"Concerning this salvation, prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and investigated it,...It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you [through] the holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look". (1 Peter; 10, 12)
So, I have a confession to make, and the confession is that I have failed. Now your probably thinking something along the lines of "I know your haven't exactly posted on a weekly bases, but dude your being too hard on yourself, it's just a blog post after all". Here me out though. I have failed this mission before I even started. You see, I started writing this series with the assumption that I could just follow a simple apologetics course, get all my questions answered, and post about my experiences. Can I just say, I have never been more wrong about something than I was with myself regarding this 'seeking of truth'. Human curiosity and the desire for truth, not to mention the Holy Spirit, most definitely cannot simply be forced to fit a certain predesigned mold and expect to be satisfied, nor reach it's fullest potential. Searching for truth comes with taking risks, and making ourselves a little uncomfortable, we can't always 'play it safe'. Not to mention, being Catholic is not about sitting at home, clean, tidy, neat, always comfortable and always acting like we have 'everything all together'. No, being a Catholic means to get your hands dirty, to be sweaty, to take risks and ask questions. To be Catholic is to live an adventure guided by the Holy Spirit, not just by human literature or our own desires.
From here on out, I can not promise I will post a lengthy update for this blog series every single week. Nor can I even promise that all of my posts will be stellar defenses of the faith, well reasoned treastises on dogma, or breath taking philosophical arguments defending our faith . Heck, I can't even promise my grammar will be spot on in all of my blog posts (have you seen some of my posts lately?). I simply am a human being, a Catholic, in search for truth, and who knows where that search will take me? All I know is that it will be an adventure, and I promise to bring you along for the ride. They may not always be breathtakingly beautiful, but I will record the thoughts, the experiences, and feelings I encounter. I will go bearing prudence, wherever I feel called to go; lifting every rock and lookin in every nook and cranny to satisfy this growing hunger for answers and ultimately the truth. I finally understand that if the Catholic faith is the true faith it must be understood that she has the answers for the questions that we seek; that is to say reasons to back up the beliefs that she holds. The Niecene or Apostle's Creeds are not simple words to be uttered at random, they are meant to be a profession of faith to live by (a.k.a you are saying that you personally believe these things and desire to live your life according to them).
At some point in our lives we must question whether you can really in good conscience profess a creed you haven't given more than a school lesson's worth of attention to, if that much at all. I desire to find the truth, and sometimes one can't just play everything safe; things must be challenged for you to truly appreciate them. We owe it to ourselves to search for truth and not be complacent with our thirst for answers. Keep me accountable to this, I pray you do. In our hearts we know we'll never be satisfied not knowing the truth for why we exist or how we are called to live our life. Keep yourselves accountable, ask questions if you have them and do not be afraid. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be honest with yourself. Go get dirty with your faith. Put yourself under a little pressure and wrestle with the faith, as Jacob did with an Angel of God, in the book of Genesis. Sweat a little, cry a little, but most importantly, as Christ says, "come and follow me"and let us unhinderedly find the spirit of truth together no matter the price. Here, I truly begin this quest for truth, and as we were taught to say at the Steubenville East Conference this past weekend, "Nunc Coepi". "Now, I Begin".
"Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come". (Rom*5: 14)
Well this is interesting! I never would have thought looking over our guide would entail me writing so many blog posts; moreover, I never would have thought that asking three simple questions would lead to so many more of them. Although these blog posts on Sacred Scripture may seem unnecessary to some, I am beginning to understand that this overview of Scripture is like being shown how to use a compass, or more formally it is the foundation on which all other arguments or questions we ask will be guided with. For in all reality, without the ability to completely trust the validity of Sacred Scripture, the whole basis for the Christian religions fall apart. If you can't trust your map or GPS how can you expect to reach your target destination? Although I am not entirely sure, I think it is better for me to tackle Bible related questions before all else, because if those remain unanswered it would be futile for me to attempt to find the truth in other religious matters. So with that we have a general destination in mind. It is time we start walking on our journey; the adventure to find truth, reason, and faith has begun. Our first destination really isn't a destination at all, rather, it is the manner we must travel in order to leave this place of 'nescience'. The way being that of 'Typology'.
Biblical Typology- what is it, why use it, and how to see it in action?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines 'typology' itself as "a study of, or analysis, or classification based on types or categories"(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/typology). In light of this definition, I wonder what one would reasonably conclude 'Biblical Typology' is? Could Biblical Typology be the 'study of, analysis, or classification of Scripture based on types of categories? That sounds pretty reasonable to me, but let's turn to The Catechism of the Catholic Church and see what The Church has to say on this matter. " The Church... has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son" (128). So in essence the Church is teaching that the "Old Testament (OT) prepared the way for the New Testament (NT)" (Beginning Apologetics: How to Read Scripture, 9). Specifically though, the Old Testament, previews the reality of Christ, as is found in the New Testament. "As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New" (CCC,129).
"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (Pro* 2:1-5)
How do we read Sacred Scripture?
There are many varying opinions on how Scripture should be read across the countless churches found in Christianity. Some churches prefer to place more emphasis on personal interpretation of scripture while others rely much more heavily on pastoral explanation. First and foremost, however, as Catholics we must adhere to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when she states " Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written" (111). We must be unmistakably clear in our understanding that that the Holy Spirit is the primary interpreter of Scripture. This very fact is reaffirmed in Jn**14:26, when Christ says: "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things". This means for us to be able to fully grasp the power and meaning of scripture we must read it in light of the understanding that Scripture was written through an eternal spirit, and is not a simple narrative or myth.
I think we can all agree that any person or object works best, and it's fullest potential is only realized, when it is used for it's intended purpose. As such, "we should read the Bible according to the reason it was given to us; to bring us closer to God by helping us to grow in love for God and neighbor. To understand the Bible correctly we ought to read it with concern for holiness"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, 6). Another important aspect to remember is that the bible is the inspired word of God, and when read with faith it has the power to transform our lives. Also, we ought to not get discouraged if we find we are unable to understand certain sections of Scripture. "We... need to read the Bible with humility, recognizing that we are limited creatures reading the words of the limitless Creator"(7). One must also remember it is foolish to believe the bible is "outdated" or "not relevant" to our lives. The New Testament of the Bible has remained unaltered in written form for over 1500 years, and the majority of the Old Testament has existed for well over 2500 years (more on this in a future blog post). Does this not mean the Bible has been able to pass the test of time, having survived through countless ages of mankind and yet retaining relevancy throughout that time period?
"The idea that "old ideas" are not as not as solid as new ideas is not only stupid, it's dangerously prideful. Old ideas are often far better because they've held up over time... Yes, maybe you have the Internet, but [people from the past] knew how to build pyramids without cranes, harvest crops without tractors, heal without prescriptions, and chart stars without telescopes"(Truth Be Told,81).
Lastly, we must remember to "read the Scripture within the "living Tradition of the whole Church""(C.C.C***, 113). This means we ought to look at the Bible as a whole rather than read it in isolated fragments. As Beginning Apologetics states, "Reading only isolated passages, or taking paggages out of context, can seriously distort Scriptures meaning". For instance, " years ago on a television show, an atheist insisted that the Bible teaches there is no God. As the audience gasped, the Atheist opened his Bible to Psalm 14:1 and read, "There is no God." However, the whole passage reads, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" We should not chop the Bible up into contradictory pieces, but interpret it as a consistent whole"(7). It is important to remember the 2000 years worth of Catholic saints, historians, doctors, and theologians whose insight on Scripture have come before us. Often times we will find that their insights on Scripture have been invaluable in enriching the Church's understanding of Scripture, and as such may prove to be essential in furthering our defense of the faith.
** The Holy Gospel According to Saint John
*** The Catechism of the Catholic Church
"But as you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2TM* 13;14-17)
Why do we need Sacred Scripture?
It has become a common occurrence for people to claim that they live in the modern age, and thus consider scripture and the church obsolete. Why would they need those when they can speak to God personally? Essentially they believe that God is everywhere all the time and is not limited to a single book or a church. This notion, however, is faulty in so far as it denies the truth that "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit" (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 9). While it is true that God is everywhere and in everything, I echo Mark Hart's response to this in Truth Be Told when he says, "If anything, we need the Bible more than ever before. It's dangerous to live in any present moment, where you have forgotten your past"(82).
Turning to Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible we find out that "in 2 Timothy 3: 16, St. Paul gives several reasons for reading Scripture: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work"(6). It is dangerous to rely solely on our own human intuition to understand the truths of an eternal and ever present being. As Mark Hart states, "What if the God you"think" you know isn't the actual God at all? Many people follow a concept of Jesus that is not historically accurate- a pleasant politically correct, "be nice to everyone" figure of Jesus that is anything but Biblical. Many people ascribe traits to God that are not even remotely consistent with the God of Scripture" (Truth Be Told, 82). Through the C.C.C** we are able to come to the understanding that God is the author of Sacred Scripture and the church relies on faith to accept God inspired the human authors of scripture to write what he desired written (105-106). Lastly, I will turn yet again to Mark Hart and Truth Be Told in depicting the complete and unhindered truth about Sacred Scripture and it's unique personal role in the existence of every human being who has lived and died, is living today, and has yet to come.
"In the Bible you encounter the God of the Universe and see how He moves, thinks, and speaks. You're not merely reading about characters from long ago- you're reading about your very self. The Bible isn't merely speaking to you; it's speaking about you. You are Adam and Eve, standing before God in all your sin. You are Moses, worried about his reputation as he strikes the rock a second time. You are David, putting your wants before God's. You are Esther, deciding whether or not to endanger yourself to protect others. You are Peter, being called to lead even though you're far from perfect . You are the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus - being told by God that you have worth regardless of your past.
This is what the Bible offers you... an invitation to know God more deeply. The Bible helps you to "know" God beyond just your head and to engage Him in your heart. Scripture deepens your prayer, enlivens your worship, and makes the sacraments come to life in a whole new way" (83).
* the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
** The Catechism of the Catholic Church
"Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the sons of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am." And he said "Say this to the sons of Israel 'I Am has sent me to you'". (Exd 3: 13-14)
So we have begun walking the way of faith, truth and reason. Now is when our mind turns to thoughts and questions about what the first beast we shall tackle is, where lies a monster we shall slay, or how we shall break a curse along our journey. What is the first test of faith, truth and reason we shall encounter? Is it the behemoth known as 'sola scriptura', the perplexing concept of Mary's perpetual virginity, or even the battle over the Eucharistic presence of Christ? The answer to that questions is quite simply a loud and resounding no! Before we can even consider entering into those areas, we must make sure we have a guide we can trust to get us through those areas truthfully and without error. The first battle to conquer is over our guide itself. What is our guide? Can it be trusted? Why do we need it, can't we find our way without it? How do we even read it? The bible, the Holy Scriptures of our faith, shall be the first to be put to the test. Here you shall find recorded the first test that was undertaken with more recordings to follow as the tests are completed.
What is Scripture?
"To understand what Sacred Scripture is, we must first understand what revelation is"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, pg.4). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (this will be abbreviated to C.C.C from this point forward) defines revelation as "God's communication of himself, by which he makes known the mystery of his divine plan, a gift of self-communication which is realized by deeds and words over time, and most fully by sending us his divine Son, Jesus Christ (pg. 897). Being that the Catholic Church teaches that mankind was made in the image and likeness of God, we have the ability to observe things about God through the material universe he created, the natural moral law, and through public revelation. Public revelation comes in two forms: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Beginning Apologetics states, "Sacred Scripture is divine revelation that was written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sacred Tradition is divine revelation that was not written down, but which the Church has faithfully transmitted from the beginning"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, pg. 5).
Mark Hart gives a great analysis of how one can be sure if the Bible really is the Word of God and is reliable in his book Truth Be Told. "Countless people try to say that the Bible is "unreliable" or "outdated." Many people.... do everything they can to debunk the validity of Scripture, thinking that if they can exploit seeming "inconsistencies" or supposed "errors," they can somehow do away with Christianity and even God... Faith does not begin with the Bible. You don't use the Bible to prove God's existence... thats likes using the music of Nikki Minaj to "prove" God hates me. No, we begin with God. Once a soul believes in God, there's a decision to make regarding whether or not Jesus is God. Next, one must decide whether or not Christ instituted a Church or not. After that, one must understand that the Bible came out of a living Church (not vice versa)... The Church didn't "come out of " the Bible; the Bible came out of the Church... The Scriptures are meant to be a light, and are designed to not only guide us through the darkness but also to beckon others to safety.
Thus we can define Sacred Scripture as divine public revelation written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the effects of a living church, which is meant to be a light and guide in our lives.
" If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him, nor recognizes him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you." (John 14: 15-17)
I am packing for a journey, a great adventure of sorts. Do you want to join me ? Maybe you're not the courageous type, one to just get up and leave everything you know in an instant. Yet, would you be interested if I were to tell you this adventure encompasses the most riveting war of all time, an impending tragedy that must be prevented, the greatest love story of all time which ends in self-sacrifice, a hope beyond all hope, and all of these events focus on one person and that person is you? Do I have your attention now, are you sure you don't want to come along?
For the longest time we have been told what to believe by our parents, friends, society and even our Church, but at some point we must decide what we shall believe. Why do we Catholics reject 'sola scriptura', believe in the Eucharist, follow the Petrine Succession, teach about the afterlife and Purgatory, preach Mary is the Mother of God and was immaculately conceived, and adhere to the understanding that Christ rose triumphantly over the dead? It is in recognition to these questions and many more that I have decided to put the 'faith' and 'reason' I have always known to the test, and will be sharing this journey, to find 'the Spirit of truth', with you all via blog posts. Here you will find the first of a series of blog posts over the next few months which will entirely be focused on finding truth through Catholic apologetics.
Along this journey I will primarily be using the Beginning Catholic Apologetics by Fr. Frank Chacon and Mr. Jim Burham as a guide, the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Truth Be Told by Mark Hart. Of course I can't promise there won't be other sources I find helpful and will cite those when appropriate. Anyways, it is time to start walking and journeying for truth. Pray for me, as I pray for you along this journey! I encourage you all to truly journey with me and engage with others in the comment box, friendly debate and discussion is encouraged, ask questions, get messy and above all let us be open to faith, truth and reason.
'Fire of the Spirit' Teen blog is run by Henry B. To find more information about this blog, go here