Given the selection of a new Pope, the Roman Catholic Church is much discussed in the media and on blogs. Here is a random comment I replied to today in one place. It is a comment I can partly assent to, but rather more needed to be said:
Anglicans ARE Catholic. In fact, many of us secretly believe we are more Catholic than the Romans, though we’re usually tactful enough to mention this to them. And of course, we are ALL, Roman and English, “under Christ” in an ultimate sense – the question at issue is merely the more mundane one of how exactly one goes about delegating Christ’s authority on a day-to-day level.
My response was as follows:
Every Christian is a Catholic except those who believe that their denomination has a monopoly. If we be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as it says, we will all be looking at the right direction, the right leader, who needs no vicar, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The authority of Christ is not at this time a political one – the devil has the lease on the politics of this world and its nation states for now, so Churches in all cases should be separate from states.
God tries our faith in different ways. For one person, He wants to know, ‘will this person stay faithful to Me if he is poor?’ and for another the question is more ‘will this person stay faithful to Me if he is rich?’.
In this life, poverty isn’t really poverty and richness isn’t really richness. Both our riches and our poverty are transient and will pass away. They are not illusionary, but to the Christian they may as well be. Neither riches nor poverty, neither sickness nor health are issues to get carried away by. To be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is to be rich beyond measure, and to be the richest in hell is to be poor beyond pity.
So seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.
In repentance, we define sin as a failure. This is a change of mind and heart (a ‘metanoia’ as repentance is in Greek) because before our repentance we would not have acknowledged our sins as failures before God. The same thoughts and activities would have been a normal part of our day and would not have bothered us.
Let us now take an instance of such failure, such as getting annoyed and saying a filthy word, because something bad has happened and before we could control ourselves out came the word. An unrepentant person will regard that as perfectly justifiable although in order to show breeding if they are in company they may show some embarrassment at it, or try not to do it, but if they were alone an unrepentant person wouldn’t give it a second thought.
A penitent person, a believer, even if he was alone and nobody heard his cuss word, will know that in that moment he failed.
There are now two opposite and equally wrong things the believer can then do with this failure.
The first is to bagatellize it and not earnestly strive to do better the next time, to make out that it was no sin and nothing to be upset about. This is a wrong approach and to use grace to justify poor discipleship is decried in scripture. However, there are those who think they have no sin any more as Christians precisely because they have unfortunately taught themselves to ignore these slip-ups, and forget that a mere cuss-word like that would be enough to damn someone for eternity even if they had no other sin, even if they only thought it and managed not even to say it, but it was there in their heads, tarnishing their holiness.
The second error is to get into such despair over the failure to be perfect when God has said “be ye perfect, as I am perfect” that they begin to doubt their salvation over it. They need to remember that Jesus warned the believers that the flesh is weak and that Paul warned us that we could not do as well as we wanted to. The flesh, or the world, or the devil may have provoked the sin of the cuss word, but it is mainly the whisperings of the devil in our ears that because we did that sin, and are not as good as we should be, that we are not God’s own and might as well give up.
Between these opposites is the correct attitude of acknowledging the sin and admitting it was a sin to God, asking for His forgiveness, knowing that it is given that very instant as promised, expressing gratitude to God for the forgiveness Jesus earned and granted for us, and getting back on the programme with more care to avoid that sin in the future, as we know that God wants better for us and from us than that.
I received a question on Christianity, which is a welcome change from receiving all linguistic questions, from YouTube viewer JInks232, who writes:
I viewed your “Basket case” video and an old question came to mind. How is that Christians eat pork despite the injunction in the bible against its consumption?
We traditional eat a nice ham for Easter Sunday. I am just curious and you seem to be knowledgeable.
Many thanks for that compliment, friend.
The fact is not all Christians eat pork – Seventh Day Adventists do not, I believe most Messianic Jews do not and there may well be others who do not. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Gentile Christians do not observe the shunning of pork, even though hopefully most of us are aware that Jesus Christ himself certainly must have refused to eat it, by way of His living out the whole Law.
The placing of pigs, and with them a whole series of other animals, on the list of unclean animals takes place in the context of Levitical law. This comes from when Israel was called aside as a nation after arriving in Israel and the priesthood of the Levites was instituted.
When Noah lands the Ark after the Flood, God gives an instruction in Genesis 9 v 3, that he can eat any of the animals, just as before he could have eaten any of the plants.
There is mention in Genesis 7, before Noah goes into the Ark, of taking seven pairs of clean animals, one pair of unclean, but this has nothing to do with not eating them, as mankind was not allowed to eat animals at all until Genesis 9, after the Flood. So it presumably refers to some animals being regarded as sacrificial animals even before people consumed the animals.
Nothing more is said about some animals not being eaten or being regarded as dirty until we get to Levitical law. Especially Leviticus chapter 11. In the meantime we have had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob needing to be circumcised in order to be in the covenant, but no word about them shunning pork.
Some people talk about pork being regarded as unclean because of tapeworms. In this case people simply would have not kept pigs at all, and yet we know that pigs were kept in the region because of the Gadarean swine and also the fact that the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable ends up in a pigsty.
So circumcision was earlier by some generations in the Old Testament than dietary laws. Anyway Jesus kept all of the Levitical laws perfectly.
The Levitical law was a law for a special holy nation to be set aside to see if they could follow a set of precepts reflecting the perfection of God, and was there as Paul says as a schoolmaster, to lead us to the doctrine of grace. If righteousness comes by the law, he wrote, then Christ is dead in vain. Only Christ, out of all the men who sought to keep the law, actually managed it in thought, word and deed, despite being subjected to all temptations that man is prone to. This level of holiness is inconceivable to anyone who was normally conceived. The heritage from Adam through the male line precludes any such righteousness by works as we have a flesh that is in bondage to sin. So the only claim to such a righteousness we can have is for that man Jesus to have died on our behalf and to have offered himself as propitiation on the basis of simple belief in Him, repentance and calling on Him for salvation.
The experiment that the human can achieve righteousness by the law was done by God with the Jews as the chosen nation. It failed. Christ was the answer.
The experiment that the human can achieve political fairness and equality by communism was done by men with the Soviet peoples and some others as the chosen ones for that, but it was something God had never asked them to do. Still Christ is the answer.
Jesus Christ sent his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and ministered to Israel almost exclsuively. He did however respond in kindness to those coming who recognised that they were outside and ready to pick up crumbs that fell from the masters’ table.
Even after His resurrection, when at the end of Matthew’s Gospel He finally instructs the disciples to go into the whole world, not just Israel, He himself still gives one more chance to Israel. Look how the Acts of Apostles is structured, It is very important, these first few chapters tell a lot of how Gentiles started to be included.
in Acts 2 we have Pentecost, and the tongues enabling the message to go out into the whole world.
In Acts 3, we still have Peter addressing the men of Israel, though, and in Acts 4, and Stephen in Acts 7 addresses also the Jews.
Stephen the Martyr sees Christ in His resurrected state above the Jews to whom he offers the Gospel, and when they stone him it s like the final rejection. The garments already go to Saul, shortly to become Paul and the one who will be the apostle to the gentiles. Peter receives his vision in Acts 10 vv 14-15 where God commands him to eat of the unclean beasts, he says he has never eaten anything unclean, and God says “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. The chapter goes on to show how now God has opened the way for the gentiles to join the covenant of Christ, and Paul to be the Apostle to them.
Later Paul deals with the issues of Jewish Christians trying to impose circumcision (as I already said above, a more core aspect of OT righteousness even than the dietary laws) on Christians and the Letter to Galatians is mainly all about that, and Christian liberty from Levitical laws. If a person sees righteousness as needing to involve one part of the law, such as circumcision, and not all by grace alone through faith, then they are a debtor to do the whole law.
So the New testament gives us every reason to understand that as we are gentiles and brought in to the grace of Christ, we are nevertheless not expected to behave like Jews. We should honour Jews and not do what the Church did to the Jews through so much of history, but we are not expected to be Jews. We are not converting to Judaism, we are experiencing an extension to pagans of the grace that at first belonged to the Jews. We are cleansed, our food is cleansed, and God is not calling is unclean. He washed us.
If we deny that washing by trying to obey works righteousness then we are outside the covenant of grace and back under the necessity to obey the whole law, because the Levitical law was not a loose leaf law, you didn’t pick or choose the things you liked. If you wanted access to the Holiest of Holies under the Levitical system, that’s how you did it. And the nation was a Theocracy, it wasn’t a secular state like today’s Israel.
We don’t have to become Jewish to by loved and included in a Saviour who was Jewish. We should certainly not be Anti-Semitic or offend Jews. I am not going to sit around without a yarmulka on if I go to a synagogue, nor am I going to sit around eating tasty food if someone in my team is eating only matzos at Passover. But that is by way of acknowledging the specialness of God’s special people, and not by way of saying that my salvation is incomplete if I don’t do these things. If I am working on a project even with Muslims then I will do them the courtesy of ensuring the pizza ordered for lunch has no pork, so how much more am I willing to accommodate the people of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. And even Abraham believed God, and it was that believing, not his act of circumcision, that was accounted to him as righteousness.
If a Christian doesn’t want to eat pork, he can shun pork. But if he thinks that he has earned any of his salvation by doing so, it would be better for him to wallow in a pigsty for a thousand years than get that wrong idea about what the following of Levitical law can do for him.