Take Not the Name in Vain

Heresy matters.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

– Mark 9:42

But the Name of the Lord wins through in the end, no matter what. Indeed, that’s why heresy is so serious. Invoking the Name is a dangerous business

We have today a few manuals for would-be mages of the First Century in which are compiled many spells, prayers and incantations used in the ancient world. They invoke the aid of deities and daemons (and the divine shades of ancestors and heroes such as Orpheus, Herakles or Elijah) from all the cults of that age. In such books, the Name of Jesus is called upon more often than any other. Thanks to the exploits of the Apostles, and even of the ordinary Christian saints of that time, it was widely believed by pagans that Jesus was the most powerful among the gods.

Back then, everyone knew that if you took the Name of a supernatural being, you invited it to possess you and work through you. Any works of wonder or power you then did were those of the inhabiting spirit. You, and they, were inspired. It was to this belief that the Pharisees referred, when they argued (Matthew 9:34) that Jesus could cast out demons because he was himself possessed by the king of the demons.

So efficacious was Jesus as a wonder-worker, and so great was his candor about the fact that he was the Incarnate YHWH, that even during his lifetime his competitors in the wonder-working trade were invoking his Name.

So it is that we hear in the Gospel of Mark, in the verses immediately preceding those I just quoted:

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

– Mark 9:38-41

As Alan Roebuck and Bruce Charlton both say, the main thing is to take the Name. Ask, and you will be answered. But for Heaven’s sake, don’t take his Name in vain. Ask only if you want him to come. When he does, you will be on his side, whether you like it or not; and what you do will be for him, whether or not you mean it to be. It doesn’t matter, in respect to that, whether you are a Monophysite or indeed even an Arian. You won’t be able to contravene his Providence; the very notion is risible. You will become a more powerful instrument of his bright designs. Whether you are saved in the process, or damned, depends on your own good faith in calling him down. Either way, your virtues will be preserved, and your errors — moral, theological, prudential — calcined away.

All of us are thus salted with fire, sooner or later, willy nilly. He will come; has already come; is here right now. Today is the eschaton; it is already well underway. The only question is whether we agree with the simple fact of our ineluctable contribution to the effectuation of the Divine Will; whether the salt in us burns us up altogether, or enables us to rise.

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16 thoughts on “Take Not the Name in Vain

  1. “It doesn’t matter, in respect to that, whether you are a Monophysite or indeed even an Arian. ”

    Or a Protestant.

  2. The label now matters less. As someone who is reformed, I firmly beleive we should both reform our thoughts and our actions: that right practice matters. (There are huge differences between the theologies, but that is not the point I am making here).

    But I have more in common with a Roman who takes this catechism seriously and seriously practices the faith than the liberals in my own denomination. I am quite aware that some of the most anti Christian and syncrestic neopagan teaching occurs among liberal Catholics.

    You used to be able to safely worship by looking at the label. The Basicila of St Theresa had the Mass. The First Presbyterian Church used the book of Order, and St Thomas Aquinas the Book of Common Prayer.

    And most priests, ministers and pastors used to beleive what they said.

    We now all need discernment. Because the faithful are scattered among the liberal, zombie congregations. And the trick in the time of the living dead is to not be around them.

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  4. I wonder where “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” fits into this. Regardless of the heresy, whether big or small, the consequences in eternity are the same.

    • I wonder where “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” fits into this. …

      As a falsehood which directly contradicts Christ’s own teaching.

      Salvation does not come via affiliation with The One True Bureaucracy, but through the Blood of the Lamb.

      • Nulla salus extra corporam Christi. But what is there that exists outside the Logos? Where does his saving power fail to hold sway? Only “where” there “is” non-being. In him all beings move, and are. The synagogue (assembly, ecclesia) of the saints and angels extends wherever his Name is heard, wherever his Law is understood. The house of the Lord (kyriakos, kirk) is the whole Temple of the created orders, in which are many mansions.

        This does not, of course, mean that there is no such thing as a magisterial church. That’s a separate question.

      • Is salvation a consequence of membership in, or affiliation with, “the church” (whatever one means by that term), or is membership in the Body of Christ a consequence of salvation?

        By “the church”, most people, most of the time, mean some human organization — a bureaucracy with which one may or may not be affiliated. Sometimes, by “the church”, people mean “the Body of Christ”.

      • When people say “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus”, what they mean is “there is no salvation outside affiliation with this particular bureaucracy”. This is a falsehood.

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