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Thursday, June 09, 2011

In case anybody cares, I read 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus the other day, and Hebrews and James yesterday. It reads differently now; I tried to be mindful of verses that a Protestant would see as definitive for those traditional notions of justification. The best I found within Hebrews was 10:14: "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." [There's your distinction between justification and sanctification right there.--ed.] Simmer down; let's think through this. Remembering what this book is for--convincing Jewish Christians not to abandon their faith in the face of pressure--what do we see? Well, we see sacrificial language all over it; there is much talk of priests and mediation. We are not surprised to see high Christology in chapter 1, as the identity and qualifications of Jesus are precisely at issue if he exercises a permanent priesthood superior to Aaron. We have to add in another good Protestant verse before we go on; look at verse 22: "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." [Aha! "full assurance"!--ed.] Yeah, you should have assurance, participating in the sacraments of the Church! Go to Christ! [You're missing my point.--ed.] I don't think I am. Do you see the obvious reference to baptism? At any one point in time, we can make some kind of distinction in the way we interact with Christ, whether personally in prayer, or in the sacraments. Just as we could distinguish his saving work from his abiding with us now, we could talk about the Church and Christ in different ways. But this is the key: In Catholic faith, essentially, the Church and Christ are the same. [There's Catholicism for you: No idea what a metaphor is.--ed.] I thought we were guilty of promiscuous typology. Which is it? Sacramental theology and ecclesiology are inextricably linked; we must be able to say what we mean by 'Church.' That way, her sacraments are her own, given by Christ, not someone else's. If we do not, even if we could maintain the conceit that someone somewhere were speaking with infalliable divine authority (in the Protestant view) we'd be unable to say who or where that is.
The reality of Christian disunity is not, despite what too many Catholic apologists claim, direct evidence for the Catholic claims. What it does, however, is weaken the epistemic confidence one person can have in the particular claims of one community. It puts the lie to the, "We're united in the essentials" BS, because we are in fact not. Plenty of people have admitted that such a real unity in faith must produce a visible unity; they simply question the form that visible unity takes, and some part of the faith upon which it would be based. So let's talk about that.
You know, it'd be easier to entertain the argument that I had made some mistake in becoming Catholic if: 1. the church fathers weren't so obviously non-Protestant; 2. I knew where dogmatic authority came from in Protestant thought, and the proliferation of our communities claiming the same authority with different results having been adequately explained, and/or 3. Someone had a plan, a process, or a way of knowing when Christian unity in a visible sense should take place. How does one know when he is wrong? To whom does he actually submit, and why? This is where the difference between an Arian and a Baptist is utterly destroyed, epistemically. They're using the same process. The result is this: You can either allow the things held in common to help you re-examine the historical evidence--humbly submitting to whatever you find, ahem--or you can tumble into the Abyss of Relativism just past the ledge of Subjectivism.
I guarantee you, you won't be able to convince a man he is wrong who's following Turretin's advice. How could you? Ecclesial relativism breeds doctrinal and moral relativism.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

5 More Sure Signs You Are Jason Kettinger

5. You use the word "barnacle" as a swear word.

4. You lobby for the cat's name to be "Squidward."

3. "The Riot" is a person, not an event.

2. You think the battle for greatest composer of all time is a dead heat between David Foster and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.

1. You do secondhand impressions of Charles Barkley. "That's turribull!" I know.
The Chair

My mind raced,
No, thundered;
Andretti at Speedway;
Horses in Montana;
No respite

Thrashing without purpose
Hoping without reason
Silence without peace
Night without rest
Morning and night without a day

But in the faint grey
I saw them
Two towers
A refuge from nowhere
Bringing back memory

Light in darkness
The prodigal mind returns
For this is home
This is family
Did Martyn sit here?

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.