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Monday, October 20, 2014

Gravy Train, Thy Name Is Fred Noltie

I should like subscribe by e-mail or something. How did I miss this most recent post? Was I asleep when they taught that section of the Catechism? [No, man. It's like Dukeman et al. say: no one reads the Catechism.--ed.] I aspire to! Somebody is!

I would look quizzically at the CINOs in college (let the reader understand) who told me they got "days" instead of absolution. They boasted about it. I never knew why until I heard the stories of St. John Vianney, who could read souls. He'd tell you he knows you're not repentant, so come back in 3 days. It's not even a hard bar to clear: if you want to be free of a "besetting sin," in the evangelical parlance, he'll absolve you, even if he knows you may need practice in virtue before it's gone.

Anyway, the Church is exceedingly merciful these days, but it's not "mercy" to say sin is no longer sin. I used to feel like some of my readers: call down fire from Heaven on all the sinners! But then, perfect Light revealed I'm not much to write home about. So I'm a huge fan of being asked if I've made peace with a certain sin, and if I intend not to fall into it again. This is that "discipline" people are always saying the Church lacks. Ahem.

Important Things Are Often Not Complicated

It's like this for a ton of things. In baseball, sometimes winning and losing is separated by a base hit up the middle, or a bunt. In theology, if your idea of the "Church" leads unquestionably to mutually exclusive doctrines concerning the same question coexisting, it must be false. That which Christ promised to protect is not the US Senate. I realize that this opens up unpleasant and scary possibilities, but trust me, you will not die, and Jesus is waiting for you.

11 vs. 15

Nope, it's not a Grand Slam bracket when Federer has a bad day; it's the dilemma that made me a Catholic. Here's the Westminster Confession Of Faith, Chapter XI, "Of Justification" in its entirety:

 I.Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[2] they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3]
II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.[5]
III. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father's justice in their behalf.[6] Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them;[7] and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;[8] and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace;[9]that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.[10]
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,[11] and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:[12] nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.[13]
V. God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;[14] and although they can never fall from the state of justification,[15] yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.[16]
VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.[17]

Right out of the gate, no infused righteousness. Fine. But if it is "no dead faith, but worketh by love," (true) WHO CARES? It's God's love, and God's work alone, allegedly. You don't need to get Him off the hook for a dead faith. You'd only say this because you were defensive about it, but logically, you don't need it. Hold that thought.

Here's Chapter XV, "Of Repentance Unto Life," in its entirety:

I. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace,[1] the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.[2]
II. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God,[3] purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.[4]
III. Although repentance is not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof,[5] which is the act of God's free grace in Christ,[6] yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.[7]
IV. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation;[8] so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.[9]
V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.[10]
VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof;[11] upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy;[12] so he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended;[13] who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.[14]

Articles III and V make no sense, and together with Ch. XI, art. I, form an irreconcilable dilemma: If the righteousness of Christ has already been imputed to me, how does God the Father even see my sins, much less expect repentance for them? And why would pardon be denied if repentance is lacking, if the sins have already been forgiven?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sola Scriptura And Perspicuity Denied, In One Sentence

It is not reasonable to hold set of doctrines x, in contradistinction to doctrines y, based upon a shared appeal to the Scriptures, in that the dispute alone demonstrates the appeal not dispositive.

In English: Neither man has any reason to believe that the Holy Spirit is not speaking to him. So either God is lying or in error, or this isn't the way to figure out what God said.

Pretty simple, but you actually have to consider in humility that the other guy might not be Satanically deceived, simply because he disagrees. If you see this in good faith often enough, you'll doubt not God, but this hermeneutical method.

I Could Just Water Stuff Down

I could make non-negotiables into adiaphora, and I could remain blissfully uncritical about my interpretations, and where I got them, in order to believe in perspicuity and Sola Scriptura. But my problem was, I believed that God couldn't lie, or err. Which means that, whether I believed my interpretation or another, I had to face the reality that Scripture would not adjudicate between them; each retains a plausibility structure which itself causes enough doubt that preference and cultural inertia are the only basis upon which to choose. I can think of nothing more unfitting for something that purports to be from Heaven. Ben Carmack, Gregory Shane Morris, and Tim Dukeman may not be willing to face the implications of it, but I couldn't ignore it. Sorry, guys.

The whole Reformation is self-refuting.

The Truth Is...

I'm not unsympathetic to arguments like this one. Indeed, the very fact that a phrase like "Cosby conversation" (where a black man speaks the truth about the harm black America does to itself, that a white person isn't allowed to say) exists shows that many have justly tired of the race grievance industry.

BUT...I happened to see that one David McCallum was exonerated of murder, after 29 years in prison. I hoped before I clicked that he was white. It happens sometimes, right? But no. Frankly, in that moment, it was not hard to imagine what much of black America was thinking: "Great. One guy. What about all the others? And the ones who died before justice was served?" I believe in the greatness of what America stands for; I believe it's the best to live and die on the Earth. I don't believe in that ideal enough to not look frankly at where things actually stand, as opposed to where we want them to be.

I believe in structural racism and white privilege. There are mountains of proof, for one thing. NBC (or one of the news organizations) runs an experiment. They have 3 white teenage boys deface a car. Most people walk by bemused; some talk to them, saying, "Just don't do it to my car; I can't afford it!" Three calls to police. One guy got angry about the immorality, and nearly came to blows with the kids. But generally, "not my problem." You know where this will go. NBC's got its black actors ready to go. They're going to run the same experiment. Before they begin, they receive 2 calls to police about the black actors sleeping in their own car. And how many calls to police did they receive? More than thirty. And no one was laughing this time. This wasn't south Alabama, by the way; it was outside Boston.

And simply to say it doesn't mean that some disgruntled Black Studies major with a major axe to grind isn't a whining ninny. There are plenty of people with no one to blame but themselves. Still, we need to begin with a frank recognition that Dr. King didn't wave a magic wand at the March on Washington.

Realizing that "Driving While Black" (for example) is a thing, and that I will never experience it doesn't mean that I hate myself, or all others like me. It means rather that justice is not zero-sum; I don't have to lose for my brother to win. But I may have benefited from lots of "winning" that never should have happened.

Just some thoughts.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I agree that "Kasper The Unfriendly Ghost" is funny, and does reflect the orthodox opinion of His Eminence's views regarding divorce and re-marriage, but it likely borders on a lack of charity. Let us instead pray His Eminence is merely misinformed, and that he changes course while the opportunity remains.

4. Anti-Catholic bigotry is real. It would simply merit a mention alongside anything that opposes Christ but for the fact that other Christians engage in it also! And to be direct, that's biting the (divine) hand that feeds you, whether you know it or not.

3. I try to practice a "gradualism" in eating my candy nowadays, with less success than in years past! Nomnomnom!

2. We need a win. Go Cards!

1. Dear Facebook,

I do not know why you have deactivated the great Bob Lozano's Facebook account, but his witty banter is comedy gold. You have made it appear that I enjoy talking to myself, and for this, you have earned my scorn. "If [Facebook] cannot accept that small weakness, then we will be forced, unhappily, to seek an alliance with someone like the Ferengi. [like LinkedIn or something]"

It's Not Always A Happy Story

If any of you listen to the Bobby Bones radio show in the mornings, you may know that their colleague Amy's mom is dying of cancer. I can't find the link right now, but suffice to say, it is heartbreaking. There may be a mercy in the time to say goodbye, but I look back now, and I'm glad I lost my dad suddenly, and before I was me. Sometimes certain people are just the kind who torture themselves with what they should have said and done; I am one of those people.

We have only one enemy greater than death, which is sin that kills our souls. Find true goodness and forgiveness in Christ and the Church while we have time. Death doesn't wait until all the fences are mended. We need to know mercy for the most important relationship of all.

This culture offers us easy believism, and a humanistic universalism, as if merely being human were enough. You probably know their magisterial declaration by heart: "He's in a better place." Don't mistake that human goodness which even the most evil cannot fully suppress by wickedness for a free pass to the joy of Heaven!

This stern warning probably doesn't apply to these poor people I mentioned. We pray for all involved, that their final days together are salted with the joy of redemption in Christ, the hope of the resurrection of the body, and the everlasting peace of fellowship with God.

Everybody Loves Reagan (Lk 11:47-54)

I chose a provocative title to grab you again. Maybe those of you not in the habit of reading the day's Gospel will do it, just to see what I say. Well, that's vain. Then again, this blog fits in that misty grey between public and private space.

I couldn't get pop culture out of my head as I read this. Do you remember that part in Les Miserables fairly early on, when the king gives the slain labor leader a state funeral, though he orchestrated his death? That's exactly what I imagine when I read Jesus here. There may have been a great many people who were fond of being God's chosen people, but wanted no part of what God requires. God seems to remind us again and again that His grace is for something; we don't get to hoard blessings, or, if you will, to bury talents.

Would I be angry if God showed mercy to the wrong sorts of people? Would I cling to some work of God in the past, or some privilege of mercy he granted, but not to Him? That's exactly what Jesus is asking here, and he's saying that's exactly what his adversaries have done. He had said, "In vain you search the Scriptures, thinking that by them, you have life...but Moses wrote about me." If your heart is soft, you're ready for whatever God wants to do. If not, His own Son becomes a problem that must be erased. He ended a powerful prophetic utterance about the destruction of the Temple (and the suffering of the people) in another part of this Gospel with these words: "All this shall come upon you because you did not recognize the moment of your visitation." There is no point in a cultural Christianity without Christ. He can see right through it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Want To Make This Clear

I studied political science as an undergraduate. Whether I learned anything is a debatable proposition, but what this area of study does is shed light on how (especially) our government works, or at least how it's supposed to work. If you study it long enough, you pick up an ingrained bias against reactionaries; you appreciate the system. You begin to understand why enemies deliver glowing tributes at an opponent's funeral. We say, "We've got a good system; we have reason to be proud, optimistic, etc."

I will never forget the day my favorite instructor put me in my place about Senator Charles Schumer. I was complaining rather vociferously about his obnoxious liberal-ness, and my instructor simply said, "Hey. Senator Schumer loves his country, and he serves his constituents well." (We can argue that supporting abortion doesn't serve anyone, but you get the idea.)

I am inclined and sympathetic to that species of person who tells everyone else to stop overreacting. Mark Shea, Alan Noble, *cough, cough*. In any event, I need to say something a bit jarring, so prepare yourself. If in fact this nation was and is the fullest expression of classical liberalism, it is doomed. It was probably doomed from the start. Classical liberalism is flawed in its very telos, the end it puts forward for mankind, whether as individuals, or in groups. Why? Because its notion of "freedom" is negative only; that is, it only concerns itself with freedom from coercion, primarily via the government. If you pardon the bad grammar, though, what is freedom for? What is the purpose for which my individual freedom ought not to be unduly limited? Here's the key, friends: If you don't posit Natural Law, which itself points toward man's destiny in union with God, it's only a matter of time before justice itself hangs by the thread of majority opinion. If "government shouldn't legislate morality," as we so often hear, it will impose its own. And a morality imposed by a government "by the people" will be as capricious and arbitrary as our vices will take us. You can't found a country that not only permits pluralism for the sake of peace, but elevates it to the highest virtue, and expect to survive.

It may do us some good to re-visit our founding documents, but it would be better to reconsider the basis of law itself. A great many people have yearned for the days when fiscal and social conservatives would re-unite. I maintain that the philosophical commitments that allowed them to separate may be the end of our society as we know it.

I Can't Help It

I told you so. It still doesn't mean the war was prudent or just in its waging, but it does in large measure vindicate George W. Bush, and his honesty. I await the progressive apologies with bated breath.

It's cool; when they paint Rubio as some dangerous reactionary, pining for the days of George W. Bush, I'll be happy to point out what they said then. [Didn't you vote in 2008 against the foreign policy of George W. Bush?--ed.] Yes. I thought we were on the wrong road, and have been for a long time. But for the record, I never believed the president had bad intent.

One weird aspect of this for a non-interventionist like myself is that I join with hawks in criticizing the waging of the war, in limiting it for PR purposes. A war more quickly concluded makes for the swift return of peace and justice. On the other hand, an unjust means cannot be used to achieve a just end (e.g., atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

I hate it when that happens.

That's The Craziest Thing I Ever Heard (Lk 11:37-41)

This reads as a typical tearing into the Pharisees at first, and we'd probably just let it wash over with little more than a self-satisfied chuckle, but for the fact that Jesus wants us to hear this, and apply it to ourselves some way. Look at v. 41; if you are a good little papist reading this liturgically, you don't have the verse number, but do yourself a favor and pick up a Bible. Now, this may be the only time that the New American Bible is superior for both accuracy and clarity, at least in English, to the RSV.

Look here at the NAB rendering: "But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Give alms?!? What kind of Mickey Mouse Pelagian operation is being run here? Indeed, what we might call the Crass Pelagian Reading says, "See? Salvation by works. You want to be saved? Try harder and do stuff." But wait! What sort of error did these Pharisees make? They strained out a gnat, and swallowed a camel. Same thing in Matthew 23, and other places. What sort of person gives alms without a thought? A person who is on fire with supernatural love. A merely religious person isn't going to sacrifice his own comfort for love of God and neighbor; he will rather be invested in making it appear so.

The profoundly Christian aspect of this is that if we find ourselves disinclined to give and serve in this way, we have to pray for the grace to do it, to live with open hands toward all blessings. We can't simply work up the courage to be "good people"; we have to taste the transforming love of God. While it is true that God requires us to give the alms, and not merely metaphysically suppose that Christ has given them for us, we are but creatures, and we have no capacity for friendship or similarity with God unless He makes it possible. Christ is not calling us to a religion of self-help, but in union with the Church, I have to call malarkey on that "imputation of Christ's active obedience" stuff, because frankly, Christ would rather have my active obedience.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Listen To Father

This. I have no further comment on it. I am too simple a man and theologian to waste time worrying about who said what, or to wring my hands, as they say, about dissenters (even if they are bishops). We have the Catechism (and numerous other good ones) if we ourselves have any doubt concerning what we are to believe and do. This had better be enough, because nothing more has been said.

Lord, we pray that you will give us loving hearts that welcome sinners, and that, by the burning fire of charity that wells up within us, we may be instruments of Your love for their conversion. Forgive us and teach us, we ask, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

When The Fascists Do Come...

They will be too stupid or evil to care about justification, Sola Scriptura, or whatever else. As I have said many times, they will ask us if we are with Jesus, or with them. And we'll die together. That will not relieve you of the right and the duty of reconciling with holy mother Church, but it probably will make it easier.

Turning from a "red" martyrdom to a "white" one, did you know that temptation is a participation in the sufferings of Christ? I might have known this intellectually, but not really. I found it highly encouraging, myself.

Know that if you sense a need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and go there, you may have failed--as we all do--but you are not a failure. In fact, you are on the road to success. Our adversary will tell you that you are hopeless, and that God does not love you. Anything to keep you from receiving the very mercy you want and need. Don't listen.

Monday, October 13, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You need to see "The Judge." Don't argue with me; just do it.

4. I don't think "legend" is too strong a word for Robert Duvall.

3. Those years that Robert Downey, Jr. stole from himself are being paid back now. I hope he is finding God's mercy as well.

2. Fathers, love your sons. You don't want to be played by Robert Duvall.

1. I am not alarmed or offended by jury nullification, for the record.

Carry Me On My Way

Sometimes, you stress that you've showed up late for God's mercy, but that's why it's mercy: it comes right on time. It is possible to presume upon it, but the way to do that is to live in such a way that there is no similitude between you and Him, as it is written, "if you love me, you will keep my commandments."

I do not act as though I have attained eternal life, but I hope for it. I am not the Bread of Life, but I am sustained by Him. I am neither innocent in myself, nor among the wicked. I am needy, but not alone.

Carry me on my way, Good Shepherd.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Won Me Over

Audrey Assad owns me, just so we are clear. I probably don't hate "Jesus records" as much as I say I do, but the test is this: Would I put this on and just sing with it? In the words of Winston, "Yes, man!" And not like, "I'm gonna be spiritual now." "Heart" deserves to be up there with "The Blue Album," "August And Everything After," and anything else my generation wants to name.

I'd say she got dropped by her Christian label because they are stupid. Shocking, I know.

Christian music generally finds a way to be phony and horrible, which is almost impossible. And if there's a way to turn "authenticity" into a vanity project, somebody will find it.

Play To Win

The most important part of the spiritual life, after the sacraments--given by the Word Himself--is prayer. If you don't pray, then the obedience of faith becomes a bunch of "Thou shalt not" statements, and you will fall. Just trust me on this.

But prayer is communion with God, and even if we are not possessed of a certain virtue, being with God is an invitation to delve deeper into the mystery of it. The vices are all on the surface; there is no mystery or beauty to them. It's like finding treasure in a field. Imagine that!

I can remember telling the Lord's priest, "Father, it's like I'm playing not to lose." He said what they always say: "You need to pray." If you want to play to win, pray.

I'm not going to tell you that I love praying. I hate praying. But if I am utterly convinced of God's goodness by faith, I will do it, believing that what I seek--who I seek--is waiting for me.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Why Put Up With Incurious Dullards?

Check your privilege.

I Agree Entirely

This.

Teach Us To Pray

"...as we forgive those who trespass against us." That's the tough part, eh? I'm not acutely aware of being trespassed against all the time. Frankly, if I am though, look out. I have still so much to learn.

The Lukan version of the Our Father was the Gospel last night. Aside from the odd translation, it struck me that we pray for what we do not have. To pray, "for we always forgive those indebted to us" is to pray that we would grow into that kind of faith and love.

There is a generosity of spirit, a magnanimity that comes when we taste the grace of God, as it is written, "Love keeps no record of wrongs." Please, Lord, give me that.