The Tragedy of Contemporary Christian Lingo

My focus these past few weeks have been about issues that I see within the Catholic Church and in all churches. These issues, I believe, are a relatively recent phenomenon that has resulted because of the last 300 or 200 years of Christian “events,” for a lack of a better word, in American society. I plan on writing a book when I feel like my investigation is complete and I’m able to offer practical solutions to ministers.

I’m writing this at the present moment because I do not feel I can keep quiet about this issue on language. In the contemporary Christian culture the language used has emotionalism and this lack of awareness about it. To clarify, examples of these statements include, “I feel led to go to (X place),” “God laid it on my heart to tell you (X thing),” “I felt in my heart I should do (X thing),” and etc. I do not feel I should have to list all the common phrases used by, at least young, Christians today. If you are involved in ministry or a church you should know exactly what I am referring to.

This language is very flawed. It shows a desperate need for a true interior life and the awareness of something called “discernment.” It lacks the idea of divine providence acting in circumstances without your “feelings” or “emotions.” It focuses so much on how someone feels at that moment which is very likely to be a temporary feeling and not from God. What one is doing when using these phrases is applying authority that they are not certain of, or they are blissfully ignorant in understanding that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” This jargon also lacks humility and tries to assert something that may not be true. What is the better course of action is just to acknowledge that you desire to do something. This is more truthful. Only time and much discernment can lead to the understanding if such a feeling is not just originating yourself.

In Catholicism, this jargon, I believe, is a consequence of Protestant influences and is born out of the faulty movement in Protestantism that focuses on feelings and emotions. This emphasis is because they lack something solid that the Catholic church has, so they put authority on how they “feel” as they think it is the “Holy Spirit” and to assert that they truly have the Holy Spirit.  The Church is having such views leaked into it via popular Protestant singers, at least, to the youth who do not understand the complexities of Christian spiritual life and living for Christ. Additionally, there MAY be a chance Catholics are using the same techniques as a way to ensure that people do not leave the Church. If this is the case, then what we have is a church that is having Protestant social ideas leaking into the Church and creating a mixture of spiritual understanding. This mixture is very likely not stable as I consider most entertainment and emotionalism tactics to be missing the key point of Jesus. It creates a spiritual idea where only the loud and boisterous “passion” or “love” is truly someone following Christ. The mature passion and love of Christ are one that is quiet and reverent.

To clarify what I mean by mature, C. S. Lewis states:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Most experiences where God teaches you or have you do something will not be a drama of emotion. What I see as the issue that is creating problems is the emotionalism which is a result of consumerism in American society. People want something that is not really “Catholic.” Baptism can be accompanied with emotions or it may not be, but just because there are no emotions does not change the beauty of what happens at baptism. There is a stable reality that can be known and is not limited to subjective feelings that tend to be very unreliable.

Now before I let my musings sink in, I want to remind you that this information is a work in progress. It is a tentative theory for things that I see which are problematic in everyday life as someone heavily involved in Catholicism and Christianity. Take my information and think about it. Chew on it. Reflect on it and come to your own conclusion about if the Christian jargon is uneducated and harmful. What I said is not set in stone, but only a tentative perspective.

Sites that helped me put this into words: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/02/828/

http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=333051

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2014/02/06/faith-and-emotion/

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/07/08/the-spirit-the-modern-world-pentecostalism-and-orthodoxy/

 

Insecurity: what do you do and what if no one believes in you?

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At baptism, in the Catholic faith, a candle is lit to signify us becoming a Christian. This fire is also symbolic of being a light to others as well as the light in our hearts. Additionally, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush.

It’s taken me a while, but currently my health has been doing well. I have been going to the gym often, I have received the maximum dosage of medication I have been prescribed, I eat very little sugar nowadays, and vegetables and fruit are my go to food. Things are not as bad as they were, at leastfrom my last update. 

This blog post was sort of inspired by My God sister, Tiffany, and her post about her reflections while on her mission trip in Haiti. You can read the post here:  https://tiffanyfettigblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/diggin-up-dem-fears/

I never considered Tiffany to have similar insecurities such as mine. The fear that you may be ill suited for what you desire to do. Thus, I myself wanted to talk about this as my mood has been stable for quite a few days. Though, today it seems shaky, but I chalk that up to the nightmares I had last night and this morning. I think we’ll always have these little fears in us about our abilities and aptitude. Specifically, I do not think magically things will get better in these insecurities. Sainthood is a process after all. Give your insecurities to Jesus and through concrete experiential means He will heal them and bestow strength upon you.

Insecurities are often seen as something that needs to be gone in order to lead ministry or people. This is not so, especially in the biblical sense. I want you to wipe that from your head and fight that idea tooth and nail whenever it pops up in your head. In truth, when serving the Lord there will be times you will mess up and perhaps not be what someone needed, but the beauty is that someone’s salvation is not limited by your actions. God endlessly pursues us until our last breath. Therefore, there should never be despair upon your failure because someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. Additionally, I want to touch on insecurities that spawn from events like a failure and insecurities in general. Everyone has them, but they may be different from yours. This is a fact, and only by the sanctifying grace of God can we overcome these fears. This, like I said before, is a process in communion with Jesus.

To better clarify my point, having insecurities, I believe, does not in any way bar you from ministry. When Paul writes in 2nd Timothy, much of what is written, from my perspective, is reassurance to Timothy. Timothy is struggling and needs guidance from Paul. However, the thing I want to focus on most is the story of Moses. Moses is so insecure about his talking abilities, he has some sort of impediment, that he begs God to choose someone else. Long story short, God relents and has patience with Moses, and says that Aaron, Moses brother, will be Moses’ mouth piece. For specifics, Exodus 7:1-2 states, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.’” Despite Moses’ insecurity about his speech and his failure to be obedient to God, Moses was still considered a great prophet and even gave the Jewish people the law. Insecurities are bothersome, but they do not disqualify you from the calling on one’s life. God will use you despite them and transform you along the way into the person that he calls you to be.

In the midst of my illness taking over the following months after my medication stopped working in October, like expected, I lost all confidence and self-love for myself. Insecurities and fears chipped away at myself. Such is the nature of my illness. It eats and corrodes your sense of self. It basically eats you from the inside out until you can’t take it anymore and believe that people would be better off without you. Then it kills you by your own hand because it has tortured you into submission of accepting such lies. For me, I very much consider it to be akin to being a captured enemy soldier and being tortured for information until you snap. It is my hope that my readers never have to experience something so awful happening inside their own body. What I want you to take away from this is that I know what it is like to struggle with insecurities, and I want you to know that God can still use you. I believe, and the key point here is “I,” that God has called me to serve Him in some way, especially since it seems my happiness is linked to theology.

Here are little questions I want to ask you: what do you do when you realize no one really believes in you? Do you give up? Do you ignore people? Do you resign yourself to the doubt of perhaps not being suited for your dream? The truth is it doesn’t really matter if people believe in you or not.

One of the hardest parts about converting to Catholicism was that everyone who believed in me lost faith in me. My youth pastor and church friends lost faith in me. They thought I was making a big mistake and was not following the bible. When I encountered a catholic community,  I can’t say I felt most Catholics believe in me. And this was compounded when my medication for my Major Depressive Disorder stopped working in October, and on top of that, graduation was quickly approaching. I remember reaching out to people I looked up to for hope that I was called to ministry. In return, I felt like I was met with aversion tactics. It hurt a little and it wasn’t very hopeful, but the thing is, now, I don’t care if no one believes in me because I have to do what will make me happy. If working for the Lord makes me happy than who is someone to cast judgement. I have always understood that I am not the most “popular” Christian, but I think God knows that I am the way I am because I do not need it. I am simply hard-headed, tenacious, theological, and kindhearted Ashley. It doesn’t matter if I am not “popular,” “outgoing,” or if I don’t have “rose-colored glasses.” God has and will give me the things that I need, and He knows I don’t need those things.

Even though today I feel the same thing about people not really believing in me, it doesn’t really matter. My heart clings to the story of Paul and how no one wanted to believe he was called by Jesus at first. No one believed him. Not to mention, he spent much time alone with God and no other disciples after Jesus graced him with his presence. Galatians 1:15 -17 states: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” In fact, before he even met with the apostles he took ministry on by himself in Damascus. The apostles did not believe in him at first either thinking it was a plot to kill them. What sustained Paul was his faith in Jesus and believing he was meant to do this, even if no one else believed in him.

In conclusion, I want you to fight this idea that you need others to believe in you to pursue ministry and the idea that people in ministry should not have insecurities. Especially, if you bear the weight of thinking you are the chance to bring someone to Christ. The truth is, no matter what, someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. God relentless pursues people. Additionally, Insecurities will not magically disappear once you give them to Jesus. You will attain peace through prayer once you give them up, but Jesus does not use magic. He uses Sanctifying Grace to make us into the saints He has called us to be. Additionally, remember, despite Moses and his protests to God involving his insecurity, God used Moses in a great way. Despite being so insecure at the start of his ministry, Moses become a central figure in Judaism. God used him, and He can use you, insecurities and all.

The Perspicacity of Giving

Hello my readers,

It’s been a long while since I posted on my blog. I apologize for that, but I have a good reason for being inactive. Back in October, October 2015, my antidepressant medication had stopped working. From what I have gathered, it is common for this to happen. Thus, I have lost interest in many things. I have lost interest in video games, reading theology as a hobby, crafting, and other things. At times, I can’t even seem to enjoy the idea of going out with friends to a fair. My doctor and I are currently working on trying to find new medication that will help me function again as I should. It takes more than six weeks to know if a medication is working for me or not. It is a tedious process of trial and error and me feeling like a dart board. The different medications are the darts in this case.

One thing I noticed today and is compounded by something I read is, giving is very hard when I am struggling with depression. The last few weeks I have been so wrapped up in my own pain and anguish that I find it hard to give back to others. On my good days, when I have clarity of thought, I can look outside myself and give to others. I love those days. And I love giving to others, so I am very much struck by my observation that it is hard for me to give when I am suffering a lot. Recently, I wrote my Godparents a letter and mailed it to their house. It took me a few days to write it after I had the idea of writing them a nice letter. Rationally, I waited for a day when my mood was not bad as I noticed that my mood tends to bleed through in my writing. (Thank you, texting! things you realize from being a person who loves texting!) Thus, in a certain way, I already understood that in order to give someone has to be in the right state to be able to give. Though, I had not made the connection itself with giving.

The nature of giving is one that is made out of surplus. If there is no surplus than the giving could be seen as sacrificing. They are two different things. I understand, though I don’t like it, I am not in a very good position to give to others. A person who has no money cannot give money to someone else. Thus, when I have no comfort within myself I can’t really give to others. Thankfully, unlike money, what I give can be considered something that is renewable since on the good days I can give to others. Whereas, with the example of someone having no money they have to save up when they get money so they can give to others. However, as I write this, I realize that it is only recently that I have felt like it has been hard to give to others. There are days that are so bad for me that there is no possible way that I can look beyond my own suffering and help someone else. On the bright side, there are days where I am not doing so well, but I can give to others and do something to show them how much I care.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I see now that there is a time for me to give to others, and a time when I cannot give to others. Thus, I am coming to understand that at times in my depression there are days when it is not the time to give. There are people out there that consider people with depression to be just self-absorbed and self-centered. In a certain way, they are correct, but they use the wrong words. They use words that say that a depressive has a surplus; when a depressive probably doesn’t even have scraps. Granted, these individuals tend to be people who fall away from the mainstream idea that depression is a biological illness, so they don’t see it as a depressive having nothing. They see it as being greedy. This is wrong. However, my focus is on the idea that there is this aspect of perspicacity to the action of giving. Perspicacity, when you type it into google, means “the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.” I realize that there is a sense of perspicacity in giving. There are times when it is not the time to give, and there are times when it is the time to give.

The perspicacity of giving, also, deals with the understanding of when a person can help someone and when they will only make things worse. Have you ever been in a situation where someone wants to help you, but they only make it worse? I’m sure all of us have some sort of experience with that. I definitely have experiences like that. Ha ha ha, now, since usually it has to do with my depression, I educate people before if they want to help me. I give them articles on what is helpful to say and what makes things worse. (That’s supposed to be funny.) Anyway, there is a certain aspect to the act of giving, when one has to see if they are really suited to helping this person. I can’t tell you how many times good people with good intentions have given me bad advice about my health. There is a time when one needs to discern when they should give and support another person because it suits their abilities and when they should not. Or perhaps, people need to educate themselves before they try to give support to another person. Perhaps, it’s the time to educate yourself and then it’s the time for giving. These things all fall under the perspicacity of giving because one has to know when it is the time for giving.

Anyway, this is something that my trial has recently taught me and I thought I would share this insight that I am gaining with you. This is in no way a complete analyzation in the perspicacity of giving. This is only the beginning of the flourishing of what God is teaching me as reflect upon myself and the events in my life. I hope you, at least, found this to be a little bit insightful about the act of giving.

Why Catholic? My Story on Why I Became a Catholic.

I decided to be Catholic based on theological reasons and based on things I found in the bible. I don’t believe in choosing a denomination based on how you feel. I feel like it should be grounded in reason. Choosing on how you feel is typically how people choose a church it seems, at least it is nowadays.

To start off my story, I wanted to be a preacher. With that desire, I knew it came with great responsibility. The bible warns about being a false teacher and I was worried that I could be one. It was my responsibility that if I was to be teaching I needed to figure out which denomination I thought had the truth and believed in my heart to be what Jesus meant. This was really instilled in me when one of my friends mentioned how he didn’t think every church was right, that there had to be one that held the whole truth. He also believed that salvation may be contingent on that too.

While I was 18, I started following some outspoken fundamentalists on twitter. They would criticize well-known preachers that showed on television. I remember there was this one tweet that said something like “false teachers don’t know they are false teachers.” This struck me as something I had never thought of and opened the possibility to me that I could become a false teacher and not know it.

Originally when I read the passages in the bible about false teaching, there was this inherent idea that the teachers knew they were false and were doing something they knew to be wrong. This concept I held unconsciously was revealed to me with that tweet and passages I increasingly read about false teaching gave me this urgency to find what I believed to be the truth. My friend’s idea of how one church has to have the full truth struck me and made me realize correct theology is very important in teaching to others. It shapes your beliefs about Jesus and salvation.

I had the fear of my own salvation when I realized that correct theology could be linked to salvation and also this urgency to be able to lead others towards that truth if that was the case.

Now, that I’m older and more familiar with theology, I realize that idea of fearing for my salvation wasn’t necessarily correct. Christians are not gnostic. This means we do not believe salvation is contingent on special knowledge. Though truth to a certain extent is needed, but enlightenment of something or an awakening, ike gnostics believed, is not needed for attaining salvation.

My search began the summer of 2013. I poured over scripture for months. I spent hours and hours invested into this search. I would wake up each day and read my bible. I learned the gist of various theologies through the internet and tried to compare them to what I found in the bible.

Catholic was 2nd on my list of theologies I really did not like and hoped wouldn’t be found. The 1st on my list of hoping for it being unbiblical was Calvinism.

Scripture started to look catholic to me in my search for biblical truth. What threw me over the edge of affirming the Catholic faith was the most biblical was when I disproved Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is the doctrine of the bible alone. It was made by Martin Luther when he separated from the Catholic Church and formed the Lutheran church. With Sola Scriptura being proven unbiblical, that’s when my eyes were opened and could not ignore what I had just seen.

Now you are probably wanting to know the verses I found that disprove a doctrine held by pretty much every protestant church. Don’t worry, I plan on giving you the list of what I found disproving this doctrine and I’ll talk a little about the verses.

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV

Another Translation of this verse says:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. – 2nd Thessalonians 2:15 ESV

This verse implies that not all the teachings are written down and concedes that the bible does not contain the teaching of Jesus passed down by the apostles. A lot of translations use the word “traditions” just like the English Standard Version does. Protestant churches believe in the bible one, but the Catholic Church believes in Tradition and Scripture. It acknowledges that there traditions or teachings that are not in the bible, but were passed down by word of mouth. The very fact the bible doesn’t contain all of the apostles’ teaching really hit home for me and was the big breakthrough for me in turning to Catholicism. The doctrine I had known and practiced all my life was in fact not biblical.

I found other verses besides this one pointing to the same fact that Sola Scriptura was false teaching. The one in 2nd Thessalonians was the just the major one for me.

Here are the other verses I found proving Sola Scriptura unbiblical:

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” – 2 John 1:12 NIV

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” – 3rd John 1:13 – 14 NIV

These verses were addressed to an elder of the church and the letters mention guidance on spiritual life. Therefore, the letters held teaching and since John had a lot to say I think he had a lot more to teach him. This also shows that not all of the teachings are in the bible.

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” – Jude 1:9

The story that the book of Jude tells is nowhere found in Exodus. This story could have been an oral tradition, but it affirms that not everything was in the Old Testament too.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” – John 21:25

This verse comes from the Gospel of John and clearly states that not everything was written down.

These verses proved to me that Sola Scriptura was unbiblical.

I also found other verses that alluded to the catholic faith besides these. There are verses in the New Testament talking about the sacrament of confession.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” – John 20:21–23 

Jesus is talking to the disciples in this verse. He is clearly indicating the sacrament of confession here with the authority given to tell someone their sins are forgiven.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1st peter 4:8

Why would love cover sins if we could just pray for forgiveness for our sins?

I also found the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” – James 5:14

In my faith that I grew up in I had never heard of this being done, but the Catholic Church has this as one of their sacraments.

I also found a reference to purgatory on my search for biblical truth too.

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” – 1st Corinthians 3:11-15 

Notice how the person is put through a fire and in other passages fire is associated with refinement. Also, take note that even though the person was not perfect, nor was his faith, he went through the fire and still attained salvation. This seems to suggest that there some type of thing like purgatory. This not hell because salvation is attained.

Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny – Matthew 5:25-26

This verse also seems to reference a certain purgatory for our actions and how we are punished, but the are released from the refinement we are going through. There is still this aspect that seems to be that we are punished for bad deeds by being thrown in prison. There is this option of getting out, but only if you have paid back everything you owed. Therefore, you are not meant to be in that prison forever. Thus, it cannot be considered hell or an earthly prison. The judge in the passage can be seen to be God. This passage is presented on the Sermon on the Mount and probably is not referring to an earthly prison.

These were some of the verses I found on my journey I took at nineteen. There are many verses I know now that also points to Catholic ideas, but I wanted to give you the evidence I had stumbled upon that let me know the Catholic faith was the one that held the truth.  The full truth. By the way, as a side note, one of the purgatory verses may not be one I found during that time. I don’t quite remember, but nonetheless, it points to the idea of purgatory.

Jesus Went to Hell

The Apostles’ Creed creates a lot of discomfort with a little clause that is present in its lines of affirmations. This clause is the phrase “He descended into hell” and refers to Jesus. Some churches take this as a metaphor or avoid the topic. Some go so far to even omit the phrase from the creed. The claim for this omission of it is that it is not biblical, and, therefore, cannot be true. However, I will prove with logic and scripture that you have to say Jesus descended into to hell to have orthodox Christology and soteriology and it should not be omitted or taken as a metaphor for Jesus’s suffering.

Before I begin, I want you to see the apostle’s creed and the phrase for yourself.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Amen.

Now to start my explanation, the word “hell” in the Apostles Creed is actually the Hebrew word “Sheol.” In Greek the word is translated into “hades.” They are the exact same thing in that the people there do not have any vision of God[1]. Therefore, to proceed in explaining the necessity of statement “he descended into hell,” it is essential that one understands Jewish culture, which should be an inherent concept that one should understand when reading the Old Testament to read it correctly. Not understanding Jewish culture may be a flaw with some church’s reading of scripture and why they omit the phrase from the creed. Anyone of any measure of scholarship and knowledge should use knowledge of Jewish culture in conjunction when reading the Old Testament.  In the beginning, the Jews, at first, did not seem to have a good concept of an afterlife. The afterlife in Jewish culture at the time did not relate anything of joy and happiness. In the book of Psalms there are references to this place called Sheol.[2] Psalm 8:5 states: “The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.” This scripture verse states that the act of dying is different from Sheol. There is the concept of Sheol and there is the concept of death in the Jewish culture at the time. Psalm 6:6 says, “For in death there is no remembrance of you. Who praises you in Sheol?” This states that death is what leads a person into Sheol. It shows this by the order in how death is mentioned first. Numbers 16:30 says, “But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.” Jewish tradition considered Sheol to be beneath the earth. Numbers 16:30 reflects this view that Sheol was beneath the earth. It also uses the word “descend” just like the Apostle’s Creed does. It is important to mention that it wasn’t until the book of Daniel that the idea of the resurrection is first mentioned.[3]  The righteous and the non-righteous did not have the same fate though in this concept of the afterlife. The righteous were held in Abraham’s Bosom, and these are the people Christ came to save from within Sheol.[4] Second temple Judaism had an eschatology that developed throughout the past and culminated into this eschatology.[5]

With establishing the existence of Sheol and how it is valid to the Jewish culture at the time, the idea of liberation for those souls by the death of Jesus and his descent is made to be more probable than not when one considers Jesus as the savior of all. Psalm 49:15-16 mentions the redemption of the just souls from Sheol. It says:

This is the way of those who trust in themselves, and the end of those who take pleasure in their own mouth. Like a herd of sheep they will be put into Sheol, and Death will shepherd them. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away, Sheol will be their palace. But God will redeem my life, will take me from the hand of Sheol.

It is presumed that David is writing this, and therefore we should consider the author to be a righteous and just person. The fact that the author knows that there will be redemption from Sheol for him suggests that the righteous will be redeemed. This also states that are awaiting Jesus’ descent into hell and that there is a place called Abraham’s bosom where the righteous go[6]. The purpose of the death of Jesus was to allow humanity to gain entrance into heaven. The people of humanity before Jesus did not have access to heaven and therefore there needed to be this place for the righteous. Therefore, those who came before Jesus were in another place and we have confirmed in Jewish tradition to be Sheol.  To deny Jesus’ descent becomes very problematic in that sense.

The concept of Jesus descending to Sheol when omitted or taken as a metaphor becomes very problematic. Not only does it become scripturally a problem because much of scripture is left with no meaning, but it creates a problem for one’s Christology and soteriology. When one denies that Jesus went Sheol, he is denying Jesus came to save all. He is, instead, asserting that Jesus came to save those people alive in his time period and afterward. This becomes problematic because the crucifixion can be seen as not totally fixing what humanity did in bringing death into the world. It’s claiming, essentially, that Jesus is not fully divine, and therefore, could not repay everything humanity owed.  On the other hand, one can also be asserting Jesus did not have enough humanity to be the repayment on behalf of humanity, nor was his humanity valid enough for him to go to Sheol just like other humans. This assertion would mean that man cannot be resurrected, due to the fact we can’t be the level of human Jesus was. Therefore, there would be no resurrection. You cannot say Jesus is fully human without saying He went to Sheol. Jesus faced death which was a design not part of God’s plan for creation, yet it was man’s fate. Therefore, Jesus in humanity should have also descended into Sheol because of the fact He was fully human. To deny the descent is to deny the resurrection is possible for humanity because it states Jesus is not fully human. The denial of the descent, at most, states Jesus is a mixture of Divine and human that make up this being of the Christ. This is idea of a mixture is condemned in some of the early creeds that came about within early Christianity. The mixture idea of divine and human would fall under the heresies by Apollinaris, Theodore of Mopsueste, or even Nestorius.

People object to Jesus’ descent into Sheol because they claim there is no narrative in gospels about the event. However, death is a solitary experience and two people cannot enter death together. Therefore, it is rather foolish to think an apostle could write about the account of Jesus going to Sheol.  However, it should not be misunderstood to be that the apostles did not know that Jesus was to descend into Sheol. It is revealed in the new testament Jesus was to descend into Sheol. There are New Testament references even if it is not a narrative of Jesus being in Sheol. Mathew 12: 40 says: “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jews at the time believed Sheol was at the center of the earth. This verse corresponds with the place they knew Sheol was. The tomb Jesus’ body was put in was not at the center of the earth or under the earth. Matthew 12:40 could not possibly be referring to the tomb. Another aspect that further emphasizes the relation to Sheol with Matthew 12:40 is Jonah while in the belly of the whale uses a hyperbole to Sheol. This parallel further gives indication that Jesus descended into Sheol.[7] In the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is another example of a reference within the New Testament. The specific use of the word “rose” or “rise” is an indication of Sheol as well.[8] Jesus’ body was not placed at the center of earth, so it is wrong to say that he rose from the dead and to deny the descent into Sheol. In order for something to “rise” into life upon earth, it would have to have descended first. This descent gives the idea that there is a place below the earth and Jesus departed there because he had to “rise” from the dead. To deny the descent could be to deny the resurrection. To deny the resurrection becomes its own problem which unravels one’s Christology. The resurrection is arguably the most important event in Christendom.[9] Therefore as you can see scripturally it is an error to state that there is no scriptural evidence or to state that the clause in the Apostle’s creed is meant as a metaphor.

There is the a verse in 1st peter that Augustine talks, about but I find the passage too ambiguous and thus, have some doubts about what it is referring to and have not mentioned it for a reason. However, did you know when you go to the website biblegateway and select NASB translation and then type Sheol into the search 65 verses with that word come up? That is a big number and shows that it is not something that should be overlooked. In other translations, it is referred to it as Hades or as the realm of the dead. This little word is rooted in history and should not be ignored like it seems to be.

The lack of a straight forward narrative in the New Testament should not totally discount the concept in the Apostle’s Creed. The use of such an argument shows the lack of full knowledge of scripture within the Old Testament and an understanding of Jewish culture. Another reason this argument is invalid is because John 20:25 says, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” This verse states that not everything Jesus did was written in the bible. If everything was written down the bible would be much bigger than what we have today. It is a fallacy to believe that everything Jesus did was written down and contained within the bible. Therefore, one cannot cite that argument, especially because the argument proposed the idea of the Trinity would not stand up to that question. The Trinity is not specifically and straight forwardly mentioned in the bible.

In conclusion, the clause “descended into hell’ is an orthodox statement. It can be found in scripture and logically based on Jewish tradition is an event that took place. It is incorrect for the phrase to be omitted from the Apostles’ Creed or to be taken as a metaphor. Christology and soteriology would incompatible with scripture if the belief of the descent is not held. Without the belief of the descent Jesus cannot be named the savior of all. It leads to problems within ones theology and leaves a hole in Christianity itself. Therefore, it seems that one needs to say that Jesus descended into Hell in order to have orthodox Christology and to understand the salvific purpose Jesus came to fulfill.

References/footnotes:


[1] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[2] Boadt, Lawrence. 1984. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction. New York, N.Y.: Paulist Press. 216-217.

[3] Boadt, Lawrence. 1984. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction. New York, N.Y.: Paulist Press. 217.

[4] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[5] Levering, Matthew. 2012. Jesus and the Demise of Death : Resurrection, Afterlife, and the Fate of the Christian. Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press, 2012. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015). 15.

[6] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[7] “Why Did Jesus Descend to Hell.” Catholic Answers. Accessed April 21, 2015. http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/why-did-christ-visit-hell-after-his-death-0.

[8] Matthew 28:7

[9] Ashwin-Siejkowski, Piotr. 2009. The Apostles’ Creed the Apostles’ Creed and its early Christian context. London: T & T Clark. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=601623. 63.

How to Love Your Enemy

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. This calling is not an easy thing to do at all. Though, this is something I am getting better at.

Now, before I begin, I want to say this is not a sure-fire way to learn to love your enemies. It may work for some people and for some it may not work. It may depend on the person’s disposition.

The way I have gotten a little better at loving my enemies is by praying for them and trying to understand why they did what they did. Loving is much easier when you forgive, and forgiveness is much easier to give once you have understanding. In understanding, you realize things aren’t black and white, and there is the shade of gray.

Now, forgiveness doesn’t have to be the first step. However, If you can simply pray for the person’s well-being and growth in the faith; you are likely going to develop good will for people. The practice may be very uncomfortable. From this uncomfortableness, you’ll grow and mature into it so that it becomes second nature to you to pray for people who have hurt you and hold malice for you. It is praying for them and wishing them well in my prayers that I have seemed to have formed the habit of loving my enemies. It helped me see beyond the black and white. And it helped me see beyond how what their actions affected me, and, also, how they might be just very confused or be in a bad situation themselves.

An essential point I want to mention is that this love is more of an act of will than emotion. It is something you will for. You may still hurt inside, but through your will you can want good for them and want what’s best for them.

It may take a while though. I may not hold malice for a girl at my university that slandered me and my reputation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of her or wasn’t trying to avoid her. Though, my therapist told me I am not allowed to be around her physically or emotionally for my mental health.

Loving your enemies is definitely a process and something we have to work on. It’s definitely not something you’ll just wake up and have one day. You have to make a choice to start doing it and trying your best at it. You have to choose to love your enemy and from this choice you will grow more into that virtue with practice!

I want to wish all my followers a Happy good Friday and easter! I hope you have a great Holy Week!

Jacob and Esau

The bible story located in Genesis 27-36 is one of deceit and blessing. It is the story of Jacob and Esau. The story of Jacob and Esau is one that can seem to be rather confusing when looking at it through the Christian perspective. Jacob is the one favored by God, but he is very much a trickster. He tricks his brother out of his birth right and then tricks his sickly father to give him his older brother’s blessing. It does not seem very ethical at all. It is quite baffling as to why God chose Jacob when actions are deceitful.

The beginning of the story Jacob is announced to have his brother Esau serve him in the sorts of a prophecy. They are born to Isaac, Abraham’s promised child, and Rebekah, his wife. They were born at the sometime the two boys were, but Esau came out first. Esau grew into a hunter and Jacob just stayed home among the tents. Isaac loved the wild and therefore loved Esau, however, Jacob was loved most by his mother. The story line is where Jacob tricks his brother, Esau, the first born, out of his birthright and blessing. The first time Jacob something from Esau is when Esau was hungry after a hunt and in exchange for stew Esau gave Jacob his birthright. Another time Jacob cheats Esau with the help of his mother, Rebekah, so Jacob can receive Isaac’s blessing he was giving because Isaac was in bad health. These events obviously made animosity between the boys and started conflict. This can be seen later in the story, but later on they reconcile their differences. Later in the story God gives Jacob the name of Israel because he wrestled with God about seeing his brother Esau. Therefore, Jacob must be symbolic for the country of Israel (Senior, Collins, and Getty 112 – 114).

The important themes in this story line is the fact God does not go back on his promises. It should be considered that perhaps God did not intend for Jacob to get those things that way. In addition, God makes a covenant with Jacob to be his God and promises him offspring, land, and protection (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). This covenant is a restating or renewal of the covenant with Abraham. Jacob is called to be the next, for a lack of a better word, covenant keeper. Therefore like Abraham, God shows that even though man himself is an obstacle at times, God will carry through his promise despite any obstacle (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). The interesting thing about this story is that it uses literary devices that make God like a physical being. In the story Jacob grapples with a man and depending on the translation it can be considered God or one of God’s angels. This is obviously something based off old stories (Senior, Collins, and Getty 114).

The relevance’s of this story can be considered more of a sort of symbolic tale about Israel. Therefore Jacob and Esau is a story of nations and the tension between them. Therefore, the tension before Jacob and Esau worked it out are the symbolic event of Israel and another nation. Esau is called hairy and red, this is reference to Edom and Seir (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). Another theme that is mentioned in the Catholic Study Bible is that God, with crooked lines, can write straight. Examples are how the mother’s judgment is favored over the fathers, and the victory of the younger son over the older son (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). These stories based on the groupings that these stories were originally recited orally and meant to give glory to Israel’s past. The type of literature specifically to this type is story is more like a saga based on the symbolic elements (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113).

The relevancy of this passage to the people was to show Israel’s past and to also glorify it and pass it down to future generations. The story was made up of old folk tales, or also known as sagas. Therefore the stories were meant for the Israelites (Senior, Collins, and Getty 114). The story also to emphasize the key themes that were mentioned to the people and God’s faithfulness (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). The modern reader, as mentioned in the beginning, when not taking into account the theme that God will make a promise come about despite man, himself, being obstacle can be really horrified at the lack of ethical actions that Jacob does and yet God still chooses him to have the covenant and to be higher than his older brother (Senior, Collins, and Getty 112 – 113).

In conclusion, this baffling and seemingly unethical story of deceit has been put more into focus. I learned that this story is more of a symbolic story. In addition, the theme that God can overcome any obstacle is more visible and in one’s face now. The theme is now seen as more of the central element and weaves the whole piece together.

Works Cited
Senior, Donald, John J. Collins, and Mary A. Getty, eds. The Catholic Study Bible. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Paulist, 2012. Print.

One of my Weekly Reflections

I usually meditate on a biblical verse or concept each week. This piece is my meditation from last week, the week of Halloween. I meditated on this verse: “A lamp from the Lord is human life-breath; it searches through the in most being. “ It’s Proverbs 20:27 from the New American Bible translation.

A lamp equals light, not much light to illuminate all of the darkness though. The word life breath reminded me of Elijah and how God breathed on dry bones, and they came alive. Thus, perhaps this is saying the lamp is what keeps our faith alive. In the light is where you see what you have done and who you are and not what your mind perceives of yourself in the dark. The dark can be perhaps considered justification and the light would be where one sees what they have done and resolves to change that nature about themselves. Therefore, perhaps since the lamp is a little light, it is to guide us to what needs to be fixed right now and illuminate one bad habit at a time. This keeps the faith alive and giving it breath, or in other words life. With the intent on progress in an area, one has faith with works, and faith without works is dead. One can become complacent in their faith and hit a standstill, but the lamp helps reveal where else one can go. Complacency can kill one’s faith and progress and lead to regression. The lamp searching the inmost being allows for one to not grow lax spiritually and have their living faith slowly fade into dead faith. It is a continual process that this passage refers to and is what gives faith continual life breath.

I looked at the new international version of this verse and found it to be very different: “The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on the one’s Inmost being.” This version of the verse gives a very different picture than the one I had above. From this sentence structure of the verse on my meditation, I found it to be more about how ones works flow from how their heart is. This was in my mind a reference to the verse in proverbs that state “guard your heart; because everything flows from it.” The spirit shows what type of person one is because actions will flow from it and reveal the true nature of the person. The human spirit since it causes certain actions will reveal if someone has good fruit in the Lord and if someone is a false prophet.

Words Unsaid

Today I attended a funeral of a young girl named Nicole. I knew her from high school and we had played soccer together on the same teams for a few years. Watching the people there at the Lutheran church, I found I began to wonder how many people had left things unsaid and how those thoughts and feelings were never to be known by Nicole nor Nicole’s by others. It really reinforced my philosophy of never leaving things unsaid.

This philosophy was something I cultivated with my friendship with a certain boy I was good friends with. He was a sweet, caring, and different from other boys I had met. He seemed to always have sweet things to say and didn’t seem afraid to express the good things he really felt. I don’t think he ever has or will leave anything unsaid about what good he thinks of a person and how they affect him. It wasn’t until later after we had somewhat parted that I realized his words to people and the way he acted had taught me a great lesson. It was through him that I adopted the philosophy of embracing what I felt and letting people know just how much they mean to me. Maybe this way of living can be considered true honesty because you hold none of the good things back.

Even though I hold this principle, I can’t help but think of others and how they don’t embrace this humanity and heart we have. Instead, I find most people hide it and never say simply “Hey, you mean you a lot to me and have changed my life and taught me to be a better person. You’re a really genuine person.” They keep it inside and never say what they feel and how having someone in their life affected them. I think that’s such a waste in a way. It’s like we walk around with masks on. Hiding behind them by leaving things unsaid and not revealing this innate commonalty we share of being human– having feelings, experiences, and growing. We all have it. why don’t we embrace it and remove the masks we wear?

Blessed Mother Teresa said,”We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love” and from my experience of having that boy, Brad, in my life the things he said would make me smile and show me sight from his eyes. Proverbs 16:24 says, “gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” We can love in small ways everyday by our words and especially with sharing our heart with a person about the good things they do and what we think of them. Now love is not just saying nice things, but is also a verb and needs action too, however I will touch on that sometime later in another post. From my perspective, it’s always been pleasing to my soul to make my friends smile and when I don’t leave things unsaid I’m able to show people their value. And the experiences and lessons you learned from that person also end up benefiting them by showing them how they have impacted your life. As a side note, using words is not the end all be all of showing love, there are many ways to show love. Sometimes words are not enough, and can be expressed through another outlet.

Basically my concluding thoughts are don’t stay quiet about how you feel. If you appreciate someone in your life tell them. If you are proud of someone tell them. If you are worried for someone say it. You have time now to say things and when they leave or die they will never know how you truly feel or saw in them and I think that’s such a shame. In addition, those words can be good encouragement for a person. Whether people want to admit it or not, words are a powerful thing. That also means it can go either way too with how you use your words, good or bad, so I’ll leave you with this, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”