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Friday, April 15, 2016

Following Up With Bill And Ted

Well, I got their attention. I wanted to do a little thought experiment. I think it's fair enough to say that Catholics and Reformed agree on many things. That which separates them, from the Reformed perspective are Reformed distinctives, and he holds them in contradistinction to the Roman Catholic dogmas precisely because he believes those dogmas are false.

But what if the Catholic Church did not exist? The Catholic believes therefore that revealed truth, at least as regards the New Covenant, would not exist. The Church exists as the redeemed community of the New Covenant in Christ's blood. It's that strong. We don't accept an invisible Church, because it represents a denial of Christ and His saving purpose. An invisible thing cannot be a visible sacred sign of God's work in the world.

If Reformed theology as distinct from Catholic theology didn't exist, then all the points where we agree would be aspects of Catholic theology. And alike for Lutheran theology, and the Anglican communion. Many advocates for these emphasize commonalities, in an attempt to argue that their particular expression is not the radical departure from the ancient faith as Catholic dogma contends. But then that community, with its distinct dogmas, would have no reason to exist.

This is the power of the Church as a motive of credibility: it is a visibly identifiable community tasked with professing a specific deposit of supernatural truth. It is difficult to imagine--given especially Christ's own promises to the Church--that he would allow a fraudulent community in His name to be protected and preserved. And not only that, but that rival communities would arise, defining themselves in opposition to this supposed fraud.

A fundamentally invisible Church is an implicit concession to the failure of Sola Scriptura to produce dogmatic consensus. That invisible conception accounts for the disunity of the visible communities, whose practical function is to maintain orthodoxy as they each define it.




Thursday, April 14, 2016

What He Did And Did Not Say

I know 2 friends. We'll call them Bill and Ted. Bill is Catholic, and Ted is Reformed. I can sympathize with both of them, for the obvious reason(s). I'm with Bill, ecclesiastically of course, and Ted has some impassioned rhetoric to the effect that holy mother Church teaches a false gospel. I respect that, but here's the billion dollar question: How does Ted know that? What is "the gospel"?

I can see why Bill feels like he's chasing a moving target, of tendentious readings of Scripture passages, of feelings, and of ad hoc arguments, made for the moment.

I could sympathize with Ted more, if he tied himself to a tradition of interpretation, but he doesn't. He seems to embody the vicious circle of Sola Scriptura: Scripture according to me says I'm right, so I'm right.

On the other hand, if I didn't think Catholicism was our only option, I would find almost everything Catholic bizarre. It really is. If the Catholic Church isn't the Church Christ founded, it's not interesting enough, or good enough, to hold anyone's affection. That's why Douthat seems so weird to me. Why would anyone choose to be Roman Catholic? I'd rather be Reformed, if we're talking preferences. If we're talking dogma, though, the writing is on the wall.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hold Me, Jesus

If indeed Jesus is God, then the things he did when he was here in the flesh aren't the only things that matter. How many of us are deeply wounded by something, something done to us? He is able, and he's willing, doubt no more.

We might have a mighty faith that believes all things, all the biblical miracles and prophecies. Yet until Jesus is Lord of our deepest hurts, needs, and desires, we're just running in vain.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pope Francis Loves The Scriptures

I am in the middle of the new Exhortation now, and I will not offer comment until I have read it entirely. But I am very glad he essentially begins with a reflection on several Scriptures. He weaves it into whatever he happens to be talking about, and I love it. It's the way he uses them that I appreciate. He acts like we've read and heard them before. Because we the faithful, have in fact heard them before. Pope Francis does not behave like a catechist in the local parish; there are people to do that.

There are obviously risks to thinking the best of people, in this sense, to put it mildly. One of the problems with this approach, you might say, is that people aren't as holy as you might think. More than that, though, is that people may not be as favorably disposed as a good but optimistic priest hopes. There really are loads of people who will take any ambiguity as an excuse to do what they want. Here's a thought worth considering, however: Why should the pope speak as though the hard-hearted and rebellious are his intended audience?

Didn't Jesus say, "He who has ears, let him hear"? He also told us not to throw pearls before swine. Don't waste your breath on people who aren't ready to hear you. Of course, God is the judge of that, and God moves the sinner by His grace, so be ready. I think Pope Francis expects the faithful to take his cues; I don't think he expects to be misunderstood, or to be read uncharitably. He wouldn't even consider a plainly unorthodox interpretation of his words, because he intends to speak to and for the faithful.

I think it's at least possible that many people fret about things the pope said or didn't say because they have a smaller amount of faith than they care to admit openly. There is much invested personally in being "an orthodox Catholic" or whatever you like, so that when sinners do what sinners do, such people have a powerful need to show that they are definitely not on board, and that they are fighting the evil, in the court of Church opinion, so to speak. The thing is--and try to really remember this--God doesn't need us. He doesn't actually need me or you, or anyone else you know, really. If in His kindness He permits us to be a part of what He's doing--which is often the case--he does it for our good, or the good of others, not because He can't or won't do something.

I trust Pope Francis. I don't fear whatever he'll write or say, because the word of the Lord is unchanging. He can't change the stuff that matters, because he's only the servant of revealed truth, not its master. I'll let his confessor make the judgments about what he should or should not have said. It's not my area.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Voting Is Actually Important Sometimes

I went to the Republican caucus in my area yesterday. In this state, our primary is just for show. The real action is at the later caucuses that few know about. Well, I went with some friends, to do anything we could to vote against Trump. The "all Trump" delegates prevailed, 61-55. I hope our friends at the state convention can cancel out what was done here. I did what I could.

I was proud to see the unity among the not Trump faction. They didn't even want to know who we had supported. The man who organized turned to us, and said with a hint of resignation, "Thank you for voting for sanity."

By the way, I found the black Republicans. There may be many more than you realize. I think GOP candidates going forward should not appeal to coded language about race, in a foolhardy attempt to get older whites. These black Republicans would have run through a wall for Cruz or Kasich. And it was especially apparent yesterday that a large portion of the anti-Trump sentiment was explicitly Christian. I can't speak to the religious sentiments of the Trump supporters, but they really were angry. They were offended at the very idea of anyone less than thrilled at the prospect of giving all the delegates to the man who was rejected by 2/3 of the voters.

I did what I could. Had I known what would happen, I would have done more to get 7 people to come along.