Tag Archives: heresy

Pre-Existent Soul?

After studying a glimpse of Theology, I’ve come to realise that the most important prerequisite which one needs to seriously study the Faith is Christian Philosophy.

Why? Because Philosophy is the LANGUAGE in which God uses to communicate Revelation to us. One cannot do Bible Exegesis without at least a basic understanding of Aristotelian Metaphysics.

Just this afternoon, a friend in one of my group chats made a ‘theologically’ incorrect statement which was innocent by nature, but actually disastrous to the Christian Faith. He said, “Oh, back in 1980 I wasn’t on earth yet. My soul was still floating around in heaven.”

This is why Metaphysics is crucial. Such statements reflect the lack of understanding in even the most fundamental ideas of our Faith. I immediately corrected him and said that we do NOT have pre-existing souls. It is in fact, a heresy from the early 4th Century!

The notion of us having pre-existent souls would imply Reincarnation, or that God sent us to earth as if it were some sort of test. It is completely incompatible with Christianity.

“If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” (Second Council of Constantinople)

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Sacramental Vision: Seeing God’s Handiwork in Everything

There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves – so much in men and women, so much in art and literature, so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful.
– Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island

ladybird

Did you know that the ladybug (or ladybird) is named for Our Lady? In German, it’s Marienkäfer; in Dutch, it’s Lieveheersbeestje, “Dear Lord’s little bug”. Did you know tempura has its etymology in Quatour Tempora and was invented by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries in Nagasaki?1 Or that La Macarena is Our Lady of Hope, and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes is Our Lady of Ransom?2 And that “goodbye” means “God be with you”?3

God made Creation, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1). As Catholics, we are not Gnostics, who thought that the world of matter is bad, and we must be liberated from it into the realm of pure spirit. No – we affirm that Creation is good. Christ truly took on human flesh and He has sanctified it. Eric Johnston wrote on the Solemnity of the Assumption: “Jesus did not have to take Mary’s body into heaven. But in doing so, he proclaims that our whole selves fit into heaven. Our body is not the obstacle. Sin is not about our bodies; holiness is not about being less bodily, or less human. Jesus (the Word through whom all things were made) created us in the beginning in His image and likeness; He created us so that we, in the fullness of our humanity, can ascend to the presence of God.4

Nor are Catholics pantheists. We know that God the Creator is transcendent; we do not confuse His omnipresence as Him being a deity wholly immanent in Creation.5 We love Creation as a gift from Him and exercise stewardship over it, just as Adam did in the Garden of Eden.

Anthony Esolen writes: “When, in Genesis 2:19, the Lord God brings the animals to Adam, the man exercises a godlike authority in granting them names, not, we are to suppose, based upon the dictates of his willful pleasure, but upon his insight into what they really are.6 Similarly, Catholics down the ages – monks, missionaries and scientists – have taken the responsibility of naming animals, plants (Passionfruit, I’m looking at you), stars, lunar craters, diseases, places (Munich, San Francisco and the Whitsundays, anyone? We’ve got Novena in Singapore), food, beverages, you name it, we’ve got it.

I once read an article reflecting that in naming the animals, Adam formed a type of relationship with them; you don’t name things you don’t care about. Last July, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane gave a talk on mission, saying, “God wants us to cooperate with Him in His ongoing work of creation and salvation. He asked Adam to name the animals. God could have named the animals Himself, but He wants us, as the Body of Christ, to help Him in creating order out of chaos.”

So, the next time a ladybug alights on your arm, a Saint Bernard gambols up to you, or you drink some passionfruit juice while munching on a Filet-O-Fish, give thanks to God for His wondrous deeds, and take delight in the pure beauty of existence.

Our Lord had a divine sense of humor, because He revealed that the universe was sacramental… A spoken word is a kind of sacrament, because there is something material or audible about it; there is also something spiritual about it, namely, its meaning… In a world without a divine sense of humor, architecture loses decoration and people lose courtesy in their relationships with one another.
– Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “These Are the Sacraments

And now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art mine.
Isaiah 43:1

Image: Thanks to Catholicism.

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1 Michael P. Foley, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything, pp. 31-32.

3Good-bye”, American Heritage Dictionary.

4 Eric M. Johnston, “The Assumption: Our Feast”, The Catholic Spiritual Life.

5 Mark Brumley, “Why God is Father and not Mother”, EWTN.

6 Anthony Esolen, “The Lovely Dragon of Choice: The Freedom Not to Be Free”, The Imaginative Conservative.

Why I Hate “Faith Alone”

Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?

“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.

I like to think of sola fide in terms of criminal law. Imagine that someone went before a judge and was proven guilty of heinous crimes, but then pleaded to the judge that he believed in the judge’s authority to convict him and so the judge should not do so – and had that as his only defense. Should the judge convict him – to any degree – or should the judge completely let him off, and then give him a reward?

Do you find the “faith alone” argument compelling in such an instance? I do not. Of course, a “faith alone”-r would say that there is some sort of significant difference between such a scenario in terms of temporal law and such a scenario in terms of eternal law, but there really is not. Protestant arguments for the belief simply do not stand in the face of such scenarios or substantial scrutiny.

I strongly believe that sola fide is at the heart of many Western problems. Self-professed Christians have used it as an excuse to not care for the disadvantaged, to engage in profane sexual activity, etc. – the list goes on and on.

Martin Luther told his followers to “sin and sin boldly” (among other things, as I have documented) because he taught that we are saved solely by our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, apart from our actions. This method of thinking has been adopted by millions of Protestants since his time. But is it supported by the Bible? No. See Hebrews 10:26-27:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

“Faith alone” has had a terrible impact on society. People often now shy away from discussing religion or morality with others, fearing conflict. Take, for example, something that transpired between a Lutheran family member and me. After I privately and politely informed her that she had committed a grievous sin (like we are called to do – see Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Ephesians 4:15), she immediately jumped to the “Who are you to judge?” defense and paired it with the “Jesus paid the price” line. I am sure that, for many Catholics, such occurrences are unfortunately familiar.

God has written in our hearts (Romans 2:15) that we should serve Him and others, not our selfish desires — and we will be punished if we defy Him. The necessity of both good works and abstinence from grave sin gives our lives concrete meaning. If someone takes away the eternal significance of our actions, they rob us of any real purpose: we all just become random, faceless, unimportant beings.

Sola fide does not work either logically or practically; it fails on all counts. Now, you know why I hate it.

james_2-26

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

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