Saturday, May 11, 2013

Franchise Mode Is Awesome

This is a relatively new feature on sports video games, where one controls the finances, the drafting of new players, and of course, the game on the field. In actual sports, drafting is highly inexact. The 3-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady was the 199th selection in his draft. In most games, however, you can spend the time to make sure that a high pick is not a bust. My favorite thing to do is trade my roster's highest-paid player (a surefire star) for a very high draft pick.

If you can get the same task done for less money, you do it, in this context. There are very few moral dilemmas related to justice when one's employees are super-rich. GMs have to be ruthless.

The basic concept behind things like 'Moneyball' is to figure out what you need to win, and giving up the least to get it. The market value of a star will be inflated by his reputation, and by competition over his services.

My insight was to figure out a style that worked for my personnel, and place each person in a position to do ONE THING very well. A star player does many things exceedingly well; that's why he or she is expensive. But suppose that key person were not a star. He has that one thing. And you've identified that you need it. In my example, we have the San Antonio Spurs (basketball) from the 2004-2005 season. At the outset, I found a center to replace the retiring David Robinson. So the defensive core of the club was the great Tim Duncan, and this other center I found in the draft. Offensively incompetent, he could certainly block shots and rebound. But I realized 1 thing: against an opponent who shoots well and is able to get open to shoot, we need to take the ball away. I need a point-guard who can steal the ball. I found the free agent Brevin Knight, who possessed the highest rating in the entire league for steals. He's quick, but his ability to shoot and other things was highly suspect. It would have to be lay-ups at the basket on the fast break if he was going to score. Shot-blockers, rebounders, and a ball thief. And I was far under the league salary cap. But I needed one more thing. We needed to be able to score in what they call the half-court: both teams set, running plays at one end of the floor. We don't need a star; just a shooter. A 3-point shooter. And so that's what I did. You don't need the best players at every position; you need ONE THING. It saves piles of money. And a team with money can buy a star if they fail to find him. Every great team needs its star.

What got me thinking about this was the free agency departure of Albert Pujols in 2011. Don't kid yourself: Statistically, those were on the whole the greatest 11 seasons to begin a career in the history of baseball. If he retired tomorrow, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame. Yes, he's that good. But an irreconcilable dilemma occurs when one's diamond in the rough becomes the game's best player: he wants to be paid accordingly. But a GM pays for the present, not for the past. He cannot give 300 million dollars over the next 10 years to a 32-year-old. Yet the player has earned that reputation; his value is determined by what others will play him. His value to a team is the skills he contributes to victory. A good GM will slightly overpay an irreplaceable centerpiece. And that will be known, because a key player will know perhaps that he is not irreplaceable to every team, but he is to this team. Yadier Molina is this person for the Cardinals. It does not serve to overpay the one who can be replaced, but the one who cannot.

Good Point, I Say This is the heart of the entire struggle. Forget the Catholic conclusion; doesn't matter as much as the question. Answer the question: What is the relation between my visible community, and the allegedly invisible Church? If it doesn't have real authority right there, it doesn't have any. See how the ecclesiology in its ambiguity drives doctrinal relativity? This is Newman's great insight. A person is compelled to find the basis for divine truth, not merely by a claim to possess it, but he understands that he himself must have been mistaken in his manner of apprehending it, in his method.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Still Not A Feminist

But this is good. Nor do I have an opinion on this particular matter, because A) I'm Catholic; B) the words don't mean the same thing within Catholic theology and praxis as in this context (or at least it seems unwise, based upon my knowledge and experience, to presume that the meanings of the terms are the same) and C) it seems like we need more precise definitions in general.

On a personal note, if it is not manly to watch musicals--and like them--then here are my Man Cards. And yet, those cards would not be worth the paper they are printed on. Because that's stupid. You hear that, Driscoll? Stop turning manliness into an awkward health class video from 1978. One of the things I love dearly about "The Doctrine Of Humanity" by Charles Sherlock (quite apart from the bad arguments for female ordination, and that terrible Anglican/Protestant sacramental presumption) is that he includes a chapter on being a man, and one on being a woman. He says essentially that you are manly or womanly partly just by being what you are. And though we may be rightly upset by cultural markers and definitions in either direction that box us in at the margins, we can't accept wholesale redefinitions, either. After all, generalizations or stereotypes are rarely false in every way, or on every occasion.

As I understand the terms, I do not share the goals and assumptions of various feminisms, even if I could sympathize with some of the people who might adopt the label. I am not unaware that feminism broadly speaking is multifaceted; nevertheless, I do believe--and I do ask pardon if I cause offense--that Christians of various stripes have affirmed the movement uncritically, in response to a self-perception of having accommodated Christian teaching to various misogynistic cultural structures.

The extent to which this has actually occurred is legitimately in question, and, to be frank, we cannot use a bad idea to fix a problem, even if we gain wide agreement on the problem.

The problem is, this culture--we--hate women. In truth, we hate men also, but we hate women more. We objectify them, shame them, kill them, and oppress them in so many different ways, it boggles the mind. And a great many of the oppressors think that they are helping! For all I know, Sandra Fluke is reading this. Sandra, you hate women. You hate yourself, and you don't even know. Or maybe you do. But I want people to be who they are supposed to be. I am not the arbiter of that, but I know that killing your own children, and pumping yourself full of drugs because you do not accept the responsibility of being a human being (our sexuality as it comes to us) is not it.

I also deeply know that the "rape culture" is real, and I know that the young people who committed the crimes in Steubenville are not unique. In general, we think it's OK to use each other--especially women--to please ourselves. And both sexes perpetuate that, unless we are actively working against it. And that's what unites commentary on moral degradation with feminist critiques. It's just that some of us have not been careful to put the blame where it belongs, even when those crimes are a symptom of the deeper problem.

We don't need "equality"; we need love and mutual self-giving. Life between men and women is not supposed to be zero-sum. And that is the feminist/chauvinist assumption behind the entire discussion. It will continue harming us until we expose it for the lie that it is.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Brilliance Of Catholic Apologetics On The Church

I say this not as an apologist myself, though perhaps I am, but as one who looked and said, "Here are two horns of a dilemma, neither of which are conducive to the position I hold or want to hold, but one must be correct." There were about 8 of these. But let us concentrate on the Church. See, the Fathers insisted that apostolic succession was the principal means by which the Church was identified. The third party in all of this is the Catholic Church of today. So, the interesting problem is this: Both the ancient Church (pick a century; doesn't matter) and the Catholic Church agree that this is correct, and as a necessary inference, that therefore, the Church is fundamentally visible. One problem with the basic claim of the Reformers is that one cannot test their counter-claim (that "apostolic" refers to doctrine) in any meaningful way. Who will definitively establish the body of doctrine from which the ancients allegedly fell away? I have more choices than I could possibly adjudicate, and none is obviously correct. (Tyranny of the Plausible)

So, the Catholic Church says, "OK, it's possible that AS was not the means by which the Church was identified, but 1) Why did everyone besides heretics and schismatics say it was, and 2) Where did orthodoxy come from, if not from that visible community?"

That orthodoxy is inextricably tied to the community to which it is given. That's another way to say that the Church must be fundamentally visible. One cannot even say with any reasonable coherence "Outside the Church, there is no salvation" if one cannot define "Church," and if there is no non-arbitrary way to determine who is outside her (or not). And if some visible body lacks both the jurisdiction and divine infallibility to make that determination, then an individual quite rightly would presume that he still is in full communion with the Body of Christ, which is not strictly synonymous with the boundaries of the community he inhabits, in this [invisible Church] view.

The man is playing a shell-game of pretended deference to these external authorities, whose jurisdiction he himself defines. And he ignores the real organic unity to which he is actually bound.

The argument that moral turpitude vitiates jurisdiction is an implicit concession that the jurisdiction is real. On the other hand, if the jurisdiction was never real, no longstanding rectitude would bestow it. That seems like an obvious point.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Offerings Of Many Kinds

I went outside. The sun did seem to make things better. I do not know if I am still slightly ill, or if those friendly byproducts just simply do not clear from the body of a person like myself, but I have a light cough. The worst of the illness was two weeks ago. I feel fine, it's just annoying. And I worry that something worse may occur. I wonder how much Dayquil or whatnot you can take before it's a concern. Should I see a doctor? What will he or she do that I haven't tried?

So there was that in prayer. And the acquaintance who has many hurdles in his attempt to study in America. And the heart-wound that won't seem to heal. I feel like the Lord is the only one who is for me on that one. But I thanked Him for the day, for the sun and for grace. I just walked along and prayed. I talked with the saints and the Blessed Mother, because I wanted to. And we do that. I appreciate liturgical prayers of many kinds; the worst error is to spurn them out of some sense of passion. And yet, to know God and our holy friends are right there is so good. You can say whatever you wish, so long as it is good.

And I suppose I need to give Him my moments in a steady way, to seek Him in all things, even through difficulty. But I did relish the perfection of the moment; the most natural and correct thing was to pray. I am learning: Pray even when you do not wish to. And yet, don't fail to do it when you do wish to! He had told us to go in our rooms and close the door, but He did not say what the room was, nor that you needed a door. I think Jesus means to say that we should be with the Father, for his sake and our own, and not to please others. I tell you because we are friends, and perhaps you have struggled to pray like I do.

It was a good day. And yet I marvel how easily joy and sorrow mingle. I wonder if I am crazy, because I have joy, and yet trouble is never far. I think of myself as very optimistic, but it is also true that I can imagine unceasing tears, and that does not seem wrong. You know? And I cannot do theology and let a phrase pass without a definition: "fallen world" and "fallen nature." I am Catholic, after all. Forgive me if truth compels an insistence upon precision. Because we cry out for the good, though it is true we cannot reach it alone. Even if we should say that we are double-minded, there is a difference between our finitude, and our wickedness, between nature and grace. I digress.

There is a strong chance that I love you in some way, if you are reading this. You might be very close or very far. In any case, I miss you sometimes. I'm glad you are you. I'm glad we can share something good in this life, so beautiful and so hard.

I Still Want To Go Outside

But there are things that must be done. Like this post. And to finish the Romans thing, I hope. In my view, you are absolutely right: Problems with Protestantism do not a Catholic make. But they might re-open an intellectual door or five. And that's all God needs. The Big Interesting for me was the relation between the Holy Spirit, the believer, and the ecclesiastical authority to which he submits, and why. If I was not already thinking in this direction, I doubt Mathison's book would have been so compelling and troubling. Everybody needs to ask themselves on very specific terms, "Why do I believe this and not that? By what means and to what end? I realized very quickly that the reality that most disagreements in theology were absolutely in good faith, and that made it "worse." If I can say it like that. This is what I mean when I call the problem the Tyranny of the Plausible. Because it is not as though to baptize one's children or not has absolutely no scriptural support, no learned defenders, no holy men to speak for it on either side. That's just one example. Not adiaphora. Not even close. I could think of 10 others. And that's just "conservative" Protestants! When one believes another man has made an obvious and easily correctible mistake, it is easy to believe one is correct. When it becomes clear that it is far from "obvious," that's a crisis. You can ignore it if you want to, but it's still there. That's why I used the Captain Jack example with Gerhard Forde. The one cannot convince the other that his distinctives are correct. I find it horrifying that they wouldn't even try, but I digress.
So it stands to reason that each man would appeal to his church/ecclesial community, and on we go. But that's exactly where the question of the individual and the nature of his mediating authority demands an answer. And I don't find the Roger E. Olson version of "it's not important" all that terribly compelling, because choices in theology are more than just expressions of preference. They had better be. Or else we sin gravely right from the hop for no purpose. When I say the disagreements are in good faith, I mean that I do not believe that each man is intentionally holding a position for whimsy or deception. And so, unless one is entirely comfortable deciding for himself and blithely dismissing all others, the problem is not a small one. And most "nuanced" Protestants recognize exactly this problem, and want to deny the wisdom of individualism. This is why Mathison attempted to distinguish "Sola" and "Solo" in the first place. This is why we have communities in the first place.

But I've been asking if the distinction is real. Pastor Terry Johnson wrote "Our Collapsing Ecclesiology" (not gonna link it; find it yourself) and it amounts to a concession that the distinction cannot be made in a principled way. He does not say this; he does not intend it, but it's there to be had. It doesn't matter if you don't want to be Catholic; it doesn't matter if you think Dr. Bryan Cross is a cheap hack; it doesn't matter what sites you visit and avoid, sooner or later you're going to ask yourself, "Who is my ultimate interpretive authority?" If it is me, I must decide if I am more intelligent, more honest, and more holy than everyone else in the world. Probably not. (And I've known very few consistent fundamentalists, anyway.) And then, I think one ends up saying this: Well, if I myself am not infallible, someone or something is." You may want to say, "I don't need infallibility or certainty," but the fact remains: You're doing theology. The One with whom you are attempting to commune is both supremely honest, and cannot err, by definition. Because of the weight of what you are attempting, and your partner in the effort, personal preference is not sufficient reason to make a theological distinction. So, I cannot say that I have no access to what God has said, and do not require it, because the theological particularities of what I propose would neither be known by me, or worthy of proposal. The fact that you have proposed a distinct set of ideas or propositions is sufficient proof that you believe them to be true, and to have come from God. The fact that any two people do not agree on what God has precisely said does not mean the question is not relevant.

I leave it to you to decide when or if the Catholic Church has a compelling answer. But I can say that even apart from how I conceived of authority, what I knew for a certainty about Jesus Christ predated all the major divisions of which we are aware. It only remained to see if I had the same reasons for holding it as they did. In a word, no. When I critiqued the prevailing notion of Mere Christianity before, I was not critiquing the reality of what Christians hold in common; I was critiquing the conceit that the rest of it didn't matter, and I was asserting that to say we held it for the same reasons on the same bases was a falsehood. It is a comforting falsehood, but it is a falsehood nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I Want To Go Outside

This exposition of Romans 6:1-14 is kind of annoying. It's finally a nice day. Perhaps the warmth after so cold a spring will be good for the remnants of this cold I'm fighting.

On the good side, let everyone be assured that being a loyal son (or daughter) of the Church does not make the Bible any less of an effort to understand, nor does the Magisterium's guidance make biblical expositions any less of a soul-squeezing enterprise. And that comes with my frank statement that Sola Scriptura is still the dumbest idea ever conceived, besides schism, and I am so glad that I am not required to believe it. Indeed, I'm obligated not to believe it. Let's just say I don't have to make an effort of the will on that one.

As much as I may willfully try to stir up jazz on the point, honestly, I still feel like an explorer and an explainer more than anything. I do not deserve some of my reputation as an opinionated jackwagon, simply because I am a verbal processor, and a verbal processor with no one to talk to writes by necessity.

On the other hand, I'm not one of those people that speaks with an overload of circumspection, if I feel it's necessary to speak plainly. We need people who say what they think, and I'm happy to be that person. You must understand, however, that I actually hate being disagreeable. My "I'm Not A 'Catholic Christian,' I'm a Christian (And You Have Caveats)" post hurt me as much as it may have hurt you. But the only thing worse than not knowing something you ought to know (like where divine revelation comes from, and how to access it) is pretending you do know, because the alternative is too horrifying to you for whatever reason. And I don't think Newbiginsian bad faith, blame-shifting, or Barthian word-games are terribly helpful, even as I firmly believe it is possible to be up front about these problems without being Catholic. [But you are Catholic.--ed.] Re-evaluating my relation to the Church is a separate issue from the hermeneutical crisis that Protestantism engenders, even if the latter caused the former. In other words, you ought to still confront the problem, even if you do not find one possible solution compelling (Catholic Church).

A truly ecclesial faith is a received faith. To this day, I do not make light of the fact that various Christians employ different means and different organs of ascertaining it. But I will question the historic legitimacy of those means where appropriate, and point out the implications of the "We can't all be right" objection. That is, different communities agree and disagree at different points with the Catholic Church. They cannot all be correct in the same way at the same time.

So, if the Catholic Church has a stable means of identifying and preserving truth, and that system intersects with A) what I already believe, and B) is synonymous with an identifiable visible community we call the Church, then it makes sense to become Catholic. It's not open and shut, depending on how you mean that, but if it has no actual historical plausibility, no amount of prattle about "faith" and "openness" will make it reasonable. This is not Mormonism or a call to Miss Cleo. So, I semi-agree with this. If the charge of ecclesial deism is anything, it is a call not to let the twin evils of bias and historical implausibility win the day. In other words, there is only so much discontinuity that can be allowed before one's stated desire for continuity rings hollow. To submit to the Church is to let the hermeneutics of continuity win out over that of suspicion. There is only one Lord Jesus Christ, and he is the anchor of the whole enterprise. There is a Church and there is that which is not, but there is only one Jesus. So it is not fruitless to demand an answer to the question, "What is the Church?" Indeed, where is it? Because we cannot be anchored to a thing which does not exist. And Jesus does not give precious promises to a floating idea. Which is not to say it has no invisible aspects. When I realized this, submitting to the Supreme Pontiff seemed a whole lot more reasonable. That jurisdiction is definite; it stands a reasonable chance of belonging to Christ. And so it was.

This started it today. I thought a certain guy was a little too comfortably Reformed, and taking advantage of some Catholics who don't know his tradition as well as he does. I admit it, I love being this living refutation of that arrogance. I think that's why God arranged my life the way He did. On the other hand, I'm probably not all that compelling. You can easily dismiss my understanding of that tradition if you want to.

How To Tell You Are A Distracted Academic (And Are Old)

You are ROCKING OUT to the Gin Blossoms. Dude, that was '95 at the latest. Look, I'm sorry! I missed my 20s entirely. I cannot be 33; it's just wrong. Why did things happen this way? It's OK; I'll be fine in a minute.

Sigh. And I'll get back to the matters at hand in a moment. But before I do, I'm going to listen to "Anna Begins" by Counting Crows like three times. What a great love song. Creepy, but great.

I take Mr. Duritz in his metaphorical oddness to mean that he's afraid of commitment, and the things that make her Anna. [But is she real?--ed.] That's a good question. I always thought so. [You would.--ed.] What?

The Somebody who actually matters has a different plan for my life than I do or did. It just makes you wonder if you took a huge wrong turn, or something is wrong with you (I mean, worse than normal). I know, stop thinking like that. [I wasn't saying anything.--ed.]

Dolan's Right: Mass Is Not A Protest

Everything stops at the church door. Fine, I admit it. I'm a politically conservative Catholic, so I'm inclined to agree with Dolan at the level of the political anyway, and tell these fascists to can it. But it doesn't really matter. If they were angry pro-lifers (even though that's an infinitely more worthy cause) WE DON'T BRING POLITICS TO MASS! Why is this hard?

I don't know what you are doing, but when I enter the church, nothing else matters. I won't even talk to you unless you make me. One of the things I love about the Church is that one is generally expected to be quiet in sacred spaces. I was used to noise in the sanctuary in my protesting days, but I didn't like it. The other day, the priest told people to be quiet in the sanctuary; I was so happy.

That's supposed to be one of the theological advantages the Church has over other Christian communities. (Yes, I intentionally phrased it that way to annoy you. Maybe you'll think critically about the definition of "Church," and stop pretending that a few nice words in my direction makes up for the rebellion of the 16th century. In addition, if you believe exactly as your theological forefathers did, nice words, while much appreciated, don't really make you less of a protestor, or less wrong. I'm willing to make the sacrifice in your opinion of me as an un-ecumenical scumbag or whatever, just so you know the truth of the matter. And no, Vatican II didn't really change anything, despite what some culpably ignorant leaders of yours may have said. It's all very clear in the Catechism, so I'll leave it there. Rant over.)

But Catholics are good at ignoring what the Church actually teaches, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But isn't it sad when people expect the household of God to be just another human institution? Isn't that worse than the politics? To think that this is all politics?

Monday, May 06, 2013

On The Verge

I promise, I was going to do continuous work, like for more than an hour. But the truth is, I'm not built like that. I need two minutes to clear my mind and breathe. It doesn't matter how inspired I am. I just can't allow those minutes to become hours and days.

I'm going to get off this keyboard and pray. That's what this is really about. Sometimes, you get a grace to know that you can't do anything without God. And I'm not so great and spiritual; I'm just telling you. I just don't care. I could be convinced that all the work and tasks before me are not as important as [fill in the blank]. You'd laugh if you knew. And then, you would cry.

I'm glad you don't know what I'm thinking most of the time. I don't want to scare you. On the other hand, I'm a pretty simple man. If I tell you that I love you and I'm thankful for you, you'd find out that in the secret recesses of my soul, I think exactly that. It's more entertaining and horrifying to find out that other people don't always tell themselves the truth, much less other people. Stop doing that. You're not fooling anyone.

Maybe Stop Trying To Change The World...

And love someone. I think I learned something about God this week. He wants my heart. And yours. I can give him my heart even if I don't leave my office today. I can fail to do that even if I really do change the world

I see God in people. This is how I know He has been at work. I saw a Rich Mullins clip last week. He was reflecting on writing the song "Hold Me Jesus," thinking about temptation, and he said, "I was talking it over with my spiritual director, and he said, 'Maybe it's not that you are so bad, it's just that you weren't meant to go out by yourself.'" I don't want to minimize anything, but how true that is!

The priest in Confession told me to reach out a little more. [He told the likes of you to be even more outgoing?--ed.] Apparently. "Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

There are infinite levels of, "It is not good for the man to be alone." Quite aside from the obvious reading, I sense that when I plumb the depths of myself and really start exploring, I have a powerful need to feel human. Almost every wrong road I ever took involved believing the lie that I am not really a person. You think, "What an odd thing to believe!" and yet, what percentage of us believes this very thing, and never actually even try to think otherwise?

You are real. By God's grace, you have the power to give life in ways large and small, or to take it away today. What will you do?