No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

Category: Protestantism

Was Luther an Antichrist? The Bible suggests yes.

http://headhearthand.org/blog/2014/02/20/seven-characteristics-of-the-antichrist/

Today’s link is from David Murray’s blog.  He identifies as a pastor, professor, and author, so even though it is a blog post rather than news, it is be respectable.  In his post he discusses some marks he sees as indicating antichrists.  Let’s look at each point and see whom it may identify, as is subsequent post points whom he thinks is the antichrist.  In this post I’ll look at what his points tell me about whom an antichrist might have been.

Point 1: Lawless

Mr. Murray searches Scripture and finds that the antichrist is one who disregards God’s law.  Let’s look at part of God’s law of the new covenant — the use of Sacraments.  The Catholic Church has 7 Sacraments, but many have disregarded some of the sacraments.  Anglicans and the Reformed, for instance, have only 2 sacraments — Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Lutherans have 3 (the Anglican two plus Absolution).  Quakers have none.  Or, looking at law more strictly speaking, who has kept the command of Jesus that divorce is against the law of God?  Only Catholics don’t allow divorce (for you who might chime in that annulment is Catholic divorce; an annulment is actually a claim of a marriage never existing, not the dissolution of a marriage).  This rejection of the law of God is a good argument for the founders of Protestantism to be considered antichrists.

Point 2: Destroyer

This point is that the antichrist is a destroyer.  Well, the destruction of the unity of the Christian Church, which is something Jesus himself prayed would be kept intact (“that they may be one“), was again brought about by the founders of Protestantism.  Protestants now aren’t responsible for this, they aren’t antichrists, but those founders of Protestantism who split the Church seem to fit the bill so far.  And in the bloody split of the church, people on all sides were destroyed physically by death.  One such famous priest killed was Cuthbert Mayne, who became a priest in France and went to Anglican England to die for his faith.

Cutherbert Mayne, Catholic Martyr

Cuthbert Mayne, Catholic Martyr

Point 3: Opposition to God

The first step in understanding this is to know that Christ and his Church are mysteriously one entity.  St. Augustine says, “Marvel and rejoice, we have become Christ”.  Pope St. Gregory says, “Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church”.  St. Tomas Aquinas states, “Head and members [Christ and Church] form as it were one and the same mystical person”.  Joan of Arc concludes, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing”. (For citations see CCC 795).  This oneness is why Paul talks about Christ being formed in us (Galatians 4:19).  As Colossians puts it, Jesus is, “head of the body, the Church”.

Therefore one who is in opposition to the Church is one who is in opposition with Jesus.  Again the Protestant Reformers come to mind.  Their opposition to the Church created a replacement for it, and now people might go to various denominations instead of directly to the Body of Christ.  Which brings us to the fourth point of Mr. Murray.

Point 4: Substitution

The antichrist tries to substitute himself for God.  Mr. Murray says this point is that the antichrist, “is not necessarily an enemy from outside the church, but from inside it. He opposes Christ by replacing him, by taking Christ’s titles, worship, and roles.”  This is exactly what the Protestant founders did with the Church, the Body of Jesus.  They replaced the worship of Jesus passed down from Jesus himself with worship of a Jesus created more after their own thoughts and desires.  It is easy to look at the insecurities of say, Luther, and see why that would psychologically drive any logical person to say we don’t need to cooperate with the mercies of God for our salvation.  Cooperation for such an insecure person means too great a risk of losing God.  Psychologically speaking, Luther makes excellent points.  Luther created a very psychologically fulfilling vision of God, the only problem is that it is a replacement of the truth, which Mr. Murray says is a sign of the antichrist.

Point 5: Deceiver

These Protestant founders then used this psychologically fulfilling vision of God to deceive people away from the fullness of the truth.  By their preaching and actions they deceived people into the substitute Church, the various Protestant denominations.  With admittedly humanly wise words they brought people out of the fullness of truth.  They did not come expressly to destroy the Church, but under the deception of “reform” brought about that effect.

Point 6: Heretic

This obviously tie ins with previous points.  Mr. Murray says, “THE ultimate Antichrist will not deny everything about Christ, but just enough to undermine the power of Christ’s gracious salvation.”  The Protestant denominations still have large swaths of truth — most of the books for the Bible, Baptism, Marriage, the necessity of Grace, even various aspects of predestination and so forth.  In doing so they undermine the power of Christ’s salvation through the fullness of all the Sacraments he gave us and in the fullness of the Truth passed down to us from generation to generation.

Point 7: Politics

Any student of the Reformation can tell you that things got very politically messy.  The German princes used Luther to advance their independence.  Henry VIII used the Reformation to get a politically expedient divorce.  If not for the political involvement to advance their temporal power, the Reformation would have been much more unlikely to get off the ground.  It is not coincidence that religious maps of Europe coincide with political boundaries.

Political and Religious Borders

Simplified Political and Religious Borders

Presbyterianism was founded in Scotland.  Anglicanism was founded in England.  Lutheranism was founded in Germany, and adopted by Scandinavian princes. An authentic reformation should have effected the whole Catholic world, but instead it remained tied to principalities.  Political expediency drove the Reformation forward, which again is a sign that the founders were antichrists.

Now, in turning the page to Mr. Murray’s next blog post, he surprises by saying it is the Pope who is the antichrist.  This is the opposite of what I took his post to be implying, but it is also an old claim (after all, no news is new!).  While there are older claims (see Mr. Murray’s post), none have been so influential as Mr. Alexander Hislop’s work, “The Two Babylons: Papal worship Proved to be the worship of Nimrod and His wife.”  This book was first published in 1853, and is known to be abundant with inaccuracies.  It compiles a lot of the earlier claims about the papacy as a form of antichrist.

The point is that this is an old claim, but when brought up can cut both ways.  It can easily turn into a he said/she said sort of discussion.  Mr. Murray can look at the Bible, and his take-away is that the Pope may be an antichrist.  I can look at the same passages and even the same understanding of the passages and my take-away might be that Luther was an antichrist.

I think this is why Mr. Murray’s point that,

“I don’t believe this should be a prominent part of any Christian’s ministry. Yes, we should outline the Antichrist’s characteristics and call people to look out for this threat, even in the mini-antichrist’s of our own day. But it’s not a huge theme in the Bible and it certainly doesn’t specify the individual.”

is so important.  To fixate upon antichrists takes our attention off of God and our neighbour, which is where our attention should be.  Even putting this post as kindly as I know how, and even recognizing that Mr. Murray did the same, name calling doesn’t help to grow Christian union and doesn’t help ease people’s journey of faith; however that journey may be progressing.  It is an interesting exercise to examine these things (hence my own posting about it), but it should never take our eyes off the prize of communion.

Aristotle -> Aquinas -> Atheism, Part 8

To wrap up some loose ends, the aformentioned proofs aren’t the end of proving the attributes of God.  The scholastics had many proofs and reasons for his various attributes.  Aquinas only touches on a few because at this particular point in his work he is trying to focus upon the causes outlined by Aristotle.  One would need to look at the total of the Summa Theologica for the total of his proofs for the various attributes of God.

It would be hard to understate the impact Aristotle had on Church thinking.  Taking just one theological point as an example: the causes of justification.  The council of Trent (1945-63) listed five causes of Justification.  The final cause, the efficient cause, the meritorious cause, the instrumental cause, and the formal cause.  Aristotle’s causes are all but the meritorious one.

On a side note of history, the sole formal cause of justification is grace.  One of the rallying points of the early Protestants was Sola Gratia (a.k.a., Grace Alone) which Trent affirmed in its’ statement on the formal cause of grace.

The 5 solas of the reformation.

The 5 solas of the reformation.

Pew Pew Pew

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB20001424052702303918804579107171202971150

This article laments the loss of the pew.  To really appreciate the change, some history is needed.

One of the best innovations of Protestants.

One of the best novelties of Protestants.

Christians originally met up in houses.  The first church buildings were not based upon the pagan temples, or even the Jewish temple, since these were the homes of gods/God. Instead, Christians built the first churches with a basis of public halls.  Basilica comes from a Greek work for “ruler”, and was the description of a building from which a magistrate would sit at one semicircular end to rule and provide justice and mercy.  The chair of the bishop was in place of the magistrates chair, and through him Jesus was considered to reign over the people.

The chair of the emperor would be to the very far left.

Example of a basilica from the Roman Forum.  The chair of the emperor would be to the very far left.

Note the absence of chairs shown in the diagram, as this was a meeting hall where people would chatter about.  Also note how the columns are placed similar to many great medieval cathedrals.

See the collumns in the floor plan?

See the columns in the floor plan?

Due to the persecution which faced the early Church, occasionally the meetings were forced underground.  It is not probable that the Roman authorities didn’t know where they met, but rather that all the tunnels were hard to adequately police and therefore escape was easier.  One underground catacomb church basilica could handle upwards of two thousand people!  Sadly, the catacomb method didn’t always help escapes, as Pope Sixtus and four deacons were caught in the catacombs and promptly executed.

As time passed, the basilica style had arms (transepts) added to turn it into a cross.

transeptStill, people would normally stand or kneel during a service, but not sit; although some wealthy people would bring chairs.  Slowly, starting in the 13th century, benches were added at the sides, and these then shifted to the middle of the church so that the majority of people could sit down for parts of service.  However, this was mostly a Protestant innovation (after the early 1500’s) — with Catholics picking up on the idea only later on.

Because the wealthy used to bring chairs, initially pews were rented out.  The church would provide the pew for a fee so that the wealthy wouldn’t need to pack up their chairs every week and bring them to church.  Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why there are Free Methodists.  Part of why the Free Methodists split from the Methodists in 1860 was because they rejected the idea of renting pews.

One large reason for the addition of seating in churches was that Protestants shifted worship away from Jesus present in the Eucharist and towards an understanding of Jesus present in his Word (i.e. the Bible).  This mostly takes place in the form of sermons on a variety of topics, as opposed to Catholics using the homily technique of only teaching about the readings for the day.  Not coincidentally does the Catholic reliance upon homily cause great consternation among Catholics on the political right.  There is not much room to talk about abortion or same sex “marriage” if one is limited to talking about the readings prescribed for the day.  The use of a sermon allows bringing in a much wider variety of biblical passages, and therefore themes politically relevant today are easier to touch upon.  To sum up, Catholics hear much less teaching on Sunday, as we focus on the consecration which requires our reverence by standing or kneeling.  Protestants are more likely to require chairs or pews because their services don’t require the physical participation of the congregation and their sermons are much longer than our homilies, so require rest.

We now enter a new phase in churches, in which the economy of a bench is giving way to the flexibility of chairs.  As Catholics view their sanctuary as sacred, it is unlikely we’ll have chairs in Catholic Churches any time soon.  The reverence necessary for the Eucharist means the Sanctuary won’t be turned over to a soup kitchen.  However, it is admirable that those without the real presence of Jesus do turn their sanctuaries into dining rooms for the hungry, as mentioned in the article.  I hope that trend continues.

The Oloja of Oja talks marriage.

http://sunnewsonline.com/new/entertainment/dejumo-lewis-turning-70-is-like-starting-a-new-life/

Recently a famous Nigerian TV star, Dejumo Lewis, gave an interview with The Sun.  If you don’t know much about Nigerian TV and Film, it’s the latest Bollywood.  Anyway, the section on marriage was interesting from a study of heresies.  It is quoted below, but please follow the link at the top for the whole story of his life.

Dejumo got married to his wife on April 18, 1970 and together they have several kids. However, he revealed that after 29 years of marriage, they parted ways and ever since he has remained single.

“If we were still together we would have celebrated our 43rd year. She moved out on October 9, 1999. I haven’t remarried formerly because in the Catholic Church you can’t remarry as long as your partner’s alive and that’s one of my criticisms of the church. This is because priests are supposed to be celibates and so they don’t have any idea of what marriage is except what theology or dogma tells them and that’s what they preach from the pulpit all the time.

“It’s totally wrong and if you apply for annulment it takes years. For a man who has been used to marriage and all the good things that marriage brings, it’s not easy. “How do you expect the man or woman to be celibate? By leaving the seminary in 1968 I had rejected celibacy so it’s wrong for the church to impose celibacy on me at my age. I consider it erroneous for the church to impose celibacy on me because I had rejected it in 1968 over 45 years ago.”

From this quote, we can find his misunderstanding about the nature of marriage, and hence his opposition to the Church’s view on marriage.  In regards to marriage, it seems he sees marriage predominately as a sexual outlet.  His complaints lay not with the nature of marital love, but that he’s celibate.  Looking at the nature of marital love can help illuminate why they Church teaches remarriage is adultery.

Marital love is different from all of our other loves.  Family is a love we are born into, friends might come and go, but marital love is a choice to elevate an earthly love into divine love.  Marriage is a sacrament in part because it confers upon us deifying grace — the grace that helps configure us more closely to the divine life of God.

It does this in a couple ways.  First, God is unchanging, so this love is a permanent commitment.  We must be as unchanging in our resolve to love our spouse as God is unchanging in his resolve to love us.  I sometimes wonder if some Protestants acceptance of divorce is a result of some Protestants belief in the Great Apostacy.  If God can so easily abandon his body, the Church, then I should be able to abandon my body, my spouse.

Next, we see the way God’s own life works when we live out our marriage in sex.  The love that proceeds from God the Father and God the Son is so real he is eternally personified in God the Holy Spirit.  Similarly, the love between a husband and wife is so real it is personified in the children.  The Catechism calls the mystery of the Trinity “the central mystery of Christian faith and life”.  When we become married we are blessed with a special share in that central mystery.  Sex is not simply about having a good time, but it is meant to be a consummation of the deep love between two people, and because that love is so deep that love is always open to the possibility of becoming personified in a baby.

The love of two people enfleshed.

The love of two people enfleshed.

This is the theological high we must come down from to enter into the messy realities of life.  And here is the place for annulments.  If it is discovered that one day, two people who thought they were married were discovered to actually never have been married, then those two people would be free to marry whomever they desire, having never been married before.  The easiest way for this to occur is for people to either not know what they are getting into or for two people to be forced into marriage.  If two people “married” who had no intention of fully loving the other in such a deep way that a baby might be formed, then they never would have been married in the first place.  If a shotgun wedding occurs for the sake of baby yet to be born but without full consent, then they never would have been married in the first place.  These are some reasons why annulments can take place.  Sometimes we fail to understand the commitment we are making, or sometimes we are forced into making commitments.  In neither of these cases is a commitment actually made.  A person who receives an annulment and then marries doesn’t have a second wedding but a first.  Only if a spouse dies can that permanent commitment end, because the persons life has ended.  In these cases there might be a second or greater wedding.  Mr. Lewis is correct that an annulment process might take years, and in addition an annulment wouldn’t be granted if a marriage had taken place.  An annulment isn’t a “Catholic Divorce”, and isn’t declared if there was a marriage to begin with.

Mr. Lewis is bothered by this because he has a hard time remaining celibate (“it’s not easy”, which is true), but it is not the clergy that came up with the rule that one cannot divorce, it was that hippy Jesus:

hippy-Jesus

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”  To reject the Church teaching here is to reject Jesus himself.  Understanding deeper what marriage means helps us to understand why Jesus isn’t being a buzz kill, but rather aiding our sharing of God’s spirit of love.  To be marriage, it must be a total gift of oneself — the highest and greatest offering we can make to another: our complete self.  Our complete self includes our future, “as long as we both shall live”.  The “imposition” of celibacy was not something the Church is doing to him externally, but is a result of an internal promise Mr. Lewis made to his wife.  He asked “How do you expect the man or woman to be celibate?”, and I answer, “I expect you can succeed in not having sex with anyone except your wife because that is precisely what you promised on your wedding day”.

"Don’t say, 'That’s the way I am – it’s my character.' It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! – Be a man!" ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

“Don’t say, ‘That’s the way I am – it’s my character.’ It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! – Be a man!” ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

Is Islam theolgically more violent than Christianity?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/24/us-kenya-attack-idUSBRE98K03V20130924

mall

With great relief I can write that it appears the hostage situation in Kenya is over.  Sadly, at least 62 innocent people have died.  Because of the reports that those reciting the Muslim creed were set free, it seems appropriate to look at whether the differences theologically between Islam and Catholicism lend any more violence to Islam.

By looking at the distribution of violence, we can learn about one possible aspect of it.  The National Counterterrorism Center gave a 2011 report suggesting that extremist Sunni Muslims commit 56% of all terrorist violence and 70% of all terrorist related deaths.  Also in the report is that Muslim countries had the largest amount of attacks involving more than 10 deaths and that attacks on Christians dropped 45% since 2010.

Against this backdrop of information, we can see that the violence is predominately Sunni Muslim against other Muslims.  To help fill in the background, of the two major sects of Islam, Shias are more like Catholics and Sunnis are more like Protestants.  I say this because Shias and Catholics both believe our clergy to be divinely guided in determining the truth.  There is a sense of certainty about the truth that Protestants and Sunnis don’t share.  This works out in such a way that Shia have a stronger hierarchy than Sunni, just as Catholics have a stronger hierarchy than Protestants (of which some denominations have no hierarchy at all).  Also, Shia have an sort of intercession of the saints (limited to 14 “saints”, but still…) whereas Protestants and Sunnis don’t.  There are also many foundational similarities between Sunnis and Shias just as there are many foundational similarities between Protestants and Catholics.

From this perspective, the initial violence between Sunni and Shia can be seen as similar to the initial violence between Catholics and Protestants.  Because it took 1500 years for the Catholic-Protestant split to occur, it was much more bloody than the split between Sunni and Shia, who split almost immediately after Muhammed died.

The counterterrorism report suggests that most violence is within Sunni majority communities, but it doesn’t tell us if the deaths are predominately Sunni or Shia.  There is no substantial history of interdenominational violence among Protestants, so I would guess that what we see with the Sunni’s and Shia’s is similar: A majority Muslim community is beating up on a minority Muslim community just as majority Christian communities would beat up on minority Christian communities after the Protestants split from the Church.  This fits well with the fact Afghanistan and Iraq both have large splits in their populations and face the largest amount of attacks and deaths.

Sunni are light green, Shia are dark green

Majority Sunni are light green areas, Majority Shia are dark green areas.

This is not to suggest these branches of Islam were always at war, rather it is to suggest that Islam is no more inherently violent than Christianity.  Even in the 1920’s there was still Anti-Catholic violence going on in America, which was 400 years after the split in Christianity.  For there to be intermittent violence in 1400 years of split between Sunni and Shia makes sense against this comparison.

Ballot1

Hence, from this very limited comparison, I find no reason to assume Islam is theologically more violent than Christianity, even if current Islamic practice is more violent than current Christian practice.  I am, however, open to be proven wrong.  I’ve looked at parallels between Islam and Christianity and how they have coped with internal heresy to come to this conclusion, and any analogy so broad is bound to have errors.

The PostSecret Confessional

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/us/postsecret-police-search

Used Without Permission From: http://www.postsecret.com/

Used Without Permission From: http://www.postsecret.com/

I enjoy PostSecret quite a bit.  It nicely reveals the deep needs of people.  It’s authenticity of feeling usually provides rich ground for contemplation.  The site in general, and this particular secret, shows the need people have for confession.

Confession is a sacrament that Protestants removed  because of the focus on individualism (brought about by the philosophy of Ockham).  This emphasis worked itself out in a type of dualism that goes back to the Gnostics — the world and physical things are bad, the spiritual is good.  One outcome of this dualism is the destruction of sacred art.  For instance, in all of Scotland all medieval stained glass (excepting four small coats of arms tucked away in a private chapel) was destroyed by Protestant Reformers.  The distrust of physical things works with individualism to remove the physical element of confession.  Confession was reduced to an individual asking pardon from God in total seclusion and even possibly without spoken words.

Web sites like PostSecret show that this extreme individualism isn’t who people are.  We aren’t called to be solitary individuals, but we are called to communion.  We have a longing in our hearts to confess in a physical as well as spiritual form and therefore we need a person to confess to God through.  This urge of communion causes some to confess their sins to others via PostSecret.

Further, confession to others makes sense because we are both body and soul.  Sacraments all have corporal and spiritual aspects because recognize a total person, body as well as soul.  By removing the physical aspect of confession, Protestantism denies our physical body and keeps us from confessing with our whole self.  Any attempt to confess with one’s whole self is, because of our body/soul nature, bound to include a physical component.

Consequently, by attempting to take communion out of the act of confession (by removing the physical element), Protestantism resulted in eradicating wholeheartedness from confession (by allowing only the spirit and not whole person to confess).

God is not a Tyrant

For some reason this: http://carm.org/catholic-do-you-know-you-are-going-to-heaven popped up in my news feed last night, so I’ll treat it as news and tease out the heresy.

The argument is that Catholic Christianity leaves room for doubt about salvation while his brand of Christianity doesn’t. The core of his argument is that God saves unconditionally, which is the second of Calvin’s “Five Points”. This is the shorthand about the heresy, but what does that mean worked out in our lives?

In the Catholic understanding of Christianity, if this man is correct, it means that we don’t have communion with God. The fact God graces us with the honor of cooperating with our salvation shows that we have communion and friendship with God. If it was all upon God alone and regardless of our cooperation, it fails to be communion and becomes dictatorial — God dictates those who will be saved and those who won’t be saved. Christianity in it’s traditional understanding as Catholic sees our faith as all about communion — both with God and neighbor. It is the two great commandments of Love that are the lenses by which we see Jesus’ mission.  To put our salvation solely upon God without any cooperation on our part breaks down that communion between us and Him, and neuters the commandment to love God.  How is it love if it is a forced salvation — if we are saved even when we reject God?

To stoke fear about eternal salvation the author lists some of the necessities of salvation that the Church lays out for us.  Looking at just one, the necessity of Baptism, we can find the Church is far more flexible than he would suppose, and this is because the law is for our good and to help us love God, not because the law is arbitrarily laid down (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts was Luther’s view).  In paragraph 1259 of the Catechism, we read, “For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament”.  The Church teaches that, when possible, it is required to cooperate with God for our salvation.  If that is not possible due to no fault of our own (i.e. Death), God understands that.  Neither God nor the Church (as minister of God’s Sacraments) requires more of us than we can give.  But to actively refuse what God asks of us is to reject God and that rejection of God through non-cooperation with his divine plan is to breakdown communion between God and ourselves.  Heaven is communion with God and neighbor fully expressed, so rejecting communion with God on Earth (through our own fault) is a rejection of Heaven and therefore a rejection of salvation.

How the author of the linked to article can believe we can actively reject friendship with God and Heaven, yet still go to Heaven, is beyond my understanding.  The Catholic view is that God doesn’t force us to do anything.  If we desire communion with God, we receive that in Heaven.  If we reject communion with God we receive that in Hell.  To my limited understanding, I see the author as promoting “God the arbitrary dictator” and not “God the loving friend”.  I, for one, prefer the loving God over the tyrant God.

Huguenots — the Protestants in France

http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2013/09/christians-settling-technical-matters.html

This is an article about how Catholics are people.  It’s no big news that Church is for sinners, not holy people.  This explains the excesses that happened.  But why would Catholics ever support a Crusade against Protestants to begin with?  In France, there were many reasons to suppress the Protestant movement.  The French could look across the channel and see how the Protestants looted the beauty that it took generations of poor people to accumulate.  The beauty meant for all in the churches was stolen by the wealthy Protestants who supported the Protestant Crown.  It’s no coincidence the Grantham’s owned Downton Abbey:

Formerly for nuns and the poor they cared for, now for the wealthy.

French Catholics had a lot of reason for concern that the endowments and donations made by their ancestors would be looted by Protestants.  Indeed, when the Reformation eventually reached France with the French Revolution, this was exactly what happened.

Additional concern was the horror of civil war.  The suppression of the Huguenots kept the terror of the Revolution at bay.  The first four days of the bloody part of the revolution (September 1792) killed 1,400, which is roughly half of those killed in the entire 300 years of the Spanish Inquisition.  A year later, 17,000 death sentences and 10,000 deaths due to maltreatment in prison would prove the suppression of the Huguenauts didn’t go far enough.

The Spanish Inquisition kept such death and disaster at bay with comparatively very little loss.  If only a similar inquisition had taken place in France, perhaps the disaster of the Reign of Terror wouldn’t have occurred.

This is all to say that the history of the church should be judged within its own time and framework.  This suppression of Protestants is clearly not in line with the current calls to Ecumenism, and today would be out of place because our situation and understanding is different.  The Catholic Church ever deepens in her understanding of our faith, which causes us to change in our expression of that never changing deposit of Truth.

For the situation with the Huguenots, that means we need to understand the Church and State were still seen as intimately linked.  This is known as Gallicanism.  The Church in France saw themselves as much more independent from the Vatican, and as one of the three estates of France (along with nobility and lower classes).  This contrasts with Ultramontanism (not to be confused with Montanism), which was the outcome of the revolution.  Ultramontanism sees the Pope as superior to the Civil authority.  Gallicanism is more in line with the Orthodox view, where for a great length of time the Roman Emperor actually chose the leader of the Orthodox Church.  Because the Church in France was Gallican, any heresy attacking the authority of the Church was also an attack upon the State.

This can help us understand the crusade against the Huguenots.  The Huguenots were a similar threat to France in the 1500’s as Al Qaeda was to America after 9/11.  Religious and political fury combined in France as it combined in America.  It therefore becomes easy to see why a Church full of sinners would unleash on that threat, and why the state would fail to intervene.  Was everything the Church did at this time good?  No.  Was it understandable within the situation and depth of understanding about the Catholic faith people had?  Yes.

History of Heresy

I ran into the above visiting Patheos today, and thought a meta-heresy post would be useful and clear up a major misconception in the comic.

The first point would be that in the year 1,000, there was only one Christian Church (excepting some Nestorians and Monophysites, who rejected a few ecumenical councils but of whom large parts returned to communion with Rome after 1,000 AD).  There was an East-West argument brewing, but they were still united.  Nearly all the heresies from early on had died out.  New ones continually being invented but subsequently dying out as well.  So half the chart in the comic should be just a strait line (or at most three lines that show some merging in the other half) with short little offshoots.

Now, for a variety of complex factors around 1050 the Church split into Orthodox and Catholic.  They are quite similar, differing in only a few points of theology.  In fact, the difference is so little Catholics might even receive communion at Orthodox Churches (if the Orthodox priest allows it) and vice versa.  The differences between Russian Orthodox and, say, Greek Orthodox is similar to the difference between the Diocese of Santa Fe and the Diocese of New York — which is to say those differences aren’t theological but managerial.  Catholics focused on the universal (aka catholic) aspect of the Church and Papal authority, while the Orthodoxy focused on what they thought was true (aka orthodox), and that was the root of the split.

For another 500 years or so small little heresies grew, burst, and healed like acne across the face of Christendom.  In the 1500’s Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Henry VIII all created their own churches.  This was the start of Protestantism, which wouldn’t heal like the previous heresies.  In addition, they often drew on the carcasses of long dead heresies.  For instance, the Albigensians (around the 1100’s and 1200’s) had a baptism of the Spirit called “consolamentum”, not that unlike a modern “altar call”. Yet the modern Protestants who use altar calls reject the high praise of suicide that Albigensians also had.  My posts tend to look at these singular aspects of a heresy popping up again in the news, while knowing full well no one holds to all the tenants of the dead heresy.

Later, some of these Protestant groups which formed in the 1500’s split again.  For instance, the English King Henry VIII started Anglicanism so he could divorce and remarry as well redistribute the vast amount of land the Church was endowed with.  Many Christians in the American Colonies were Anglican because they came from England.  After the Revolutionary War, they didn’t want to hold spiritual allegiance to a king they just threw off the political yoke of, so they invented Episcopalianism and had the Bishops (Episcopals) lead the church.  Other divisions, like the difference between high and low Lutherans, have more to do with theology and worship style (which often go hand in hand).  These denominational divisions are a result of an absence of Church authority that had existed for 1,500 years.  In those short 500 years all the division and splitting into countless churches that the comic depicts has occurred.

Amidst all this splintering, Catholics still remain the largest group.  In fact, Catholics are so far in the lead that in America lapsed Catholics turn out to be the third largest Christian group.  The volume of adherents isn’t shown in the comic, and instead tiny little splinter groups are given equal weight with much larger groups.

Ideally, then, the chart in the comic should have at most four lines running into the last quarter of it, not all these splits from what is marked as 1 AD.  All the little splits shown in the comic are really just from Protestantism after the year 1,500.  If this multiplied division of churches is problematic, then Protestantism is where the problem lays, not Christianity.

If the amount of adherents was shown in line weight, Catholics would be a line as thick as all the other lines put together.  Protestants divisions would add up to a third the total, and the Orthodox would be a little over a tenth the total.  About 1/30 of current Christians belong to those who split with Catholics before the year 1,000.

This changes dramatically how the chart in the comic would come across, especially for those who are Catholic.  This look at history was part of my own conversion to the Catholic faith.