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Saturday, June 09, 2012

This is a defense of Sola Scriptura, I guess. Isn't this the mighty Leithart? Isn't he supposed to know more than us? Mother Church cowers in fear! After all, we didn't know the Spirit speaks to the Church! Why didn't you say so? If I have to believe in Sola Scriptura in order to really understand Scripture, I'll just put off that reading of Amos I was going to do. I mean, I'll just clutter it up, deferring to the bishops in Council, or those morons Augustine and Aquinas. I don't know what's so hard to understand about the problem.
Tell you what, Leithart, riddle me this one: Jack Collins and Gerhard Forde in a room, explaining their respective theologies to a class of eager and receptive students. Lots of agreement. Lots of appeals to the Fathers, and to Scripture. But if Scripture is the final rule, who's right in the matters where they disagree? Do they not represent separate ecclesial bodies because those people believe this to be a much more than debatable matter? And yet truthfully, if those bodies aren't tasked by God to settle it definitively, who cares? Isn't that what the fundies have figured out even if Keith Mathison is in denial about it all? It's a pity that our Catholicism renders us suspect to make the point. It stands nonetheless. That was the first thing I figured out. I didn't give a fig what Rome said about anything, but I knew if my submission to a church body was provisional, then so are the dogmas they propose. If I choose to invest them with authority over me, well and good. But the key words there are, "I choose."
It is indeed natural that people would appeal to the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures. But for God to consent to the wide variance of opinion on non-trivial matters, it means at least that He doesn't care--suggesting that whatever God does care about, it isn't in the Scriptures, the texts He gave us--or God is lying. I'll take it as axiomatic that if you're Christian and reading this, you're not going to go with that. God is God, so He cares about everything, including that His children agree in everything; if we're not, the fault is ours. But at this point, the Protestant will remind us that we're all sinful, blah, blah, blah. (Which is true, of course.) But I'll make it simple for you: In order to come out with God-truth in this whole deal--which is what we want, right?--either the individual's interaction with the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures is infallible, or the Church is, however conceived. But you already gave yourself the trump-card over your own ecclesial community, remember? So the infallibility isn't there. Not that you'd want it to be, by your admission. Lots of people--influential people, are taking the winsome, quiet version of the "God doesn't care about our differences" horn of the dilemma. I don't blame them. But relativism is the result. And I know for a fact that they don't want to be relativists or stubborn individualists.
But that's the thing: you're writing whole books about your version of the "Church"! Does anyone see the irony? I'll say the same thing I said to Leithart's post earlier this week: unless you're holding the keys of the Kingdom--or you're sent by him--I don't care. It's not because I don't think you're smart, or totally all-in for Christ. Probably every single one of you reading this is more intelligent, godly, and wise than I am. But if you agree you're not holding the keys, who is?
Isn't that really the question? The only one that matters?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Well, the 73 books of the Holy Bible according to Mother Church and the first edition of the RSV from Ignatius Press (?) are these: (Of course I'm not looking; I'm gonna be tested on this eventually)

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy
6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. 1 Samuel
10. 2 Samuel
11. 1 Kings
12. 2 Kings
13. 1 Chronicles
14. 2 Chronicles
15. Ezra
16. Nehemiah
17. Tobit
18. Judith
19. Esther
20. Job
21. Psalms
22. Proverbs
23. Ecclesiastes
24. Song of Songs
25. Wisdom
26. Sirach
27. Isaiah
28. Jeremiah
29. Lamentations
30. Baruch
31. Ezekiel
32. Daniel
33. Hosea
34. Joel
35. Amos
36. Obadiah
37. Jonah
38. Micah
39. Nahum
40. Habakkuk
41. Zephaniah
42. Haggai
43. Zechariah
44. Malachi
45. 1 Maccabees
46. 2 Maccabees
(and of the New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ)
47. Matthew
48. Mark
49. Luke
50. John
51. Acts
52. Romans
53. 1 Corinthians
54. 2 Corinthians
55. Galatians
56. Ephesians
57. Philippians
58. Colossians
59. 1 Thessalonians
60. 2 Thessalonians
61. 1 Timothy
62. 2 Timothy
63. Titus
64. Philemon
65. Hebrews
66. James
67. 1 Peter
68. 2 Peter
69. 1 John
70. 2 John
71. 3 John
72. Jude
73. Revelation

Later, I shall tell the humorous story that became the hook for recalling the OT books. It's quite funny!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I admit it; I've been pretty useless today. I started making a list of music for a friend who is entirely ignorant of popular music (How fun is that? Answer: a ton.) and it took me away to the far reaches. I realized that I had to 1) acclimate him to popular music (in a non-threatening, non-sinful way) of the last 30 years, and 2) keep it quality enough that he won't despise me. I knew he needed to hear "The Big Three"--Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion--so I've made a list for each of the first two, and Celine's will come. I'm not a huge Celine fan, so I'll have to judge the importance of each song quite apart from what I think of it personally. Each of them has a legitimate argument for being the best female pop vocalist in my lifetime, or even currently (Celine, call your office!). The first two lists were easy--you can capture Whitney in fewer than 20 songs without missing a landmark--and Mariah has been so dominant on the charts that hers was much bigger. I skipped her Late Period (2005-present) nearly, because it's just not very good. Some of the songs are better--they should have always let her be more the black woman she is--but the singing is worse.
Jeff Ryan called; he asked me to do another project that will cause inordinate mental anguish in its accomplishing. But no matter. I guess I bring it on myself.
I Facebook chatted with Deborah Lee until 4:30 in the morning last night; that was awesome. She and her husband are both musicians, but she isn't too good for pop. She saw me listening to my Whitney list, and we had lots of funny conversations about artists and songwriters. Deb hears all the time that she should write songs again, and I agree. One of the knocks on Whitney's catalog was the bad lyrics of many songs. Someone with that much talent should have gotten better tunes in her prime (1987-1992). The songs got better around then--she got some help from Babyface--but the singing got worse. Her personal issues made her both less productive and easier to summarize.
In another part of the conversation, Deb said, "Did you and [name withheld] ever date?" "No," I said, "Why?" She said, "There's an energy between the two of you." She added, "I'm not trying to define the energy, I'm just saying." "Well," I said, "everyone says that."
I pointed out to Deb that I had a fondness for someone else close to the lady in question back when. That may account for the...familiarity we have. To me, it still seems like a bad idea. But it didn't stop me from thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

In my last post, toward the end, I spoke of exclusion; I want to be very clear: I'm merely talking about distinguishing truth and falsehood, not making a party only a few are welcome to. Joshua Lim, a new friend, writes eloquently about the problem of radical depravity (in Calvinism, and perhaps a few other systems) and interpretive authority here. It seems very odd that people so deeply committed to the idea of their own inability would become--at a very convenient time--extremely optimistic about interpreting the Scriptures. If this inability and sinfulness were carried through to its logical end, skepticism is the result. It should be the result for dogmatic conclusions rendered from a(n) hermeneutical spiral that doesn't end, but most of you don't see the problem yet. On the one hand, the church is posited as the defender against the excesses of pietistic individualism, but it is a 'church' that lacks reality in a physical sense. And that was for the sake of accomodation. We cannot say we alone possess the fullness of the Truth, because we see the Holy Spirit working among brothers beyond the physical bounds of our denomination. Let me know when I'm getting warm. But couple that with the provisional nature of our submission to that body--and the ability to self-define the "Church"--, and it is no wonder that doctrinal agnosticism (and then real agnosticism) takes hold.  What if the only difference between a fundamentalist and a liberal is that the fundamentalist prizes certainty over unity, while the liberal does the opposite? Indeed, the liberal prizes his notion of the pristine Church uncluttered by the machinations of the dogmatic confessionalists in the very earthy, human world, desiring a visible expression of the unity he imagines at any cost, while the fundamentalist wants the earthly reality to reflect the truth he absolutely knows? In either case, the individual determines the contours of the Truth and the community to which it belongs. One absolutizes the discourse of the mind; the other absolutizes the leadings of his heart, or better stated, his emotions.
And lest you think you escape this with some "middle position" I know you're fond of, I remind you that on Protestant terms, there is no one to determine moderation from excess, truth from falsehood, beyond the individual.

Monday, June 04, 2012

What that dude said. Seriously, if I write like jazz, he writes like a symphony. Being the spiritual infant that I am, I'm going to keep asking, "Where does dogma come from?" of my putative debate partners on this site. When a Catholic says, "Your appeal to authority is unprincipled," he is saying that it is unclear how you arrive say, at Nicene Trinitarian faith by the means you have chosen (the Protestant canon of Scripture, and appeal to the Holy Spirit). It's just as easy to arrive at somewhere else entirely by the same means. Nicea and Chalcedon (and whatever one decides were "correct" appeals to Scripture) didn't come from thin air. Absent some principle (like, "An ecumenical council is always infallible by its nature") you can't accept one and reject others arbitrarily. You can see just by talking to people that if Tradition in the Catholic Church stands as a monument to...something, that each community formed at the Reformation (and the persons within them) agrees and disagrees at different points with it. That's quite apart from the question of whether that monument is a monument to the Truth. But I realized the nature of the beast in this: We can't all be right. That is, to be more specific, the Methodist dissent and the Reformed dissent (for example) cannot both be correct in the same way at the same time.
In fact, the subjectivity problem inherent in Sola Scriptura is not an argument for Catholicism so much as it is an argument against any one confessional position within Protestantism. Thus, it requires a person to identify the true bases of authority for the particular claims made from that position. By the nature of the case, Sola Scriptura cannot coexist with a visible Church. If I cannot identify one concrete real community with the Church Christ established (because in humility, I want to recognize Christians outside of us--sound great and heroic, doesn't it?) I am saying at the least that my community does not have the authority to bind and loose, to proclaim to the world definitively "the true gospel." I could believe that it doesn't matter, but no one does this, because it does. But who has the real power in this scenario? The individual does. The church has already agreed with the man that they are not divinely sanctioned by Christ with the infallible Truth. "The purest Churches under Heaven..." and all that. Well, how does anyone know truth from error in the first place? It'd be enough to make a person an agnostic but for two things: There's still this matter of the Monolith (the monument from earlier). Where'd it come from? HAL keeps saying that it thinks it is the Guardian of All Truth. The other screeching monkeys are none too pleased, but oddly enough, it keeps leaving stuff that the various monkey-tribes use from time to time. It's obvious to all the monkeys, when the fighting dies down, that they're the same, largely, anyway. And sometimes, the monkeys join in fighting the Monolith, as pointless as that is. (And of course, there's always a few renegade monkeys who don't listen to any others, nor borrow things, but they usually die.) But how'd it get here? What if everything the monkeys are did come from the thing? I digress by way of a horrid sci-fi metaphor.
The second thing is, this monument has an account of how it got here. It lives and speaks, and it tells the story of how we all got here. It could be lying; one of the other tribes could be our point of origin, but it doesn't seem very likely. Nothing else accounts for what the monkeys know.
So we all have to ask ourselves, "Is the Catholic Church the one Christ founded?" If this is the wrong question, simply tell me which one is. Better yet, why is your (invisible) "Church" and "catholicity" any better than anyone else's? Unless you speak for God, who cares what you say? And I might've tried one of the other guys, but he can't say he speaks for God, either. Each Protestant story has a plausibility structure at least as plausible as any other, within the system. That's not a difficult problem to be overcome; that's a crisis. It flat-out calls the Holy Spirit a liar or a lunatic, not the Lord and giver of life He is.
The Catholic paradigm is better before we even start, because it at least explains how we arrive at Divine truth. The Protestant paradigm can't even do that. There is no infallibility at all. Sure, God doesn't lie, but we can't know what He said exactly. We'll just tell each other we've got it mostly right, and we'll see when we get to Heaven! Well, let me at least make sure you're not a JW or a Mormon, even though I can't exclude you in a principled way, either.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Have I mentioned that I find George Michael amazing? I listened to "Kissing A Fool" again, and realized I need no convincing on the point. I also recalled that Michael Buble did a version, but...I'm sorry, Michael, you are consigned to the Cave of No Memory. I can't control other people's radios, and I sure as heck wouldn't turn it off, but I have a rule that I at least try not to torture myself on purpose. [That Cave claimed James Taylor, too, didn't it?--ed.] Yeah. For now. But if he moves, he has a chance. I just couldn't do it in the case of "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." Pol Pot could have said he liked it, and I'd still listen to it. I mean, honestly. How great is that song?
But truly, that day in November was as much a Day The Music Died as any plane crash in the middle of nowhere in 1959. If anybody cares, I haven't written a poem since, either. I guess poets can write tragic poems, too. But poets sing with words; I'm lucky I can sing anything at all. If He didn't command me to do it at least every Sunday, I'm not sure I could.
It is not that my grief is entirely unmixed with joy, but the joy is like a cheetah that never stops to look around. How did I start talking about this? George Michael.
Anyway, I remember when Amy Winehouse died. She was so young, and it was so stupid. Her music was pretty great. I was pointing out the loss to a theologian friend of mine, and he pointed out that we should care more about the fact that she had a better than 50-50 shot she landed in Hell than we should that we ourselves lost a great musician or famous person. He's right, of course, however indelicate that may be. Then I felt bad that I like celebrities so much. But you're darn right I'd find it easier and more fun to evangelize Tom Brady or George Michael. [What if they are total jerks?--ed.] Well then, OK. But appreciating someone's talent is a connection point. Maybe it means we should work harder finding and affirming connection points for the ordinary people in our lives. It just means that a famous person has a connection point and a friendship with a whole mess of people. Whether it's real or lasts is another thing. It still could be an inordinate focus in any one case, but anything could.
I'm not applying Catholic ecclesiology to Protestants and criticizing them for inconsistency; it's way deeper than that. I'm pointing out that dogma within a particular Protestant tradition can't be defended with ecclesial authority when the "Church" is fundamentally invisible. Add to that the fact that the individual has final authority over what the Church and catholicity means anyway. I don't care whether you use my Catholic ecclesiology; I'm charging you with being inconsistent with your own. Either catholicity does not require agreement on fundamental matters of doctrine (which is what open communion indicates) or it does. What I'm saying is that you can't stand apart from the Catholic Church on the ground of an issue or issues that you have said is not vital to full communion with respect to yourselves.