Saturday, June 02, 2012

I'm going to answer a comment from a previous post here. It was suggested that the divisions among protestants (permit me to poke you in the eye by failing to capitalize it; I would not mean to confer an undue legitimacy on the whole enterprise) are no worry because neither is the entire world Catholic. Having failed to convince every single person to embrace the Church must invalidate the Church's claim, or so this well-credentialed folly goes. I answer that, do you not also exclude those persons who are obstinate in their refusal to embrace Christ in the gospel from the right hand of fellowship? Granted, our dialogue is only analogous, for I presume the validity of your baptism, and thus, some real but imperfect communion with the People of God. In any case, does the dissent of the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Christadelphians invalidate the truths proclaimed at Nicea? Does the mere presence of that dissent legitimize its content? I should say not. Thus, the lack of uniform consent to the deposit of faith given to the Church does not invalidate its claim. The inquisitor fails to distinguish between schism and acceptable variance of opinion. It is to be expected, since the mental phantasm to which that inquisitor affixes the noble word "Church" does not permit that principled distinction to be made. I would remind others that the sacramental unity of the visible Church is very real; it is not a thing to be hoped for and realized later. But indeed we all hope that all who claim Christ will share in the fullness of truth together. My ongoing point regarding this is as follows: Perhaps the revision of what constitutes the 4 essential marks of the Church and the alleged necessity of doing so was in error, since it neither unifies Christian people, nor shows any clear path for doing so. Revising one's assessment of what the "Reformers" did and judging it negative doesn't push one away from Christ, but in fact, where we still agree clarifies who Christ Himself is. But notice how sharp-edged this is: If what is essential to Christ and Christianity persists on either side of the Reformation, then the Reformation distinctives, and the particulars of each confessing community, are not essential to the Christian gospel. Are you willing to die for Calvinian predestination or for consubstantiation? Are you willing to say that the PCA or the LCMS is itself the Church, and to separate from her invites the wrath of God? No? Then why do you hold any of those things? And insofar as you do not suggest such identifications, you do invite the honest onlooker to say, "In these things, the truth cannot be known, or is not significant." Is this what you mean to say? From whence does dogma come? The only dogma that apparently you will not relativize is that the Catholic Church cannot be Christ's own.
Sorry I've been away; I was on a trip to Madison, WI. Before I left, I had the distinct privilege of watching and celebrating with Fr. Fadi Thomas Maria Auro in his ordination to the priesthood (as I may have mentioned). Having been left to the tender mercies of the Cross children, I was, shall we say, inquisited as to the nature of my food selection. You might say it is highly selective. In any case, any number of ridiculous life-threatening scenarios was put forward, naturally involving the three foods I will not eat. They are eggs, onions, and most varieties of melted cheese. I realize that this is completely preposterous. [You eat pizza, after all.--ed.] Most pizza. In one, I was starving in a prison in Siberia. I foolishly conceded that I'd eat the egg if it was scrambled. This did little to appease my tormentors, who conjured ever more unlikely and unfortunate circumstances for me. Next, I was in the jungles of Bolivia, being chased by zombies. Of course the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us! I'm surprised you had to ask. I could either eat raw rat--and probably onions--or I could use my wheelchair power to power the deep-fryer that I miraculously had brought from Siberia. But if I do, the zombies will get me. Then we were in Egypt, and this time the zombies are dormant, owing to the garlic and onions stationed around the tombs. But Father Fadi, ever the servant, had moved the offending food out of my path and presumably my olfactory range, which of course summoned the zombies. Naturally, like supernatural charity inhering in the soul, one can ward them off by eating the food. Why did you doubt? [This is the best story ever.--ed.] I'm sure it is. But wait, it gets better! Finally, the trump card: What if dear Fadi became the Holy Father, and commanded me to eat an onion for the good of the Church? Or a whole omelet. Well then, I thought, I guess I'd have to do it. Yikes!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With respect, you're missing the point, Protestant. We're not after the essence of God in our hermeneutical process. Certainty need not be absolute, for anyone. But the point is, if you can't prove to other Protestants that you're obviously right in the particularities of your confession, (and neither can he) how are any of you gonna answer the charge of schism from Rome or Constantinople? I can't hold a particular doctrine to be true unless there's good reason to believe it's true. And the Fathers are utterly unanimous: don't believe anything that didn't come from a successor to the Apostles. Even then, if he goes against Tradition, he's wrong.
Everyone's talking about hipsters. There's this book, this show, and unnecessary thick glasses everywhere. I'm not saying they're all bad. I like many hipsters. But, in the tradition of holding very little, if anything back on this blog, I should tell you that my working definition of "hipster" (in a Christian context) is: "pretentious, semi-leftist, city-dwelling, white evangelical." Ouch. [Audrey Assad's definitely a hipster.--ed.] Probably so, but I can abide hipster tendencies as long as they don't add up to a big storm of You Suck. Just understand that I'm defined, hipster, by everything you hate. Consider:

--I like the suburbs.
--Aside from war and the death penalty, I've never felt the slightest discomfort being a Republican.
--I like Michael Bolton, and can even tolerate Celine Dion. (not ironically)
--In fact, I don't have a single piece of music that wasn't popular at some point. You've heard of them.
--I don't drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
--I don't wear flannel unless I'm cold.
--I don't smoke.
--When I buy glasses, I intentionally do not want them to be obvious. Skinny rims for me.
--I like sports.
--I'm nearly the opposite of a vegetarian.
--I liked Garden State well enough, but it didn't change my life.
--For the most part, I think your movies are weird, sad, and boring. Or all three.
--I still think "organic" means "composed of carbon."
--I mixed up hummus with haggis, and I don't like either one.
--I don't want my pastor to be cool; I want him to tell me the truth. I think he's already cool anyway, because he belongs to God.

I think we'll be OK. Just know that I'm mainstream, and I'm OK with that. But we agree: New Girl is hilarious.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Five men were ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ yesterday in the Archdiocese of St. Louis; as a friend of them, I was in attendance. It was a lavish outpouring of grace upon all of us. I'm honored to be acquainted with most of them, and I'd say pretty close to one of them. It reminded me of one of my lurking insights from the journey, one thing I was very right about: "Why would the New Testament be less sacramental than the Old?" Answer: It's not. Not even close. If J.B. Lightfoot had been right in his commentary on Galatians, that the ordained clergy in the Church has always been understood functionally and not sacramentally--following upon Luther's basic rejection of the sacramental hierarchy and the levelling of clergy and lay--it seems to me we should be Plymouth Brethren, Zwinglians, or Restorationists on the point. If we truly believe, on the contrary, that grace is communicated by these sacred signs, and that certain men are called by God for that very purpose, then the dispute about exactly who are Christ's ministers, the validity of our sacraments, and the faith contained in them retains its special force. If ordained Christian ministry is not sacramental at its core, the whole thing is plain vanity. I felt the reality of this for the first in a Christian Worship class while still a Reformed seminarian. Why should anyone tremble before Calvin and the Consistory if they themselves believed that authority was only managerial, in the end? Better yet, why follow these men and not those others? If it is a matter of education, I have known much more educated men than those in pulpits. And we're back to Sola Scriptura. Did Calvin have some special insight, some unique hermeneutical key that Wesley or Melancthon or whoever did not? This "magisterium of exegesis" won't solve anything. We all have exegetes and scholars. It's the Noltie Conundrum: If I believe X about doctrine a,--presupposing we are appealing to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures on a matter that is not adiaphora, how do I know I'm right? And looking at it from the outside, what can I reasonably conclude about Divine Truth in light of the impasse? People aren't relativists only because they want to be; they might simply not know what Christ and His Church are saying to them. Still feeling good about your ecclesiology? The lines between subjectivism, banality, and outright sin get pretty blurry when you decide what "gospel" and "Church" and "Truth" mean. Happy to be Catholic. No; that doesn't do it justice.