Saturday, February 02, 2013

Gimme 5

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Eat it, KU.

4. Go Ravens? I guess.

3. Dr. Derek Sheppard: The Denzel Washington of fictional TV surgeons.

2. Star Trek, TNG Barbarity Watch: You get two warnings on "stun" before I vaporize you. I am William T. Riker. ("The Vengeance Factor")

1. Star Trek, TNG Fornication Watch: Apparently, Troi and Riker courted one another by sleeping with as many other people as possible.

The Spirit Of Vatican II

In trying to ascertain God's work in and through an ecumenical council, you might hear commentators refer to the "spirit of the Council," or in the case of the most recent one, "the spirit of Vatican II." In general, it is a way to refer to the links this council has with the previous ones, and to suggest how God might be leading the Church forward as a result of the Council. It is most basic to Catholic identity to believe that God guides and protects the Church, so, if the phrase is indeed more than a buzz-word, nothing could be more natural for the faithful to ask, "What has God done through the Council?" Indeed, Blessed Pope John Paul II made it the central program of his pontificate to implement Vatican II, as numerous writings would attest. (This is not an essay, so feel free to check that out for yourself.) So it's important to get it right. Many people either maliciously or ignorantly view the Council as the occasion for the Church to change everything, to join the modern world, and other such foolishness. But the basic posture of every Catholic theologically is and ought to be an assumption of continuity. In fact, this is a basic Christian conviction against other Christians separated by the theological assumption of discontinuity. So any Catholic who speaks of doctrines, people, and previous Councils as "outmoded" or otherwise unnecessary is already not thinking as they should, and is unlikely to understand the Council as it comes to us.

One of the tragic errors that came out of trying to use the Council for human sociological ends was the misunderstanding of the Dogmatic Constition on the Church, AKA Lumen Gentium, and specifically article 16. The part in question (keeping in mind that the English translation is not official) reads:

"Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." It continues to explain:

"Nor does Divine
Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.

She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.

Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",
the Church fosters the missions with care and attention."

This section explains the first part with much more clarity, coming as it does as a gloss on Romans 1, Romans 2, (ignorant but Law-abiding Gentiles) and St. Paul's speech in Athens in Acts 17. That presupposes several grace-guided pre-stages following the light of truth and conscience before the state of sanctifying grace as a part of the Catholic Church. The work of dialogue and evangelization goes on precisely because of the redemptive intent of God and his revelation in Jesus Christ. We should all be able to say that as we grow, we know Him with more clarity and explicitness than we did at an earlier stage; where that awareness began is less relevant than where it ends. The Romans 1 reference shows that ignorance can be culpable. Some is not, however, and meets with more light, which leads to Christ, who is the Light of the world. Are we to say that this makes evangelism in the form of explicit Christian preaching and works of mercy unnecessary? NO! If we truly believed in the elements of truth and sanctification found outside the Church, we could see that the evangelist's true task is often to bind those elements together, walking together until we grasp that cord that leads into the Church herself.

The problem inherent in the objection to all this is a Reformed one. Without explicit knowledge articulated in Jesus Christ by faith, we cannot take any comfort in any moment prior to justification. One does not even normally say that those steps, however beneficial, are done in cooperation. There is no cooperation. Whatever value I could place on taking the steps God has appointed for me, it remains that it is all truly rooted in divine election before the foundation of the world. To take nothing away from those in that community who insist on that articulation, and preach in expectation of it, faith as understood by them falls out as a matter of course from the divine election. It is not as though the individual, even aided by grace, does really change his destiny, one way or the other. Faith aroused in the hearers is experienced as something real and necessary, but it cannot be, if we are even reasonably consistent in our application of that theology. Man of himself is totally depraved in the Reformed system (Chapter X, Effectual Calling) meaning that every part of man is tainted by original sin, such that he cannot use any faculty to aid himself supernaturally (Chapter IX, paragraph 3). The point of all this will become clear shortly.

The error of interpreting this section of Vatican II in a way as to embrace a "hopeful universalism" as articulated by Hans Urs von Balthasar is to essentially remove the freedom of the will from the equation, and in place of a predestinarian rigidity concerning salvation's possibility itself, a naturalistic fatalism that is universalist in intent. But this is not even close to Vatican II. Essentially, it is the optimistic version of the Reformed error(s). Given his interaction with Barth (even sympathy) the likelihood that he would make it is high."Invincible ignorance" as a concept is God's escape hatch, or rather, our way of articulating his right to be the final arbiter of the destiny of every man. He cannot make a mistake, and there is no appeal. It's harder to find mercy by this ignorance, not easier. Anyone who says otherwise does not understand how the Council is itself bound to all the others and to the Tradition of the Church. It's not new. It doesn't change how Catholics think about the gospel. I'm told Ralph Martin has a book on this, disagreeing with von Balthasar and others. The point is this: This view is not the teaching of the Church, and frankly, it isn't in the mainstream of Catholic thought about salvation or the Council. I am not the judge of those who hold it, nor am I an authority, but I am Catholic, and I will hold a Master's degree in orthodox Catholic theology very shortly.

The most troubling aspect of this is that this view of von Balthasar--and a more extreme one advocated by Rahner--is that my Protestant brothers believe that it is representative of Church teaching and of Vatican II. With respect, it is not. It was mistakenly represented as such in "The Church," by the late Ed Clowney. Given his not small influence in Reformed circles, I do believe that Reformed commentators seriously misjudge what is orthodox Catholic teaching. On a more general note, Reformed theologians run a significant risk as non-Catholics in therefore guessing what that orthodoxy is, and so, mislabelling outright dissent as opinion within the bounds of orthodox Magisterial teaching. It doesn't help matters that the Church often acts with great circumspection in these matters, and that dissenters have great influence perhaps, when they should not. Addressing that problem is a part of the ongoing renewal that Vatican II was convened to achieve.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

You List When You Talk

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Respectfully, Chuck Hagel ought to withdraw. If you are afraid to stand by your own views, you're not worthy. It doesn't matter what they are.

4. John McCain may actually be a self-righteous war-loving blowhard, (or not) but in any case, he's earned the right--by his position as our representative--to get an answer to his question(s). As have the others.

3. Why did Obama nominate this guy?

2. Are all public officials allergic to answering direct questions in a direct way?

1. There is a distinct difference between nuance, and simply being incoherent, or a candy-***. [Did you call a decorated warrior that?--ed.] You can lack in one kind of fortitude, and have an abundance of another. And not all virtues are applicable to every situation.

A Counterpoint

Let me preface this by saying that I like Ray Lewis and the Ravens, and will be rooting for them in the Super Bowl this Sunday. Lewis is possibly the best ever at his position. It is a privilege, even on the eve of this his very last game, to watch him play.


From "The Hater's Guide To Ray Lewis," this money quote: "Ray Lewis is a cheap televangelist. People who flaunt their faith the loudest are very often the biggest phonies. This is why I'm convinced that Tim Tebow murdered six drifters in the spring of '03 and never told a soul about it. And this is why Ray Lewis comes across as nothing so much as a muscular Jim Bakker with an arm brace."

And I admit that it's probably true. I'd say Tebow has done the very opposite of flaunt his faith, but that was funny, in a dark way.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I hate the world. Seriously.

4. What she said.

3. The year I was a senior in high school--1998--we had a ban on phones and other electronics. Why is it hard to say, "During the school day, you don't need that stuff"?

2. We need moms and dads for this stuff; it's not that government shouldn't do it, it's just too big.

1. And we need Jesus. "Mom," "Dad," "Love," and "Good" are things we should know anyway, but He makes it plain, especially for those of us who've been through some things.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whitney, Whitney, Whitney

5 Thoughts While Listening To Whitney Houston

5. Um, why didn't Babyface write ALL her songs?

4. She still passes my "sing test" pretty easily.

3. Where was I while she was ruling the music world? [You were like 7.--ed.]

2. Have you heard anything like "I Have Nothing" in your life?

1. "Victimless crimes," my foot. What about us?

Truth And Loving People

I've loved a lot of people in my time. That is to say, I have felt the sentiment or the emotion of love, which I readily grant, is not the extent of it, or even its essence. Sometimes, you have to tick a person off to love them. Truth and love are never far apart in the good life.

This blog in general is devoted to truth in love. For example, I think being Protestant is tenuous. Perhaps today is the day that modernity and postmodernity take down whatever ecclesial edifice you happen to be inhabiting; maybe you have been taken down long ago by persistent falsehood without knowing it. But I can only rejoice in new appointments to the pastorate insofar as it helps my friends eat and feed their families. Also, I can rejoice in those elements of truth still found and heard in those places. But the first hard truth of the day is this: that truth was stolen from the Catholic Church. Creedal Christianity is Catholic Christianity. It's just as well that truth was stolen; after all, it was stolen by the Church's own sons and daughters, largely.

We have an obligation to do better than, "real but imperfect communion." Jesus prayed for more than that. Our hearts ring out for more than that. When I say that you fail to make a principled distinction in arguing for your position, I mean practically that a hack with a theology that's a bad joke from the first millenium can argue it to ends that are, to say the least, undesirable. A principled position can be applied to all relevant situations, past, present, or future. "An ecumenical council is always to be held true" is a principled position. "An ecumenical council is always false" is also a principled position.

I'm thrilled in one sense, discerning Protestant, that your position is unprincipled. But entropy and the reality of Sola Scriptura will make it for naught. The ship is sinking; jump off.

Why am I Catholic? Because it's true. Because honesty and truth demanded it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

You Get The Snark For Being An Idiot

5 Snarky Thoughts

5. Ahem.

4. You know, there are corrupt lawyers, prosecutors, and judges all over our system, but no one ever says, "We should have a national debate on the necessity of the 5th and 6th Amendments." Isn't that funny?

3. I thought about boycotting Buffalo Wild Wings, but I don't have the guts. The wings are too good. On the other hand, if it saves even one life...

2. I would like to think about whether it's fair for the 1% to have all that money, but it's above my pay grade.

1. Um, did the ERA pass when I wasn't looking? So we're going from fighting unnecessary wars to losing them, cool.