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Archive for July, 2008

Here is a guest post by Dr. James Palmer, professor at CEP, the Anglican Seminary in Chile. He has a first class degree in Theology from Durham University and an MPhil and PhD from Cambridge. His interests include Biblical and Systematic Theology, Hermeneutics, Doctrinal Development and Roman Catholic Theology.

I hope you will find his thoughts as helpful and thought-provoking as I did. The emphases are his, and I’ve coloured the catechism citations brown, to distinguish from His own comments.

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Protestants often have the same attitude to the Roman Catholic Church as the audience of a pantomime has towards the baddie: lots of booing and cries of “he’s behind you”. This is unfortunate. I´ve been reading the 1992 Catechism and am enjoying it a great deal, in fact the last thing I enjoyed this much was written by the Greek Orthodox priest John Behr (the three currently available volumes of his Formation of Christian Theology series). The majority of the objectionable parts of the catechism are unsurprisingly related to the doctrines of authority and salvation, but there is much which is really very good. Here are two interesting bits:

This on the meaning of the ascension

659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”531 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.532 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.533 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand .534 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.535

Sadly this is preceded by the horrible paragraph 645;

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.508 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.509 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.510

This has the unspoken goal of allowing transubstantiation, but it seems a complete distortion of the biblical teaching to suggest that Jesus appeared “in the guise of a gardener”. It seems to fit better with the tenor of NT teaching that the resurrection body is somewhat different to the earthly body (1 Cor 15:35ff), but not unstable in the way the catechism suggests.

This on the life and work of Christ as being the work of the Spirit:

727 The entire mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of time, is contained in this: that the Son is the one anointed by the Father’s Spirit since his Incarnation – Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
Everything in the second chapter of the Creed is to be read in this light. Christ’s whole work is in fact a joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc/index.htm

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