Advent and Anti-Christ, Part IV

Sunday, December 20, AD 2009

The fourth and final part of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ delivered by John Henry Cardinal Newman before his conversion during Advent in 1835.  Part I is here, part II is here and Part III is here.

In this last sermon Newman speaks of the persecution that will attend the reign of the anti-Christ.  In Newman’s day, living memory could recall the savage persecution that the Church endured dring the initial years of the French Revolution.  In our time, we have the blood-stained last century when millions of Christians were martyred for their faith.  It is all too easy to suspect that those terrible persecutions were trial runs for the persecution of the Anti-Christ.  The last century brought to reality these words of Newman:  “Let us then apprehend and realize the idea, thus clearly brought before us, that, sheltered as the Church has been from persecution for 1500 years, yet a persecution awaits it, before the end, fierce and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise.” Certainly all prior persecutions pale before what Christians experienced in the Terrible Twentieth.

This is an interesting passage from Newman’s sermon:  “Again, another anxious sign at the present time is what appears in the approaching destruction of the Mahometan power. This too may outlive our day; still it tends visibly to annihilation, and as it crumbles, perchance the sands of the world’s life are running out.” I assume that Newman was thinking of the decline of the Ottoman Empire of his day, the sick man of Europe.  Freed from this adversary, perhaps Europe would unite behind one man, reform or revive the Roman Empire, and bring about the conditions for the Anti-Christ.  Small wonder that Hitler was frequently deemed the Anti-Christ during his lifetime.  Of course Hitler was not the Anti-Christ, but perhaps merely one of myriads of anti-Christs who have arisen and fallen in the centuries since the coming of Christ, or perhaps he is a precursor of the Anti-Christ.

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3 Responses to Advent and Anti-Christ, Part IV

  • Actually (if I’m not mistaken), the sermons as they exist now were published as #83 in Tracts For The Times in 1838, but they are a development of a series of sermons preached in 1835.

    Are you familiar with the short postscript Newman wrote for their publication? It’s rather interesting.
    http://www.archive.org/stream/ra599730700newmuoft#page/107/mode/1up

  • Thank you for the info DB. I have corrected my posts to indicate 1835 as the year of delivery. I was unfamiliar with the postscript. Bishop Horsley’s letter quoted in the postscript is stunningly prophetic.

  • The passage of the letter of Bishop Horsley quoted by Newman:

    ‘The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretence of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries. The pretended toleration will go far beyond a just toleration, even as it regards the different sects of Christians. For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none. All establishments will be laid aside. From the toleration of the most pestilent heresies, they will proceed to the toleration of Mahometanism, Atheism, and at last to a positive persecution of the truth of Christianity. In these times the Temple of God will be reduced almost to the Holy Place, that is, to the small number of real Christians who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, and regulate their doctrine and their worship, and their whole conduct, strictly by the word of God. The merely nominal {108} Christians will all desert the profession of the truth, when the powers of the world desert it. And this tragical event I take to be typified by the order to St. John to measure the Temple and the Altar, and leave the outer court (national Churches) to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles. The property of the clergy will be pillaged, the public worship insulted and vilified by these deserters of the faith they once professed, who are not called apostates because they never were in earnest in their profession. Their profession was nothing more than a compliance with fashion and public authority. In principle they were always, what they now appear to be, Gentiles. When this general desertion of the faith takes place, then will commence the sackcloth ministry of the witnesses … There will be nothing of splendour in the external appearance of their churches; they will have no support from governments, no honours, no emoluments, no immunities, no authority, but that which no earthly power can take away, which they derived from Him, who commissioned them to be His witnesses.’

Why I Don't Believe in a Young Earth

Monday, November 23, AD 2009

Some time ago, someone asked me:

Suppose–just for the sake of argument–you were convinced that an honest reading of the Tradition of the Church required you to believe that the initial chapters of Genesis were historical. Would you be able to do it, or do you think that Darwinism is so irrefutable that you would have to abandon or radically redetermine your faith?

I think this is the question that worries a lot of Catholics without a strong scientific background as they watch the evolution/creationist/ID debate on Catholic blogs. Here are these otherwise solid Christians taking common cause with the likes of the Richard Dawkins against their brother Christians. What gives? Are these folks really Christian? Do they care more about science than about faith? Do they only accept Catholicism so long as it agrees with science?

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24 Responses to Why I Don't Believe in a Young Earth

  • IMO it’s quite easy for Catholics to reconcile science and the Bible. My trust and understanding of the Bible relies entirely on the Church. My faith in the Bible comes from Christ and His Church. I accept Genesis as sacred scripture because it’s part of the deposit of Scripture that served God Incarnate, but mostly because the Church Christ established and gave authority to said this is Scripture. If we’re going to accept the Church’s authority on that, it’s equally as important to understand it as the Church understands it.

  • I studed geology and ended up a young-Earther myself. The geologcal evidence for a young earth was too great to ignore. But this hasn’t threatened or altared my Faith. I don’t see science and religion as opposed to each other or as each other’s bed fellows because science is a ***tool*** that is used to understand Creation. It’s one of **many** tools that we use to understand Creation and the meaning of life etc. People keep elevating science far above what it is meant to be and that’s when the trouble starts.

  • Ooops, hit submit to fast. I was going to end with:

    It’s like trying to elevate the tech pub (Science) to the same level of importance and greatness as the actual helicopter (Creation)… (I was a helicopter mechanic in the Navy.)

  • St. Augustine wrestled with this same question when he was a Manichean. The Manicheans taught all sorts of doctrines that are quite familiar in New Age thought today and could easily be revived as a whole, and astrology was a big one. Despite what people mistakenly think today, back then astronomers had pretty good methods of observing and recording the heavens. St. Augustine was no dummy, and he noticed that astrology did not account for either how people’s lives worked out or how the heavenly bodies actually behaved. For a while he hoped that when he finally got to talk to the really smart Manicheans, they would be able to explain why this was so. But when he discovered that they couldn’t, he had to give up the Manicheans because he saw quite rightly that one simply could not be expected to believe what was obviously not true.

    It has always been a great comfort to me that one of the smartest men who ever lived stood up for that obvious principle long, long ago, and became one of the greatest Catholics of all time. He would not expect anyone to remain a Catholic if it required people to believe things about the physical world that are obviously not true. I think that he knew a lot more about how to read and understand the Bible than I do and he did not consider Genesis to be a treatise in natural history. People who do simply do not understand how to read the Bible. They are doing the best they can to reconcile faith and reason, and because they can’t do so with their mistaken way of reading the Bible but they intuitively realize that faith must inform reason, they choose to disregard what reason would otherwise show. The solution is of course to get a better handle on Scripture and reason.

  • Your post kind of put God in a small box.

    After all, isn’t anything possible with God?

  • In all truth it doesn’t matter if the earth is 10,000 years old or 4.5 billion. What difference does it make if the universe is 1.5 million years old or 15 billion? God stated, “I AM WHO AM”. He is now! Not yesterday and not tomorrow. RIGHT NOW! So we can conclude that time is a construct for our benefit and if called to Judgment right now do you think Christ is going to ask you how old you think the earth is?

    Our faith in Christ does not require a scientific understanding. Most Christians throughour history were ignorant and illiterate. Clearly salvation does no hinge on knowledge of the world or the universe. Know Christ – that’s it.

    Now He also made us curious and I beleive this to be true even before the Fall. It is what we are curious about that needs to be corrected, not the curiousity itself. He also gave us dominion over Creation, which we know includes all we can see no matter how many billions of light years afar it is.

    I find it difficult to square the evidence (I am not a scientist) with a 10,000 year old earth. That doesn’t mean we won’t find evidence to the contrary and either way it will not change the most pivotal point in all of histroy, Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross.

    I don’t think God would deceive us into thinking the universe is 15 billion years old as some kind of trick. I also don’t think it matters to Him if it is 1.5 million years old or 150 trillion. He is very patient – we are not.

    I alos think that in order for our temporal reality to unfold and be reasonably perceptible by our limited minds it has to be 15 bil years old because our Sun and our location in the Milky Way would not be logically possible in a shorter period of time. Creation itself is a miracle; however, it unfolds in a natural and rational manner for us to understand which is totlaly necessary for us to even notice miracles.

    If God placed us right here in this vast universe suddenly, without context we would have to accept that as a miracle and miracles would then be facts and not mysteries. If miracles are not mysteries then they are not special and if not special then the Incarnation is nothing more spectacular than a lepton.

    Where’s the adventure in that?

  • Tito,

    To say that the earth is 6,000 years old is to make God a liar. Not a good idea.

  • BA,

    I wasn’t saying or agreeing with the young earth theory, more with some of the scientific propositions that were offered.

    God is capable of creating the speed of light at approximately 186,282 miles per second, instantaneously.

  • Good post, Darwin. If you get a chance, check out the blog of David Heddle. He’s a physicist–and a Reformed Christian who takes the same tack. One of his themes is that if the Earth is indeed 10K years old, God is attempting to deceive us through His act of Creation. Which, lest we forget, is a form of revelation itself.

    I think the distinction between the miraculous and the idea the universe is 10000 years old is this:

    (1) the first inverts/suspends/makes an exception for the natural law/order, (2) the second suggests there is no such thing as natural law or a natural order. Or certainly no way to discern the latter.

  • Good post, Darwin. If you get a chance, check out the blog of David Heddle. He’s a physicist–and a Reformed Christian who takes the same tack. One of his themes is that if the Earth is indeed 10K years old, God is attempting to deceive us through His act of Creation. Which, lest we forget, is a form of revelation in and of itself.

    I think the distinction between the miraculous and the idea the universe is 10000 years old is this:

    (1) the first inverts/suspends/makes an exception for the natural law/order, (2) the second suggests there is no such thing as natural law or a natural order. Or certainly no way to discern the latter.

  • Sorry about the double post!

  • Dale,

    No problem.

    I need to read most things twice in order to ingest the information, reminds me of my college days.

  • Tito,

    It is possible that God created the world five minutes ago, complete with fake memories of the past and fake evidence indicating that the world was much older. He could do that, but the question is why He would do so, and whether believing this is consistent with what we know about His nature.

    Similarly, God could have created the world 6,000 years ago, but planted evidence to make it look like the world was much older. He could do that, but it’s hard to see why He would do that, nor is it clear that His doing so would be consistent with what we know about His nature.

  • Tito,

    Perhaps this will help clarify a bit: I certainly don’t mean to say that God _could not have_ created the world ten thousand years ago. God, in his infinite power, could create the world in any way that he chose. Though of course, God being eternal, I think there’s merit to the Augustinian idea that God exists in a single, eternal present. And so from a God’s-eye view, this moment is one with the incarnation, and is one with Adam and Eve’s fall, and is one with both the instant of creation and the end of the world. The stretch of billions of years which to us looks like the long and gradual development of the universe is in God’s mind an instant of ever-flowering creation — and it’s only our view, trapped within the temporal timeline of creation, that makes it look like “God sat around for a few billion years before single celled life even developed”, as some complain.

    So my point is not that God could not have created the world another way than he did, or indeed tha we are definitely right in our current understanding of the physical history of the world (in that I’m sure there are a lot of things we don’t know or are wrong about) but rather that I have a lot of trouble with the idea of that all the indications that the world is ancient (from seeing objects millions of light years away, to geological strata, to continental drift, to radioactive decay, to the apparent history of the other planets, to fossils, to DNA, etc.) are misleading or explained by processes totally different from what we see acting in the world today (and in some cases, incompatible with the physical laws on the universe as we currently observe them.)

    I certainly don’t think our current understanding of the universe is perfect, but I do think that as rational creatures we’re called to use our reason as best we can — and so I don’t think it would be in keeping with our calling as rational creatures made in the image of God to refuse to use our powers of reason and our senses to understand creation as best we can (and accept the conclusions of that study) just as it Augusine’s day it was his calling to understand the world through the best philosophical and scientific insights of his day, and Aquinas in his.

  • Darwin,

    Thanks for that articulate response.

    I don’t have much to offer to this intriguing debate which I have been enjoying reading (and learning a lot).

    But where I stand is that I do believe we are descended from Adam and Eve. Hence why I find it difficult to digest that we are descended from monkeys if we are made in His image. Not rhetorically or symbolically, but literally. We are made in His image.

    Not there isn’t anything wrong with eating bananas and hanging out on tree limbs, but we are special and are God’s most special creation.

    That’s my lens that I use.

    Sometimes a simple understanding can lead to the Truth.

  • Coffee Catholic writes Monday, November 23, 2009
    “I studied geology and ended up a young-Earther myself. The geological evidence for a young earth was too great to ignore”.

    In a nutshell. It is a question of scientific evidence. The Bible has nothing to do with the matter except for the non-scientific question of creation.

    Let geologists present the facts and we can go from there. The meaning of “day” and the order of creation do not affect the geological facts.

  • Darwin’s point was the same point as Pope Benedict in his Regensburg lecture — God has given us reason, which, though limited, is not to be dismissed for something sub-rational. God’s qualities, as revealed through revelation, indicate a God who does not contradict himself; reason of course is used to determine this — but if we say “don’t limit God,” then I guess we can all end up in the nominalist-voluntarist dream of God who is not limited, even by his own self-limitations.

  • Henry beat me to it… I thought of Regensburg as well.

    Tito, we are made in the image of God because we have an intellect, free will, and are made for relationship; God could’ve taken a pre-existing creature an infused these things (parts of a rational soul) at any time.

  • Interesting post, Darwin – and also interesting commenting.

    Chris, your point concerning the fact that the “image of God” is a good one. Are we to understand that being made in the “image of God” is describing a picture of a human? It seems clear to me that the human form as an image cannot be what is referenced in what we read in the Bible. What of people who are born with missing limbs or other deformities? To the outside observer, some of these people may not even appear human, yet we would not say that they lack the “image of God” we describe. Moreover, our bodies can be changed virtually at will by accident or design, yet I would argue that the image God placed in us is left unchanged, for God Himself is the only one with that power.

    For these reasons I have always equated our creation in the “image of God” to be the fact that we are given a soul that is indeed in the image of God.

  • No more they do.

    I guess I’m a bit confused as to what you mean by that in this context, though.

    As a Catholic who thinks that evolution is basically correct in regards to the history of life on Earth, I would say that at some point in history (when I would not presume to say) God infused our ancestors with immortal and rational souls, making them truly “human” in the sense that we mean the term (something which I would say is not reliant on a biological form, but rather on our nature). Not until that infusion of souls into what were, before that, bipedal and rather clever primates, did we become truly persons, truly made in the image of God, etc.

    At whatever point that divine spark entered humanity, we were permanently and irreparably set apart from the rest of the animal world, because we were no longer strictly animal, but rather both animal and rational, both animal and divine.

  • Darwin,

    Thanks for the explanation.

    I’m going to hang out in my neighbors tree house and eat some banana’s now.

  • “Gorillas don’t have souls.”

    Where in the world do you get this kind of nonsense from? By the fact that they are animals, they have souls — indeed they have a specific kind of soul which transcends the souls of plants (according to classical definitions). Catholic teaching has always said this.

  • Animals do not have rational souls. They have a vegetative and a sensitive soul that perish when they do. A good summary of Catholic teaching on this subject is linked below.

    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Catholics-955/soul-2.htm

Rise You That Sleep

Wednesday, December 24, AD 2008

saint-augustine

“It is called the Lord’s birthday when the wisdom of God presented itself to us as an infant, and the Word of God without words uttered the flesh as its voice. And yet the hidden divinity was signified to the wise men by the evidence of the heavens, and announced to the shepherds by the voice of an angel. And so we celebrate this day every year with great solemnity, because on it was fulfilled the prophecy which said,

Truth has sprung from the earth, and Justice has looked forth from heaven (Ps 84:12).

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2 Responses to Rise You That Sleep

  • How awesome and wonderful. Born to a young woman probably of high school freshman age. And her husband, 18 or 19. In a stable at the equivalent of a no-tell motel in a backwater Roman province. Destined to become a Sign of Contradiction. Let not your hearts be troubled this date. Let us celebrate the birth of the Son of the Most High God. A most blessed Christmas to one and all and thanks for letting me rant on most of this blog this year.

  • Throughout my life Gerard I have always found that Christ gives me a reason to smile no matter how bleak the events of the day. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family, and thank you for gracing the combox of this blog with your insightful comments.