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Clare Spark’s site is a must-read for anyone interested in historical and social analysis. It is one which gives pause for thought with every post.

I cited one of Clare’s posts in 2011. It links multiculturalism to 18th century German Romanticism.

One of her posts featured an interesting illustration from 1922 called ‘The Descent of the Modernists’:

https://yankeedoodlesoc.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/antimodernism1922.jpg

No doubt at the time many would have thought this warning over the top.

Yet, look at where we are in 2014, even in the United States, the foremost bastion of Christianity.

What will our beliefs be by 2022?

Stained glass question jeremypryorwordpresscomMy apologies.

I had hoped that my last few posts of Forbidden Bible Verses explained why Jesus warned against making manmade religion law (from which the so-called great and the good would be exempt).

Those of you in a biblically based church or personal faith do not need to worry, however, we have many church members and clergymen, the latter often leading independent church congregations, who are imposing a Pharisaical burden upon each other.

On the other hand, we have rationalist Sadducee-like clergy who do not wish for believers to have faith in the miracles which took place in both the Old and the New Testaments.

This blog has been warning about such aberrations in religious practice. All of them — legalist, modernist or postmodernist — can be found in the lower half of my Christianity / Apologetics page. These have been occurring since our Lord’s time, but more frequently worldwide since Charles Finney’s time in the 19th century. Protestants and Catholics have both been found guilty.

I would encourage all those who consider themselves Christians to read the posts on that page as well as the secular posts on my Marxism / Communism page which demonstrate how socialism and communism have helped to weaken Christ’s bride, the Church.

 

 

Below are a few facts about Pope Francis:

He was quite the imp in primary school. Martha Rabino is five years younger than Jorge Bergoglio but recalls that he used to visit one of his schoolteachers, Sister Rosa, who died recently at the age of 101. Sister Rosa, according to Sister Martha Rabino, told Bergoglio that he was ‘a devil’ and asked him whether he got any better. Sister Martha, incidentally, taught Argentina’s President Christina Fernandez (Mrs Kirchner) catechism many years ago.

He had his first — and only — crush, it would seem, at the age of 12. His young ‘girlfriend’ was the same age. Her parents put an end to their puppy love, but not before he drew the girl a picture of the house they would live in once they were married. He said that if she wouldn’t be his girlfriend, he would become a priest.

He is known for his austere style of living, declining to reside in the Cardinal’s mansion. Instead, he lived in a small flat in downtown Buenos Aires, cooked for himself and relied on public transport. He is no stranger to the slums and has a keen interest in the poor.

– He loves Argentina and believes that Great Britain has usurped the Falkland Islands.

He chose his name in memory of St Francis of Assisi rather than St Francis Xavier, one of the seven original Jesuits who journeyed to the Far East as a missionary in the Middle Ages.

– His sister believes he will have a life of ‘infinite loneliness’ in the Vatican and confirms he did not want the post.

President Christina Fernandez has asked the Pope to intervene in the Falklands dispute, after residents overwhelmingly voted — 99% — to remain British.

On Tuesday morning, March 19, 2013, I watched the Pope’s installation Mass on BBC1. In 2005, I watched Pope Benedict XVI’s, which was glorious. Pope Francis’s was quite different and left me uneasy. I took several pages of notes which contain many exclamation marks.

Jon Sopel, who normally presents political programmes, led the panel of Archbishop Peter Smith of the Roman Catholic diocese of Southwark (London), Joanna Moorhead of Faith Today and Dr Eamon Duffy, prominent papal historian.

They made little mention of Pope Benedict, who, by the way, did not attend the Mass. The only time his name came up was when the panel discussed the paedophilia scandals. The Archbishop thought that it was time to stop talking about the issue, a sentiment I have read from other Catholics lately. It seems to be a new meme. That said, the Archbishop said that the scandals would continue to come to light.

Let’s not forget that this was John Paul II’s mess which he refused to clean up and left Benedict XVI to do it. John Paul II thought many of these incidents were fiction based on Communist propaganda techniques used against Catholic clergy behind the Iron Curtain in the old days.

I find it disappointing that the media gave John Paul II a pass on everything because he looked so good on television. He should have; he was a stage actor before becoming a priest.

Still, the question remains — and many Protestant ministers have blogged on it — where is the church discipline? There has been some, but the stories which reach the press are those where secret or quiet deals have taken place where these priests — and now a cardinal — are still allowed to exercise their office.

Now on to highlights of the Mass and the BBC’s commentators.

– Pope Francis’s ring is recycled. Normally, these are made new for each Pope from gold and a precious stone. Francis’s does not appear to have a jewel and is silver-plated.

– Pope Francis will not be wearing the traditional red slippers nor will he continue with Benedict XVI’s penchant for the traditional fur-trimmed red cape. Francis reportedly said, ‘Carnival time is over‘. I’m not so sure that Benedict intended his revivals of traditions as a circus but rather as reverence for papal history.

– Francis’s papal vestments for Mass are off-white with black and gold trim.  They looked very austere and depressing. The use of black is no doubt a nod to the Jesuits, whose colour is black. His pallium — a papal stole with a collar, to represent the Good Shepherd with a lamb around His neck — has a long black tip. The Black Pope?

This AFP graphic based on information from the Vatican illustrates the differences between Francis and Benedict with regard to their attire. N.B.: If there is a large gap after the image, please scroll down to continue reading the post. Apologies for the formatting problems!

Pope attire 2013 AFP photo_1363680589061-3-0

Before Mass, the cameras showed Francis going to visit St Peter’s tomb underneath the eponymous basilica. Afterward, on the steps of St Peter’s, he was presented with his aforementioned pallium, which was made by the Sisters of St Agnes, traditional weavers of this papal vestment.

After the pallium placement, Francis sat down and rubbed his nostris with his right thumb and forefinger. Errgh. He would go on to shake cardinals’ hands and celebrate the Mass using his right hand.

He next received his ‘recycled’ (the BBC’s words) papal ring.

Whereas the liturgical music used for Benedict’s first papal Mass was glorious, Francis’s sounded as if it was from the usual Vatican II Mass Catholics hear every week. The choirs sounded flat; the only singing ‘star’ was the soloist choirboy who sang between the first two readings. Well done, that lad!

By contrast, Benedict’s 2005 Mass was so uplifting that when I went to the supermarket later, one of the clerks — a Muslim lady — told me that she watched the whole Mass and was very moved by it. She said, ‘I was only going to watch a few minutes of it out of curiosity. Instead, I watched all of it before coming to work. It was beautiful. I was transfixed.’ I pray that God watches over her and brings her to life in Christ.

What follows are what I could derive from the Scripture passages, none of which had a clear specification. My apologies if I got these wrong vis à vis my notes.

The first reading featured verses from II Samuel 7, among them:

13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

The second reading was taken from Romans 4:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

The Gospel reading came from Matthew 1 and specifically concerned St Joseph as March 19 is his feast day — a public holiday in Rome:

19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Afterward, Pope Francis delivered his first Vatican homily. As it was the feast of St Joseph, he began by exhorting those in attendance to emulate his example. Francis spoke of Joseph’s obedience to God in his role as protector of Mary and Jesus. He added that this can be extended to the Church. Francis said that Joseph carried out this responsibility ‘discreetly’ and with humility, even when he found his duty ‘hard to understand’. Yet, Joseph was present in fidelity and ‘loving care’ through times good and bad. Francis emphasised that Joseph was open to God’s presence, not his own wishes.

That was a good message which spoke to everyone — the ordained, heads of state, Catholic religious and laity. It also gave an indication as to how Francis would exercise his responsibilities as Pope — discreetly and humbly.

Then, Francis discoursed on the Catholic responsibility to the world’s poor and urged heads of states and governments to ensure the poor had more. He banged home the message that we all had to DO SOMETHING about poverty.  Yet, Jesus Himself told us that poverty was intractable. Many non-Catholics press the Catholic Church to start selling off the Vatican’s ‘riches’. It is possible that Francis will consider this. Unfortunately, such a gesture would not cure poverty. The proceeds would be spent within a couple of hours and probably only buy every poor person one small meal.

His next action point was environmentalism: ‘We are called to protect all creation!’ This reminded me of the big Gaia movement in South America which revolves around the Earth mother, Pachamama, and has enticed left-wing governments and Catholic religious towards new rights for nature and Pantheism (a heresy, for those who don’t know).

Therefore, two-thirds of the homily was directed towards the developing world, particularly South America.

Francis’s homily was also an excellent example of nouvelle théologie, where dogma changes with the world. Benedict XVI also espoused this way of thinking, saying that the Church is communitarian and that we must avoid strict biblical interpretations which would fossilise the Church or place Christ in ‘yesterday’.

This is Modernism, which St Pius X — the last Pope to be canonised — declared a heresy in 1907 (read here, here and here).

Francis’s homily had no mention of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the Cross, no mention of God’s grace, no mention about spreading the Gospel — by which I mean the Good News, not wealth redistribution or environmentalism.

This is why I felt so queasy afterward. It was not helped when Archbishop Smith said (only somewhat paraphrased) of Francis’s redistribution and environmentalism:

That’s the Gospel we will be judged on now.

To which Joanna Moorhead added (again, only somewhat paraphrased):

The environment is a very unifying message for the Church.

You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian to be part of these movements. During Francis’s first weekend as Pope, the BBC broadcast Comic Relief, a charity effort featuring top British entertainers, while France’s TF1 showed the annual benefit concert by Les Enfoirés, a pop group whose proceeds go to the charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart), where the poor are guaranteed a hot meal, a kind word and a smile as often as they need it.

It would not surprise me if Francis really were the last Pope, although perhaps not in the apocalyptic ways which St Malachy imagined. Archbishop Smith and Eamon Duffy both said afterward that Francis would attempt to reform the Curia and decentralise the administrative authority, devolving it to bishops. The Archbishop reminded us that the first bishops in the Church were elected by their congregations.

More urgent than that, however, is their need for the Gospel. It matters not how many Masses Catholic clergy and the Pope celebrate. For them and for too many Catholics, Jesus Christ is but a backdrop, overshadowed by the world.

Hammer sickle and cross Edo Edi Essum forum_nationstates_netIn reading a post on Dr Gregory Jackson’s Ichabod, I ran across two related links elsewhere which deeply concerned me for reasons explained below.

Long march through the Church

Dr Jackson’s post featured an interview from the Harvard Gazette with  Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, a professor of Roman Catholic theological studies at the Divinity School. If you click on the link with  Fiorenza’s name, you’ll see his biography which lists such details as (emphases mine):

His writings on political theology engage recent theories of justice, especially those of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, and have dealt with issues of work and welfare.

He was awarded the Henry Luce III Fellowship for 2005-06 for research in the history of twentieth-century Roman Catholic theology, namely, the direction known as la nouvelle théologie.

Habermas studied under Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, two professors of the prominent Frankfurt School, whose ideas have spread worldwide. His speciality is the concept of modernity, developing the ideas of Max Weber (also Frankfurt School) about rationalisation which

refers to the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with rational, calculated ones. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning.

Fiorenza says the Vatican is in flux. No news there. However, he did say that since the end of the Second World War in Germany and the United States, the percentage of Catholics marrying other Catholics declined from 9 in 10 marriages to 2 in 10 at present.  That means that 80% are marrying Protestants (best case scenario), those of other world faiths or no faith at all.

From this Fiorenza concludes:

that type of switch is leading to a type of religious pluralism that the church is not used to. … So I think the question of religious pluralism is going to be really important, especially if you get a pope from Asia, where you have more awareness of other world religions.

His use of ‘awareness’ points to advocacy of a one-world religion. He could have said ‘openness’ but certain elitists do not want people to really understand the big picture.

Catholic and Protestants face similar issues

Catholics face the following issues:

a seemingly conservative Pope has just abdicated.

two recent Popes, if not more (I’d go back to John XXIII), have latched on to Modernist theology (kissing Korans, allowing paedophile scandals) whilst reinforcing tradition (the Rosary and Latin Mass).

– bishops and priests are more interested in a Modernist philosophy of ‘action’ in the socio-political sphere rather than preaching the Gospel of grace and salvation.

– laity have left the Church, not for Protestantism, but altogether.

That said, the last two points also pertain to mainline Protestants not just in the United States (Episcopalians, Lutherans [ELCA] and Presbyterians [PCUSA]) but also in countries with ‘established’ (national) churches, e.g. England (Anglican), Scotland (Presbyterian) and Germany (Lutheran).

We can trace how we got here from there by going back to the mid-19th century and into the early 20th. Protestant and Catholic theology were both affected. Faithful theologians were doing battle within their own denominations against ideas from the Enlightenment and/or Marxism, neither of which has a place in religious dogma. These are but a few who defended the faith against the heresy of Modernism:

Charles Porterfield Krauth (Lutheran).

Pius X (Catholic, later canonised) — read here and here.

John Gresham Machen (Presbyterian) — read posts under his name on Christianity / Apologetics.

Why nouvelle théologie matters — a personal perspective

After reading Fiorenza’s Harvard University biography, I did a search on nouvelle théologie. What I read shocked me.

Unknowingly, I’d adopted and believed most (not all) of it since my days in Catholic high school — in fact, from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s. That’s over three decades. Furthermore, I was going to church regularly the whole time!

Thankfully, the Lord moved me out of that darkness into a scriptural Christianity. I’m still learning.

How is it that I’d never heard of nouvelle théologie yet was in thrall to much of it for 30 years?

A good resource page which summarises and discusses it is ‘Where is the New Theology leading us?’ (translated from the French) by a Dominican priest, the Revd Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Again, although the essay is written from a Catholic perspective, new theology also has a stranglehold on mainline Protestant denominations. Therefore, I recommend this treatise to all my readers.

New theology’s main points include the following:

it refutes the Councils of Trent and Orange. The latter council is important to Protestants because, from it, the Calvinists derived their doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity.

Adam was not a man but a collective. This refutes the aforementioned councils and, worse, contradicts references to Adam in the New Testament. Luke’s Gospel traces Jesus’s lineage back to Adam (Luke 3:38). St Paul referred to Adam several times in his epistles, teaching that mankind has two heads: Adam and Christ.

the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus) was but a mere blip in the evolution of the universe. According to new theology, time moves on and our link to Jesus becomes more abstract. New theology ignores His sacrifice on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His promise of salvation.

sin is purely a personal issue; Original Sin is irrelevant and God doesn’t place much importance on it. This also refutes the aforementioned Councils. It also ignores God’s banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for their sin.

it is rationalist (see definition at the beginning of this post) in that it advocates for dogma which evolves with time and the world. This is why we see the push for homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage. It also accounts for the (quasi-)atheistic clergy in our pulpits who cannot preach the Gospel.

God is not personally involved in our lives or our world; rather, God is an abstract ‘universal cosmic Centre’. This notion contradicts Holy Scripture from beginning to end.

we can be saved only through pantheism — Gaia — and ‘uniting’ ourselves with the universe.

a general convergence of world religions will bring about a universal faith which will satisfy humanity.

faith can save only if the Church ‘progresses’ in step with the world.

Christians must discard dogmas which are now irrelevant; it is unhealthy to consider doctrine as being true for all time.

there is no such thing as the Real Presence (much less transubstantiation) in Holy Communion; Christ was present only during His lifetime on Earth.

it distorts Thomas Aquinas’s ideas, twisting them into something the philosopher and theologian would never have considered.

But, wait — there’s more

Whilst reading these false teachings, I thought of the anonymous Catholic Agent AA-1025 who was a priest in the 1930s and already posited ideas we would see come to fruition during Vatican II.

There is also the Protestant side of the story, featuring Walter Rauschenbusch — a pietistic Lutheran and the father of the American social gospel. He had close associations with a member of the Fabians — the Revd Harry Ward. John D Rockefeller brought the two together and helped them to establish the Federal Council of Churches, which has since evolved to the World Council of Churches and has close links to the United Nations, also a Fabian creation.

As to the Popes, the preface to an audio lecture about new theology and Vatican II says:

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, are products of the New Theology, and pledge first allegiance to this new system, rather than to the traditional anti-Modernism of Pope Saint Pius X.

Back now to Fr Garrigou-Lagrange, who wrote:

Some will no doubt say that we exaggerate, but even a small error regarding first ideas and first principles has incalculable consequences which are not foreseen by those who have likewise been fooled. The consequences of the new views, some of which we have already reviewed, have gone well beyond the forecasts of the authors we have cited. It is not difficult to see these consequences in certain typewritten papers, which have been sent (some since 1934) to clergy, seminaries, and Catholic intellectuals; one finds in them the most singular assertions and negations on original sin and the Real Presence.

At times, in these same circulated papers, before such novelties are proposed, the reader is conditioned by being told: This will appear crazy at first, however, if you look at it closely, it is not illogical. And many end up believing it. Those with superficial intelligence will adopt it, and the dictum, “A doctrine which is not current, is no longer true” will be out walking. Some are tempted to conclude: “It seems that the doctrine of the eternal pains of hell is no longer current, and so it is no longer true.” It is said in the Gospel that one day charity will be frozen in many hearts and they will be seduced by error.

It is a strict obligation of conscience for traditional theologians to respond. Otherwise, they gravely neglect their duty, and they will be made to account for this before God.

And the following quote, which is very true, although I would disagree on ‘average’ souls. I consider my own as average, but I do remember discussing assigned high school reading material (e.g. Teilhard de Chardin) with one of my classmates who has always had a highly developed intellectual mind. She had to explain it all to me and, even then, I didn’t understand it but thought I should accept it, anyway (stupid!):

A professor of theology wrote to me:

“In effect, the very notion of the truth has been put into debate, and without fully realizing it, thus revisiting modernism in thought as in action. The writings that you have spoken to me about are much read in France. It is true that they exercise a huge influence on the average type of soul. They have little effect on serious people. It is necessary to write for those who have the sincere desire to be enlightened.”

And the problem lies in ‘the sincere desire to be enlightened’, which goes all the way back to original sin when the serpent seduced Eve into heightened knowledge (Genesis 3:1-5):

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

 He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said,  ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Christians must reject such a carnal urge, not least because a lifetime of enlightenment and scholarship lies in the Holy Bible and long-established confessions of faith. May we read, study and understand them then pass that eternal truth on to others.

Why is the Vatican so quiet on the infiltration of the Catholic Church, which has been going on for at least 80 years?

I remember the shock of reading of the death of Pope John Paul I in 1979 and the P2 involvement in the Vatican which then emerged.  I was still a Catholic then and wondered, when the Church specifically forbade Catholics to become Freemasons, how a lodge could be so close to the papacy.  My mother and my friends were equally stunned.

Meanwhile, my grandfather could never figure out why Paul VI had ostracised and, it seems, lied to Cardinal Mindszenty, a saintly man who had suffered greatly yet had done so much for the faith behind the Iron Curtain.

At the turn of this century, the Catholic philosopher Alice von Hildebrand had written a book about her late husband, Dietrich.  When Soul of a Lion appeared, Latin Mass Magazine interviewed her and asked her more about what she and her husband, whom Pope Pius XII called (informally) ‘the 20th century Doctor of the Church’.  Below you will be able to read for yourself what reaction her husband received when he tried to present his evidence to Pope Paul VI.

Sancte Pater has reproduced the interview, excerpts of which follow (emphases mine).  Even non-Catholics will find what Dr von Hildebrand has to say of interest.   On the general remarks she makes about the supernatural, the Cross and redemption, the orthodox Presbyterian John Gresham Machen (born around the time her husband was) would have wholeheartedly agreed.  The late Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand would have also agreed, particularly with her call to holiness and prayer as a faithful Christian against Satan and his earthly agents.

TLM: In terms of the present crisis, when did you first perceive something was terribly wrong?

AVH: It was in February 1965. I was taking a sabbatical year in Florence. My husband was reading a theological journal, and suddenly I heard him burst into tears. I ran to him, fearful that his heart condition had suddenly caused him pain. I asked him if he was all right. He told me that the article that he had been reading had provided him with the certain insight that the devil had entered the Church. Remember, my husband was the first prominent German to speak out publicly against Hitler and the Nazis. His insights were always prescient.

TLM: Did your husband think that the decline in a sense of the supernatural began around that time [1920s — from an earlier question], and if so, how did he explain it?

AVH: No, he believed that after Pius X’s condemnation of the heresy of Modernism [1907], its proponents merely went underground. He would say that they then took a much more subtle and practical approach. They spread doubt simply by raising questions about the great supernatural interventions throughout salvation history, such as the Virgin Birth and Our Lady’s perpetual virginity, as well as the Resurrection, and the Holy Eucharist. They knew that once faith – the foundation – totters, the liturgy and the moral teachings of the Church would follow suit. My husband entitled one of his books The Devastated Vineyard. After Vatican II, a tornado seemed to have hit the Church

Even the pagan Plato was open to a sense of the supernatural. He spoke of the weakness, frailty and cowardice often evidenced in human nature. He was asked by a critic to explain why he had such a low opinion of humanity. He replied that he was not denigrating man, only comparing him to God.

With the loss of a sense of the supernatural, there is a loss of the sense of a need for sacrifice today. The closer one comes to God, the greater should be one’s sense of sinfulness. The further one gets from God, as today, the more we hear the philosophy of the new age: “I’m OK, You’re OK.” This loss of the inclination to sacrifice has led to the obscuring of the Church’s redemptive mission. Where the Cross is downplayed, our need for redemption is given hardly a thought.

The aversion to sacrifice and redemption has assisted the secularization of the Church from within. We have been hearing for many years from priests and bishops about the need for the Church to adapt herself to the world. Great popes like St. Pius X said just the opposite: the world must adapt itself to the Church.

TLM: From our conversation throughout this afternoon, I must conclude that you don’t believe that the accelerating loss of the sense of the supernatural is an accident of history.

AVH: No, I do not. There have been two books published in Italy in recent years that confirm what my husband had been suspecting for some time; namely, that there has been a systematic infiltration of the Church by diabolical enemies for much of this century. My husband was a very sanguine man and optimistic by nature. During the last ten years of his life, however, I witnessed him many times in moments of great sorrow, and frequently repeating, “They have desecrated the Holy Bride of Christ.” He was referring to the “abomination of desolation” of which the prophet Daniel speaks.

TLM: This is a critical admission, Dr. von Hildebrand. Your husband had been called a twentieth-century Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII. If he felt so strongly, didn’t he have access to the Vatican to tell Pope Paul VI of his fears?

AVH: But he did! I shall never forget the private audience we had with Paul VI just before the end of the [Second Vatican] Council. It was on June 21, 1965. As soon as my husband started pleading with him to condemn the heresies that were rampant, the Pope interrupted him with the words, “Lo scriva, lo scriva.” (“Write it down.”) A few moments later, for the second time, my husband drew the gravity of the situation to the Pope’s attention. Same answer. His Holiness received us standing. It was clear that the Pope was feeling very uncomfortable. The audience lasted only a few minutes. Paul VI immediately gave a sign to his secretary, Fr. Capovilla, to bring us rosaries and medals. We then went back to Florence where my husband wrote a long document (unpublished today) that was delivered to Paul VI just the day before the last session of the Council. It was September of 1965. After reading my husband’s document, he said to my husband’s nephew, Dieter Sattler, who had become the German ambassador to the Holy See, that he had read the document carefully, but that “it was a bit harsh.” The reason was obvious: my husband had humbly requested a clear condemnation of heretical statements.

TLM: You realize, of course, Doctor, that as soon as you mention this idea of infiltration, there will be those who roll their eyes in exasperation and remark, “Not another conspiracy theory!”

AVH: I can only tell you what I know. It is a matter of public record, for instance, that Bella Dodd, the ex-Communist who reconverted to the Church, openly spoke of the Communist Party’s deliberate infiltration of agents into the seminaries. She told my husband and me that when she was an active party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican “who were working for us.”

Many a time I have heard Americans say that Europeans “smell conspiracy wherever they go.” But from the beginning, the Evil One has “conspired” against the Church – and has always aimed in particular at destroying the Mass and sapping belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That some people are tempted to blow this undeniable fact out of proportion is no reason for denying its reality. On the other hand, I, European born, am tempted to say that many Americans are naïve; living in a country that has been blessed by peace, and knowing little about history, they are more likely than Europeans (whose history is a tumultuous one) to fall prey to illusions … Judas had played his hand so artfully that no one suspected him, for a cunning conspirator knows how to cover his tracks with a show of orthodoxy.

TLM: Do the two books by the Italian priest you mentioned before the interview contain documentation that would provide evidence of this infiltration?

AVH: The two books I mentioned were published in 1998 and 2000 by an Italian priest, Don Luigi Villa of the diocese of Brescia, who at the request of Padre Pio has devoted many years of his life to the investigation of the possible infiltration of both Freemasons and Communists into the Church. My husband and I met Don Villa in the sixties. He claims that he does not make any statement that he cannot substantiate. When Paulo Sesto Beato? (1998) was published the book was sent to every single Italian bishop. None of them acknowledged receipt; none challenged any of Don Villa’s claims.

In this book, he relates something that no ecclesiastical authority has refuted or asked to be retracted – even though he names particular personalities in regard to the incident. It pertains to the rift between Pope Pius XII and the then Bishop Montini (the future Paul VI) who was his Undersecretary of State. Pius XII, conscious of the threat of Communism, which in the aftermath of World War II was dominating nearly half of Europe, had prohibited the Vatican staff from dealing with Moscow. To his dismay, he was informed one day through the Bishop of Up[p]sala (Sweden) that his strict order had been contravened. The Pope resisted giving credence to this rumor until he was given incontrovertible evidence that Montini had been corresponding with various Soviet agencies. Meanwhile, Pope Pius XII (as had Pius XI) had been sending priests clandestinely into Russia to give comfort to Catholics behind the Iron Curtain. Every one of them had been systematically arrested, tortured, and either executed or sent to the gulag. Eventually a Vatican mole was discovered: Alighiero Tondi, S.J., who was a close advisor to Montini. Tondi was an agent working for Stalin whose mission was to keep Moscow informed about initiatives such as the sending of priests into the Soviet Union.

Add to this Pope Paul’s treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty. Against his will, Mindszenty was ordered by the Vatican to leave Budapest. As most everyone knows, he had escaped the Communists and sought refuge in the American embassy compound. The Pope had given him his solemn promise that he would remain primate of Hungary as long as he lived. When the Cardinal (who had been tortured by the Communists) arrived in Rome, Paul VI embraced him warmly, but then sent him into exile in Vienna. Shortly afterwards, this holy prelate was informed that he had been demoted, and had been replaced by someone more acceptable to the Hungarian Communist government. More puzzling, and tragically sad, is the fact that when Mindszenty died, no Church representative was present at his burial.

Another of Don Villa’s illustrations of infiltration is one related to him by Cardinal Gagnon. Paul VI had asked Gagnon to head an investigation concerning the infiltration of the Church by powerful enemies. Cardinal Gagnon (at that time an Archbishop) accepted this unpleasant task, and compiled a long dossier, rich in worrisome facts. When the work was completed, he requested an audience with Pope Paul in order to deliver personally the manuscript to the Pontiff. This request for a meeting was denied. The Pope sent word that the document should be placed in the offices of the Congregation for the Clergy, specifically in a safe with a double lock. This was done, but the very next day the safe deposit box was broken and the manuscript mysteriously disappeared. The usual policy of the Vatican is to make sure that news of such incidents never sees the light of day. Nevertheless, this theft was reported even in L’Osservatore Romano (perhaps under pressure because it had been reported in the secular press). Cardinal Gagnon, of course, had a copy, and once again asked the Pope for a private audience. Once again his request was denied. He then decided to leave Rome and return to his homeland in Canada. Later, he was called back to Rome by Pope John Paul II and made a cardinal.

TLM: Why did Don Villa write these works singling out Paul VI for criticism?

AVH: Don Villa reluctantly decided to publish the books to which I have alluded. But when several bishops pushed for the beatification of Paul VI, this priest perceived it as a clarion call to print the information he had gathered through the years. In so doing, he was following the guidelines of a Roman Congregation, informing the faithful that it was their duty as members of the Church to relay to the Congregation any information that might militate against the candidate’s qualifications for beatification.

Considering the tumultuous pontificate of Paul VI, and the confusing signals he was giving, e.g.: speaking about the “smoke of Satan that had entered the Church,” yet refusing to condemn heresies officially; his promulgation of Humanae Vitae (the glory of his pontificate), yet his careful avoidance of proclaiming it ex cathedra [infallible doctrine]; delivering his Credo of the People of God in Piazza San Pietro in 1968, and once again failing to declare it binding on all Catholics; disobeying the strict orders of Pius XII to have no contact with Moscow, and appeasing the Hungarian Communist government by reneging on the solemn promise he had made to Cardinal Mindszenty; his treatment of holy Cardinal Slipyj, who had spent seventeen years in a Gulag, only to be made a virtual prisoner in the Vatican by Paul VI; and finally asking Archbishop Gagnon to investigate possible infiltration in the Vatican, only to refuse him an audience when his work was completed – all these speak strongly against the beatification of Paolo VI, dubbed in Rome, “Paolo Sesto, Mesto” (Paul VI, the sad one) …

God alone is the judge of Paul VI. But it cannot be denied that his pontificate was a very complex and tragic one. It was under him that, in the course of fifteen years, more changes were introduced in the Church than in all preceding centuries combined. What is worrisome is that when we read the testimony of ex-Communists like Bella Dodd, and study Freemasonic documents (dating from the nineteenth century, and usually penned by fallen-away priests like Paul Roca), we can see that, to a large extent, their agenda has been carried out: the exodus of priests and nuns after Vatican II, dissenting theologians not censured, feminism, the pressure put on Rome to abolish priestly celibacy, immorality in the clergy, blasphemous liturgies (see the article by David Hart in First Things, April 2001, “The Future of the Papacy”), the radical changes that have been introduced into the sacred liturgy (see Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Milestones, pp. 126 and 148, Ignatius Press), and a misleading ecumenism. Only a blind person could deny that many of the Enemy’s plans have been perfectly carried out.

One should not forget that the world was shocked at what Hitler did. People like my husband, however, actually read what he had said in Mein Kampf. The plan was there. The world simply chose not to believe it.

But grave as the situation is, no committed Catholic can forget that Christ has promised that He will remain with His Church to the very end of the world. We should meditate on the scene related in the Gospel when the apostles’ boat was battered by a fierce storm. Christ was sleeping! His terrified followers woke Him up: He said one word, and there was a great calm. “O ye of little faith!” …

TLM: So you see the only scenario for a solution to the present crisis as the renewal of a striving for sanctity?

AVH: We should not forget that we are fighting not only against flesh and blood, but against “powers and principalities.” This should elicit sufficient dread in us to make us strive more than ever for holiness, and to pray fervently that the Holy Bride of Christ, who is right now at Calvary, comes out of this fearful crisis more radiant than ever.

Tomorrow: More on Communists in the Church, Bella Dodd and the ‘Outstretched Hand’

Today, our series on John Gresham Machen‘s Christianity and Liberalism, published in 1923, covers the beginning of Chapter 6 – Salvation.  For past entries, click here.

Dr Machen explains the reasons for our unfortunate downgrading of Christ’s sufficient sacrifice on the Cross and how our clergy help foster it.

Excerpts from pages 110 – 120 below come from Reformed Audio’s PDF of the book.  Subheads and emphases are mine for easier navigation.

Christian versus Modernist (‘liberal’) perspectives on salvation

The difference with regard to the way of salvation concerns, in the first place, the basis of salvation in the redeeming work of Christ. According to Christian belief, Jesus is our Savior, not by virtue of what He said, not even by virtue of what He was, but by what He did. He is our Savior, not because He has inspired us to live the same kind of life that He lived, but because He took upon Himself the dreadful guilt of our sins and bore it instead of us on the cross. Such is the Christian conception of the Cross of Christ. It is ridiculed as being a “subtle theory of the atonement.” In reality, it is the plain teaching of the word of God; we know absolutely nothing about an atonement that is not a vicarious atonement, for that is the only atonement of which the New Testament speaks. And this Bible doctrine is not intricate or subtle … It is not the Bible doctrine of the atonement which is difficult to understand − what are really incomprehensible are the elaborate modern efforts to get rid of the Bible doctrine in the interests of human pride.

Modern liberal preachers do indeed sometimes speak of “the atonement.”  But they speak of it just as seldom as they possibly can, and one can see plainly that their hearts are elsewhere than at the foot of the Cross … when the traditional phraseology has been stripped away, the essence of the modern conception of the death of Christ, though that conception appears in many forms, is fairly plain.  The essence of it is that the death of Christ had an effect not upon God but only upon man.  Sometimes the effect upon man is conceived of in a very simple way, Christ’s death being regarded merely as an example of self-sacrifice for us to emulate.  The uniqueness of this particular example, then, can be found only in the fact that Christian sentiment, gathering around it, has made it a convenient symbol for all self-sacrifice;  it puts in concrete form what would otherwise have to be expressed in colder general terms.  Sometimes, again, the effect of Christ’s death upon us is conceived in subtler ways;  the death of Christ, it is said, shows how much God hates sin — since sin brought even the Holy One to the dreadful Cross — and we too, therefore, ought to hate sin, as God hates it, and repent.  Sometimes, still again, the death of Christ is thought of as displaying the love of God;  it exhibits God’s own Son as given up for us all.  These “modern theories of the atonement” are not all to be placed upon the same plane; the last of them, in particular, may be joined with a high view of Jesus’ Person. But they err in that they ignore the dreadful reality of guilt, and make a mere persuasion of the human will all that is needed for salvation. They do indeed all contain an element of truth … But they are swallowed up in a far greater truth − that Christ died instead of us to present us faultless before the throne of God. Without that central truth, all the rest is devoid of real meaning: an example of self-sacrifice is useless to those who are under both the guilt and thralldom of sin; the knowledge of God’s hatred of sin can in itself bring only despair; an exhibition of the love of God is a mere display unless there was some underlying reason for the sacrifice.

Modern clergy’s dislike of the Cross

Upon the Christian doctrine of the Cross, modern liberals are never weary of pouring out the vials of their hatred and their scorn … They speak with disgust of those who believe “that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.”  Against the doctrine of the Cross they use every weapon of caricature and vilification. Thus they pour out their scorn upon a thing so holy and so precious that in the presence of it the Christian heart melts in gratitude too deep for words. It never seems to occur to modern liberals that in deriding the Christian doctrine of the Cross, they are trampling upon human hearts. But the modern liberal attacks upon the Christian doctrine of the Cross may at least serve the purpose of showing what that doctrine is, and from this point of view they may be examined briefly now.

The substitution of mysticism for historicism

… it is sometimes said that as Christians we may attend to what Christ does now for every Christian rather than to what He did long ago in Palestine. But the evasion involves a total abandonment of the Christian faith. If the saving work of Christ were confined to what He does now for every Christian, there would be no such thing as a Christian gospel − an account of an event which put a new face on life. What we should have left would be simply mysticism, and mysticism is quite different from Christianity. It is the connection of the present experience of the believer with an actual historic appearance of Jesus in the world which prevents our religion from being mysticism and causes it to be Christianity.

our religion must be abandoned altogether unless at a definite point in history Jesus died as a propitiation for the sins of men. Christianity is certainly dependent upon history.

But if so, the objection lies very near. Must we really depend for the welfare of our souls upon what happened long ago? …

With regard to this objection it should be observed that if religion be made independent of history there is no such thing as a gospel. For “gospel” means “good news,” tidings, information about something that has happened. A gospel independent of history is a contradiction in terms. The Christian gospel means, not a presentation of what always has been true, but a report of something new − something that imparts a totally different aspect to the situation of mankind. The situation of mankind was desperate because of sin; but God has changed the situation by the atoning death of Christ − that is no mere reflection upon the old, but an account of something new. We are shut up in this world as in a beleaguered camp. To maintain our courage, the liberal preacher offers us exhortation. Make the best of the situation, he says, look on the bright side of life. But unfortunately, such exhortation cannot change the facts. In particular it cannot remove the dreadful fact of sin. Very different is the message of the Christian evangelist. He offers not reflection on the old but tidings of something new, not exhortation but a gospel.

It is true that the Christian gospel is an account, not of something that happened yesterday, but of something that happened long ago; but the important thing is that it really happened. If it really happened, then it makes little difference when it happened. No matter when it happened, whether yesterday or in the first century, it remains a real gospel, a real piece of news

Experience does not provide a substitute for the documentary evidence, but it does confirm that evidence. The word of the Cross no longer seems to the Christian to be merely a far-off thing, merely a matter to be disputed about by trained theologians. On the contrary, it is received into the Christian’s inmost soul, and every day and hour of the Christian’s life brings new confirmation of its truth.

Why we see an increase in universalism

the Christian doctrine of salvation through the death of Christ is criticized on the ground that it is narrow. It binds salvation to the name of Jesus, and there are many men in the world who have never in any effective way heard of the name of Jesus. What is really needed, we are told, is a salvation which will save all men everywhere, whether they have heard of Jesus or not, and whatever may be the type of life to which they have been reared. Not a new creed, it is said, will meet the universal need of the world, but some means of making effective in right living whatever creed men may chance to have.

It is sometimes said that although one way of salvation is by means of acceptance of the gospel there may be other ways. But this method of meeting the objection relinquishes one of the things that are most obviously characteristic of the Christian message − namely, its exclusiveness. What struck the early observers of Christianity most forcibly was not merely that salvation was offered by means of the Christian gospel, but that all other means were resolutely rejected. The early Christian missionaries demanded an absolutely exclusive devotion to Christ. Such exclusiveness ran directly counter to the prevailing syncretism of the Hellenistic age. In that day, many saviors were offered by many religions to the attention of men, but the various pagan religions could live together in perfect harmony; when a man became a devotee of one god, he did not have to give up the others. But Christianity would have nothing to do with these “courtly polygamies of the soul”Salvation, in other words, was not merely through Christ, but it was only through Christ. In that little word “only” lay all the offence. Without that word there would have been no persecutions; the cultured men of the day would probably have been willing to give Jesus a place, and an honorable place, among the saviors of mankind … So modern liberalism, placing Jesus alongside other benefactors of mankind, is perfectly inoffensive in the modern world. All men speak well of it. It is entirely inoffensive. But it is also entirely futile. The offence of the Cross is done away, but so is the glory and the power.

Christ is bound up with salvation

Thus it must fairly be admitted that Christianity does bind salvation to the name of Christ … it may be said simply that the Christian way of salvation is narrow only so long as the Church chooses to let it remain narrow. The name of Jesus is discovered to be strangely adapted to men of every race and of every kind of previous education. And the Church has ample means, with promise of God’s Spirit, to bring the name of Jesus to all. If, therefore, this way of salvation is not offered to all, it is not the fault of the way of salvation itself, but the fault of those who fail to use the means that God has placed in their hands.

It is certainly true that the Christian way of salvation places a stupendous responsibility upon men. But that responsibility is like the responsibility which, as ordinary observation shows, God does, as a matter of fact, commit to men … It is a terrible responsibility; but it exists, and it is just like the other known dealings of God.

Another modern distortion of the Cross

How can one person, it is asked, suffer for the sins of another? The thing, we are told, is absurd. Guilt, it is said, is personal; if I allow another man to suffer for my fault, my guilt is not thereby one whit diminished …

In the war, for example, many men died freely for the welfare of others. Here, it is said, we have something analogous to the sacrifice of Christ.

It must be confessed, however, that the analogy is very faint; for it does not touch the specific point at issue. The death of a volunteer soldier in the war was like the death of Christ in that it was a supreme example of self-sacrifice. But the thing to be accomplished by the self-sacrifice was entirely different from the thing which was accomplished on Calvary. The death of those who sacrificed themselves in the war brought peace and protection to the loved ones at home, but it could never avail to wipe out the guilt of sin

Why is it that men are no longer willing to trust for their own salvation and for the hope of the world to one act that was done by one Man of long ago? Why is it that they prefer to trust to millions of acts of self-sacrifice wrought by millions of men all through the centuries and in our own day? The answer is plain. It is because men have lost sight of the majesty of Jesus’ Person. The[y] think of Him as a man like themselves; and if He was a man like themselves, His death becomes simply an example of self-sacrifice. But there have been millions of examples of self-sacrifice. Why then should we pay such exclusive attention to this one Palestinian example of long ago? Men used to say with reference to Jesus, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.” They say so now no longer. On the contrary, every man is now regarded as plenty good enough to pay the price of sin if, whether in peace or in war, he will only go bravely over the top in some noble cause.

Understanding the deity of Christ and salvation

The Christian doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is altogether rooted in the Christian doctrine of the deity of Christ. The reality of an atonement for sin depends altogether upon the New Testament presentation of the Person of Christ. And even the hymn[s] dealing with the Cross which we sing in Church can be placed in an ascending scale according as they are based upon a lower or a higher view of Jesus’ Person …

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

There at length are heard the accents of true Christian feeling – “the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died.” When we come to see that it was no mere man who suffered on Calvary but the Lord of Glory, then we shall be willing to say that one drop of the precious blood of Jesus is of more value, for our own salvation and for the hope of society, than all the rivers of blood that have flowed upon the battlefields of history …

It is perfectly true that the Christ of modern naturalistic reconstruction never could have suffered for the sins of others; but it is very different in the case of the Lord of Glory.

Tomorrow: Understanding salvation

For the past two weeks, I have presented excerpts from John Gresham Machen‘s Christianity and Liberalism, published in 1923.  Machen explains the errors of the modern Church in layman’s terms.  It is a fascinating read. For previous entries, click on this Machen link.

I’m providing excerpts from the full version, available thanks to Reformed Audio, via PDF.  Pages cited are the PDF pages.  Whilst I am going through the book sequentially, I’ll divide posts by topic.  Subheads and emphases are mine for ease of navigation.

Today’s excerpts come from Chapter 4 – The Bible and cover pages 72 – 76.

What ‘divine’ means to the modernist

Does not the liberal preacher say that the Bible is “divine” − indeed that it is the more divine because it is the more human? What could be more edifying than that? But of course such appearances are deceptive. A Bible that is full of error is certainly divine in the modern pantheizing sense of “divine,” according to which God is just another name for the course of the world with all its imperfections and all its sin. But the God whom the Christian worships is a God of truth.

Modernist view of the Bible

If the Christian make full use of his Christian privileges, he finds the seat of authority in the whole Bible, which he regards as no mere word of man but as the very Word of God.

Very different is the view of modern liberalism. The modern liberal rejects not only the doctrine of plenary inspiration, but even such respect for the Bible as would be proper over against any ordinarily trustworthy book. But what is substituted for the Christian view of the Bible? What is the liberal view as to the seat of authority in religion?

The impression is sometimes produced that the modern liberal substitutes for the authority of the Bible the authority of Christ. He cannot accept, he says, what he regards as the perverse moral teaching of the Old Testament or the sophistical arguments of Paul. But he regards himself as being the true Christian because, rejecting the rest of the Bible, he depends upon Jesus alone.

This impression, however, is utterly false. The modern liberal does not really hold to the authority of Jesus. Even if he did so, indeed, he would still be impoverishing greatly his knowledge of God and of the way of salvation. The words of Jesus, spoken during His earthly ministry, could hardly contain all that we need to know about God and about the way of salvation; for the meaning of Jesus’ redeeming work could hardly be fully set forth before that work was done. It could be set forth indeed by way of prophecy, and as a matter of fact it was so set forth by Jesus even in the days of His flesh. But the full explanation could naturally be given only after the work was done. And such was actually the divine method

Disregarding Jesus’s authority

As a matter of fact, however, the modern liberal … does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels. For among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are most abhorrent to the modern liberal Church, and in His recorded words Jesus also points forward to the fuller revelation which was afterwards to be given through His apostles. Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process

But even after the sifting process has been completed, the liberal scholar is still unable to accept as authoritative all the sayings of Jesus; he must finally admit that even the “historical” Jesus as reconstructed by modern historians said some things that are untrue.

the Son of Man “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark x. 45). Here the vicarious death is put as the “life-purpose” of Jesus. Such an utterance must of course be pushed aside by the modern liberal Church. The truth is that the life-purpose of Jesus discovered by modern liberalism is not the life purpose of the real Jesus, but merely represents those elements in the teaching of Jesus − isolated and misinterpreted − which happen to agree with the modern program. It is not Jesus, then, who is the real authority, but the modern principle by which the selection within Jesus’ recorded teaching has been made. Certain isolated ethical principles of the Sermon on the Mount are accepted, not at all because they are teachings of Jesus, but because they agree with modern ideas.

It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus’ example and teaching − notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be “the Christian consciousness” or “Christian experience.” But how shall the findings of the Christian consciousness be established? Surely not by a majority vote of the organized Church. Such a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience. The only authority, then, can be individual experience; truth can only be that which “helps” the individual man. Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth. The result is an abysmal skepticism.

Reliance on the Bible is very good, indeed

The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.

Next week: Machen on Christ

Yes, I have put ‘Father’ in quotes, because John Gresham Machen explains the theological problems with it in light of 20th century interpretation, which he explains below in the first part of Chapter 3 – God and Man from Christianity and Liberalism.

Although it was published in 1923, five years after the Great War ended, the book is unbelievably fresh and perceptive in its analysis of the errors of the modern Church.  For previous entries, click on this Machen link.

I’m providing excerpts from the full version, available thanks to Reformed Audio, via PDF.  Pages cited are the PDF pages.  Whilst I am going through the book sequentially, I’ll divide posts by topic.  Subheads and emphases are mine for ease of navigation.

Today’s extracts come from pages 53-60 of Chapter 3 – God and Man.  This is a particularly outstanding chapter, one which I hope you will find time to read.

The modern concept of God

The Christian gospel consists in an account of how God saved man, and before that gospel can be understood something must be known (1) about God and (2) about man. The doctrine of God and the doctrine of man are the two great presuppositions of the gospel. With regard to these presuppositions, as with regard to the gospel itself, modern liberalism is diametrically opposed to Christianity.

It is opposed to Christianity, in the first place, in its conception of God. But at this point we are met with a particularly insistent form of that objection to doctrinal matters which has already been considered. It is unnecessary, we are told, to have a “conception” of God; theology, or the knowledge of God, it is said, is the death of religion; we should not seek to know God, but should merely feel His presence.

… it ought to be observed that if religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral … Human affection, apparently so simple, is really just bristling with dogma. It depends upon a host of observations treasured up in the mind with regard to the character of our friends. But if human affection is thus really dependent upon knowledge, why should it be otherwise with that supreme personal relationship which is at the basis of religion? Why should we be indignant about slanders directed against a human friend, while at the same time we are patient about the basest slanders directed against our God? Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion.

Modernist knowledge of God

Some liberal preachers would say that we become acquainted with God only through Jesus. That assertion has an appearance of loyalty to our Lord, but in reality it is highly derogatory to Him. For Jesus Himself plainly recognized the validity of other ways of knowing God, and to reject those other ways is to reject the things that lay at the very center of Jesus’ life. Jesus plainly found God’s hand in nature; the lilies of the field revealed to Him the weaving of God. He found God also in the moral law; the law written in the hearts of men was God’s law, which revealed His righteousness. Finally Jesus plainly found God revealed in the ScripturesTo say that such revelation of God was invalid, or is useless to us today, is to do despite to things that lay closest to Jesus’ mind and heart.

But, as a matter of fact, when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever … For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it …  the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had already a very definite conception of God; a knowledge of the one supreme Person was presupposed in all that Jesus said. But the disciples desired not only a knowledge of God hut also intimate, personal contact. And that came through their intercourse with Jesus. Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching. Rational theism, the knowledge of one Supreme Person, Maker and active Ruler of the world, is at the very root of Christianity.

Jesus’s knowledge of God

Certainly no part of Jesus’ knowledge of God was merely theoretical; everything that Jesus knew about God touched His heart and determined His actions. In that sense, Jesus’ knowledge of God was “practical.” But unfortunately that is not the sense in which the assertion of modern liberalism is meant. What is frequently meant by a “practical” knowledge of God in modern parlance is not a theoretical knowledge of God that is also practical, but a practical knowledge which is not theoretical − in other words, a knowledge which gives no information about objective reality, a knowledge which is no knowledge at all. And nothing could possibly be more unlike the religion of Jesus than that. The relation of Jesus to His heavenly Father was not a relation to a vague and impersonal goodness, it was not a relation which merely clothed itself in symbolic, personal form. On the contrary, it was a relation to a real Person, whose existence was just as definite and just as much a subject of theoretic knowledge as the existence of the lilies of the field that God had clothed. The very basis of the religion of Jesus was a triumphant belief in the real existence of a personal God.

Jesus was a theist, and rational theism is at the basis of Christianity.

Why believing in God is necessary

At any rate, the logical confirmation of the belief in God is a vital concern to the Christian; at this point as at many others religion and philosophy are connected in the most intimate possible way. True religion can make no peace with a false philosophy, any more than with a science that is falsely so-called; a thing cannot possibly be true in religion and false in philosophy or in science. All methods of arriving at truth, if they be valid methods, will arrive at a harmonious result. Certainly the atheistic or agnostic Christianity which sometimes goes under the name of a “practical” religion is no Christianity at all. At the very root of Christianity is the belief in the real existence of a personal God.

The problem of God, the universal ‘Father’

Strangely enough, at the very time when modern liberalism is decrying the theistic proofs, and taking refuge in a “practical” knowledge which shall somehow be independent of scientifically or philosophically ascertained facts, the liberal preacher loves to use one designation of God which is nothing if not theistic; he loves to speak of God as “Father.” The term certainly has the merit of ascribing personality to God. By some of those who use it, indeed, it is not seriously meant; by some it is employed because it is useful, not because it is true. But not all liberals are able to make the subtle distinction between theoretic judgments and judgments of value; some liberals, though perhaps a decreasing number, are true believers in a personal God. And such men are able to think of God truly as a Father.

… It is not indeed exclusively Christian; the term “Father” has been applied to God outside of Christianity. It appears, for example, in the widespread belief in an “All-Father,” which prevails among many races even in company with polytheism; it appears here and there in the Old Testament, and in pre-Christian Jewish writings subsequent to the Old Testament period. Such occurrences of the term are by no means devoid of significance. The Old Testament usage, in particular, is a worthy precursor of our Lord’s teaching

Modern men have been so much impressed with this element in Jesus’ teaching that they have sometimes been inclined to regard it as the very sum and substance of our religion. We are not interested, they say, in many things for which men formerly gave their lives; we are not interested in the theology of the creeds; we are not interested in the doctrines of sin and salvation; we are not interested in atonement through the blood of Christ: enough for us is the simple truth of the fatherhood of God and its corollary, the brotherhood of man

No universal ‘Father’ in Jesus’s parables

It is very strange how those who accept only the universal fatherhood of God as the sum and substance of religion can regard themselves as Christians or can appeal to Jesus of Nazareth. For the plain fact is that this modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God formed no part whatever of Jesus’ teaching. Where is it that Jesus may be supposed to have taught the universal fatherhood of God? Certainly it is not in the parable of the Prodigal Son … So here because the joy of the father in the parable is like the joy of God when a sinner receives salvation at Jesus’ hand, it does not follow that the relation which God sustains to still unrepentant sinners is that of a Father to his children. Where else, then, can the universal fatherhood of God be found? Surely not in the Sermon on the Mount; for throughout the Sermon on the Mount those who can call God Father are distinguished in the most emphatic way from the great world of the Gentiles outside … God is indeed represented here as caring for all men whether evil or good, but He is certainly not called the Father of all. Indeed it might almost be said that the point of the passage depends on the fact that He is not the Father of all. He cares even for those who are not His children but His enemies; so His children, Jesus’ disciples, ought to imitate Him by loving even those who are not their brethren but their persecutors. The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus. And it is not to be found in the New Testament.

God as universal Author

The whole New Testament and Jesus Himself do indeed represent God as standing in a relation to all men, whether Christians or not, which is analogous to that in which a father stands to his children. He is the Author of the being of all, and as such might well be called the Father of all. He cares for all, and for that reason also might be called the Father of all. Here and there the figure of fatherhood seems to be used to designate this broader relationship which God sustains to all men or even to all created beings. So in an isolated passage in Hebrews, God is spoken of as the “Father of spirits” (Heb. xii. 9). Here perhaps it is the relation of God, as creator, to the personal beings whom He has created which is in view. One of the clearest instances of the broader use of the figure of fatherhood is found in the speech of Paul at Athens, Acts xvii. 28: “For we are also His offspring.” Here it is plainly the relation in which God stands to all men, whether Christians or not, which is in mind. But the words form part of an hexameter line and are taken from a pagan poet; they are not represented as part of the gospel, but merely as belonging to the common meeting-ground which Paul discovered in speaking to his pagan hearers.  This passage is only typical of what appears, with respect to a universal fatherhood of God, in the New Testament as a whole. Something analogous to a universal fatherhood of God is taught in the New Testament … But such instances are extremely rare.  Ordinarily the lofty term “Father” is used to describe a relationship of a far more intimate kind, the relationship in which God stands to the company of the redeemed.

Universal fatherhood akin to naturalism

The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God, then, which is being celebrated as “the essence of Christianity” really belongs at best only to that vague natural religion which forms the presupposition which the Christian preacher can use when the gospel is to be proclaimed; and when it is regarded as a reassuring, all-sufficient thing, it comes into opposition with the New Testament.  The gospel itself refers to something entirely different;  the really distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God concerns only those who have been brought into the household of faith

But by the preaching of the gospel we shall invite [our fellow men] into the warmth and joy of the house of God.  Christianity offers men all that is offered by the modern liberal teaching about the universal fatherhood of God; but it is Christianity only because it offers also infinitely more.

Tomorrow: Christian pantheism and the absence of sin

Today, we continue our exploration of John Gresham Machen‘s 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism, available thanks to Reformed Audio, via PDF.  Pages cited are their PDF pages.  Whilst I shall go through the book sequentially, I’ll divide posts by topic.

For past entries, click on the Machen link in the first paragraph.  The post below examines pages 20 – 22, the introduction to Chapter 2 – Doctrine.  Subheads and emphases are mine for easier navigation.

The decline of doctrine

Modern liberalism in the Church, whatever judgment may be passed upon it, is at any rate no longer merely an academic matter. It is no longer a matter merely of theological seminaries or universities. On the contrary its attack upon the fundamentals of the Christian faith is being carried on vigorously by Sunday-School “lesson-helps,” by the pulpit, and by the religious press

At the theological seminaries and universities, however, the roots of the great issue are more clearly seen than in the world at large; among students the reassuring employment of traditional phrases is often abandoned, and the advocates of a new religion are not at pains, as they are in the Church at large, to maintain an appearance of conformity with the past. But such frankness, we are convinced, ought to be extended to the people as a whole. Few desires on the part of religious teachers have been more harmfully exaggerated than the desire to “avoid giving offense.” Only too often that desire has come perilously near dishonesty; the religious teacher, in his heart of hearts, is well aware of the radicalism of his views, but is unwilling to relinquish his place in the hallowed atmosphere of the Church by speaking his whole mind. Against all such policy of concealment or palliation, our sympathies are altogether with those men, whether radicals or conservatives, who have a passion for light.

‘Experiential’ Christianity

“Teachings,” it is said, “are unimportant; the exposition of the teachings of liberalism and the teachings of Christianity, therefore, can arouse no interest at the present day; creeds are merely the changing expression of a unitary Christian experience, and provided only they express that experience they are all equally good. The teachings of liberalism, therefore, might be as far removed as possible from the teachings of historic Christianity, and yet the two might be at bottom the same” …

There are doctrines of modern liberalism, just as tenaciously and intolerantly upheld as any doctrines that find a place in the historic creeds. Such for example are the liberal doctrines of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. These doctrines are, as we shall see, contrary to the doctrines of the Christian religion. But doctrines they are all the same, and as such they require intellectual defence. In seeming to object to all theology, the liberal preacher is often merely objecting to one system of theology in the interests of another. And the desired immunity from theological controversy has not yet been attained.

Sometimes, however, the modern objection to doctrine is more seriously meant. And whether the objection be well-founded or not, the real meaning of it should at least be faced.

That meaning is perfectly plain. The objection involves an out-and-out skepticism. If all creeds are equally true, then since they are contradictory to one another, they are all equally false, or at least equally uncertain. We are indulging, therefore, in a mere juggling with words. To say that all creeds are equally true, and that they are based upon experience, is merely to fall back upon that agnosticism which fifty years ago was regarded as the deadliest enemy of the Church. The enemy has not really been changed into a friend merely because he has been received within the camp. Very different is the Christian conception of a creed. According to the Christian conception, a creed is not a mere expression of Christian experience, but on the contrary it is a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based.

Tomorrow: St Paul’s epistles

 

This post begins a series on John Gresham Machen’s book Christianity and Liberalism.

Although he wrote it for the layman, he discusses a variety of subjects in a highly learned way which I think you’ll enjoy reading.  Christians of all denominations will appreciate his orthodox views and love of scriptural truth. Libertarian secularists will admire his ideas on the state, education and why Western society gravitates towards the lowest common denominator.  You would never think that he wrote this volume in 1923.

I’ll offer excerpts from the full version, available thanks to Reformed Audio, via PDF.  Pages cited are their PDF pages.  Whilst I shall go through the book sequentially, I’ll divide posts by topic.  In the introduction, Machen tells us why he wrote the book, then discusses the state and education.  I envisage three posts from this initial chapter.  The first will certainly appeal to Christians and the next two have a more secular nature, which traditionalists and libertarians will appreciate. There will be ideas for everyone to savour and enjoy!

Any subheads below are mine, added to help divide the excerpts into topics for easier reading and reference. Emphases are also mine.

Today’s post covers pages 6 – 14 of the Reformed Audio edition.

Purpose of the book

The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding it for himself. Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time … Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.

Introducing modernism, or ‘liberalism’

… [T]he great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “modernism” or “liberalism.” Both names are unsatisfactory …  The movement designated as “liberalism” is regarded as “liberal” only by its friends; to its opponents it seems to involve a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts. And indeed the movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism − that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity. The word “naturalism” is here used in a sense somewhat different from its philosophical meaning.

Modern society and science

The rise of this modern naturalistic liberalism has not come by chance, but has been occasioned by important changes which have recently taken place in the conditions of life. The past one hundred years have witnessed the beginning of a new era in human history, which may conceivably be regretted, but certainly cannot be ignored, by the most obstinate conservatism … it forces itself upon the attention of the plain man at a hundred points. Modern inventions and the industrialism that has been built upon them have given us in many respects a new world to live in; we can no more remove ourselves from that world than we can escape from the atmosphere that we breathe …

The industrial world of today has been produced not by blind forces of nature but by the conscious activity of the human spirit; it has been produced by the achievements of science

Though the most palpable achievements are in the sphere of physics and chemistry, the sphere of human life cannot be isolated from the rest, and with the other sciences there has appeared, for example, a modern science of history, which, with psychology and sociology and the like, claims, even if it does not deserve, full equality with its sister sciences. No department of knowledge can maintain its isolation from the modern lust of scientific conquest …

In such an age, it is obvious that every inheritance from the past must be subject to searching criticism; and as a matter of fact some convictions of the human race have crumbled to pieces in the test. Indeed, dependence of any institution upon the past is now sometimes even regarded as furnishing a presumption, not in favor of it, but against it. So many convictions have had to be abandoned that men have sometimes come to believe that all convictions must go.

Why Christianity is questioned

If such an attitude be justifiable, then no institution is faced by a stronger hostile presumption than the institution of the Christian religion, for no institution has based itself more squarely upon the authority of a by-gone age … the fact itself is plain, that Christianity during many centuries has consistently appealed for the truth of its claims, not merely and not even primarily to current experience, but to certain ancient books the most recent of which was written some nineteen hundred years ago. It is no wonder that that appeal is being criticized today; for the writers of the books in question were no doubt men of their own age, whose outlook upon the material world, judged by modern standards, must have been of the crudest and most elementary kind. Inevitably the question arises whether … first-century religion can ever stand in company with twentieth-century science.

Religion, it is said, is so entirely separate from science, that the two, rightly defined, cannot possibly come into conflict. This attempt at separation, as it is hoped the following pages may show, is open to objections of the most serious kind. But what must now be observed is that even if the separation is justifiable it cannot be effected without effort; the removal of the problem of religion and science itself constitutes a problem. For, rightly or wrongly, religion during the centuries has as a matter of fact connected itself with a host of convictions, especially in the sphere of history, which may form the subject of scientific investigation … Yet the investigation of events in the first century in Judea, just as much as in Italy or in Greece, belongs to the sphere of scientific history. In other words, our simple Christian, whether rightly or wrongly, whether wisely or unwisely, has as a matter of fact connected his religion, in a way that to him seems indissoluble, with convictions about which science also has a right to speak.

What the modernist tries to do

Admitting that scientific objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion − against the Christian doctrines of the person of Christ, and of redemption through His death and resurrection − the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion … and these general principles he regards as constituting “the essence of Christianity.”

It may well be questioned, however … Modern materialism, especially in the realm of psychology, is not content with occupying the lower quarters of the Christian city, but pushes its way into all the higher reaches of life; it is just as much opposed to the philosophical idealism of the liberal preacher as to the Biblical doctrines that the liberal preacher has abandoned in the interests of peace. Mere concessiveness, therefore, will never succeed in avoiding the intellectual conflict. In the intellectual battle of the present day there can be no “peace without victory”; one side or the other must win.

As a matter of fact, however, it may appear … that what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to be long in a distinct category. It may appear further that the fears of the modern man as to Christianity were entirely ungrounded, and that in abandoning the embattled walls of the city of God he has fled in needless panic into the open plains of a vague natural religion only to fall an easy victim to the enemy who ever lies in ambush there.

Why modernism — liberalism — is an error

Modern liberalism may be criticized (1) on the ground that it is un-Christian and (2) on the ground that it is unscientific. We shall … be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions. But in showing that the liberal attempt at rescuing Christianity is false we are not showing that there is no way of rescuing Christianity at all … our principal concern just now is to show that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene. In trying to … bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. Here as in many other departments of life it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.

In maintaining that liberalism in the modern Church represents a return to an un-Christian and sub-Christian form of the religious life, we are particularly anxious not to be misunderstood. “Un-Christian” in such a connection is sometimes taken as a term of opprobrium. We do not mean it at all as such. Socrates was not a Christian, neither was Goethe; yet we share to the full the respect with which their names are regarded …

If a condition could be conceived in which all the preaching of the Church should be controlled by the liberalism which in many quarters has already become preponderant, then, we believe, Christianity would at last have perished from the earth and the gospel would have sounded forth for the last time … Vastly more important than all questions with regard to methods of preaching is the root question as to what it is that shall be preached.

Potential critics — Christian and secular

Many, no doubt, will turn in impatience from the inquiry − all those, namely, who have settled the question in, such a way that they cannot even conceive of its being reopened. Such, for example, are the pietists, of whom there are still many.  For these persons we have the highest respect, for we believe that they are right in the main point; they have arrived by a direct and easy road at a conviction which for other men is attained only through intellectual struggle. But we cannot reasonably expect them to be interested in what we have to say. Another class of uninterested persons is much more numerous … There are still individuals, they will say, who believe that the earth is flat; there are also individuals who defend the Christianity of the Church, miracles and atonement and all. In either case, it will be said, the phenomenon is interesting as a curious example of arrested development, but it is nothing more.

Tomorrow: Societal decline and the role of the State

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