Christianity to North America

Jesus Christ Savior | The first Mass of Thanksgiving on North American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida.

Christopher Columbus reached America in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. Following the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1513, St. Augustine, Florida became the first permanent European settlement in North America in 1565, from which missionaries spread Catholicism to the Native American Indians. The first Mass of Thanksgiving on North American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. Spanish explorations extended as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico, established in 1609.

A wave of explorations to the New World continued. Jamestown was founded by the British in May of 1607, and the Anglican Church of England was established in Virginia. Samuel de Champlain explored the St. Lawrence River and founded Quebec, Canada for Catholic France in July of 1608. Henry Hudson sailed for the Dutch East India Company and explored the river that bears his name in September of 1609; the Dutch Reformed Church was established in New Amsterdam after the Netherlands purchased Manhattan in 1626.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Christianity continued to thrive in the New World as our young Nation developed. Four of the original 13 English colonies were specifically chartered for religious freedom, as a refuge from religious persecution in England at the time. William Bradford and the Pilgrim Congregationalists arrived on the Mayflower at Cape Cod in 1620 and the Calvinist John Winthrop and the Puritan Protestants in 1629 in Massachusetts. Lord Baltimore George Calvert and his son Cecil Calvert received a charter for the Catholics in 1632, and Cecil’s younger brother Leonard Calvert arrived on the Ark and Dove in Maryland in 1634. The settlers soon enacted the Toleration Act of Maryland and founded St. Mary’s Chapel in St. Mary’s City, Maryland. Roger Williams established a Church for the Baptists in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638. William Penn and the Quakers settled in 1682 in Pennsylvania. The Mennonites also moved to Pennsylvania in 1683 at the invitation of William Penn. The universal toleration offered in Pennsylvania continued to attract groups such as the Amish, Moravian Pietists, and Presbyterians. Early American writings reflect the Christian Heritage of our nation, the United States of America.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Evangelization and Doctrine Are Inseparable

by David G. Bonagura, Jr. | Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. (Image: Reynaldo Amadeu Dal Lin Junior Juba from Pixabay)

We preach doctrine, and doctrine exists to be preached. If that sounds circular, then we understand correctly that doctrine and evangelization are two sides of the same coin.

Recently announced plans for Pope Francis’s reform of the Roman Curia have produced euphoria among liberals and concern among conservatives that evangelization is being elevated over doctrine by the creation of a new “super-dicastery” for evangelization that will outrank the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Francis’s closest collaborators working on the Curia reform project, rushed to draw the battle lines: “Pope Francis always underlines that the Church is missionary. For this reason, it’s logical that we put in the first place the dicastery for Evangelization and not the one for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

This falsely perceived dichotomy between evangelization and doctrine, of course, has roots that extend back to the fallout from the Second Vatican Council. Partisans of a mistaken “Spirit of Vatican II” sought to suppress doctrine and Church regulation so they could essentially do as they liked theologically, morally, and liturgically.

Therein lies a particularly important point: after the Council, in the minds of many, “doctrine” was reduced to “rules” that could, or could not, be broken. No one was—or is today—complaining about the content of the Nicene Creed, which is the real core of Catholic doctrine. Instead, there were attempts to make us more like Protestants by altering the Mass and deemphasizing Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist; to make human beings seem like angels by turning sin into psychosis and forgetting confession; and to undermine the Church’s authority to teach morality so that any sexual appetite could be fulfilled as willed.

It is no wonder, then, that conservatives have become so skittish whenever doctrine, which is supposed to be the bedrock foundation of the Catholic faith, is raised in Church circles: it has been under siege by some forces in the Church—with the help of secular, Church-hating allies—for decades. Francis’s ambiguous teachings on marriage and family life over the course of his six-year pontificate have been gasoline for a fire that has long since been burning. Writing with professional restraint, one author said of this latest Curia-inspired dust-up, “The decline in the congregation’s status has accompanied an increasingly lax attitude in Rome towards the gravity of heresy and other forms of deviance from Catholic doctrine, emphasizing unity and ‘accompaniment’ more than doctrinal truth.”

If not for these ecclesial fault lines, this fight over which office should have pride of place—evangelization or doctrine—would be more like arguing over which person of the Trinity is the most important. And the Trinity is the correct analogy here: just as there are three persons inseparably united as the single Godhead, evangelization and doctrine are two manifestations of Christ’s single mission of salvation.

Through his words and deeds, especially his sacrifice on the cross, Christ saved us from our sins and taught us how to live. What he did and what he taught together comprise his doctrine, which he commanded his followers to preach to all nations. The Church, then, has been entrusted with preserving Christ’s doctrine from corruption and distortion precisely so that all people may hear his saving teaching. His doctrine was never intended to be kept in a book away from the world; he gave it to the Church to give to the world.

Properly understanding the teachings of the Church requires keeping two seemingly opposing realities in balance. When we fail to balance properly, problems arise. For example, Christ is fully human and fully divine; most Christological heresies are caused when one of these realities is elevated to the denigration of the other. Likewise, the Catholic view of creation keeps nature balanced with grace and reason balanced with faith. Martin Luther created his own Protestant doctrine when he deemed the former items in each pair intrinsically flawed. He did the same with the law and the gospel, works and faith, tradition and Scripture. By pitting the spiritual items against the natural, Luther impoverished both, since none of these can be properly understood without its parallel.

Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. So long as the other side remains within our purview, there is no problem with speaking more of one side.

The same goes for evangelization and doctrine: the two work in tandem, as we cannot have one without the other. In certain ages, it may well be helpful to emphasize one or the other: when the Holy Office, the predecessor of today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was founded, it was at the height of the Protestant revolt when doctrine needed to be protected from distortion. Today, when religious apathy is spreading daily across the West, it makes sense to prioritize preaching the gospel. But in neither instance should the other be minimized: those swept up by Protestant doctrine needed the true faith preached to them in full, and those today who need to hear the word of God need to hear it in its fullness.

Today, with all the problems within the Church, fierce arguing over which should take priority—evangelization or doctrine—is akin to arguing over which saints should be honored in the Titantic’s chapel. There should be no conflict between the two. The fact that there is shows us that the Barque of Peter needs to find balance again while navigating the stormy waters of Modernity.

David G. Bonagura, JrDavid G. Bonagura, Jr. teaches classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism (Cluny Media).

The story of the Birth and Growth of SIM/ECWA Church in Ilorin

by E. A. Adeyemi | ECWA Ilorin district church council is a district among 82 districts of ECWA worldwide, it was founded in 1973 out of former Yoruba DCC, four DCCs has been Inaugurated out in Ilorin district church council. The DCCs include Omu-Aran DCC established in 1992, Igbaja DCC established in 1998, Oro ago DCC established in 2000, and Fate-Tanke DCC established in the year 2015. Currently Ilorin DCC has about 7 local church council (LCC). The Ilorin district church council has its secretariat located in Ilorin, along Ahmadu Bello Avenue GRA, Ilorin.

BEHOLD! I am doing a new thing. Isaiah 43:19-21

The Pioneers
On 7th April 1946 a small congregation of seven people started an S. I. M. Church in Ilorin. That humble beginning grew into what is today the ECWA Churches in the city. The population has risen from over 7,000 worshippers in ten different locations in 1995 to approximately 21,000 in 2019. There are also many out-station churches established in villages surrounding the town by the church. The name Sudan Interior Mission (S. I. M.) was adopted by pioneers of a Christian Mission whose sole objective was to open Sudan, the land of the blacks from the West to the East of Africa between the Equator and Sahara Desert, to the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

ECWA Founders: Walter Gowans (23) Thomas Kent (25) Rowland Bingham (21)

ECWA Founders: Walter Gowans (23) Thomas Kent (25) Rowland Bingham (21)

A month after landing in Lagos, Bingham wrote a letter to Mr. J. C. Hindle of Southport, England and said “… we have decided to call the mission, The Sudan Interior Mission.

There were times, however, when it was called by other names. In 1901 it was known as the African Industrial Mission. In 1905 it became known as African Evangelistic Mission. The name was again changed to the Sudan United Mission in 1906. The original name, the Sudan Interior Mission was reverted to by 1907. Reasons for these frequent changes in the name within seven years are not clear. The aim, however, remained unchanged at any time; the sixty million lives in the ‘dark Sudan‘ must be reached for Christ. This aim was resolutely pursued. The degree of its achievement was quite remarkable. By 1954 a move had been made to indigenize the mission. The name Evangelical Churches of West Africa (ECWA) was adopted.

The name reflects the evangelical nature of the Mission, while the vision that the work would extend to other countries in West Africa inspired its authors to extend its scope beyond Nigerian borders.

The story of the coming of the Sudan Interior Mission into Nigeria has been told elsewhere, and it is hoped that it will be further told by author in another work soon. Therefore only a few words need be written in that regard here.

It all started in 1893 when Mrs. Gowans, the mother or a Canadian young man, Walter Gowans, saw the vision of Sudan as a dark area waiting for spiritual illumination and decided that her son, Walter Gowans, should be used by God for that purpose. She got two more willing people in this regard: Thomas Kent and Rowland Victor Bingham. The three landed in Lagos on December 4, 1893. They were warned by the Methodist Missionaries of the dangers ahead, but they remained undaunted. Bingham stayed in Lagos to get supplies from home and maintain contact with friends, while the remaining two moved on to the Interior.

History of ECWA

Gowans soon died in Girku near Zaria on November 17, 1894. He was buried in a cornfield by his servant. Tom Kent was taken ill with malaria and also died at Bida on December 8, 1894. Bingham returned home. Mission impossible? Far from that, Bingham came back to Africa in 1900. He was again dissuaded by missionaries and by the ‘devil‘ himself from making another attempt to the Sudan. He was ill again and, on medical advice, ordered home. The two companions who had promised to carry on while he was away, could not make good on their promises and they left Lagos for home by the next boat. Mission impossible? Far from it.

The third pioneer of the S. I. M. (the Patigi party), Bingham, E. A. Anthony, Charles Robinson and Albert Taylor, 1901

The third pioneer of the S. I. M. (the Patigi party), 1901. Patigi is a city in Kwara State, Nigeria

Bingham got three other willing missionaries, E. A. Anthony, Charles Robinson and Albert Taylor who were ready to make the third attempt while another, A. W. Banfields joined the party later. With the help of Sir Frederick Lugard who gave them a safe passage they got to Pategi to build the first mission home in Africa in 1901. There, Dr. Andrew P. Stirret also worked as a Missionary and doctor but within two years three of the four missionaries – Anthony, Robinson and Taylor had died leaving only Banfield.

In 1904 the second SIM station opened at Wushishi was headed by Mr. F. E. Hein. In 1908 the third SIM station was opened at Egbe under the supervision of Tommie Titcombe. In 1912 another station was opened at Oro-Ago by Guy Playfair. In 1915 the Mission at Agunjin was started.

Ilorin fell into the northern protectorate and schools were established with mix of Islamic and Western education. Although Christianity was not permitted in Ilorin when it was first introduced in 1917 with the caveat that churches and mission schools should operate at the outskirts. After independence in 1960, Western schools were established and grew side by side with the mission schools. In the Western schools, Yoruba, Arabic and english languages were in the curriculum.

From Agunjin the SIM Missionary work spread to most Igbomina villages. Although progress was very slow, the Mission at Agunjin later became the nucleus of SIM expansion into Igbominaland. Understandably, Ilorin remained untouched by the mission’s efforts until the early part of 1940s. The Islamic adherents in the town jealously guarded against any outside influence, particularly from missionaries, on the religion. The colonial government, in line with official policy in this regard would not allow the missionaries to operate so freely in a provincial capital and at the headquarters of the Emir. By 1942, however, the necessity to have a mission station where missionaries going to Igbomina and Yagba towns would receive their supplies became quite obvious.

All missionaries passing through Ilorin had made use of a building belonging to the Church Missionary Society which was formerly occupied by Bishop Smith. With the departure of Bishop Smith, the house was used by all missionaries as a Rest House. That building became inadequate for the SIM Missionaries whose number had grown to the extent that by 1943 they had been operating seven European Staffed stations that depended on Ilorin for supplies and transport facilities. It became necessary for the Mission to apply for certificate of occupancy for land to build a Rest House and accommodation for a resident transport agent in Ilorin.

This was granted in 1943 and work began on it in 1944. Elder R. B. Buremoh was the main contractor, the Missionaries kept strictly to the purposes the buildings were put up for as contained on the certificate of occupancy. No attempt was made to establish a local SIM church until 1946 when the move was made by Rev. C. P. Jenson.

 ECWA Church in Ilorin
The ECWA Church in Ilorin is administered in line with the general practice of the denomination in Nigeria. In ECWA, the basic unit of authority is the Local Church Board (L.C.B.). There, the Board of Elders is the highest authority in the Local Church. The Board is headed by the pastor in-charge who is its Chairman.

The church secretary keeps the records of the church and receives as well as sends all correspondence matters on behalf of the church. He makes announcements on Sundays and coordinates the various committees and Fellowships in the Church. At the First ECWA Church in Ilorin, the same person had performed all these duties as well as served as the recorder of the minutes of Elders meetings, the Church Secretary performed both administrative and secretarial duties for the church.

Each Elder is also assigned a specific portfolio and represents the Elders in a specific committee or fellowship. Below the Elders are the executives of various committees’ fellowship and church groups. Below them are of course the members of the congregation.

The Hierarchy of the Church Organization
From the L. C.B. the hierarchy of the church organization is to the Local Church Council (L. C. C.) headed by the Local overseer (L.O.). The L. C. C. is in tum responsible to the District Church Council (D. C. C.) under a chairman and an executive secretary. The Council takes care of allocation of ministers to various churches. It is the highest authority in the District. It is responsible to the General Church Council (G. C. C.), the headquarters of which is at Jos. The GCC is headed by the ECWA President. There is a General Secretary and Assistant Secretary. ECWA has the following eight Departments:

  1. Christian Education Department
  2. Education Department
  3. The services to International Missionary Department
  4. The ECWA Production Limited (EPL)
  5. The ECWA Rural Development Limited (ERDL)
  6. The Medical Department
  7. Radio Ministry Department (ELWA)
  8. Mission Department (EMS)

These departments are directly responsible to the Board Constituted over them by the ECWA Executive. So, in this hierarchy, policies come from the GCC to the DCC to the LCC to the LCB. From the LCB orders are usually given through the executives of various committees and fellowships to the members of the congregation.

In Ilorin, all the ECWA Churches agreed in 1985 to be holding joint Elders’ meetings quarterly. The first of such meetings was held on April 26th 1985 at the first ECWA Church Ilorin. The second meeting was held at the second ECWA Church, Amilegbe on 30th August 1985 while the third came up on 13th December 1985. Since then it had been held regularly in rotation among the churches. Matters affecting each church are usually discussed in the meeting.

The fellowship enjoyed among elders from various churches makes the meetings a worth-while exercise. Moreover, plans for establishing new churches are discussed and executed through deliberations in the meetings. It was a result of the unifying efforts of Reverend S. A. Fatoye that the joint meetings came into being.

Earlier in 1983, The ECWA Day was jointly celebrated by all ECWA Churches in Ilorin. That first joint service to mark ECWA day was held at the 1st ECWA Church Ilorin on 29th May 1983. Since then it had become an annual event.

Bibliographic information
Title: From seven to seven thousand: the story of the birth and growth of SIM/ECWA church in Ilorin, 1946-1995
Author: E. A. Adeyemi
Publisher: Okinbaloye Commercial Press, 1995
ISBN: 9783273248, 9789783273245
Length: 163 pages
Subjects: Missions, SIM, ECWA, Nigeria

E. A. Adeyemi is a historian, educator and a writer. He had his B.A. in History and Graduate Certificate in Education from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1973. Dr. Adeyemi also got his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Ilorin. He has more than 35 years of research experience in history of Igbomina, including the history of Churches in those areas. Some of his publications include, Moving from Curse to Blessing 1981 and co-author of the Effects of Spacing and Component Crops Population on Seedling Establishment in four Cocoa/ Kola/ Citrus Intercrop in 2015.

He has a wide range of experience in teaching history at both secondary school and post-secondary levels. Dr. Adeyemi is a Senior Principal Lecturer and Head of Department of History at the Kwara State College of Education in Ilorin.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Jesus Christ Savior | “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Revelation 11:19-12:1

The five appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Indian Juan Diego and his uncle on December 9-12 of 1531 generated the conversion of Mexico and Latin America to Catholicism.
On December 12, 1531, Juan Diego was obedient to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s instruction to gather beautiful roses in his tilma and take them to the Franciscan Bishop Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga on his third visit to appeal for the building of a Church as requested by Our Lady. Then he put up both hands and untied the corners of crude cloth behind his neck. The looped-up fold of the tilma fell; the flowers he thought were the precious sign tumbled out on the floor.

The Bishop fell on his knees in adoration before the tilma. For on the tilma was the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just as described by Juan Diego, and is still preserved today in original condition in Tepeyac on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Spanish conquistadors may have conquered the Aztecs in 1521, but their ruthless behavior antagonized the people and conversions were few.

Our Lady of Guadalupe conveyed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life indians had endured sacrificing thousands of humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism. One can identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of Revelation 12.

Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary entered the very soul of Central America and became a central figure to the history of Mexico itself. To this date a major religious celebration in Mexico and Central America is December 12, the feast-day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A harbinger of things to come, Christianity would thrive in the Americas. Her appearance in the center of the American continents has contributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe being given the title “Mother of America.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Notre Dame: A Fiery Sign?

by William Kilpatrick | The damage to Notre Dame is a wakeup call not only for Christians who have let their faith lapse, but also for dyed-in-the-wool secularists. Though run by the Church, Notre Dame, like other historic churches in France, is owned by the French state. Notre Dame is important to France not only because of its history, art, and architecture, but also because it is one of the main reasons that people visit France. (Image by Markus Naujoks from Pixabay )

Was the near destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral simply the result of an accidental fire? Or was it also a prophetic sign?
In the Bible, the destruction of a city or a temple is often linked to immorality or unbelief. The fire and brimstone that was rained down on Sodom was punishment for the sins of its people. Likewise, Jesus warned the people of Capernaum and other cities that their fate could be worse than Sodom’s because they did not repent despite the “mighty works” he had performed in their midst (Matt. 11:20-24). When Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, he prophesied that its enemies “will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

The “sign” of Notre Dame ablaze comes on top of other disturbing signs. Since the beginning of the year, dozens of churches in France have been vandalized, desecrated, and torched. In 2018, 1063 attacks on Christian Churches or symbols were registered in France—a 17 percent increase over 2017 when “only” 878 attacks were registered. Other signs that the times are out of joint are not hard to find.  Among the more horrific were the massacre at the office of the Charlie Hebdo publishers, the Bataclan Theatre attack, the truck jihad in Nice, and the Christmas Market massacre in Strasbourg.

Church desecrations and terror attacks are not confined to France, but since France is one of the most aggressively secular states in Europe, it may be more in need of signs than most.  And it may require more spectacular signs to call France—once considered the “eldest daughter of the Church”—back to the faith.

When asked why her stories were full of grotesque characters and shocking violence, Flannery O’Connor replied: “When you write for the blind, you have to write in big letters.” Those who live in overly-secularized societies, such as France, often become blinded to what is truly important in life, and may, therefore, require fiery signs to wake them up to reality.

The truth is that unbelief in France is probably as great as, if not greater, than in the Biblical cities and towns cited in Christ’s warning to the unrepentant. Only four percent of French Catholics attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis, and in the larger cathedrals, the number of tourists far exceeds the number of worshippers.

After visiting several Churches in France, including Notre Dame, Mark Steyn was struck by their emptiness: “One gets the sense that a living, breathing faith is just becoming, actually, a museum, an art gallery, a storage facility.” The cathedrals of Europe are truly magnificent and awe-inspiring, but the awe is for achievements that we no longer seem capable of because we lack the requisite faith.

The damage to Notre Dame is a wakeup call not only for Christians who have let their faith lapse, but also for dyed-in-the-wool secularists. Though run by the Church, Notre Dame, like other historic churches in France, is owned by the French state. Notre Dame is important to France not only because of its history, art, and architecture, but also because it is one of the main reasons that people visit France. Notre Dame actually draws more visitors than the Eiffel Tower. Many who visit the Cathedral come not just as tourists, but also as pilgrims. For them, “Our Lady’s” cathedral means far more than one more historic site to check off the list. Ironically, secular France’s greatest attraction is a spiritual treasure.

French President Emmanuel Macron promises to raise enough funds to rebuild Notre Dame within five years. But to what purpose? For the greater glory of God? To worship and praise him? Not quite. The damage to Notre Dame could be a fatal blow to France’s tourist economy which is already reeling from rising crime rates and the constant threat of terrorism brought on by mass Muslim migration. Macron’s haste to rebuild suggests that the state is far more dependent on the Christian faith than it had thought.

Many moderns assume that the secular can get along fine without the sacred. But much of the glory and greatness of France—and of Europe as a whole—is bound up inextricably with its Christian faith. Take that away and much of the glory and greatness would disappear with it. There would be no parliamentary democracies to boast of, little sense of the dignity of man or of his inalienable rights, and, quite possibly, no planes, trains, or automobiles.

But Europe’s leaders seem disinclined to admit any of this. In a fine essay on the subject, historian Paul Kengor writes: “The burning cathedral, and the state’s inability to stop the blaze, seemed a harsh symbol of France’s failure to protect its religious heritage.

Or even to acknowledge it.

Kengor reminds us: “In the early 2000s, a battle raged within the European Union over whether to include a reference to God in the EU constitution.” In the end, the European Union decided to keep God and Christianity out of its constitution. Having rejected the cornerstone, the builders are now discovering that the whole edifice of secular Europe is crumbling.

Why does the secular need the sacred? The answer is that the sacred realm makes sense out of life—a service the state cannot perform for itself. If there is no fixed transcendent order, everything becomes relative. Without reference to a higher authority, laws are perceived as arbitrary impositions of the state. One follows them simply to avoid the state’s penal institutions. As Dostoevsky put it, “If there is no God everything is permissible.” Likewise, if there is no God, there is no ultimate standard by which the state itself can be judged. Hence, the state becomes the ultimate arbiter of what rights you can and cannot have.

Pope St. John Paul II was the most prominent proponent of keeping God in the European constitution.  According to Kengor:

He made arguments akin to those made by the American Founding Fathers: It is crucial for citizens living under a constitution to understand the ultimate source from which their rights derive: their rights come not from government but God.

The hollow shell of Notre Dame should be a reminder to France that the secular state is itself a hollow shell when it fails to acknowledge the Creator who endows us with inalienable rights. It has no lasting vision to offer. And its guarantee of liberty, equality, fraternity, and the rights of man are backed by absolutely nothing.

Notre Dame Cathedral rosette following a major fire that began on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. (Photo credit: Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

Notre Dame Cathedral rosette following a major fire that began on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. (image, Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

So the damage to Notre Dame is not necessarily a tragedy if it serves to remind people of the source and center of their lives. Hopefully, it will provide a much-needed spark of recognition. President Macron and other secularists are now acutely aware that France’s tourist economy depends much more on God than they had realized. Perhaps that is a step in the direction of realizing that France depends on God for everything.

There is, of course, one other consideration. France is allowing itself to be taken over by an alien religion—a religion that has been at war with Christendom for over 1,400 years. Whether or not the French leadership takes the fire at Notre Dame as a sign from heaven, Muslims almost certainly will. They will see it as a sign from Allah—a sign that Islam is destined to triumph over France and all of Europe. Some Muslims will, no doubt, feel that they have a duty to hasten the process along. As a result, we can expect the attacks on Christian churches to continue and even to escalate.

Most French citizens, one assumes, would prefer not to live under sharia law. But that is the direction in which France is headed, and secularized France doesn’t seem to know how to prevent it from happening. In previous centuries, the people who built the great cathedrals were able to turn back massive Islamic invasions. Apparently, the faith that enabled them to build the cathedrals also gave them the strength to resist.

Providentially, enough of Notre Dame has survived intact to make a full restoration possible. And quite possibly there remains enough residue of Christianity in France to provide a foundation for the restoration of the Faith. In that case, it seems quite likely that Our Lord and Our Lady will give the people of France the strength to resist the advance of Islam, and perhaps even to convert their Muslim neighbors in the process.

William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily,and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website,

The Protestant Reformation

Jesus Christ Savior | The Protestant Reformation resulted from the failure of the Catholic Church to reform itself in time.

The dark side of the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries witnessed the errant Fourth Crusade to Constantinople in 1204, the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathari in 1209, and the beginning of the Inquisition which became severely punitive. The Papacy suffered a great loss of respect during the Avignon Papacy (1305-1378) and especially during the Papal Schism (1378-1417), when two and at one point three men declared themselves Pope and opposed each other. The Papal Schism had to be resolved by Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg and the Council of Constance 1414-1417, which finally deposed all three Popes and chose Martin V to continue the Papacy. However, the Council also condemned John Hus, the Prague reformer who believed in the priesthood of all believers and the reception of Communion through bread and wine; he was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. Another victim of the Inquisition was St. Joan of Arc, who saved France during the Hundred Years War with England. She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 in Rouen, France. The Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century was particularly ruthless.

The lack of Church funds led to even further corruption, including simony and the selling of indulgences. For example, Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz had to pay Rome ten thousand ducats for the right to hold three dioceses at once, and agreed to a three-way split with the Roman Curia and the Fugger Banking firm from the proceeds of the selling of indulgences.

These events led many to question the compassion and integrity of the Church. The unity of Tradition and Scripture went unchallenged through the Patristic Age and thirteenth century scholasticists such as St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas. But the unity of Scripture and Tradition began to be questioned with the decline of the Church. The Belgian Henry of Ghent believed that one should first have the duty to follow Scripture rather than a Church that became one in name only. The English Franciscan William of Ockham (or Occam) was known for the principle of Occam’s Razor, that one needs to reduce everything to its simplest cause. Ockham (1288-1348) theorized on three possibilities of the relation of Scripture and the Church. First there was Sola Scriptura, that one could obtain salvation by following Scripture alone; second, that God does reveal truths to the universal Church, an ecclesiastical revelation supplemental to apostolic revelation; and third, the concept of orally transmitted apostolic revelation parallel to written Scripture. Ockham believed that one could reach God only through faith and not by reason. He wrote that universals, such as truth, beauty, and goodness, were concepts of the mind and did not exist, a philosophy known as Nominalism. Thus began the division of the realm of faith from the secular world of reason.

The rise of Nationalism led to the end of Christendom, for countries resented any effort to support Rome, especially in its dismal state. Dissemination of new ideas followed the invention of the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany; his very first printing was the Latin Vulgate Bible in 1456.

The stage was set for the reform-minded Martin Luther (1483-1546), the Augustinian monk of Wittenberg, Germany. He received his doctorate in theology in 1512, and then taught biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. His study of Scripture, particularly St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, led him to believe that salvation was obtained through justification by faith alone. At first, his only interest was one of reform when he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church October 31, 1517.

But the intransigence of the Church and poor handling of the situation by the Pope and Curia only worsened matters, such that a break was inevitable. In a July 1519 debate with the Catholic theologian Johann Eck, Luther stated that Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone – was the supreme authority in religion. He could no longer accept the authority of the Pope or the Councils, such as Constance. In 1520 Luther published three documents which laid down the fundamental principles of the Reformation. In Address To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther attacked the corruptions of the Church and the abuses of its authority, and asserted the right of the layman to spiritual independence. In the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he defended the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Penance, but criticized the sacramental system of Rome, and set up the Scriptures as the supreme authority in religion. In The Freedom of the Christian Man, he expounded the doctrine of salvation through justification by faith alone. The Augsburg Confession of 1530, written by Philip Melanchthon and approved by Martin Luther, was the most widely accepted Lutheran confession of faith.

Once Sola Scriptura became the norm, it became a matter of personal interpretation. Huldrich Zwingli of Zurich, Switzerland was next, and he broke with Luther over the Eucharist, but his sect died out. The Anabaptists separated from Zwingli as they denied the validity of infant baptism; they survived as the Mennonites. Jean Calvin published his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536, and influenced John Knox and the Presbyterians of Scotland; the Huguenots of France; the Dutch Reformed; and the Pilgrims and Puritans. While he agreed with Luther on the basic Protestant tenets of sola scriptura, salvation by faith alone, and the priesthood of all believers, he went even further on such issues as predestination and the sacraments. George Fox, the son of Puritan parents, founded the Quakers in England in 1647.

King Henry VIII wrote a defense of the seven sacraments, but when refused an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, he had himself declared Supreme Head of the Church of England in 1533. The new Archbishop Thomas Cranmer married Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn that same year. St. Thomas More refused to attend the wedding, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later beheaded in 1535. Henry VIII began the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then destroyed the Shrine of the martyr St. Thomas Becket (1118-1170) at Canterbury Cathedral in 1538. The Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549 and the Anglican Church of England was established. Two major sects that split off from the Anglicans were the Baptists, founded by John Smyth in 1607, and later the Methodists, founded by John Wesley and his brother Charles.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Reformation’s Legacy in the Birthplace of Calvinism

by Casey Chalk | Yet another descendant of Calvinism and its rejection of traditional ecclesial, episcopal authority is the aggressively secularist, globalist moralism of such international institutions as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the International Organization for Migration, all of which have offices in Geneva. (image: Wikicommons, Cathedral Saint Pierre in Geneva, Switzerland)

I got to Geneva too late. I should have gone ten years earlier, back when I was what is called in the Calvinist world “TR”—“Totally Reformed”—meaning a diehard, uncompromising Calvinist. I was once a student at a prominent Reformed seminary, reading the brightest lights in the Calvinist world, including, of course, the great Genevan theologian himself, John Calvin. Professors at my seminary and pastors of Presbyterian churches sang praises of Geneva, that great homeland of Calvinism that lies only a stone’s throw from the original L’Abri Fellowship, founded by twentieth-century Reformed thinker Francis Schaeffer. I yearned to see Geneva. Yet that anticipation and excitement has long since dissipated, or perhaps it drowned when I swam the Tiber for Rome. What I found, as I wandered historic Old Geneva, is a void and colorlessness reminiscent of a Reformation-era church stripped of every last embellishment.

My first stop during my pseudo-pilgrimage was the Cathedral of St. Pierre, built in the twelfth century upon the ruins of earlier cathedrals dating back to the fourth century. Presumably at one time it was full of color, imagery, and statues. Now, post-Reformation, the interior of the cruciform, late-Gothic church structure is eerily vacant, stripped of every vestige of Catholicism. There is no rood screen, no side chapels, and no decorative art apart from simple images on a few stained glass windows. All is vast, sparse, whitewashed silence—there is nowhere to aim one’s genuflection and nothing to draw the eye’s attention but empty crosses. In an irony that cannot be lost on those responsible for the building’s upkeep, one of the few extraneous items is Calvin’s personal chair, situated prominently near the pulpit where he preached. One wonders what pronouncements the Frenchman, who rejected the Chair of St. Peter, offered ex cathedra.

Next to St. Pierre is the International Museum of the Reformation. The gift shop where I purchased my ticket sold, among various history and theology texts, copies of Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” comic books. The various rooms featured a summary of the successive generations of the Reformation and post-Reformation. Oddly, each exhibit included a summary noting that the epoch in question featured many who questioned traditional Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, miracles, or the infallibility of Scripture. If each sequential generation was defined by doubts regarding the core tenets of the Christian faith, no wonder there are so few Calvinists left! It would seem that an unavoidable consequence of the early Reformers’ rejection of Church authority is a skepticism towards any authority, Holy Scripture included.

Maybe the museum curators are simply being introspective and honest about the consequences of the Reformation. This certainly appeared to be the case in the final exhibit, which charted the fruits of sixteenth-century Protestantism in the modern era. Various placards attributed a broad diversity of theological and ecclesial movements as well as theologians and evangelists to the first Reformers, including Aimee Semple McPherson, the Crystal Cathedral, Joel Osteen, charismatic movements, process theology, feminist theology, Death of God theology, Unitarians, biblical criticism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, and Paul Tillich among many others. In Catholicism, it is joked that “here comes everybody.” In Protestantism, one might instead say, “Here everybody chooses.”

I told a museum employee that there was no mention of Protestants who had judged the Reformation a mistake and thus returned to Catholicism. He looked perplexed, as if this was preposterous. “In this part of the world,” he declared, “one would not see such a thing.” I cited Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, with whom he was unfamiliar. I suppose I could have offered Swiss-born Adrienne von Speyr or French-born Louis Bouyer, though I doubt it would have mattered. He simply shrugged his shoulders and remarked: “Well, anyway, all these faiths are so close together—there’s little difference.” It is a sentiment quite common in the West. Though, if true, why was a Reformation required, and what purpose does this museum serve? Is it akin to some roadside historic marker, meant less to instruct than to note “The Reformation happened here”?

In truth, the first Reformers confronted legitimate crises. The Catholic Church of Luther’s and Calvin’s day suffered under the weight of tremendous corruption and theological confusion. The Reformers, though I now perceive them mistaken, earnestly believed they were doing Christendom a great favor. Indeed, it was a time of tremendous spiritual fervor and anticipation. Yet it soon devolved into bloody conflict. The Thirty Years War took the lives of approximately one third of the population of the German states (though one cannot ignore the political motivations of both sides); the eight Protestant-Catholic wars of France resulted in the deaths of three million people. The intellectual and spiritual exhaustion that must have enveloped Europe in the aftermath of these conflicts helps explain, though it does not justify, the Enlightenment and its cynicism towards institutional Christianity, be it Protestant or Catholic.

Nevertheless, a visit to Geneva makes the legacy of Calvin and his cohorts painfully clear. There is the disturbing diversity of beliefs and traditions that stem from the Reformation (made illuminatingly clear in an ever-expanding ecclesial family tree available in the gift shop for ten Swiss francs!). One may also visit the International Monument to the Reformation in a nearby park, where, included with Calvin and other early Reformation figures, there is also a statue of Oliver Cromwell, the English Puritan butcher who committed genocide against a fiercely independent Irish people who refused to abandon their Catholic faith. Ironically, few Calvinists (or even practicing Christians) remain in the city that once served as the center for Reformed missionary activity.

This is not to say that religion is absent from Geneva. Yet another descendant of Calvinism and its rejection of traditional ecclesial, episcopal authority is the aggressively secularist, globalist moralism of such international institutions as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the International Organization for Migration, all of which have offices in Geneva. In a way, they carry on the unique character and mission of Calvin—who, while lauding the individual conscience, demanded fealty and obeisance to his unquestioned supremacy—by arrogantly demanding the world accept their own moralistic, individualistic, tradition-eschewing worldview. I am not suggesting that Calvin would be proud of modern Geneva, though his own repudiation of tradition and authority (he even banned Christmas!) inevitably set this course in motion. What was once a spiritually vibrant city is now as spiritually impoverished as the cathedral in which Calvin once preached.

Casey Chalk is a graduate student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College.

Religious Liberty in Contemporary Evangelical Social Ethics: An Assessment and Framework for Socio-political Challenges

by Andrew T. Walker | Christian reflection on religious liberty is as old as Christianity itself. But unless it is rehearsed and given fresh expression and articulation in new contexts, it can fall by the wayside. Marx was believed to have said, “Take away a people’s roots, and they can easily be moved.

Evangelical public theology often lacks a systematic, theologically grounded social ethic concerning religious liberty. The resulting impasse is one where religious liberty lacks distinctly evangelical contours. Modern and contemporary religious liberty discussions have been ceded, almost exclusively, to political and legal philosophy. At the same time, religious liberty is a foundational principle for evangelical public theology because it addresses issues of how evangelicals enter the public square as a religious people. Additionally, a doctrine of religious liberty is vital for establishing the relationship between the church and state in society. Theological warrant is needed to establish a doctrine of religious liberty on evangelical grounds, and, correspondingly, the lack of consensus or framework around religious liberty jeopardizes the possibility of developing a truly evangelical understanding of religious liberty for public theology.

On a cold, rainy Friday night in October 2017, my wife and I and a few friends from church gathered for a night of worship sponsored by a Christian worship organization that works with local Christian artists in our town

At the end of the evening, the individual emceeing the night closed with an impassioned prayer wherein he expressed gratitude to God for the liberty to join together with other believers to worship Christ without fear of government harassment. There was palpable gratitude for the freedom to worship in this man’s voice.

This gathering did not have to be registered with the government, which is tragically the case in other countries. We entered and left in peace without even a hint of fear of whether we would be “exposed” as Christians. Upon leaving, I knew I would be free to utilize social media and share of the event’s details without fear of that post facing censorship. Moreover, that weekend, I would be free to go to church and hear a sermon on why Christians should seek to influence their culture, whether related to the sanctity of life, racial reconciliation, or any other issue of ethical controversy in the culture. While I am accustomed to sermons and prayers where gratitude to worship freely is often expressed, writing this dissertation while hearing a prayer to God giving him praise for religious liberty struck me anew; and it dawned on me that this dissertation was not just a rote academic exercise.

Something pivotal about my existence as a Christian, and my participation in a local body, is bound up with the liberty to live faithfully in accord with God’s call on my life, and my family’s life. Religious liberty is not the gospel. That night, however, I was reminded that my experience of the gospel assumes a freedom I so often ignore and at worst, neglect gratitude. Religious liberty fans the flames of personal holiness and proclamation. It gives breath to the life of a local congregation gathering together every Sunday to declare that Jesus Christ is king.

I was reminded and convicted that night of how trite, routine, and assumed religious liberty is in my own mind—that as an American, I know nothing other than 212 religious liberty. That is one of the challenges to religious liberty in an American context— that Americans grow so accustomed to it that they may not recognize when its pillars are slowly corroding.

Christian reflection on religious liberty is as old as Christianity itself. But unless it is rehearsed and given fresh expression and articulation in new contexts, it can fall by the wayside. Marx was believed to have said, “Take away a people’s roots, and they can easily be moved.” This report has been an exercise is exposing the roots of freedom found in Christianity. Christians need presented with arguments for the defense of their own liberty, but also the liberty of others—for securing the liberty of others ensures the security of our own. This need for ethical apologetics is true of every age.

At this writing, religious liberty in America is entering a new age beset with challenges and opposition that call into question a once sacred consensus. By grounding religious liberty in the horizons of eschatology, anthropology, and soteriology, my hope is that this contribution to the field of Christian social ethics can be but one resource helping to usher in a new era of Christian preoccupation with religious liberty.

May the Christian church return to its first love, a primal strength—a fortitude that turns the other cheek and confidently, under pressure, insist that no worldly scheme can push back the onward advance of Christ’s invasion—for Christianity needs neither the state nor the culture for its truthfulness and efficacy. The liberty Christians seek and the liberty Christians use is a liberty to seek a city that is not yet, and to allow those in the church’s midst to join it in the promise of its coming.

Any claim or pursuit of religious liberty must always be pointed back toward its telos: The advancement of God’s kingdom. In the spirit of our missionary faith, let each of us, like the Apostle Paul, go about “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31).

Andrew T. Walker is the Director of Research and Senior Fellow in Christian Ethics at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination’s entity tasked with equipping Christians and local churches to address ethical issues facing society and the church. In his role, he researches, speaks, and writes about the intersection of Christian ethics, public policy, and the church’s social witness. This is a summary of his dissertation presented to the Faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree, Doctor of Philosophy back in May 2018

The Mendicant Orders to The Renaissance

Jesus Christ Savior | The Renaissance, which means rebirth, was the period of phenomenal growth in Western culture in art, architecture, literature, and sculpture. Christian humanism, a rejoicing in man’s achievements and capabilities reflecting the greater glory of God, had its beginning with the Divine Comedy, published in 1320 by Dante Alighieri in Italy.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were the peak of the Medieval Age. It was the flowering of Christendom, a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, with the rise of the University and the introduction of Arabian, Hebrew, and Greek works into Christian schools. A new form of order arose whose aim was to pursue the monastic ideals of poverty, renunciation, and self-sacrifice, but also to maintain a presence and convert the world by example and preaching. They were known as friars and called the Mendicant Orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and the Servites), because of begging alms to support themselves.

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born to wealth. He loved adventure, but experienced conversion after joining the military. He returned home, and heard a voice saying to him, “Francis, go and rebuild my house; it is falling down.” He adopted a life of poverty, and began to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. Francis loved creation and considered it good, for Christ himself took on flesh in the Incarnation. He loved all living creatures. St. Francis originated the Christmas manger scene. He founded the Franciscan order, and received approval from Rome in 1209. The Poor Clare Nuns began when St. Clare joined the Franciscans in 1212 in Assisi. In 1219 St. Francis risked his life in the Fifth Crusade by calling directly upon the Sultan of Egypt in an effort to convert him and bring peace. He received the stigmata of Christ in 1224, 2 years before his death in 1226.

St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) was born in Calaruega, Spain. On a journey through France he was confronted by the Albigensian heresy (like Manichaeism and the Cathari). As he came with a Bishop in richly dressed clothes on horses, he realized the people would not be impressed with his message. This led him to a life of poverty. He spent several years preaching in France in an attempt to convert the Albigensians. In 1208 in Prouille, France, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and began to spread devotion to the Rosary. Dominic was a man of peace and converted many through prayer, preaching, and his example of poverty. He founded the Order of Preachers in 1216 known as the Dominican Friars.

The universities in Europe began as guilds of scholars, which first attracted members of the clergy and were supported financially by the Church. The first universities in Europe were founded in Bologna and Paris; Oxford and Cambridge soon followed. Theology, law, and medicine were fields of advanced study. The University of Paris was especially noted for studies in Theology. The age was the time of Scholasticism – of the schools, a method of learning that placed emphasis on reasoning. Important writers at the time were Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, and his student Thomas Aquinas, who became the greatest theologian and philosopher of the age.

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest who lived from 1225 to 1274. Born in Roccasecca, Italy to the Aquino family, he joined the Dominicans at the age of 18. He received his doctorate in theology and taught at the University of Paris during the height of Christendom.

One of the greatest contributions by Thomas was his incorporation of the philosophy of Aristotle into the theology of the Catholic Church. Thomas saw reason and faith as one and mutually supportive, and combined the Bible and Church Fathers and the reasoning of Aristotle into one unified system of understanding Christian revelation through faith enlightened by reason.

His most noted work was the Summa Theologica, a five-volume masterpiece. St. Thomas Aquinas presented the classical approach to Biblical Exegesis. Recalling the words of Gregory that Scripture transcends every science, ” for in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.” In addition to the literal sense, Thomas described the three spiritual senses of Scripture, the allegorical, the truth revealed, the moral, the life commended, and the anagogical, the final goal to be achieved. His exposition on the Seven Sacraments remains a standard to our present day.

The Renaissance, which means rebirth, was the period of phenomenal growth in Western culture in art, architecture, literature, and sculpture. Christian humanism, a rejoicing in man’s achievements and capabilities reflecting the greater glory of God, had its beginning with the Divine Comedy, published in 1320 by Dante Alighieri in Italy. The Renaissance continued through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries until William Shakespeare. Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli led the way in art. Brunelleschi revived the ancient Roman style of architecture and introduced linear perspective. The great sculptors were Donatello and Michelangelo. St. Thomas More and Erasmus were leading Christian humanists in literature.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Reconquest of Spain

Jesus Christ Savior | Spain was troubled in 997 when the Moor Almanzor usurped the power of the Caliphate and sacked the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). (Alamy image: Compulsory baptism of the Moors after the Reconquista, Granada, Spain, 1500. Hand-colored woodcut)

Catholic Spain was the first European territory to suffer Islamic invasion in 711 when the Berber general Ibn Tariq conquered nearly all of Spain except the northern rim. The Visigoth Pelayo held off the Muslims at Covadonga at Asturias in the Cantabrian mountains in 722. Spain, named Al-Andalus by Muslim leaders, prospered under the Umayyad Abd al-Rahman family of Córdoba, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians for a while lived side by side in a spirit of religious toleration.

The discovery of the relics of St. James in a Field of Light in Galicia supported the Catholic heritage of Spain, and a church was built at the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela by Asturian King Alfonso II (791-842). As recorded in the late ninth-century Chronicle of Alfonso III, Pelayo became the inspiration for the rightful recovery of Spanish territory lost to Muslim invasion.

Spain was troubled in 997 when the Moor Almanzor usurped the power of the Caliphate and sacked the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). He took the cathedral bells of the church as a memento of his victory and placed them in the great mosque of Córdoba. With the loss of respect for the Caliphate, Al-Andalus fractured into multiple petty states, known as Taifas.

King Alfonso VI (1065-1109) of León-Castile recaptured Toledo in 1085. El Cid held off the Muslims in Valencia until his death in 1099. King Alfonso I of Navarre and Aragon recaptured Zaragoza in 1118. King Alfonso VIII won a major battle against the Almohad Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. King Fernando III recaptured Córdoba in 1236 and returned the cathedral bells to the Church of Santiago de Compostela. The Reconquista of Spain, or the unification of Spain under Christian rule, was not formally completed until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when Granada was captured from the Moors on January 2, 1492.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Cultural Assimilation Has Corrupted the Church in America

by Jason Surmiller | In some ways it is difficult to blame the bishops for their current stance. Their political power conveyed a sense of respectability. In decades past, they could promote their policies, notably through the Democratic Party which became a conduit to support and further the goals of the bishops, such as the building up of unions across the Northeast and Midwest. (image: Carlisle Indian School, Carlisle, Pa. Class in English or penmanship from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

To start the year off, the New York state legislature passed the most regressive anti-life law in the history of the U.S. Its governor, Andrew Cuomo, a self-proclaimed Catholic, supported and shepherded the legislation and gleefully proclaimed its enactment. Furthermore, many in the legislature enthusiastically applauded when the law was enacted. Unhappily, many of those people call themselves Catholic. As horribly sad as this situation is, what makes it infinitely more heartbreaking is that the bishops have been relatively silent on the matter. Cardinal Dolan has now spoken about the situation after being challenged, but he apparently has no real plan to confront public officials who support the law. For example, he has refused to ex-communicate the Governor or even entertain the idea that Cuomo is a public heretic despite Cuomo publicly denying the Church’s teaching on abortion.

To be fair to the cardinal, major political figures who support abortion have rarely been censured. For instance, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House from California and the leader of the Democratic party, is still considered a Catholic in good standing both in San Francisco and Washington D.C. If Dolan did censure or excommunicate Cuomo, he would blaze a new trail in relations between the Catholic Church and the state. This would require an awesome amount of courage because, in large part, he cannot expect the support of his brother bishops. In fact, some would probably openly oppose him and even denounce him. There are examples of strong church leaders like Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who stated that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin should not receive communion; yet Paprocki and a few others are the exception. This begs the question: why aren’t the bishops speaking out and trying to bring politicians, like Cuomo, back to the fold? To venture a guess, it is because they do not want to lose the standing in American public life that they have gained over the last century and a half.

The formation of the Catholic bishops’ political mindset began in the late 1800s with Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis and his goal to Americanize the Church. He, along with many of his brother bishops, hoped to strip the parish churches of their ethnic identity and persuade their followers to become fully American. The bishops realized that until this happened, Protestant America would look at Catholics as immigrant outsiders, best barred from the country. In order to assuage the Protestants, the bishops knew they needed to develop American Catholics by breaking the ties between the new arrivals and Europe. Also, the Church had to come out in full force supporting American ideas such as freedom of speech and religion.

In time, the bishops were successful in becoming more American, championing American political values, and largely ending the phenomenon of ethnic parishes. In many ways the average Catholic looked like a Protestant. Along with Catholics emulating Protestants, a continuing wave of Catholics immigrating to the U.S. allowed the Church to develop real political power through the ballot box. Unfortunately, during the rise of the Church in the second half of the twentieth century, it did not seem to be concerned with the teachings of Christ. This, in part, led the Church to cover up the sex abuse crimes of its priests. With these crimes finally coming to the surface along with more and more Catholics leaving the Church in part due to disruptions following Vatican II, the bishops have experienced a precipitous loss of political power. Apparently, in response to this, the bishops have decided to quiet their voices and have refused to oppose publics officials as a way to restore some of that long-lost authority.

In some ways it is difficult to blame the bishops for their current stance. Their political power conveyed a sense of respectability. In decades past, they could promote their policies, notably through the Democratic Party which became a conduit to support and further the goals of the bishops, such as the building up of unions across the Northeast and Midwest. Yet, the bishops’ reach did not stop at the political realm. Culturally and socially they were able to set up committees to censor movies and support blue laws. Popularly, people from across the country tuned in to watch Archbishop Fulton Sheen give lectures about the Faith; he even won an Emmy. It was not uncommon to have a priest or saint as the protagonist in a major motion picture like “A Man for All Seasons.” The strongest manifestation of the Church’s influence was that even Protestant politicians came calling for the Catholic vote.

This authority, however, only works when Catholics remain faithful and look to their bishops for direction in religious and secular matters. Unfortunately, Catholics have stopped coming to Church. By and large, the Catholic laity have refused to listen to the bishops in recent years largely because of the scandals. Additionally, the Church has had a hard time keeping people in the pews. News stories come out on a weekly basis reporting on the Church’s massive loss of parishioners. As of today, the Church is scrambling to understand why and implementing evangelization efforts that are not likely to work. In light of this, Church leaders are searching for new ways to maintain their influence in America. Unfortunately, the path the bishops have chosen to influence Catholic politicians—who for all intents and purposes have rejected Catholic moral teaching—is to placate them. Secularly, this makes sense. If you want a place at the table, you cannot publicly bash politicians and throw them out of the Church. If the bishops do, they will lose their place.

The problem for at least the last twenty years, if not longer, is that the Republicans and Democrats have not been listening to the Church. At best, politicians pay lip service to the bishops’ concerns and then work for groups that can actually get them elected. Ironically enough, the bishops excommunicating politicians would most likely have no real effect on political realities. Politicians would then be able to go to their voters claiming they had stood up to the regressive, out-of-step Church. Little if anything would positively happen. Yet, an important goal of publicly calling out politicians would be served: the Faith of the Church would be loudly proclaimed, and no one, Catholic or otherwise, would be confused about the Truth. Additionally, albeit unlikely, a politician might be reconverted to the truth as a result of the bishop’s action.

It is not just the scandals that have destroyed the credibility of the Church (as bad as they are on their own), but it is now politically homeless. First, the Democratic Party has simply rejected much of what the Church holds dear. It has made abortion a non-negotiable plank of their party and supports social issues which have always been opposed by the Church. Sadly enough, the Democratic Party has recently further distanced itself from the Church. Last year, Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, implying Knights should not sit on the federal bench. While the Republican Party is, at least ostensibly, pro-life, its economic and immigration policies are not supported by many bishops—although the party itself has not been uniformly in agreement on these matters and such policies are a prudential question open for debate among Catholics. It is no small wonder that in the past few elections the Catholic vote has effectively split between the two parties. What appears to be the most telling sign is that both parties are only making half-hearted attempts to win the Catholic vote. This is most likely because they realize there is no longer a unified Catholic voting block. This is largely true because the bishops no longer influence their people and fewer and fewer Catholics even go to Church.

Despite the gravity of the abortion issue, the Catholic bishops of New York and a great majority of bishops around the U.S. refuse to meaningfully speak out against the different heresies making inroads into the Church. The bishops fear that if they taught more forcefully they would lose their standing in American public life. Perhaps, in the back of their minds, they believe repudiating the political gains made over the past 150 years will revive the charge that Catholics do not fit in. Yet, by doing this, the bishops would finally let go of the pretense that Catholicism has real political power. Only a short time ago, a politician had little hope of winning in New York, Chicago, or Detroit without the support of the local archdiocese, but those days are gone. However, this may not be a bad thing. Catholic entanglement with political power has distracted the Church from its true mission to win souls for Christ and build up the Kingdom. By refocusing on their primary duty, the bishops would better meet the spiritual needs of the faithful while attracting new adherents. A clear and confident religious message will invariably grow the Church and eventually have a salutary effect on civic life and culture—all without compromising any principles.

In the end, the whole point—for the bishops and the whole Church—is to gain more souls for Christ whether or not it means losing respectability in elite circles. To deny people the truth is a hateful thing, and to allow people to languish in error and refuse to offer them a way to salvation is the same as condemning them to hell. The bishops need to remember that their concerns should not only be for earthly things but primarily for heavenly rewards. In the end, it does not profit the bishops to gain worldly acclaim while so many under their care are losing their souls.

Jason SurmillerJason Surmiller recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Ph.D. in Humanities, History of Ideas. He is a faculty member of Ursuline Academy of Dallas and an adjunct instructor at Brookhaven College. His first book, European Fascism and the Catholic Church in America: Power and the Priesthood in World War, from IB Tauris is coming out in March 2020.

The Schism of 1054

Jesus Christ Savior | This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son (image, Wikimedia Commons).

One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Schism of 1054 between what is now the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

The actual event occurred on July 16, 1054. What began as a diplomatic effort between Pope Leo IX of Rome and the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople ended in disaster. The abrasive Cardinal Humbert laid a papal bull of excommunication (after Pope Leo had died) on the altar right during the Liturgy at the Church of Hagia Sophia, which led the Eastern Church to excommunicate the envoy. While the event did not end the relationship between the Eastern and Western Churches, it became symbolic for the distrust and strain between the East and the West that developed through the centuries. The break was sealed in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Rome and Constantinople had been able to agree through three more Councils. The fifth ecumenical council at Constantinople II in 553 was called by the Emperor Justinian and reaffirmed that there is only one person or hypostasis in our Lord Jesus Christ. In response to the Monothelites, that Christ had only one will, the sixth ecumenical council affirmed the efforts of St. Maximus the Confessor at Constantinople III in 681 and confessed that Christ had two wills and two natural operations (John 6:38), divine and human in harmony. The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea II in 787 resolved the iconoclast controversy thanks to the writings of St. John of Damascus: since Jesus had a true humanity and his body was finite, it was only proper to venerate holy images of the human face of Jesus, as well as Mary and the saints.

However, the language of Rome was Latin, and that of Constantinople Greek.

There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Latin Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, was Pastor and Shepherd to the whole Church, whereas the Greek East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in the sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. King Recared and his Visigothic bishops converted from Arianism to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo, Spain in 587 and were required to add the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in 794 insisted on its addition, so that the phrase read “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Pope Leo III at the time refused to allow the change and supported the original Creed; however the Papacy finally accepted the addition of filioque at the coronation of King Henry II of the Holy Roman Empire in 1014. The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be made by an ecumenical Council.

Many of the Christian Churches of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, except the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians, joined the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Weekly Spiritual Digest: Can I Know God Personally?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Jesus came so that each of us could know and understand God in a personal way. Jesus alone can bring meaning and purpose to life.

We have all tried to do good things so that God will accept us and tried to stop doing bad things so that God will be happy with us; but we failed woefully and still cannot connect with God. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags, Is. 64:6.

All religions are the futile attempts of man to connect with God; but in Christ, God seeks out man and connects with him. Here are just three aspects of the Good News.

  1. God came down to look for you.
    Before the fall, man had uninterrupted fellowship with God. At the fall, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord and the Lord had to come searching for them. God activated the plan for the salvation and reconciliation of man to Himself by coming in the form of man. Is. 7:14, Gal. 4:4.
  2. You can know God personally.
    Jesus wants to reveal the Father to you. Matt. 11:27. He is knocking and waiting at the door of your heart because He wants to come in and dine with you. Rev. 3:20
  3. You can have a real relationship with God.
    When you receive and believe in Jesus Christ you automatically become adopted into the family God, John 1:12. God is your Father, Jesus is your brother, Heb. 2:11. Jesus also relates with you as a friend,  John 15:15.

We cannot earn or contribute to this process. All we can do is to respond by accepting what God has done for us. What is the evidence that you know God personally and not just know about Him? Have you accepted His offer? Do you love Him and delight in His ways?

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.

The Grass Is Not Always Greener in the East

by Casey Chalk | Guroian is hopeful, but realistic, regarding an East-West union, noting that “sin of the collective and habitual sort is stubborn and not easily overcome. Nationalistic and particularistic proclivities, the desire to cling to power, and false pride and defensiveness can at any moment, and over the long haul, overwhelm all the good reasons for Orthodox Churches to accept the pope’s fraternal invitation.”

Anyone familiar with Orthodox convert (from Catholicism!) Rod Dreher knows that there is much common cultural and political ground between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Guroian affirms this reality when he writes, “North American culture is awash in a feckless brew of expressive individualism, moral relativism, and godless utilitarianism that does grave damage to the human spirit and most certainly challenges the church to reassert its mission to claim this world for God.” Guroian argues that culture lives and dies based on its union with and dependence on the Incarnation and the liturgy. Indeed, man’s creation of culture is analogical to God’s creative work, especially given man being made in God’s image and then given the supernatural life through baptism and having it enhanced throughhis access to the other sacraments. Thus as Western culture becomes increasingly untethered from these (and God, more generally), so it dies, because it is incapable of accurately reflecting God’s work in the world. “Postmodernity is not a new culture. It is the rotting corpse of a thoroughly desacralized Christendom or, alternatively, the empty shell of the Christian cult inhabited by alien ideologies,” he writes.

Guroian takes up this sacramental and liturgical vision in just about every subject in the book. In his chapter on Constantine and the creation of Christendom he explains the Justinian symphonia, or deep alliance between the Church and the State. In contrast to Western conceptions of church-state relations as two competing institutional powers, the Orthodox “vision of Christendom” interprets the Church not as a competing institutional power, but as a liturgical and sacramental presence. Indeed, he uses the hypostatic union of Christ as a rebuttal against a strict separation of church and state. While the West speaks of church and state, the East speaks of church and the world. He recognizes this last as problematic, as it tends to perceive the instruments of the state as “ligaments of the kingdom of God.” Again, in his writing on ethics, Guroian argues that “Orthodox ethics are grounded in liturgy and how the liturgy lends a powerful, transformative, and eschatological vision to Orthodox ethics.” Participation in the Eucharist is the means by which the Church becomes “God’s eschatological polity in the world.” Liturgy is also central to this contrast between Western and Eastern conceptions of marriage: unlike Catholic definitions of marriage that emphasize its contractual and covenantal nature, the Orthodox emphasize its liturgical and healing character, undoing the enmity between the sexes that began at the Fall.

Guroian writes of more significant differences when he gets to Catholic distinctions between symbol and reality and nature and grace, particularly as it relates to the Eucharist. He writes of a Western tendency towards a “dangerous distinction and separation between symbol and reality,” and a “nature and grace” dualism that represents a “radical discontinuity” which the East “finds unacceptable.” This represents nothing less than a “fall” from the Nicene conception of the relationship between nature and grace. Perhaps this contrast might best be described as an Orthodox sacramental and mystical “realism” versus a Catholic metaphysical rationalism and intellectualism, born out of a scholastic tradition that emphasizes propositional understandings of truth and faith. This tends towards eviscerating the true spiritual, divine power of God’s work in the world, says Guroian. Yet much of his critique is not so much against official Catholic doctrine per se, as impressions of it mediated through certain early theological manuals or the writings of modern theologians, and then interpreted by Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. Indeed, Guroian provides no evidence to substantiate his claims regarding a supposed radical split between nature and grace in Catholic theology. Moreover, if the complaint is with scholasticism, this tradition is not unique to the West—the writings of Maximus the Confessor, John Damascene, and Leontius of Byzantium all contain scholastic elements.

Of course, what would an Orthodox-Catholic discussion be without reference to the papacy? Guroian cites another Orthodox scholar who “discovered no conclusive proof in Scripture or in early Church history for the bishop of Rome’s claim to supreme headship over all Christians.” For example, Christ’s famous declaration in Matthew 16 regarding petra (rock) cannot “refer back reflexively” to Petros (Peter), though no evidence is offered to substantiate this. While willing to acknowledge a contemporary need for a universal ecclesial leadership similar to that of the pope, he calls for a “reformulation of papal primacy” to the oft-heard paradigm of primus inter pares (“first among equals”). Guroian calls on Rome to maintain a primacy of ministry and service, not magisterial authority. He urges popes to use language and take actions that demonstrate more humility, and offer more parity, towards their Eastern episcopal brethren. I see little harm in gestures of comity and humility, especially in days of aggressive secularism, when Catholics and Orthodox should look to historical examples of cooperation, instead of conflict, for ecumenical inspiration.

Guroian is hopeful, but realistic, regarding an East-West union, noting that “sin of the collective and habitual sort is stubborn and not easily overcome. Nationalistic and particularistic proclivities, the desire to cling to power, and false pride and defensiveness can at any moment, and over the long haul, overwhelm all the good reasons for Orthodox Churches to accept the pope’s fraternal invitation.” Indeed, elsewhere he is quite honest about what he terms “the Orthodox escape into ethnic separatism and sectarian spiritualism.” He explains:

The Orthodox are guilty of a comparable sin of dividing the one body of Christ into exclusivist national and ethnic enclaves that they will not let go of even when the opportunity arises, as it has in America…. The bitter pill that the Orthodox must swallow is that they have been complicit in the reduction and separation of the undivided church of which they accuse others.

This has often taken the form of what is called phyletism, or the establishment of national churches that refuse members of other nationalities from liturgical participation and are only administered by ministers from that nationality.

These issues—Roman primacy and Orthodox divisiveness—represent two sides of the same coin that I would present to any Catholic considering leaving for Orthodoxy because of Rome’s contemporary crises. The Catholic Church, unlike her Eastern brethren, possesses a principle of unity that has been essential to her guidance and preservation through the centuries. Surely, she has sometimes been poorly led by the papacy. Yet this principle has enabled the Church to weather precisely the problem that has plagued Orthodoxy—ethnic and national conflicts. Attempts at such “Catholic nationalism” (e.g., Gallicanism or the Polish Catholic Church) have failed, and what remains of these movements reflects only dying branches severed from the source. Furthermore, contrary to Orthodox arguments, there is plentiful historical evidence for Rome’s primacy, not only ministerially, but magisterially.

Finally, God himself has given us reason to believe in the Catholic conception of Roman magisterial authority through the continued availability of motives of credibility. Though some of these are not unique to Catholicism (e.g., miracles recorded in historical Scriptural documents or the testimony of the early Church), others are. No Christian institution has holier saints. No institution has been able, against all odds, to maintain her level of visible unity, nor continued to grow in numbers and holiness. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true, our Church is currently suffering a tremendous crisis, one that is doing terrible harm to her witness to the world. Yet our Church continues to possess the identity, tools, and inner potency to overcome them, as Christ has proven to us generation after generation. It would be foolhardy to leave her now, even for a Church containing all the beauty, truth, and spiritual power of the Orthodox.

Casey Chalk is a graduate student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College.

Church History: Complete Documentary AD 33 to Present

History of the church from the Ascension of Jesus Christ to 2017 (YouTube).


Further Reading: Philip Schaff’s Church History:…
History of the Primitive Church:…
Eusebius’ Church History:…
Sozomen’s Church History:…
Socrates Scholasticus’ Church History:…
Primary sources:
Father Adrian Fortescue:…
Bishop Hefele’s History of the Councils:…


  1. Beirut is in Lebanon, not Syria.
  2. At the time of the Roman Empire, Great Britain would have been known as Britannia rather than England. The name “England” was first used during the Middle Ages, referring to the tribe of Germanic Angles that settled the island after the fall of the Roman Empire.
  3. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only Marian apparition in the Americas to have been approved by the Holy See. Other Marian apparitions in the Americas have been approved by local ordinaries, including Our Lady of Good Success in Ecuador (1572), Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin (1859), Our Lady of Cuapa in Nicaragua (1980), in Venezuela (1984) and Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolas in Argentina (1980s).
  4. At 2:06:35, the correct spelling is “Hugh O’Flaherty”, not “O’Flattery”