Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's Not About Sides

You know, I like Dennis Prager, the conservative commentator. He has that way of being right-wing without ruining anyone's day. We still need more of that. I watched a short video of him giving a primer on the Israel-Palestine conflict the other day, and it was persuasive. Then, I just watched a pro-Palestinian one today. Also, very persuasive. Don't you hate it when that happens? Still, I had a few thoughts:

1. A modern state created as a refuge for those fleeing perhaps the most horrific genocide in history, which then becomes an apartheid state against other groups, is tragic and ironic, to say the least.

2. Unjust conduct in war does not invalidate a grievance, but it does not advance it.

3. Territory gained in war--even a defensive one--cannot be licitly held.

4. A free state that maintains ethnic homogeneity by force is by definition not free.

JK's 5 Favorite Albums

5. No Fences, Garth Brooks.

4. Weezer (The Blue Album), Weezer.

3. In Pieces, Garth Brooks.

2. August And Everything After, Counting Crows.

1. In The Life Of Chris Gaines, Garth Brooks.

5 More:

5. Leap Of Faith, Kenny Loggins.

4. House Of Love, Amy Grant.

3. For The Cool In You, Babyface.

2. Affirmation, Savage Garden.

1. Faith, George Michael.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Let's Get Deeper Than Sound-Bites

I really do get it. You look at the Christian landscape, and you see all these allegedly Christian communities going soft on what Michael Liccione calls "the pelvic issues." Even though to fight in the public sphere is all we have when we cannot achieve dogmatic consensus because of the individualist tyranny of Sola Scriptura, still, it's crazy. We're down to Natural Law, basic stuff called into question, essentially because politics and identity trumps the law of God.

At the same time, we've got to define our terms. What do you mean by "gay-affirming"? Really? If I don't have the guts to say that a person even practicing homosexuality is in some sense loved by God, I do not understand the corresponding evil of that sin. I'm going to say that again: You don't understand it, or the love of God, which is denied in it.

There is too much "us vs. them." The activists are completely right about this, even if some of them use it against us and themselves, in order to remain in their sins.

Why are you worried about the "synagogues of Satan," rather than preaching the love of Jesus? It has been too long a false dilemma: You fear that preaching love will lead to antinomianism. What you fail to realize--though you may concede it in your mind--is that a heart gripped by the love of Christ needs no law at all. The kerygma of Christ thrives and lives in the Body of Christ. To be apart from the Church is just as dark as the darkness of perversion, and we are but a clanging cymbal or ringing gong apart from Him, and the sacraments of His love.

The Latest From The Vatican Spin Machine

Not only is this true and wise, it's hilarious. I may be an expert in pope-pologetics and fawning, but I'll tell you what, buddy: I'm not taking my right to prudentially criticize the Holy Father's imprudent (alleged) statements unless and until I'm seeing God in the Beatific Vision. You know why? Because we have too much to do. Also, spiritually, I'm just a kid. We have enough riches in the Sacred Tradition to last us our whole lives. Am I also the only one to notice my lack of being conformed to Christ, and secondarily, the need of our brothers? But we're worried about what Pope Francis says? Prepare yourself.

99.99997% of the time, what the pope says is not directly relevant to our lives. Yes, a Catholic can and should say this. The Church does not stand or fall on Pope Francis. At the same time, I'm not going to repudiate him or his legitimate authority because some of you involved in the grave matter of schism would feel better about yourselves.

I'm sorry. But not.

5 More Thoughts For Today

5. I mean, I really love books. It's getting crazy. I need to have a book-burning, I mean sale, of all my Reformed/Protestant books.* [You are a bad person.--ed.]

4. Maybe I really should renew my library card. It's a little awkward when your 2 favorite hobbies are watching Star Trek (in all incarnations) and buying books. [Dude, you bought those books on W.J. Bryan like a year ago. At this rate, you will not read those until you are 75.--ed.] Patience, my friend. I may not read or work as fast as I'd like, but I'm persistent.

3. I would have linked to Trueman, but it was being obnoxious. Then you can read my thoughts, if you like. [Would you say that is the best he can do?--ed.] That, I can't say. But I'm going to charitably choose to believe he believes what he's written. It doesn't hold water to me, but of course, I'd say that.

2. I do not deny that the subjective experience of various infidelities among professed Catholics is a kind of scandalous "counter-sign" (and barrier to communion) for the claim that the Church is the one Christ founded. But I do and must maintain that the pursuit of the truth is a strictly theological matter. That is, the truth about God is unavoidably bound up with His self-revelation. Thus, it is more than appropriate to ask how a denial of transubstantiation (for example) advances the cause of moral reformation. That is, "Could I be mistaken in that denial, even if my manner of living is more in keeping with the truth than those charged with professing and promulgating it?" Divine truth is not altered by sin; neither does falsehood become true when held by the pure.

1. The only thing crazier than this NBA free agency period is Dr. Alan Noble's hate mail.

*Note: Anything written by Captain Jack, or anything that serves as a legitimate reference tool, is not going to be sold.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Real baseball returns! Cards tomorrow.

4. I hate re-writing stuff. But humility is a cross called, "Revision."

3. Oh, man, Devin Rose! You think he's the "Cross-Examiner" now? Just wait until he edits your stuff! Buahaha!

2. I admit it: I feel bad for sleeping the last two hours on the way back from Steubenville. Not very manly, when Confirmation Sponsor Guy had to drive the whole way. [On the other hand, he didn't have to hear you talk.--ed.] So true.

1. That awkward moment when reading Numbers 16:1-3 when you realize Korah et al. were saying they wanted to be another "faithful outpost of the (invisible) church catholic."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fred Noltie, For The Win!

I had a few thoughts on this. In the first case, they are likely responding to liberals, or some other "bad people" who disagreed. In the latter case, I suspect it's a set-up, to convince broad evangelicals that they need to be Reformed (and that an appeal to scholarship will settle the interpretive disagreement). But everybody has their Captain Jack. We're back to the original problem. And pointing out the potential problems in the Catholic way of thinking doesn't really do anything against the Noltie Conundrum, which stated essentially is, "What is the doctrine of God on these essential matters of faith, given the fact of interpretive disagreement, in spite of the mutual appeal to the Holy Spirit?" A tie goes to the papists, essentially because the Reformation promised doctrinal and moral certainty and clarity, against the backdrop of the Papacy's "failure," both real and imagined. It doesn't make Catholicism true, but it gives a reasonable person a reason to re-examine the Catholic interpretive paradigm.

Trueman would have us believe that it is foolish to believe the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded because...people are sinners? Really? That's what you're going with, Violin? [You just tweaked Carl Trueman with a "New Girl" reference. I'm so ashamed.--ed.]

The only question that matters is, "What did God say, and to whom has he entrusted that message of salvation?" Once we realize that nothing in the Reformation can actually help us answer that question without begging the question, we are forced to look again to the Church.

There's little point in being an "ecclesial" anything under this Reformation paradigm, because the same suspicion of ecclesiastical authority that gave the movement its driving force could be turned against any of the communities formed subsequently--and this is the point--any of their doctrines. It's a spirit of rebellion and chaos, and it cannot be turned back with ad hoc appeals to consensus or history. If there is no Church--a visible, identifiable community with a rule of faith, then there is, in a sense, no Christ in the world. It's that important. Your choice.

We Live For Each Other

...and for God. I see more clearly each day that I live (when I bother to look) that it's not about me. The world does not revolve around me. The best thing I can do is to point others, in big ways and small, to Him, because it does revolve around Him.

I read this today. Annie doesn't want pity or sympathy, I'm sure, but I have buckets full, if she ever wanted it. It intrigued me that she really wanted to meet Derek Jeter, and got to do it. He's all the talk these days, with this his final season serving as the coronation of a Hall Of Fame career. It struck me again as I watched that commercial "Respect" from the other day that none of these elite athletes understand how much bigger than the games they play they can be. Remember the firefighters who tipped their caps to Jeter? Firefighters. "Heroic" is in the job description, for goodness' sake. And yet, here they are. Why? Because sports are not an escape; they are a mirror. Jeter and others are right to tell them, (or the person with cancer) "I should be thanking you," and yet, there is something dignifying about receiving something like, "The way you play inspires me" and accepting it as the gift it is. Because in a certain sense, we're all in this together. Respecting the game isn't just a cliche; it's understanding that you have a task that may seem small, (and maybe it is) but it's yours.

It's not about you, even if you're Derek Jeter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Thoughts On Carl Trueman's Best Attempt To Remain Non-Catholic

10. “A key part of the book's argument is the apparent anarchy created by the Protestant emphasis on the perspicuity of scripture.” You don't say, Carl! How's about giving us an answer, instead of pretending that the "problem" was invented at the last Catholic Answers confab.

9. “Perspicuity was, after all, a response to a position that had proved to be a failure: the Papacy.  Thus, to criticize it while proposing nothing better than a return to that which had proved so inadequate is scarcely a compelling argument.” The fact that rival claimants to the Papacy proved so disruptive proves the opposite point, no? He either has jurisdiction, or he doesn't, and never did. If he does, he does, and no amount of human weakness changes it. This is why the moral objection to the Catholic Church falls flat in any century: it argues for conversion, not for starting over.

8. "Empirical fact: The Papacy as an authoritative institution was not there in the early centuries. 
Never mind.  Put together a doctrine of development whereby Christians - or at least some of them, those of whom we choose to approve in retrospect on the grounds we agree with what they say  - eventually come to see the Pope as uniquely authoritative." Is 190 early enough? The fact that a saint thought it prudent to try to talk the Holy Father down from rashly excommunicating some people for celebrating Easter on the wrong day makes the point well enough: no one doubted he had the power. I'd dare you to find a recognizable orthodoxy in the first 1000 years without the Bishop of Rome. Good luck.

 7. "Empirical fact: The Papacy was corrupt in the later Middle Ages, building its power and status on political antics, forged documents and other similar scams. 
Ignore it, excuse it as a momentary aberration and perhaps, if pressed, even offer a quick apology. Then move swiftly on to assure everyone it is all sorted out now and start talking about John Paul II or Benedict XVI.  Whatever you do, there is no need to allow this fact to have any significance for how one understands the theory of papal power in the abstract or in the present."  The Pope could kill a man in cold blood tomorrow (may it never be!) and I'd still be Catholic. Because it's the Church. You sound like a Donatist.

6.  "Empirical fact: The Papacy was in such a mess at the beginning of the fifteenth century that it needed a council to decide who of the multiple claimants to Peter's seat was the legitimate pope.  
Again, this was merely a momentary aberration but it has no significance for the understanding of papal authority.  After all, it was so long ago and so far away." Again, doesn't this make the Catholic case a million times stronger?

5. "Empirical fact: The church failed (once again) to put its administrative, pastoral, moral and doctrinal house in order at the Fifth Lateran Council at the start of the sixteenth century.  Forget it.  Emphasise instead the vibrant piety of the late medieval church and then blame the ungodly Protestants for their inexplicable protests and thus for the collapse of the medieval social, political and theological structure of Europe." All sin stands as a rejection of God's pastoral guidance, including schism.

4. "Perhaps it is somewhat aggressive to pose these points in such a blunt form. Again, I intend no disrespect but am simply responding with the same forthrightness with which certain writers speak of Protestantism. The problem here is that the context for the Reformation - the failure of the papal system to reform itself, a failure in itself lethal to notions of papal power and authority - seems to have been forgotten in all of the recent aggressive attacks on scriptural perspicuity.  These are all empirical facts and they are all routinely excused, dismissed or simply ignored by Roman Catholic writers. Perspicuity was not the original problem; it was intended as the answer.   One can believe it to be an incorrect, incoherent, inadequate answer; but then one must come up with something better - not simply act as if shouting the original problem louder will make everything all right. Such an approach to history and theology is what I call the Emerald City protocol: when defending the great and powerful Oz, one must simply pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." It is aggressive, but it's also lame. Every convert on Earth has had to contend with this coming from his own mind. You think you're going to enlighten us with the truth the Papal Mind-Eels don't want us to know?

3. "As Dr. Gregory brings his narrative up to the present, I will do the same. There are things which can be conveniently ignored by North American Roman Catholic intellectuals because they take place in distant lands. Yet many of these are emblematic of contemporary Roman Catholicism in the wider world. Such, for example, are the bits of the real cross and vials of Jesus' blood which continue to be displayed in certain churches, the cult of Padre Pio and the relics of Anthony of Padua and the like (both of whom edged out Jesus and the Virgin Mary in a poll as to who was the most prayed to figure in Italian Catholicism). We Protestants may appear hopelessly confused to the latest generation of North American Roman Catholic polemicists, but at least my own little group of Presbyterian schismatics does not promote the veneration of mountebank stigmatics or the virtues of snake-oil." Translation: I am a rationalist. Your theology of participation freaks me out, so I'll insult you as an idolater, rather than question my own position.

2. "Still, for the sake of argument let us accept the fideistic notion that the events of the later Middle Ages do not shatter the theology underlying the Papacy.  What therefore of Roman Catholic theological unity and papal authority today? That is not too rosy either, I am afraid.  The Roman Catholic Church's teaching on birth control is routinely ignored by vast swathes of the laity with absolute impunity; Roman Catholic politicians have been in the vanguard of liberalizing abortion laws and yet still been welcome at Mass and at high table with church dignitaries; leading theologians cannot agree on exactly what papal infallibility means; and there is not even consensus on the meaning and significance of Vatican II relative to previous church teaching. Such a Church is as chaotic and anarchic as anything Protestantism has thrown up." Translation: You have been lax in using the ecclesiastical authority that I'm currently rejecting, so I feel justified in rejecting it.

1. Basically, none of these reasons have changed. Carl Trueman feels the need to put it out here, probably because so many people are realizing the Reformation Emperor has no clothes. But if God did it or said it, or set it up, (that is, the Catholic Church) it's only a matter of time, before I jump in the boat, if I desire to have a part with Christ. 

Game 6, Revisited, And A Fan Reflects

If you're a Cardinals fan, you know which game I mean. The greatest comeback I've ever seen. I was so happy when Freese tied it at 7, I should have repented. When they came back again after the Hamilton homer in the 10th, I knew the whole Series was ours. Everybody knew. Game 7 felt like a formality, after the greatest comeback in World Series history. And it was. Chris Carpenter in Game 7. Sorry, Texas. You lost.

I took one of those, "How St. Louis Are You?" quizzes. What do you think, Sparky? I'm apparently as St. Louisan as the Arch, which is funny, since the steel was made in Pittsburgh. I hate Imo's Pizza; I'm just being honest.

But I noted with some amusement that the balance of the questions were about our sports teams, and the balance of those were about the Cardinals. And rightly so. You don't understand until you've been here what that means. As a kid, you're a kid. Even if you're a fan then, you don't understand, truly. You need to live through the joy and the heartbreak a few times, and then it's inside you, like a surgical implant, or an old wound. I guess it's been a good time to become an adult and a Cardinals fan, because they seem to be there, competing for it all, every single year.

I get how annoying this is to the fans in the other cities, but the paradoxical thing about being a fan of one of the most successful baseball franchises in history is how not complacent it makes you. You see exactly how almost impossibly hard it is to win, and you see how one play here and there makes the difference.

I told Confirmation Sponsor Guy the other day that I thought the fans in St. Louis were worth 5-10 wins a year, and I don't think that's crazy at all. If only we went to Reconciliation and Mass with that much passion!

I fall deeper in love with the game--and the Cardinals in particular--with each passing year. I know it is a "Dad" thing. Every time I look at my nephew, I rejoice that my brother and his Cardinals--our Cardinals--will always be there for him. Which is funny, too, because my Dad was a Dodgers fan. Ah, well. Is there a more successful trifecta than the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals? No. Anyway, to me, "baseball" and "family" mean (almost) the same thing. That's why it's so sentimental here.

I hope if I meet the players, they don't mind being addressed with their first names.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I'm not sure if I like grits, or if I just like them to put butter on. [Doesn't that apply to everything you eat?--ed.] Yes.

4. The All-Star break festivities are for the casual fan. Those of us with baseball in our blood hate the whole thing. Yes, I do watch the All-Star Game itself. And to make it count for World Series home field advantage was brilliant. Still, I wait for Friday, when the Cardinals resume.

3. This. [Wow, they still let Catholics write for Protestant Things, eh?--ed.] That's mean. [But true.--ed.]

2. I'm gratified that my phone knows the word, "goober." It's the little things.

1. Thank you, Derek Jeter.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

So True It Hurts

Dale Carpenter in the Washington Post:

"In my world, activists and liberal professors (like me) are constantly asserting that corporations can and should care about more than just shareholder profit. We sing the praises of corporate social responsibility.

Well, Hobby Lobby is a socially responsible corporation, judged by the deep religious beliefs of its owners. The court decisively rejects the notion that the sole purpose of a for-profit corporation is to make money for its shareholders. This fits perfectly with the expansive view of corporate purpose that liberal proponents of social responsibility usually advocate — except, apparently, when talking about this case."--Brett McDonnell, corporate law scholar

If we really reflect upon what's being said here, we have the basis for not only political common ground, but a truer anthropology for living. Consent cannot be the sole criterion for whether any interaction--economic or otherwise--comports with justice and the common good. Haven't we heard this before? Oh, yeah. That "commie" Leo XIII said this in Rerum Novarum. His denunciations of socialism would make Reagan blush. But we have more thinking to do, because if we do not encourage economic systems that facilitate human flourishing, it is as damaging as any socialist tyranny can dish out. (Correction: This quote was incorrectly attributed to Mr. Carpenter, when it is in fact Mr. McDonnell. It's now been linked, and I regret the error.)

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Actually, I don't think marriage is the best remedy for lust. Chastity is the best one. The opposite of a vice is its corresponding virtue. It shouldn't take a feminist to say that you ought not use a woman's body to indulge your own inordinate desires. I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone. But it should be said.

4. "Complementarian". You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

3. Because underneath all of the frustration, if we are speaking frankly, is a much deeper desire to be loved and in some way, understood. Sex can be a part of that, but only a part. And that loneliness is the longing for Home, and you can't find that here. Except in part again, in Mass, in union with the Holy Father. Good news and bad news.

2. For all the chatter that the Church teaches a "religion of self-effort," all I keep hearing and experiencing is a deeper meditation on, "Apart from me, you can do nothing."

1. So it's time to say it. People like Jerry Bridges and whoever else, who seem to believe that the true catholic and apostolic faith is a fearful performance treadmill, simply have no idea what they are talking about. I didn't even really know what grace was, until I entered full communion with the Church. The purveyors of "full assurance" are selling lies, and this has been shown by experience.