This I believe

I take inspiration from a post by Claire Jones, a remarkable human being who’s writing is far better than mine I encourage you to read her original post here http://theartofuncertainty.com/2013/12/04/i-believe/

This article comes from a rather different place than from where Claire was writing. Hers appears to show how she may struggle with God but ultimately rests in him and his truth. I have my struggles of faith also but that’s not what I’ve been thinking about lately. Lately I have been faced with a question ‘is it just me?’ or rather ‘is it just us?’. As I have been studying God’s word I’ve been amazed at how many theologians and clergy do not believe what I have always felt was central to the Christian faith. I feel compelled even more so to proclaim my faith no matter how unpopular it is with the rest of christendom. So this I believe:

I believe in one God

No matter how difficult a belief in a triune God is to hold I truly do believe in his oneness. There is only one true God and there are none like him.

the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

God the Father is one person of my God he is not a third of God but fully God and that is why I call him Almighty. No matter how much secularism is pushed upon I believe In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light,true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.

Jesus Christ is my friend and my God. Fully friendly and fully mighty. Fully man and fully God, not one third of God this is why I believe he is Lord.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.

It may sound wacky but I do believe in the virgin birth my God became a man for me. He made himself a little lower than the angels he is so humble and so kind.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.

I believe the cross to be both a demonstration of God’s love for me and where Christ took the punishment for me. He died, he really died the earth shook the veil in the temple tore in two, the sun refused to shine and the centurion declared that Jesus must have been the Son of God.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

I believe that a dead man came back to life. If he did not there is no hope for me. I don’t believe it figuratively or metaphorically but truly my God is not dead he’s alive. He is in heaven where my praise will rise to him forevermore.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

He is coming again. I live my life the best I can but as the hymn says ‘my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’ if I am to pass his judgement clean it is because in him in am the righteousness of God. I’m not a sinner trying to be a saint, I’m a saint who sins.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,

Holy Spirit you keep me in Christ each day you remind me of all that he has done and what I am meant to be. You are truly God not a third of God and that is why I call you the giver of life.

who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe the Scriptures to contain all things necessary for salvation even when I misunderstand them or struggle with them or live not according to them.

I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

God’s church is the people of God given all authority through Christ. There is only one true church and the authority of her church comes from Christ through apostolic succession.

I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Holy Spirit’s baptism I am made knew I receive the forgiveness of sin which I most definitely need. What other hope could there be for a wretched man like me?

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Death is not the end

Amen.

Amen.

Jesus Christ and The Eucharist

The Real Presence

Is Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist? It seems since early times people have affirmed that Jesus Christ’s blood, body, soul and divinity is truly present in the Blesséd Sacrament. This article will attempt to put forward a scriptural and historically based argument for the real presence. Also, describing some of the other doctrines around the Eucharist.

What does Jesus say?

In Matthew, Mark and Luke the Lords supper is accounted in all three Jesus takes bread and wine gives thanks and either says this is my body or this is the new covenant in my blood and to do so in remembrance of him. Jesus does not say this is like my body and blood or this represents my body and blood. Jesus clearly says ‘this is’. What is important to recognise hear is that in 3 of the gospels pretty much the same language is being used if the Holy Spirit wanted to give people a more clear message he had 3 attempts in the gospels alone to do so.

But what about the Gospel according to St John, the Lord’s Supper is not mentioned once there? No, Jesus’ final meal with his disciples is not mentioned at all. But what we do have in John 6 is the bread of life dialogue. After Jesus feeds the five thousand, people come and see him and ask for another miracle like the manna in the wilderness. Jesus tells them that they need to eat the bread that comes from heaven. Jesus tells them that he is “the bread of life” this really confused them because essentially they are being told to eat a human being. But Jesus tells them their ancestors who ate the manna in the wilderness died, but whoever eats the bread that is his flesh will life, for it will be given for the life of the world. Again the Jews disputed what Jesus had said then Jesus once again gives a final clarification.

 “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.”

Jesus cannot be clearer now that his body and blood are actual food. The way that the canon of scripture was inspired by God has created 4 gospels 3 of which show the Lord’s Supper and one contains this dialogue. After Jesus’ bodily resurrection he is seen by two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus and they don’t recognise him, they proceed to tell him why they are sad that he has died. He then proceeds to tell them everything that the scripture says about him. They invite him in for dinner and he obliges he takes bread gives thanks over it, breaks it and passes it to them. In this act the disciples see the Lord in the breaking of bread. Jesus can be seen in the Eucharist.

What about the churches of the apostles?

Surely the early churches mentioned in the bible didn’t believe this papist nonsense about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Let us explore the theology of the Eucharist as put forward in the New Testament epistles. We know from the Acts of the Apostles the Eucharist becomes a part of their regular worship. The earliest mention of the Eucharist in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians. Paul is discussing bad practice around the Lord’s Supper with the church. Firstly he describes the words that Jesus used when he instituted the sacrament. Paul then rebukes the church and challenges them to eat and drink in a worthy manner. Those who eat in an unworthy manner are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of our lord. Firstly, if you look at the text in 1 Cor 11 you’ll notice the words bread and wine, body and blood are used interchangeably, this suggests that during the sacrament these two elements are in fact the same. It is also important to point out that when people do not examine where they are spiritually if they are unrepentant of their sin, if they chose to eat the Eucharist as if it is just a pleasant snack, if they do not consume the Eucharist reverently then they will eat and drink judgement on themselves. The bible says there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, true as this may be. Disciples of Christ will be judged and those who eat and drink the body and blood of our Lord in an unworthy manner may get sick or even die.

Previously in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul asks is the cup of blessing for sharing the blood of Christ and is the bread for sharing in the body of Christ. This gives even more clarification to the fact that when we gather together to eat the holy elements we are eating and drinking Jesus, furthermore the context of 1 Cor 10 is Paul is talking about sacrifice to idols. Paul is saying that you cannot eat food sacrificed to daemons as well as eating and drinking the lamb of God sacrificed once and for all upon the cross, so when we eat and drink Jesus, we join with that moment on Calvary when he gave himself unto the world, to the glory of God.

Tradition

St Justin Martyr who lived in Rome  during the 2nd century and was an apologist of the second generation church, that is the first generation of Christians after the apostles, which means the majority of their practices were inherited from the apostles and therefore are likely to be in line with the teachings of Christ. In his first apology Justin describes pretty much the earliest description of the Latin mass. It is not as liturgical as the modern mass but nevertheless the basic outline is there. Justin gives a major insight into early church doctrine and practice, we know from his writing that the early church worshipped on Sundays rather than Jewish custom of Saturday, we know only baptised believers who had been instructed in the theology of the Eucharist could eat at the Lord’s Table. Justin says ‘we do not consume the Eucharistic bear and wine as if it were ordinary food’ this is because they had been taught that something transformational happened to bread and wine and it ‘becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus’ and he also describes the method by which this happens he says that ‘by the power of his, [Jesus’], own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.’ What is said by Justin is once again entirely supportive of the doctrine of real presence.

Also in this early celebration of the mass we see an early priesthood whereby Justin describes the president who says the words of institution. After they have received communion Justin says the deacons of the church take the sacrament to the sick, a practice still done in Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches to this day.

It is well documented that those who are widely accepted to be the greatest theologians of the early church all promote the real presence of the Eucharist. Take St Irenaeus of Lyons, Irenaeus wrote against heresies and clearly states that Jesus ‘declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood… and the bread, a part of creation, he established as his own Body [.]’ Irenaeus was writing in 177 AD on the subject. Jesus died approximately during-40 AD, the New Testament was completed during 70-100 AD; The Rt. Rev. John A. T. Robinson who is considered to be a liberal theologian puts forward a reasonable argument for completion of the NT prior to 70 AD. This means that in 100 years from the Apostles to Irenaeus, nobody was taken seriously if they denied the real presence in the Eucharist.

Scripture, Tradition and Reason

Perhaps the fact that there is a vast cornucopia of texts from the Fathers of the church is just part of a papist agenda and all the real truths were destroyed as part of one of the greatest cover ups of all time. But having looked at the evidence which could go on for days and days it seems fairly likely that for the early church the real presence wasn’t just a philosophy but an immovable doctrine of the universal faith. The scripture read in the context of divine inspiration does not move on the brutal language of Christ, to eat his body and drink his blood. The early church Fathers taught, preached and catechised these truths. So we must turn to our friend reason if we are to be reasonable about this we need to explore the various doctrines of the church.

Transubstantiation

Transubstantiation which means a change in substance by which the elements (bread and wine) when consecrated by an ordained priest acting in persona Christi are literally changed into actual body and blood but the accidents (appearance) of bread and wine remain. This is the official doctrine and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, this view is also held by some Anglicans whose theology has been influenced by the Oxford Movement. The issue with transubstantiation is put forward in the 39 Articles of Religion found in the 1662 Book of Common prayer transubstantiation is put forward as being ‘repugnant to the plain words of Scripture’ and ‘overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament [.]’ what is meant here is there is no reasonable scriptural justification for the philosophy of transubstantiation, it does not meet the definition for the nature of sacrament that is, must have an outward sign of inward grace. If the bread and wine have fully become the body and blood then there is no outward sign, just grace.

Sacramental Union

Martin Luther when writing in 1528 but forward something called a sacramental union, sometimes called consubstantiation, (though this term is not used by Lutherans as Luther never personally used such a term) Luther questions why we say this is my body when the ‘this’ is clearly referring to the bread, he then puts forward that some sort of union must have taken place whereby the bread and Christ have made a union. Luther referring to the way in which St Paul speaks puts forward that Jesus is present ‘in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine’ once again rejecting the view of transubstantiation as the bread and wine do not change but are present in the same reality as the body and blood of Jesus.

Zwinglianism

Swiss reformer Zwingli put forward a symbolic view of the Eucharist. To summarise Zwingli essentially over spiritualised the words of Christ and Paul and that what they were really saying is this represents the body and blood not this is. He does draw reference from other things that Jesus says such as I am the true vine. However this is not the same as there was no vine but at the last supper he took bread and said this is my body. Martin Luther and Zwingli could not find agreement on this subject Luther eventually said ‘I would rather drink blood with the Pope than wine with the Swiss.’ Basically saying that transubstantiation is far more acceptable than what Zwingli was saying. Although interestingly they share the same problem: neither transubstantiation nor Zwinglianism has the nature of the sacrament, with Zwingli there is an outward sign but no grace.

Reason

This blog alone cannot give due justice to this most incredible and holiest of sacraments nor to this complex area of theology and philosophy. But what must be said based on the arguments put forward here is that Jesus Christ has ordained the bread and wine used in Holy Mass to be the true body and blood Christ as real food and real drink. When eating and drinking this holy meal St Paul puts forward that one is partaking of Jesus’ body and blood. The majority of the church past and present have argued for the real presence some have even died for it. It is not reasonable to accept a view put forward in the 1600’s that is so utterly repugnant to the words of scripture and the living word of God, Jesus Christ. The final thought of this blog article comes from that of the Eastern Orthodox Church they argue for the divine mystery of the Eucharist that Jesus is present truly: blood, body, soul and divinity. But more than this has not given through scriptural revelation. Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you this day and always. Amen.

Word Sacrament and Charism

Featured

Welcome, welcome, welcome, to this, my new blog. I spend a lot of my time talking theology with people and thought this would be a good way of having broader wider conversations. So first things first what is Word, Sacrament and Charism? These three things are what I believe to be essential pillars of my faith in Jesus Christ. This page is all about ‘reforming catholic’ theology something which perhaps not many of you would be aware of.

Word

The word of God is a complicated idea and for many different people this means many different things. If you asked me what I think the bible is I probably, rather flippantly, would say that the bible is the infallible word of God which was breathed out by the Holy Spirit and written in the hand of mainly men. But that creates a few problems one of which being: God is truly infallible but humans are fallible. So a perfect and infallible God is inspiring fallible humans to write an infallible book. Would a God who is entirely perfect make spelling mistakes? No, but we know the Bible’s original manuscripts contain bad spelling. Some people say you cannot take the bible to be the word of God; this doesn’t sit comfortably with me as this means they go to a church where they hear people preaching from a book (the bible) which could be lying to them.

As part of being a Reforming Catholic I take the words of St Paul to St Timothy to be my guide on the holy scriptures he says “[a]ll scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16 NRSV). This brief phrase used by the apostle gives us marvellous insight into how we can allow the scriptures to guide us and shape us. Over and over again Jesus in Revelation says that “these words are trustworthy and true”  which is essentially what Paul is saying to Timothy he’s basically saying that whatever you read throughout the entire canon of scripture can be believed because the Spirit inspired it.

Sacrament

A central part of the worship of the Christian Church for its entirety has been participation in the sacraments. But how many are there? What is the nature of a sacrament? When should we practice the sacraments? Who should lead us in sacramental worship? These questions and many more have all been disputed throughout the life of the bride of Christ and perhaps will not be reconciled till we see Christ seated on the throne.

In the meantime I will discuss what I believe about the sacraments briefly. I believe in the historical view of the sacraments, that is, I believe in 7 Sacraments that is: Baptism, Confession and absolution, Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist, also called the Lord’s supper, also called the mass), Confirmation, Anointing of the sick, Holy Matrimony (marriage) and Holy Orders (Ordination of Deacons and Priests). Some will be totally shocked and appalled that I am writing there are 7 sacraments, this I believe to be the scriptural view, most consistently historical view and therefore the most reasonable view.

Baptism

Baptism is the act of initiating a person as a Christian. Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is a clear command of Christ to perform this sacrament. The reason why baptism is a sacrament is there is a clear outward sign (the water). The inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit; Jesus says we must be born again of water and spirit. Baptism in and of itself is not a way of gaining salvation there is nothing magical about the water. But someone who has been born again of the spirit would choose to be baptised if he/she is able to.

Confession and Absolution

This is one of the sacraments widely disputed as to whether or not it is a sacrament. My argument for it being a sacrament is Jesus clearly commands his disciples in John 20:21-23 to receive peoples sins (hear confession) and when the do that person’s sins are forgiven (absolution). The outward sign here is the person saying their sins and the listener saying their sins are forgiven. The inward grace is that all sin was paid for once and for all on the cross by the spilling of the most precious blood of Christ Jesus all who truly repent and believe are already a part of the inheritance of Christ, so once again the sacrament is not a magic wand but something a true believer would take part in.

Holy Communion

The sacrament of Holy Communion is something I could talk about all day is probably one of the largest areas of theology. For most of 2000 years Christians have been gathering to receive the Eucharist. Jesus commands his disciples to take bread and wine which is his body and blood and to do so in remembrance of him. The outward sign is the broken bread and the wine outpoured, the inward grace is receiving the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. All Christians have received the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist serves as both a reminder and a continuation of the mystery of justification. I was forgiven, I am forgiven, I am being forgiven, and I will be forgiven.

Confirmation

Confirmation is the sacrament of the laying on of hands. In the New Testament when people wanted to receive the Holy Spirit the bishop, elder, church leader would lay hands on said person and pray that the person would receive the Holy Spirit. The outward sign is the laying of hands, in the inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit. In the modern sacrament those who have been baptised receive the laying on of hands from their bishop to receive the Holy Spirit.

Unction

In the book of James we are taught that if anyone among us is sick then they should be anointed with oil. If we believe the bible to be a book that can be used for setting doctrine then the epistle of St James is the perfect place to set a doctrine on this sacrament. The outward sign is the oil which represents the anointing power of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick. The inward grace is the charism (gift of the Holy Spirit) of healing.

Holy Matrimony 

Marriage is a concept which goes back to the earliest human civilisations the earliest mentioning in the bible of this sacrament is in Genesis with Adam and Eve, whether or not we take Genesis as being literal or not is beside the point because what we have here is God affirming through the scriptures that marriage is one of the callings for his creation. Not all must be married St Paul affirms the gift of celibacy. But for those who do this most ancient of sacraments is given to them. The outward sign in marriage is living together in righteousness, sexual union and children. The inward grace is that God binds together man and wife in union with him.

Holy Orders

Holy orders is the sacrament in which God grants the gift of the Holy Spirit unto whom the church has discerned who ought to be ordained as Deacons, Priests or Bishops (other names for these titles are used depending on denomination.). Throughout the New Testament when a new leader, bishop or elder is ordained other elders gather around him and lay hands on him. The outward sign here is the laying on of hands; the inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit as well as becoming a part of the apostolic succession of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Charism

The Charismatic movement has had a radical transformation on the church in recent history but the central point of the Charismatic movement are the charisms of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, these gifts such as prophecy, tongues, healing and leadership are given to the church to build up the church. Many have claimed that the charisms of God are not for today and were only until the bible\ was completed. However I wholeheartedly believe that God wants to pour out spiritual gifts on his church to enable them to do his work on earth. Some gifts will pass away when Christ comes again but until that day I believe the church will receive charisms.