Friday, April 04, 2014

Today's Gospel: John 7:1-2, 10, 20-25

This entire Gospel according to John is my favorite. This chapter is what I like to call "the lost chapter," because when I reflect on it, there has been gaps in my memory. I guess even now, John 7 is a little foggy, like London.

Anyway, it strikes me that Jesus is both elusive, and powerful. No matter what we expect of him, and try to use him for, he's greater. At once he is saying, as he will say later, "I lay down my life, and take it up again; no one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own accord." But I hear Him also saying, "Who do you say that I am?" It's a challenge, but it surely is the tenderest invitation: "Trust in God; trust also in Me."

I don't want to silence Him, to make him go away. Something my eyes of faith see is that he's the furthest thing from ordinary, though he is humble. He has come from the Father, full of grace and truth.

You Can't Probably Hold A Dogma

Again, this is why Newbigin's "Proper Confidence" is, with all due respect, a load of mess. "If God didn't say it, it doesn't matter." If humility leads one to say, "I cannot be absolutely certain of doctrine x, as opposed to doctrine y," the only reasonable course is to say, "I ought not assert doctrine x as religious dogma." In effect, this is what the Protestant world has effectively done by saying, "We're all united in the essentials" without saying what those essentials are: relativized doctrine for the sake of unity, caused by the cognitive dissonance of not being able--in good faith--to come to an agreement concerning the truths of faith under the oppressive regime of Sola Scriptura. In fact, someone like Rachel Held Evans isn't being dishonest in rejecting the theo-political Rightist Industrial Complex, because, as much sympathy as it may still garner over here, there is no mechanism, no God in the machine, to tell Rachel she's sold Christian doctrine for a bunch of cheap progressive boilerplate. There is no one holding the trump-card over her as she decides "what the Scripture says." It may be that she'd be less annoying if she'd simply say, "I hold these 21st century progressive political stances to be more important than some "traditional" view of x." (OK, she definitely would be.) But the point is, what if she doesn't know? "If it happens slow enough..." indeed. The political is all you have left, if you can't figure out what God said. You can deconstruct anything. And the maintenance of some semblance of recognizable Christian orthodoxy in the Protestant world relies on the inertia of previous consensus, and the Catholic Church.

As soon as you reject the fundamentalist/postmodernist assertion that say, the First Ecumenical Council was "tainted" by whatever, (N.B. Notice, they have different agendas, but the result is the same.) you are immediately confronted with the ad hoc-ness of accepting Nicea and Chalcedon, but rejecting Trent. Here's the particularly troubling thing: the charge of being arbitrary comes from several directions, not all of which lead to Christian faith, obviously. The atheist and the biblicist are very consistent in their principles. The trouble is, at best, the biblicist will be a Church of one, fortunate if he unwittingly adopts large portions of what we call the Sacred Tradition (like orthodox Christology, for example) on his quest through the Scriptures. He could just as soon end up like poor Ehrman: continuing down the decidedly Protestant path with its method, but having despaired of any notion that the God of Israel has anything to do with it.

So, if you're going to believe anything Christian, you need certainty, and you need a visible, infallible Church. And the truth is, brethren, you've been relying on her the whole time. Why not love the mother who has fed you the whole way?

Thursday, April 03, 2014


The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA have won 19 consecutive games, a team record. They also own the league's best record. They look poised to make another run at a championship.

I love the Spurs. They've been underrated the entire time Gregg Popovich has been the head coach. He took over in 1996. The Spurs have managed to win 4 NBA titles without anyone noticing. They are business-like, reserved, fundamentally sound, and all the other things winning teams do, without being despised. "Universally respected" is more like it. You'd like their fans: passionate, loyal, positive, die-hard. In fact, these fans and this team remind me of someone else.

The St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, those Cardinals. Despite some recent noise that the Cardinals don't deserve their unofficial moniker as the best fans in baseball, and that their "aw shucks" persona is a pretense, it isn't. It's not for the Spurs, either. They are the quintessential middle-market Everyman kind of team, and as much as they've played the dream-crushers to teams with new-found postseason success, most people would like the Spurs, as long as the Miami Heat are there to play the heel.

As a proud fan of the Cardinals, and "doing it the right way," I'm here to announce that I'm a fan of the Spurs. This isn't a shock to some of you, but I'm putting it out there. GO, SPURS, GO!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Paging BJ Thomas

5. Winter is over, if you want it.

4. Hail. And the Blessed Virgin is not involved.

3. Nothing says spring like a flash flood warning.

2. The National Weather Service now sends obnoxious alerts to your smartphone. Big Government at its finest.

1. It's all fun and games until a tornado takes your house.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Parish Priest

I'm surrounded by amazing priests. Really. They know the truth, and they teach it plainly. If you have a good priest in your parish, give thanks. They really aren't so common.

Pope Francis is a parish priest who got elected pope. That explains everything he says and does, more readily than reams of analysis you may have read. I'm sure your pastor says inartful things at times; I bet he'd be even more embarrassed by those things if he were--by God's grace--the most important person on Earth (and the most watched) at any given moment.

Stew on that for a bit.

Monday, March 31, 2014

According To Whom? Edition 9000

I read this today. I like Derek; he writes good stuff every single time. This piece however remains oblivious to the crushing tyranny of Sola Scriptura. Read Jonathan Edwards's final thoughts in this piece. Isn't the "pope of self" exactly what this debate or discussion is entirely about? To whom are you actually submitting when you purport to test everything by the word of God? You might even be clever enough to defer to the community of which you are part. But that only intensifies the question: from whence did their interpretation come? I might be happy as a clam to defer to the doctrinal and juridical decisions of a Presbyterian General Assembly someplace, but unless you are prepared to imbue them with infallibility, you are simply delaying the inevitable conflict between "what the Scriptures say [according to me]" and what the Scriptures say according to them. But if we recall Jason's favorite axiom, "One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time," we will be forced at a minimum to inquire about the divine sanction of the community to which we defer. At that point, a clever Protestant will appeal to some long-established "historic orthodoxy" like an ecumenical Creed. When this occurs, he will be forced to explain, to himself first and then to others, why he has the right to glean from the determinations from the ancient Church in an ad hoc manner. It had already been ad hoc to decide which portions of the ancient expression of Christianity had properly conformed to Scripture-according-to-him, and now, he has before him an entire authority structure that has not been examined or tested. If he is honest, he finds that he cannot establish one Council as the paragon of orthodoxy and reject another according to a particular reading of Scripture, without asking himself what right he has to do so. He must ask himself the question, "How do I distinguish what God says from what I say?" It's a shorter, more practical version of my axiom, and everybody must face it. When a young, passionate Baptist takes to the Internet to denounce the United Methodist Church for instance, for softening its stance on abortion or gay marriage, isn't he really saying, "I can see that this decision was for human expediency, human comfort, and not for spiritual reasons"? But what do you do when this baseline orthodoxy that you are thrashing around to articulate in the face of obvious concessions to the zeitgeist of the day, comes from a community whose authority you have rejected? What if the only difference between you and Bart Ehrman in this highly arbitrary individualist process of picking and choosing, is that you believe God actually revealed himself? I'll just say it, and leave you to pick up the pieces: Ehrman is a Protestant without a God; you might be a Christian without the Church.