loren Eric Swanson: Trent to Rome--Day 7

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trent to Rome--Day 7

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Today we go to see the eternal city—Rome! I feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:13—“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (in Rome).” We depart for St. Peters around 9:30 and arrive at around 10:00 am. Tomorrow we have a longer visit so after an hour of sightseeing we gather at the obelisk and walk to have lunch together at an (what else) Italian Restaurant. The food is delicious. I forgot to mention earlier that wine is served with every meal but breakfast. I think most would call it a “table wine”—nothing fancy but very tasty.

After lunch we drive down the legendary Via Apia visit the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus. When people say, “We went to the catacombs in Rome,” this was the place they are referring to. The catacombs were dug out of volcanic rock in the second century by believers who could not afford a proper above-ground family tomb. The most economical method was to dig down and create small shelves for the bodies. In the third century, the church of Rome (not yet recognized by state) took care of the administration of the catacombs by utilizing land donated by better-off Christians. After Christianity was legalized in the beginning of the 4th century believers began to see the place where the martyrs of the previous century, as something special and to be preserved and visted. From the 5th to 9th centuries the catacombs were seen as true shrines and thousands of pilgrims visited the catacombs. In the 8th century the Popes removed the bodies interred in the catacombs inside the city because they did not have the means to protect the catacombs. For the next 700 years the catacombs were abandoned and lost but were rediscovered in the 1600 and 1700’s.

The catacombs are fascinating; with plaster walls inscribed with pictures and various names. I expected to see more fabled “icthus” drawings but discover none. The symbol of the Christians, we are told, is the anchor, with the eye of the anchor representing God, the cross beam representing Jesus and bottom part of the anchor, roughly in the shape of a dove, represents the Holy Spirit. One thing we don’t see is evidence that believers would live in catacombs and have worship services here. That, we are told, is largely a myth! Believers met for worship in homes during the first three centuries and only during very brief times of extreme persecution did some gather in the catacomb’s crypts and pray…and then only briefly. Apparently the catacombs were never places of refuge or living!

After the catecombs we drive back to St. Peter's where we queue up to see the Cistine Chapel which is the last stop as part of our Vatican Museum tour--which is all quite impressive--huge tapestries, collections of Greek and Roman statues...all very impressive. The Cistine Chapel is quite amazing. I had been learning a bit about it from my "Art of the Renaissance" class. Michelangelo didn't want to paint the chapel. He insisted to the Pope that he was a sculptor, not an artist. He had never done fresco work before! His first panel was of Noah's Ark. When the scafolding was removed and he looked up at the ceiling he realized the figures were too small to be seen so he painted them larger from then on. At first he employed a number of assistants but as he achieved proficiency, he finished the work alone.

We get back to the hotel, have dinner and have an 8:30 session with Fergus McDonald who gives us a presentation entitled, “The witness of the historic churches in Europe.” Fergus McDonald is the General Secretary of the National Bible Society of Scotland and has joined us for a couple of days. He takes us through many statistics and observations about the state of the church in Europe. Though it is quite late it nonetheless is very interesting. Much of European Christianity is comprised of people who believe—in God (some 77%) without belonging and those who belong (to church) without really believing. In Western Europe, he notes, 60% of the population is Roman Catholic, 21% Institutional Protestants, 21% Orthodox and a mere 1% non-institutional Protestants (Pentacostals, Free Church, etc). He tells us that these statistics highlight the important role the institutional church must play in the evangelization (or re-evangelization) of Europe. He quotes Maurice Talleyrand—“Without individuals nothing happens; without institutions nothing remains.” Fergus tells us “the way forward” is by renewing, reforming and reconfiguring the church. We finish off by 10pm and head off the Lambs and stay up past midnight talking before we close with a little sleepy prayer.


I know many people said the favorite part of visiting Rome was seeing the catacombs…I’m just not among them. They were good and interesting but sometime after I got there I began to have my doubts that the catacombs were the places of worship. First, they are very narrow in their construction—too small for any group over 30. Second, they are quite far from the city itself. Since most believers lived in the populous Rome (remember, country folk were called paganas—pagans), it would be quite a hike to come here to worship. I guess also I expected to see a few bones like the hundreds I saw several years ago stacked up in the catacombs in the Monasterio de San Francisco in Lima, Peru. With all the bones gone and no real record of persecuted Christians hanging out here, it seemed more like spiritual spelunking. Maybe for the sake of tourism they should have kept the myth alive about the catacombs being places of hiding, living and worship as they hid out from Roman officials.

Fergus McDonald’s presentation was great. Just a shame he didn’t have more time at an hour when we were fresher.


As Americans we need to pay attention to the spirituality of Europe to give us a glimpse of our future. When describing European spirituality McDonald makes note of several forms of European spirituality. The first is “believing without belonging”—those who have not abandoned belief, they have just abandoned church. Isn’t that what George Barna’s book, Revolution is about? Barna says some 20 million adults in America have left the church, not because they have lost their faith but to preserve their faith. Second, Europeans practice what Grace Davie calls, “vicarious religion.” That is “significant numbers of Europeans are content to let both churches and churchgoers enact a memory on their behalf, more than half aware that they might need to draw on the capital at crucial times;” meaning they are glad the church is there for weddings, funerals, etc. Is that not us? Third is a move toward new age or inner spirituality. An article in Newsweek last year noted how nearly all people today in America describe themselves as “spiritual,” though not necessarily Christian. As Europe is today…America may become.

I need to think about the implications of Tallyrand’s quote: “Without individuals nothing happens; without institutions nothing remains.” Individuals bring about change…movements and revolutions. To preserve the benefits of those changes, the changes are institutionalized through new ritual, new buildings and new processes—new institutions. But who really wants to live in an institution? Church, at its root, is a living organism and form always must follow function. Cathedrals of Europe are largely empty because someone paid attention to the institution but not the life within the institution. We’re told that the average local church in America lasts an average of 70 years. Old forms and structures need to be replaced with new structures that help us move forward and thrive.


At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 7:15:00 AM, Blogger Digital Diet 365 said...

Speaking of Apostle Paul..

Have you ever questioned Paul?

Paul says we are not under the law, but the Bible says God's
commandments are forever and ever (Psalm 111)

I seriously believe Paul was a false apostle as:

1. He wasn’t ordained an apostle by Christ (Mat 10)

2. He didn’t qualify to be an apostle (Acts 1:16-26)

3. Paul’s doctrine is proven false:

After Christ died and rose he appeared to his apostles. The gospels record him as appearing to the “eleven” (remember, Judas had died), but Paul’s doctrine is in clear error as he tells us that Christ appeared to the “twelve”:

Paul said twelve:

1 Corinthians 15:4-6

4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve

Mark said eleven:

Mark 16:14: Afterward he (Christ) appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat

Matthew said eleven:

Matt 28:16-18:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Luke’s mentions the “eleven”:

2And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8And they remembered his words, 9And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

Acts mentions eleven:

Acts 1:26:

26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Paul is a liar, and a proven false witness. Christ, in Revelation 2:2 commends the church of Epheus for figuring out false aposles. He said, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apsostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. Remember, Paul preached at Epheus.

Fact 4:
The apostles did not believe Paul was a disciple:

Acts 9:26
26And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

After Barnabas told the apostles that Paul had “seen the Lord” and that he preached boldy in the name of Jesus, the Apostles didn’t tell him to join them, but they sent him home to Tarsus. Remember, Jesus told us (Mat 13:57) that a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house . The apostles sent Paul to a place that no one would believe him.

Paul's caught in a lie about his conversion:

There are 2 different stories. In one version he said that Christ told him to go to Damascus and that it would be there that Christ would reveal more to him. In the other version, Christ did the opposite. Compare Acts 22 with Acts 26

Jesus tells apostles to "heal", Paul blinded a man:

Acts 13:11, Paul said:
"11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand."

Jesus, confirms twelve apostles, not 13:

Revelation 21:14:
14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Jesus told the church of Ephesus they knew who the false apostles were:

To the Church of Ephesus, Revelation 2:2:

2I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Paul told Ephesus he was an apostle:

Ephesians 1:1
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus

Paul admits his doctrine had troubles being accepted in Ephesus:

Acts 19:8,9:

8And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

I have much, much more on my website going into faith works and law too. If you want to see more, just go to my site: www.returntorighteousness.blogspot.com

verse of the day:

Deuteronomy 13
1If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

2And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

4Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

5And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.


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