Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Three Things

There are three big poles that are the basic thrust of what the Church fathers had to say: 1. Petrine primacy, 2. Apostolic succession, and 3. Eucharist. Sure, they had tons of interesting opinions on other things, but these three things tell us how the Fathers identified the Church. (But see for yourself.)

Interestingly, the Catholic Church stakes its claim on these same 3 things. That's how someone like me can choose to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. "It's a match," I said. It doesn't matter whether or not I understand the theology of any one particular thing; first I must establish that the one proposing it has the credibility to do that. If the one proposing it is in fact God, via the Church that Christ established, it matters very little that whatever it is (say, Marian dogmas) might be something I had never heard before.

I wasn't going to say anything about this, but the commenters made me do it! Anyway, for intellectual honesty's sake, I would mentally separate any interaction with the doctrines of the Catholic Church today from the Church of the Fathers as best I could, because you are testing the claims of the Catholic Church, not proving them, if you take on this task.

[Protestant Cross-Examination Paragraph] We've already said the Church cannot be normed by a norm that didn't exist. (Sacred Scripture in its current form.) So that presents several problems: 1. How was the deposit of faith deposited fully in a means that did not exist? Why, if that inscripturated word is so vital, so as to be the only infallible rule of faith, did it take the Church well over 300 years to propose it as a norm to the faithful? How did the Church function until that time, if the oral transmission of revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle? Why does every subsequent list of the canon of Sacred Scripture differ from the 66 book canon proposed (eventually) by the 'Reformers'?

You first.

Friday, February 08, 2013

5 Humorous Thoughts

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I don't know who gave me these sour jellybeans, but they are fantastic. This is like the food version of Michael Bolton's, "I Said I Loved You But I Lied": "I said I loved you but I lied/'Cause this is more than love I feel inside/Said I loved you but I was wrong/'Cause love could never ever feel so strong..." [I said I loved you...but I lied.--ed.] Honestly.

4. I drew a cat that looked like a table. So Confirmation Sponsor Lady drew a proper cat sleeping on a table. I might be an artist, but not that kind of artist.

3. Consider the following syllogism:

Our end or goal is to see God in the Beatific Vision.

Because it is our highest end, it could be called The Answer.

But God is our highest end.

God is The Answer.

God is Love.

Therefore, Love Is The Answer. [The song is still hideous.--ed.] Speak for yourself, dude.

2. I saw a picture of Gisele Bundchen sitting there holding her baby--and if I'm lyin', I'm dyin'--I thought it was a friend of mine. I love those kind of mistakes. So if I say you look like a supermodel, hey, I might be telling the truth. Ahem.

1. Every penance I think up is hideously draconian. I'm either incredibly holy, or incredibly prideful. Film at 11.

Why Is The Tu Quoque False?

Wait, I can't back that up. That's too ambitious. I'm an idiot with a keyboard. But here goes:

The claim is that people use reason to discern that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, so that is no different than anyone else using reason to decide anything other than that (like the Catholic Church is a hapless gang of Mary-worshipping pagans, for example). But I want to suggest that these are not the same. Firstly, reason can only take you so far in that endeavor. It can only help you say, "This is credible," or, "This claim is not credible." If you say that the claim is credible, it doesn't make you Catholic. It might. It should. But there is no necessity of that, and no compulsion, until such time as you conclude that there is a theological meaning to looking for "the Church Christ founded" in the first place. You could easily say that was the wrong question to ask. might be. At the beginning, I phrased it like this: "What is the common source or origin of the faith of all Christians, and what is the means of identifying it into the present?" I had before me two things: I had the claims of the Catholic Church to be that origin and means (and the counter-claims of the Orthodox) and then Protestants generally, who think essentially that we're all "branches" of an "invisible" Church that all true Christians are a part of, despite the visible separations between us. It's kind of funny that no one can agree on who (and what) that includes, and if they include each other, but I digress.

But investigating the truth of a claim using reason is not the same thing as accepting the claim as true. If I accept the claim of the Catholic Church, I accept all that it entails for me as Catholic. To discern the truths of theology, I accept the means, or the organs by which it is revealed. Before that, I have competing claims as to that organ of revelation. I have to imagine the implications as if the claim were true in order to find out.

Submitting to the Catholic Church is different. Reason can order my organization of the data of revelation (and it should, obviously) but I do not, to do theology properly, doubt whether it has been revealed, or the means therein. Faith is the very act of accepting what has been revealed, and thus, the means by which it was revealed.

The reason Newman's famous line about history is true is that I cannot accept a contrary means [to that of the Catholic Church] that did not yet exist. Sacred Scripture in the form of the New Testament did not exist in the form we have it today at the beginning of the Christian community. So the community itself pre-dated the written words of the New Testament. That truth is actually one of the bases for the claims of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded. More basic than that, it shows you that seeking the Church Christ founded is exactly the right thing to do. Even what we call the Old Testament is the written product of a community. If the claim of the Catholic Church is true, using the New Testament to disprove something taught by the Catholic Church is like trying to steal your own car with a spare key. Or robbing your own house. It's pointless. I have no idea if I accomplished my goal, but it was fun to write that.

5 Biscuits In Your Basket

5 Completely Random Thoughts

5. No, seriously, Bud Light is disgusting.

4. "I hear your name in certain circles/And it always makes me smile."

3. Whether you go campy or classic or popular, the 1980s were pretty solid for pop music.

2. Two of the greatest sci-fi lead actors in history are Canadian.

1. I miss Dick Clark.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sola Scriptura Up Close and Personal

I find this hilarious. No, not because they're getting nasty, but because it puts the lie to the perpiscuity thesis once again. Aside from a lack of patience and supernatural charity perhaps, is there anything inherent in the hermeneutical process being used to say that Strachan's conclusion is wrong? Is there anything to say Siebert is wrong, absent the Magisterium, or at least a makeshift one? Dr. Enns believes that Siebert has an interpretation or at least questions worth considering. Others do not. Isn't "tribalism" inevitable when there is nothing to definitively establish the "correct" view? Isn't it also inevitable when the ecclesial structures in play are nothing more than non-binding societies of people with a common interpretation? Bad faith is almost a given, even if it is polite and subtle, if one believes the interpretation he holds is divinely directed. Maybe even protected. This is what I have long called "The Noltie Conundrum." This is that, isn't it? What's left if there is no way to settle it? And if it is true that the individual is actually the final arbiter of "orthodoxy," then he decides the validity of the "secondary" structures that he imposes on himself or others. Moreover, it is clear that he decides the "what," the "how big," and the "who" of those in communion with himself. That's why scads of people can talk about "the Church" and the "Body of Christ" and unity all while using different definitions of what they mean, and who they mean. And as long as we don't ask too many questions, we don't realize this. This is how really important words in theology become buzzwords. The fuel of buzzwords is a lack of agreed-upon definitions, and the result of this state is equal parts sentiment and groupthink.

Humorously enough, a Protestant-Catholic type discussion broke out on the Facebook thread of Dr. Anthony Bradley, a professor at King's College, NYC. The "Tu Quoque" made its appearance again:

“John, there's nothing in Scripture implying that the magisterialism of Acts 15 continues after the apostolic era. There is no magisterium, only ministers of the Word.

The authority argument from Catholics actually undercuts their own system. It is true that once one accepts the authority of the RCC Magisterium one can define orthodoxy without direct appeal to their own private judgment (well, this is questionable because they must appeal to their own interpretations of the Magisterial documents). But every time they use the authority of the Magisterium to define orthodoxy they are appealing to an authority whose authority is determined by the individual according his personal judgment. They must do this to avoid circular reasoning. They can't say "I accept the authority of the Magisterium because it has declared its authority." Their basis for defining the content of orthodoxy is their private judgment concerning magisterial authority. Incidentally, determining this authority requires a fairly thorough theological system *prior* to any appeal to Magisterial authority, for that authority is very subject of the inquiry. So a Roman Catholic cannot declare orthodoxy without an appeal to his own private judgment.

Ahem. I can assure you as a Catholic that there is nothing provisional about the Church's authority over me or others. There isn't any real doubt about dogmas, either. I can be mistaken about what she teaches, but that doesn't mean the Church is mistaken or doesn't know what God has revealed. I can accept or reject what she proposes to be believed as a matter of faith, but it is most certainly not debatable in that same way.

The "John" in that exchange (the one who lodged the objection is a guy named "Stephen") is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, my old home. He guessed that Stephen is a congregationalist, and challenged some of those individualist assumptions. Later, John struck gold by asking:

 "Stephen, in recognizing the authority of a confession, isn't a pastor necessarily recognizing the authority of the 'magisterium' that created it?"

Exactly right. To ask this as a meta-question is to inquire as to the basis of this authority. That becomes historical very quickly. Lamely, Stephen replied,

"No, because they don't recognized the authority of those who wrote it, but the authority that normed it, namely, Scripture."

He elaborates, "I think the difference is that a denominational confession is exactly that, denominational. The confession is the universally agreed upon statement of the deposit of doctrine for that denomination. So the denomination is there to safeguard that body of doctrine. But there is the category of "all things essential" that all Christians must uphold. So there can be interdenominational work that solidifies unity in essentials despite disagreement in non-essentials. The Chicago *Statement* is not denominational confession, but it is thought of as a standard of orthodoxy. No one appeals (or should appeal) to the authority of those at the conference, but to Scripture who normed it.

The purpose of all these "normed" documents is to codify. It's a way of establishing and shaping the language of a position. That is really what all "normed" documents are all about. That is one reason why we have catechisms: to universalize language for unity."

Wow. There's more begging in this question than a kennel of dogs at a sausage convention. He favors the "club rules" version of denominations. But this does injustice to the reason for their creation at the first. Let's ask the Westminster divines if they think Catholics are part of the "Church." Do they have a permissive view of the Lord's Supper? Does the WCF chapter on the church sound like "we're all united in what matters" and, "This is true for us"? The only reason we hold this conceit at any point as Protestants is A) we don't know that it is plainly false; B) we lack the means to do anything about it; or C) we don't care.

I'll say it again: "Confessionalism" is nothing more and nothing less than establishing some secondary authority as a 'Magisterium', in the same way and for the same purpose as the real one. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

How's This For Post-Partisan?

The Republican Party is now the War Party. Somewhat distressingly, the Democratic Party always was. What's missing from our political discourse actually is anthropology. I'm not a philosopher; I'm just a man who loves his country, and yes, its politics. What is Man? What does he do? What does he owe to his Creator? What does he owe to the nation he calls home? And to his neighbors and fellow citizens?

These are pretty basic questions, but ones that never get asked before we start. The truth is that you and I may have different answers. And that's fine, as long as we can talk. They are right to say that our politics is noxiously partisan; what never gets said is that it really is mindless. And most people give an answer that sounds like, "If only those people were not insane..." You know what? I do think most people who call themselves "progressives" are insane. Or, to be polite, they have the wrong anthropology. That wouldn't be that bad, if they could be circumspect about it. But they're usually smug and self-satisfied. When I think of a progressive, I think of a college professor, and a college freshman. Both of those people can be the best of America: inspiring, energetic, self-giving. But I guarantee you, that isn't the first image that pops into my head. And into the heads of most "conservatives".

Conservatives are nuts, too. For every 'liberal' dunderhead who's heard far too many sympathetic lectures on socialism and watched too many hours of Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow, there's at least two conservatives that I wouldn't have a beer with. We need to be optimistic, winsome, and actually fun to be around. I admit, I'm not always that guy. Especially not when discussing this subject.

On the other hand, it's really hard to be optimistic and winsome when the party apparatus that represents "non-conservatives," let's call them, is completely devoted to the murder of children as perhaps its first principle. Yes, I'm talking about abortion. But I want to say that more than this, I'm holistically pro-life. That's why I unapologetically favor the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. Not because murderers don't deserve to die. They do, and they always have. But I see a Liturgy of Death in this country, and it proceeds just as surely in the death chambers in the prisons of the United States as it does in the abortion mills across this land. And it proceeds in distant battlefields, as the living instruments of our foreign policy give their lives, precisely for what, we don't know. But it is high time we stopped using that bond of fraternal sacrifice as a shield against our poor decisions, our misguided interventions cloaked in spasms of patriotism. Their fortitude is not a policy; the love of friends and family is not a justification.

It's clear that the Republican Party is going to have to save the "safety net," because as much as it may contribute to the common good--at least rhetorically--those responsible for its construction and expansion are too interested in their self-image and the self-aggrandizement of the technocratic elite to be bothered with reality. This president and his party make the spending excesses of the Bush administration look like a rounding error. The federal budget has at least doubled in 10 years. Even if I were a social democrat, that would seem alarming. Not that the president cares, really. He seems to think fine words and good intentions are all that governing requires. Remember that professor and college freshman? Obama is both, and it is most certainly not good, in this case.

That's all I have to say for now. I'd probably get pegged a "social conservative" and some kind of extremist. Well and good. I hope they call me a "Christian extremist" too; at least "Christian" won't mean endless nattering about civility and bipartisanship while cowering in the corner while the country burns.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Chris Carpenter

The word has come down from Cardinals brass that "Carp" isn't coming back. Typical Carpenter, he's avoiding the "r" word. I wouldn't be surprised by anything from this guy. But if this is really it, I'm going to try to put into words what we're feeling.

He's not just a good pitcher with occasional bouts of unfathomable greatness. That is what the numbers say. In between the injuries, he was the definition of "elite." But in between the lines, he's the very definition of a pitcher. You'd call him a "grinder," but that's an insult. We give that word to role-players who shine in a big moment, or whose love for the game outshines their talents.

Carpenter sucked every ounce of life out of this beautiful game like it was the air he breathed. The ones we love are those guys. I have rarely seen that. And when I have, they've been teammates or friends of Carpenter. He's the perfect player for a fan like me: Baseball in his guts, living and dying with the team, anything to win. If you play to win, we'll get along. If not, see ya.

I can feel what his teammates feel right now. They don't care what the numbers say, or what the score is, they want that guy to pitch for them. He was 144-94, but I've said before: numbers lie. These definitely do. The Cardinals have 2 World Series titles in the last six years, and neither of them happens without Carpenter. He outdueled Kenny Rogers in the World Series in 2006. 0 runs, 3 hits. He willed the Cardinals to a 1-0 shutout in the deciding game of the division series against Philadelphia. Against the best pitcher in the game. On the road. Take a poll right now, if you like: Ask Cardinals fans who they want pitching for one game. Who do they trust the most? Even if we go down, who's gonna fight, who's gonna act like a pitcher? I know who's winning that one. In 2011, he started off bad. 2-9, still trying to round into form coming off injuries. He went 10-2 the rest of the way. When they finally won it, completing that improbable comeback after World Series Game 6, only one pitcher could make the seventh game into a formality on the way to a coronation: Chris Carpenter.

I mean no disrespect to the other Cardinals, whose considerable talents are also crucial. But Chris Carpenter is their heart. He made them go. A deeply flawed team was one win from another World Series appearance in 2012, and he is the reason. True, he was not himself when he returned. But they relied on that return, and he led them when he did.

Honestly, I lack the ability to verbalize what it all means. I can't tell you how good he was. I only know that I'll stop my life to watch only a few guys, and Chris Carpenter is one of them. He played with so much pride, it was an honor to watch him lose.

I had to stop and pray, because I was so sad. I turned on the press conference because I heard the rumors. Indeed, they pre-empted the local programming to tell us this. Baseball in St. Louis is front-page stuff.

We are the city that just lost The Man. I know that Stan would have loved to play behind Carpenter. I also know that he could learn from Stan. He could learn that playing baseball with all you are is good; loving God with all you are is better. There is something inspiring and noble about his manner of play, something deeply human about it; don't miss the opportunity, sir. Don't miss the meaning. There are greater battles for our warrior spirits to fight. But to watch Chris Carpenter pitch, that was a baseball blessing in this valley of tears.

Sorry, But...

 "[Name], the RCs (especially Reformed converts) like to say that the Bible requires an interpreter (infallible), otherwise it's hermeneutical anarchy in which everyone believes what is right in their own eyes (as in garden variety American evangelicalism). They respond that the "Church" (i.e., their branch of the Church) is the infallible interpreter. Fine and good, but who interprets the interpretation? You ask who are the good Catholics, and the response is, "those who agree with the Church's teaching." Duh. But how do we know who agrees with the Church's teaching? By interpreting the Church's teaching and deciding *with our own judgement* (except in cases in which the "Church" has officially and specifically acted or spoken) whether or not person X agrees with the teaching of the Church. So when RCs point to the disagreements among Protestants and suggest that this makes a mockery of our doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture (it doesn't--they simply attack a caricature or misunderstanding), we can simply point to the disagreements among RCs and note that it makes a mockery of their beloved Magisterium and their "infallible interpreter." Everything needs to be interpreted, and at the end of the day that interpretation is done by individuals. Thus, RCs are really just (bad) Protestants with a canon that includes the Magisterium and is open (i.e., continually being added to and modified--sorry, clarified)."--Peter Green

Er, I didn't know the canon of Scripture was open. Nor did I know that the Catholic Church had accepted an invisible Church while I was asleep. Not to be rude, by the way, but if that hermeneutical anarchy doesn't make a mockery of perpiscuity of Scripture and Sola Scriptura, I don't know what does. Actually, the whole thing in hermeneutics under that system was a Tyranny of the Plausible. It's not that I couldn't consent to living under one of these ecclesiologies/interpretations if I had to, it's just that no one could give me an answer as to why one in particular was correct. For one thing, your humble author has never liked Choose Your Own Dogma books. We don't do theology by preference here.

I'm no philosopher, but isn't this the Tu Quoque again? Boring. It fails because there is in fact a stable body of truth from which the theologian makes insights and speculations. Or did you think, Mr. Green, that only you could call people heretics with legitimacy? I digress. Investigating the claims of the Church does take reason, yes, but submitting to her is quite a different matter. There really is no legitimate picking and choosing under the Catholic paradigm. Thanks for hijacking my thread. We must be stealing a lot of your sheep. I'd be mad, too.

Monday, February 04, 2013

5 Is Alive

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Thank God no one reads the National Catholic Reporter. Oh, wait.

4. I sure love it when my Catholicism is attacked as out of the mainstream by a bunch of dissenters.

3. I sure love it when Protestant leaders, seeking for "unity," present those dissenters as good Catholics and attack the authority of the Church.

2. I love it when those same leaders, professing to lament the political radicalization of American church culture, sign up for the political agenda of Catholic dissenters.

1. A brief note: The Catholic Church will NEVER change its position on the ordination of women. It can't. And I'm glad.