Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Point Is...

At no point, to use a mathematical analogy, does 0*any number= anything but zero. So, if you have/assume not only fallible humans, but sinful ones, ecclesial communities with derivative authority (and not divinely-protected authority) and Sola Scriptura (and perspicuity, which follows necessarily from it) you must assert that the Holy Spirit protects and teaches a person as he interprets the Scriptures, if you wish to distinguish human opinion from revealed truth. At that point, and not before, does Sola Scriptura become a problem. You can see with your own eyes that there is no dogmatic agreement there; in fact, an invisible "Church" to use Newman's phrase, is a theory to account for a difficulty. The problem is, it doesn't do it very well. It's a uniquely Protestant problem, not simply a point of Catholic apologetics. The Catholic apologetic point is to say, "You can't account for the doctrinal consensus--imperfect as it is-- in a principled way, via Sola Scriptura." But understand that it's a whole other discussion.

Even if I were to completely ignore the subjectivity challenge inherent in Sola Scriptura, that is, that in appealing to Scripture, each individual is appealing to his own interpretation of them (or to that of another individual's, which the person accepts derivatively) we absolutely cannot avoid the problem articulated by Fred Noltie. Read it. Read it all. The Reformed don't feel the problem right away; I'll leave you to do some soul-searching for the reasons. I digress.

Dogmatic relativism is a necessity, if the inability to form consensus on the content of revelation persists, and conceiving of the "Church" invisibly accomplishes that goal. But it fuels the further problem of knowing specifically the content of revelation. If the Catholic Church's dogma and authority is indentifiable (and asserted to be wrong, incidentally) the realization comes that all communities formed at the Reformation diverge from the Catholic Church at different places (and with each other). The obvious conclusion is that they cannot all be right in the same way at the same time. To suggest that they could is this relativism. The challenge is this: Why should I believe anything if I cannot be certain it came from God, and thus, is infallibly certain?

Here is the funny/sad part: You hear "tribalism" on the tongues of many Reformed evangelicals today, whether they got it from Dr. Anthony Bradley or not. But given the interpretive chaos of Sola Scriptura, isn't the "tribalism" objection tantamount to saying, "You refuse to relativize dogma in the same way I do"?


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Is Ecumenical Dialogue?

It sure seems like the Church does a lot of talking. Maybe too much, some fear. What is "ecumenical dialogue" anyway? I'm defining it this way:

An ecumenical dialogue is a bilateral conversation regarding the content or application of revealed truth, principally concerned with defining terms, for the purpose of reaching agreement in that revealed truth."

Appreciation is by no means excluded. But appreciation cannot be the end of dialogue, for appreciation is a rejoicing with and in the truth.

Begging The Question

What are "heresy," "orthodoxy," and "church," anyway? If you think we need to go back to the early Church, you are unwittingly saying, "I want everyone to be members of the Catholic Church." Otherwise, you are imposing ecclesiastical authority and the doctrines they articulated in an ad hoc fashion. Realize what a unique situation this creates: you might even know the Catholic Church is the source of these truths, but refuse the rest (and the jurisdiction). To be blunt about it, such a person could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14)

Most people can't be said to knowingly, willfully reject Christ and the Church in this way. They either dispute the Church's claim to be uniquely founded by Christ based on a false notion, or the data which would make the claim reasonable are presented inaccurately or incompletely.

In the most simple terms, my axioms can be summarized by two things: the faith must be received, and it must be infallible. Sola Scriptura violates both, because you can't know whether what you seem to submit to in Scripture is from the Holy Spirit, or from yourself. Or, shorter: whether you received or created the faith you profess. Infallibility is a unique characteristic of divine supernatural revelation: God cannot err, or lie. To surrender infallibility is to consent to atheism; the uniqueness of God's nature reflected in speech-acts distinguishes whatever is said from merely human opinion.

Yet wishing to preserve infallibility given Protestant assumptions (Sola Scriptura, perspicuity) causes some version of our beloved Noltie Conundrum: either my opponent (and the interpretive tradition he comes from) is not "saved," or God the Holy Spirit is lying/confused. One could intuitively decide that whatever we can't agree on isn't that important, anyway, but in that case, it isn't dogma. And practically, this is insane. This sounds good when the Papal Borg Cube is bearing down, but sooner or later, something has to matter to your eternal soul.

If "conservative" Protestantism is the selective application of Catholic authority and doctrine, then atheism is the logical end of "liberal" Protestantism's use of the human dimension to cast doubt on the divine origin of dogma.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Read Of The Day

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes good stuff a lot. I've linked her here on the blog, as you'll see on your right-hand side. One day, she will write something I hate, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess she's on the political "Left" somewhere, but that reality just leaves me saying, "Please keep talking; I'm still listening."

I love those people!

Of Course They Called It Quits

Whatever you may feel for another impossibly sexy person while you are on "The Bachelor," it won't be the things that make a marriage. Poor Juan Pablo and Nikki; they are chasing this cultural phantom called "love," when it's really lust, or at best eros, when even that must become a self-giving love rooted in the eternity of the Kingdom of God.

I watched a season, I'll admit. Brad and Emily. I'm still mad about it. Because that little girl Emily gave birth to had a raw deal when her father died in a plane crash. This plane crash. We owe it to our kids in justice that they grow up with Mommy and Daddy who love each other. Emily obviously wants, on some level, to make the best of it. But you can't really do that on a whim, on TV.

Jesus is so good to us, He gives us grace through the Church to accomplish what we ought to do anyway, in the Sacrament of Matrimony. That's change I can believe in.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I want to put some big speakers outside Rachel Maddow's house, and blast "Angry All The Time" by Bruce Robison. [OOOH, it's a Reverse Noriega!--ed.] A what? [You heard me. Just think about it.--ed.]

4. At the risk of objectification, she is really attractive. A guy who says, "You're beautiful when you're angry" is crazy. She might be cute when she's mildly annoyed, but true anger doesn't help anything.

3. I'm debating going back and listening to all the episodes of Drunk-Ex-Pastors, but then, I can't even be bothered to watch my Netflix shows, which I intentionally queued to watch.

2. My political crush is Christine O'Donnell. Yeah.

1. Pray for a thing I want to do. No other details.

I Believe In Indoctrination (Drunk Ex-Pastors, Episode 13)

If you don't start with something that cannot be questioned, you're a bad parent. No; I will force them to memorize things; I will have them learn it and memorize that Catechism. And the saints. Kids need things like that. Like you need to wear bike helmets.

Christian at the end starts to make sense, because he's talking about "motives of credibility." But "question everything" is dumb. No one does that, and no one should.

Alan Noble, Call Your Office!

I'm still annoyed about Derek Rishmawy's asinine Tweet from yesterday, something about Reformation Day, yay! because we don't need indulgences, blah, blah, blah. Fine, if you are moved to dissent from the Catholic Church, do it. But at least get it right: Indulgences can't grant pardon for sins. They never could. You could read whole volumes of Reformed dogmatics, but you can't survey the official Catechism of more than 1 billion Christians for 10 minutes? But I get it: It's more about putting on a good show for your friends. Well, you're on notice. I'm watching.

I hope you had a good "holy day" celebrating a divorce. How very postmodern.

Now, And At The Hour Of Our Death

It seems to me that death is all around us. It's almost absurd that we always act surprised. We do, though. Everybody's got those things, those sins, which seem like a little harmless fun. But what if you died before you finished reading this sentence? What would be the verdict of your life?

The truth is, we're all Brittany Maynard (Diaz). We're all Oscar Taveras. It invites us to ask and answer the great question in life, posed by the great American philosopher, Scott Stapp: "What's this life for?"

If you don't know, it's time to find out. We were not put here for ourselves; God put us here, to live for Him, for love of Him, and others. We don't have the right to live forever, but we have the opportunity. Jesus Christ died so that our sins may not be held against us. Ever since the message of his salvation has gone out, God has been reconciling the world to Himself in one body, the Church. The Catholic Church.

It is not enough to know that Jesus died for you; you must be baptized into His death; it must be yours. You must feed on the true Bread which came down from Heaven. When the children of God confess their sins, they know it is Christ who pardons, as it is written: "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Don't waste your life. Don't waste a moment.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Breath Of Life

"You've gotta shorten your swing!" I would yell at my TV nearly every time Oscar Taveras took his swings at the plate. A good hitter needs to get his hands through the ball as quickly as possible. Pitchers love long swings; long swings have many holes. I was tough on Oscar; St. Louis has astronomically high expectations for its team and players, and he was no exception.

But in that dugout, on this team, you could see the kid grow. You know that this is the place to fail, while you learn to succeed. When you pull on that uniform, you join a huge family. Oscar is family; the wins and losses don't matter as much as playing with heart and guts. All the way to the end.

The family that lives and dies with the count and the score is reminded that at the end of the day, it's only baseball. If you knew you had hours or minutes to live, what would you do? How would you be remembered?

I pray that in those final moments, Oscar and his girlfriend knew true joy, and that, by the mercy of God, only those who remain taste sorrow.

A Thought

Romans 9:21-23: "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory..."

2 Timothy 2:20-22: "In any great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart."

It seems that the second text precludes interpreting the first in the manner of Calvinists. For if St. Paul means to put forward the metaphor to describe a salvation that is only passively received, why does he suggest that a person could go from one kind of vessel to another in the latter text?

A Consideration

John 6:44: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." John 12:32: "And after I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." If the Reformed wish to be consistent, it would seem they should be universalists.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Reformed Catholicity" Is A Word-Game For Smart People With Too Much Time

I would rather someone pick up a Bible and say, "Based on this string of passages, your doctrine is wrong here, here, and here" than someone who wants to claim the universal faith AND the right to interpret the Bible his own way. If you're Reformed, you're not Catholic. To say that you are truly "catholic" is a claim, which (blessedly) is made by both the Reformed and the Catholic Church. But you have to give each group credit: they want unity as far as possible, but they don't pretend it's closer than it is. They don't pretend that the differing dogmas are just semantics.

But that's why the historical challenge is so devastating from the Catholic Church: She points back in history and says, "To the extent we agree, was it not formed here at the Council? Was not the Holy Father the head of the apostolic college even then? Are not the heroes of the early battles in the visible Church Catholic heroes?" Biblicism cannot account for this rule of faith. You can agree with the rule of faith using your Bible; you can't create it. Biblicism can't account for the Bible; how can it account for the true faith?

One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time. Against this rock Sola Scriptura must be dashed. The one who dances on both sides thinks he does well, but he merely founds his own heresy.

5 Thoughts While Listening To Michael Bolton

5. This cat could top the charts with "Happy Birthday To You." Man alive.

4. Just so we understand each other, there is a 0% chance I'm not buying the new Streisand "Partners" album. Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Lionel, and John Legend. Are you kidding? She could have slept through the entire album, and it would still rule.

3. He doesn't know how he's supposed to live without you, but man, it sounds good.

2. I don't know what the Isley Brothers were upset about. "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" was a huge hit for Bolton, and a much better version. They sued it out of existence, even though they'll get royalties until their grandkids are 97. You make pop music, not life-saving drugs. Get over yourself.

1. Eeek, what an awful song! I can't believe Bolton lost the case! Nothing alike.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"anywhere in a Catholic rite" (CCC, 2180)

I take "Catholic rite" to mean, "in communion with the Bishop of Rome." Otherwise, the Sunday obligation is not fulfilled by a presence at even a true Eucharist celebrated by those not in communion with him, unless no other option exists.

That's my read of it, unless I'm missing something. Feel free to attend an Orthodox liturgy; just go to a Catholic one, also.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I'd say the Incarnation proves God is pretty "man-centered," but that's just me.

4. You could just say, "I don't believe you are saved, and thus, I accord your Scriptural arguments no consideration." It would save me time.

3. The logical consequence of having a makeshift "magisterium of scholarship" is being at the mercy of majority scholarly opinion, as in the opinion that John 8:1-8 isn't really in the Bible, or Mark 16:9-20. Put this in your, "Conservative Protestantism is liberal Protestantism waiting to happen" file.

2. I could have gone to worship with the Lutherans (or the soon to be formed Reformed) or to a Catholic Mass, in 15-something. What I can't get you to understand, Reformed Biblicist Guy, is exactly the power of this question: What makes you right, and the papist wrong? It does no good to point back from today to Calvin or whomever, because in that time, all options are live. The question of authority is ultimately, the only one that matters.

1. If the Church hierarchy is corrupt, the question turns to revelation. If something is supernaturally revealed, any number of grievous failures to abide by its dictates do not invalidate it. This is what so many fail to realize: The (Protestant) Reformation inaugurated a new method of ascertaining and receiving revelation. That's why the claim that nothing really changed from the early Church in the work of the "Reformers" is untenable. The deposit of faith and the manner of knowing it would not change, no matter what moral turpitude ensued. So, why the new doctrine? If the new contentions are correct, one is placed in a tenuous position regarding earlier truths articulated by the older means. I feel like Devin Rose has already said this. Buy his books! I'm sure they are great, if I ever get around to reading them.

Outside A State Of Grace, And Fear

I'm in this debate forum with Catholics and Reformed, and the Reformed keep saying, "Catholic doctrine compels one to conclude that one could and does go from regenerate to unregenerate and back again. And that's no way to live." Let me tell you about that.

I would not say I know for certain that I'd have gone to Hell if I died. God's mercy is...

But I know the worst part of judging yourself unworthy to receive the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, is that when you're really stuck, you don't care. Lesser sins really don't do what the grave ones do. You can experience what it means to cut yourself off from God. There is no doubt of it; we are different people at times like that. You lose the direction of your life; you sense yourself choosing against what you know to be true, because something earthly is preferable, for any number of reasons.

But mercy comes again. God says, "Hey! This isn't what you want. This isn't who you are. Come back!" Being in a state of mortal sin (or quite probably so) is like cutting off a dear friend for no good reason. You just ignore them, as if they don't exist. Except the friend is God. One other thing: It's way worse than giving people time and space; that happens. That's OK. But if you are hating God, there is no talking; there is no future, and no past. This is why people persisting in grave sin stop going to Mass: nowhere does God speak louder (or softer, as the case may be) than in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and they know it.

The only thing I'm afraid of is turning into the guy who doesn't care to hear God's voice anymore. That is Hell on Earth, a foretaste of damnation, when Love will fall silent forever.

I Get That It Gets You, Leticia

I enjoyed it. But then, I like pop, and I like Madonna, in spite of herself. There is something about "faith and sex and God," as Counting Crows say. McLaren is right about that, even if he doesn't know much of what he speaks.

This isn't the first time I've read your blog, by the way. If you are a "crazy-face," we need a few more. Grace teaches us the twin truth that we have no right to be in communion with God, but here we are, provided that we continue in His kindness. I come to know that this continuing does not consist in effort, but in giving and receiving. If it had been said that we are passive in the reception of grace by various dissenters, its kernel of truth is that grace is not native or natural to us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Read This. Seriously.

Of course, we Catholics don't believe "religion" and "politics" are like the potatoes and lima beans on the plate of life which should never touch. Buahaha! But seriously, someone have the stones to challenge the Johnson Amendment! So long as we weren't lurching toward tyranny, it'd be fun to watch avowed secularists and relativists (attempt to) explain why their morality should be imposed on churches and ecclesial communities, even if those groups flouted the prohibitions of the law.

What inherent authority (beyond good old monopolies on coercive force) would sanction the taxation of groups who refused to comply? Just dare them to take away the tax exemption. What common good justifies the restriction of political activities by churches? I can't think of one. There is a difference between accepting pluralism to an extent for peace, and making pluralism the highest civic virtue.

You probably know for whom your pastor voted. You know who he might suggest if you asked. What's the point of this charade of pretending we're achieving some good by forcing them to stay out of it?

Theologians Speak Heresy

Shocking, I know. Yet it's not only because they are wrong--though they might be, depending on the context--or that they lack any shred of living faith in any form, though of course, that's entirely possible. There are other contexts where you need the freedom to be wrong, to consider even the logical outcome of the most odious theological conclusions. Speculative theology, for one. So, I think this is the main reason the Holy Father was so...conciliatory toward positions I'm sure he could readily identify as "temptations" or even occasions for sin. He doesn't know precisely why they are being offered in any one case, and even if he did, he doesn't ever close the door on an opportunity for conversion, even a bishop! When we say "conversion," by the way, we mean the ongoing process of being conformed to the image of Christ. So, a justified person undergoes conversion; an unjustified person certainly could. Obviously, I was confused by this for a long time, as a former Reformed person. But in Catholic thought, justification and sanctification are two different terms to talk about the same thing. They are not synonymous exactly, because you are talking about holiness from two different directions.

Here's the Holy Father's closing address.

Personally, I'm excited. There are a lot of people who doubted that he would even speak such words. In my opinion, "faithful" in (conservative) American parlance means, "not an abortionist, not a hippie, not an NPR listener, not a Mass-skipper." There's some good things in there, and there's some cultural preferences in there, too. Anyway, that isn't what it really means. And some of those "faithful" need some more faith. Are they just mad because Burke wasn't elected pope? This is the successor of Peter, man. We're not talking about the GOP primary. Rick Santorum will never be pope, God love him. Just because you meet somebody "faithful", it doesn't mean that their judgments in what the pope/Church should do or say are right. Just sayin.' For the record, I love Rick Santorum. Actually, I kinda like NPR, too, in small doses. I'm still wondering why Raddatz is getting all this noise for bad moderation of the VP debate in '12; I loved it. I digress.

Take a deep breath. Read a good catechism. Remember that JP II kissed a Koran, and Paul VI was like the Dwight Eisenhower of popes, and not in a good way. Both those cats are definitely in Heaven now. [You need to stop mixing metaphors.--ed.] I know. I'm sorry, but not.