Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Reformation Is The Matrix

I hope you've seen the movie. Our protagonist, "Neo," realizes that he's living in what his friend and rescuer calls "a dream world." He leads the humans in triumph against the machines who had enslaved the entire human race. He's a Christ-figure, most definitely. And purposefully. I'd recommend it if you have kids only if you can get an edited version; the language is very strong, and there is violence throughout.

In any case, Protestantism's "prison for your mind" is the principle of Sola Scriptura. Therein lies the thing that destroys any chance of humble reception of the truths of supernatural revelation, because the individual is the arbiter of "what Scripture says."

People have spent the entirety of the 500 years or so building elaborate schemes since then to hide the fact that there's no principled difference between "me and my Bible" and a "historic Protestant." In each case, the person determines what the Bible says. In the latter case, the person has a fairly complicated storyline involving historical events, detailing where and when "the Church" got it right and when they got it wrong. The fundie is Johnny Exegete, who thinks that the "plain meaning" of the text is so obviously clear to everyone of pure heart. If you don't agree with him, he assumes there is something lacking in your relationship with God. The latter are a bunch of ecclesial kidnappers; they comb through history looking for support for whatever they already believe. In this case, Johnny Exegete got a bigger bookshelf and a history degree, and writes for First Things. Fred asked a good question: If I believe x about doctrine y, and my community believes z, who's right? And if I submit to my community insofar as it agrees with Scripture, that "insofar" is me and my arbitration of the questions at hand. It's all the same.

But ecclesial infallibility changes the whole game. The reason the Catholic or the enquirer is not guilty of the same charge is because he is not determining the truth or falsehood of any doctrine in particular; he is looking for the organs of that infallibility that he knows must be there, by virtue of the nature of God, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived. He is looking for the Church of which Jesus had spoken. If he finds it, that Church will provide the guidance to understand that which it proposes for belief. The Catholic knows he is wrong, if he disagrees with the Church. This is why Catholic dissenters get so much sympathy from Protestants: they both remake the "Church" to fit their beliefs.

Remember the main problem with the invisible Church concept: it does not allow one to make a principled distinction between a branch and a schism. You can reason your way to the need for a visible Church, and to some infallible organ of her. The question with respect to the Catholic Church (whether Roman Rite or dozens of others) is this: Is it reasonable to assume that this Catholic Church is synonymous with the ancient Church to which history amply bears witness?

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Just Have To Say It

It's time to stop playing nice with those people who constantly carp about "isolationists" and attempt to silence anyone who urges the slightest thoughtful reflection upon the monumental decision to unleash the most powerful military force the world has ever known. Let's call them what they are: warmongers.

I used to be the sort of person who bristled at the slightest criticism of America. I used to think that every peace protestor was a communist. And then, the evidence mounted. The unintended consequences of each successive intervention seemed to snowball. The president acquired unparalleled power. The parties and their devotees took turns condemning and supporting different wars, and political advantage seemed the only criterion. Other than 9/11, when was the last time the United States was actually attacked? It's called the Department of Defense. Does it really defend anything? Does it defend us? Or is that what we tell ourselves because the truth about the deployment of our armed forces is too hard to face?

I know many people in the armed forces. They really are the best we have. That much is true. You have to have a special kind of courage to be willing to do all that they do. There's a special fraternal bond forged in the fire of risking your life for someone else that can barely be described. I won't try. But you know what else I won't do? I won't use that bond as a covering for bad choices. I won't mutter on about how they "protect our freedoms" because I lack the ability to say how. When you put that flag in some mother's hand, you had better be able to say, "We wouldn't be here without them," and it had better be true. When was the last time it was true? A vague idea of our own moral superiority isn't going to cut it any more. I'm sorry. If that makes me unpatriotic, then I question your definition. I don't believe in peace at any price. But we're selling peace for 30 shekels of silver, and it needs to stop.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Poll!

So vote in it. Also, there's this. Let me be honest: I loved this. Yes, OK, fornication is bad. And where is God? But it's still ridiculously enjoyable. This just in: Guys are stupid.

It's black and white with me. If we're talking sexual intimacy, she is my wife. End of story. That just isn't "my values" talking; that is my heart talking. It says, "No one knows me better than you, and no one ever will (except God)." I wish we would stop hurting ourselves and each other this way.

Don't lie with your body. That's what you do when you have sex with someone who is not your spouse. There is only so long you can live in a world of lies before it comes crashing down.

I felt for Jessica, because I knew she would want more. Duh. God made us that way. Guys want to give everything, too, but somehow, we can compartmentalize the emotional and the physical...for a while. A guy who acts out sexually or is hypersexual is deeply wounded. He wants to give all of himself, but he is afraid of being abandoned. I'm not a psychologist, but I knew that was coming. Tim's not lying when he says he wants total love, but until he begins to find healing from these deep emotional wounds, he won't find it, and can't give it.

St. Augustine, pray for us!

The Cross

Everything. You know that, right? Our pardon, our righteousness, yes, but not only this. His love. For us. Always. Everywhere. [Warning: I'm going to use graphic, visceral, language to make a point.] Atheists. Queers. Perverts. Communists. Bernie Madoff. Barack Obama. Dahmer. That guy you don't like. He died for them. And each of us will have to answer for the distance between His love and our love in return. But there is no love of God somehow outside of Christ. It just won't happen. You could be horribly mistaken concerning the truth about God, but if you love God, you are loving Christ. It isn't hard, but people try to make it hard. Papa Francis has been talking this way from the get-go, and it makes people nervous. I like it. If it doesn't make you jumpy, you don't understand the extravagance of God's love.

If you need to read about it in detail, do it. Some of us are Uncle Larry, whose joyous heart beats with a desire for theological precision. And some of us are Pope Francis, who is doing his best papist Billy Graham impression. Either way, it's all the same. God is Love, and Love is The Answer.

May your day be filled with Love! A Love beyond all telling!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blah, Blah, Blah

5. This Newman dude is like a punch in the face. He'd make little Johnny Edwards cry. The sermon should have been called, "Schismatics in the Hands of an Angry Cardinal."

4. OK, Pirates. This is the part where you start losing. No matter; we're gonna have the division title, the home field, and a World Series ring. All with a bunch of rookies.

3. A blogger with no internet is like a boxer with no arms.

2. Please beat Mayweather, Canelo. Please? I'm really tired of hearing how great he is, considering he is just a big-mouthed ducker of the good fights and fighters.

1. I think I hate divorce as much as God does, if that were possible. No, I will not be happy for you when you "move on" to "find happiness" or some such lunacy. I'll pray that you find mercy and pardon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Love Is The Answer

An argument, if I may:

1. God is Love, according to the teaching of 1 John 4:8.

2.  St. Augustine, a Doctor of the Church, said: "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."

3. As such, the completion of man's existence, his Answer, is communion with God.

4. Therefore, Love is the Answer.

Sing it out, kids!

One Day, I'll Do That

Fruitful dialogue. What's that? But seriously, though. I'm working on this. Stellman is better at this than he looks. Don't let the snark fool you. He shouldn't worry about being too Christian for some, and too worldly for others. Just be yourself, dude. Because honestly, that ain't half bad.

This is the part that interests me in particular:

“Why’d you become a Catholic?”
Catholic: “Because I believe the Catholic Church is the church that Christ founded.”
Protestant: “Even if I grant that there is such a visible body today that can lay claim to that identity, why does it even matter?”
Catholic: “Because in order to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion in a principled way, some visible body must exist with the authority to do so.”
Protestant: “Aren’t you just presupposing Catholicism by saying that?”
Catholic: “No. I said that ‘some visible body’ must exist, I didn’t say it was the Catholic Church.”
Protestant: “Oh, so you’re saying that visible body could be the Orthodox Church?”
Catholic: “Yes.”
Protestant: “Why couldn’t that visible body be Protestantism?”
Catholic: “For a couple reasons. First, Protestantism didn’t exist before the Reformation, and no church can be considered the church that Christ founded if it can’t make some plausible claim to have existed from the very beginning. And secondly, Protestantism is not a visible body, neither is there a coherent concept of a visible church in Protestantism.”
Protestant: “Umm, read the Westminster Confession. It describes the visible church in some detail.”
Catholic: “It describes visible believers and visible congregations, plural, but not a single visible church. For example, saying that ‘the visible church’ is ‘all who profess Christ, and their children’ is tantamount to saying that the visible church is just a collection of people who have no visible connection to one another. But if a bunch of severed limbs don’t make a body, a bunch of disconnected believers don’t make a church.”
Protestant: “But they aren’t disconnected, they belong to local churches.”
Catholic: “Exactly. That’s why I said that Protestantism has visible churches, but no singular visible church. That’s why I don’t consider it an option to be the church that Christ founded. Jesus founded one church, not many.”

I said in my mind, "Wait, there's no actual visible Church!" way before I was Catholic. That's why I wrote later something like, "When my visible community ceased to be the means by which I knew divine truth, I could no longer be Protestant." I'd link it, but I can't bloody find it. On my own blog. This search engine is worse than the one at Called to Communion. [Are you even allowed to say that?--ed.] We'll find out. Besides, we know it. There's no need to deny it.

In any case, the Stellmanosaurus Rex is on to the heart of the matter, which is no surprise, really, since he is brilliant. We've got to come to terms with that individualism at the heart of Sola Scriptura (AKA, Dr. Keith "Sola-Solo" Mathison makes a distinction without a difference) or we are doomed eventually to atheism. I really believe that. But I also believe that Christian truth that any of us holds even in an ad hoc manner will lead us to Christ Himself in the Eucharist. We just plain have to have the guts to follow Him all the way there, once we realize it's Him calling, and not give a tinker's swear-word what anybody else thinks about it.

Well, You Don't Do Yourself Any Favors...

Prominent black Reformed author, faculty member of a well-known northeastern evangelical university. If I'm speaking frankly, you're almost always right, but I want to argue with you, because you're not winsome. This guy, I'd hear him out, because he didn't start out by making me feel personally responsible for every historic sin, ever. I actually like you. I really do. Because I am a cripple, and you were The Black Guy. You and your people have had it way worse, but yeah, we both understand condescension.

But please don't complain about how you've been unfairly "savaged" for saying the same things. Because I love you, and you're right, but like I said, you don't do yourself any favors. Then again, neither do I.

The Test

It could just be that I am a dullard, but it seems that the main challenge in life is to notice the difference between what I want, and what is best. I hate these kinds of tests! Because I want things all the time. I want money, love of various kinds, respect, and on and on.

You don't really choose your friends; they choose you. Or God does. In case anyone cares, I find the whole lot of you fantastically easy to love in general. That probably means I'm doing it wrong.

I've got this good friend. We get along so well, it's stupid, as my sister-in-law likes to say. And trust me, the admiration is entirely mutual. He's seriously the Coolest Guy Ever. But we almost never get to hang out. If we had our way, we'd be next-door neighbors or brothers. Something.

A great man once said that intense friendships often have to wait for Heaven, because friendship on this side is based on service. Like we have been saying. Sometimes, I haven't even liked a few of my friends at first. A few of them push every button I have. But time and service wears grooves in your soul.

Monday, September 09, 2013

I'm Telling You

5 Thoughts For Today

5. If you miss Mass, get your butt to the Box, pronto. How stupid will you sound on Judgment Day when asked by the Lord, "Why did you neglect Me?" You say, "I wanted to watch the game"? I'm right there with you; I was guilty of this once, while still a Protestant. I confessed it later, though we recognized no such command to always go to church, under pain of eternal death.

4. Sometimes, a sin is a shortcut to something good. Maybe we have to pray for the fortitude to wait for that good thing, while acknowledging the good of wanting it.

3. Moment of grace: "Hmmm, I never thought of it that way."

2. Sorry, teens. I gave all my dough to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

1. Purgatory is like Heaven's waiting room. If it was on fire. All the time.

10 Minutes

I see in my mind
the Cross, the altar of Love.
Let me stay there, please.

Haiku For You

Smile, for it is truth:
even if we sorrow now,
Jesus reigns always.

An Argument

1. Good exists as a real concept, not as an arbitrary moral construction.

2. Accordingly, evil is the privation of a good that should be present, such as justice or temperance.

3. It is evident that there is a hierarchy of things, which participate in the good to a greater or lesser degree according to each thing's correspondence to the good, or its purpose.

4. The top of the hierarchy denotes the Supreme Good, which does not derive its being from another by participation, but exists as being in itself.

5. This uncreated good is called God.