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I just want to repeat, once again, that I have no authority to excommunicate or anything of the sort, nor have I once said that Sen. Kennedy is eternally lost by the powers invested in me, etc., (I am but a beggar in need of Christ's righteousness as well). But in Sen. Kennedy's letter, it would seem that there may have been a weakness in the life of a believer, something of which we all face, namely to depend on our own good works. Maybe it was too personal to use a real-life example. And for that I am sorry. Nevertheless, my intention in this article was not to condemn Sen. Kennedy, but to use this example for all of us to test whether we are in the faith or not....I do not lay claim to know where the soul of Ted Kennedy eternally rests, I hope he rests with Christ. My post as written, may have erred in to strong a direction implying that I know of Sen. Kennedy's fate....I do not. Please forgive me if this post comes close to suggesting as much, because the Lord knows I ask for forgiveness in all things I do: good, bad, or indifferent.God's blessings,Drew
In the famously realm he is know for being a long-time Senator, a brother of two assassinated American icons, and a part of the Kennedy political dynasty.
He is infamously known for his sordid past. Everything from the Chappaquiddick incident, to the Bork nomination, to the Kennedy compound incident; I hope I'm sure (for Ted's sake) he would be the first to admit he was a flawed man just like everybody else. However, deep down I believe there was a devoted Roman Catholic who knew that the eye of God was upon him at all times. Sometimes that realization becomes brilliantly clear in times of extreme crisis.
It seems there may have been some unease in his soul when facing the grim news regarding his recent diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. When President Obama visited the Pope earlier this year, Ted asked the President to hand deliver a special letter to his "Holiness". Here are the contents of that letter as reported by the Associated Press and the response from the Pope:
Excerpts of the letter from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy that President Barack Obama delivered to Pope Benedict XVI earlier this year and an account of the pope's response, as read by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington:
"Most Holy Father I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him. I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God's blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines.
"I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago and although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life. I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family and both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured and provides solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war.
"Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone. I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."
An account from the Vatican of the pope's response, according to McCarrick:
"The Holy Father has the letter which you entrusted to President Barack Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him and for the needs of our universal church.
"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings and trust in His promise of eternal life.
"Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord."
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
What's most sad about this letter is this statement from Senator Kennedy:
"I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."Folks, this is what he is hanging his hat on for salvation; an intercessory prayer from the Pope. This isn't something to be mocked like the people from this blog seem to think is appropriate, this faith of Senator Kennedy is to be pitied.
In Isaiah 64:6, the Prophet says:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
If we trust in the righteousness we craft with our hands, without ever trying to recognize what exactly our righteousness looks like in the eyes of God as revealed by His law, then we will never value the only righteousness that gets us to heaven, namely the righteousness of Christ.
St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:12-19
"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
The Holy Spirit communicates through St. Paul in 1 Cor 2:2
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.Let us hope that between the time this letter to the Pope was written and the time of Senator Kennedy's death he confessed Christs righteousness as his own, and in faith, trusted solely in Christ's righteousness alone.
Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?Let us all take the opportunity to contemplate whether we are in the "life", that is, eternal life found in Christ alone or not!
His response was pedantic and condescending in tone, but he laid out his argument against the soul by saying:
...I have often wondered how anybody could be stupid enough to believe in a soul, which is invisible and has exactly zero evidence for it.
I guess there's nothing too childish for the brainwashed masses to believe.
For the sake of argument I'm going to assume that he's a metaphysical naturalist. For those interested on what that is please visit this link for a nutshell explanation. It's also safe to assume he believes that scientific evaluation, and only scientific evaluation can give you any true knowledge. This belief is called scientism, scientism is explained in the Christian Cyclopedia as:
Thesis that factual knowledge based on rational interpretation of sensory evidence is the only valid knowledge. On a broader base it includes some nonsensory data drawn, e.g., from introspective observation. Excludes moral, aesthetic, and religious experience. Proponents include representatives of logical* positivism.
So basically this person believes that his ability to observe and reason from that observation is good enough to comprehend his reality. Therefore, if anything is incapable of being measured by some metric of some sort is then essentially unknowable.
With that said, I'd like to switch gears a bit and express my fondness for Christopher Hitchens. I know that may come as a shock to some, but I think he's provocative, intelligent, funny, and a delight to listen to. That is not to say that I don't disagree with him vehemently, and that I do, but for as much as I know him, which is very little, I like him.
In a somewhat recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson held at Westminster Theological Seminary—Philadelphia; Hitchens gave a uncharacteristically revealing reaction to a statement given by Wilson. Towards the end of their exchange Wilson said to Hitchens, “I have faith in the Bible, you have faith in reason.”
Hitchens responded with, “No, I don't have faith in reason; I'm inclined to doubt something if its truth will be something that suits me. We [i.e., atheists] don't love the idea that we will be annihilated; we don't indulge in wish-thinking. We don't assume what we're asked to prove.” He then goes on to say, “You're a man of one book.”
Then Wilson quickly shot back, “You're a man of one thought!”.
The audience laughed; however, the audiences laughter seemed to perturb Mr. Hitchens. He quickly reprimanded the audience with this statement,
If you laugh at that, you're like Bill Mahr's audience, you'll laugh at anything. I don't like being told that my arguments aren't as good as his because he has divine information that I don't have. There's an assumption with which I will dispense before the inquiry - there is no supernatural intervention in this argument. Like LaPlace, I don't need the god-hypothesis. If he does exist, he is incompetent, absent-minded, capricious and cruel.
His cadence along with way he uttered it out, with such an uncharacteristic sour tone as opposed to his normal triumphant tenor really caught me by surprise. It seemed that perhaps Wilson got Hitchens' mind close to grappling a unique and special bond between the theist and atheist, that is; they both believe certain things to be true—a priori—which means that people must assume the truth of something before concluding its validity. In logic this is known as the fallacy of petitio principii, or circular reasoning, and also otherwise known as begging the question. With Wilson his die-hard trust in the Bible begs the question, and with Hitchens his unrelenting trust in reason begs the question: equally.
Now, the atheist/agnostic at this point can claim that the Bible is a book of myths and has been proven unreliable in many circumstances, and, therefore, intellectually shaky as a starting point, and they are certainly free to make this objection (although I don't agree). However, this also means I'm just as free to say that if a conglomeration of neurons, neuro-chemicals, and cognitive faculties, mixed in a certain way, has the ability to give a reliable comprehension of reality, then why can't a different mixture of neurons, chemicals, and cognitive faculties also give us an accurate comprehension of reality as well? If this were the case what would be the difference between the intellect of a person with a Phd, and a person on LSD? What would be the difference between a college professor, and a person with schizophrenia?
G. K. Chesterton, author and Catholic apologist, while speaking of mad-men in his book Orthodoxy said:
To the insane man his insanity is quite prosaic, because it is quite true. A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad. It is only because we see the irony of his idea that we think him even amusing; it is only because he does not see the irony of his idea that he is put in Hanwell [a London insane asylum] at all.
So, what does make reason reliable? Majority rule? Societal norms? Predictive ability? Well, majority rule is a group of powerful people imposing their power on others, and that doesn't speak to somethings validity or not. Societal norms change with time; what was once considered reasonable decades ago, can now be viewed as ancient and irrelevant by todays standards. An insane person, in the height of their mania can be every bit as predictive as any “sane” person regarding the world outside them, granted that their condition remain constant. However, it is no matter the constancy of their condition, for their perception of reality is as every bit true to them as the next mans, given that the set of presumptions about brain chemistry and cognitive function being a good judge of reality true as well. Yet, that is the question isn't it, why is our brain chemistry and processes in such-an-such a configuration reliable?
You see, this question can't be answered conclusively; it can only be assumed true with a hope for better future insight. And, as such the premise of the question is included in the conclusion. This is petitio principii. Circularity, begging the question, etc., is the best humanity can do, and so, we are smart enough to realize this, but not always honest enough to admit it.
So, what am I getting at with all of this? Well, let's just be honest about our starting points, our assumptions, and our best guesses at the outset. Let's give them a fair comparison to other ways of thinking and viewing the world, instead of dogmatically accepting our unprovable assumptions as something so “self-evident” it needs no defense.
What is Traducianism you ask?
According to the Christian Cyclopedia, Traducianism is the:
View that the soul* of a new infant is generated from the souls of its parents. Many prefer this view to creationism* because they feel that it helps to account for transmission of sin from parents to offspring (see also Sin, Original).
What are its competitors?
The propagation, or origination of the human soul, has been explained by three theories, viz: Preexistence: Creationism: Traducianism.
The theory of Preexistence was maintained by Plato, who dwelt upon a seemingly dim recollection of a former condition, anamneesis. It went over from Plato through Philo, to Origen, but never met with general acceptance in the Church, and was expressly condemned in the Council of Constantinople in 543. In recent times, it has been defended by Kant, who thinks, in his work "Religion within the bounds of Pure Reason," that to the explanation of the radical evil in man is required the intelligible fact of a decision made by him at some former time. Schelling has maintained the same view in his "Philosophical Investigation, in regard to the Essence of Freedom," 1809.
It has also been most ably defended by Julius Mueller, in his great work "On Sin" (4th Ed., 1858), (translated into English, Clark's For. Libr.,) who employs it to solve the problem of Original Sin. Nowhere,however, has the theory been put more beautifully, than in the lines of one of our great English poets, Wordsworth, in his "Intimations of Immortality,from the Recollections of Childhood." In that poem he makes this noble statement of the Platonic theory:
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But, trailing clouds of glory, do we come,
From Heaven, which is our home."
But beautiful as is this theory, and not without speciousness, it will not bear the test of logic, nor of the witness of Scripture. It only cuts the knot; it simply throws back the question, puts it out of sight, and does not answer it. It is an obvious subterfuge to get rid of a perplexity, and is like the hopeless cosmography of the Hindoos, except that it stops at the elephant. It is opposed to the great fact of our human experience, as to the similarity between the soul of the parent and child, and is contradicted by the general drift of Scripture, and specially by Gen. iii. and the whole argument in Rom. v. 12, seq. It in truth involves simply an undeveloped metempsychosis, a transmigration of the soul. Its latest defender is an American, Dr. Edward Beecher, who lays this theory as part of the basis of what he claims to be the solution of the "Conflict of Ages." (1854.) The theory of Preexistence in another form asserts simply that all souls were created at the beginning, by the word of God, and are united, at conception, with the human organism.
Immediate Creationism maintains that there is a direct creation of the soul by God, and that about the fortieth day after conception it is united with the embryo. The passages of Scripture which have been appealed to sustain this view are Jer. xxxviii. 16; Isa. Ivii. 16; Zach. xii. 1; Acts xvii. 28; Ps. cxix. 73; Job x. 12; Do. xxxiii. 4; Numb. xvi. 22; Do. xxvii. 16; Heb. xii. 9, and in the Apocryphal books, 2 Mace. vii. 22. Jerome asserts that this was the view of the Church, but this is an overstatement of the fact, although it certainly was the view of a number of the Fathers. Clemens Alexandrinus says: "Our soul is sent from Heaven." Lactantius says: "Soul cannot be born of souls." It is the predominant view of the Roman Church. Most of the Reformed (Calvinistic) theologians maintain it, and usually with the theory that by the union of the soul with the body the soul becomes sinful.
But this theory is really untenable. The strongest of the Scripture passages quoted to sustain it, imply no more than that the spirit of man has higher attributes than his body, is preeminent as God's work, and the chief seat of his image, without at all implying that His creation of the soul is a direct one. It would be quite as easy, not only to show from other passages, but to show from a number of these, that the body of man is the direct creation of God, which, nevertheless, no one will maintain.
To Pelagians, and the Pelagianizing Romanists, this theory indeed is not encumbered with the great moral difficulty arising from the acknowledgment of Original Sin, but to all others, this view involves, at its root, unconscious Gnosticism. It makes matter capable of sin and of imparting sinfulness. It represents the parents of a child as really but the parents of a mere material organism, within which the nobler part, all. That elevates it, all that loves and is loved, is in no respect really their child. On this theory, no man could call his child really his own. He has no more relation, as a parent, to its soul, which is the child, than any other man in the world, and is as really the father of that which constitutes a human being, to every other person's children as he is to his own. Moreover, with all the explanations and ingenious resorts which have been found necessary in retaining this theory, there is no escaping the inference, that it makes God the author of Sin. According to this theory, God creates a perfect, spotless, holy soul, and then places it in a polluted body; that is, He takes what is absolutely innocent, and places it, where it inevitably, not by choice, but of necessity, is tainted with sin, justly subject to damnation, and in a great majority of cases actually reaches eternal damnation. We do not hesitate to say, that though the doctrine has been held by good men, who have guarded with great care against obvious abuse, it could be pressed until it would assume almost the character of a "Doctrine of Devils."
The third view is that of Traducianism, or mediate Creationism: the theory that both body and soul are derived from the parents. This theory corresponds with the prevailing and clear statements of the Holy Scriptures, as, e. g. Gen. v. 3; Acts xvii. 24-26. It is a doctrine absolutely demanded by the existence of original sin, and the doctrine that God is not the author of sin. This view is defended, among the Fathers, especially by Tertullian, Athanasius, Gregory of Nissen, and many others. Augustine remained undecided, confessing his ignorance, yet leaning strongly to the Traducian View. The Lutheran Divines, with very few exceptions, are Traducian. The expressions in the Symbolical Books, such as in the Catechism, "I believe that God has created me," and in the Formula of Concord, "God has created our souls and bodies after the fall," are meant of the mediate creation, not of the direct.
The true theory of Traducianism is, that it is a creation by God, of which the parents are the divinely ordained organ. The soul of the child is related mysteriously, yet as closely, to the soul of the parent as its body is to theirs, and the inscrutable mystery of the eternal generation of God's Son from the absolute Spirit, mirrors itself in the origin of the human soul.