Friday, December 06, 2013

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Some call it "whitewashing"; I call it perspective.

4. I only care marginally about the teachings of the Puritans, anyway. That is, to understand them well enough to refute them, quite frankly.

3. You have a curiously defensive reaction for a person who is supposed to believe that we're all wicked worms who do nothing of value before God, anyway.

2. I don't always agree with Dr. Anthony Bradley of King's College, NYC, but when I do, it's enthusiastically. Stay questioning, my friends.

1. Have mercy on us all, O Lord. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

5 Thoughts For Today

5. No, that's not what I'm saying.

4. In fact, it's not even close.

3. Yes, I agree with you that I am a terrible communicator.

2. But you have an obligation to ascertain what I am saying (accurately) before you destroy me. Granted, I have not always had the discipline to do this, but I am trying.

1. RIP, Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. I find it odd, and yet classically me, that I can overlook tons of things if I like a person. O Lord, give me the grace to love everyone as You do, so that I may not turn them away from You.

4. It really isn't our place to "call down fire from Heaven." Sometimes, a clinical "that's not correct" with a citation better serves than passion.

3. [Take your own advice, Sparky.--ed.] I know.

2. In ecumenical dialogue, we should expect that we have different conclusions, but also different sources and methods. If we cannot critically examine those sources and methods, even simply to see them (our own) in contrast to others, we simply aren't ready for that dialogue.

1. Actually, Mr. Dukeman, I don't question anything in Matthew 24. I question your authority to give the definitive interpretation of that text, in light of CCC, 100, and the prudence of being the arbiter of the soul of Benny Hinn, even in light of his error. Anything else is outside the provenance of what I was trying to say.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Thinking Out Loud

This merits some reflection. On the other hand, before the anti-"capitalism" forces get too pleased with themselves, how much is too much? Who gets to decide? What gives the social teaching its reality, its practicality? What keeps the social teaching from being a bunch of platitudes, spouted by amateurs, determined to appear "above the fray?" If you think that sounds harsh, just keep in mind that 1) I'm a Catholic, determined to keep the teaching so far as I'm able; and 2) the questions will be just as direct from the economists, and the non-Catholics. Paging David Anders!

The science of economics was created to try to deal with the problem of scarcity. We have to assume several things because of the social teaching as I understand it at this point: 1. the right of private property is real, but not absolute; 2. there is such a thing as "distributive justice," such that massive inequities of wealth are an injustice to him who has little; 3. socialism is wrong. I'm already inclined already to agree with (3), but I guess I need to know more about why, beyond the snarkily obvious point that loads of people tend to end up dead. Because it certainly seems that someone with charge of the common good could, in the name of that good, simply decide to dispossess Bob the Banker and whomever else in the name of "distributive justice," and get a pat on the back while they do it. We're right back where we started.

Thankfully, that raving socialist, F.A. Hayek, (full sarcasm on) said that a system of social insurance was not incompatible with markets. OK, then. Let's take a step back, and recall that the construction of that system here in the US gains its explicit sanction from "promote the general welfare" in the preamble to the US Constitution. Just for fun, I'm gonna take the whole preamble as an affirmation of Natural Law, and the specific quoted phrase to be synonymous with "common good." If you have any intense objection to that, let me know. But it would seem that without that, we can't define the salutary words. Look at the plain meaning: They established this Constitution and nation to secure those salutary goods, which must have been in existence before this nation existed. And they couldn't name them if they derived their existence from the government itself. So, right there, some kind of positivism is dead on arrival. On the other hand, look at the other obvious implication: A law is presumed just as long as it's consistent with the Natural Law, and in accord with the Constitution, even if it's a horrible idea that has tons of really unpleasant side effects no one saw coming. That stings a bit, eh? But I guess we'd better decide whether Social Security does what its name says, or it's a reward program. (in other words, an entitlement) My view: It's a program for the general welfare. As such, means-test it, yes. I don't care if that's "liberal." If you're gonna use government coercion, make sure you're not wasting it. Everybody should have understood that it really was a wealth-transfer program. Are people so massively dumb that they need to be dispossessed for a mandatory savings program? Of course not. One word: Lockbox. And if we do allow younger people to eventually invest a portion of their Social Security taxes, it must be with the explicit understanding that they do so at their own risk, and with instruments and a program that is distinct. Common good is common good; Uncle Sam doesn't owe you squat. I digress.

It seems to me, therefore, that the first duty of a public official is to preserve the means of social insurance, to see that the system of free exchange is just for the participants, and is conducive to the good of all, and uphold morality for the good of all. A big responsibility, and not exactly conducive to simplistic characterization.

The Realness And The Tension

This is rather interesting. Jon Stogsdill, thy wife posted this on Facebook, so I assume you'll read it, one way or the other. You made the blog again! WOO! I bet you're wondering why I said, "thy." Because it sounds awesome, that's why. I digress.

There's no accounting for taste, really, but my favorite Jesus music by a landslide if we're talking pop is Rich Mullins. And this essay tells us why. He was unflinchingly real. I hope he made it to the Big Show, because he seems like my kind of guy. I promise you, if you didn't know he was a Jesus freak, the music will not give it away by itself, like this guy says. And when you sing to me, I have to believe you. If I don't, who cares what it's about? This is your official Digression Warning.

I have been on a Kenny Loggins kick for a week now. Leap Of Faith. Remember when I said I'd listen to it multiple times? Yeah, about that...I'm obsessed. I am on a quest to figure out why. This is the best I can do: whatever that hippie is singing about, I believe him. He could be singing about the glories of pineapple chunks, and I'd be like, "Darn right, Kenny! I love pineapples!"

Derek Webb, by contrast? I could care less. Why? Because he's preachy, in that prideful, possibly secretly guilty of something sort of way. Theological Rant Warning.

"I am a whore I do confess/I put you on just like a wedding dress and I/Run down the aisle..." Remember that? In fairness, let's say, he doesn't view this as a good thing. But frankly, this is imputed righteousness in a nutshell. As soon as you desire to actually be holy, because something inside of you knows you should, (even if this is already affirmed in your theology) you're on the road to Rome. The only consistent thing to do in Reformed theology is to ignore your sinfulness. If you are declared righteous for the sake of Christ, God can't even see your sinfulness, much less require you to change it, under penalty of damnation. The whole section in Chapter XV of the WCF is a waste of breath, if imputed righteousness is true. But if the subjective experience of sin actually points to a real conflict with the holiness of God that demands satisfaction, then Chapter XI is false. And that'll lead you right out of the Reformation, I'm telling you. Because either your feelings are lying to you (Satan accusing you falsely, in which case, ignore them) or not, in which case, TE Johnny-Bob was wrong to go on and on about the "finished work of Christ" yadda yadda. Historical Continuity Bonus: What if the original people who came up with the idea of justification by faith alone were not actually the Church? No, really. Try not to die. In terms of that deposit with which someone has been entrusted, would the doctrinal content itself change, depending on the holiness or lack thereof of the one who proposed it? [No, but it makes it harder to accept.--ed.] Amen, I hear you. So here's the upshot, though: corrupt authorities have nothing whatsoever to do with the truth value of doctrine x. It either came from Christ, or it did not. A moral protest of lament over sin does not become a doctrinal revolution unless someone is pulling a fast one, or the Church's doctrine had always been false. In which case, Christ has failed us. (Let's piously rule that last one out, shall we?) What is the Church? Where is it? Are you sure you're in it? How do you know?

The Opposites

I had this coming together in my mind before the wise priest confirmed it all for us, but the two most opposite things in the entire universe--besides God and the devil, which is fittingly obvious--are prayer and sin. That itself is fitting, I suppose, because I have great difficulty in praying at times. Some people are aided by formal prayers, and that is good. But I very well could be one of those people who can pray without really praying, to paraphrase Pope Francis. I will always need the freedom to simply talk to God. Maybe the greatest challenge is honesty with God and ourselves. If you're anything like me, (yikes!) you find within yourself that you don't really want the things you ought to want. But if you do in the smallest measure, start with that. Ask God to increase that desire.

One thing that never stops is our smallness. One truth that will never fade is our need for Him. I keep stupidly waiting for this to change, and I am reminded--usually after I make a huge mess of things--that it won't, ever.

Maybe that's why He made me the way I am, as a graphic, visible reminder that we're all helpless without Him. I keep fighting against this, in more ways than one, but it's here again, surely as you read the words on this page.

We all want to be happy. The trouble is, in large ways and small ways, we have the wrong definition of happiness. I feel like our society makes these circles of affirmation, where we gather around each other to tell each other we are happy, when we might even know we are not, or even if we know we shouldn't be, with one situation or another. Or is that just me? It feels like the whole culture is one big lying group hug. Please don't mistake me: I'm only a culture-warrior in the most indirect sense. But someone should say it.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Good Way To Irritate Me

Start pronouncing heresy on everyone who does not agree with you. Better still, remain blissfully unaware, not only that this is the most blatantly obvious violation of the "arbiter/receiver" rule that could be conceived, but that, frankly, you don't have anything close to the credibility to actually pull this off. Leithart may be in Catholic denial; he may be, with respect to the arbiter/receiver rule, "Rob Bell with a bigger bookshelf," but say this for him: he actually has things on that bookshelf. With what do you come? A Coke and a smile?

You're young and passionate; I get that. I like that about you. But wisdom is counter-intuitive; it actually consists in knowing when you're in too deep, rather than in knowing what you know. Every single day, I meet people who know more about what I claim to know than I do. That's humbling. The question is, do you have the courage to recognize it, and become a learner and a listener, rather than a talker? We are not always in that position. Whether we earn listeners and learners in our own time depends on how well we handle it when we are.

Just as a practical matter, I think the pope knows more about his own theology than you do. I think he knows more about pastoral theology than you. I will even allow the distinct possibility that he could speak and has spoken imprudently on matters of consequence. Reams of books will be written about this, when it's all said and done. I'm not an apologist for the pope. He doesn't need me; he's a big boy; he can take care of himself, with the sure aid of the Holy Spirit. But here's the thing: You really aren't equipped to make the judgments in this case.

And please feel more than free to take a contrary position on something, owing to a broadly Reformed commitment. But recognize, that came from somewhere. It's not yours; someone gave you that. You are as bound to that heritage as I am to mine. No one cares what you think; they might care about what you have learned, depending on its source, and the quality of its content. But it's not about you, and it never will be.

The rest of you, who may have been inclined to make judgments about the content of my character based on a few vague, ill-considered expressions of frustration about something that isn't about you, either may now "cool your jets." If you have a general objection to my tone,--even given the fact that you haven't been in on the conversation, and don't know the context--write me privately. I admit, I don't take kindly to sweeping generalizations about me that have no context themselves. Call it a flaw.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

I'm Not "Winsome." And You Know What? I Don't Care.

I'm a pretty easy-going guy. I get along with most people. I've even been hilariously described as "patient." Ha! The truth is, though, I get annoyed. Even angry. I couldn't deny it. I'm issuing a blanket statement here: I've probably said a mean thing or 5 to some of you. If we know it, you know what I intend to do to make it right.

The internet is a cruel partner. It amplifies personality. I've been told variously that my online personality comes off kind of strong. Fair enough. Some of that is intentional. Would you believe, if you are not like other people, they ignore you? If they don't like what you say, they put you on the outside of the circle, even if they are nice outwardly? I hate that I notice this now.

I both love and hate my Christian formation from the time before I was Catholic. I loved learning about Jesus, and learning to love Him. I loved all the wonderful people who poured themselves into me. I loved that so many of them weren't afraid to get dirty to bring me closer to God.

You know what I hate? Your words. I hate the words you use to silence the voices in your head, the ones that get louder in the moments when your realize that this particular Bible text doesn't fit in your little box. I hate your insularity; what really bothers me is that it masquerades as a broad-minded catholicity. But we know the truth.

You know what else? I'll read whomever I want without fear, because when one knows the truth, one is not afraid to find it where one didn't look. You make a mistake to think that I'm afraid of you, or that I feel persecuted by you. I don't need anything from you. But here's the tough part: you do need something from me.

So, I can be tough, and insistent. When truth and goodness and true peace is at stake, I do not serve you with politeness and niceties. Kindness binds me to tell you the truth. If you believe love is lacking, feel free to say so. But you'll look in my eyes, as far as possible. If you can do that, I'm happy to take a rebuke. But "winsome" is a coward's word; it's the scarlet letter for the one who reveals that the circle is too small.

I'm not speaking of anyone in particular here, but to paraphrase a popular meme from this week, if the shoe fits, feel free to lace that SOB up, and wear it.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Peyton, throw it to Wes! Honestly.

4. Baseball. Old pizza. Clint Eastwood. America's best gifts to the world?

3. The Aflac commercial is still sexist. I used to think it was no big deal to shame men by calling them "ladies," but woman is not the negation of man; she completes him. True, it's a little thing, but a lot of little things makes a big thing. Rape culture is made of things like this. Let me once again remind you that I'm as anti-feminist as one can get. That said, let's tell the truth.

2. More than once this week, someone apologized for the "drama." Don't. "Drama" is something on The Real Housewives. People who need help are not being dramatic; they are being human. If you need help, you have nothing for which to apologize.

1. Happy Advent!