At the Last Supper Jesus used bread and wine. At Mass we use bread and wine. But at his Holy Communion Service, Richard Roberts, television evangelist and son of Oral Roberts, uses bread and "juice." The juice you have to supply on your own. The bread he sends you in the mail (and hopes you'll send him, in return, a bread of a different color, preferably green).
Thousands of his followers received from Roberts an envelope containing a letter from him, a listing of the stations carrying his show, and a cellophane bag containing three Communion wafers. (They look just like the ones you can buy at Catholic church supply stores.)
"Tuck away two of the Communion bread wafers in your Bible for our Holy Communion Service and send one to me as a powerful, delivering point of contact," wrote Roberts. At the bottom of the "spiritual needs" sheet is a coupon to fill out: name, address, amount of offering enclosed (up to $250), and a box to check: "Richard, please pray for my friends and loved ones involved in the Iraqi crisis."
In the cover letter Roberts explains that "Jesus said the bread represents His body which was broken for you." Actually, he said no such thing. What he said was "This is my body" (Matt. 26:26)--not "This represents my body." And Jesus didn't use "juice." He used wine, but that fact doesn't go over well with folks brought up within a teetotaling tradition.
Remember the poll, taken a few years ago, in which Jesus didn't rate among the five most admired men of all time? Of course you don't--such polls are quickly forgotten. But not in Indonesia, particularly if Mohammed makes the list but doesn't make the top.
Arswendo Atmowiloto published a poll in the weekly tabloid Monitor. The poll rated pop singers, politicians, and even Atmowiloto himself as more popular than Mohammed, who came in eleventh. (Jesus was not listed in the poll.)
Oops. The Monitor, which is owned by a Catholic-run business group which also publishes the country's largest daily newspaper, was closed by the Information Ministry, and Atmowiloto is serving five years in prison for "blaspheming" Mohammed.
How to resist sects? Through better adult education, said Pope John Paul II to bishops from Italy's rural areas. Even in Italy sects make inroads. Their success is "perhaps a concrete sign of the unsatisfied desire for the supernatural"--a desire, apparently, being unmet in that nominally Catholic country.
The pope noted sects do well where there is doctrinal confusion. He warned against a tendency to "present religions and various religious experiences through a least common denominator, which makes them practically equal." The result of such a tendency is to make people think all religions lead to salvation.
An article published in a British medical journal says Jesus may not have died on the cross. Dr. Trevor Lloyd Davies, writing in the journal of the Royal College of Physicians, claims Jesus faked his death to survive crucifixion.
Davies says he underwent syncope, which is a loss of consciousness caused by a temporary deficiency of blood supplied to the brain. This is an old charge (perhaps Davies is unfamiliar with the extensive literature which tries to debunk the Resurrection and, necessarily, the death of Jesus). It ignores the fact that the lance to his side brought forth water and blood, a sign the heart has stopped beating. If Jesus sought to fake his death, he waited too long to pass out.
This and other arguments against the Resurrection will be considered in an upcoming series in This Rock.
Former GOP chairman Lee Atwater, brought up a Methodist, converted to Catholicism a few months before he died.
Dave Hunt, best known of today's dispensationalists, is upset with Keith Fournier's Evangelical Catholics [available through the Mini-Catalogue], which propounds, says Hunt in his monthly newsletter, "a tragically mistaken thesis that will lead many astray." In our book, that's high praise for Fournier, since Hunt demonstrably knows little about Catholicism.
But he claims to ache for Catholics: "What of the vast majority of Catholics who have never heard the gospel? Tragically, Catholics by the millions are prevented from receiving the spiritual gift of eternal life through believing in Christ in their hearts because of the false teaching that they are receiving eternal life by ingesting into their stomachs Christ's physical body and blood under the form of bread and wine… This false gospel separates Protestants from Catholics…
"It is not an act of love for evangelicals to embrace as Christians and overlook the false gospels of all who call themselves 'Christians,' whether they be Mormons, Catholics et al. Until [Catholics] have seen what is false in their religion they can hardly embrace the truth." Until Dave Hunt sees what is false in his (mis)understanding of Catholicism, he can hardly embrace the truth.
Of course, he thinks the same about us. To a reader of This Rock he recently wrote, "I am familiar with Catholic Answers and had a debate with its head, Karl Keating. [Actually, it was an exchange on a radio program.] You are 'quite impressed' by their work. I am not. . . . They make a big point that transubstantiation was believed before Constantine. So were a lot of other heresies. [At least Hunt acknowledges the antiquity of the doctrine of transubstantiation.] . . .
"Next they say that 'the doctrine can be proved from John 6.' Not true. I deal with that in an appendix to Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist, so I won't repeat it here. The doctrine of transubstantiation is necessitated by Catholicism's teaching that Christ's once-for-all death upon the cross was not sufficient to get us to heaven, but that it must be repeated endlessly."
This is a caricature of Catholic teaching, as Hunt should know. He argues that "you can't have the real physical body of Christ present simultaneously in thousands of locations, nor can his real body be confined to a tiny wafer."
Says who? Remember, we're talking here not about a natural presence of Christ, but of a sacramental presence. Just as you can be "present" several places at once in your mind by thinking about those places simultaneously, so Christ can be present sacramentally in as many places as he chooses--or doesn't Hunt believe in God's omnipresence? Would he say that if God is in heaven he can't be on Earth, or that when the Son took flesh he ceased to be in heaven? If he follows his own logic, he ends at an impasse.
Pastor Larry Lea, who recently took for himself the title of bishop--he runs what's called the "Church on the Rock" in Rockwall, Texas--said on a cable television program that neither the military nor politicians were responsible for the coalition partners' quick victory in the war with Iraq. He claimed the victory was entirely due to his own intercessory prayers and to his loyal followers who, under his direction, used copies of his Prayer Warrior Pocket New Testament (available for a "love gift" of $20.00) to pray Saddam Hussein into submission.
Not a few of our readers prefer the Latin liturgy. They may be interested in joining the St. Gregory Foundation for Latin Liturgy, which was established in 1989 and which seeks to promote the celebration of the Novus Ordo in Latin. The Foundation encourages the use of the "great patrimony of sacred music as envisioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium." It publishes a newsletter, sponsors workshops, engages in liturgical studies, and makes available "proper liturgical and instructional materials."
The founder is Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, and the episcopal advisory board includes Bishops John P. Foley of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communication in Rome; Rene Gracida of Corpus Christi, Texas; Mark Hurley of the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome; John Reiss of Trenton, New Jersey; James Timlin of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and John Whealon of Hartford, Connecticut. Annual dues are only $5.00 and may be sent to the St. Gregory Foundation for Latin Liturgy, 207 Adams St., Newark, NJ 07105.
Quiz time. Which state has the highest proportion of atheists? No, it's not California. (We have the highest proportion of kooks, which is not quite the same thing.) Answer: Oregon. Most Americans of Irish ancestry belong to which religion? Wrong! Most of them are Protestants. And how many folks call themselves New Age believers? Only 28,000, even though many more are influenced by the New Age movement. These results come from a poll of 113,000 Americans conducted by the Graduate School of the City University of New York. People identifying themselves as Catholics came to 26% of the total.
You hear, on occasion, of Jews becoming Christians. The Ingrafting [available through the Mini- Catalogue] is a collection of accounts of why Jews have joined the Catholic Church. But how often do you hear about Christians becoming Jews? In Athens, Tennessee a whole congregation has, loosely speaking.
Two years ago J. David Davies and his small congregation took down the steeple of the Emmanuel Baptist Church because they concluded it was a pagan fertility symbol. Then they removed the name "Baptist" from the sign out front. They gave up celebrating Christmas, and they invited an Orthodox rabbi to instruct them in Judaism. Now they call their church B'nai No'ach (Hebrew for "Children of Noah").
The members haven't exactly become Jews (that's why we said "loosely speaking"); they don't eat kosher, have bar mitzvahs, or undergo circumcision. But they believe the basic Noahic law is the law God intended all to follow.
What prompted Davies and his group to take this odd turn? Davies lost his faith in an overliteral interpretation of the Bible. After chucking that Fundamentalist outlook, and after encouraging many of his congregants to chuck it, he looked for a new religion and thinks he's discovered the true one. We might take his journey as a testament to what happens when everyone becomes his own pope and magisterium.
If there's confusion in Athens, Tennessee, there's also confusion in the nearest Catholic parish. The January 26 issue of America ran a piece titled "Coming to Grips with Losses: The Migration of Catholics into Conservative Protestantism." The author was Mark Christensen, who left the Catholic Church eight years ago--for good reasons, he thinks. He summarizes the problem this way:
"Time and time again, however, defectors like myself say that the difficulty we had with Catholicism was that this same powerful force that has done such great things in history also overshadows and obscures Christ. The effect of the obscurity for me was that, while I certainly grew up knowing about Jesus, I never realized who he is or why he came to earth in the first place. I knew Catholicism. . . . I have been shaped by Catholicism as a religious system and culture--but, I never heard the Gospel.
"I can just see religious leaders pulling their hair out at that statement: 'What do you mean you never heard the Gospel! What do you think we've been proclaiming for the last 2,000 years in the Eucharist?' Yes, I realize the preeminent place Christ holds in the Mass. I know Scriptures are read every Sunday. I know the magnificence and purity of the Nicene Creed and its unchanging call to recommitment.
"I've no interest in slandering an institution for which I hold tremendous respect. I have to report, though, what I hear coming from the mouths of ex-Catholics as they describe their number-one reason for leaving Catholicism: 'How could it be that I spent 22 years in the Catholic Church,' one friend spoke angrily, 'and never heard the Gospel?'"
Discovery is a monthly newsletter from Apologetics Press, which concerns itself mainly with creationism. One article published last year was titled, WERE THERE DINOSAURS ON NOAH'S ARK?
The answer: "Yes! Since the book of Job [chapters 40 and 41] contains what appears to be descriptions of dinosaurs, there must have been some living in his day. . . . You might wonder how such large creatures ever got into the ark. That is easy! Not only was the ark very big, but dinosaurs were very small when they were young. If Noah took baby dinosaurs with him, they might not have been bigger than an average dog."
Question: What happened to those dinosaurs and their offspring, and why have no descriptions of them been preserved--anywhere? Why are there, say, no drawings of pterodactyls, surely good subjects for ancient artists? Perhaps because no man ever saw a live dinosaur.