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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

To follow up on the last post, I TOTALLY understand if another Christian, possessed of the same information as I have, confronted with the same questions as I have been, nevertheless declines to reach the conclusions I have; none of us can say with any clarity where our own journeys will take us; all we can ask of each other is honesty and charity. What I want to say, however, is that we all deserve a better answer from the Reformed than what we got linked above. If those "neo-Catholics" were personal friends of yours, would you write that response to them? Would you be able to look them in the eye? Now, I may decline to engage the stupid arguments of my uneducated friends, and I might prudentially decide it'd be better not to talk about it, but if I choose to talk about it, I have the obligation not to insult the person for their lack of understanding. That's what's so troubling about this. I've known Bryan Cross for 2 years; I've been eye-to-eye with him at least once a week that whole time. I was Reformed for 99% percent of that time. I would have never written an article like either one of these. Just think about that. I know that Mathison (in the second case) is quite capable of making an argument without insulting people; whatever its demerits, Given for You is quite non-insulting. Whatever Bryan Cross' opinion is regarding unicorns, I know for sure that his submission to the Bishop of Rome is much more reasonable.
This essay sucks. Just sucks in every way. I don't see any arguments here; I just see defensive reactions to what may be unfair arguments. We call this ad hominem. The plurality of Protestant denominations does not prove, of itself, the falsehood of the principles of Protestantism. What it does prove is that something has to give: either those communities forfeit the epistemelogical ground upon which to base dogma, (the dogmatic principle) which is liberalism, or undercut the reason for existing as a separate community. Take your pick. I'd rather be Catholic. Do any of you have a good reason why I should not be Catholic, or will you just insult me? The Fathers seemed to think the Church was pretty visible, and easy to find, in the early centuries. Where and when did it become invisible? That's all I need to know. Bonus points if you can tell me which denomination I should choose, if I accept the invisibility of the Church. If you can't win that argument, then you have no more principled basis to burn Servetus as you do to disagree with each other about infant baptism.
Again, I do not deny the theoretical possibility that the ecclesiological definitions and unique doctrines in particular cases could be correct. But the definitions of what are fundamental must be agreed upon. And able to be known. Christian history suggests at every turn that the creation of new denominations was the product in the main of fundamental disagreement. Are you really going to pretend otherwise, just to get off the hook with the Catholic Church? Good luck when Mitt Romney comes along, saying, "We agree in the essentials." Seriously, have fun. SAME EXACT ARGUMENT! No, I'm not saying you're a Mormon; what I am saying is, you'd better come up with a better story/explanation for when it's OK to start over.
If the Christological definitions that came out of the Council of Nicea are true, you have to explain how. At the time, they believed, fair to say, the Council did not err because it could not err. If you say later they can, then they could then, too. And this is where it gets fun: Do you have any ground to believe the Nicene Creed is true, besides historical inertia? If they are not authoritative in themselves, if the Creed is not Scripture, not infalliable, can be edited when abuses and misunderstandings occur, then the Arians could have been right. Or the Monophysites. Whoever. You can't just read history only well enough to help out the Reformers; you have to cover it all. It's not enough to simply lament Christian division; you have to be honest enough to admit when that division affects the strength of the ground you are standing on. If I must respect the context within which the Scripture was written, co-operate with the author's intent, (both human and divine) and trust the Holy Spirit, why does this not extend to the Councils? I can't be a Nicene Christian unless I also assent to the context and auspices under which it met. The Christian community there authoritatively defined itelf, visibly excluding those people and ideas contrary to it. That means the Church was visible. If it's invisible in 2011, you have to say authoritatively where and how, and by what means you're going to hold it together in the future when A) the really objectionable people come by with the same anti-authoritarian arguments, and B) who's "you" when nobody agrees on anything. I didn't become Catholic because of the subjectivity problem inherent in Protestantism (though I'd be an idiot to deny it); I did not become a Catholic because I like liturgy or incense; I did not become a Catholic because of the force and wit of modern apologists; I did not become a Catholic because my heart was warmed by devotional practices; I did not become a Catholic because I was disaffected by my Protestant church or anyone in it; I did not become a Catholic to relieve myself of my responsibility to read and understand the Scriptures; I did not become a Catholic because I needed certainty; I DID become Catholic because I allowed the ancient Church of Jesus Christ to define herself; I followed her as she drew the lines in the sand; I followed and deferred to the leaders she told me she had; I trusted that God would not abandon His Church; I lamented over the schisms and errors she contended with; I compared what she said through the centuries with what the Protestant Reformers said; I compared what the ancient Fathers said with what the Roman Catholic Church says today; I did conclude that the Reformers were different on both counts; I did see a likeness in the faith of the Fathers and today's Roman Catholic Church; I did change my thinking to conform with what that Church, now found, said; I did lay aside my right to test what she said by my own lights; I did receive what she taught me in the same manner as it had been from the beginning; I do live in the same redeemed society as the Apostles and the Fathers; I am Catholic. I'm sorry if that offends you; "Here I stand, I can do no other."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm kind of a sap. I have a list of favorite chick flicks, and I have a favorite. I like a good drama as well. Every now and again, Hollywood actually makes itself useful by putting out a good one. 1994's With Honors starred Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, Joe Pesci, Gore Vidal, and Patrick Dempsey. Yes, that Patrick Dempsey. Fraser played Monty Kessler, a dedicated political science student at Harvard who is in love with his friend, Courtney Blumenthal (Moira Kelly). Skipping past the entire plot to the part that matters, the friends are at a party when Courtney argues with her fornication-buddy, "The Face." She storms out, and Monty follows her outside to a fountain. He puts her face in his hands, and she asks him, "What are you doing?" He answers, "I'm ending our friendship," and they adorably kiss, then embarking on their own fornication adventure, which, we can only hope, ends in a marriage when the characters get around to it. Why'd I tell you that story? Well, I always wanted to do something smooth like say, "I'm ending our friendship" to a girl in front of a fountain. I've seen this movie like 13 times, and aside from being a good movie, it's a good scene. Anyway, I'm obliged to mention that Moira Kelly also stars in my favorite and greatest chick flick of all time, The Cutting Edge. Finally, she is the voice of adult Nala in my favorite movie, The Lion King. If you can complete the Favorite Movie-Favorite Chick Flick-Favorite Wooing Scene trifecta, you've done good work. Thanks, Moira.