Friday, February 29, 2008

Another look in the rear-view mirror

I get a lot of inquiries about my conversion from Evangelicalism to Catholicism and it's interesting what my answers look like from time to time. It would be really easy to have a few prepared paragraphs to paste in an email, but as time goes on I think my vision actually gets clearer (perhaps it gets more cloudy in other respects) and so I thought I'd paste in here the most recent version.

As I say, I’m about to head out of town, but before I go—and I will write more later—there were two realities I unexpectedly bumped into which I couldn’t see as consistent with my evangelicalism, one past, one present. The fact from the past was that there were extant, authentic records of the writings of the people who immediately succeeded the Apostles. This I found very shocking. Letters written by 2nd generation Bishops to Christians in Rome, Corinth, Philipi, etc. The present reality was the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Apostolic Fathers taught it, and it was perceived at the Mass. That one-two punch was the core of the battle. Leading up to that was a complete loss of belief in the traditional “solae” of Protestantism: sola fide and sola scriptura. I had already come to believe on strictly Scriptural grounds that both these doctrines were hopeless. Two other important prior events were my coming to see justification as an eternal process rather than a legal fiction and seeing the Jewishness of the Gospel. It seems to me that both of these insights were great forerunners to my conversion to Catholicism.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

What do we know about Saint Valentine? Almost nothing. Here is a article which is a pretty good summary and agrees with all the evidence I have from other sources.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, which is usually thorough to the point of verbositiy, doesn't find much to say about Saint Valentine. Indeed, there were at least three saints by that name and we know next to nothing about any of them. But if you want a summary of the pious version here it is at

The legend that one Saint Valentine fell in love with his jailer's daughter has been embellished in popular culture. We don't know if the legend is true and if it is true whether the love was romantic and if it was romantic whether it was consummated. We have virtually no evidence one way or the other. The best evidence is that there was no torrid love affair because the very legends which tell of his "love" for the girl are perpetuated in an environment which would have denied his sainthood if he had an affair. It's much more exciting though, to trash a Saint, so whatever. The whole modern myth stems from an older legend that he miraculously restored her sight and then, on the eve of his execution, sent her a goodbye letter signed "from your Valentine". However, this embelishment was added in the 13th Century, some 800 years after the establishment of the feast in his honor. The romantic associations come from the legend that he was imprisoned in the first place for illegally conducting Christian marriages and otherwise aiding persecuted Christians under Claudius II.

The Wikipedia articles on Saint Valentine and his feast day seem pretty accurate. A quick perusal did not reveal any typical nonsense (it's usually easy to spot anyway).

Though the association with romantic love is probably most due to Chaucer's work up of an embellishment of a legend, I'm happy to join the fun and send my girl a Valentine card telling her how much I love and appreciate her. I doubt Saint Valentine will mind.

Faith, Doubt, and Certainty

(be and lyian, to hold dear).
That state of the mind by which it assents to propositions, not by reason of their intrinsic evidence, but because of authority.”

“But there is another very general use of the term belief in which it is taken to designate assent complete enough to exclude any practical doubt and yet distinguishable from the assent of knowledge. In this use no account is taken of authority. We have many convictions resting upon evidence that is not sufficiently clearly presented to our mind to enable us to say we know, but abundantly sufficient for us to produce a practically unqualified assent. ”

“this would seem to fall under the Scholastic head of opinion”

(Latin dubium, Greek aporí, French doute, German Zweifel).
A state in which the mind is suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them.

I am not in a position of doubt with respect to the objects of Catholic Faith: I assent to them. Yet this assent is attended by doubts, i.e. by the existence of recognized evidence to the contrary. It is not, obviously, doubt whether some thing God said is true, that would be absurd and anathema. Necessarily, if God said it, it is true, no room for doubt remains. Thus when “faith” is used to name the assent we have to the truths of revelation it excludes not just a state of doubt—inability to assent—but the presence of any doubts—recognized evidence to the contrary.

However, what God has revealed is not a matter of necessity but is a contingent truth and must be attended by what Vatican I calls “external signs” or natural evidence. The doubts which attend my faith therefore are not doubts about God’s knowledge or veracity but rather doubts about whether for some particular thing, God has revealed it.

From the old Catholic Encyclopeia on certitutude.
“As regards certitude concerning the fact of Divine revelation, the Vatican Council teaches that the proofs are not, indeed, such as to make assent intellectually necessary (De Fide, cap. iii and can. v), but that they are sufficient to make the belief "agreeable to reason" (rationi consentaneum),”
And concludes “It is, then, moral certitude that is attainable by the reason as to the fact of Divine revelation.”

If God in fact said it, then I may have the highest degree of certainty. As to whether God said it, some doubts might remain. I take it that God can grant one faith so that one may be certain that He has said some thing, but, as usual, Grace works with nature and not against it, and, sadly and obviously enough, what is ours by faith is not always achieved.

Let us pray for the gift of faith and for the grace to let that faith have it's full effect in us. Let our hearts be convicted by the Holy Spirit to drive us to reconciliation so that that grace may be operative in our lives.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Saints Hockey Scores again!

February 1, 2008Men's hockey team defeats stereotype of men of faith...

Full story here.

Congrats to Frank for this great idea and consistant execution!

Previous Catholic Hockey news here.