Steven Wedgeworth’s lectures on the subject are now available here. The subjects are:
I am sort of reading Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist? When it comes to theologizing Kung parrots the tired liberal line that peaked in the 60‘s. I am reading it because he does a good job of outlining various philosophical high points in recent history that I am too ignorant of.
Kung seems given to the notion, at least at the time of the writing of this book, of an advancing secularism. He mentions the “modern process of secularization and emancipation…” This ‘modern process’ strikes me as a widely-held fallacy of modernist Westerners writing in the post-war period and seems to still hold sway in the minds of the plebs in America. Quite to the contrary, much of the world is becoming more religious all the time.
Kung embraces evolution and sees that doing so necessitates abandoning the Biblical account of Creation and the Fall. He writes:
With regard to the origin and evolution of the world and man, has not science established the very opposite of such a perfect original state of the world and man: that there is no place in the scientific understanding of the world for a story of paradise and of the sin of a single human couple, if this is understood as a historical account and not a statement of principles?
Kung of course embraces higher criticism. In discussing Blaise Pascal he wishes that higher criticism had been embraced earlier:
A precondition, of course, for a different approach would have been a new critical understanding of the Bible in the light of the discoveries in astronomy and physics and increasingly in biology and medicine.
This doubt in the Bible is of course nothing new. It is everywhere present in modern thinking and has infected every corner of the Church. People want to be taken seriously by the world and the Academy and so they abandon the embarrassing notion of Creation in the Bible, never mind that Jesus himself said “the Scripture cannot be broken” which is about as high a view of Scripture as you’re going to find and it comes from a pretty reliable source! Contrast Kung’s surrender of the text to scientism with James Jordan’s thought in his Through New Eyes:
Moses, educated in all the learning of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) – which was thoroughly “evolutionary” in its commitment to a “scale-of-being” philosophy – was doubtless as surprised at Genesis 1 as any modern philosopher would be. No impersonal forces here! No gradual shades of “being” from animals to man with all sorts of things (satyrs, sphinxes, etc.) in between. No huge cycles of time. Just a series of immediate personal acts, in a brief span of time, initiating linear time. This was not what Moses had been taught by his Egyptian tutors.
Jordan takes the text seriously, Kung doesn’t.
I finally finished touching up this paper which is part of an old book. It’s a discussion of the use of art in the Anglican Church and it makes clear our position on icons and the like.
You can see it here.
There is strange news out of Bolivia, where a man was just killed who is accused of wanting to assassinate the President, Evo Morales. This man, Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, apparently was ‘a fanatic for everything.’ (see this and this)
He fled Bolivia after Banzer’s military coup. He then fought in the Balkan civil wars (on the Croatian side, where he supposedly led an international brigade); he even made a film about his experience. He was vice president of a Muslim association in Hungary; but was previously an active member in Opus Dei.
So basically, as La Razón points out, he was a “fanatic for everything.” A leftist in his youth (his father had been active against the Barrientos military regime), he then became an ardent Catholic in Opus Dei, then fought for Croatia against the Serbs, then abandoned Marxism (though he still admires Che), then converted to Islam, then returned to Bolivia, and may have ties to the right-wing UJC, though he still edited a Hungarian Muslim online news site.
I don’t find this totally implausible. There is a mindset out there that wants to embrace certainty and crusade for the perfect cause. Add to this the ocean of information now available on the web that wasn’t there in ages past and you can quickly change from opinion to opinion. Hopefully this leads to the Way, the Truth and the Life, but not necessarily.
Dispensationalists have brought a lot of novelty to the theology of the church in America; talk of “pre-trib rapture” and the like arose in the last 150 years. But one thing that did not come from the dispensational camp is the belief in a literal, physical man termed “the Antichrist”. You don’t have to read much of the Church Fathers to see the man referred to. Take Augustine for example, he writes of 2 Thessalonians 2.1-11 and says:
No one can doubt that he wrote this of Antichrist and of the day of judgment, which he here calls the day of the Lord, nor that he declared that this day should not come unless he first came who is called the apostate—apostate, to wit, from the Lord God. And if this may justly be said of all the ungodly, how much more of him?
Augustine discusses some various conjectures as to who the Antichrist might be and then says:
Thus various then, are the conjectural explanations of the obscure words of the apostle. That which there is no doubt he said is this, that Christ will not come to judge the quick and the dead unless Antichrist, His adversary, first come to seduce those who are dead in soul; although their seduction is a result of God’s secret judgment already passed. (City of God XX.19)
In remarks attributed to Pope Urban at Clermont which called for the First Crusade, he mentions the coming of the Antichrist as a motivation to take Jerusalem:
And you ought, furthermore, to consider with the utmost deliberation, if by your labors, God working through you, it should occur that the Mother of churches should flourish anew to the worship of Christianity, whether, perchance, He may not wish other regions of the East to be restored to the faith against the approaching time of the Antichrist. For it is clear that Antichrist is to do battle not with the Jews, not with the Gentiles; but, according to the etymology of his name, He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there no Christians (just as at present when scarcely any dwell there), no one will be there to oppose him, or whom he may rightly overcome. According to Daniel and Jerome, the interpreter of Daniel, he is to fix his tents on the Mount of Olives; and it is certain, for the apostle teaches it, that he will sit at Jerusalem in the Temple of the Lord, as though he were God. And according to the same prophet, he will first kill three kings of Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, without doubt for their Christian faith: This, indeed, could not at all be done unless Christianity was established where now is paganism. If, therefore, you are zealous in the practice of holy battles, in order that, just as you have received the seed of knowledge of God from Jerusalem, you may in the same way restore the borrowed grace, so that through you the Catholic name may be advanced to oppose the perfidy of the Antichrist and the Antichristians then, who can not conjecture that God, who has exceeded the hope of all, will consume, in the abundance of your courage and through you as the spark, such a thicket of paganism as to include within His law Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, which have withdrawn from the communion of our belief? And the man of sin, the son of perdition, will find some to oppose him. Behold, the Gospel cries out, ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ ‘Times of the Gentiles’ can be understood in two ways: Either that they have ruled over the Christians at their pleasure, and have gladly frequented the sloughs of all baseness for the satisfaction of their lusts, and in all this have had no obstacle (for they who have everything according to their wish are said to have their time; there is that saying: ‘My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready,’ whence the lustful are wont to say ‘you are having your time’). Or, again, ‘the times of the Gentiles’ are the fulness of time for those Gentiles who shall have entered secretly before Israel shall be saved. These times, most beloved brothers, will now, forsooth, be fulfilled, provided the might of the pagans be repulsed through You, with the cooperation of God. With the end of the world already near, even though the Gentiles fail to be converted t the Lord (since according to the apostle there must be a withdrawal from the faith), it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions either through you, or others, whom it shall please God to send before the coming of Antichrist, so that the head of all evil, who is to occupy there the throne of the kingdom, shall find some support of the faith to fight against him.
And more recently within the Reformed tradition Herman Ridderbos discussed the Antichrist in his Paul, An Outline of His Theology:
The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness…In this striking qualification Paul’s corporate way of thinking unquestionably plays a part. Just as elsewhere he places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second “man,” as the great representatives of two different orders of men, so the figure of “the man of lawlessness” is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ, who was sent by God to overthrow the works of Satan. The traits with which the man of lawlessness is described in 2 Thessalonians 2 provide the clearest evidence that not only the prophecy of Daniel, but the appearance and the glory of the man Jesus Christ himself as well determined the representation of the man of sin. His coming, just as that of Christ, is called a parousia; it is marked by all manner of powers, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past;
This belief is not new, it is attested by the universal church.
The logic of the Roman Catholic Church is that you are better off not ever hearing the gospel or knowing about the Church than you are in knowingly refusing to enter her. In other words, pagans who have not heard are better off than those who hear and do not join the Church. Current Catholic theology bumps up against universalism while at the same time magnifying the necessity of Rome for salvation, [as an aside, this is also the position of the Latter Day Saints, something I hope to write about soon].
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this astounding statement:
“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (§841)
Also, if someone ‘through no fault of their own’ does not know of Christ and the Church, he is good to go. “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (§847)
But if you have the misfortune of having heard about Christ and the Church and you stay outside, you’re in trouble:
“Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (§846)
Writing in the February, 2008 edition of First Things, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles confirms this line of thought:
“Piux IX and the Second Vatican Council taught that all who followed their conscience, with the help of the grace given to them, would be led to that faith that was necessary for them to be saved. During and after the council, Karl Rahner maintained that saving faith could be had without any definite belief in Christ or even in God…[but] In Christ’s Church, therefore, we have many aids to salvation and sanctification that are not available elsewhere.”
I take this view to be a dangerous delusion that provides false comfort to people in contradiction to what God has told us in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” We are told by Jesus that, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Saint Peter says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Hopefully, the living Word of God will work its way in the Catholic Church and in time she will revert to her more ancient views on this subject.