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Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Stupid, "Troi Almost Gets Married" Episode (Again)

5 Trek-Inspired Thoughts

5. They can fix heart disease and cirrhosis, but good luck with that Terrelian plague.

4. I won't make a blanket statement here, but Riker puts his most toolish qualities on display here.

3. Wyatt Miller? What a jerk! (Desert holodeck scene)

2. Troi, or face certain death attempting to cure a plague? Good luck with that plague.

1. Ian Andrew Troi should be ashamed for arranging the marriage of his daughter to this tool in the first place.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Are You Serious?

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Really feeling the firm but loving, Church-edifying love of the Smalcald Articles (not). You were trying to defend the Reformation? Really?

4. The Bishop of Rome can sense your heartfelt, Christ-loving obedience from here.

3. I'm sure he is gratified to know that Dr. Melancthon will submit to his lawful authority when he admits the Gospel [as determined by Melancthon].

2. Augsburg could have been worse. But alas, it was before the Council.

1. Sheesh, the original text of the Thirty-Nine Articles is a chore to read.

These Are The Dudes We Should Follow

Let me back up a step. It always seemed like during my journey ["Streetlight...people, livin' just to find emotion..."--ed.] that theological discussions would quickly move to, "Calvin said..." or the Westminster Confession of Faith says..." and while that is not inherently problematic, even under a Sola Scriptura paradigm, it presumes that whomever we cite should be listened to and followed. One thing we always ignored was the fact that many of the people we cited as authorities worshipped God in different Christian communions separated from one another! And if we cited those people from the Reformed tradition, it still assumed that the Reformed tradition was correct.

Intellectual honesty demanded that I not assume anything. There was a powerful instinct and desire to get to the question behind the question: "Who sent you?" Why should I believe doctrine x and not doctrine y? I do charitably assume that any man or woman who proposes something I should believe does so because he wants me to know God. Moreover, I assume several more things: that a major figure in Christian theology and history has influence, defenders, and has said something true. I shouldn't have to say this.

If I may speak directly, it is unwise to assume that I have not read something because I disagree with you, who cite it as an authority. And I cannot short-circuit that question behind the question, restated: Did this person and his ideas come from God? If we want to have a discussion about Luther, or Calvin, Barth, Bucer, or whomever for awareness or education, that's fine. But I don't care what they said until they answer the first question, as a person seeking to know the will of God and do it. Mr. Carmack and Mr. Ford, take note.

I did this to the Catholic Church, too: I separated the early Church from the Catholic Church today; I did not assume anything. The only good reason to be Catholic is because you see that the Catholic Church today is organically one and the same with the Church of the New Testament, and the Church of the Fathers. Period. Save your smells and bells and psychoanalysis; I am Catholic because I had to be.

The very visible and tangible flesh of the Incarnate Word himself demands that the investigation of his doctrines be historical in nature. We are investigating His own faithfulness through time! Dare I suggest therefore that the Church he gave us be as visible and tangible as he?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Dogma, Discussion, And Ecumenism

As fundamental a question as, "What did God say?" is, "To whom has the word of God been entrusted?" The Catholic/Protestant divide is about the second, and somewhat about the first.

Sola Scriptura pretty much murders all hope of actually answering the first question. We're not making a cheap apologetic point; I'd like an answer. Which ecclesiological consensus is, "what the Bible says"? And if the tools of exegesis can help a man form an opinion apart from a community, why does the community exist at all? Because the prevailing ecclesiology permits many opinions on matters of dogma to coexist, it by necessity relativizes them. Ecumenism is the process of dialogue for the purpose of achieving doctrinal agreement and unity; merely desiring unity or even encouraging it is not ecumenism. Real ecumenism is about identifying the principled means to know both the orthodox faith, and the Church through which it comes to the world.

I have been told that Catholic apologists are unfair, that we do not engage the Reformation. With all due respect, whose reformation? If you will pardon me, it's hard to dialogue with a moving target. It seems the Protestant may always have the charge that he has been misrepresented at the ready, since he may jettison or add whatever he likes as needed. In the end, the individual is master of all; even the contours of the "Church" bend to his whims.

I am privileged to be aware of many theologies, and many edifying aspects within them. May all that is good be magnified and declared aloud! But it will not do to be Christians without a Church, like sheep without a shepherd.

A Few Words

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The precise doctrinal content of a system proposed for belief is a secondary concern to the  question of the authority of those who propose it.

4. The development of Christian doctrine rests upon the fundamental assumption of continuity; that is, a hermeneutic of rupture is not consistent with the promises of God.

3. The claim that immorality vitiates jurisdiction is an implicit concession that the jurisdiction is real.

2. A need for moral renewal does not require doctrinal innovation.

1. No apostolic succession, no Eucharist. No Eucharist, no Church. No Church, no gospel.

This Just In: Cold Pizza Rules

It was from Cecil Whittaker's, or "Cecil's," for short. Extra-large pepperoni and sausage. I always add a large chef salad; I eat the salad, and keep the pizza for later. [Didn't you just eat pizza with the guys?--ed.] Different restaurant. But yes. I am Johnny Pizza right now. We need to talk about this chef salad.

This thing is incredible. It's loaded down with ham and salami, so much that it's a slur against doctors and gardeners to call it a salad. It is a Man-Salad. With loads of cheese. I don't really like cheese, but it is necessary and welcome here. I really don't need pizza after this, but I eat a couple pieces to show a mystic solidarity with the person who made it for me.

Cold pizza is magical. As a person who appreciates what time does to cheese, I find an old pizza most pleasurable. Texture is much more vital than taste to me.

The only gripe you could have is cost. But then, no one eats pizza every night. Unless you are Johnny Pizza.

If You Say So

You don't choose the things that happen to you, for the most part. They just happen. I can't say that  one particular suffering is terribly spiritual, either. It's stupid, and senseless, and frustrating. So if I believe I'm sharing in the sufferings of Christ, it's not as some hero or martyr; it's as someone who has no other choice. Where else would I put my life, but bound up with his?

If somehow it is good for someone that my name is a reproach, then let it be the foulest name ever spoken. I know myself, and so does He. I will not stop loving and praying; I know that even this has been a battle; I've taken some wrong steps. But I am Jason Kettinger, and that's a good person to be.

He says that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us; I want that. He says there will be no more tears; I can't even fathom that, but OK.

This is just a little thing; others struggle with much greater things. But to me, it has been a mountain. I would rather break every bone in my body; I would rather take any physical pain the demons could dream up. Yet not my will, but yours, O Lord.

I love you all, my friends.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Pizza, Beer, And Dudes

My cronies and I got together for some theological discussion. It was a little more directed than in past weeks, and I think that was helpful. In general, the topic was holiness and detachment. I don't really know about either one of those 2 things, but we agreed that the Rosary was good. Actually, better than good. Ironically, though, we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy instead of the Rosary.

Word to the Wise: Unless it would mean loving someone concretely that you have been neglecting, or were unaware of, the Holy Spirit will never tell you to pray less. If you hear this or think this, it's almost certainly Satan.

I think he uses our awareness of mixed motives to discourage us. But I have realized that even if I pray with a smallish vision, or even somewhat selfishly, God can use that. If my intent is truly God-ward at all, I do a good thing.

The truth is, most people (if not all) don't pray enough. I know it is true of myself. How I wish I had never listened! I surely have brought God to grief. I definitely ended up in the Penalty Box (let the reader understand) more often, and for reasons that should not have been since I believed the lie.

As I drank my beer, I thought of my Dad. I wondered if he had learned the lessons I'm learning now. I miss him.

The Loss Of Dogma And An Invisible Church

The false opinion that the Church is fundamentally invisible is an implicit concession that the individual is the arbiter of his own dogmas, because the visible community to which he "submits" only gains it by his consent, which can be given and withdrawn at any time, for any reason.

In like manner, he is the arbiter of history, because he can select--without a coherent principle--those episodes, people, and ideas which are most amenable to his own opinion. Does he believe he escapes the pity he heaps upon the Biblicist, because he decorates his cell ornately, while the fundamentalist prefers to sit alone among the drab cinders? But they are both in the prison of private judgment.

And many do not even consider what havoc this private judgment wreaks upon systems of doctrine in their particularity. They are known in that specificity by the communities from which they emerge. But those communities have been rendered inert by the prior decision that the true "Church" transcends them.

Shall Christian men dare to celebrate the minimum possible expression of their communion? How can we choose a room in the house, Mr. Lewis, when the rules of the house dictate denying that the room even exists? If God didn't say it, it doesn't matter. Even the opinions of men I respect and enjoy talking to are only opinions. This isn't good enough for the doctrine of God.

That's another way of saying that infallibility must enter the discussion. And if one is enamored of a certain agnosticism concerning the doctrine of God out of an ecclesiological magnanimity, one reaps what one sows; men will not give their lives for a 'maybe.'

And that leaves all who truly want to do the will of God in Christ desiring a visible, historically continuous, infallible communion, vouchsafed by God. It might be a fool's errand, but for the fact that one actually exists. The imperfect communion we have reveals how to find it, in the form of an ecumenical council.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Famous last words. I suppose I'm still here. Heh. Some errors hurt worse than others; some words definitely do. Love is stronger than even death; if we really believed this, we would be different.

I'm not sure about tomorrow, and neither are you. We lose sight of it in our vitality and passion, but this could be it. Today. If you could reset your whole life,--blank slate--and make one choice to decide your destiny, what choice would you make? That's another way of asking, "Who are you?"

Who is your living test today? If this is the moment that defines you, what would it say?

O God, please don't remember all my failures. Please heal those I have hurt, and let them not remember, either. Thank you for the joy of this life, and the good of this moment. I choose Love. Amen.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

So There I Was...

There's something otherworldly about Mass. I guess that's the obvious spiritual thing to say. On the other hand, I'm not saying that I always have some kind of amazing experience, or that I pray well. But what I sensed today was that God is bigger than all my problems. It was not a feeling; it was simply a known fact. If I have a problem, I should go to Mass. Beggars plead for rescue; people of true faith expect good to come from evil.

I was really tired today; I wasn't sure how meaningful my participation would be. But I wanted to sing the Gloria for all it's worth. I've always been chagrined that I sing better in karaoke bars than I do in church. So that was my one thing today.

Good homily today, I'd say. It was about how true discipleship demands everything we have. As I said before, I don't know whether I am truly detached from earthly wants, but it's worth a try.

A Grace

I was reflecting on what I wrote last night--mine in a certain sense is a battle for self-acceptance--in the aftermath of some family troubles (please pray for us) when I believe the Lord gave me this insight: I have David's heart. When I thought it, my next thought was, "Don't kid yourself, buddy." But David was far from monolithic in his time here; he had great highs in his walk with the Lord, and great lows. But always the strongest desire in the core of his being to be with God. Have you ever felt this tension, between what you know of yourself in your sinfulness, and yet that your strongest desire is to be loved and accepted by Him?

Back when, at the Old School, I took some training in preaching. (Yes; try not to faint.) When they taught us, they said: "Avoid 'be like' sermons." As in, be like David, or be like the other heroes in the biblical story. As an aside, so-called "expository preaching" involves unfolding a particular biblical text: the purpose for which it was written, the audience, its place in biblical theology, an applied purpose or problem for one's own situation, and the textual features that may be relevant to living life as a believer. And then you'd just preach it, man. I'm going to be blunt: Most homilies in the Catholic Church suck, at least here in America. And the reasons are very simple: Some of her ministers do not know the love of Christ. And you cannot give what you don't have. And secondly, her ministers mistakenly assume not only biblical knowledge, but biblical faith. They are rudely awakened when the people persist knowingly in grave sin, and do not show forth the fruit of the Spirit, but the conceit is still there.

It should be noted, however, that the heart of Catholic liturgical life is the Eucharist, not the homily. So that gives us a context to adjust our expectations accordingly. Still, even accounting for the different preaching method and purpose, there is work to be done. St. John Chrysostom, pray for us! If you want to know why people persist in various theological errors as Protestants, despite the fact that it seems so clear to you or me what the catholic and apostolic faith is, try to understand: there is power in holiness. I can know all I care to know about the true doctrine of the Church and the Eucharist, etc. but a Protestant knows holiness when he sees it. And he knows its opposite also. The Reformation in some sense is justifiably a rebuke to a lifeless Church.

I digress. I don't fear to tell myself to be like David and the other saints now, because an effort on my part has a theological context of grace and the whole biblical story to back it up. Perhaps for others in the Church, that is not so. Though we as Protestants had read and heard the story many times, we never presumed that we did not need to hear it again. We could learn from the separated brethren in this way.

So then, it is really a crisis of catechesis that it reflected in the homily. We have the treasure of the fullness of truth. It's time to use it.

The Rooftop Party

My friend Nick invited a bunch of us to the roof of his apartment. It was a cool night, but it was awesome. I rode with my buddy--we'll call him Johnny Irish--and we ate beforehand. We chose burgers and pancakes. That'll play.

It was nice to see so many friends. As is my custom, songs mark the time. As soon as I got up there, this popped in. This version kicks the mess out of even the recorded version James finally did in 1991. If I may turn this into an official aside, James Taylor is a legend not only because he is a great songwriter who made his bones before I was born, but also because he is gifted with a certain profound musicality. Not just anyone can do cover songs for 25 years, and get away with it. But he understands music in its essence. Masters make the best improvisers.

I did what I always do: tell stories. I like to make people laugh. It's not a time for crying. I'd like to think I'm pretty funny. But here is a profound mystery: The funniest people know deep sorrow. Have you noticed this? There is something about living with suffering; it deepens joy; it gives joy a place to rest.

Golly, I feel compelled to note that I know many beautiful women! And food is good. Sun is good. So many good things come in life. You wonder if you are sufficiently detached, like the great saints, because you enjoy those gifts. I do not live for this world. That is true. Yet I cannot say that I am sour here; I am not an escapist.

If it is possible to be a "Christian hedonist" without landing in Hell, then that is what I am and aspire to be.

O Lord, thank you for these great gifts. I offer You my joy, hoping to find You there along the way to eternal life. Bless all who read this through Christ, who lives and reigns forever, Amen.