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Friday, August 07, 2015

Logic, Continued

Abortion. Hey, good morning! Time for serious things!

OK, here's your syllogism for the morning:

Murder is the unjust taking of an innocent human person's life;

Abortion is the unjust taking of an innocent human person's life in the womb;

Therefore, abortion is a species of murder.

Given this, there can be no exceptions, if indeed murder represents an intrinsic evil. So, on this issue, there are actually two real principled positions, all turning on the second premise of the above argument:

A fetus is an innocent person, in which case, no exceptions to abortion can be allowed; or,

A fetus is not a person, in which case, no restrictions to abortion are necessary.

The fact that politics on this issue are mired in arguments over qualifications and exceptions tells me that most people aren't accustomed to thinking clearly, and in fact, nearly all of us know we have been wrong to permit abortion all this time.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Logic, Logic, Logic

I'm thankful for Sean Hutton today; he teaches theology in New York state. He's younger than me, smarter, and better-looking. [Does that need to be hyphenated?--ed.] I don't know; it just looked wrong before.

Anyway, we're part of a rumble on Tim Dukeman's wall. There was a nice post affirming his Catholic and Orthodox "brothers" for standing for life amidst the Culture of Death. At that, the fundie hordes descended, and this lovely unity was shattered by theological disputation.

This is Tim Dukeman, so the only natural thing was to make another thread where we could argue about our differences. I was named as the other main Catholic combatant, which was dumb, because I can't hold a candle to Mr. Hutton; pointing out the holes in Protestant thought isn't the same as making an affirmative case. Sean had this great little syllogism for Mary as the Mother of God:

Mary is the mother of Jesus;

Jesus is God;

Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

If you are thinking along with the patristic logic train, what they were motivated by at Ephesus in 431 was to safeguard the unity of the two natures in the one divine Person of Christ. Nestorius had said that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of the Logos. But you see, the Word became flesh; he didn't just borrow it, or appear to take it. That flesh was his, therefore it was hers.

Down the road, the Marian dogmas when viewed from the outside may well seem to be add-ons, accretions that threaten to make Mary divine. But from the inside, we have a whole theology of co-redemption and participation, for all of us. There is nothing more natural than to give her the place of co-redeemer par excellence. Christ alone is Our Savior and Lord, but we have many helpers, and it pleased the Lord to do this.

Really and typologically, Mary is the embodiment of faithful Israel, groaning in expectation for the New Covenant to be inaugurated. Any Jew between the exile and the time of Christ would have yearned to speak the words Mary spoke, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. Have you ever noticed how Jewish it sounds? Really, our whole New Testament is like this, but we don't see it, because Protestant biases and assumptions of discontinuity color the text, as surely as they color all of Christian history. I digress.

In another way, it pleases the Lord that we trust the Church as surely as we trust Him. If the Church proposes a dogma for us to believe, we must believe it, as if the Lord Jesus had told us himself. There is no difference. 

One of my teachers told us a story from the Charismatic Renewal. Some of these brothers had been Pentecostals, as you might imagine. They'd now decided to enter RCIA. Loving hearts they had, because the professor would lose them with overly complicated ecclesiastical jargon. Yet if he said, "Jesus said..." followed by a dogma, they would believe it or do it, without question. Do we trust Jesus like that? Do we hold the truths of our faith like that?


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Little Reminder

Some sins actually are worse than others. If someone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. Can it be covered by the blood of Christ, no matter how serious? Of course it can. Let me say that again. Yes. There is nothing you can do to put yourself beyond the reach of His love.

Can you choose not to be friends with God? Can you put yourself in danger of being excluded from God forever in Hell? Also yes. Most avowed Christians I know and talk to worry too much about the second, and meditate too little on the first.

Before you stone me for that, I also recognize that many baptized and confirmed Catholics have never undergone initial conversions! They've never met Jesus personally! No wonder the American church is terrible! If you're not living a spiritual life, you're not going to understand spiritual things. You might be able to go through the motions; you might even understand that if you receive these sacraments, you can be rescued from damnation, at least for a time. You might even look down on those evangelicals, who do go on about their "personal relationship with Jesus."

Here's the bad news and the good news at the same time: We're supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. There is no reason to go anywhere and do anything churchy without it. Holy mother Church will be fine; you're not cutting her off at the knees by saying it. It's just true. Did Jesus not say, "I have come so that may have life, and have it abundantly"? John 10:10. That's still in there, right?

At the risk of boasting, it makes me sad that people can walk into a Catholic Church, look around, and not understand what they see. Not just intellectually, but with the eyes of faith. He loves us.

Why do I go to Confession? Because Jesus loves me. Why do I receive the Eucharist? Because he loves me. Why do I say the Rosary? Because he loves me. (As do Mary and all the saints.)

The first step in conversion is probably to desire to love God back, insufficient as it may be. "Blessed are those who hunger and for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Look at that! Matthew 5:6. It's right in the middle of the Beatitudes! I probably don't need a doctorate in sacred theology to figure that one out: it's the heart of the whole thing.

And I read a thing the other day, and it referred to this. Some people think if we talk about God's love and mercy all the time, people will not repent. That's just silly; you don't experience mercy as mercy unless you have something to leave behind, and in fact, you dare to leave that sin behind.

If I may, the problem as I see it is that priests in America waste their 15 minutes pleasing people, instead of helping them. Others who endeavor to be orthodox seem to enjoy telling people they are sinners; down deep, even the hardened ones know that. Don't sugar-coat it, but there is no point in dwelling on that, with no mention of the remedy! And I'll tell you what: If the people don't believe that Father is excited about the love of Christ for sinners, he can say it until he turns blue; it won't do much. Even the passionate ones can sound like hectoring Pelagians, without real good news. This is not a rule-following religion; this is a mutual love religion.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Rosary VII: Jason's Revenge

Look here, children: Horror movies aren't good for us; I don't watch them. But if I need a clickbait post title, well, my hands are tied. After I thought of it, though, I realized that I know tons of people who irritate me, even make me angry. What better "revenge" than the Rosary? That former TA of my Covenant Theology class, who loves his generalizations about the poor motives of Reformed converts to Catholicism? He's got no chance, ultimately, when the saints get involved.

If you think about these little irritations in relation to eternal life as a blessed child of God, they don't measure up. If I really understand the last things, my evil neighbor--who's made life pretty hard for us these 20-plus years--really isn't meant to live in the bitterness he apparently harbors. He isn't meant to suffer the damnation that evil rightly deserves. Nobody is. The reality that Hell is and will not be empty is of no concern to me, as long as I have co-redemptive skin in the game.

That's hard when people hurt you; it's hard to love so much that grave evils pale. It's hard to pray like that. Yet I think I should try. It sounds crazy, but the gospel sounds crazy. I'm not disbelieving it any time soon.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Rosary: The Legend Continues

I was up early again today. It's Sunday, of course. I had the distinct feeling that God is rescuing me from myself. Those of you who have the ability and the time to go to Mass more frequently should do it. There is no good reason to stay away, in that case.

So the Rosary this morning was energized with the thankfulness of the Eucharist to come. There are moments when the whole thing feels commonplace, comfortable, and suburban; there are other moments when it seems we will all die here before the altar.

I can remember times when my soul grabbed a hold of, "for they offer it for themselves, and all who are dear to them, in hope of health and well-being..." and really offered something. It seems we get little moments of eternity like this, where we realize the truth of it all, not only in our minds, but in the core of ourselves. Maybe the saints are the saints because they sensed this all the time, and kept living, instead of just being blown away.

For the greatest athletes, everything seems to slow down; they can do absurd things and make them look routine, because they feel as if there is more time. Their opponents, great as they might be in their own right, become like spectators. The saints are like the elite athletes of the supernatural realm: they make the forces of evil into spectators of God's love and glory.

That's what we do when we pray: we slow things down, to talk with the Kingdom of Heaven about what is real. I might have a ton of needs and worries, but with God, we begin to see a certain unreality about those things, at least with respect to how they tempt us away from God.