Category Archives: Heresy

The Heresy of Arianism – “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.”


-Emporer Constantine burning Arian books, illustration from a compendium of canon law, c. 825. Drawing on vellum. From MS CLXV, Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli, a compendium of canon law produced in northern Italy ca. 825.

“The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.” – St Jerome

-by Hillaire Belloc, Chapter 3, The Great Heresies

“Arianism was the first of the great heresies.

There had been from the foundation of the Church at Pentecost A.D. 29[1] to 33 a mass of heretical movements filling the first three centuries. They had turned, nearly all of them, upon the nature of Christ.

The effect of our Lord’s predication, and Personality, and miracles, but most of all His resurrection, had been to move every one who had any faith at all in the wonder presented, to a conception of divine power running through the whole affair.

Now the central tradition of the Church here, as in every other case of disputed doctrine, was strong and clear from the beginning. Our Lord was undoubtedly a man. He had been born as men are born, He died as men die. He lived as a man and had been known as a man by a group of close companions and a very large number of men and women who had followed Him, and heard Him and witnessed His actions.

But_said the Church_He was also God. God had come down to earth and become Incarnate as a Man. He was not merely a man influenced by the Divinity, nor was He a manifestation of the Divinity under the appearance of a man. He was at the same time fully God and fully Man. On that the central tradition of the Church never wavered. It is taken for granted from the beginning by those who have authority to speak.

But a mystery is necessarily, because it is a mystery, incomprehensible; therefore man, being a reasonable being, is perpetually attempting to rationalize it. So it was with this mystery. One set would say Christ was only a man, though a man endowed with special powers.  Another set, at the opposite extreme, would say He was a manifestation of  the Divine. His human nature was a thing of illusion. They played the changes between those two extremes indefinitely.

Well, the Arian heresy was, as it were, the summing up and conclusion of all these movements on the unorthodox side_that is, of all those movements which did not accept the full mystery of two natures.

Since it is very difficult to rationalize the union of the Infinite with the finite, since there is an apparent contradiction between the two terms, this final form into which the confusion of heresies settled down was a declaration that our Lord was as much of the Divine Essence as it was possible for a creature to be, but that He was none the less a creature. He was not the Infinite and Omnipotent God who must be of His nature one and indivisible, and could not (so they said) be at the same time a limited human moving and having his being in the temporal sphere.

Arianism (I will later describe the origin of the name) was willing to grant our Lord every kind of honour and majesty short of the full nature of the Godhead. He was created (or, if people did not like the word “created” then “he came forth”) from the Godhead before all other effects thereof. Through Him the world was created. He was granted one might (say paradoxically) all the divine attributes_except divinity.

Essentially this movement sprang from exactly the same source as any other rationalistic movement from the beginning to our own time. It sprang from the desire to visualize clearly and simply something which is beyond the grasp of human vision and comprehension. Therefore, although it began by giving to our Lord every possible honor and glory short of the actual Godhead, it would inevitably have led in the long run into mere unitarianism and the treating of our Lord at last as a prophet and, however exalted, no more than a prophet.

As all heresies necessarily breathe the air of the time in which they arise, and are necessarily a reflection of the philosophy of whatever non-Catholic ideas are prevalent at that moment they arise, Arianism spoke in the terms of its day. It did not begin as a similar movement would begin today by making our Lord a mere man and nothing else. Still less did it deny the supernatural as a whole. The time in which it arose (the years round about A.D. 300) was a time in which all society took the supernatural for granted. But it spoke of our Lord as a Supreme Agent of God_a Demiurge_and regarded him as the first and greatest of those emanations of the Central Godhead through which emanations the fashionable philosophy of the day got over the difficulty of reconciling the Infinite and simple Creator with a complex and finite universe.

So much for the doctrine and for what its rationalistic tendencies would have ended in had it conquered. It would have rendered the new religion something like Mohammedanism or perhaps, seeing the nature of Greek and Roman society, something like an Oriental Calvinism.

At any rate, what I have just set down was the state of this doctrine so long as it flourished: a denial of Our Lord’s full Godhead combined with an admission of all His other attributes.

Now when we are talking of the older dead heresies we have to consider the spiritual and therefore social effects of them much more than their mere doctrinal error, although that doctrinal error was the ultimate cause of all their spiritual and social effects. We have to do this because, when a heresy has been long dead, its savour is forgotten. The particular tone and unmistakable impress which it stamped upon society being no longer experienced is non-existent for us, and it had to be resurrected, as it were, by anyone who wants to talk true history. It would be impossible, short of an explanation of this kind, to make a Catholic from Bearn today, a peasant from the neighborhood of Lourdes where Calvinism, once prevalent there, is now dead, understand the savor and individual character of Calvinism as it still survives in Scotland and in sections of the United States. But we must try to realize this now forgotten Arian atmosphere, because, until we understand its spiritual and therefore social savor, we cannot be said to know it really at all.

Further, one must understand this savour or intimate personal character of the movement, and its individual effect on society, in order to understand its importance. There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from the practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social effect. Describe to a Chinaman today the doctrinal quarrel of the Reformation, tell him that it was above all a denial of the doctrine of the visible church, and a denial of the special authority of its officers. That would be true. He would so far understand what happened at this Reformation as he might understand a mathematical statement. But would that make him understand the French Huguenots of today, the Prussian manner in war and politics, the nature of England and her past since Puritanism arose in this country? Would it make him understand the Orange Lodges or the moral and political systems of, say, Mr. H. G. Wells or Mr. Bernard Shaw? Of course it would not! To give a man the history of tobacco, to give him the chemical formula (if there be such a thing) for nicotine, is not to make him understand what is meant by the smell of tobacco and the effects of smoking it. So it is with Arianism. Merely to say that Arianism was what it was doctrinally is to enunciate a formula, but not to give the thing itself.

When Arianism arose it came upon a society which was already, and had long been, the one Universal Polity of which all civilized men were citizens. There were no separate nations. The Roman empire was one state from the Euphrates to the Atlantic and from the Sahara to the Scottish Highlands. It was ruled in monarchic fashion by the Commander-in-Chief, or Commanders-in-Chief, of the armies. The title for the Commander-in-Chief was “Imperator” whence we get our word Emperor and therefore we talk of that State as the “Roman Empire.” What the emperor or associated emperors (there had been two of them according to the latest scheme, each with a coadjutor, making four, but these soon coalesced into one supreme head and unique emperor) declared themselves to be, that was the attitude of the empire officially as a whole.

The emperors and therefore the whole official scheme dependent on them had been anti-Christian during the growth of the Catholic Church in the midst of Roman and Greek pagan society. For nearly 300 years they and the official scheme of that society had regarded the increasingly powerful Catholic Church as an alien and very dangerous menace to the traditions and therefore to the strength of the old Greek and Roman pagan world. The Church was, as it were, a state within a state, possessing her own supreme officials, the bishops, and her own organization, which was of a highly developed and powerful kind. She was ubiquitous. She stood in strong contrast with the old world into which she had thrust herself. What would
be the life of the one would be the death of the other. The old world defended itself through the action of the last pagan emperors. They launched many persecutions against the Church, ending in one final and very drastic persecution which failed.

The Catholic cause was at first supported by, and at last openly joined by, a man who conquered all other rivals and established himself as supreme monarch over the whole State: the Emperor Constantine the Great ruling from Constantinople, the city which he had founded and called “New Rome.” After this the central office of the Empire was Christian. By the critical date A.D. 325, not quite three centuries after Pentecost, the Catholic Church had become the official, or at any rate the Palace, Religion of the Empire, and so remained (with one very brief exceptional interval) as long as the empire stood.[2]

But it must not be imagined that the majority of men as yet adhered to the Christian religion, even in the Greek speaking East. They certainly were not of that religion by anything like a majority in the Latin speaking West.

As in all great changes throughout history the parties at issue were minorities inspired with different degrees of enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm. These minorities had various motives and were struggling each to impose its mental attitude upon the wavering and undecided mass. Of these minorities the Christians were the largest and (what was more important) the most eager, the most convinced, and the only fully and strictly organized.

The conversion of the Emperor brought over to them large and increasing numbers of the undecided majority. These, perhaps, for the greater part hardly understood the new thing to which they were rallying, and certainly for the most part were not attached to it. But it had finally won politically and that was enough for them. Many regretted the old gods, but thought it not worth while to risk anything in their defense. Very many more cared nothing for what was left of the old gods and not much more for the new Christian fashions.

Meanwhile there was a strong minority remaining of highly intelligent and determined pagans. They had on their side not only the traditions of a wealthy governing class but they had also the great bulk of the best writers and, of course, they also had to strengthen them the recent memories of their long dominance over society.

There was yet another element of that world, separate from all the rest, and one which it is extremely important for us to understand: the Army. Why it is so important for us to understand the position of the Army will be described in a moment.

When the power of Arianism was manifested in those first years of the official Christian Empire and its universal government throughout the Graeco-Roman world, Arianism became the nucleus or centre of many forces which would be, of themselves, indifferent to its doctrine. It became the rallying point for many strongly surviving traditions from the older world: traditions not religious, but intellectual, social, moral, literary and all the rest of it.

We might put it vividly enough in modern slang by saying that Arianism, thus vigorously present in the new great discussions within the body of the Christian Church when first that Church achieved official support and became the official religion of the Empire, attracted all the “high-brows,” at least half the snobs and nearly all the sincere idealistic tories_the “die-hards”_whether nominally Christian or not. It attracted, as we know, great numbers of those who <were> definitely Christian. But it was also the rallying point of these non-Christian forces which were of such great importance in the society of the day.

A great number of the old noble families were reluctant to accept the social revolution implied by the triumph of the Christian Church. They naturally sided with a movement which they instinctively felt to be spiritually opposed to the life and survival of that Church and which carried with it an atmosphere of social superiority over the populace. The Church relied upon and was supported at the end by the masses. Men of old family tradition and wealth found the Arian more sympathetic than the ordinary Catholic and a better ally for gentlemen.

Many intellectuals were in the same position. These had not pride of family and old social traditions from the past, but they had pride of culture. They remembered with regret the former prestige of the pagan philosophers. They thought that this great revolution from paganism to Catholicism would destroy the old cultural traditions and their own cultural position.

The mere snobs, who are always a vast body in any society_that is, the people who have no opinions of their own but who follow what they believe to be the honorific thing of the moment_would be divided. Perhaps the majority of them would follow the official court movement and attach themselves openly to the new religion. But there would always be a certain number who would think it more “chic,” more “the thing” to profess sympathy with the old pagan traditions, the great old pagan families, the long inherited and venerable pagan culture and literature and all the rest of it. All these reinforced the Arian movement because it was destructive of Catholicism.

Arianism had yet another ally and the nature of that alliance is so subtle that it requires very careful examination. It had for ally the tendency of government in an absolute monarchy to be half afraid of emotions present in the minds of the people and especially in the poorer people: emotions which if they spread and became enthusiastic and captured the mass of the people might become too strong to be ruled and would have to be bowed to. There is here a difficult paradox but one important to be recognized.

Absolute government, especially in the hands of one man, would seem, on the surface, to be opposed to popular government. The two sound contradictory to those who have not seen absolute monarchy at work. To those who have, it is just the other way. Absolute government is the support of the masses against the power of wealth in the hands of a few, or the power of armies in the hands of a few. Therefore one might imagine that the imperial power of Constantinople would have had sympathy with the popular Catholic masses rather than with the intellectuals and the rest who followed Arianism. But we must remember that while absolute government has for its very cause of existence the defence of the masses against the
powerful few, yet it likes to rule. It does not like to feel that there is in the State a rival to its own power. It does not like to feel that great decisions may be imposed by organizations other than its own official organization. That is why even the most Christian emperors and their officials always had at the back of their minds, during the first lifetime of the Arian movement, a potential sympathy with Arianism, and that is why this potential sympathy in some cases appears as actual sympathy and as a public declaration of Arianism on their part.

There was yet one more ally to Arianism through which it almost triumphed the Army.

In order to understand how powerful such an ally was we must appreciate what the Roman Army meant in those days and of what it was composed.

The Army was, of course, in mere numbers, only a fraction of society. We are not certain what those numbers were; at the most they may have come to half a million_they were probably a good deal less. But to judge by numbers in the matter would be ridiculous. The Army was normally half, or more than half, the State. The Army was the true cement, to use one metaphor, the framework to use another metaphor, the binding force and the support and the very material self of the Roman Empire in that fourth century; it had been so for centuries before and was to remain so for further generations.

It is absolutely essential to understand this point, for it explains three-fourths of what happened, not only in the case of the Arian heresy but of everything else between the days of Marius (under whose administration the Roman Army first became professional), and the Mohammedan attack upon Europe, that is, from more than a century before the Christian era to the early seventh century. The social and political position of the Army explains all those seven hundred years and more.

The Roman Empire was a military state. It was not a civilian state. Promotion to power was through the Army. The conception of glory and success, the attainment of wealth in many cases, in nearly all cases the attainment of political power, depended on the Army in those days, just as it depends upon money-lending, speculation, caucuses, manipulation of votes, bosses and newspapers nowadays.

The Army had originally consisted of Roman citizens, all of whom were Italians. Then as the power of the Roman State spread it took in auxiliary troops, people following local chieftains, and affiliated to the Roman military system and even recruited its regular ranks from up and down the Empire in every province. There were many Gauls that is Frenchmen in the Army, many Spaniards, and so forth, before the first one hundred years of the Empire had run out. In the next two hundred years that is, in the two hundred years A.D. 100-300, leading up to the Arian heresy_the Army had become more and more recruited from what we call “Barbarians,” a term which meant not savages but people outside the strict limits of the Roman Empire. They were easier to discipline, they were much cheaper to hire than citizens were. They were also less used to the arts and comforts of civilization than the citizens within the frontiers. Great numbers of them were German, but there were many Slavs and a good many Moors and Arabs and Saracens and not a few Mongols even, drifting in from the East.

This great body of the Roman Army was strictly bound together by its discipline, but still more by its professional pride. It was a long service army. A man belonged to it from his adolescence to his middle age. No one else except the Army had any physical power. There could be no question of resisting it by force, and it was in a sense the government. Its commander-in-chief was the absolute monarch of the whole state. Now the army went solidly Arian.

That is the capital mark of the whole affair. But for the Army, Arianism would never have meant what it did. With the Army_and the Army wholeheartedly on its side_Arianism all but triumphed and managed to survive even when it represented a little more than the troops and their chief officers.

It was true that a certain number of German troops from outside the Empire had been converted by Arian missionaries at a moment when high society was Arian. But that was not the main reason that the Army as a whole went Arian. The Army went Arian because it felt Arianism to be the distinctive thing which made it superior to the civilian masses, just as Arianism was a distinctive thing which made the intellectual feel superior to the popular masses. The soldiers, whether of barbaric or civilian recruitment, felt sympathy with Arianism for the same reason that the old pagan families felt sympathy with Arianism. The army then, and especially the Army chiefs, backed the new heresy for all they were worth, and it became a sort of test of whether you were somebody_a soldier as against the despised civilians_or no. One might say that there had arisen a feud between the Army chiefs on the one hand and the Catholic bishops on the other. Certainly there was a division_an official severence between the Catholic populace in towns, the Catholic peasantry in the country and the almost universally Arian soldier; and the enormous effect of this junction between the new heresy and the Army we shall see at work in all that follows.

Now that we have seen what the spirit of Arianism was and what forces were in its favor, let us see how it got its name.

The movement for denying the full Godhead of Christ and making Him a creature took its title from one Areios (in the Latin form Arius), a Greek-speaking African cleric rather older than Constantine, and already famous as a religious force some years before Constantine’s victories and first imperial power.

Remember that Arius was only a climax to a long movement. What was the cause of his success? Two things combined. First, the momentum of all that came before him. Second, the sudden release of the Church by Constantine. To this should be added undoubtedly something in Arius’ own personality. Men of this kind who become leaders do so because they have some personal momentum from their own past impelling them. They would not so become unless there were something in themselves.

I think we may take it that Arius had the effect he had through a convergence of forces. There was a great deal of ambition in him, such as you will find in all heresiarchs. There was a strong element of rationalism. There was also in him enthusiasm for what he believed to be the truth.

His theory was certainly not his own original discovery, but he made it his own; he identified it with his name. Further, he was moved to a dogged resistance against people whom he thought to be persecuting him. He suffered from much vanity, as do nearly all reformers. On the top of all this a rather thin simplicity, “commonsense,” which at once appeals to multitudes. But he would never have had his success but for something eloquent about him and a driving power.

He was already a man of position, probably from the Cyrenaica (now an Italian colony in North Africa, east of Tripoli), though he was talked of as being Alexandrian, because it was in Alexandria that he lived. He had been a disciple of the greatest critic of his time, the martyr Lucian of Antioch. In the year 318 he was presiding over the Church of Bucalis in Alexandria, and enjoyed the high favor of the Bishop of the City, Alexander.

Arius went over from Egypt to Caesarea in Palestine, spreading his already well-known set of rationalizing, Unitarian ideas with zeal. Some of the eastern Bishops began to agree with him. It is true that the two main Syrian Bishoprics, Antioch and Jerusalem, stood out; but apparently most of the Syrian hierarchy inclined to listen to Arius.

When Constantine became the master of the whole Empire in 325, Arius appealed to the new master of the world. The great Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, had excommunicated him, but reluctantly. The old heathen Emperor Licinius had protected the new movement.

A battle of vast importance was joined. Men did not know of what importance it was, violently though their emotions were excited. Had this movement for rejecting the full divinity of Our Lord gained the victory, all our civilization would have been other than what it has been from that day to this. We all know what happens when an attempt to simplify and rationalize the mysteries of the Faith succeeds in any society. We have before us now the ending experiment of the Reformation, and the aged but still very vigorous Mohammedan heresy, which may perhaps appear with renewed vigor in the future. Such rationalistic efforts against the creed produce a gradual social degradation following on the loss of that direct link between human nature and God which is provided by the Incarnation. Human dignity is lessened. The authority of Our Lord is weakened. He appears more and more as a man_perhaps a myth. The substance of Christian life is diluted. It wanes. What began as Unitarianism ends as Paganism.

To settle the quarrel by which all Christian society was divided, a council was ordered by the Emperor to meet, in A.D. 325, at the town of Nicaea, fifty miles from the capital, on the Asiatic side of the Straits. The Bishops were summoned to convene there from the whole Empire, even from districts outside the Empire where Christian missionaries had planted the Faith. The great bulk of those who came were from the Eastern Empire, but the West was represented, and, what was of the first importance, delegates arrived from the Primatial See of Rome; but for their adherence the decrees of the Council would not have held. As it was their presence gave full validity to these Decrees. The reaction against the innovation of Arius was so strong that at this Council of Nicaea he was overwhelmed.

In that first great defeat, when the strong vital tradition of Catholicism had asserted itself and Arius was condemned, the creed which his followers had drawn up was trampled under-foot as a blasphemy, but thespirit behind that creed and behind that revolt was to re-arise.

It re-arose at once, and it can be said that Arianism was actually strengthened by its first superficial defeat. This paradox was due to a cause you will find at work in many forms of conflict. The defeated adversary learns from his first rebuff the character of the thing he has attacked; he discovers its weak points; he learns how his opponent may be confused and into what compromises that opponent may be led. He is therefore better prepared after his check than he was at the first onslaught. So it was with Arianism.

In order to understand the situation we must appreciate the point that Arianism, founded like all heresies on an error in doctrine_that is on something which can be expressed in a dead formula of mere words soon began to live, like all heresies at their beginning, with a vigorous new life and character and savor of its own. The quarrel which filled the third century from 325 onwards for a lifetime was not after its first years a quarrel between opposing forms of words the difference between which may appear slight; it became very early in the struggle a quarrel between opposing spirits and characters: a quarrel between two opposing personalities, such as human personalities are: on the one side the Catholic temper and tradition, on the other a soured, proud temper, which would have destroyed the Faith.

Arianism learned from its first heavy defeat at Nicaea to compromise on forms, on the wording of doctrine, so that it might preserve, and spread with less opposition, its heretical spirit. The first conflict had turned on the use of a Greek word which means “of the same substance with.” The Catholics, affirming the full Godhead of Our Lord, insisted on the use of this word, which implied that the Son was of the same Divine substance as the Father; that He was of the same Being: i.e., Godship. It was thought sufficient to present this word as a test. The Arians_it was thought_would always refuse to accept the word and could thus be distinguished from the Orthodox and rejected.

But many Arians were prepared to compromise by accepting the mere word and denying the spirit in which it should be read. They were willing to admit that Christ was of the Divine essence, but not fully God; not uncreated. When the Arians began this new policy of verbal compromise, the

Emperor Constantine and his successors regarded that policy as an honest opportunity for reconciliation and reunion. The refusal of the Catholics to be deceived became, in the eyes of those who thought thus, mere obstinacy; and in the eyes of the Emperor, factious rebellion and inexcusable disobedience. “Here are you people, who call yourself the only real Catholics, prolonging and needlessly embittering a mere faction-fight. Because you have the popular names behind you, you feel yourselves the masters of your fellows. Such arrogance is intolerable.

“The other side have accepted your main point; why cannot you now settle the quarrel and come together again? By holding out you split society into two camps; you disturb the peace of the Empire, and are as criminal as you are fanatical.”

That is what the official world tended to put forward and honestly believed.

The Catholics answered: “The heretics have not accepted our main point. They have subscribed to an Orthodox phrase, but they interpret that phrase in an heretical fashion. They will repeat that Our Lord is of Divine nature, but not that he is fully God, for they still say He was created. Therefore we will not allow them to enter our communion. To do so would be to endanger the vital principle by which the Church exists, the principle of the Incarnation, and the Church is essential to the Empire and Mankind.”

At this point, there entered the battle that personal force which ultimately won the victory for Catholicism: St. Athanasius. It was the tenacity and single aim of St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, the great Metropolitan See of Egypt, which decided the issue. He enjoyed a position of advantage, for Alexandria was the second most important town in the Eastern Empire and, as a Bishopric, one of the first four in the world. He further enjoyed popular backing, which never failed him, and which made his enemies hesitate to take extreme measures against him. But all this would not have sufficed had not the man himself been what he was.

At the time when he sat at the Council of Nicaea in 325 he was still a young man_probably not quite thirty; and he only sat there as Deacon, although already his strength and eloquence were remarkable. He lived to be seventy-six or seventy-seven years of age, dying in A.D. 373, and during nearly the whole of that long life he maintained with inflexible energy the full Catholic doctrine of the Trinity.

When the first compromise of Arianism was suggested, Athanasius was already Archbishop of Alexandria. Constantine ordered him to re-admit Arius to Communion. He refused.

It was a step most perilous because all men admitted the full power of the Monarch over Life and Death, and regarded rebellion as the worst of crimes. Athanasius was also felt to be outrageous and extravagant, because opinion in the official world, among men of social influence, and throughout the Army, upon which everything then reposed, was strong that the compromise ought to be accepted. Athanasius was exiled to Gaul, but Athanasius in exile was even more formidable than Athanasius at Alexandria. His presence in the West had the effect of reinforcing the strong Catholic feeling of all that part of the Empire.

He was recalled. The sons of Constantine, who succeeded one after the other to the Empire, vacillated between the policy of securing popular support which was Catholic_and of securing the support of the Army which was Arian. Most of all did the Court lean towards Arianism because it disliked the growing power of the organized Catholic Clergy, rival to the lay power of the State. The last and longest lived of Constantine’s sons and successors, Constantius, became very definitely Arian. Athanasius was exiled over and over again but the Cause of which he was champion was growing in strength.

When Constantius died in 361, he was succeeded by a nephew of Constantine’s, Julian the Apostate. This Emperor went over to the large surviving Pagan body and came near to reestablishing Paganism; for the power of an individual Emperor was in that day overwhelming. But he was killed in battle against the Persians and his successor, Jovian, was definitely Catholic.

However, the see-saw still went on. In 367, St. Athanasius, being then an old man of at least seventy years of age, the Emperor Valens exiled him for the fifth time. Finding that the Catholic forces were now too strong he later recalled him. By this time Athanasius had won his battle. He died as the greatest man of the Roman world. Of such value are sincerity and tenacity, combined with genius.

But the Army remained Arian, and what we have to follow in the next generations is the lingering death of Arianism in the Latin-speaking Western part of the Empire; lingering because it was supported by the Chief Generals in command of the Western districts, but doomed because the people as a whole had abandoned it. How it thus died out I shall now describe.

It is often said that all heresies die. This may be true in the very long run but it is not necessarily true within any given period of time. It is not even true that the vital principle of a heresy necessarily loses strength with time. The fate of the various heresies has been most various; and the greatest of them, Mohammedanism, is not only still vigorous but is more vigorous over the districts which it originally occupied than is its Christian rival, and much more vigorous and much more co-extensive with its own society than is the Catholic Church with our Western civilization which is the product of Catholicism.

Arianism, however, was one of those heresies which did die. The same fate has overtaken Calvinism in our own day. This does not mean that the general moral effect or atmosphere of the heresy disappears from among men, but that its creative doctrines are no longer believed in, so that its vitality is lost and must ultimately disappear.

Geneva today, for instance, is morally a Calvinist city, although it has a Catholic minority sometimes very nearly equal to half its total numbers, sometimes actually becoming (I believe) a slight majority. But there is not one man of a hundred in Geneva today who accepts Calvin’s highly defined theology. The doctrine is dead; its effects on society
survive.

Arianism died in two fashions, corresponding to the two halves into which the Roman Empire_which was in those days, for its citizens, the whole civilized world fell.

The Eastern half had Greek for its official language and it was governed from Constantinople, which was also called Byzantium.

It included Egypt, North Africa, as far as Cyrene, the East Coast of the Adriatic, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria as far (roughly) as the Euphrates. It was in this part of the Empire that Arianism had sprung up and proved so powerful that between A.D. 300 and A.D. 400 it very nearly conquered.

The Imperial Court had wavered between Arianism and Catholicism with one momentary lapse back into paganism. But before the century was over, that is well before the year A.D. 400, the Court was definitely Catholic and seemed certain to remain so. As I explained above, although the Emperor and his surrounding officials (which I have called “the Court”) were theoretically all powerful (for the constitution was an absolute monarchy and men could not think in any other terms in those days), yet, at least as powerful, and less subject to change, was the army on which the whole of that society reposed. And the army meant the generals; the generals of the army were for the most part, and permanently, Arian.

When the central power, the Emperor and his officials, had becomevpermanently Catholic the spirit of the military was still in the mainvArian, and that is why the underlying ideas of Arianism that is, the doubt whether Our Lord was or could be really Godvsurvived after formal Arianism had ceased to be preached and accepted among the populace.

On this account, because the spirit which had underlain Arianism (the doubt on the full divinity of Christ) went on, there arose a number of what may be called “derivatives” from Arianism; or “secondary forms” of Arianism.

Men continued to suggest that there was only one nature in Christ, the end of which suggestion would necessarily have been a popular idea that Christ was only a man. When that failed to capture the official machine, though it continued to affect millions of people, there was another suggestion made that there was only one Will in Christ, not a human will and a divine will, but a single will.

Before these there had been a revival of the old idea, previous to Arianism and upheld by early heretics in Syria, that the divinity only came into Our Lord during His lifetime. He was born no more than a man, and Our Lady was the mother of no more than a man_and so on. In all their various forms and under all their technical names (Monophysites, Monothelites, Nestorians, the names of the principal three_and there were any number of others) these movements throughout the Eastern or Greek half of the Empire were efforts at escaping from, or rationalizing, the full mystery of the Incarnation; and their survival depended on the jealousy felt by the army for the civilian society round it, and on the lingering remains of pagan hostility to the Christian mysteries as a whole. Of course they depended also on the eternal human tendency to rationalize and to reject what is beyond the reach of reason.

But there was another factor in the survival of the secondary effects of Arianism in the East. It was the factor which is called today in European politics “Particularism,” that is, the tendency of a part of the state to separate itself from the rest and to live its own life. When this feeling becomes so strong that men are willing to suffer and die for it, it takes the form of a Nationalist revolution. An example of such was the feeling of the southern Slavs against the Austrian Empire which feeling gave rise to the Great War. Now this discontent of provinces and districts with the Central Power by which they had been governed increased as time went on in the Eastern Empire; and a convenient way of expressing it was to favor any kind of criticism against the official religion of the Empire. That is why great bodies in the East (and notably a large proportion of the people in the Egyptian province) favored the Monophysite heresy. It expressed their dissatisfaction with the despotic rule of Constantinople and with the taxes imposed upon them and with the promotion given to those near the court at the expense of the provincials and all the rest of their grievances.

Thus the various derivatives from Arianism survived in the Greek Eastern half of the Empire, although the official world had long gone back to Catholicism. This also explains why you find all over the East today large numbers of schismatic Christians, mainly Monophysite, sometimes Nestorian, sometimes of lesser communities, whom not all these centuries of Mohammedan oppression have been able to unite with the main Christian body.

What put an end, not to these sects, for they still exist, but to their importance, was the sudden rise of that enormous force, antagonistic to the whole Greek world_Islam: the new Mohammedan heresy out of the desert, which rapidly became a counter-religion; the implacable enemy of all the older Christian bodies. The death of Arianism in the East was the swamping of the mass of the Christian Eastern Empire by Arabian conquerors. In the face of that disaster the Christians who remained independent reacted towards orthodoxy as their one chance for survival, and that is how even the secondary effects of Arianism died out in the countries free from subjugation to the Mohammedans in the East.

In the West the fortunes of Arianism are quite different. In the West Arianism died altogether. It ceased to be. It left no derivatives tocarry on a lingering life.

The story of this death of Arianism in the West is commonly misunderstood because most of our history has been written hitherto on a misconception of what European Christian society was like in Western Europe during the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, that is, between the time when Constantine left Rome and set up the new capital of the Empire, Byzantium, and the date when, in the early seventh century (from A.D. 633 onwards), the Mohammedan invasion burst upon the world.

What we are commonly told is that the Western Empire was overrun by savage tribes called “Goths” and “Visigoths” and “Vandals” and “Suevi” and “Franks” who “conquered” the Western Roman Empire that is, Britain and Gaul and the civilized part of Germany on the Rhine and the upper Danube, Italy, North Africa, and Spain.

The official language of all this part was the Latin language. The Mass was said in Latin, whereas in most of the Eastern Empire it was said in Greek. The laws were in Latin, and all the acts of administration were in Latin. There was no barbarian conquest, but there was a continuation of what had been going on for centuries, an infiltration of people from outside the Empire into the Empire because within the Empire they could get the advantages of civilization. There was also the fact that the army on which everything depended was at last almost entirely recruited from barbarians. As society gradually got old and it was found difficult to administer distant places, to gather the taxes from far away into the central treasury, or to impose an edict over remote regions, the government of those regions tended to be taken over more and more by the leading officers of the barbarian tribes, who were now Roman soldiers; that is, their chieftains and leaders.

In this way were formed local governments in France and Spain and even Italy itself which, while they still felt themselves to be a part of the Empire, were practically independent.

For instance, when it became difficult to govern Italy from so far off as Constantinople, the Emperor sent a general to govern in his place and when this general became too strong he sent another general to supersede him. This second general (Theodoric) was also, like all the others, a barbarian chief by birth, though he was the son of one who had been taken into the Roman service and had himself been brought up at the Court of the Emperor.

This second general became in his turn practically independent.

The same thing happened in southern France and in Spain. The local generals took over power. They were barbarian chiefs who handed over this power, that is, the nominating to official posts and the collecting of taxes, to their descendants.

Then there was the case of North Africa_what we call today Morocco, Algiers and Tunis. Here the quarrelling factions, all of which were disconnected with direct government from Byzantium, called in a group of Slav soldiers who had migrated into the Roman Empire and had been taken over as a military force. They were called the Vandals; and they took over the government of the province which worked from Carthage.

Now all these local governments of the West (the Frankish general and his group of soldiers in northern France, the Visi-gothic one in southern France and Spain, the Burgundian one in southeastern France, the other Gothic one in Italy, the Vandal one in North Africa) were at issue with the official government of the Empire on the point of religion. The Frankish one in north-eastern France and what we call today, Belgium, was still pagan. All the others were Arian.

I have explained above what this meant. It was not so much a doctrinal feeling as a social one. The Gothic general and the Vandal general who were chiefs over their own soldiers felt it was grander to be Arians than to be Catholics like the mass of the populace. They were the army; and the army was too grand to accept the general popular religion. It was a feeling very much like that which you may see surviving in Ireland still, in places, and which was universal there until quite lately: a feeling that “ascendency” went properly with anti-Catholicism.

Since there is no stronger force in politics than this force of social superiority, it took a very long time for the little local courts to drop their Arianism. I call them little because, although they collected taxes from very wide areas, it was merely as administrators. The actual numbers were small compared with the mass of the Catholic population.

While the governors and their courts in Italy and Spain and Gaul and Africa still clung with pride to their ancient Arian name and character, two things, one sudden, the other gradual, militated against both their local power and their Arianism.

The first, sudden, thing was the fact that the general of the Franks who had ruled in Belgium conquered with his very small force another local general in northern France_a man who governed a district lying to the west of him. Both armies were absurdly small, each of about 4,000 men; and it is a very good example of what the times were like that the beaten army, after the battle, at once joined the victors. It also shows what times were like that it seemed perfectly natural for a Roman general commanding no more than 4,000 men to begin with, and only 8,000 men after the first success, to take over the administration_taxes, courts of law and all the imperial forms_over a very wide district. He took over the great mass of northern France just as his colleagues, with similar forces, took over official action in Spain and Italy and elsewhere.

Now it so happened that this Frankish general (whose real name we hardly know, because it has come down to us in various distorted forms, but best known as “Clovis”) was a pagan: something exceptional and even scandalous in the military forces of the day when nearly all important people had become Christians.

But this scandal proved a blessing in disguise to the Church, for the man Clovis being a pagan and never having been Arian, it was possible to convert him directly to Catholicism, the popular religion; and when he had accepted Catholicism he at once had behind him the whole force of the millions of citizens and the organized priesthood and Bishoprics of the Church. He was the one popular general; all the others were at issue with their subjects. He found it easy to levy great bodies of armed men because he had popular feeling with them. He took over the government of the Arian generals in the South, easily defeating them, and his levies became the biggest of the military forces in the Western Latin-speaking Empire. He was not strong enough to take over Italy and Spain, still less Africa, but he shifted the centre of gravity away from the decaying Arian tradition of the Roman army now no more than small dwindling groups.

So much for the sudden blow which was struck against Arianism in the West. The gradual process which hastened the decay of Arianism was of a different kind. With every year that passed it was becoming, in the decay of society, more and more difficult to collect taxes, to keep up a revenue, and therefore to repair roads and harbors and public buildings and keep order and do all the rest of public work.

With this financial decay of government and the social disintegration accompanying it the little groups who were nominally the local governments, lost their prestige. In, say, the year 450 it was a fine thing to be an Arian in Paris or Toledo or Carthage or Arles or Toulouse or Ravenna; but 100 years later, by say, 550, the social prestige of Arianism had gone. It paid everybody who wanted to “get on” to be a Catholic; and the dwindling little official Arian groups were despised even when they acted savagely in their disappointment, as they did in Africa. They lost ground.

The consequence was that after a certain delay all the Arian governments in the West either became Catholic (as in the case of Spain) or, as happened in much of Italy and the whole of North Africa, they were taken over again by the direct rule of the Roman Empire from Byzantium.

This last experiment did not continue long. There was another body of barbarian soldiers, still Arian, who came in from the north-eastern provinces and took over the government in northern and central Italy and shortly afterwards the Mohammedan invasion swept over North Africa and ultimately over Spain and even penetrated into Gaul. Direct Roman administration, so far from surviving Western Europe, died out. Its last effective existence in the South was swamped by Islam. But long before this happened Arianism in the West was dead.

This is the fashion in which the first of the great heresies which threatened at one moment to undermine and destroy the whole of Catholic society disappeared. The process had taken almost 300 years and it is interesting to note that so far as doctrines are concerned, about that space of time, or a little more, sufficed to take the substance out of the various main heresies of the Protestant Reformers.

They, too, had almost triumphed in the middle of the sixteenth century, when Calvin, their chief figure, all but upset the French monarchy. They also had wholly lost their vitality by the middle of the nineteenth, 300 years.

ENDNOTES

1. For the discussion on the date of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Pentecost I must refer my readers to Dr. Arendzen’s clear and learned work, “Men and Manners in the time of Christ” (Sheed and Ward). From the evidence, which has been fully examined, it is clear that the date is not earlier than 29 A.D., and may possibly be a few years later, while the most widely accepted traditional date is 33 A. D.

2. It is not easy to establish the exact point after which the Official Religion of the Roman State, or even of the Empire, is Christian. Constantine’s victory at the Milvian bridge was in the autumn of 312. The Edict of Milan, issued by himself and Licinius, which gave toleration to the practice of the Christian religion throughout the Empire, was issued early in the following year, 313. When Constantine had become the sole Emperor he soon lived as a Catechumen of the Christian Church, yet he remained head of the old Pagan religious organization as Pontifex Maximus. He was not baptized until the eve of his death, in 337. And though he summoned and presided over gatherings of Christian Bishops, they were still but a separate body in a society mainly Pagan. Constantine’s own son and successor had sympathies with the old dying Paganism. The Senate did not change for a lifetime. For active official destruction of the lingering Pagan worship men had to wait till Theodosius at the very end of the century. The whole affair covers one long human life: over eighty years.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Risks & facts of gender dysphoria

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire

School administrators and board members terrified of expensive lawsuits are capitulating to the demands of “gender”-confused adolescents. Parents are capitulating to the disordered thinking of their children, terrified that if they don’t, their children will commit suicide. Their fears are stoked by a deeply flawed study that is grossly misunderstood.

1.) No one knows what causes gender dysphoria. While some subscribe to “brain sex” theories of causation (for which there is no proof) or believe that intrauterine hormone exposure causes the development of gender dysphoria, there are other possibilities, including pubertal changes (e.g., early breast development in girls can lead to unwanted male attention that results in girls feeling uncomfortable with their female bodies); autism; sexual abuse; childhood trauma ; family dysfunction; and excessively rigid gender roles. Moreover, even a discovery that biochemical factors influence the development of feelings about gender would not mean that chemical and surgical treatments are appropriate responses to gender dysphoria.

2.) Gender dysphoria can diminish, resolve, or be treated in less drastic ways than the “trans”-affirming protocol that involves chemical and surgical interventions for a non-medical problem (i.e., puberty is not a medical problem). The best research to date suggests that upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children will “desist,” that is, their gender dysphoria will resolve and they will accept their bodies, unless their rejection of their natal sex is affirmed by their environment.

3.) There’s been an explosion in the numbers of children and teens identifying as “transgender,” including teens who never before exhibited signs of gender dysphoria. This latter phenomenon, which affects primarily teen girls, has been called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Some parents are reporting that their children have several friends who identify as “trans,” and some are reporting that their children self-diagnosed after spending time on the Internet where they encountered videos or chat rooms in which young people describe their gender dysphoria or “trans” identity. Many believe the dramatic increase in this profoundly unnatural phenomenon results from “social contagion,” which tends to affect adolescents much more than adults.

4.) The medical community admits it has no idea whether pathologizing healthy sexual development and setting children and teens on a path of lifetime risky medical treatments will help them, and they have no idea if these children will grow up to regret their “transitions.”

5.) Gatekeeping is lax. Gatekeeping is the process that determines who accesses “trans”-affirming medical treatment like prescriptions for cross-sex hormones. Parents and former “trans”-identified men and women criticize the mental health community for failing to take adequate medical and mental health histories of new patients that might reveal “co-morbidities” (i.e., the simultaneous presence of more than one chronic disease or condition in a patient) prior to prescribing cross-sex hormones or making surgery referrals. Some young gender-dysphoria sufferers are able to get prescriptions for opposite-sex hormones after just a couple of visits with a doctor. Worse, the pressure is mounting from the “trans” cult to eliminate gatekeeping entirely, even for minors.

6.) Puberty-blockers carry serious known health risks, and long-term effects are unknown. Kaiser Health News recently wrote about one of the primary puberty blockers administered to gender-dysphoric children: Lupron. Lupron is thought to cause osteopenia (bone-thinning), osteoporosis (bone loss), degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and depression. Due to the number and nature of complaints received, the FDA is now reviewing the safety of Lupron.

7.) “Progressives” argue that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible and merely buy gender-dysphoric children time to figure out their “gender identity.” What they don’t share is that the vast majority of children who take puberty blockers move on to cross-sex hormones. In contrast, as mentioned earlier, upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children who do not take puberty blockers or socially transition eventually accept their sex. Preventing the process of puberty to proceed naturally not only interferes with the biological and anatomical development of children but also changes he social experiences that attend puberty.

8.) Cross-sex hormones are risky and lifetime effects unknown. Voice changes, sterility, and hair growth patterns (including male pattern baldness in women who take testosterone) are irreversible. Side effects and long-term health risks for women who take testosterone include a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL), an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, weight gain, possible increase in risk of heart disease (including heart attack), stroke, and diabetes. The side effects and long-term health risks for men who take estrogen include liver damage and disease, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, gall stones, heart disease, prolactinoma (a cancer of the pituitary gland that can, in turn, damage vision), nausea, and migraines.

9.) Many gender-dysphoric girls bind their breasts much like Chinese women used to bind their feet. “Chest-binding” carries serious health risks including compressed ribs, which can cause blood flow problems and increase the risk of developing blood clots. Over time, this can lead to inflamed ribs (costochondritis) and even heart attacks due to decreased blood flow to the heart, fractured ribs that can lead to punctured and collapsed lungs, and back problems.

10.) Boys under 18 can have vaginoplasty in which they are castrated and the skin from their penises and scrotums used to fashion the likeness of a vagina and labia. A surgeon, in effect, turns a boy’s penis inside out, with the outside skin of the penis becoming the lining of the “neovagina.” Alternatively, boys can have “intestinal” or “sigmoid colon” vaginoplasty, which uses part of their intestines to construct “neovaginas.” A 2015 study showed that between 12-43% of patients who had vaginoplasty experienced “neovaginal” narrowing, and 33% experienced “changes in urine stream and heightened risk of urethral infection.”

Bottom surgery for girls who pretend to be boys is more complicated and has less satisfactory results. It first requires a hysterectomy followed several months later by phalloplasty which requires skin grafts taken from the forearm or thigh to create a penis that has no capacity for producing an erection. Therefore, patients who want to have intercourse will need penile implants, the most common of which requires the most skill to use, has the highest complication rate (50% must be removed due to complications), and must be replaced every 3-15 years.

WARNING!!!!!!   CAUTION:  GRAPHIC VIDEOS & CONTENT

Minor girls can also get double mastectomies as young as 15 years old.

All surgeries carry risk, but teens and young adults are having these life-altering, risky procedures—not to treat a disease—but to alter normal, healthy processes and mutilate healthy anatomy.

11.) Several studies reveal that the majority of “trans” identifying adults desire to have their own biological children, and yet minors are being given cross-sex hormones that leave them permanently sterile. Further, “it is not currently possible to freeze immature gametes.”

12.) There is a growing “detransitioning” movement. Detransitioners are men and women of diverse ages who regret having taken cross-sex hormones and amputated healthy body parts. Many have come to understand the cause or causes of their gender dysphoria and feel sorrow over the irreversible damage they have done to their bodies. Their stories, easily available online, are painful to hear.

13.) Research into gender reversal transitions is stymied by political pressure from “trans” activists.

What is now commonly understood is that brain development is not complete until about age 25.

“The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so…. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”

Culture is providing a lens through which young people with still developing brains interpret their experiences of discomfort with their bodies. This lens is distorting common, usually transient experiences.

As months and years pass, more men and women will tell their stories of anger and sorrow at being deluded and betrayed as children by ignorant and cowardly adults—some of whom cared more about lawsuits than about children.

So, when your school administration and board decide to allow objectively male students into girls’ private spaces or vice versa, ask them if they will accept some measure of responsibility for facilitating confusion and error when ten or twenty years from now, the “trans” ideology is exposed as one of the great pseudo-scientific errors in American history along with Freud’s theories of psychosexual development, false memory syndrome, and lobotomies.

For more information about detransitioning, watch these Youtube video clips:

Love & truth,
Matthew

The Heresy of Nestorianism


-1688 AD, Nestorius as envisioned by the 17th century dutch printmaker Romeyn de Hooghe, in the book “History of the church and heretics”

Nestorius (386-450 AD) rejected the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation by implicitly denying the hypostatic union of human and divine natures in the one divine person of Jesus. This denial was characterized notably by the rejection of the title “Theotokos” (“God bearer” or “Mother of God”) for the mother of Jesus. He claimed that Mary was the mother of Christ’s human nature but not the mother of God and concluded that only Jesus the man suffered and died on the cross.

History

From the definitions and condemnations of the Arian heresy of the fourth century several things resulted. The divinity of Christ and the reality of his Incarnation were clearly established in the minds of the faithful. Consequently, the exaltation and veneration of Mary by the faithful became more widespread. Since Jesus was truly God and Mary was his mother, she was venerated with the title of Theotokos. This veneration was especially popular in the East.

Controversy erupted in 428 when Nestorius, the newly installed bishop of Constantinople, attacked the title Theotokos from the pulpit in the cathedral on Christmas day, claiming that Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. He stated that to call Mary the Mother of God implied that the divine nature was born of a woman, thus making her a goddess.

Immediately his teaching was attacked by the laity and the clergy of Constantinople. When word spread of this new doctrine, neighboring bishops condemned him outright. Chief among his critics was bishop Cyril of Alexandria who responded, “I am astonished that the question should ever have been raised as to whether the Holy Virgin should be called Mother of God, for it really amounts to asking, is her Son God or is he not?” He wrote to Nestorius condemning the heretical.aspects of his doctrine and asking him to explain and defend himself. The reply betrayed even further the depth of his heresy.

Cyril sent his personal correspondence with Nestorius as well his own five-book response titled Against Nestorius to Pope Celestine in Rome for the pontiff’s decision. The Holy Father gave a general condemnation of the teaching of Nestorius regarding Mary’s divine maternity and commanded him to recant within ten days. Cyril was to receive the recantation or depose Nestorius. Far from submitting, Nestorius demanded an ecumenical council and proclaimed his beliefs more loudly than ever.

While claiming to believe in one Christ in two natures, his explanation described the union of two distinct persons: “He who was formed in the womb of Mary was not God himself, but God assumed him. Through him that bears I worship him who is born.” A mother cannot bear a son older than herself, he contended. Therefore, Mary did not give birth to the incarnate Word of God, only to Jesus, the temple or vessel of God. Rejecting the orthodox sense of Theotokos, he opted instead for Christokos (“Mother of Christ”), saying that he could never bring himself to call the Christ-child God. Nestorius concluded that it was not God who suffered and died on the cross, but only the man Jesus.

The Problem

The main problem with Nestorius is that free acts originate from persons and not from natures. What Nestorius called “natures” should have been called “persons.” His error was to divide Christ into two persons – human and divine. Christ is only one Person and Mary is the mother of that Person. Mothers give birth to persons and not natures.

Orthodox Response

Besides St. Cyril, many other clergy and laymen rose to defend the divine maternity of Mary against the attack of Nestorius. Among these were Philip of Side, Proclus, Leo of Rome, and the layman Eusebius, later to become a bishop. Eusebius, while still a lawyer, is said to have risen from the congregation after Nestorius’ initial Christmas homily and to have indignantly responded, “The eternal Word begotten before the ages had submitted also to be born a second time.”

With Nestorius holding firm to his position, the emperor proposed to have a council meet in Ephesus to decide the matter once and for all. The council opened in the name of Pope Celestine I on June 22, 431.

Nestorius, who refused to attend, had his teachings anathematized, along with all who held communion with him, and he was deposed as bishop of Constantinople. Mary was officially proclaimed Mother of God to the delight of the faithful of Ephesus.

The controversy created by Nestorius made it obvious that a clearer terminology was needed to define the doctrine of the Incarnation which protected the divinity as well as the humanity of Christ. The solution, arrived at by Pope St. Leo the Great, was the use of the word “person,” for which there was no well-defined concept before that time. Leo summed it up in his Tome 20 years after the Council of Ephesus: Each nature performs the actions proper to it, but every action is performed by the one person, Jesus the Word of God.

Modern Parallels

Today most Protestant denominations display an element of Nestorianism. Protestants typically reject the title “Mother of God” while echoing Nestorius’ contention that a son cannot be older than his mother. They find it difficult to say that God was born in Bethlehem, that God suffered and died on the cross at Calvary. Many Protestant theologians, on the other hand, recognize this element of Nestorianism and assent to the title “Mother of God,” though they use it only infrequently.

Love,
Matthew

The Heresy of Eutychianism

-by Justin Holcomb

“Eutyches (378-454 AD) was in charge of the monastery at Constantinople and was second in command, only lower than the Bishop, in terms of authority there.

Is Jesus a Blend of God & Man?

The early church taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures—a divine nature and a human nature.

Eutyches was guilty of over-emphasizing the fact that Jesus Christ was one person and blurred the distinction between his divine and human natures. This was opposite of Nestorius’ heresy.

About Eutyches, church historian Stephen Nichols writes: “To him Christ was a third thing (the Latin expression is tertium quid)….One new and different person fashioned out of two natures is how he liked to put it. That is a theological way of saying yellow and blue makes green.”

When asked by Florentius if he believed there were two natures in Christ, Eutyches argued that there was only one nature in Christ after the incarnation:

Florentius

: “Do you or do you not admit that our Lord who is of the Virgin is consubstantial [with us] and of two natures after the incarnation?”

Eutyches

: “I admit that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but after the union one nature.”

Orthodox Response: Jesus Is Fully God & Fully Man

In his Tome, Leo the Great offers a beautiful response to the thought of Eutyches: “For just as the God [deity] is not changed by his compassion, so the man [manhood] is not swallowed up by the dignity [of the Godhead].” The human nature and the divine nature in Christ remain distinct and unmixed in the incarnation so that Jesus is truly God and truly man.

Flavian, who was the Bishop of Constantinople, called a synod that met at Constantinople in 448 at which the teachings of Eutyches were deemed heretical. In the Chalcedonian Creed there are phrases directed toward Eutyches: Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided in two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Is Our Representative

Stephen Nichols clearly describes the problem with Eutyches’ teachings: “The problem with stressing the unity without the counterbalance of the two intact natures, as Eutyches does, is that Christ loses his human and divine identity. As such, he is not truly our representative. The Christ of Eutyches falls short of Paul’s teaching of Christ as the last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); 1 Cor. 15:42-49Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).”

The orthodox theologians of the first several centuries saw an intimate connection between the incarnation and the atoning work of Christ.

This is why Leo the Great writes:

“Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with passible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suits the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.”

Love,
Matthew

2 different OTs?

“One evening I had the sad duty of attending my neighbor’s funeral.

My neighbors were not religious, but apparently a local “mega-church” offered to conduct the eulogy for them. The assistant pastor from the church stood up and after a few short remarks about the deceased began to give a lengthy sermon. The first ten minutes was dedicated to how he knew that my neighbor believed in Jesus and was in heaven, so there was no need to pray for her or offer Masses or anything like that.

The next thirty minutes or so (it’s difficult to tell since it seemed like eternity) was dedicated to explaining why it doesn’t matter which church one attends—Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran—they are all the same! None of them are more correct than any other. “We all believe in the same fundamental biblical truths about Jesus,” he said, “such as the need to put our faith in Jesus…” and so on.

Speaking at a funeral must not be an easy thing to do, so I walked up to the assistant pastor to thank him. After dispensing with niceties and explaining that I am a Catholic, I said to him: “Pastor, I just want to share with you a biblical verse that has always given me comfort in times like these, the book of Wisdom, chapter 3 says, ‘But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.’”

The pastor gave me an odd look. “Book of Wisdom?” he said. “That’s not in the Bible!” To which I responded, “Well, I guess there are important differences between us.”

The assistant pastor seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Catholic and Orthodox bibles contain seven books in their Old Testament that Protestant bibles omit.

Catholics call these books the deuterocanon. Protestants, however, had rejected these books as inspired texts and call the Apocrypha.

Despite the assistant pastor’s best efforts to be non-denominational and dispel the importance of religious dogmas, he and his church actually held a very dogmatic view on which books belonged to the Bible. Going by the generic name of “Christian” didn’t release him from dogmatically committing himself to a particular doctrine on which books the Bible comprises. This position is undeniably important. Which collection or canon one adopts, whether Catholic or Protestant, will determine whether the first ten minutes of his sermon was “biblical” or a flight of fancy.

The question of which books belong to the Bible (especially the Old Testament, since Catholics and Protestant share the same New Testament books) is more fundamental of a question than anything in anyone’s theology, because theology is to be based upon divine revelation. What makes up God’s revelation, therefore, has a direct impact on one’s theology.

This is especially true for Protestants who believe in sola scriptura, which says that the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine. It is, for nearly all Protestants, the norm that sets all norms and the standard that sets all standards: the highest court of appeal for judging all doctrine. But as we have painfully learned over the last few decades, those who are allowed to sit on the Supreme Court will affect how the court rules. This assistant pastor’s “Supreme Court” (i.e., the Bible) informed him that we should not pray for the dead, but Catholic and Orthodox bibles affirm that we should.

Each position is “biblical” given its respective Bible, but which Bible has the correct books? Which books are inspired by the Holy Spirit and which ones are mere human apocrypha? This question needs to be settled first.

How did Protestants and Catholics end up with two different Old Testaments?

Protestants claim that the Catholic Church added the seven books of the “Apocrypha” to the canon of Scripture in order to refute Protestantism. This is generally said to have occurred at the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (April 8, 1546).

Catholics make the opposite claim; they claim that these same books were always considered inspired Scripture, but they were rejected by Protestantism because their teaching contradicts certain areas of Protestant theology.

Which is correct? Did the Catholic Church add books to the Old Testament or did Protestantism remove these books from the canon of Scripture?”

Love,
Matthew

Myth: the Catholic Church forbid the reading of Scripture

[Ed. “This is a time when literacy rates were around 1 percent for the population at large,” says Becker…”, Becker, Sascha, professor of economics at the University of Warwick and deputy director of the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, 2013, Oct 31, -https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-31/did-martin-luthers-reformation-500-years-ago-leave-its-mark-todays-eurozone]

Myth: Luther and other Reformers were the first to translate Scripture into vernacular languages, which the Church had previously forbidden.

“A main tenet of the false narrative about the origins of Protestantism is that the Catholic Church prevented people from reading the Bible. Enter John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others to translate Scripture into vernacular languages so that the people could be free of Roman tyranny.

From its beginnings, the Church recognized the crucial role of the written portion of divine revelation in fulfilling its mission of evangelization. Once the Church finalized the canon of Scripture in the fourth century, efforts began to make it more accessible to the laity.

Perhaps the most famous translation of Scripture is known as the Vulgate. The name comes from the fact that the translation, by St. Jerome (342-420), was from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the “vulgar” (meaning everyday) language of the time.

The Church was not against vernacular translations of the Bible (indeed it actively fostered such translations), but was only against bad vernacular translations, which could easily lead to heresy and even violence.

The Church also dealt with the issue of “private interpretation” of Scripture during the fourth century, when a pernicious new heresy that denied the divinity of Christ arose in North Africa and quickly attracted millions of adherents. Arianism would plague the Church for centuries, proving extremely difficult to eradicate. One reason it spread so rapidly and endured so long was that, with the Roman Empire at peace, people had the time to debate theological matters.

Many used Scripture to justify heretical positions. Jerome lamented this when he wrote, “Builders, carpenters, workers in metal and wood, websters and fullers, makers of anything, cannot become an expert without a teacher; physicians are trained by physicians. The art of the Scripture is the only art which is claimed by all.”

Martin Luther is most often credited with freeing Scripture from its suppression by Rome by making it accessible to the people. An Augustinian monk, Luther earned a doctorate in theology with an emphasis on Scripture in 1512. He was sent to teach at the University of Wittenberg, and on October 31, 1517, he posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. [Ed. Luther did this as it was a common means of inviting & engaging in scholarly debate. Luther, at the time had no intention of sparking the Reformation, but rather, a scholarly debate. The situation got out of hand and was handled poorly by Rome, taking the easier route of demanding of Luther fulfillment of his vow of obedience as an Augustinian monk.]. His document’s attack on papal authority led to a summons to Rome (which he ignored) [Ed. No one has ever accused Luther of being stupid, too many examples ending badly for that] and his eventual condemnation by Pope Leo X in the 1520 bull Exsurge Domine. Heresy was an ecclesiastical and civil crime at the time, so in 1521 Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1558) invited Luther to the Diet of Worms to give him an opportunity to repudiate his condemned works. Luther refused to go, prompting Charles to issue the Edict of Worms in which Luther was “regarded as a convicted heretic.”

Heresy was a capital crime in the temporal order, so Luther went into hiding in the Wartburg castle for almost a year. It was in his self-imposed exile that Luther began work on a new German translation of Scripture, which was published in its entirety in 1534. Luther was scornful of the Vulgate; For instance, he sneeringly dismissed St. Jerome’s translation of the angel Gabriel’s name for Mary as gratia plena (“full of grace”). “What German would understand that if translated literally?” Luther wrote. “He knows the meaning of a purse full of gold or a keg full of beer, but what is he to make of a girl full of grace? I would prefer to say simply, Liebe Maria (Mary, full of love).” Concerning translation of the Old Testament, Luther hoped to “make Moses so German that no one would suspect he was a Jew.” Contrary to popular belief, Luther’s German translation was not the first in that language, as there were thirty-six previous translations.

The Real Story: The Church has always supported the translation of Scripture into the vernacular, because it is charged by Christ to spread the Gospel throughout the world. It has opposed only faulty vernacular translations by heretics who used them to spread their errors.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Myth: John Calvin & Martin Luther were holy & pious men

[Ed. Certainly the selling of indulgences, and more importantly, the crass, scandalous, profit driven way it was done was a grievous offense, and needed to be reformed. In addition, the Catholic Church needed to unify and systematize the catechism, and better educate both clergy and laity.

The Catholic Church of the Catholic Counter-Reformation era grew more spiritual, more literate and more educated. Orders, including Capuchins, Discalced Carmelites, Discalced Augustinians, Augustinian Recollects, Cistercian Feuillants, Ursulines, Theatines, Barnabites, Congregation of the Oratory, and the Jesuits, especially founded to combat the heresy of Protestantism, blossomed.

The Church self-imposed an ecclesiastical/structural discipline, reconfiguration dealing with corrupt and politically appointed clerics, and other financial abuses. Efforts to end “triumphalism, clericalism, and legalism” (Sounds like Vatican II? It might take a few millennia. Watch out for Catholic fascists, they bite! In SO MANY WAYS!!!) that had typified the Church in the previous centuries.

It is a truism times of crisis (Greek: decision) spawn the greatest concentrations of saints in those periods of history, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation is no exception. Teresa of Avila (1582), Ignatius of Loyola (1556), Charles Borromeo (1584), Peter Canisius (1597), Francis Borgia (1572), Edmund Campion (1581), John Duckett (1644), Ralph Corby (1644), Francis Xavier (1552), Peter Wright (1651), Robert Southwell (1595), Henry Walpole (1595), Nicholas Owen (1606), Claude de la Colombiere (1682). David Lewis, John Almond, Edmund Arrowsmith (1628), Ambrose Barlow, John Boste, Alexander Briant, Margaret Clitherow (1586), Philip Evans, Thomas Garnet, Edmund Gennings (1591), Richard Gwyn (1584), John Houghton, Philip Howard, John Jones, John Kemble, Luke Kirby, Robert Lawrence, Anne Line (1601), Thomas Greene (1642), Peter Faber (1546), John Lloyd, John Mason (1591), Cuthbert Mayne, Henry Morse, John Payne, Polydore Plasden (1591), John Plessington, Charles Mahoney, Richard Reynolds, John Rigby (1600), John Roberts, Alban Roe, Oliver Plunkett (1681), Ralph Sherwin, John Southworth, John Stone, John Wall, Margaret Pole, Margaret Ward, Augustine Webster, George Haydock, Thomas More (1535), John Fisher, William Richardson, Swithun Wells (1591), Eustace White, John Ogilvie, Philip Neri, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, William Carter (1584), Hugh Grant (1585), Marmaduke Bowes (1585), Alexander Crow (1586 or 1587), Nicholas Woodfen (1586), William Pichard (1587), Edmund Duke and Companions (1590), Roger Thorpe (1591), Thomas Watkinson (1591), George Errington (1596), William Gibson (1596), Peter Snow (1598), Ralph Grimstow (1598), Christopher Wharton (1600), Francis Ingleby (1586), John Fingley (1586), Robert Bickerdike (1586), William Thomson (1586), John Sandys (1586), Richard Sargeant (1586), John Lowe (1586), Robert Dibdale (1586), John Adams (1586), Edmund Sykes (1587), Stephen Rowsham (1587), John Hambley (1587), George Douglas (1587), Richard Simpson (1588), Edward Burden (1588), Henry Webley (1588), Sidney Hodges (1591), William Lampley (1588), Nicholas Garlick (1588), Robert Ludlam (1588), Robert Sutton (1588), Richard (Lloyd) Flower (1588), William Spenser (1589), Robert Hardesty (1589), Thomas Belson (1589), Richard Yaxley (1589), George Nichols (1589), Humphrey Pritchard (1589), Nicholas Horner (1590), Alexander Blake (1590), George Beesley (1591), William Pike (1591), Brian Lacey (1591), Mountford Scott (1591), Joseph Lambton (1592), Thomas Pormort (1592), William Davies (1593),Anthony Page (1593), Christopher Robinson (1597), John Bretton (1598), Edward Thwing (1600), Thomas Palaser (1600), John Talbot (1600), Robert Nutter (1600), John Norton (1600), Roger Filcock (1600), Thomas Hunt (1600), Thomas Sprott (1600), Robert Middleton (1601), Thurston Hunt (1601), Robert Grissold (1604), John Sugar (1604), Robert Drury (1607), Matthew Flathers (1608), Roger Cadwallador (1610), Thomas Atkinson (1616),Roger Wrenno (1616), John Thules (1616), William Southerne (1618), Edward Oldcorne (1606), Thomas Bullaker (1642), Henry Heath (1643), Arthur Bell (1643), Edward Bamber (1646), John Woodcock (1646), Ralph Milner (1591), Lawrence Humphrey (1591), Thomas Whittaker (1646), Roger Dickenson (1591), Nicholas Postage (1679), Charles Meeham (1679) …compare Franciscan Reform.]

Myth: The Reformers were holy men who struggled heroically to free the true Christian faith from the superstitions of Rome.

Martin Luther (1480-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) are generally regarded as holy and upright men appalled at the impiety, superstition, and corruption in the Catholic Church, and dedicated to returning the Christian faith to its pristine original form. But a closer look at their lives reveals that, in truth, they were arrogant men bent on refashioning the Christian faith to their own liking.

Luther suffered throughout his life from various physical and spiritual problems. He was desperate for certain knowledge of his own salvation, and came to believe that it is through faith alone that one is saved. He adopted the heresy that Scripture alone is the authoritative source of divine revelation. Luther’s image of God, which may have reflected that of his abusive father, was extremely negative and influenced his theology and his conflicts with authority. To Luther, God was not a loving father, as revealed by Christ, but rather was a tyrannical and wrathful judge who delights in tormenting sinners. As he later wrote, this belief drove him to “the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him!”

Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Although many of the theses dealt with ecclesiastical abuses, Luther’s contention that the pope had no authority to grant indulgences was outright heresy, and in 1520 Pope Leo X condemned it and forty other erroneous teachings. Luther’s response in the form of three treatises published late that year laid the foundations for his revolution against the Catholic Church. In these treatises he appealed to the German nobility to nationalize the Church in Germany and free it from Roman control. He also attacked the sacraments, denying that they are channels of efficacious grace when faith is absent. In the treatise he addressed specifically to Pope Leo, he denied free will; and he later called for the suppression and eradication of the Mass.

Luther’s revolutionary writings led to outbreaks of violence throughout Germany. By 1525, mobs had destroyed churches, burned sacred art, and profaned the Eucharist. Nobles sympathetic to Luther’s teachings appealed to him for help ending the violence.

In response, Luther wrote a pamphlet titled Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, in which he called on the nobility to suppress the rebellion with all necessary violence, which they did with ferocious efficiency, killing 130,000 peasants. That same year Luther married a former nun whom he helped “escape” from the convent. Several years later Luther’s break with Christian teaching on marriage was made complete when he advised Philip, landgrave of Hesse, that he could enter into a bigamous marriage so long as he kept it secret. When word of it leaked out, Luther advised Philip to deny it, writing, “What harm is there in telling a good bold lie for the sake of making things better and for the good of the Christian Church?”

Toward the end of his life Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, a treatise in which he put forth an eight-point plan to rid Germany of its Jews. “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt,” Luther wrote, “we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country. We must drive them out like mad dogs.” In Luther’s last treatise before his death in February 1546, Against the Pontificate at Rome, Founded by the Devil, he called for the torture and murder of the pope and cardinals.

John Calvin was of a different temperament than Luther. Whereas Luther was bombastic, rude, and vulgar, Calvin was studious, quiet, and refined. Despite their differences, though, Calvin was just as much a revolutionary, and it was he who began the “war against joy” in Geneva. Hilaire Belloc pointed out that “it was the French spirit, but the northern French, the less generous, the people that have no vineyards, which produced Jean Calvin.”

By 1545 Calvin had created a theocracy in Geneva which enforced its own version of Christian morality upon the citizenry. Citizens were sometimes required to confess their sins in front of a civil magistrate, and were subject to biannual visitation by a commission of elders and ministers who investigated whether they attended church services regularly and lived moral lives in accord with Calvin’s creed, and classified them as “pious,” “lukewarm,” or “corrupt” in their faith. The death penalty was prescribed for adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, pregnancy out of wedlock, and striking a parent. It was also against the law in Calvinist Geneva to dance, sing (outside of church services), stage or attend theatrical plays, wear jewelry, or play cards or dice.

Calvin also railed against fellow Protestants when their theology did not agree with his. The most famous case involved Michael Servetus (1511-1553), whose 1531 work Seven Books on Errors About the Trinity landed him in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition. He fled Spain for France, where he began writing letters to Calvin asking his opinion on various points of theology. Servetus disputed Calvin’s answers, as well as many of Calvin’s teachings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. When a marked-up copy of the Institutes arrived from Servetus, Calvin became incensed and vowed, “If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I will never let him depart alive.” When in 1553 Servetus did come to Geneva he was spotted by Calvin, arrested, tried for heresy, convicted, and burned.

The Real Story: Martin Luther and John Calvin were complex men who were anything but the pious reformers of modern myth. They viciously attacked their critics. Luther’s writings spurred an armed rebellion in Germany that had to be forcibly put down by the nobility. Calvin created a theocracy in Geneva that interfered in the private lives of all citizens. Both men rebelled against the Catholic Church and contributed to the fracturing of Christendom, which persists to this day.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Augustine & the heretics


-St Augustine icon, by Joseph Brown, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, ~2009

Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“A heresy is never totally wrong. Its just that it is never totally right. A heresy is a half truth or a truth twisted. The reason a heresy is attractive is that it always seems to make perfect sense. A heresy is a religious truth you would make up if you were making up a religion. However, Catholic truth is stranger and subtler than that, and it takes sound teaching to expose and battle the heresy.

Heresies are persistent because they are attractive, and they are persistent because they usually console the heretic in some way. In other words, it is easier to believe the heresy than the fullness of the Catholic truth. The fullness of the Catholic truth is either difficult to believe or difficult to obey or both. The heresy always offers an easy way out–either an easier way of believing or an easier way of behaving.

The first heresy Augustine battled was Donatism. The Donatists were a schism in the North African Church that were sort of like Puritanical Protestant or Jansenists. They thought the church should be pure, and should be a church of saints, not sinners. They were unwilling to accept back those Christians who, out of weakness, compromised their faith during the persecutions and they insisted that for sacraments to be valid the priest had to be faultless.

While this sort of rigorism is understandable, it doesn’t take much to see where it leads. It leads to unbearable self righteousness. “We few, we holy few. We are the remnant, the true church, the only real Christians…” Nonsense. If you think the core error of Donatism does not exist today, look a little harder. Although the name “Donatism” is now a footnote of church history there are plenty of rigorist schisms and sects and plenty of the attitude within individuals and groups in many different churches.

The fact is, most heresies, while seeming attractive, can be countered very easily with a passage from the gospel. Donatists should read the parable of the wheat and tares. The sinners and the saints grow together and God will sort it out.

The second heresy Augustine battled was Manicheanism. This false religion was started by a Persian prophet named Mani (274 AD). He blended elements of occult Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity and came up with a complicated New Age kind of religion. His core heresy was dualism. He taught that the physical world was evil and the spiritual world was good. Manicheanism had a huge influence in the 3-4 centuries. We can see it in the harsh asceticism of the early monks for example.

Augustine’s teachings on the nature of evil countered this. He taught that the created world is good because God does not make evil. Instead evil is good twisted, distorted or destroyed.

While Manicheanism is also a footnote in church history, the idea that the physical world is bad and the spiritual world is good continues today. It is present in some New Age teachings and in Eastern religions and philosophies. It also lingers like an echo in elements of Christianity. It is tempting to look down on physical pleasures, and the right embrace of holy poverty can be twisted into a hatred or disgust or guilt about the goodness of the physical world.

The third heresy is Pelagianism. This is named for the British monk Pelagius (d. 420) His teaching was probably misunderstood, but if so, the misunderstanding was that he taught that the human will was not so tainted by original sin that it lost its power to do good. In other words, you can do good without God’s help. This led to the conclusion that you can get into heaven through good works.

Augustine corrected this heresy with his teachings on grace. It is God’s grace, continually working in and through creation and in and through our own lives that empowers our faith, empowers our good works and empowers the supernatural transformation of our lives.

These three heresies do us the service of bringing to light the true Catholic teaching. The created world is beautiful, good and true. If this is true, then we also, created in God’s image are good. However, that goodness is wounded by original sin. While we don’t have to be perfect at once, that is our destiny, our calling and the hard adventure on which we must embark. God’s good grace gives us the power to do this. Without his grace we are paralyzed by sin and locked in darkness. With his grace we can be free.”

Love, & His grace,
Matthew

Soli Deo gloria


-by Br Isaiah Beiter, OP

“Goodness is praised as beauty,” wrote a man long honored by the Church, East and West, though nobody is exactly sure who he is.

“Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,” wrote the apostle John.

“Soli Deo gloria”—“Glory to God alone,” cried the Reformers. And they were right, or sort of. In their desire to exalt the glory of God above all else, they were right. In their yearning to defend God’s glory from all dilution or fracture, they were right. But they were not right to forbid God from sharing His glory with His creation. Of course, I do not mean to say that this is exactly what they intended to do. But in understanding this last of the five Solae we should ask a broader question: “what is glory, and where do we find it?”

*

Let’s build the image from the ground up. When someone is good, then that person is worthy of praise. For him or her to receive praise, however, someone has to know this goodness and recognize it as good. For instance, before I praise the bravery of a soldier and the patience of a mother, I have to see them in action or at least hear about them. And if these people are especially good, beyond common experience, then probably a great many people will hear about them, and probably a great many people will see how good they are, and hopefully these people will say so. Imagine a news story about a local hero or praising a great teacher, for instance.

That loudness that belongs especially to good things, the splendor and renown that belongs to something praiseworthy, is called glory. The greater the good, the louder it is, and the louder it is, the more praiseworthy. The greater the good, the more glorious it is. This is how the Church has thought about glory. This is how the Scriptures speak, though with the nuances and poetry appropriate to each place.

So there are different kinds of glory just as there are different kinds of good. This is what the Reformers forgot in their zeal. In wanting to single out God for worship, we should never forget God’s love in sharing his goodness. God is infinite in His goodness. Creatures have a limited share. God is infinite in His glory. Creatures have a limited share in that, too. The Holy Trinity is glorified by worship and adoration, and long before the Protestant Reformation, the Church gave this worship the name latria. God can never be given too much glory. The highest of created persons, Mary and all the other saints, are glorified with a lesser honor, which the Church has named dulia. And traditionally, some saints are seen to be higher than others. Mary, the Mother of God, is the very highest. After her come the apostles, who were sent forth by Christ as the seeds of the Church.

These saints are honored, or given glory, because of a good that they have, the great good of grace, which is a share in God Himself! And lesser, simply human goods, like a great leader, can be glorious in their own small ways. All these goods, however small, are shares in God’s goodness. And all these goods, from the bottom to the top, are given by God. Jesus says to the Father, “The glory which Thou hast given me I have given to them” (John 17:22). Paul encourages us to seek this glory, speaking of God’s judgment: “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life” (Rom 2:6-7). So what is the vision of the world that we are left with?

*

The world is filled with the glory of God! This is because He chose to fill the world with His goodness. All of it is traced back to God, the source and the giver, as the finite is compared to the infinite. Glory belongs to God alone, but He chooses to share it with us. To declare that only God has glory, or to understand those three Latin words (Soli Deo gloria) in this way, is to make God more separate from His creatures than God Himself wishes to be.

How beautiful is the sun, how splendorous, how good! It is too bright even to look upon. But it does not keep its light to itself. The sun shares its light with the moon. It is imitated by every twinkle of the stars. And the sun gives life to all below it. From the bottom to the top, the heavens and the earth shine with the light of the sun: truly, though not equally.  [Ed.  How much more the Divine?]

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:41).”

Praise Him!!!  Give Him GLORY!!!!!  Clap your hands!!!  Shout for joy!!!!  Let the seas and all within it thunder praise!!!

Love,
Matthew

Sola Fide & false idols


-by Br Ephrem Reese, OP

“When people speak of “faith alone,” it’s often taken for granted that faith is opposed to works. But the Council of Trent has dealt with this false dichotomy:

“Faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity. (From the Decree concerning Justification, chapter VII).”

So that opposition, faith versus works, is false. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:21-22).

How about a new conception of sola fide? Think, instead, this way: faith is opposed to idolatry. If we want to speak about “faith alone,” I suggest that we look to Abraham, the “father of faith.” While not directly addressing the “traditional” dispute about faith versus works, I think this may in fact reveal a deeper understanding in Scripture and the tradition.

Abraham’s father Terah, says a Jewish commentary on Genesis, made idols for a living. Sometimes he had to leave the boy Abraham in charge of the shop. Abraham would embarrass old men who came in to buy idols: “You are fifty years old and worship a one-day-old statue!”

Even better, though: when a woman came in to make an offering to the idols, Abraham took a club and smashed all of the idols but the biggest one, then put the club in its hands. He told Terah that they were fighting over who would eat the offering, and that the biggest one destroyed the rest. The real point, the rabbinic telling implies, is that Terah would have to admit that the idols were stupid and powerless, if he wanted to blame the iconoclasm on Abraham.

Idolatry is not just a Jewish concern—in the New Testament, “idol” and related words occur at least 33 times. Although this continues the Old Testament tradition, some new aspects appear. For example, idolatry is not just foolish and immoral, it also conceals demonic powers. This helps to explain some of the sexual immorality that was very clearly connected with, even institutionalized in, traditional cults.

Faithlessness in the invisible God leads directly to worship of what is more available, what is right in front of us, even if it’s a powerless piece of wood. Falling for the one who is there, rather than the One we truly love—you can see why the Bible compares idolatry to adultery (see Wisdom 14:12).

We believe in, even testify to, a God we do not see. It is necessary to turn away from what we see all around us (ahem, screens). “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”—this is the basic description of conversion of which St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:9). When Paul went to Athens, the great scientific seedbed of geometry, philosophy, and democracy, “he was distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). His speech to the Athenians puts him squarely in the prophetic tradition of Israel: God made everything, and left His traces; He wants you to seek Him; do not be distracted by the shiny things that people put before you. Finally, there will be a judgment for those who live not by faith in what is unseen but by settling for what is “made by human design and skill” (cf. 17:24-31).

The great literary critic Northrop Frye noticed that the Jewish and Christian idea of revelation as something heard but not seen has a destructive dynamic. It crushes the tyranny of the visible. “The Word not only causes all images of gods to shrivel into nothingness, but continues to operate in society as an iconoclastic force…demolishing everything to which man is tempted to offer false homage.” Abraham knew about that. As Jesus says mysteriously, Abraham saw His(Jesus’) day, and rejoiced (Jn 8:56).

We don’t see many actual idols now. But if we look around, it’s not hard to see that people are sunk, bowed down, brought to their knees, in worship of what is seen. Abraham, dutiful son, was considerate enough to discreetly destroy the local idols. Faith cast out of him any fear of the powers of this world. For his faith, God made a promise to Abraham, freeing him “to worship Him without fear all the days of his life” (Luke 1:73-75).”

Love, faith, & hope,
Matthew