Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I'm up to page 84 in Jurgens on the Fathers. That's what he should have done: named it "Jurgens on the Fathers." How delightfully pompous! [You should be done with that whole first volume, you bum.--ed.] I'm in the midst of two pieces for OFB, and decided to do a third. I have nothing earth-shattering to report, though I will say it was quite intriguing how things went down with those cats [Internal Debate on Slang Usage: I'm quite semi-famous for referring to groups of people (especially men) as "cats" when discussing some matter of life, e.g. "Those cats was/were reading the Shepherd of Hermas, yo [in the liturgical free-for-all before the canon was settled]." My question is, would it be more appropriate to spell it "kats" to avoid confusion with actual cats? Justin Klein seems to favor "kats." I suppose I could say that "kats" is the papist spelling in this context, while "cats" is the more arrow-straight proper Reformed spelling. Predictably, I kind of like "kats" better. My affection for actual cats does cause a bit of linguistic confusion there.] who tried to celebrate Easter on 14 Nisan, though the church had since decided to standardize it to the closest Sunday. Pope Victor told them to knock it off, but they refused, being good Jews who were now also Christians. So Victor was mad, and tried to excommunicate the whole lot of them, and all the churches of Asia Minor. The other bishops were having none of it, and they prevailed upon Victor to take a softer line for the sake of unity and charity. So much for the Pope having absolute, unquestioned power. I think this was in the 170s, by the way. Because by the time of whatever figure I was reading about (St. Theophilus, maybe?) it was no longer an issue. [Score one for the papists.--ed.] Yes, it would seem that this is a perfect example of the Magisterium cooperating with...itself, for the good of the Church. Undercutting the typical Evangelical caricature of a pope-dominated church with no checks and balances. But, to quote Bill Cosby, "I didn't come here to tell you that."
I definitely don't always agree with Anthony Bradley on things. I often think on matters of interest to him lately (race, and the history of racism in the PCA) that it would do him good to admit that part of his motivation for doing this is, "I'm angry that I personally, and my people group in particular, have not acquired the power that we should have in this supposed new age of 'colorblindness.'" Which, by the way, is totally understandable. In short, I agree with 94.6 percent of what he says, and you should listen to him. Over at his blog, a Mr. Callejas was dicussing Don Bosco (Why do I immediately think "Sicilian mob boss" when I write that name?) [Because you've watched "The Godfather" 37 times, and you're obsessed.--ed.] and the veneration the Guatemalans give to a statue of him. I have no opinion on that matter in particular, but I wanted to note that I have two friends duking it out in the comments: the aforementioned Justin Klein and "Jim," who, I'd wager a million dollars, is Jim Butz, an actor of some note, and a colleague at my PCA seminary. Justin knows that he might be abrasive when he's making a point, but he's always worth hearing out. Jim is one of the nicer guys you'll come across, compassionate and thoughtful. My take: They both may be right, insofar as that is possible. Justin is 100% right that Protestants do not understand Catholic doctrine in its context as a faithful Catholic would practice it, and sadly, many Catholics don't, either. But Jim's point is well taken; for one, the Catholic Church is ecclesially unable to say that error has been promulgated by the Church. Obvious Protestant objection: If there was error, how would you see it? For another, I have no doubt whatever that the largely white Protestant origin of our nation (and the rationalism that coexisted with the European version of that at the time) profoundly affects how American Catholics would view the devotional practices of other Catholics. Neither do I doubt that were I Catholic tomorrow and took a trip to Guatemala, what I might witness would give me the yips, the willies, and whatever else. Still, if a Catholic makes a distinction in his mind and heart between "dulia," "hyperdulia," and "latria," without some powerful evidence to the contrary, I have to take him at his word. I am not in a position to render automatically invalid the practices of a Church that has preached Christ to (conservatively) hundreds of millions of people. So far, in my experience with Catholicism and Catholics, I've not had cause to dismiss anything as idolatry. I suppose (and this is a necessary follow-up to my post on Mary) I could be witnessing or practicing idolatry without realizing it, but having reasoned through my feelings as I contemplated the work of Christ, it is highly unlikely. There was a distinct difference in my mind and heart between whatever affection I felt for Mary, and that of Christ (and I did not speak to her). Christ and his Passion (that's for you, papists) dominated. The love was overwhelming. I can only say that the verbal distinction between "dulia" (honor, veneration) and "latria" (worship or sacrifice) became real. At the least, I cannot accuse some of making a distinction without a difference, based on what I saw and felt. Dangerous Jamie asked me, "Is that because you're an evangelical and you know better?" In essence, I see what I want to see. That could be, but I have no burning wish to legitimize a practice viewed in my circles as extraneous at best, and idolatrous at worst. The best I can say is that, in a conversation between a Catholic and an Evangelical, as the Catholic apologist lays out the niceties and puts Mariology in its context, I would turn to him and say, "I know what you mean." In any case, Jim commented on the blog, "I've been to literally thousands of Masses, and they can't save." Respectfully, I answer, "Oh, yes they can." If you can't "get saved" in a Mass, something is wrong. I can't speak to the correctness of particular Catholic practices; I cannot answer the exclusive claims Rome makes to be the true Body of Christ. What I can tell you is that, unless one has made a point to define "the gospel" as something contrary to Catholicism, (that is, necessarily excludes it) one cannot avoid hearing that Christ is the only Savior of sinners. (Which is the gospel, no?) Do I think that the Catholic Church may be too conciliatory toward non-Christian religions with respect to "invincible ignorance"? Maybe. But as to the question of it being distinctly, profoundly Christian, there is no doubt.

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