Friday, November 20, 2009

5 Semi-Connected Thoughts for Today

5. "Stokley" Williams, (sp?) I could listen to his singing for many hours.

4. Why do I love this song so much?

3. Yeah, I know he sounds like the lead from Tony! Toni! Tone! .

2. If an immersion in classical music or music education would give me a disdain for most of popular music, then I don't want it.

1. I wrote a song last night.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If you're one of those people for whom the answer to the question, "Why aren't you Catholic?" is, "Because it's indefensible heresy, and I'd fear for my soul and anyone else even considering it," then this upcoming list is NOT for you. For all the rest of us-- from those who named their cats "Benedict" (I know you're out there, stop lying) to those who have a healthy affection for the Catholic Church and its people, but will respectfully take a pass on "coming home,"--I dutifully present: (as if anyone cares/is reading this)

The 5 Reasons I'm Not Catholic (At the Present Time)

5. Justification/Perseverence/Trent Though sola fide has no way of being verified historically, beyond, "Luther said so," it seems ludicrous to believe that our gracious God would make it so easy for those of us who love Christ to foul it up. Experientially: I may sense the separation that my sins create, but I cannot know that they will damn me, sans repentance for each specific (mortal) sin. It seems antithetical to God's gracious nature, His beneficence toward His own. Especially given all the things Rome says constitute mortal sins. Let's also give credit to Protestants of today, even Calvinistic ones, who would not deny that Charity must be present with intellectual assent to the true doctrine of God. In fact, I would say that the Catholic definition of faith as, "intellectual assent to the true faith" is too limited. James 2 is speaking of intellectual assent.

4. Mariology. I can't reject it entirely, but I can't affirm it all in conscience, either. More investigation is required. Note to Protestants: Give due consideration of the fact that most pre-Reformation deniers of Mariology did so with the express purpose of attacking the purpose and work of Christ. At the very least, take the stated Catholic desire to guard doctrines concerning Christ via defining Mary seriously.

3. Eucharistic reservations. I do not believe that observing the Supper as a Protestant is entirely without benefit. (Obviously.) If the invalidity of the Protestant celebration is chiefly caused by invalid Holy Orders, this deserves further investigation.

2. Development of doctrine. While Protestants generally do not have an objective standard by which to judge what are developments and what are accretions, ("What is your objective, consistent standard for accepting certain pre-Reformation doctrines or even councils, and rejecting others?") the Catholic explanation seems, at present, highly convenient. Sounds like, "We, the Catholic Church, are never wrong." While I certainly believe the Holy Spirit does not err or lie, to believe that this promise and those to the church must necessarily work out in the Catholic fashion (with a ton of asserted infalliability) seems intellectually lazy, and lays a much heavier burden on individuals than, "Believe in the one He has sent." In crass terms, too much De Fide, and too little "We don't know." (And freedom!)

[And the last underlies them all]

1. Ecclesiological. By what means does an individual know that the Roman Catholic Church is the one Christ founded? Even a sweep of the whole 2000+ years of Christian history (in which the practice of Christianity looks a whole lot more culturally Catholic than Protestant, I must say) doesn't settle it. Also, Catholics admit that other Christians can be saved. They are even far more generous toward other religions, (especially as compared to Protestants) provided that remaining in one is out of invincible ignorance. Protestant theologies may have more holes than the PGA Tour; Catholicism might even be more consistent and intellectually satisfying, especially with respect to certain questions which Protestant converts always ask. It seems to better fit the history of Christianity, on the whole. But the most important consideration is, "Is God trying to tell me/us that Rome is His Church?" I want to hear God's voice. And if that cannot be determined, or God doesn't want to answer that question, it'd be stupid to go anywhere. I can still imagine preaching the gospel in some kind of Protestant church, teaching people to love, respect, and try to understand Catholics and Orthodox as best as they can.

In the next few days, I'm going to write what I think are the 5 biggest problems/questions Protestantism faces (in terms of theology and organization, not ethics per se, in case that wasn't clear). Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What A Video Game Taught Me About Aging, Frailty, and the Fear of Death

I’m OK with the fact that probably, I play too many video games, and watch too many sports. I’m not that important, and no one is relying on me for survival as of yet. But I learned something the other day from a game I was playing. Indulge me, for this requires some explanation.
My favorite game is MVP Baseball 2005, from EA Sports. For one, I love baseball, and secondly, EA is justly well-known for making semi-realistic, fun sports games. The year corresponds to the upcoming season, so as far as this game is concerned, the last completed season was 2004, which featured a freakishly talented Cardinals team—winners of 105 of 162 games that season—and the surprising Red Sox, who climbed out of a three games to zero hole in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees to win in seven games. If that weren’t enough, they won the World Series in four games over the Cardinals. Even were I not a St. Louis native, I’d play with these Cardinals. In any case, the fad in sports games for the last decade or so has been “franchise mode,” where one can not only play with a team, but guide its day-to-day operations, budget, and personnel decisions. Choosing this mode, (called ‘Dynasty Mode’ in this game) I patiently played through an entire season, all 162 games, over the spring and summer, usually after midnight when the day’s tasks were done. I made fair trades and stayed within the budget. Finishing 155-7, my imaginary Cardinals waltzed through the playoffs to a World Series title. I was looking forward to drafting players, re-signing players, and not re-signing others who made too much money. And then, the dreaded feature of these games came into view: “Player Progression.” After each season, the attributes of players change. Some will improve; others decline, and sharply in some cases. I knew that a decent chunk of the core group of my Cardinals team was in their mid-to-late thirties. It’d catch up to me, as it did to several members of that actual 2004 Cardinals team.
I didn’t want to continue, and I haven’t. I couldn’t stand to see the skills of my favorite players—though they are video game facsimiles of them—in decline. Why do men watch and play sports? It is innate in humanity to seek a glory that is bodily. We see a glimpse of what we were made for as people run, jump, and throw. When an elite athlete declines, we remember his highest excellence even as we watch his struggles. By this we are reminded that we will all become frail, succumbing to death in due time. For others, the heights of the intellect become the depths of the forgotten, the lost, the unknown. Unless we hope in the one whose own resurrection from the dead declared the inauguration of the Kingdom of God and the beginning of a new heavens and a new earth—Jesus Christ, the firstfruits—we will be chained to the cruelest of idols. We will not be strong and vital as we once were, and will not remember the glory of it, either. What is life, if not eternal? What is love, if not perfected? You tell me there is no evidence for belief, no proof of His handiwork. At best, it is a comforting notion for weak-minded people; at worst, a tool for oppression. I can only say in reply that the world is alight with beauty, with laughter; deep joys mix with deep sorrows. Every day, we see heroes and villains, we see a world that is good and a world waiting for something, for someone, to set things right.
We can’t just live in the past. But that past tells us that we ought not be resigned to cynicism. Every second, every breath, screams at us if we listen: This means something. I’m parking on the couch to watch Jim Edmonds highlights; someone pass me a beer and a Bible.