Be Brave.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.  It is traditionally the day that the church welcomes those people who are nearing the end of their journey of converstion to the Catholic faith, culminating in their confirmation at Easter.  This morning our pastor welcomed seven new catachumens and one candidate (a person who has already been baptized in another Christian tradition), along with their godparents, in what is called the First Scrutiny.  Their godparents attested to their readiness to complete the process.  Over the next six weeks, these folks (male, female, young, old) will be baptized, make their first confession, and receive the Easter sacraments of confirmation and th Eucharist.  That was me twenty years ago.   Time flies.

At the end of Mass, Father implored these newcomers to live their faith, not just to practice it and go through the motions.  It takes real bravery to voluntarily proclaim the Christian faith in the modern world.   We are caught up in a time when many of the fundamental pillars of Western civilization, those rooted in the faith, are under attack. 

The Enlightenment brought science into the forefront of human understanding.  Although it initially struggled for oxygen against organized religion, including the Roman Catholic Church, the human quest for knowledge ultimately prevailed and the world was changed forever.   It survived the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, Calvinist Fundamentalism, and the great rise of American Evangelicalism.  God and science lived in harmony for five hundred years, with only occasional dustups.  Most of the artists, scientists and mathematicians who wrote the source code for the scientific revolution of the last two centuries were Christians.   Some of the greatest artistic and engineering marvels (e.g., the cathedrals of Europe) ever created by man were dedicated to Christ.   But, ironically, the Enlightenment gave birth to the process whereby religion itself would one day become expendable.  We have now come full circle.  In a breathtakingly short period of time, almost during the lifetimes of my children, the burden of proof has been shifted from those who reject the Christian faith to those who advocate it to establish the merit of their position.  While the religious still outnumber the irreligious in North America, the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society are crumbling.  Public hostility toward religious expression is no longer scandalous.  To the contrary, it is normal.  Public expressions of religiosity now draw smirks of derision.  Many fundamental tenets of Christian morality, unchanged for 2000 years, are now viewed as the ravings of haters, oppressors and bigots.

It is in this social context that the faithful must find their way.  New Catholic converts (like me in 1994) were once primarily concerned with overcoming the Protestant sensibilities and prejudices of their families.  Today, that hurdle seems almost minuscule compared to the struggle against a world that tells them that the very belief in God is outdated and foolish.  Catholics and Protestants alike are caught up in this struggle.  For those of us who believe that evil is real, we can only despair at the sight of a world that seems to be rushing to embrace it. 

I am proud of the bravery displayed by eight people this morning.  I pray that there are many more to come.


Enemies of the Gospel?

Dr. Albert Mohler is the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I read his site ( religiously (pun intended). He is astonishingly well read, and a prolific writer. I enjoy his work and his insight.

He is, however, an unapologetic child of the Reformation. He often praises Catholic leaders for the work they do battling such social evils as abortion, but he always manages to make it clear that he views the Catholic faith as unBiblical. Here is an excerpt from his essay of today:

With the Roman Catholic Church, our common convictions are many, including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family. Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is supremely important, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that supreme difference leads to other vital disagreements as well: over the nature and authority of the Bible, the nature of the ministry, the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and an entire range of issues central to the Christian faith.
Christians defined by the faith of the Reformers must never forget that nothing less than faithfulness to the gospel of Christ forced the Reformers to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Equal clarity and courage are required of us now.
In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am saddened that fellow believers hold the view that we are “enemies” of the gospel. But this should surprise no one.