Sunday, June 05, 2011

My abiding passion, especially now, is Scripture. A love of Scripture is the great gift from my former Reformed heritage. Catholics need to learn to not be afraid of it, to read it as much as they can, and to memorize it. It's not a Protestant thing, it's a Catholic thing. At least it's supposed to be. You want to reach Protestants? Know the Scriptures. We Catholics are in the community within which it is rightly interpreted, anyway. What have we to fear? Nothing. [Then you have other books to read.--ed.] I know. All in good time. Christians have 3 main choices, of course: Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. Within that Protestant umbrella certainly there are more choices, but 'Protestant' presupposes a reasonably standard historical, exegetical, and theological approach. The challenge I want to issue to those dear readers is this: Have you begun to grapple with the reality of Protestant disunity and its implications for dogma? If we wanted to be jerks about it, we could score cheap points over it and say, "Look at all that disuinity! I knew the Catholic Church was right!" But that is cheap, like I said, and it works only if you like anatomical facsimilies made from stems of grain. Rather, is it not a deeper problem? Does not the very existence of communities outside my own with a certain plausibility structure, as it were (claiming, as well they should, binding dogmatic force over all its members) pose a huge problem for my assent to what has been taught? Am I thus forced to construct a makeshift distinction between the 'real' dogma, and the 'theological niceties' dogma? The 'We follow orders or people die' dogma, and the 'We have marching bands and softball games' dogma? [You had to go all Tom Cruise on everyone, didn't you?--ed.] Well, Tom rules. And that whole movie is a giant, quotable, theological abstraction. It's adorable, as I like to say.
At the risk of being a jerk-face, have you ever simply asked yourself--contemplating some theological pronouncement in the Reformed tradition, let's say--"That's nice and all, but who asked us?" How would you know you were right? How would you know you were wrong? Especially in light of the subjectivity problem. Did the other Reformers use radically different methods or means? If we test everything by Scripture allegedly, isn't this the same as, "I/we test everything by Scripture according to me/us?" If there is some magic key of hermeneutics I was supposed to get to make me/us infalliable, I didn't get it. It's worse than that, because you can't really trust your conscience to be anywhere close to infalliable, if you're like me. How'd you know you left X church for a scriptural reason, and not a selfish one (or a sinful one)? But isn't conscience the determining factor? Turretin said that; Calvin, too. Who knew? Pioneering evangelicals! [sarcasm] How do you know anything outside yourself? Riddle me this: What, at the Diet of Worms makes Luther say, "You know what? The Church has spoken; I was wrong"? Is this even possible? You promised me this lavish Protestant banquet after the Diet of Worms, and all I got was a diet of worms.
Now, I grant you, the Catholic answer to all this appears too clever by half, at first glance. But on some level, something somewhere is going to have to be infalliable. If we trace the visible community of God's people in Christ through history, we can say, "The Church is infalliable in these ways, under these conditions, and leaving her is a really bad idea." If not, well, I have only one question for you (pardon the snark): How's that perpiscuity working out for you?

O Triune God, having revealed yourself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we beseech you, come to each one of us, to guide us in the way we should go. Help us to unity as you promised. Unite us visibly as we are now in our hearts. Help us to re-think those things which are not from you that have stood in the way. Give us courage to believe and accept whatever you reveal as your Word, in Him who is that Word made flesh for us. Amen.

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