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Friday, May 13, 2011

OK, my peeps. A few things: My stroll in the English countryside otherwise known as my final exam with the one called "Jerram" went amazing. 94. Congrats and thank you to my comrades, Mr. Huensch and Mr. Keating, for excellent work. It turned out better than I thought. He had much to say in critique. Anne, Jerram has taught both a Tolkein & Middle Earth class, and a Jane Austen class; you would die of joy. You need to take a class with him. He's like the British grandfather you wish you had. Forget Boston; you need to find any excuse to be a Covenant student. But alas, now he is on sabbatical.
I think the question of interpretive authority is an important one, because it is another way of asking who and where the community of the redeemed is and are, respectively. I am in awe of Jerram. Because although like many of my teachers, he may be dodging the question of the location of the Church, this man knows Jesus Christ, and is utterly unafraid of proclaiming Him, using every available means conceivable. There are few like him, anywhere. And I'd hate to see him angry. He's one of those people that you know his anger is just, though he'd deny it.
We do a grave injustice to the Reformers and the communities they founded (ironically) if we soft-pedal or re-write the story of why they did what they did. Generally, these men and women felt that the cause of Christ and his gospel was lost in the Church as they found her; they were neither tolerant of doctrinal plurality, nor of obfuscation. It is only the cultural milleiu that we live in today that even allows for the empty vanity that we are "united in the essentials" of Christian faith, when the origin of our particular communities suggests exactly otherwise; the history of division indicates, by their nature and ferocity, that what constituted "the essentials" was precisely at issue. But if the Church is not external to oneself, visible, having an authority binding on every individual, no matter his opinion, then it does not exist. This is the obvious implication of the statement, "The Scriptures must be interpreted in the community of faith." The very existence of our various communities, at variance with the body from which we all sprang and each other (if as Protestants) indicates that, at the least, we are having mighty trouble defining "us" and "not us." The very 'humility' which causes us to hold our "church" and its conclusions at arm's length (allegedly in deference to Scripture) is the same that makes sure eventually that no group of leaders, no matter how prayerful, no matter how attentive to the Word, need ever be heeded. Because the final arbiter is me. This is why Dr. Bailey (a character on the famous hospital drama 'Grey's Anatomy') can say to Dr. Torres--a fallen-away Catholic who is about to "marry" her lesbian lover--that her disapproving mother "hasn't caught up to God yet." Even the most obvious of biblical teachings like this one can't be defended finally, because there is objective standard for what a Christian believes and does. There is no one definitive supernatural society from whom I ought not separate visibly in Protestantism; if I disagree with anything my "church" does, I can leave. Start a new one. Thus, whatever our community says the Scripture teaches is presumed correct.
You may think this unfair; you might say, "That's an extreme example." Why? Unless "The Church has spoken" and "Jesus has spoken" are exactly the same thing, pride and sin could compromise any of us, and we wouldn't know. Luther couldn't say, "I was wrong," because he'd made himself the interpretive authority. Try this one: What level of visible disunity between Christians would disprove "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"? Explain how "invisible church" does not automatically lead to doctrinal relativity and individualism?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Theology Fail: Seriously, I love Doug Wilson. He is always interesting, his worldview is outstanding, and he's one of the reasons (Ahem. Rich Lusk, Jeff Meyers, N.T. Wright, "Captain Jack," et al.) that I was proud to be Reformed. But he needs to give the matters raised more thought. It was actually reading Trent (and not just the canons, you bums) that caused me to see what the anti-FVers are so on about. Being Catholic is first and foremost an ecclesial decision, not a doctrinal one, so I respect Wilson and others in their desire to remain separate from the Catholic Church. But the anti-FV position understands what the FV position does not, apparently: The traditional formulations of doctrine for Protestants are what the Reformation was actually about. If you question those, you are by definition questioning the wisdom of the separation itself. [By the way, you didn't read the whole thing, either.--ed.] Yes, but I did read Sessions V, VI, and VII, which are directly pertinent to the Protestant question. [Fair enough.--ed.]
From the other side, you could simply ask, "How can you prove your confessional distinctives?" And, "What is schism?"
But seeing the Council through Catholic eyes, there are only 3 possible responses after its promulgation, (presuming it is understood, which is iffy sometimes, unfortunately): 1) submission, 2) "This Council is not a true council and is not binding" (a simple mistake remedied by investigation) or, 3) "I don't care what the Council says" which is schism.
The problem with Protestantism is that it doesn't tell a coherent story of how we got to be where we are, and it doesn't give you a principled means for determining heresy and schism. The very existence of the Protestant communions was a statement that the Catholic Church had lost an authority that it previously possessed. The fact that at least some of the Reformers would return, given moral reforms isn't negated by the fact that the statement itself is false. But we're so far from that reality that we don't remember it. Trueman calls it "historical amnesia" and he's right.
And that means that we, as Protestants, constructed a whole story of history that is no different than the same story told by heretics ancient and modern. The fact that most Protestants are inconsistent, and live godly, holy lives doesn't alter the falsehood of the story. Mathison sees the heresy and the pride at the extremes, but he doesn't allow the elements of truth in his own practice and faith to re-open the historical question itself!
What we're saying here is that the Federal Visionists are largely right; where they err is in failing to realize the ecclesiological implications of what they've learned. Creedal Christianity either is, or becomes, Catholic Christianity, by the nature of the thing. Retaining the power to "edit" them, is, in the end, to abandon them. You cannot truly submit to the Word of God written unless you are in the community to whom it belongs. Therefore, the question(s) for every single assembly of Christians on this earth is, "Do we have the authority to interpret the Bible?" And, "What is our relation to everyone else who claims the same thing?" Assumption: That true community must be visible. And those relations must be visible. A church of the mind is as useful as the pride of individualism and individual interpretation which gave it rise.