Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to my brother, Kevin Kettinger, my kindergarten teacher Miss Nelson, to Taylor Overstreet, and to Tiger Woods.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obama clearly wants to lose. [No, he's just inept, and stuck with the fruit of identity politics.--ed.] True. Number 1 rule of winning electoral politics for presidents: Get the Midwest. Number 2 rule: DON'T TICK OFF THE GUN PEOPLE! Pete's sake, what happened to Senator Obama? This "President Obama" is clearly someone else.
Carl Trueman is as Protestant as Protestant gets. I read his articles, and I never get the sense that he is changing his mind. But he inspires me. I know Bryan is a fan, precisely because Trueman is willing to tease out the implications of what he believes (and what he doesn't) and to live with them. He's not on a team, as it were. If some piece of the historical data or some ecclesial consideration gives grist to the papists in the court of public opinion, it's no concern of his, long as it's true.
What I can recall is thinking that the ground of my dissent or disagreement with the Catholic Church had to be strong. In that, I agreed with Trueman, who wrote that Catholicism was the default position in the West. I could appreciate also the opinion that we as evangelicals needed affirmative reasons to be what we were. If we found ourselves in agreement with Rome, we should return. All this is true, and it had to be so, for the sake of the dogmatic principle, as Newman would say. The Eucharist cannot be the body and blood of Christ in the Catholic sense and in the Reformed sense at the same time. We certainly knew how to cherry-pick from the ancient authorities when it suited us, but sooner or later, the cocktail party politeness of the ecumenism of ignorance will die in the harsh reality of the contrast between the Council of Trent and St. Thomas on the one hand, and the Heidelberg Catechism question 78 on the other. We can't paper over these differences, no matter how hard Michael Green might try. We liked to use the words, "Eucharist," "Body & Blood," "real presence," and the like, but we were toying with dynamite, to allude softly, if I may. I know for my part, I had forgotten all the blood spilled over the precise meaning of those words. We had no right to forget it or soft-pedal it, either by ignorance, or for the sake of a revisionism occasioned by a collapsing ecclesiology. If the so-called "conversionist" evidence could be harmonized with other patristic evidence suggesting at first a more symbolic Protestant view but didn't (because you can't harmonize contradiction), and it led back to a visible, authoritative community, I would have my answer. And it did. Orthodoxy on this and other matters was determined primarily, if not exclusively, by visible communion with the bishop of Rome in the earliest days. If I were to tell an alternate story centered around the Reformers in the 16th century, I'd need a pretty definitive hermeneutic from Scripture, because I'd rejected the accepted authoritative arbiter of Tradition in use at the time. I'd also need it to be strong in order to justify a rival ecclesial authority, and by extension, a new arbiter of Tradition (even if we dared to claim we didn't have it). When you've reined in all the myriad claiming to believe and teach "what the Bible says," you let me know. Not that this in itself means anything, as long as I thought I was right in my hermeneutic. But I began to ask, "What if I'm not?" And, "What is the nature of the authority wielded by my forefathers and community?" If that authority is neither dispositive against other claims nor intended to be final, how could I, as a representative of it, claim to preach the word of God?
You may have noticed that much ink virtual and real has been spilled over the idea of apostolic succession. The beauty of this argument is this: As it turns out, this claim means precisely squadoosh without papal primacy. To have a visible hierarchy without an ultimate visible principle of unity is pointless. You can definitely tell the Orthodox to can it if you are Protestant, because the picky-choosy among them vis a vis the Councils is no less ad hoc than anything Zwingli et al cooked up. If anybody finds either a unified body of teaching that all Orthodox believe, or a final arbiter, please let me know. In my ruder moments, it may be addressed as, "Protestantism With Funny Hats." Or, "Chaos With Funny Hats." But I repeat myself. [This is a chaotic rant.--ed.] That it is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tim asks a good question about divorce in the comments to a previous post. The relevant sections of the CCC (let the reader understand) are 2382-2386. But some of the New Testament texts seem to permit divorce, at least in the theoretical, in the case of adultery. But Bryan's article on this is maniacally thorough. [We're used to this by now, aren't we?--ed.] It still shocks me, like the pungent incense at Easter, or the fact that the Cardinals won the World Series, or that Firefly was ever cancelled. [Yeah, that show is great.--ed.] I know, right?

Monday, December 26, 2011

I think it's raining ice at my house. That, or we are being invaded by radical eliminationist termites. [Could be both.--ed.] That's true. "Uncle Bryan" and I saw Bryan's old philosophy instructor from his Reformed seminary days at the midnight Mass at the Cathedral. She was glad to see him, we think. She taught philosophy back not long ago when Reformed people still thought thinking clearly was important. Not that I know anything about that. I've always wanted to ask her if she's inherited the Earth yet. (let the readers understand) And I still find that funny; thanks for asking.
For my part, I'm still very glad with my decision. When I saw the Archbishop, my unity with him was palpable. In turn, I knew that I was visibly united to the bishop of Rome, who was and is the visible principle of unity for the Church, and for all Christians. Better still that my bishop holds the Catholic faith, and works hard to uphold those who hold it. I've been sick, so I tried to prevent him from shaking my hand, but he would have none of it. "Merry Christmas, Your Excellency"--careful to use the proper form of address--I said. It either means (1) someone thinks I'm important, or 2) I am the least of these. Either one is OK by me.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On this day, God in the flesh appeared--Christ the LORD--to reconcile us to the Father. Even as the defenseless baby cried, He held the world in being. May His coming bring peace to every heart, and peace on Earth. May every darkness of sin be banished forever! I love you all, and Merry Christmas.