Saturday, October 27, 2007

Screwtape is in NYC?

I've never really wanted to go to NYC, that is, until now. The Screwtape Letters are being performed on stage by the celebrated Max McLean (be sure to click on the video for a sneak preview). McLean is the voice behind various editions of the Listener's Bible, The Valley of Vision, and Classics of the Christian Faith.

The Screwtape Letters
is the classic work of CS Lewis, Oxford literary scholar and author of numerous books including Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, gives demonic advice to his newphew, Wormword, about how to keep his patient--who just became a Christian--on the wrong path.

"My dear Wormword, You mentioned in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches."

At any rate, I'm glad that Max McLean has this opportunity to bring this classic to life. Providential blessings! This could be enough to get me to say, "I 'heart' NYC!"

[I do hope this will be available to a broader audience in some format.]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Arequipa, Part 3: What to do with Mary?

While visiting the Monestary of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, I came across a great room of three halls (in the shape of a Cross) lined with art work from over the last several centuries. Some of it was simply breathtaking. (The above photo would be at the foot of these three long hallways).

My pictures didn't come out very well because we were not permitted to use a flash, but you can see here an interesting set of paintings. The one above is a picture of God creating the world, and the one below it is a series of paintings about the Garden of Eden. Now take a closer look at the second painting....

Do you notice anything curious? Or perhaps suspicious? The picture portrays God the Father instructing Adam & Eve regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. But who is that behind the Father? Here is a close up...

That's right. The Blessed Virgin Mary. What is she doing there? in the Garden of Eden at the creation of the world? My Bible doesn't say anything about that.

My (American) Roman Catholic friends will tell me that this is simply a misguided artist and this isn't official Roman Catholic teaching. But I think Rome sends mixed signals. For example, the RCC Catechism 971 says, "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." Then in the next breath it says that the devotion given to Mary is different than the adoration given to the Trinity.

And then there's folks like Scott Hahn, the poster-child for protestant converts to Rome. He is everywhere acknowledged as one of the great communicators and popularizers of Rome's teachings. I have his book, Hail, Holy Queen, and have been reading it. Listen to what he says, "God is a family...God's covenant family is perfect lacking nothing. The Church looks to God as Father, Jesus as Brother...What's missing, then? In truth, nothing. Every family needs a mother. For a family is incomplete without a loving mother." Hence, Mary. [pp. 19, 27; italics added.]

He goes on to speak of her "mystical marriage to God who is at once her Father, her Spouse, and her Son" (p. 38). You'd almost get the notion that she is the third member of the Trinity. But, he didn't say that, did he? He didn't have to. If we worship the Father & the Son, why not worship the Mother? Why not give her divine attributes if she is a part of the divine family? In reality, lots of folks do. They understand perfectly clearly what is being said.

It is not uncommon to talk to folks here in Peru who treat Mary as the third member of the Trinity. Or better yet, as the mediator between humanity and an angry Father and angry Son. BUT, the above picture and endorsed and celebrated Roman teachers are indicative of the omnipresent tendency within Roman Catholicism to exalt Mary.

Or take the example of the influential St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), bishop and Doctor of the Roman Church. From his book, The Glories of Mary, (which I also have and which can still be bought on Amazon; it has a Five Star rating, BTW!) in which he teaches among other things the omnipotency of Mary (p. 96), he offers this prayer in a section of teaching called, "Mary is an Advocate Who is Able to Save Everybody",

"We are great sinners, but God has enriched you with mercy and power far greater than our iniquities. You are both able and willing to save us; and the more unworthy we are, the more we shall hope in you in order to reach heaven ourselves and to glorify you there...You have only to open your lips and ask your son. He will deny you nothing. Pray, then, O Mary, pray for us!"

Or his prayer from the Catholic Forum:
"I worship thee, great Queen...; most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, Lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation."

[Aside: How is it that Martin Luther was condemned as a heretic and anathematized, and Ligouri is celebrated, canonized (made into a Saint) by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 and made a Doctor of the RCC in 1871 by Pope Pius IX? Come on, Rome!!!]

Now, for the average Protestant, or for that matter, for any Christian who takes the Scriptures seriously, this is beyond just plain silly. This is pretty much a textbook case of, say, blasphemy. This makes every fiber of our being cringe. When will the Pope B16 come out and quash this nonsense??? Of course, the answer is he can't, at least without losing his power base.

So what do we do? I think most Protestants swing to the other extreme and have nothing to do with Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think this is a mistake. Just like Christians love and honor St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. Augustine, or St. Anselm, or St. John Calvin, so we can love and honor Santa Maria. Jesus loved her and honored her. And there is no reason we cannot do this. Just because people abuse her (and I do think the above would qualify for this--I think she would be embarrassed!) doesn't mean that we should leave her to their abuse. We need nothing less than a Reformation of true honor and true love for Mary.

If you are interested, I recently read a simple, balanced, & sane approach to the subject of Mary. It is called The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus by Scot McKnight. He says from the start that this is a book about Mary for Protestants, though I'm convinced that it would be a welcome relief for weary and misled Roman Catholics. I enthusiastically recommend it.

"Why write a book for Protestants about Mary? Here's why: Because the story about the real Mary has never been told. The Mary of the Bible has been hijacked by theological controversies whereby she has become a Rorschach inkblot in which theologians find whatever they wish to find. In the midst of this controversy the real Mary has been left behind. It is time to let her story be told again....Because the real Mary always leads us to Jesus."

Mary is indeed blessed among women, she whose soul glorified the Lord and whose spirit rejoiced in God her Savior (the Magnificat, Luke 2). Any serious Christian can and ought to join their voice in calling her blessed.

Arequipa, Part 2: The Monestary

While in Arequipa, I did a little exploring. I came across the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. This was a convent founded in 1579 under the Dominican order and is considered to be one of the most important and impressive religious monuments in
Peru. It resembles a small village behind walls in the middle of the city with lots of nooks and cranies. It was interesting to imagine what life must have been like.

The convent was largely a mystery until 1970 when local authorities made the convent install modern infrastructures. Interest was sparked and it was opened for tourism. Originally, more than 200 nuns were sequestered here, though now only around 30 live in the convent behind walls and away from the public.

For $30, I got to wander around by myself for about 3 hours, taking lots of pics, and enjoying some solitude. Must have been nice!

I loved the contrast of the buildings with the beautiful clear blue skies of Arequipa.

This was how they washed clothes!

This is one of many rooms where you could kneel on one of the comfy kneelers and prayer to a statue (if you are into that sort of thing, and are so inclined).

This is a typical kitchen with charred walls.

This is a typical room, though this one was atypical in that it had chairs and a desk.

Below is a picture of the confessionals. This is where nuns would confess their sins to priests who were on the other side of the wall. This is the closest they would come to outsiders and to the sound of a man's voice. I wonder how popular these confessionals were?

Arequipa, Part 1: Language School

We moved here to Trujillo without having attended language school in order to learn it the old fashioned way. I'm glad we did it this way, but we did miss out on being able to focus only on Spanish for a period of time. Here in Trujillo, my time is divided among (1) Peruvians, (2) the interns with our SALI language institute and also with various meeting with the mission team, and (3) my family. So easily two-thirds of my life has been spent with "the Gringos" and hence in English.

In the middle of September, my wife and the Mission Team gave me permission to head to the south of Peru to spend two weeks in intensive language school. I attended the Casa de Avila language school which met outside everyday in a bright, sunny courtyard with near perfect temperature (lower 70s and clear blue skies)!

Here is a picture of Marta & me. She was my house mother from whom I rented a room. She was super sweet and very interested in our work as a mission.

As a somewhat jaded & discouraged Roman Catholic, she kept asking me when our Mission was going to come to Arequipa to help the people of Arequipa. Every morning for breakfast, she asked great questions about what we believed and what the Bible said and about the Gospel. She was frustrated because in her experience, her church doesn't really teach anything and it is impossible to have a conversation with a priest to ask questions. Our breakfasts always ended too quickly. She was a great encouragement. She sent me off one day saying, "Learn more Spanish so you can teach us better!" That memory sustains me often.

Here are some pics of the Plaza de Armas. Nearly every city in Peru has a downtown plaza with a Roman church or cathedral, restuarants, government building, etc. Arequipians are very proud of theirs. It is truly one of the most impressive that I have seen.

And to close with, here are some pics of my spanish teachers. Every day, I had an hour and a half with one professor, and then another hour and a half with another professor. We always went over this time, and I received almost four hours a day of instruction, five days a week for two weeks, or for a total of about 40 hours. I think it was well worth it to be able to escape English speakers and immerse myself and clarify some very fuzzy thinking in my mind with this language.

Thanks Janette & Juliana!

Colton's B-day

This is really late, but as promised, I'm going to post some pics of Colton-boy's Bday. We had a great time ushering in his 8th birthday as you can tell....

It's hard to believe that we don't have any 7 year olds left in the house. We are so proud of him. He has really grown and matured a lot in this year.

Heather, who has been blogging circles around me, has entries here and here for his bday (in case you haven't seen her blog).

Back in the Saddle...

Hey folks,

I know, it's been waaaay too long since I've blogged here. I'm sorry. Life has been pretty much turned upside down in the last month and a half. I went in mid September to Arequipa for two weeks of intense language study before the beginning of our seminary classes (the main tidal wave that has hit my ship!).

I'm teaching a course on Apologetics, that is, the defense of the faith. I'm teaching it in Spanish! Kinda of. Its pretty ugly, I suspect, but its happening.

My wife is in Santiago, Chile, this weekend for a missionary wives in South America conference. She is there with Jami Baker and Allen Bradford as well.

So, along with hanging out with the kids this weekend, I plan to get some updating done on the blog. I know that if you don't update your blog, you lose your readership. I hope to get you back, so stay tuned....