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Saturday, November 30, 2013

JK And The False Choices

I just didn't expect the evidence to be that strong. I fully admit it. I'm not that weak-willed; Catholic apologetics does not simply consist in saying, "We're the true Church!" over and over. It's not crazy to conclude that the Catholic Church is the church Christ founded. But the floating husk of what is left of Reformation ecclesiology wants to spend its energy trying to nuance what was a series of very stark choices at the time, for both its ardent defenders and detractors. Sooner or later, you gotta pick a side.

I think most of the false middle positions arise from historical ignorance. You have to do an inadvertent injustice to the Reformers, or to the Catholic Church, in order to engage in this warm, winsome, Leithartian nonsense that passes for ecumenism today. Either the Catholic Church is the Church, or it is not. Either there is theological-sacramental significance to Holy Orders via apostolic succession, or there is not. Either the Bishop of Rome has primacy, or he does not. A "primacy of honor" is not a primacy; it's a false middle position made up by people who can't think clearly. I digress.

A few of my friends are simply confused. They're mad about Rome's exclusivity, but also her supposed infidelity. If she has usurped the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and made herself a whore, you shouldn't care what she thinks about you. I have never understood this. I'd rather talk to a biblicist fundamentalist all day long instead of these "too catholic to be Catholic" people.

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. Nerd Alert: Menger's Principles Of Economics is in my Amazon cart.

4. Kansas loses; JASON WINS!!!

3. It's good to be Coach K. Two losses to top 5 teams is forgivable for almost any other team. At Duke, it's a crisis.

2. "If it isn't love/Why do I feel this way?/Why does she stay on my mind?"

1. I'm not nearly smart enough to be innovative. If people find me "tiresome," my purpose is fulfilled. The truth is often dull, and hucksters are exciting.

Friday, November 29, 2013

It's A Slippery Slope

It's not a fallacy to make a "slippery slope" argument. If you said it more articulately, you'd say, "In my view, you have removed the basis upon which we make a principled distinction." That's a perfectly reasonable argument to make, no?

You could, I suppose, question the premises which led to this claim in particular; it might even be a non sequitur. But in itself, it's not a fallacy.

I saw this on a chart of fallacies yesterday, and it got on my nerves. I speculate that those who take a dim view of the relation of morality and law would be tempted to classify "slippery slope" arguments as fallacies.

In other news, I received this argument in basic form the other day:

No intelligent person believes in the supernatural.

You are an intelligent person.

Therefore, you must have some other evil reason to believe what you do concerning the supernatural.

[Me again] Um, your first premise is absurdly false. How you could say this with a straight face, I don't know. I'd like to think we could do better.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. I certainly believe that it's possible to be thoughtful, engaging, and intellectually curious...and an atheist. Paging Penn Gillette! So why do I get stuck with the, "I will emotionally bludgeon you into submission, because I am wounded and scared" atheists? Thy will be done, O God...

4. We were both young when I first saw you...nah, that's not true.

3. True: "So now I'm back to what I knew before you/Somehow, the city doesn't look the same..."

2. "But it's cheap!" is not germane to the question, "Do I need a TV?"

1. Lonesome Dove, on Netflix.

Access Points And Ends

Even if we grant that the pope may have been speaking inexpertly and hastily in paragraph 54 of his recent letter, as some have suggested, (and elsewhere) charity suggests a more favorable view. I, for one, do not believe in unfettered capitalism; I don't know anyone who does. We don't live in a country that has it, and I can't think of anywhere in the First World that does. Elsewhere, there may be nations with inadequate safeties for the poor, or insufficient rules for the conduct of business. But this is a key point: if we take the pope at his word(s), he is attacking a position that is not under serious consideration (even theoretically) by the leaders of wealthy nations.
Also, we are in agreement that extremes of income distribution are not only undesirable, but unjust, especially so long as profound poverty remains a reality. So the free market advocate can in fact convincingly argue that the continued persistence of such extremes points to a market that is not free. Whatever we term it, the voluntary, mutually beneficial exchange of goods or services can only exist within a society ordered to the common good, which is the sum of all the conditions necessary for each person to reach the end for which they were made. It seems to me, then, that the main task of those who govern is to protect the access-points to the system of free exchange, and to ensure that the results of those exchanges is not contrary in itself to the common good.
It also seems to me that the architects of the innumerable assistance programs and entitlements have not cared about whether those programs function as intended, or what adverse impacts it would have on other economic arrangements; the politics of concern is the politics of self-congratulation.

I do not doubt the right and duty of the civil authority to intervene for the common good; I question both the means and the ends for which they have done so. I do not doubt the goodness and justice of government as such; I question the ongoing relevance of government as constituted and empowered, to actually be an instrument of the common good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Christ died for everyone. I am not a universalist, and correctly so. Therefore, something is wrong with your theology of the Atonement.

4. Far from being the far-off boogeyman, universalism is the optimistic version of Calvinistic notions of the Atonement.

3. Pope Francis took a shot at "trickle-down" economics, AKA, supply-side economics. [Because manipulating demand via government spending works so well.--ed.] In fairness, no economic theory functions at all in the presence of injustice.

2. No, I haven't finished reading it yet. Darnit, Jim, I'm a theologian, not a cruise ship captain!

1. I love Papa Francis.

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Don't Have A Choice

We either build something called "Christendom," (again) or we destroy ourselves. Why? Because Natural Law is real. Theocracy is not in view, and it never truly was. Yet I cannot think of a reasonable basis for a free society besides Christianity. Has there been a greater force to elevate the dignity of mankind than the gospel of Jesus? He is apparently so powerful that His appointed shepherds and followers convict themselves when they fail Him.

Isn't it slightly amusing to hear the New Atheists put the Christian communities in the dock with indignation and moral standards given to the world by the very God whose existence they deny? And even while we fully acknowledge that a 'Christian' society without true conversion of heart will fail, by whom or what will Sam Harris or Dawkins set the world on fire with self-sacrificial love?

While it may be prudent to acknowledge the post-Christian context in which we find ourselves, acknowledging a reality is different than consenting to it, as if the lack of piety is somehow conducive to the gospel. The pietism that apologizes for Christendom creates the "post-Christian" society we now have. Any putative minister who thinks this is a good thing is deluding himself at best, and is a coward at worst.

For the moment, I don't care what you believe or disbelieve. Ask yourself if you want to live in a society governed by the will to power. Does being a subject of a polity whose only limitation is the whim of a majority sound like your cup of tea? Cleanse the world of Christ and Christians, and you'll get your wish.

This Just In: Christ Actually Died For Everyone

...Yes, even those in Hell. That's the point of Hell, no? To punish those who definitively and finally reject God's love. They say that this makes too little of Christ's atoning death. I say they make too little of human freedom, and of the dignity of man in general. They say we make too little of grace; I say, no, it is they who make too little of it, by overlooking the little tragedies of grace unheeded each day. Didn't John Murray write Redemption Accomplished and Applied? It's a pity that no Calvinist anywhere actually makes a real distinction between the two. If you exhort people to make the gospel real in their lives, you must concede the real possibility that they will not. If faith is required, faith cannot be compelled. But would not a salvation willed by God irrevocably from the foundation of the world therefore fall out necessarily from it? If that is so, no matter how much emotionalism and affirmation you give to people in the exercise of that faith, it doesn't matter. Any pastor who says otherwise is either doing Jedi mind-tricks to avoid seeing it, or does not see the philosophical implications of what he affirms, or both.

It does not follow from the premise that God owes man nothing that God has in fact given some men nothing, and justly. I do not understand how this carries so much weight, or why I believed it for so long. If He could say, "I played a dirge for you, but you did not dance," does this sound like a God who does it all Himself? Why would He say this? Why would He weep over Jerusalem? God incarnate is either manipulative, or you have the wrong idea about the Atonement and salvation. I know what I'm going with.

And none of this is to say that there are no genuine mysteries about predestination and the like, or that God must treat everyone equally. On the contrary. But He must treat all fairly. And that is why I'm not a Calvinist, among the other 8000 reasons.