. Indeed, in contrast to Leviticus 26, contrition and remorse take place after redemption (Ezek. 16:54, 63; 20:43; 36:31: 39:26).

Ezekiel, prophesying on foreign soil, makes the shocking statement that God gave Israel laws that He knew “were not good and judgments they could not live by.” Instead of talking about ethics, Ezekiel uses women as a symbol of priestly and ritual uncleanliness.

Ezekiel stands in stark contrast to Jeremiah seeing the fall of Jerusalem as inevitable and certainly different than Isaiah who saw Jerusalem as inviolable. He concludes that the reason for the destruction was the people of Israel’s total depravity from the beginning of its history. However, Ezekiel places greater emphasis upon priestly rules and ritual uncleanliness. In his development of the first Hebrew apocalypse, he presents a new Messianic Temple where his priests will follow ritual rules that he has changed from those in Leviticus.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel discussed God providing the people with a new heart. Jeremiah tells the people to “apply circumcision to your hearts.” Ezekiel says in the name of God, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

Copyrighted 2005

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Who is most excellent Theophilus?

In 1995, I realized that there were a number of reasons why a theory stating that Luke wrote to most excellent Theophilus, the High Priest made eminent sense. After compiling a list of reasons, I prepared which I submitted to Professor I. Howard Marshall, editor of Evangelical Quarterly. Thereafter, while waiting for my article to appear in print, I wrote which was also accepted for publication by Evangelical Review. Since that time, I have published two other articles.

This blog is dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke because the Gospel has been my favorite book for as long as I can remember. Luke, more so than the other gospels, has focused on prayer, repentance and almsgiving. I hope to add my insights on the writings of Saint Luke and provide you the reader with a better understanding of why Luke has seized upon the developing consciousness of individual piety of the great prophets of Judaism and utilized these concepts[i] of , and to explain the spiritual dynamics of the kingdom.

[i]. The third concept is 'almsgiving' when expressed as a true sacrifice where the donor derives no benefit from the gift and someone in need benefits thereby. The concept of sacrifice was so strong the terminology carried over to almsgiving, prayer and repentance as 'service of the heart' even before the destruction of the Temple.
Copyrighted 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

Understanding Repentance in the OT

Jeremiah Unterman, From Repentance to Redemption, Jeremiah’s Thought in Transition, (1987), 12:

“Once Israel has sinned, and while the people dwell in a divinely ordained state in the land of Israel they must repent in order to avoid destruction and/or exile.

However, what if the hoped for repentance is not realized and destruction and/or exile become inevitable? How then is the positive relationship between God and Israel to be renewed? Is repentance a condition of the redemptive process, or not? What role does divine mercy play? On these important religious questions there is a multitude of biblical perspectives. In the priestly literature, confession and contrition are the sum of human activity necessary as a precondition for redemption in exile (Lev. 26:40-41). On the other hand, in Deuteronomy (4:29-31; 30:1-10) and the deuteronomistic historiography (1 Kgs 8:44-53) the people must ‘return’ to God in order to be redeemed. In Amos (9:8-15), no human activity is required for restoration. In Hosea, repentance is required in two passages (3:1-5; 14:2-9), but not in two others (2:4-25; 11:1-11). It is strange that in Ezekiel, which is closely related to P, repentance is required for individual physical salvation, but outside of a description of cessation of idolatry (14:1-11; 18:30-32; 20:30ff.), there is no hint that human activity is needed to effect restoration to the land. Indeed, in contrast to Leviticus 26, contrition and remorse take place after redemption (Ezek. 16:54, 63; 20:43; 36:31: 39:26).”

I was going to describe my confusion in understanding repentance in the OT but this description by Jeremiah Unterman says it better.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Last Thursday, I appeared in court prepared to begin a complicated trial but the judge, in his infinite wisdom, decided that a related matter should be resolved prior to the trial. This month I was prepared to try four different matters but everyone was continued.

The Day of Atonement was then and is for Jews today a time of contemplation, prayer, meditation, stock-taking, repentance and atonement. On this day the entire Book of Jonah was and is read. Jonah was chosen because it illustrates the power of repentance and shows that man cannot escape the power and presence of God. Ezekiel had individualized the prophetic doctrine of retribution and with it, its counterpart, repentance. But it was the Prophet Hosea who was the great proponent of the doctrine of repentance. Luke was very familiar with the Books of Jonah, Ezekiel and Hosea. Luke has seized upon the developing consciousness of individual piety of the great prophets of Judaism and utilized these concepts[i] of prayer, repentance and almsgiving to explain the spiritual dynamics of the kingdom.

[i]. The third concept is 'almsgiving' when expressed as a true sacrifice where the donor derives no benefit from the gift and someone in need benefits thereby. The concept of sacrifice was so strong the terminology carried over to almsgiving, prayer and repentance as 'service of the heart' even before the destruction of the Temple.

Copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Repentance in the OT

I was discussing repentance in the OT with a lawyer friend whom I call the Rabbi. He was preparing for Yom Kippur. He tells me that repentance is not mentioned in the first five books and that the prophets developed the doctrine of repentance.

When I mentioned this conversation to John Lupia,
editor and moderator of Roman-Catholic-News,
Roman-Catholic-News , he responded with the following:

METANOEIN occurs in 1 Kings 15:29; Proverbs 20:29;
24:24, 47; Wisdom 5:3; Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 17:24;
48:15; Amos 7:3, 6; Joel 2:13, 14; Jonah 3:9, 10; 4:2;
Zechariah 8:14; Isaiah 46:8, 9; Jeremiah 4:28; 8:6;
18:8, 10;

METANOIA occurs in Proverbs 14:15; Wisdom 11:23;
12:10, 19; Sirach 44:16.

Thank you, John.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Repentance and the church

In Philadelphia, we have our own little scandals and some of them make the national news. “The archbishop of Philadelphia is now very, very sorry.”

Tom Ferrick, Jr., a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer has a very good story in last Sunday’s newspaper, “Real reparation must dig deeper.” Ferrick notes that the cardinal has directed “every parish in the archdiocese to celebrate a holy hour each week, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, where we can pray for reparation and renewal.” Ferrick then quotes his dictionary for the definition of “reparation.”

I heartily agree with Ferrick but I write to add my own comments. The Cardinal talks in terms of reparation, which is economic justice when he should be mentioning repentance, which is a religious justice. What should be the rights and responsibilities of the church when its leaders and servants have committed such horrendous acts and prevented the discovery of those acts? What is the purpose of repentance? What are the social aspects of repentance? When the wrongdoers make amends, the act is an acknowledgment to the victim that harm was been inflicted on the victim. Money does not repair the damage; only time will heal the wounds. When the wrongdoer fails to acknowledge the misconduct in a way that victim can accept, the wound inflicted continues to fester. Thus this act reparation/repentance also becomes a step in repairing the damage to his community and society.

The Cardinal fails to realize that his failure to address damage to the community and the society of which his community is a part will have long lasting consequences. The Cardinal should be speaking of forgiveness, healing, acknowledging the pain of history, reparation and the restoration of right relationships. Although I suggest that reparation is more related to economic justice, I note the Catholic teachings, as set in the Catholic Catechism, 2nd edition, with reference to the Sacrament of Penance” indicates that it consists of “three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.” Yet, I have not being able to find any statement in the Catholic Catechism, 2nd edition, defining or explaining, “works of reparation” and whether or not said works are directed to the victim. It seems to me that Catholic teaching calls for “works of reparation” to be directed to the church. If this is true, then I do not know that the Philadelphia response will address the need for the restoration of right relationships.

Tom Ferrick ends his article with suggestions noting that the Archdiocese of Boston made reparations to victims waiving its right to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. There are a number of excellent sites discussing the history of reparation payments. Following World War II, West Germany by treaty with the new state of Israel made reparation payments to the state of Israel. Certainly there are enough examples and models that could be employed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as part of its effort for the restoration of right relationships with the members and former members of is community that have been harmed.

Copyrighted 2005

Monday, October 10, 2005

Anonymous Bloggers Protected

Robert Ambrogi reports that the Delaware Supreme Court has issued an important ruling protecting the identity of anonymous bloggers unless certain conditions are met:

Ambrogi also provided the link to the 33 page decision in John Doe No. 1 v. Cahill.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Research Tools: iTools

My sister, the Wise Librarian, has alerted me to yet another valuable research tool:

Research Tools: iTools

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Penn State Football has Returned

Penn State 17

Ohio State 10

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Repentance and the Church Fathers

“The Gospel of Repentance is the traditional view of Christianity.” Jesus says of his mission, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." And he told the Galileans, " I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." Jesus' gospel was all about repentance! What gospel did Peter preach to the masses on the day of Pentecost? The Bible tells us that when the people heard the apostle testify, "... they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What gospel did Paul preach to the pagan Athenians on Mars Hill? He told them very directly, God “commands all men everywhere to repent.” Later, Paul preached the same gospel of repentance to King Agrippa: "... I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance."

The traditional view was turned upside down when the Formula of Concord (1577) declared:

"We believe, teach and confess that the gospel is not a proclamation of repentance or retribution, but is, strictly speaking, nothing else than a proclamation of comfort and a joyous message which does not rebuke nor terrify but comforts consciences against the terror of the law, directs them solely to Christ's merit, and lifts them up again through the delightful proclamation of the grace and favor of God, won through Christ's merit" (Formula of Concord, V,7).

What happened? Undoubtedly, the Lutheran theologians were reacting strongly to the abuses of the indulgences. The preceding paragraph was quoted in support of an argument that there is a negative correlation between repentance and the belief in the salvific value of the death of Jesus on the cross. It therefore seems prudent to ask what is the background.

The apostolic fathers believed that salvation was based on repentance and not solely on the ground of the death of Jesus on the cross. Robert Kraft has stated: “There is no indication in the Didache that an initial repentance connected with the idea of personal sinfulness for which Jesus' death atones was considered basic to the Christian life.”

The belief of the apostolic fathers was probably influenced by the writings of Saint Luke. I plan to further develop this argument by researching Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, and I Clement.

Copyrighted 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

Repentance and the Book of Concord

Is there a correlation between repentance and the belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins? According to Howard Marshall, Luke has de-emphasized the theology of the cross. Yet Luke clearly has a greater emphasis on repentance than any of the other synoptic gospels. Matthew and Mark appear to reduce the emphasis on repentance while advocating the theology of the cross. This suggests that there is a negative correlation between the two doctrines
wherein the “high values of one are likely to be associated with low values of the other.”

Perhaps this negative correlation can be confirmed by looking at the issue from another viewpoint. Lutherans believe in the Theology of the Cross, as proclaimed and defined by Martin Luther. Therefore this statement appearing in the Formula of Concord explains the role of repentance in Lutheran theology:

"We believe, teach and confess that the gospel is not a proclamation of repentance or retribution, but is, strictly speaking, nothing else than a proclamation of comfort and a joyous message which does not rebuke nor terrify but comforts consciences against the terror of the law, directs them solely to Christ's merit, and lifts them up again through the delightful proclamation of the grace and favor of God, won through Christ's merit" (Formula of Concord V,7).

Copyrighted 2005

A Wonderful Three-Day Weekend

We visited our son at Penn State, two sisters in Ohio, attended the Stark County track meet in which our nephew participated with perhaps 500 or more contestants; attended a varsity soccer game in Jackson Township in which our niece sang the Star-Spangled Banner and another nephew scored one goal, and at least one assist, enjoyed the second half of the Penn State football game, missed the 1st half because of the soccer game, and visited with relatives, etc. and had a wonderful time. Gas prices dropped from $3.13 Friday to $2.79 Sunday but will probably be $2.89 per gallon this coming week. We have another road trip next weekend to Virginia.

On our return trip across central Pennsylvania, we noticed that the trees had started to change colors; perhaps next weekend we will see the change in southeast Pennsylvania. We heard that the baseball season was over for Philadelphia and that the Eagles were losing badly. As we enjoyed the fall foliage, we heard the news that the Eagles had pulled off an incredible upset.