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Additional Sections Below: Greek/ Stoic Philosophers, Ancient History, Catechism/ Biblical Studies

Civil Rights & Modern History

World War II

Christians Under Hitler’s German Nazi Regime

How could most Christians either tolerate or support the totalitarian Nazi regime of Hitler?  We cannot help but ask that question because we see bulging eyes of the skeletal concentration camp victims looking up in those black and white photographs, but we must realize that nobody in the prewar years could have predicted that the concentration camps would come to define Nazism.  In the prewar years many saw a reawakened national German pride and family values after the humiliation imposed by the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. […]

AntiSemitism

Mussolini’s Fascist Regime and the Catholic Church

Although Mussolini’s totalitarian regime was brutal, and although Mussolini was not a practicing Catholic himself, he did cooperate with the Pope and the Catholic Church.  Mussolini did not enact Nazi style anti-Semitic race laws until he fell under the spell of Hitler after 1938.  Until then, the Catholics in the pews were not morally forced to choose between obeying the church and the state. […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 4, Christianity in Vichy France

Hitler shrewdly allowed the rump Vichy regime nominal autonomy in the third of France that was unoccupied by German troops. Marshal Petain and the Vichy regime had moral legitimacy in the early years of the war. Since the church teaches that the political authorities should be respected, the regime had the support of the elderly bishops throughout the war. The British were urging the French to fight on, from North Africa if necessary, but the Church Hierarchy felt that an attitude of repentance and acceptance was more appropriate. The humiliation of the German conquest was seen as an opportunity for moral and religious transformation. […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 3, The Tide Turns, Resistance and Collaboration

Now that Russia was again an enemy of Germany, the Communists in France faced greater pressure, causing more Communists to join the Resistance which actively opposed the Germans and the Vichy French, and also greater cooperation between Catholics and Communists in France that would last into the post-war years. Terrorism and assassinations of German officials increased, and the Vichy officials were drawn into the struggle against the Resistance, which was now a civil war.

Now the Vichy officials heard a new excuse when they urged the Germans to see them as partners rather than as conquered, the Germans were now far too busy on the Eastern front to attend to matters in Europe, the French would have to wait until the end of the war to negotiate a permanent peace.

The German persecution of the Jews in France increased in 1942, Jews were required to wear yellow stars, and Himmler ordered that 100,000 Jews from all of France be deported to the Auschwitz death camps, foreign born Jews first. The Vichy officials offered token resistance.[3] This persecution extended to clergy who assisted the Jews, many French priests would be murdered in the Dachau concentration camp, many of the faithful would become martyrs in their defense of the Jews. One nun commented as she sent to the death camp in Ravensbruk, “I am leaving for Heaven.” […]

Facism

Vichy France, Blog 2, Collaborating with the Germans in the Early Years, 1940-1942

The war in France seemed over in 1940, with Germany in control of the continent, the French were asking, how would it be possible for England to fight back? Hitler was quite willing to accept a lenient armistice, lenient on his terms, Hitler did not want the French government to flee to continue the war from Algeria.

Marshall Petain announced over the radio, “With a heavy heart, I tell you that it is necessary to stop the fighting.” Charles de Gaulle remembered bitterly, “Not a single public figure raised his voice to condemn the armistice.” In hindsight we all know the Nazis lost the war, but in 1940 most French expected a final peace conference in a matter of months. Marshal Petain won the gratitude of most French who thought he had saved them from the abyss of another war in the trenches of France.

The Nazis occupied the northeast two-thirds of France, including Paris, but left the French Vichy regime to govern the rest France in relative autonomy. Soon the borders hardened between the occupied France and Vichy France. Although the Vichy leaders technically had jurisdiction over all of France, they were not even allowed to travel to Paris. Although some were eventually released, two million French POW’s were held in prison camps in Germany throughout the war, and the French had to pay most of their taxes to Germany as reparations to pay for the occupation forces. The German speaking provinces of Alsace-Lorraine were annexed by Germany. The French were eager to negotiate a permanent peace, but Hitler was not so eager. Again and again Hitler would tell the Vichy leaders that they needed to wait for the end of the war to end for a settlement. […]

Eastern / Early Church Fathers

Early Church Writing

The Church Fathers Preach Against the Judaizers

John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.[2]

One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St Mark the Ascetic, Blog 2, No Righteousness By Works

St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when we fulfill the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.” When we live a godly life, the immediate reward is the living of a godly life. Salvation is promised in the next life for living a godly life, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “fear of hell and love for God’s kingdom enable us patiently to accept affliction; and this they do, not by themselves, but through Him who knows our thoughts.”

However, salvation can also be attained in this life when we are transformed into godly people, adopted sons of our Father in Heaven. Luke reminds us, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”

St Mark continues, “Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of his incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’, do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St Mark the Ascetic, Blog 1, No Righteousness By Works

We should always search our heart for upright and humble motives. St Mark the Ascetic warns that “some, without keeping the commandments, think they are keeping the faith, while others, keeping the commandments, expect to receive the kingdom as a reward owed to them. Both are deprived of the kingdom.” Our reward lies in our humble obedience, our salvation is our striving to live a more godly life.

Salvation is not a transaction, salvation is not bartering, salvation is a gift by grace, unearned. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when the Scriptures say, ‘God will reward each person according to his works,’ the Scriptures are not saying that works deserve hell or the kingdom, but rather that works are done out of faith or lack of faith in Him. Christ repays each person not as a businessman fulfilling his contracts but as God, our Creator and Redeemer,” out of love for us, not out of bartered obligations. […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St. Mark the Ascetic, Writings on the Spiritual Law

You cannot cherry-pick which commandments you should follow and which ones you should ignore. Little sins vs whoppers, scrupulously avoiding small penny sins to save up for the whoppers you need to be forgiven for when you hide thousands of dollars of defects when selling your house or when you need to ruin someone financially to steal their business. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “Those who do not consider themselves under obligation to perform all of Christ’s commandments study the law of God in a literal manner, ‘understanding neither what they say nor what they affirm.’ (1 Tim 1:7) Therefore the think they can fulfill the law by their own works.”(34)
“Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues. . . Perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.(31) The law of freedom by true knowledge, and is understood through the practice of the commandments, and is fulfilled through the mercy of Christ.”(32)
“Fulfilling a commandment is one thing, and virtue is another, although each promotes the other.(193) Fulfilling a commandment means doing what we are enjoined to do; but virtue to do it in a manner that conforms to the truth.”(194) […]

Philokalia Volume 1

St Diadochos of Photiki, Blog 2, On Spiritual Knowledge

St Diadochos teaches that when “the energy of the Holy Spirit is within us,” “the soul is kindled into Love for God and, free from all fantasy and image, moves untroubled by doubt towards Him, drawing the body with it into the depths of that ineffable love. The Love which comes from the Holy Spirit so inflames the soul that all its parts cleave ineffably and with utter simplicity to the delight of its love and longing for the divine.” […]

Western Church Fathers / St Augustine

St Augustine

St Augustine on the Beatitudes

St Augustine tells us the fate of those who hear God’s words and does them, and then for emphasis those who do not, hearing is not enough, the words must be planted in our soul and bear fruit in our actions and deeds.

Who are the poor in spirit in the first beatitude, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God?” St Augustine teaches us that the poor in spirit are those who “are humble and God fearing,” whose spirit is not proud, not puffed up by the wind. St Augustine contrasts this with the spirit of the proud, in a passage quoted by the Catholic Catechism[2], that though the “proud seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth” while the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven. […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 3, Final Reflections

The church teaches that what gives marriage purpose is the bearing of children, so we do not live our lives for ourselves. Salvation is the purpose of marriage, the salvation of our children, the salvation of our spouse, and the working out of our salvation. How does the command to love our neighbor as ourselves work its way out in marriage? We should consider first the good of our children in the living of our lives, then we should work for the good of our spouse, and we should take care of ourselves, but we are last. But last of all in a marriage should be concupiscence, but we should not neglect loving kindness and tenderness, that should pervade all the relationships with our children and with our husband or wife. […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 2

St Augustine starts his discussion on “On the Good of Marriage” with a discussion how marriage is first a friendship in bonds of family, and a friendship between man and wife, friends who walk together, side by side, raising children, growing old together. St Augustine is a bit harsher in “Marriage and Concupiscence,” teaching that “in matrimony, let these nuptial blessings b the objects of our love – offspring, fidelity, the sacramental bond.” This sacramental bond is meant to be ever-enduring, “lost neither by divorce nor by adultery, and should be guarded by husband and wife with concord and charity.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Concupiscence, Blog 1

St Augustine’s most famous quote, made before his ultimate conversion, was a prayer to God, “Please, Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet.” This shows that St Augustine was quite human, just like us, and quite honest about his struggles with intimacy. Let us give St Augustine the benefit of the doubt, let us read him hagiographically, for even though the modern world with modern technology differs greatly from the world of the ancient Christian, St Augustine has much to teach us, and we can benefit from his teaching, finding purpose in our family life, working out our salvation through the raising of our children and through our relationships with our spouse and other family members and close friends. […]

St Augustine

On Christian Doctrine, Blog 1, Love of God and Neighbor

St Augustine’s key work, On Christian Doctrine, is translated often as On Christian Teaching, teaches us how to read Scriptures and teach and spread our faith to our neighbors. What is the core of this work? We should Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength, and we should love our neighbor as ourselves. If we do not love our neighbor, we cannot Love God, and if we do not Love God and our neighbor, we cannot fathom Scripture, let alone deign to teach and preach the Scriptures. […]

Greek / Stoic Philosophers

Greek Philosophy

Diogenese on the Greek Stoic, Zeno of Citium

Zeno speculates that “God is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect in happiness, immune to anything evil, exercising forethought for the cosmos and all it contains.  But he is not of human shape.  He is the craftsman of all things, both generally and in that particular part of him that pervades everything, and which is called by many names in accordance with all his various powers.” […]

Stoic Philosophers

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Plato

Sentencing and Execution of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 2

In the end of his speech to the jurors who will decide whether he will live or die, he says, “Judges, be of good cheer about death, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.” Socrates is forgiving. “I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm. Although the did not mean to do me any good; for this I gently blame them.” […]

Plato

Trial of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 1

How do you encourage your neighbor to grow in wisdom without preaching to him? The Platonic method is the dialectic, the Socratic Dialogue, questions and answers to encourage the citizen to think. The method used by the Gospels is the parable, similar in function to the Delphic Oracle, that also entices the listener to think through questions of right and wrong, justice and virtue. Plato does not use parables as often, but he does use parables very effectively, the most famous parable in the history of philosophy is his Allegory of the Cave in the Republic. […]

Plato

Plato: Euthyphro, Who Won’t Listen

Socrates has been charged by the citizens of Athens of impiety, of corrupting the youth, and in preparation he must go to the porch of the King Archon. There he meets his friend, Euthyphro, and they converse about the serious charges filed against Socrates, and the serious charges Euthyphro intends against, surprisingly, his very own father. Socrates senses that his friend has little idea of the consequences of this action, and that his youthful haste may lead to a miserable and penurious future, and that his friend has pondered little of this drastic action. […]

Ancient History

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Marriage and Family Life In Ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel

We in the modern world are so quick to condemn the ancients for misogyny, for not treating women as equals, for subjugating women, we forget how dangerous it was to be a woman in the ancient world. Indeed, those in the ancient world would be puzzled by these accusations, they would reply that their entire culture is built around the need to protect women, for it was dangerous for pretty women to be wandering about town for any reason, rape was a constant threat, women were sequestered partially for their protection. The Hebrews in the Old Testament culture did not sequester women quite as much as the Greeks, many of the stories in the Old Testament describe how romances center around the wells where the women draw water for their flocks. This was true even in the middle ages, St Francis and his monks could choose to minister to the townspeople, but St Claire and her nuns were always cloistered. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ordinary Life and Justice in the Ancient World

The ancient world is very different from the modern world. We in the modern world view life is sacred, today we expect our children to survive until old age, because modern medicine ensures a long healthy life to most of us. If I had lived in the ancient world, I would have died as a teenager from appendicitis. In the ancient world, parents often did not name their children until they were a few weeks old due to the high infant mortality rate. Only half of children survived to adulthood, some scholars estimate that only one in ten survived to a ripe old age.
[…]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ancient Warrior Societies, Blog 3, World of the Old Testament

Warfare is mentioned over three hundred times in the Old Testament, swords four hundred times. Ancient Israel was caught in many of the ancient wars since it was in the cross-roads of trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Since Judah was mountainous, its armies relied heavily on infantry, but the Bible mentions that King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom had chariots, and that he was felled by arrow probably shot by a composite bow. Assyria and Babylon had cavalry archers on horseback, but not Egypt or Israel. An Israeli chariot had three horses pulling three men, a driver with a spear, an archer, and a shield bearer. We know from our Sunday School stores King David slew Goliath with a sling, but the ancient slings were not the puny toys we imagine, the sling in the ancient world was a deadly combat weapon. A skilled slinger could sling a rock over 120 miles per hour, faster than the fastest fast ball. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ancient Warrior Societies, Blog 2, Greek and Roman Armies and Navies

The Greek innovation to ancient warfare was their hoplite warrior phalanx, a formation eight to ten rows of a hundred or more warriors, sometimes extending a quarter of a mile. The shields of the front row would interlock, and the entire formation would press upon the enemy, the soldiers would first throw their spears then jab with their swords from behind their shields, strictly maintaining their position. This required training and practice, the Athenians expected their nobles to drill during the year, the Spartans had a year-round military the practiced year-round. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ancient Warrior Societies, Blog 1, The Warrior Ethos of Ancient Greece

The Greeks were the most formidable fighting force in the Near East. The mighty Persian empire loaded their army on ships to fight what they thought would be an easy victory, but were decisively defeated by Athens and Sparta and their allies both on land and on sea in two separate wars. This established the reputation of the Greeks, later a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, hired a Greek hoplite infantry army to fight for the crown of Persia. The Greeks dominated the battle, but Cyrus was killed in the fighting. Losing their patron, the Greeks were forced to fight their way through the Persian Empire back to the Black Sea and then to Greece. This showed that the mighty Persians were vulnerable, later Alexander the Great of Macedon would conquer all of Persia and some of India also.

The Greeks may have been the founders of Western Civilization, but they were first and foremost a warrior society. If the Greeks weren’t formidable warriors they would have been conquered by the mighty Persian Empire, which means that there would be no Socrates, no Plato, no Xenophon, the Greeks would not have been able to leave us a cultural legacy. […]

Catechism / Biblical Studies

Yves Congar – Meaning of Tradition, Blog 2

Vatican II

By abandoning diatribes, by abandoning the proclaiming of anathemas against those who disagree with Catholic doctrine, the post-Vatican II Catholic Church now explicitly believes that both Catholics and Protestants can both attain Salvation through the grace of God and His Son Jesus Christ.  By opening a dialogue, the Church teaches we can learn from both Catholic and Protestant theologies, and this also infers that this encourages study, effort, and dedication.  In the spirit of Vatican II, we should strive to view these as differences of emphasis rather than as differences that divide. […]

Biblical Interpretation

Interpretation of the Bible in the Church

Historically, the Catholic Church has defended itself from attacks, both real and imagined, from enemies of the faith, and this defensiveness also extended to Biblical studies. The twentieth century saw a relaxing of this defensiveness, culminating in the decree Dei Verbum pronounced by Vatican II, encouraging Catholic scholars to use more modern methods of interpreting the Scriptures, under the guidance of the Vatican office, the Pontifical Biblical Commission. […]

Catholic Catechism

Who Should Study the Catechism?

Who should study the Catechism?  Everyone!  Everyone who is Catholic?  No, everyone who wants to live a godly life should study the Catechism.  The Catechism was reviewed by thousands of bishops before publication, many thousands of suggestions were pondered, more thought and care was invested in the editing of the [...]
Hillel and Jesus

Hillel and Jesus, Reflections

We can benefit from pondering Rabbi Telushkin’s discussion on the differences between Hillel and Jesus in his book on Hillel, which are really his views on the differences between Christianity and Judaism. IMHO these differences are more cultural than spiritual, spiritually these are differences in emphasis.

One major difference is while Jesus places a great emphasis on prayer, Hillel emphasizes studying the Torah. “For Hillel, study is essential for knowing and fulfilling your religious obligations, because virtue is not achieved through good intentions alone.” […]

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I was born and baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. When I was in my twenties I read some of Luther’s works, and although his theological works were well written, seemingly well thought out, what [...]