Tag Archives: Peter Kreeft

The Witness of the Early Christian Church: St. Ignatius of Antioch

In his conversion story to the Catholic Church from Calvinism Dr. Peter Kreeft conveys a story in which a professor warned him that “some day you are going to meet a Roman Catholic and they are going to say you that you are in the wrong church because our church was founded by Christ and is 2,000 years old and your church was only founded by Calvin and 450 years old”. The professor argued that they better be well equipped to respond to such allegations. That Catholics were wrong that the reformation actually restored Christianity in its early form. That Christ found a church and that it was a protestant church, but like an Ark after 1,500 years of sailing it accumulated barnacles on its hull. What the reformers did was to scrap off those barnacles; they didn’t make anything new they restored something old. Dr. Kreeft was elated by the professor’s response and follows up with a question:

“If I took a time machine and when back 1900 years to the early church like around the one hundred you are saying to me that I would find it that it was a protestant church and if a Catholic and I both took the same time machine I would feel more at home than he would? The professors said “exactly”.

He was elated because at least he would have empirical proof to disprove the historical claims of the Catholic Church all he had to do was to read the accounts of the early Christian and show that they weren’t Catholic. And so it began, as many others before him, Dr. Kreeft was on the way to Rome.

So, what is it about early Christians that speaks so deeply and faithfully about the catholicity of the Church that Christ founded?

Their witness is one covered in the blood of martyrs and embedded in an intense and unflinching love for Christ and his Church. These are the Christians who heard the gospel from the apostles and were entrusted by them to boldly preach the name of Christ to all nations. Their writing gives us a first hand account of what it meant to be a Christian in the first century, but above all they give us a witness of how to be a Christian in the middle of persecutions and even in the confusion of heretical teachings:

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“Pray unceasingly for others; in their case there is hope for repentance, that they may obtain God. Permit them to become disciples by [seeing] your works. With regard to their expressions of anger; be meek; with regard to their boasts, be humble. Meet their blasphemies with your prayers and their deception with your steadfastness of faith. Meet their unruly life with your gentleness, and be diligent not to imitate them. Let us be found to be their brothers in gentleness and diligent to be imitators of the Lord. Who has been more wronged? Who has been defrauded? Who has been rejected? This is so that no wee of the devil may be found among you but that in purity and sobriety you may remain in Jesus Christ both bodily and spiritually”.

St. Ignatius of Antioch
Letter to the Ephesians

Their writings give us a clear description of the universality of the Church, the authority of the Bishop, and the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome in addition to a firm believes in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. One of such witness is St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan earlier around the year 110. He was the third bishop of Antioch (a city in modern day Turkey) and knew the apostle John, the beloved disciple. On the way to his execution, he wrote six letters to different churches and one to St. Polycarp another witness of the early Church. His writings, reflect an intense devotion to Christ and an ardent love for his fellow Christians. He fervently talks about the unity of the Church under the bishop and the universality of the Church:

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church”.

Letter to the Smyrnaeans

 and the supremacy of the bishop of Rome:

” Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the greatness of the Most High Father and in Jesus Christ, his only son; to the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is; to the Church which also holds the presidency in the place of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and because you hold the presidency of love, named after Christ and named after the Father; here therefore do I salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father”.

 Letter to the Romans

 On the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ, which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.

Letter to the Smyrnaeans

The early writings of Christians are a treasure for all. They tell the stories of people who were in love with Christ to the point that they gave their lives for the Cross. It is our history and they serve as a reminder that Christ is with us until the end of the age:

“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

To ignore them is a tragedy.

I highly recommend Dr. Peter Kreeft talk “Seven Reasons to be Catholic” distributed by Light House Media.

I strongly encourage readers to go the source! That is go out and read the Apostolic Fathers in their own words:

The epistle of Ignatius of Antioch.

St. Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna

Clement of Alexadria: The Exhortation to the Greek The Rich Man’s Salvation. To the Newly Baptized

Among many others…

Another great books are: Four Witnesses and the Apostasy that wasn’t both books by historian Rod Bennett.

 

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Syllogism for Cinema by Peter Kreeft

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Gran Torino

Premise 1: The imagination is the most powerful force in human nature for good or for evil.

Premise 2: Of all the art forms in our culture cinema is the one that most powerfully uses the imagination.

Conclusion: Therefore cinema has the most power the most potential for good or evil of all art forms in our culture.

Peter Kreeft

Musings about why Christian can’t make good films.

Relativism and Natural Law

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“What is true for you may not be true for me”.

Is an axiom of today’s culture. It plays as a subliminal call for civility, tolerance and understanding. It is also the hallmark of a confused and decaying society, for civility, tolerance and understanding are meaningless in a worldview that forswears objective truth and embraces relativism.

Relativism is the idea that moral truth has no objective or absolute value. Relativism reduces moral truth to a subjective opinion that is variable and contingent on experiences and perspectives. This equivocation makes relativism an existential threat to any civilization that embraces its abnegation of objective truth because it undermines its moral foundation. The absence of objective moral truth subjugates morality to a consensus of opinion at best and at worst to the rule of the mob. In such framework rights are not indelible or universal. They are subjugated to the disposition of a society and subject to change. Thus, under relativism there is no ethical or moral framework upon which to condemn the slave trade or a legal justification to adjudicate crimes against humanity. For relativism disparage the notion that as rational beings, we can discern what is right, proper and just and condemn what is wrong, improper and unjust.

As Professor Peter Kreeft aptly puts it:

“But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, “You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed.” The relativist could only say, “Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that’s all.”

Peter Kreeft
A Refutation of Moral Relativism—Transcription

It was precisely the “old-fashioned natural moral law” that afforded the Dominican Friar Bartolomé de las Casas an intellectual framework upon which to argue against the slave trade of the 16-century and for the universality of human rights. He argued that every human being has an intrinsic and objective dignity and thereby should be universally respected. His arguments were not only based on his Christian faith but also on Natural Law. A fundamental principle in classical philosophy that states that there are objective and universal ethical principles that are inherent in all human beings and that these principles can be known through reason.

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Moreover, the intellectual and judicial arguments against Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg Trials were firmly grounded on Natural Law:

“When I say that we do not ask for convictions unless we prove crime, I do not mean mere technical or incidental transgression of international conventions. We charge guilt on planned and intended conduct that involves moral as well as legal wrong…It is not because they yielded to the normal frailties of human beings that we accuse them. It is their abnormal and inhuman conduct which brings them to this bar.”

Robert H. Jackson
Opening Statement Nuremberg Trials, 1945

Relativism begs the question whether the outcome of the Nuremberg trial was justifiable if the moral values of the tribunal were conditioned by the experiences and perspective of the Nazis. For under a relativistic intellectual regime, the slave trade and crimes against humanity are just a matter of opinion. The only logical conclusion under relativism is that such atrocities are only atrocity because we view them as atrocities. Not because they are intrinsically evil. They are just a value opinion. This is a devastating thought.

Yet the appeal of relativism is inescapable to a self-centered culture. That is obsessed with denying the nature of sin or wrongdoing. It is no wonder that Relativism is today’s most profitable currency in the economy of progressivism. It gives an effective, albeit intellectually unsustainable, framework upon which to justify anything. Its effectiveness in today’s culture is self-evident in its successful devaluation of human life to a commodity through its rationalization of abortion and euthanasia. The former led to an ongoing holocaust of countless generations of human beings whose life are ended by abortion and the latter provided the means to justify the cleansing of those that society considered to be undesirable, i.e. a burden. Its inhumanity is hidden behind the doors of abortion clinics and exposed behind the gates of Auschwitz.

To be continue…

First principles: The Principle of Sufficient Reason

I opened in my previous post with a question: why is there something rather than nothing? It is a fair question that emerges from the commonsensical notion that everything has a cause: nothing can come out of nothing. Philosophers refer to this as the principle of sufficient reason. We understand this intuitively because everything around us has a cause. Rain does not magically fall from the sky, but is the result of an atmospheric process that is dependent on many different factors from atmospheric pressure to temperature. These factors, in turn, depend upon other factors for their causation. However, we cannot follow the chain of causation ad infinitum. Something has to be the first cause; otherwise nothing would have come into existence because nothing can come from nothing.

Three of the great religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, identified this first cause as God. As I discussed in my previous post, St. Thomas Aquinas, defines this first cause, as an uncaused cause. A cause that is completely independent of anything for his existence, an unconditioned reality. Any alternate explanation cannot violate the principle of sufficient reason.

In the upcoming post, I will discuss scientific evidence that indicates that our observable universe or any universe had a beginning; a point in time where everything began to exist. Some people may disagree about its cause or may hold judgment until new evidence arises, but the fact that our universe had a beginning begs the question what cause it into existence, one worth pondering about.

God Bless!

If you are interested in reading a far better explanation for first cause arguments, please read the following essay by Prof. Peter Kreeft: The First Cause Argument.