Monday, November 24, 2014

Messing With That Cardinal Is A Bad Plan

A Catholic Cardinal, to the leaders of Geneva, and John Calvin, in 1539:

Let us here suppose two persons, one of each class, that is, from each road, let them be placed before the dread tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, and there let their case be examined and weighed, in order to ascertain whether a condemnatory or a saving sentence can justly be pronounced. They will be interrogated whether they were Christians. Both will say that they were. Whether they properly believed in Christ? Both will, in like manner, answer yea. But when they will be examined as to what they believed, and how they believed, (for this investigation, respecting right faith, precedes that concerning life and character,) when a confession of right faith will be exacted of them; he who was educated in the lap and discipline of the Catholic Church will say: -
"Having been instructed by my parents, who had learned it from their fathers and forefathers, that I should, in all things, be obedient to the Catholic Church, and revere and observe its laws, admonitions, and decrees, as if Thou, Thyself, O Lord, hadst made them, and perceiving that almost all who bore the Christian name and title in our days, and before it, and followed thy standards far and wide over the world, were and had been of the same opinion, all of them acknowledging and venerating this very Church, as the mother of their faith, and regarding it as a kind of sacrilege to depart from her precepts and constitution, I studied to approve myself to Thee by the same faith which the Catholic Church keeps and inculcates. And though new men had come with the Scripture much in their mouths and hands, who attempted to stir some novelties, to pull down what was ancient, to argue against the Church, to snatch away and wrest from us the obedience which we all yielded to it, I was still desirous to adhere firmly to that which had been delivered to me by my parents, and observed from antiquity, with the consent of most holy and most learned Fathers; and although the actual manners of many prelates and ecclesiastics were such as might move my indignation, I did not, therefore, abandon my sentiments. For I concluded, that it was my duty to obey their precepts, which were certainly holy, as Thou, God, hadst commanded in Thy Gospel, while Thou behovedst to be the only Judge of their life and actions; and, especially, since I was myself stained by the many sins which were manifest to Thee on my forehead, I could not be a fit judge of others. For these sins, I now stand before Thy tribunal, imploring not strict justice, O Lord, but rather Thy mercy and readiness to forgive."
Thus will this one plead his cause.
The other will be summoned, and will appear. He will be commanded to speak. Supposing him to be one of those who are, or have been, the authors of dissension, he will thus begin his oration: -
"Almighty God, when I beheld the manners of ecclesiastics almost every where corrupt, and saw the priests, nevertheless, from a regard to religion, universally honored, offended at their wealth, a just indignation, as I consider it, inflamed my mind, and made me their opponent; and when I beheld myself, after having devoted so many years to literature and theology, without that place in the Church which my labors had merited, while I saw many unworthy persons exalted to honors and priestly offices, I betook myself to the assailing of those who I thought were by no means pleasing and acceptable to Thee. And because I could not destroy their power without first trampling on the laws enacted by the Church, I induced a great part of the people to contemn those rights of the Church which had long before been ratified and inviolate. If these had been decreed in General Councils, I said we were not to yield to the authority of Councils; if they had been instituted by ancient Fathers and Doctors, I accused the old Fathers as unskilful and devoid of sound understanding; if by Roman Pontiffs, I affirmed that they had raised up a tyranny for themselves, and falsely assumed the name of Vicegerents of Christ: by all means, in short, I contended that all of us, thy worshippers, should shake off the tyrannical yoke of the Church, which sometimes forbids meats, which observes days, which will have us to confess our sins to priests, which orders vows to be performed, and which binds with so many chains of bondage men made free, O Christ, in Thee; and that we should trust to faith alone, and not also to good works, (which are particularly extolled and proclaimed in the Church,) to procure us righteousness and salvation - seeing, especially, that thou hadst paid the penalty for us, and by thy sacred blood wiped away all faults and crimes, in order that we, trusting to this our faith in thee, might thereafter be able to do, with greater freedom, whatsoever we listed. For I searched the Scriptures more ingeniously than those ancients did, and that more especially when I sought for something which I might wrest against them: Having thus by repute for learning and genius acquired fame and estimation among the people, though, indeed, I was not able to overturn the whole authority of the Church, I was, however, the author of great seditions and schisms in it."

Mark Shea Love-Fest, Volume 5000

I love Mark Shea. I just do. I'm sorry, but not. I have a buddy on Facebook who was a student of Dallas Willard, and he always peppers my News Feed with the awesomest things Dr. Willard ever said. After I read the Christianity Today piece on Willard, he made me intensely curious, and appreciative at the same time. Barth is like that, too. You love him, and you don't know why. Well, I know why: because he loves Jesus. And that's no small thing, even if a man holds ideas that are heretical, and even dangerous. I digress.

This poor DeWaay guy can't do anything, if his people ask anything outside his little box, except to shame them. This is the byproduct of fideism: the basic idea that divine truth needs no evidence, no proof, just a leap in the dark. It might even be true to say that I explored Catholic claims because "Because we say so/the Bible says so" wasn't good enough anymore.

Paging Christian Kingery! This seems like the beginning of a worthy epistemic discussion, one that I'll bet I can start, but am unqualified to participate in.

Men Are Pigs

Got your attention, didn't I? I don't mean to say there are no good men. I should hope not! I expect myself to be one. The thing is, though, we are selfish trolls, by default. That's the only way a starlet can say things like, "He'll either look at porn, or you" and no one really flinches. Women can lust, too. But I think we know that we live in a society that tolerates and embraces imbalanced male sexuality.

What I'm really sick of--beyond myself--is the attitude that we are entitled to sexual gratification. Dudes, that is garbage. God will send me a wife if he thinks it's good, and not before. He's calling me and you to chastity in any case. What is "chastity," anyway? It's the integration of our sexuality into the whole of our person, and to the plan of God as a whole. Plain English: Sex doesn't exist for its own sake. It has a place, and that place isn't at the top of the pyramid. That means that the girl you "have to have" doesn't owe you her heart, or her body. This also means that it's not her fault that you are sexually frustrated, or that the world hasn't affirmed you as a sexual being. Read that sentence twice, my brothers. I wouldn't type it if it didn't need to be said.

I know how it is, man. I've been "in love" so many times, it scares me. I'm just a lover, man. I can't be anything other than what I am. But you aren't "friends" with a woman until you can look straight in her eyes and say, "I'd love you forever, but if that's not the best for you, I'll do whatever else you need" and mean it. The first part is a thing you usually don't need or get to say, and that's OK. Your female friends probably know, if you've said or done other things to indicate your intentions. God-willing, you're only getting one shot at this. You're only going to marry one woman. That means you'll see the most incredible, amazing women marry other men, or no one at all. She's not yours until she is. I don't give a d*** what the culture says about it.

Your job at all times as a gentleman is to make the women you encounter feel comfortable and safe, even if one woman in particular doesn't deserve it, or makes it very arduous. It's not for the sake of self-image; it's for the sake of God, and the good of everyone. Feminism teaches women that this is outmoded, evil, and backwards. But is there anyone more unhappy than a woman in the grip of feminism? And is there anything more contemptible than a man in its grip, attempting to curry favor with its angry, confused female adherents?

It's our fault that they ever associated it with equality at all. Our failure to be the kind of men that women can respect. She may be smarter than you. She may make more money. But on her best day, she wants and needs to know that you're there, and you've got whatever it is under control. Romantic notions? I think not. Not from what I've seen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ The King

The Gospel made me cry. Matthew 25:31-46. It's true that it's a challenge, but the real test is not the works in themselves; it's to give yourself over to Christ's love. He doesn't just offer a giant cosmic hug; His love is his power to bring everything into subjection. When we step forward to participate in that re-ordering, we say what side we're on for the day when he reigns in triumph.

That triumph is a triumph in love, but make no mistake: the King has no rivals. They will be won over, willingly or not.

Perhaps we think God's love is a hippie-circle at Woodstock, but Jesus isn't a buddy; he's the ruler of the entire universe. There is no term, no election, and no opinion polls. The Mighty One will do what he wants. Choose this day whom you you will serve.

We therefore can't simply read this or preach it, and say, "Do stuff!" The doing or not has a personal dimension; that Person is Jesus.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Men Do Not Understand Women, But...

Women don't understand men, either. Not even close. They think they do; they might even swap vainglorious magazine articles about how much they do, but the truth is, unless we are comparing your average single young woman to a complete oaf and scumbag, the man understands way more. You think I'm crazy, perhaps, but I'm not.

My favorite absurdity about women is how they handle romantic attention. I'm taking a risk here, because I know women read this blog. Fair enough. I figure I'm single anyway; it doesn't get "worse" from here, for me. (Do not write me extolling the virtues of celibacy and other forms of special dedication to God; thank you. I am not denigrating it; I am single, knowingly. Meaning that I am treating it like a season for me, and a hard one, at that.)

Anyway, the silliest thing I ever have seen is when young women act surprised when a "really good friend" expresses romantic interest, they rebuff him, and then they have the gall to wonder why it "isn't like it was before." They'll even ask, "Why can't we just go back to how it was?" And this is moronic. Why? Because we are men; we are not built this way. At all. Does this mean they can't be friends? Of course not. But it means if you do, you had a really good base of friendship to start, such that he's comfortable and safe.

I'm not saying that he gets a free pass to be rude, cruel, or disappear forever. But you know what? It's totally goofy to wonder why he's put some distance there that wasn't there before. He's protecting himself, and you. A good man realizes that he can be a selfish, manipulative troll if he allows himself. He prevents this by sacrificing some closeness if necessary. If it doesn't change that much, that's an exceptionally good man; he's got selflessness coming out his ears. Here's the key, though: he's not a bad man if he can't do it. Absent any other behavior, this would be wholly unreasonable to expect. You will not be best friends with a guy who loves you, unless you love him back. I'm sorry, but not.

I'm not saying that the lady should be subject to repeated advances under the guise of "friendship"; this is manipulative and terrible. But short of that, for the love of all that is good, give the guy a break. If he's a great dude, he'll come to your wedding; he'll even be happy. If he cries a little when no one is around, try to understand. He's only a man, and he's doing his best. We do not default back to friendship; it was hard-won, and it is not easily kept. I really believe this is where homosexuality has really fouled things up between men and women; the gay guy that "totally gets you" is an aberration; he's not the ideal man; he's the epitome of its opposite, with all due respect.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Gateway, Part 2

I wholeheartedly grant that even a large preponderance of the so-called Reformers did not intend to be the arbiters of their own rule of faith, via Sola Scriptura. I grant that many of them, and the spiritual descendants after them, do not grant that they are biblicists. They believe that they have a healthy respect for tradition, and the accumulated weight of considered reflection over centuries. But what a person believes concerning himself, and the reality of what is, under the light of logic may well be different. Who is the arbiter of what Scripture says, if the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not? It would seem, quite frankly, that any alternate authorities do not function as true arbiters, if indeed that purported authority over the man is predicated on his prior agreement that it agrees with him. At this point, many will object, saying that no adherent of the Reformed or Lutheran (or other) system submits to himself, but rather, the Word of God. Yet it is the failure to distinguish between divinely-revealed things, and fallible human opinion that is most troubling. At this, many have protested, believing that the Catholic relies on a belief that the Scriptures are opaque, and not even profitable for reading. Nonsense.

I believe rather that even the most educated Protestant does not see the magnitude of the dogmatic variance that Sola Scriptura and its attendant ecclesiology has caused. He can't, really, because doing so would lessen the credibility of his claim that his particular set of doctrines x is divinely revealed truth. As Mr. Noltie is always quick to point out, every interpreter believes that his system--though acknowledged fallible in the abstract--is the most accurate reflection of the "plain" Scriptures. Might I suggest, however, that choosing between doctrinal positions in the absence of infallible certainty is most foolish? That certainty is the consequence of divinely protected infallibility. That infallibility marks the distinguishing feature of dogma versus pious opinion. In even the best form of Sola Scriptura, there is no systemic or methodological way to distinguish revealed truth from human opinion. There is no principled reason to assent to any particular set of doctrines over another, because it has no discernible advantage--that is, bearing the mark of divine origin--over another.

Preference and kinship are not sufficient reasons to assent to any doctrine. Thus, if an interpretive method leaves one with only preference and kinship to commend a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, this indicates that both the doctrine, and the method of discerning it, did not come from God, but from myself, or another human. I gave up being Protestant and Reformed because I could not know whether what I believed was actually true, and from God. That's what any Christian would, and should, do. You cannot lay your whole being down, you cannot preach to sinners good news to save their eternal souls, if you do not know that God said it. There cannot be half-way heralds of Jesus Christ. Ever. Anywhere. Martyrs do not die for "probably true." If, despite our best efforts, Sola Scriptura leaves us confused in the particulars, searching for the common denominator--and the lowest one, at that--and longing for a unity that can never be realized, maybe it's a bad principle.

I need to be clear: I never was tempted with agnosticism or atheism. Not even a little. But when we accept our disunity as Christians as something normal and unavoidable, we obscure Him who is Truth itself. We do not need to pursue unity for its own sake, but for Him, and his loving intention for the world. In a funny way, it was like playing hide-and-seek with Jesus. I found him hiding in plain sight, behind the Barque of Peter.

5 Thoughts For Tonight

Just a note: This will be Spurs and basketball related, because--aside from the continued good health of a struggling friend, and the Good News of Christ--today wasn't all that great for the world, though I have no personal complaints. Without further ado:

5. Dude, the Cleveland Cavaliers are legit. It's time to face up to the fact that LeBron James makes any team he is on into an acute threat for the NBA championship. And not because he does it all; he facilitates the flourishing of his teammates' talents. I am neither pro or anti-LeBron; I just know what I see. "King James" is not only arguably the best player in the game, he's one of the best ever. At 29.

4. I grant you that I am an avowed fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Because of this, you are free to dismiss what I will say. The Spurs are the most complete team I have ever seen. There is scarcely a meaningful distinction between a starter and a bench player on the Spurs. It's not an admirable goal, a mirage cultivated to create sympathy. They really play that way, and it breeds authentic sympathy and admiration among friends, and grudging respect among foes.

3. Tim Duncan: 19 points, 10 rebounds. Double digits in 2 categories, again. He's 38. He should be doing farewell tours, not crushing dreams. If they win again this year, the man deserves to be in the "Jordan conversation" as the best ever at any position. Yes, I said it, and I won't take it back.

2. Duncan, revisited: When Gregg Popovich, the league's best coach this side of Phil Jackson and the definition of "stern" and "dispassionate," says plainly, "I feel like we all work for Timmy," maybe we have underrated this guy the whole time. Not that he minds.

1. Hilarious. But that's Duncan. Even his hotshot nickname ("The Big Fundamental") sounds like a coach's pregame speech. This dude is one of the best ever, and he acts like the bench kid who slaps the floor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amen, I Say!

Oh, how funny and obviously adorable is this woman? Learning how much Jesus loves her, and a degree from Mizzou to top it off! Be still, my heart! [The grammar fascism would reach unprecedented and unhealthy levels between the two of you.--ed.] True story. She'd also get around to saying I'm not much of a writer; I like starting sentences with conjunctions, and I overuse commas. I blame some Oxford dude, and Mrs. Conway. [Those grammar lessons still give me nightmares.--ed.] Dude, I know. Like being Catholic or something. [Zing!--ed.] I'm in the club now; I say what I think.

The Gateway

I've said eleventy thousand times that the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded rests on The Three Things. If you're going to doubt it, it'll be about these things. Fair enough.

But what is much more sporting fun is to ask your friendly neighborhood papist and convert, "Just what in blazes made you consider it in the first place?" I'm so glad you asked! We could talk for hours about the unworkability of Sola Scriptura, and the attendant Noltie Conundrum, but it doesn't quite make it plain. What does is this: I realized that so-called "derivative authority" was a sham, that its logical system makes a distinction without a difference. I'm saying that everyone who has placed all their eggs in the basket of drawing a distinction between "Solo" and Sola Scriptura are playing mind-games with themselves, because it isn't there. If Sola Scriptura is unworkable, AND the ecclesiastical authorities set up subsequently have no real power, you're almost Catholic by default.

Christianity must be a faith received. It has been, and always will be. I now define Sola Scriptura as, "the rejection of ecclesiastical authority based on an individual interpretation of Scripture." I will grant you that the protestant leaders may not, as we say, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, in the immortal words of Spock, "What you want is irrelevant; what you've chosen is at hand!" I do not envy those who remain in such communities as the principle continues making a mockery of a principled theological-dogmatic continuity with traditional doctrine and morality. In one sense, authority is like a binary switch: you either have it, or you don't. If you've conceded that you do not, you can clothe it in the fine-sounding words of submitting to "God's holy word," but somebody is calling that bluff. Bet on it.

The only remaining question is whether the Catholic claim is writing checks you can't cash. But this is where it gets truly amazing: you cannot account in a principled way for the faith of the ancient Church without the Catholic Church! We're not wishing in vain for certitude, or jumping at high-sounding promises; we can see the truth of them in the faith of our heroes. It's either a true claim, or Jesus didn't come at all. It gets that stark. It's good to get there, because a Christian knows what to do. If I gotta choose between the barque of Peter, and unbelief, then bring me that popish Mass without delay!

Love Is The Answer (Again)

I love that song. Most people just chalk it up to my love of (in their view) terrible music, but the truth is that I love that song for a very specific reason. If you knew the intensity of my fight with God in '09-'11, you might get an idea. It's not going to win any theology prizes, OK? Sometimes, it sounds vaguely Arian. But Dan Seals will tell you, that song helped him become a Christian in 1996.

I didn't know that song until 2010. It came at the perfect time for me. I'm the kind of person who, for whatever reason, makes the simple things really hard at times. That's what I was doing in 2010. The plain message is this: Sometimes, you have to let go, and trust Jesus. It doesn't mean we stop thinking, or not care about Truth. But He is that Truth, and the plainest thing I know about Jesus is that His Name is Love.

Tell you what: I dare you to take the chorus of this song, and make it a prayer: "Light of the world, shine on me; Love is the answer. Shine on us all; set us free; Love is the answer." It's not proper for the funeral Mass, I grant you. But some time that day or the days following, if I die, I want people to hear this song. Thank you, Todd Rundgren, for writing this song.

Moreover, the acoustic version that Mr. Seals did on "In A Quiet Room, Volume 1" is truly haunting and fantastic. Some people don't like catchy songs or drum machines, so this version will go down easier. While I'm here though, please know that I would have paid at least eleventy billion dollars to hear George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley do a version. I digress.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You'll have to pardon the rudeness, but I find the mere suggestion that a Reformed seminarian, with his "literal" interpretation, is a better interpreter of Scripture than St. Anthony of the Desert hilarious.

4. And yes, that means that "Saints" are a real thing.

3. Which means that growth in both sanctification and justification is both possible, and necessary.

2. If that sounds weird or impossible to you, you do not yet grasp the Catholic position well enough to even refute it.

1. When the Catholic Church says someone is justified, that doesn't mean they were "declared" innocent; that means they are in fact innocent.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Love Like Jesus": A Subtle, Pernicious Form Of Dogmatic Relativism

Usually when people say, "I just want to love Jesus, and love like He loves" they do not mean they could do more works of mercy. We need to understand that, and see it for what it is: it's a cry for help. Sola Scriptura has done its nasty work, and the inability to know and come to agree on what Jesus has in fact said has reached its full flower. This person quite literally does not know what he or she is to believe. They've done the best they can to relativize whatever they could not fix, and here they are. Here's the thing, though: If you're going to even attempt to do or be anything like Jesus, you're already pretty far into the narrative of God's People. You've already accepted the authorities that gave us that story.

The Church was meant to be as visible as Israel was, and more so.

The New Covenant is the incorporation of the Gentiles into the People of God, which Christ--the Messiah, the Son of God and son of David, has willed to call His own Body, of which He is the Head. The story has not changed; it's only gotten more glorious and gracious. In light of this, the case for the Church, the Catholic Church, to be that which Christ founded, gets easier to make. Even in those most fractious times of the Old Testament, God was still speaking to His people. People have always gone their own way, even in very high places. Yet if you wanted to know what God said, you could always know. That's still true today. Some say that we have granted an invisible Church while denying it in practice. I remind them not to equate a real but imperfect communion with full communion. Also, it would be a mistake to equate the invisible workings of grace with an evidence for the fundamental nature of the Church.

It is a better place to be, by far, to be some sort of "confessional" non-Catholic with a whole raft of theological objections and other points to make. But even still, the biblical narrative as one of faithfulness to His people challenges the necessary counter-narrative he must hold, which is one where God hides and even deceives, until the "right" people come along.

To put it cleverly, what benefit in following Jesus would there be, if Jesus is not Jesus? There is no "basic Christian message." The things we must believe are necessarily connected to who Jesus is. To whom has Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom?