Thursday, December 31, 2015

God by Participation—Mystical Union

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Saint John of the Cross, arguably the Church’s greatest mystic, called Christians to be detached of all, not to run away from all, but to love all the way all is meant to be loved.  He called Christians to be so united with God that every act of a Christian would be one in union with the will of God.  To be so detached, so in love, so fulfilling of the will of God, one truly becomes God, not by nature, but by participation.  As Saint John of the Cross says:

The soul will be clothed in God, in a new understanding of God…and in a new love of God in God, once the will is stripped of all the cravings and satisfactions of the old man.  And God vests the soul with new knowledge when the other old ideas and images are cast aside.  He causes all that is of the old man, the abilities of the natural being, to cease, and attires all the faculties with new supernatural abilities.  As a result a man’s activities, once human, now become divine (Ascent I, 5,7).
 
A monastery in France had a WWII damaged corpus above the exit doors of the monastery.  The corpus had no head, arms or legs.  Many visitors to the monastery would often ask the monks: “Why this corpus?  Why haven’t you repaired the corpus?  Could we buy you a new corpus?”  The monks would smile and would simply point to a plaque with the words of Saint Teresa of Avila which said:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Founders of Christian Denominations

Who’s your founder?

If we want to find the true Christian faith--in all its fullness--we need to look at its foundation.  Depending on what statistics we look at there are as much as 30,000 groups, cults, and denominations each claiming to have the authentic Christian faith. 

Who is right?  By looking at the founders of these groups we can come up with some key insights.  For the purpose of this work, we will look at the founders of the main Christian and pseudo-Christian ecclesiastical communities in the United States and Europe.

All quality historians and all quality history books, whether Catholic or secular, recognize Jesus as founding the Catholic Church (ca. 33 AD). 

The blessed apostle Paul teaches us that the Church is one, for it has ‘one body, one spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one God.’ Furthermore, it is on Peter that Jesus built his Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep; and although he assigns like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair, and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity.  Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair—the Chair of Peter.  So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord.  If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith?  If he deserts the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?
                                 Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 251), De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, 2-7

Now let us look at some of the Protestant and pseudo-Christian ecclesiastical communities.  Remember, there was no such thing as a Protestant Church until the sixteenth century; Jesus can never be claimed as the founder of any Protestant denomination.  Let us look at some of their founders:

Denomination                                Founder
Lutherans                                        Martin Luther (ca. 1517)
Anabaptists                                    Nicholas Storch/ Thomas Munzer (ca. 1521)
Swiss Reformed                              Ulrich Zwingli (ca. 1522)
Hutterites                                       Jacob Hutter (ca. 1528)
Anglicans                                        Henry VIII (ca. 1534)
Calvinists                                         John Calvin (ca. 1536)
Familists                                          Hendrik Niclaes (ca. 1540)
Unitarians                                       Michael Servetus (ca. 1553)/ Joseph Priestly (ca. 1785)
Presbyterians                                 Calvin/ John Knox (ca. 1560)
Arminianism                                   Jacobus Arminius (ca. 1560-1609
Puritans                                           T. Cartwright (ca. 1570)
Congregationalists                        Robert Brown (ca. 1582)
Baptists                                           John Smyth (ca. 1609)
Dutch Reformed                            Michaelis Jones (ca. 1628)
Quakers                                          George Fox (ca. 1650)
Mennonites                                    Menno Simons (ca. 1653)
Cameronians                                  Richard Cameron (ca. 1681)
Pietism                                            Philip Jacob Spener (1675)
Amish                                              Jakob Amman (ca. 1693)
Church of the Brethren                Alexander Mack (ca. 1708)
Moravians                                       Count Zinzendorf (ca. 1727)
Calvinistic Methodist                    Howell Harris (ca. 1735)
American Dutch Reformed          Theodore Frelinghuysen (ca. 1737)
Seceders                                         Ebenezer Erskine (ca. 1740)
Shakers                                           Ann Lee (ca. 1741)
Methodists                                     John Wesley (ca. 1744)
Universalists                                   John Murray (ca. 1779)
Episcopalians                                 Samuel Seabury (ca. 1784)
African Methodist Episcopal Zion   Richard Allen (ca. 1787)
Unitarians                                       Joseph Priestley (ca. 1794)
Harmony Society Church             George Rapp (ca. 1803)
Mormons                                        Joseph Smith (ca. 1829)
Disciples of Christ                          Barton W. Stone/ Alexander Campbell (ca. 1832)
Seventh Day Adventist                 William Miller (ca. 1844)/ Ellen G. White
Christadelphians                             John Thomas (ca. 1848)
Christian Reformed                       Gysbert Haan (ca. 1857)
Salvation Army                               William Booth (ca. 1865)
Christian Scientists                        Mary Baker Eddy (ca. 1879)
Jehovah’s Witnesses                     Charles Taze Russell (ca. 1884)
Nazarenes                                       Phineas Bresee (ca. 1895)
Pentecostals                                   C.F. Parham/ William Seymour/ A.J.Tomlinson (ca.1903/1906)
Alliance                                           Albert Benjamin Simpson (ca. 1905)
Church of God in Christ                Charles Mason (ca. 1907)
Foursquare                                     Aimee Semple McPherson (ca. 1918)
Church of God                               Joseph Marsh (ca. 1920)
Worldwide Church of God           Herbert W. Armstrong (ca. 1934)
Confessing Church                        Martin Niemoller (ca. 1934)
Evangelical Free                              E. A. Halleen (ca. 1950)
Moonies                                          Sun Myung Moon (ca. 1954)
Children of God                              David Mo Berg (ca. 1969)
Universal Church of                      Macedo de Bezarra (1977)
the Kingdom of God

Offshoots of the Lutherans include the Lutheran Brethren, the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Evangelical Free Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, and the Moravian Church.

Offshoots of the Anabaptists include the North American Baptist, the Advent Christian Church, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Amish, the Conservative Mennonites, the General Conference of Mennonites, the Old Mennonite Church, the Brethren in Christ, the Hutterite Brethren, the Independent Brethren, and the Mennonite Brethren.

Offshoots of the Anglican Church include the United Church of Christ, the Free Will Baptist, the Conservative Baptist, the Progressive National Baptist, the American Baptist, the Independent Bible Churches, the Friends United, the Friends General Conference, the United Methodist, the African Methodist, the Episcopal, the Free Methodist, and the many offshoots of the Pentecostal churches.

Offshoots of Calvinism include the Presbyterian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the Orthodox Presbyterian, the Reformed Presbyterian, the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed, the Churches of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the “Christian Churches.”

The Catholic Church has many rites, yet one faith that traces itself back to Jesus Christ, the apostles and their successors, the bishops.  Their Catholic identity is found in their union to the successor of St. Peter, the pope, in proclaiming the one true faith—in diverse cultural expressions--of Jesus Christ. Whether one is a member of the Roman, the Mozarabic, the Ambrosian, the Byzantine, the Chaldean, the Syro-Malabarese, the Alexandrian, the Coptic, the Abyssinian, the Antiochene, the Malankarese, the Maronite, or the Armenian rite, one is a member of the one Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ through his apostles.  

Major Social Justice Themes

 USCCB

The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of a modern society.  Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. 

Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching….  We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred, but also social.  How we organize our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.  The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We have a right and a duty to participate in society….  Human rights must be protected and responsibilities met….

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.  In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around.  Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.  If the dignity of work is to be protected, then basic rights of workers must be respected—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family Rights

St. John Paul II

Families have rights.  Among those rights are the following:

--The right to exist and progress as a family; that is to say, the right of every human being, even if he or she is poor, to found a family and to have adequate means to support it. 

--The right to exercise its responsibility regarding the transmission of life and to educate children. 

--The right to the intimacy of conjugal and family life.

--The right to the stability of the bond and institution of marriage.

--The right to believe in and profess one’s faith and to propagate it.

--The right, especially of the poor and the sick, to obtain physical, social, political, and economic security.

--The right to housing suitable for living family life in a proper way.

--The right to form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfill the family’s role suitably and expeditiously.

--The right to protect minors by adequate institutions and legislation from harmful drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.

--The right of the elderly to a worthy life and a worthy death.

--The right to emigrate as a family in search of family life.

--The right to bring up children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious and cultural values, with the necessary instruments, means and institutions.


Cf. Familiaris Consortio, 46.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas--God With Us

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Awake, mankind!  For your sake God has become man.  Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you.  I tell you again, for your sake, God became man. 

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time.  Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh.  You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy.  You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death.  You would have been lost, if he had not hastened to your aid.  You would have perished, had he not come.  Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption.
                                                                                                          
                                                                              Saint Augustine, Sermo 185: PL 38, 997

There was a man, Harold, who could not understand why God would choose to come to earth?  It just didn’t make sense to him?  Why couldn’t he help us from “up there?”  Why did he need to come among us?
            
One day while Harold was cleaning up the leaves from his front yard he noticed a few Canadian geese on the lawn.  It surprised him because it was so late in the season for these geese to still be up north.  Harold knew that if these geese did not find some place to keep warm they would die and would not make it south.  A cold front had impacted the weather and the geese were unfortunately trapped in it.
           
Harold decided to try to corral the geese into his warm garage until the cold front could pass—then they could go free and continue their flight south to the warm weather. 

But despite all his attempts to get the geese into the garage, they would flee away from him.  At one point, in desperation and exhaustion, he looked up to the sky and cried out, “If only I could speak “goose” they would understand that I mean them no harm and that I only want to save them.” 

Suddenly it dawned on him.  He now understood why God chose to be like one of us!  He understood the core of the mystery.  God came to share in our lives, and to walk the same road of life we walk. 

Jesus came to proclaim the “good news” that God the Father loves us, each one of us, so much that he sent his very own Son into the world.

Jesus came into this world naked, helpless, fragile, and vulnerable.  He knew hunger, thirst, and pain.  He knew ridicule, rejection, and death.  He came to identify with us!

He came to personally find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry, free the sinners, and bring peace and music to hearts.   He came to show us the way to living life authentically and to its full.

The origin of the name Christmas comes from the Latin Cristes Maesse, which means the “Mass of Christ.”  This is no coincidence, for within the Mass is the whole mystery of Christmas.

Leibniz' Necessary Explanation and Perfection Arguments for God

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Necessary Explanation—First Argument
Why is there something rather than nothing?  In our day to day experiences something cannot come from nothing: something comes from something.  If there were nothing there could not be something.  Therefore there must be something for something.  The universe is something. 

Every existing thing has an explanation for its existence. And since every existing thing has an explanation rather than no explanation for its existence, then what is the explanation for the existence of the universe? 

Now it may be argued that the universe always existed, with no beginning.  Human experience, however, teaches us that things that exist have a source for their existence.  If this is so, then the question must be posed:  “What exists without an explanation for its existence?”  Existence itself, subsistent existence.  And we call this God.  

The existence of the universe favors the existence of God as its explanation, for existence itself is the only “thing” that cannot be put into existence.  Existence itself is the only “thing” that can stop an infinite regress. Existence itself is what we call God.

Necessary Perfection—Second Argument
God is by definition a being having all perfections.  It is a simple and absolute property—that which expresses without any limits whatever it does express.   Existence itself, subsistent existence, is a perfection, for nothing can be added to it or subtracted from it; nothing can make it better or worse.  Existence is the fullness of what it is-- existence.  Things exists or do not.  There is nothing that is a little bit in existence and a little bit out of existence.   Therefore existence is part of the essence of all things.

Since existence is part of the essence of all things, or a thing, it is a necessary reality for any “thing” to exist.  And since this necessary reality, existence itself, or subsistent existence, is without addition or subtraction, it is a perfect reality.  Since such a reality exists, or else there would be no existing realities, and this reality is a perfection, then this reality is by definition God.  This necessary being for anything to exist, existence, is a perfection.  This is by definition God.

The probability of God’s existence is favored over his non-existence.  (1)


NOTE

1.       Cf. That a Most Perfect Being Exists (Quod ens perfectissimum existit, 1676 (A VI iii 578/SR 101; Ibid., 53/SR 107) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Descartes' Intuition Argument for the Existence of God

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one that I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number. (2)

Rene Descartes argued that the idea of God could only come about because God caused it to come about.
                 
Descartes’ argument can very well be called an argument from intuition.  The existence of God, for Descartes, is self-evident for those who meditate on his possibility.  It is intuitive because the notion of the existence of God is a “clear and distinct” perception in every human person—for some, such as atheists, yet to be discovered through a meditative, self-reflective disposition. 

In our day to day experiences, every clear and distinct innate idea of something that we believe corresponds to a real thing does in fact exist

But what about some ancients who believed in the god Zeus?  It may be argued that ancient pagans clearly and distinctly perceived of the idea of a god Zeus corresponding to a real god Zeus.  The reality is that the ancients clearly and distinctly believed in an innate idea of a being beyond mere humanness as a being that corresponded to a real being.  And rightly so.  They did not, however, clearly and distinctly perceive of Zeus as Zeus or as the Romans would name him, Jupiter.   The idea of a thunder sounding, lightning throwing, sexually promiscuous, childbearing god is not an innate idea of a being that must correspond to a real being, no more than Santa Claus or a unicorn is.   These ideas of beings are neither clear nor distinctly perceived; they are externally, artificially (culturally, sociologically) conditioned.  All cultures and societies have believed in something beyond themselves, something supernatural (innate realities), but not all cultures and societies were and are aware of Zeus (because Zeus or Jupiter is an externally, artificially taught being)!   Who even knows what Zeus looks like and does today?

If one clearly and distinctly perceives that the innate idea of a perfect being must correspond to a real perfect being, then such a perfect being truly, in all probability, exists.  Clear and distinct perceptions of innate ideas corresponding to real beings, favors the existence of God over his non-existence.
             
Advances in the study of consciousness has added greater weight to this argument.  If there are experiences of consciousness that cannot be self-produced, and that cannot be explained by a brain-alone, materialistic approach, then the argument from intuition takes on even greater weight.

After years of research…our understanding of various key brain structures and the way information is channeled along neural pathways led us to hypothesize that the brain possesses a neurological mechanism for self-transcendence.  The mind remembers mystical experiences with the same degree of clarity and sense of reality that it bestows upon memories of “real” past events.  The same cannot be said of hallucinations or dreams.  We believe this sense of realness strongly suggests that the accounts of the mystics are not indications of minds gone astray, but are the proper, predictable neurological result of a stable, coherent mind willing itself toward a higher spiritual plane. (3)
                                                               Andrew Newberg, Radiologist, Neurologist

NOTES

1.       Cf. Rene Descartes, Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings (New York: Penguin Classics, 1999), Third Meditation.
2.       Cf. Lawrence Nolan, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, April 12, 2011, plato.stanford.edu/entries/Descartes-ontological; Adam, Charles, and Paul Tannery. 1964–1976. Oeuvres de Descartes, vols. I-XII, revised edition. Paris: J. Vrin/C.N.R.S;  Cottingham, John, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch, and (for vol. 3) Anthony Kenny, eds. and trans. 1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vols. 1–3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Ibid. “Meditations on First Philosophy,” in The Philosophical Works of Descartes, edited and trans. Elizabeth Haldane (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931).
3.       Andrew Newberg, Eugene D’Aquili and Vince Rause, Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (New York: Ballantine Books, 2001), 145-146, 113.


Aquinas' Argument for God from the Natural Law

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

[Another argument for the existence of God] is based on the guidedness of nature.  Goal-directed behavior is observed in all bodies obeying natural laws, even when they lack awareness.  Their behavior hardly ever varies and practically always turns out well, showing that they truly tend to goals and do not merely hit them by accident.  But nothing lacking awareness can tend to a goal except it be directed by someone with awareness and understanding….  Everything in nature, therefore, is directed to its goal by someone with understanding, and this we call God. (1)

Let us examine an arrow flying toward a target.  An arrow cannot hit its target without a bow propelling it.  A bow needs an archer to propel it.  An archer has awareness of what his goal is—hitting the target.  If he did not have an awareness of what he was doing or an awareness of his goal, he would not be able to hit the target. 

It is like a clock that is wound up.  It takes an intelligent being, an aware being to wind up the clock, otherwise the clock will not begin to take time.
                 
The sciences like math, physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology etc., are directed by laws and by goals.    These laws of nature are meant to understand why things do the things they do.  The whole scientific method presupposes laws, goals, and/or ends.  Without these laws we would be blind to nature.  Nature would be unpredictable and chaotic. 
                 
Either the natural laws of nature are directed or so ordered by that which has no awareness, like a clock without someone to wind it, or an arrow without an archer to direct it to its target, or the laws are directed by an intelligent or aware being that winds the clock and shoots the arrow with purpose.
                 
The guidedness of nature favors God.  Human experience favors the existence of God.

Everyone who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
Einstein

                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                     

NOTES

1.       Thomas Aquinas quotes come from Summa Theologiae:  A Concise Translation, ed. and trans. Timothy McDermott (Westminster:  Christian Classics, 1989), 12-14; (Pt. I, Q. 2, Art. 3). See also Brian Davies, Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: A Guide and Commentary, 1st Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2014).

2.       Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 93.

Consciousness--Proof for God's Existence

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Nature consists of a finite number of elements.  Our human bodies consist of those elements. The elements themselves which we consist of, and nature itself consists of, have no consciousness—for elements do not have consciousness.   If the elements of the universe do not have consciousness, and we are made up of such elements, why do we have consciousness?  How does non-living matter become alive, become living matter?

Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness.  It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all.  About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot. (1)
                                                         Nick Herbert, Physicist

Nowhere in the laws of physics or in the laws of the derivative sciences, chemistry and biology, is there any reference to consciousness….  This is not to affirm that consciousness does not emerge in the evolutionary process, but merely to state that its emergence is not reconcilable with the natural laws as at present understood. (2)
                                                         John Eccles, Neuroscientist

No single brain area is active when we are conscious and idle when we are not.  Nor does a specific level of activity in neurons signify that we are conscious.  Nor is there a chemistry in neurons that always indicates consciousness. (3)
                                                  Mario Beauregard, Neuroscientist

Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists do not even know what exactly is to be measured.  Strictly speaking, at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness. (4) [Consciousness is an immaterial phenomenon].
                                            Allan Wallace, Philosopher of Science

Many attempts have been made to explain consciousness.  Some scientists and neurologists have speculated about consciousness in terms of patterns of electromagnetic activation, brain wave sequences, brain wave collapses, synaptic tunnels, synaptic passages, neural networks, neural excitations, neurotransmitters, quantum waves, quantum discontinuities, and quantum cytoskeletal states.  Others have promoted the belief that consciousness comes from the interaction of bosons and fermions, biological oscillators and bioplasma charged particles. Still others have tried to explain consciousness by the trajectory of particles, subtle energies, the excitation of condensates, and the working in unison of molecules.  All forms of electro-chemical processes have been postulated. (5)  All have failed.  No scientific explanation has been able to explain consciousness.
At the heart of the problem is the nature of matter:  I am matter.  I am conscious. How can matter, which has no consciousness, be put together to produce consciousness?  To make the point more concrete, the renowned scientist Roy Varghese gives the following explanation:

Once you understand the nature of matter, of mass-energy, you realize that, by its very nature, it could never become ‘aware,’ never ‘think,’ never say ‘I.’ But the atheist position is that, at some point in the history of the universe, the impossible and the inconceivable took place.  Undifferentiated matter (here we include energy), at some point, became ‘alive,’ then conscious, then conceptually proficient, then an ‘I.’  Matter…has none of the properties of being conscious and, given infinite time, it cannot ‘acquire’ such properties. (6)