Friday, July 29, 2011

The Bread of the Berith: The Readings of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Holy Mother Church serves up a rich fare for us in the Liturgy of the Word this week.
We begin with one of the most striking prophecies of the Book of Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lapide's Principles for Interpreting the Gospels

I'm sorry it's taken a while for me to finish off my series on 17th century Biblical interpretation in the Low Countries.  In this last post, I would like to present a summary of the "canons" or principles of interpretation for the Gospels espoused by Cornelius à Lapide.  Personally, I find them interesting for the light they shed on how certain textual, literary, and historical cruces were negotiated before the rise of the critical tradition.  So, without further ado:

The Thirty-Nine Canons of Lapide on Interpreting the Gospels

Canon 1: The Evangelists are selective in narration; the principle of selection: to show Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get Wise! The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When I was a kid, the phrase “Get wise!” was a provocative taunt—essentially, a way to start a fight.  It meant something like: “I invite you to act like a smart aleck, so I will have an excuse to assault you physically.”  My elementary school career was a bit rough.

But what does it really mean to “Get wise” or “Gain wisdom”?  The Readings for this Sunday’s Mass teach us about this issue.

During this part of Ordinary Time in Year A, the Church is pursuing a lectio continua (continuous reading, i.e. reading in order) of both Romans and Matthew.  (This excellent website by Fr. Just provides an overview of the pattern of the Lectionary. ) The First Readings are taken from key passages of the Old Testament, chosen (more or less) to complement the Gospel reading.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

VIDEO: Introduction to Catholicism 101

My friend Michael Bird is teaching a class on Ecumenism. He wanted to have a Catholic present the nuts and bolts of Catholicism to his Protestant students. He asked me if I would be able to help. With only a little bit of time to spend on it, here's what I came up with.

Obviously, I could have said a lot more. I only had 30 minutes (I ended up going 40), so I had to leave a lot of material out. Michael gave me a specific list of things to cover and I tried to stick to his list. (I'm sure a lot of people will be upset that I didn't include various elements.) However, I did give his students a huge 13 page handout that was full of footnotes of further resources. You can see it below (I'm not going to spend time reformatting it, so it appears a little off here. Anyways, here's the video. . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Origin of Life: No Naturalistic Explanation

There's an interesting article posted at Scientific American--it's been up for months and I've wanted to blog about it, but only now had a chance.

Entitled "Pssst! Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began,"the essay basically lives up to it's title.  John Horgan, a researcher in origin of life studies (OOL), admits that the field is at an impasse and has been at an impasse for twenty years.  However, he resists the implication that the inexplicable origin of life points to intelligent agency, especially divine agency.  Divine explanations are flawed, he says: "What created the divine Creator? ... At least scientists are making an honest effort to solve life's mystery instead of blaming it all on God."

There are a couple of ironies in the piece, which is worth reading.  First of all, almost all "creationists" already know that OOL research has reached a dead end.  It's been a staple of creationist arguments for fifty years if not more.  The folks who don't realize how bankrupt OOL research is tend to be poorly-informed Darwinists who have been persuaded by Richard Dawkins or someone similar that naturalistic evolution provides an answer to all life's questions.

Secondly, Horgan's concluding sneer about God just shows a lack of philosophical education.  God is by definition a self-existent or "necessary" being.  The universe is obviously not self-existent: it requires a cause and an explanation.  One of the arguments for the existence of God is: since everything that we observe is contingent (caused by something else), must there not logically be something (which we call God) which exists of itself, which gave rise to everything observable?  Otherwise we would have an infinite regression of causality, which is illogical and impossible.

To say, "What created God?"--which is a line from Carl Sagan, by the way, although he may have borrowed it from someone else--is to fail to understand the concept of God.  There are arguments against the existence of God, but this is not one of them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cornelius à Lapide: Flemish Catholic Exegete II

            In what follows we will focus Lapide’s most influential volumes, his four Gospel commentaries, as an example of his hermeneutical method.[1]
           The study of Lapide's exegesis is particularly interesting because it provides a window into the world of Catholic biblical studies during the so-called "Counter Reformation" period.  There are many stereotypes and caricatures of what Catholics were doing with Scripture at this point in history, but a careful examination of Lapide's work often exposes these caricatures for what they are.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Excavations in Gath Covered by USAToday

USAToday has an interesting piece about excavations at Gath.  Click the post title.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Seed of the Word: Reflections on the Readings Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time focuses on the growth of the Church.  I would prefer we called it “Extraordinary Time,” because there is nothing ordinary about the Second Person of the Divinity becoming enfleshed in our presence through the Sacrament.

Be that as it may, the Readings for this Lord’s Day are clearly united by the motif of sowing the seed of God’s Word.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The World Ends Next Week

Well, not really, but we will be meeting at the end of the world (or at least the end of dry land), namely, southern Louisiana, and talking about the End Times next Saturday, July 16.  Brant and I will be there.  Michael had to decline (meetings with Vatican officials take up so much time!) but Dr. Chris Baglow and Prof. Corey Hayes round out the batting order for an extravaganza you don't want to miss!  Click here to register.  I'll be speaking about "The Whore of Babylon:  Is it Really the Catholic Church?"  I'll bet you can guess my answer, but my supporting arguments are worth hearing.  Brant's tackling "The Rapture, the Anti-Christ, and the End Time."

Cornelius à Lapide: Flemish Catholic Exegete

We turn now from the once-radical-now-mainstream thought of Descartes and Spinoza to the quieter waters of Cornelius à Lapide, a model of Roman Catholic piety and erudition, to assess the meaning of his work, if any, in the history of biblical scholarship.
            Cornelius à Lapide was born in 1567 in Bocholt, now in Belgium, but at that time part of the Spanish (Hapsburg) Low Countries.[1]  His childhood and youth were marked by the turmoil of the so-called “Eighty Years War,” the Protestant-Catholic struggle for control over the Low Countries that ended with Calvinist dominance over the northern provinces, the modern Netherlands, and the Catholic sway over the southern, now Belgium.  Many years later, during his professorship at Louvain, Lapide would return during holidays to preach and administer the sacraments to pilgrims at the shrine at Scherpenheuvel in Belgian Brabant, a location the local Catholic populace associated with answered prayers for protection from Calvinist mob violence during the “Beeldenstorm” uprising in 1566.[2]