Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Young Messiah (TYM) is a film at once entertaining and endearing. An admittedly fictionalized imagining of Jesus as a seven year-old boy, this movie’s treatment of its subject matter is eminently respectful.

Not everyone feels this way, however.

Dave Armstrong, a “professional Catholic apologist,” concedes in Patheos that “there are several aspects of [the] development of the human knowledge of Jesus…that are legitimate and perfectly orthodox [.]” It is, though, unorthodox and, hence, illegitimate to depict Christ as “growing into… awareness” of His identity, for the Church has affirmed for centuries that, from conception, Jesus knew that He was God (italics added).

Armstrong quotes Neil Madden who, writing at Conservative Review, makes the following remark:

“’The Young Messiah’” depicts Mary and Joseph as having more knowledge about Jesus’s true nature than He does. This is a problem. If Jesus was always God, begotten and not made, surely wouldn’t an omnipotent God know who he was as he was learning and growing in preparation for His mission here on Earth?”

Though Armstrong doesn’t seem to notice it, he and Madden are actually making two distinct points. Armstrong’s point is that Jesus, in His humanity, knew that He was God from the time that He was conceived. Madden, on the other hand, refers to Jesus in His divinity.

Doubtless, this controversy stems from nothing less than the mystery of the uniquely Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, the doctrine that God became a human being in Jesus: Christ is “true God and true man,” fully divine and fully human.

Two replies to TYM’s critics are in the coming.

First, if Neil Madden is correct that Jesus, being “an omnipotent God” must have always known His own identity “as he was learning and growing in preparation for His mission here on Earth,” then there would’ve been no “learning and growing in preparation” for that mission, for “an omnipotent God” would’ve had already known all that could be known about everything and anything.

On the other hand, if the “omnipotence” of Christ in His divinity is compatible with Christ in His humanity coming to learn and grow in some matters, then it is, in principle, compatible with Christ as fully human coming to learn and grow in all matters.

Secondly, unlike Madden, Armstrong alludes to Christ in His humanity, Christ at conception. Yet even here it is a mistake to think that if Christ knew from conception that He was God that He could not have grown into an awareness of His identity.

The two propositions do not necessarily contradict one another—as long as “knowledge” isn’t construed in an unduly shallow sense.

From at least the time of Plato throughout the centuries until Freud and beyond, a great many thinkers (and non-thinkers alike) have been of the mind that knowledge can be explicit and implicit, conscious and unconscious. Examples abound to suggest that this position has something going for it.

Take, for instance, what is known as “the principle of non-contradiction,” the principle that a thing can’t be and not be in the same respect and at the same time, that “(A) and (non-A)” must be false. Though most people outside of philosophy and logic classes have never heard of this principle, everyone knows it, for it is the most fundamental law of all thought.

Students must “grow into an awareness” of the principle of non-contradiction. And yet they’ve known it all of their lives.

If knowing could consist in human subjects growing into an awareness of (at least some of) what they already implicitly know, then how much more fitting would such an approach be regarding the God-Man? Consider: As God, Christ would had to have known all things from eternity. As a man, Christ would have to have grown and developed like all humans—even if that knowledge was already in Him from conception.

In conclusion, TYM’s portrayal of Jesus as learning His divine identity from Joseph and Mary is compatible with the position that, in His divinity, He always knew His identity. It’s also compatible with the idea that Christ, in His humanity, knew His identity from conception.

The only position that the thesis of TYM obviously contradicts is the thesis that Jesus, in His humanity, or from conception, was fully conscious of his divine nature, for if this thesis was true, then it would’ve indeed been logically impossible for Jesus to have grown into a consciousness of His identity.

The Young Messiah doesn’t deviate at all from theological orthodoxy when it comes to the question of Jesus’s knowledge of His own divine identity.

 

 

 

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Contrary to what he and his boosters in some quarters of talk radio would have us think, Ted Cruz is most definitely not a Washington “outsider” or “anti-Establishment” candidate.

For years, until as recently as 2013, Cruz, alongside such insiders as George W. Bush, advocated on behalf of legalizing the country’s millions of illegal immigrants.

And though he and his defenders would have us believe otherwise, most Americans know that legalization, being the first step, as it were, to citizenship, is indeed amnesty.

It is doubtless because Cruz wanted as badly as anyone to bring illegals “out of the shadows” that accounts for why, in spite of his self-styling to the contrary, he left it to Jeff Sessions (who, not incidentally, has endorsed Trump) to lead the fight against the Gang of Eight.

In the early 2000’s, Cruz joined the board of HAPI, an organization comprised of “conservative” Hispanics interested in advancing a “pro-immigration” agenda. HAPI worked closely with the Bush administration. Every proposal included legalization. In fact, among the policies that Cruz and his colleagues at HAPI supported was John McCain’s and Ted Kennedy’s “immigration reform” act of 2006!

Robert De Posada, a former Director of Hispanic Affairs for the RNC and a founder of the “Latino Coalition,” meets Cruz’s current protestations that he never supported legalization in principle, but only as a strategy to derail the Gang of Eight’s plans, with incredulity. “It’s just a flat out lie. Period. There’s just no truth behind it.”

The truth of the matter is that Trump entered the race and revealed to all with ears to hear that Americans generally and GOP voters in particular are outraged over the American Last immigration policy that Democrats and Republicans have been pushing for decades. Amnesty—i.e. any arrangement that, in one way or the other, allows illegals to reap the privileges allotted to those with legal status and citizenship—is woefully unpopular.

Cruz witnessed Trump’s meteoric rise over his stance on this issue and recalibrated accordingly.

The Texas senator had never been the hard-liner against amnesty that he would now have us believe that he is.

Yet support for amnesty is hardly the only position that Cruz has shared in common with his comrades in the neocon-GOP/Democrat-progressive Washington axis. Cruz has been supportive as well of the foreign policy vision of the regime.

For example, Cruz purports to reject “nation-building”—but so too does every other politician, for “nation-building” is to foreign policy what “welfare” is to domestic policy. Remember, even the man who set out to democratize the Middle East called for “a more humble foreign policy” when he campaigned for the presidency in 2000. In reality, Cruz is every bit as much a fan of the idealism of “American Exceptionalism” as is anyone.

As The National Interest notes, Cruz’s speeches on foreign policy are replete with the exactly the kind of abstract idealistic generalities—“human rights,” “fundamental values,” “the hope that every person may have to live in freedom,” etc.—that “conservatives have been fighting for centuries.”

Nor is this just rhetoric, for Cruz would refuse to communicate at all with Iran until it unequivocally affirms “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”—a standard of which even our Arab alliesexpressed rejection.” And he argued for drawing Ukraine into an equal alliance with the Western powers of NATO—even though a country as poor and corrupt as Ukraine couldn’t possible carry its share of the burdens and responsibilities that member states are expected to assume.

Cruz decries “New York values,” which he identifies with support for abortion, “gay marriage,” and “focus on money and the media.” All the while, some of his biggest backers are Wall Street financiers. The chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, which spotted Cruz and his wife a considerable loan, had won an award from the “Human Rights Campaign” for his tireless work in advancing “marriage equality.”

Goldman Sachs, in the words of one left-leaning publication, had been a “driving force on influential Wall Street for LGBT equality.”

Evidently, Cruz’s conscience was no more conflicted over accepting resources from this embodiment of New York values than it was conflicted over accepting resources from two billionaire gay hoteliers—and proponents of marijuana legalization—who held a reception for him last spring. During the event, Cruz not once expressed his opposition to “gay marriage.” Moreover, he borrowed a move from the old tried and true GOP playbook and bucked the issue altogether by invoking “states’ rights:” marriage, he said, is a thing best left to the states to resolve on their own terms.

When word got out about the event, a Cruz aide expressed regret to CBS about the campaign’s choice of venue.

As for abortion, even as Cruz blasts Donald Trump for the latter’s assertion that Planned Parenthood does some good, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Cruz, who has been in the US senate for six years, only began calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood after it came to light that the country’s largest abortion provider traded in baby parts.

In other words, Cruz said nothing all of this time as the taxpayer was forced to subsidize PP’s abortion services. Yet what’s worse, the trading of the bodily members of deceased human beings or the killing of those humans?

To hear such Cruz boosters as Mark Levin tell it, Cruz is even more despised by the media and “the Establishment” as is Trump. There’s no end to the spin. Perhaps this explains why such neoconservative Republican establishment organs as National Review, which dedicated an entire issue to the end of stopping Trump, not only has done no such thing regarding Cruz; it has actually endorsed Cruz.

So too have such paradigmatic Establishment figures as Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham endorsed Cruz.

It’s also worth noting that NR, Bush, and Graham all gave one and the same reason for their support of Cruz: He’s the best hope of stopping Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roman Catholics throughout the world are in the midst of the season of Lent.

Lent occurs over the six weeks stretching between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is recognized by Catholics as a season of renewal, a time for Christians to repent of their sins and draw nearer to God.

And while prayer is essential to renewing one’s relationship with one’s Creator, Sustainer, and Savior, unless prayer is accompanied by the love of one’s neighbors, it is in vain.

There are two things that every Christian knows: (1) The love of neighbor transcends any and every boundary that human weakness—human sin—disposes us to draw; and (2) This agape (highest form of love) can be expressed in any number of ways.

These facts considered, Christians in America—particularly during this Holy Season—should bear in mind the plight of their brothers and sisters in the faith around the globe who are made daily to endure persecution of a kind that few of us can scarcely conceive.

The victims are men, women, and children to whom we are now and probably always will be strangers. They are almost always people of color, not infrequently (but by no stretch invariably) Africans and Middle Easterners.

And most (but not all) of the time, their persecutors are Muslims.

As black multimillionaires boycott the Oscars for Hollywood’s failure to nominate blacks for this most prestigious of its awards; as black and white agitators in the “Black Lives Matter” movement and among the Democrat Party’s presidential candidates continue to bemoan “systemic ‘racism’” in America; as the History Channel remakes the plagiarist Alex Haley’s Roots; and as Islamic activists bemoan such “Islamophobic” policies as “profiling” passengers boarding airplanes, black African Christians are regularly enslaved, beaten, separated from their families and murdered—usually by African Muslims.

Yet not a peep do we hear from Westerners who decry “racism” and religious bigotry as the most egregious of evils.

Open Doors, a site committed to serving oppressed Christians wherever they may be, shares stories of the victims of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The latter has been especially cancerous for the residents of Nigeria.

In April of 2014, the world watched as Michele Obama launched her “hashtag” campaign against Boko Haram when the thugs abducted 276 school girls from their secondary school in Chibok in Borno State. Chibok is an essentially Christian village. On May 5, less than one month after the kidnappings, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, made a video in which he acknowledged that the girls were targeted precisely because they were not Christian: “The girls that have not accepted Islam, they are now gathered in numbers” but “treated…well the way the Prophet Muhammad treated the infidels he seized.”

He added: “Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves.”

The girls shouldn’t have been in school to begin with, Shekau insisted, for as long as they are at least nine years of age, they are suitable for marriage.

Open Doors has touched base with the father of one of the Chibok girls. The man’s name is James. James’ “heart aches every day” for his daughter, yet he continues to pray for her safe return.

Lydia survived one of the random bomb attacks that Boko Haram launched in Gobe State (Nigeria). Open Doors assures us that, “miraculously, amidst such a nightmare, she still has sure hope in the Lord.”

There’s also Esther. Open Doors reports: “At the hands of Boko Haram, she has now become a widow. Her husband would not deny Jesus, even to the point of death, and that brings her joy when her mourning is overwhelming.”

Things have only gotten worse for these beleaguered people.

In just one year, from 2014-2015, the rate of Muslim-on-Christian murder has risen by 62 percent in Nigeria. In 2014, Open Doors recorded 2,484 murders and 108 attacks on churches. In 2015, however, it determined that there were at least 4,028 murders and 198 church attacks.

Open Doors joined with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to conduct a report on the violence. According to “a partner director for West Africa,” the report—“Crushed but not defeated, the impact of persistent violence on the church in northern Nigeria”—reveals that “the extent and impact of the persistent violence on the church…is much more serious than previously expected.”

This may come as a surprise to Westerners who would love to believe that only a small handful of aberrant or heterodox Muslims—“extremists,” as Barack Obama calls them—is responsible for the infamous violence perpetrated in the name of Allah, but this report also notes that even if Boko Haram was destroyed tomorrow, the threat to Christians would persist.

For starters, the 30 million or so Christians in the region “have suffered marginalization and discrimination as well as targeted violence” for several decades: This oppression wasn’t born with the relatively recent rise of Boko Haram.

Nor will it end with the ending of the terrorist outfit. “Once Boko Haram is defeated,” comments the West African partner director (who, for obvious reasons, wished to remain anonymous), “the problem will not be solved.” The director explains: “Christians living under Sharia law are facing discrimination and marginalization and have limited to no access to federal rights.”

The report on the persecution of the northern Nigerian church identifies three principal sources of the epidemic to which it speaks—and Boko Haram is only one of them. The other two are the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and “the Muslim religious and political elite that dominates government in norther Nigeria.”

This Lenten season, and every season, as the racial and religious-grievance mongers of the Racism-Industrial-Complex here at home seek out increasingly incredible instances of bigotry, Christians and all decent people should muster the courage to speak for real victims of evil.

Some of those real victims are Christian men, women, and children in places like Nigeria.

 

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To My Fellow Catholics,

On March 7, our brethren in the faith, Robert P. George and George Weigel, published an open letter in National Review addressed to the Catholic world.

Trump’s “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” they assure us, “are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility [.]” Nor is there anything “in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government.”

The authors also add that Trump’s position in favor of torturing terrorist suspects and killing their family members are not only condemned by the Church. Such policies “would bring shame on our country.”

George and Weigel “urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject” Trump’s “candidacy…by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.”

And that candidate, of course, is one of the Republican candidates, for while the GOP is “imperfect, like all human institutions,” it is nevertheless a “serviceable” vehicle “for promoting causes”—like the “legal protection for unborn children, the physically disabled and cognitively handicapped, the frail elderly, and other victims of what St. John Paul II branded ‘the culture of death’”—that are “at the center of Catholic social concern in the United States.”

Where to begin?

The authors essentially make the same bipartisan Everything-and-the Kitchen sink argument against Trump that the hard and moderate left in the Democrat/Republican axis have been making against him for months. The only difference here is that this ad hoc hodgepodge line of reasoning, this GOP Establishment boosting, is decorated with the veneer of religiosity.

Inasmuch as George and Weigel don’t substantiate any of their assertions, theirs is, in effect, an extended ad hominem assault against the Republican presidential frontrunner.

For starters, Trump has most decidedly not made “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” as the authors insist. He has noted, indisputably, that a not insignificant number of Mexican immigrants to the United States have been criminals. Not only is this documentable; those masses of working-class Americans whose persons and communities have suffered first-hand from the ravages of unrelenting immigration and who George and Weigel condescendingly suppose are animated by raw, irrational prejudice recognize Trump’s claim for the self-evident truth that it is.

As for Trump’s call to temporarily halt immigration from Islamic countries until we can insure that we aren’t importing jihadists who want to slaughter Americans, this too is something that sounds eminently sensible to countless numbers of everyday Americans—however politically incorrect and professionally dangerous it sounds to Princeton academics and Beltway journalists.

George’s and Weigel’s charge of racial demagoguery fails. In leveling it, though, they “strain out the gnat while letting in the camel”:

Castigating Trump for allegedly stoking racial and ethnic division in advocating a position designed to spare injury to Muslim and non-Muslim alike out of one side of their mouths, they endorse Republican politicians who favor—and who have executed—the invasion of Third World lands of people of color. Consequently, well over 100,000 lives have been ended, families decimated and displaced, ancient Christian communities destroyed, and many more lives severely injured.

Trump opposed and remains strenuously opposed to the war in Iraq. He is the only presidential candidate who has not spoken belligerently about Putin or the heads of any other states. On the other hand, George’s and Weigel’s “serviceable” party and its “reformist” candidates continue to stand by the incalculable blood that’s been shed for most of this century as the price necessary for the sake of exporting “liberal democracy” to the Middle East.

Yet it is Trump who George and Weigel promise will bring “shame upon our country.”

The authors think that Trump will not serve the victims of “the culture of death”—but, presumably, Rubio, Kasich, and Cruz will.

This point is especially puzzling. What exactly do they expect for the President of the United States to do for, say, abortion? Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for over 40 years. Republicans have not only made no attempts to overturn this Supreme Court decision; they repeatedly assure their opponents that they will make no such attempts.

It’s true that Republicans continue to espouse their commitment to “life.” Trump does the same. As far as action is concerned, however, he can’t possibly be any worse in this regard than those of his fellow GOPers who have spent decades in Congress funding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

George served on the President’s Council on Bioethics under Bush II, who also awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. But Bush II is the first president to have authorized federal funding for embryonic stem cell research—a move that certainly didn’t advance those concerns at the heart of “Catholic social concern.”

And then there’s the author’s contention that Catholics should vote for any other Republican but Trump because the latter is the one candidate who is not interested in “limited government.” This is probably true of Trump. As should be obvious to anyone who’s been alive for more than a handful of years, it’s at least as true of the other candidates and the GOP as a whole. But I will not elaborate upon the obvious here.

If the GOP is “serviceable” for us Catholics, then Trump may be all that much more serviceable.

In truth, however, George and Weigel are trying to make Catholics “serviceable” to the GOP.

 

 

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