Thursday, July 03, 2014

It's A Mystery

I'm not saying I've got it figured out. Ha! But something Johnny Irish was trying to tell me finally makes sense. Do you ever get that two-headed monster of a feeling that no one understands you, and no one really loves you? It's deeper than that, actually: It's that existential realization that you long for a completeness that nothing here can touch. And I mean nothing. I'll be straight with you: I'd hear that quoted in a CS Lewis book, or people walk around with it plastered on their social media front doors, as it were, and I'd just roll my eyes. Because the people who share that quote--I'm convinced--have never actually experienced it. It sounds like the set-up to a "gospel presentation." And that's mostly what it is, for American evangelicals: A trite opening line that ends with telling the drug addict or the pervert or whoever that only Jesus can satisfy. Prepare yourself.

But that's not even remotely true. Jesus doesn't take that away. He never said He would. Following Jesus only gets you ready to see the truth: there are two paths. One is the path of Pleasure, and the other one is Pain. Jesus says, "Follow me," and essentially he's saying it'll pay off eventually. You tell Him about the Hole, and He says, "I know."

Pleasure is always there, and it's time for someone to say it: Pleasure is better, and easier. Or at least it starts off that way. But you're trying to fill the Hole, and, like I said, nothing here fills it. We're all addicts and junkies to fill it, and the only thing I can picture to describe this is that Jesus stays on the other path and has a good cry while we get tricked again. He hopes we aren't too deep into it not to even notice that he's still standing there.

As you go, Jesus shares the Pain with you, which is nothing, if not inspiring. You take note of the fact that Jesus never leaves, and he never takes it personally, all the times you go the wrong way. At least not enough to leave. You start to give the Pain like gifts to each other, because that's the only thing to do, really.

He had said he loves us, and would never lead us astray, and you start to believe him, because, well, he's been here before. The Pain and the Pleasure get stronger as you go. You realize that Jesus is not just a guy who's been down the path; He's--in a way that doesn't quite make sense--the way you're going.

This is the truth. No one will buy what you're selling--and no one should--if you promise them happiness and no pain here. And if you act like the drugs or the sex or the food or the fame isn't attractive to you, they'll laugh right in your face, and go on their way. We all carry The Hole around inside of us, and there's very little point in pretending otherwise.

If you like pop music at all, you may know of all those stories of famous musicians who died of drugs and other things. There is one thing I've always appreciated about them: they told the truth about what they wanted and needed; they didn't bother fooling themselves or others; they know that there is something very wrong here; we aspire to things we cannot realize here. They have every right to mock some of us for trying to pretend that we're OK, and that the good life we can build here is enough.

Do I trust Jesus enough to lead others with Him and to Him? Or do I use others, because I'm still thinking about my own wants and needs?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

95 Theses XVIIII: The End Of Heresy

91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist. My comment: I don't recall reading that Luther had repented. Maybe I missed it.

92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace. My comment: Kinda like those who preach justification by faith alone. Oh, wait.

93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross. My comment: It's right above the altar, buddy. But you're right; somebody should tell St. John of the Cross and St. Francis that they've wasted their entire lives.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells. My comment: Why do that, when you're "covered by the blood"?

95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace. My comment: You mean like imputed righteousness, received by faith alone?

The World Is Stupid, And I Want To Cry

I have adapted my title from the Star Trek: The Original Series award-winning episode "For The World Is Hollow, And I Have Touched The Sky." This blog is not a gossip magazine, but here you go. I saw Kendra's show a few times, and at the risk of sounding like The Church Lady--given the fact that a few things have to go wrong for a nice girl to end up in Playboy--she seems like a person you could hang out with. If you ever saw that show "My Boys," Kendra Wilkinson is like Jordan Spiro: comfortable with men, a little tomboyish, but not too much. You'd understand the poor guy who fell for her, because it messes up the dynamic.

In any case, Hank Baskett was the marginal NFL receiver that's good-looking enough to land the nice girl who ended up in Playboy. Seems nice, or as good as a life apart from God could be. But a house of lies is just that.

"Transgender" is not a thing. Do you know what that means? "A person with a broken family life, that possibly included sexual abuse, decides to mutilate themselves to cover the unhappiness of not being able to accept their sex, for a whole host of reasons." It could be as simple as being ashamed of homosexual tendencies. (In fairness, that definition may put the blame on some parents when it doesn't belong there.)

And Hank, Us Magazine, everybody: he had gay sex. The fact that this poor person paid someone else to mutilate him first doesn't change that fact, for either of them.

I'm glad Kendra was angry. Whether the marriage was a good idea, or was canonically valid is beside the point that a wife betrayed by adultery has a right to be hurt and angry. This culture wants to sell us the notion that all these labels--man/woman, marriage or not, actual sex versus sin--are just outmoded labels. Right. The ring in the toilet says otherwise, and I'm glad for that, at least.

May the Lord have mercy on us!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life-Affirmation, Continued

This, over and over.

Good Point

Still not over how awesome this post is. But it's probably just my oppressive tendencies.

95 Theses XVIII: Heresy, Interrupted

86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers? My comment: This has the suspicious feel of denying the widow the right to give her mite. St. Peter's is not the pope's personal Shake Shack; it's a gift to the entire Church.

87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation? My comment: I'm sure this happens, but who would know for certain, besides God? And if you're mad because we can't know, this is why we're not supposed to go on a mythic quest for absolute assurance. Personally, it'd be a fruitless effort.

88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever. My comment: Indulgences have surely increased since then, and this is to the good. Let us never tire of doing good.

89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever? My comment: The one who dares to claim that indulgences increase presumption with no evidence of that reality is now accosting the Holy Father for being stingy!

90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy. My comment: It looks rather like these concerns themselves were aired rather freely. Didn't you actually get in trouble for all the non-indulgence related stuff you said?

95 Theses XVII: The Bonfire Of The Heresies

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity. My comment: Burning the papal bull of my excommunication would be my first step in guarding the reverence due to the pope, and blunting the keen criticisms of the laity. Or not.

82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose. My comment: Is there any actual evidence that St. Peter's was built with ill-gotten money? Moreover, the pope cannot release anyone from anything, apart from God's will.

83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed? My comment: Because unless they are saints, we don't know for sure that they aren't there.

84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption. My comment: On the contrary; the prayers, works, and sufferings of an (culpably) impious man are fruitless, unless they have as their aim his own conversion. Do you keep a list of impious people the Church should know about?

85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative? My comment: I actually haven't the foggiest about these "canons" to which he refers, but I will say that Church law doesn't disappear just because it's ignored, and at that, I shudder. Lord, have mercy!

95 Theses XVI: The Unsinkable Martin Heresy

76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned. My comment: Once more, the Church agrees, if by "pardons," he means indulgences. If he means to assert the pope has no power at all by virtue of the keys, that's just heresy. A priest does not merely announce, declare, and proclaim the forgiveness of sins; he is, by virtue of his ordination, an instrument for its accomplishment, by the will of Christ.

77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope. My comment: I know where he's trying to go, but it's actually true: No more than one person has the jurisdiction of the See of Peter at one time. So, in fact, the pope has no more or less power than Peter, in that sense. That said, Pope St. Peter, pray for us!

78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28]. My comment: If he's trying to say that the pope has the most power by virtue of the Apostolic See, I agree.

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died. My comment: Let not the foolish person believe he courageously fights for the gospel in denying the Vicar of Christ's sacramental power. That it depends upon the Cross of Christ is not, of itself, in dispute.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it. My comment: I could not agree more, to the extent that such assertions are false.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I struggle to believe that a Supreme Court justice could make arguments this bad. If these are the best, we are doomed.

4. More troubling than the ethical errors that proceed from whatever made this a close decision is this shocking disproportion: Our government believes partially-hydrogenated soybean oil is too dangerous to be in our food (AKA trans fats) but they will sell us a grade 1 carcinogen that hurts women and girls every day (and often kills them), and call it "necessary health care." So necessary in fact that all of us should pay for it. I want my "free" lifetime supply of Fritos, Mr. President.

3. I promise: I'll read the whole case when I have more time.

2. This one is hilarious:   "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage."  I was completely unaware that the CEO of Hobby Lobby owns and controls all birth control in the US, and that the entire female workforce works at Hobby Lobby. C'mon, progressives: The government can't even show how any of this is "health care," much less how one guy not buying it against his conscience adversely affects a woman's access!

1. If you're worried primarily about how the profit-seeking of large firms affects us all, so am I. But take your pick: The dude's either one harmless yokel selling stencils, whose beliefs don't matter in the grand scheme, or he's a menace to the common good. I'll wait.

Pope Francis Is Like Columbo

No, seriously. I need you to hear me out on this one. They don't do things in the right order; they don't say things quite the way people would like. They either trap you, or charm you into admitting you were wrong. The wrong sort of person thinks he's too good for them. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness find a friend and champion in both. You don't miss them until they are gone.

I thought of this because Nicole DeMille happened to post that she was watching Columbo, one of the eleventy thousand things of pop culture we both love. I don't know if I am out of time or what, but no, I'm not in my early 40s. It just works out that way. If I ever try to play it off like I'm going to sing "Seasons Change" ironically, you can call malarkey.

I don't do anything ironically, unless I write a post called, "Nancy Pelosi Is The Greatest Catholic Ever!" As established earlier this week, I can't even eat a Snickers bar indifferently. (Meanwhile, Jon Stogsdill shouts, "Get a room!")

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Consideration: The Legend Continues

Does anybody remember Evangelicals and Catholics Together? Reading that thing was uncomfortably hilarious. The good part about being evangelical is the freedom from whatever theology Dr. Live In The Moment decides is a buzzkill to his theological free love session. On the other hand, being ad hoc about it all is more than slightly not in character for the God of order.

Comedic generalizations aside, I need to warn you about these Catholics. They were and are setting you up. They took the dogmatic declarations from the sixth session of the Council of Trent, put them in evangelical-speak, and dared you to affirm them. And God bless you all, that's exactly what those evangelicals did. I'm telling you, that's exactly what happened. You've got to decide what even unwittingly agreeing with the Council of Trent means for you, but for me, that meant the war is over (if you want it). Sorry; I couldn't help myself.

In fairness to the Reformers, R. Scott Clark is completely right about that. Imputed righteousness and Sola Fide is the Reformation. Of course, they didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, in many respects. But if they weren't right about that, there's no reason to fight. That's why I asked rhetorically in one essay, "Does this protest still have merit?" You may think it does, but when I wrote that, it was because I had no reason to believe those assertions accurately reflected the life of faith within our communities, much less in the light of historical and theological continuity.

Now, it's all over the place, a historical amnesia born of equal parts hasty sentimentality, and fruitful biblical reflection. Because of this, I don't mind people calling a spade a spade, and despite whatever nuts His Holiness "The Blind Squirrel" may happen to find, it's still a false gospel, in their view. But when Rome re-raises, (let the reader understand) trust me; she's got the cards. It's possible in the abstract that Luther/Zwingli/whomever got the gospel right, but realize the problem this creates. It means that God, the Lover of Mankind, was playing "Where's Waldo?" with the only hope of mankind for a thousand years. Does that sound like something God would do?

An Important Consideration

I'm taking some moments even on a Sunday to write a few things down. It has been my practice in recent days and weeks to write, even if I have nothing to say. Today is not that sort of day.

What is the mechanism by which the Protestant community (conceive of one individually for the moment, if you would) knows its dogma? It would seem to be a mechanism, if there is one, for there is no reason to appeal to the community as preferable to the individual, unless it were to possess something--either in kind, or in degree--that the individual does not have. In one way, we bracket out the charge that the individual appealing to the Holy Spirit speaking in his portion* of the Scriptures is really only appealing to his own interpretation of them, in order to ask why it is with this community and its dogma one has made his stand?

This makes people very uncomfortable, because most of us have just made "Reformation" ecclesial assumptions and accepted the resulting disunity as a fact of life. You're doing it now. You're saying to yourself, "Well, all true Christians agree on what's important," never stopping to realize that at one point, the things we have now accepted as adiaphora were once vital, worth dying for. This is not a lecture about taking your faith more seriously. I'm not your pastor, and I am not the Lord. What I am asking is if the Americanism with which most of us are tainted in one way or another ultimately stems from Sola Scriptura, from the fact that, stripping away all the ecclesial niceties and hoops and circumstance, the ultimate interpreter of Scripture (under this paradigm) is you, and, at the end of the day, no one has any idea what God really said. Derivative authority is a sham. We know it, too, or else we wouldn't call it "derivative." From whom does it derive? We would be horrified to think it derives from ourselves, which is why the standard tack is to appeal to the Holy Spirit. Believe me, brethren, I sympathize. After all, the Holy Spirit is God, who cannot lie. Should be a simple matter, then. Uh, no. There are those among you who will appeal to scholarship. Especially you Reformed types. This move is more easily defeated than the last. Say it with me now: "Everybody has their Captain Jack."

Don't hear what I'm not saying, as he would say. This is not an emotional appeal for unity at any cost. I'm simply asking: If you had to give a fairly detailed account of your doctrine, as opposed to another, could you do it? Would it make sense? I'm not advocating punching the "heretic" Roger Olson (or take your pick) in the face at the next cocktail party. What I am saying is that you and I are awash in a dogmatic relativist soup of our own making, and it should bother us. Maybe even enough to start at the beginning.

I looked religious indifferentism right in the face, right at the beginning of this journey, and again one night on the way to a party. I was lamenting that possibly a dear friend of mine would worry about my soul, because I sought full communion with the Catholic Church. She replied, "Well, nobody has the whole truth, you know?" We are much too comfortable with that sentiment.

That's why I asked about a mechanism. What we want and need is to know what God said, and what He didn't. The Presbyterians would "have me" as long as I would have wanted, but I wanted Truth, not comfort. Some of you even dare to think that certainty is a false hope. If that is the case, resign your pastorate; you don't believe your good news enough that I should listen.

Real ecumenism is hard. It's about reasons, and denials, and invitations. It is not often nice. I'm burnt-out on impotent niceness, as you may have noticed. If you want to die, do evangelism/ecumenism. If you like cocktail parties, join the UN.

*Note: The Catholic Church maintains that the Sacred Scriptures are composed of 73 books, not 66.