Saturday, November 22, 2014

Men Do Not Understand Women, But...

Women don't understand men, either. Not even close. They think they do; they might even swap vainglorious magazine articles about how much they do, but the truth is, unless we are comparing your average single young woman to a complete oaf and scumbag, the man understands way more. You think I'm crazy, perhaps, but I'm not.

My favorite absurdity about women is how they handle romantic attention. I'm taking a risk here, because I know women read this blog. Fair enough. I figure I'm single anyway; it doesn't get "worse" from here, for me. (Do not write me extolling the virtues of celibacy and other forms of special dedication to God; thank you. I am not denigrating it; I am single, knowingly. Meaning that I am treating it like a season for me, and a hard one, at that.)

Anyway, the silliest thing I ever have seen is when young women act surprised when a "really good friend" expresses romantic interest, they rebuff him, and then they have the gall to wonder why it "isn't like it was before." They'll even ask, "Why can't we just go back to how it was?" And this is moronic. Why? Because we are men; we are not built this way. At all. Does this mean they can't be friends? Of course not. But it means if you do, you had a really good base of friendship to start, such that he's comfortable and safe.

I'm not saying that he gets a free pass to be rude, cruel, or disappear forever. But you know what? It's totally goofy to wonder why he's put some distance there that wasn't there before. He's protecting himself, and you. A good man realizes that he can be a selfish, manipulative troll if he allows himself. He prevents this by sacrificing some closeness if necessary. If it doesn't change that much, that's an exceptionally good man; he's got selflessness coming out his ears. Here's the key, though: he's not a bad man if he can't do it. Absent any other behavior, this would be wholly unreasonable to expect. You will not be best friends with a guy who loves you, unless you love him back. I'm sorry, but not.

I'm not saying that the lady should be subject to repeated advances under the guise of "friendship"; this is manipulative and terrible. But short of that, for the love of all that is good, give the guy a break. If he's a great dude, he'll come to your wedding; he'll even be happy. If he cries a little when no one is around, try to understand. He's only a man, and he's doing his best. We do not default back to friendship; it was hard-won, and it is not easily kept. I really believe this is where homosexuality has really fouled things up between men and women; the gay guy that "totally gets you" is an aberration; he's not the ideal man; he's the epitome of its opposite, with all due respect.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Gateway, Part 2

I wholeheartedly grant that even a large preponderance of the so-called Reformers did not intend to be the arbiters of their own rule of faith, via Sola Scriptura. I grant that many of them, and the spiritual descendants after them, do not grant that they are biblicists. They believe that they have a healthy respect for tradition, and the accumulated weight of considered reflection over centuries. But what a person believes concerning himself, and the reality of what is, under the light of logic may well be different. Who is the arbiter of what Scripture says, if the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not? It would seem, quite frankly, that any alternate authorities do not function as true arbiters, if indeed that purported authority over the man is predicated on his prior agreement that it agrees with him. At this point, many will object, saying that no adherent of the Reformed or Lutheran (or other) system submits to himself, but rather, the Word of God. Yet it is the failure to distinguish between divinely-revealed things, and fallible human opinion that is most troubling. At this, many have protested, believing that the Catholic relies on a belief that the Scriptures are opaque, and not even profitable for reading. Nonsense.

I believe rather that even the most educated Protestant does not see the magnitude of the dogmatic variance that Sola Scriptura and its attendant ecclesiology has caused. He can't, really, because doing so would lessen the credibility of his claim that his particular set of doctrines x is divinely revealed truth. As Mr. Noltie is always quick to point out, every interpreter believes that his system--though acknowledged fallible in the abstract--is the most accurate reflection of the "plain" Scriptures. Might I suggest, however, that choosing between doctrinal positions in the absence of infallible certainty is most foolish? That certainty is the consequence of divinely protected infallibility. That infallibility marks the distinguishing feature of dogma versus pious opinion. In even the best form of Sola Scriptura, there is no systemic or methodological way to distinguish revealed truth from human opinion. There is no principled reason to assent to any particular set of doctrines over another, because it has no discernible advantage--that is, bearing the mark of divine origin--over another.

Preference and kinship are not sufficient reasons to assent to any doctrine. Thus, if an interpretive method leaves one with only preference and kinship to commend a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, this indicates that both the doctrine, and the method of discerning it, did not come from God, but from myself, or another human. I gave up being Protestant and Reformed because I could not know whether what I believed was actually true, and from God. That's what any Christian would, and should, do. You cannot lay your whole being down, you cannot preach to sinners good news to save their eternal souls, if you do not know that God said it. There cannot be half-way heralds of Jesus Christ. Ever. Anywhere. Martyrs do not die for "probably true." If, despite our best efforts, Sola Scriptura leaves us confused in the particulars, searching for the common denominator--and the lowest one, at that--and longing for a unity that can never be realized, maybe it's a bad principle.

I need to be clear: I never was tempted with agnosticism or atheism. Not even a little. But when we accept our disunity as Christians as something normal and unavoidable, we obscure Him who is Truth itself. We do not need to pursue unity for its own sake, but for Him, and his loving intention for the world. In a funny way, it was like playing hide-and-seek with Jesus. I found him hiding in plain sight, behind the Barque of Peter.

5 Thoughts For Tonight

Just a note: This will be Spurs and basketball related, because--aside from the continued good health of a struggling friend, and the Good News of Christ--today wasn't all that great for the world, though I have no personal complaints. Without further ado:

5. Dude, the Cleveland Cavaliers are legit. It's time to face up to the fact that LeBron James makes any team he is on into an acute threat for the NBA championship. And not because he does it all; he facilitates the flourishing of his teammates' talents. I am neither pro or anti-LeBron; I just know what I see. "King James" is not only arguably the best player in the game, he's one of the best ever. At 29.

4. I grant you that I am an avowed fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Because of this, you are free to dismiss what I will say. The Spurs are the most complete team I have ever seen. There is scarcely a meaningful distinction between a starter and a bench player on the Spurs. It's not an admirable goal, a mirage cultivated to create sympathy. They really play that way, and it breeds authentic sympathy and admiration among friends, and grudging respect among foes.

3. Tim Duncan: 19 points, 10 rebounds. Double digits in 2 categories, again. He's 38. He should be doing farewell tours, not crushing dreams. If they win again this year, the man deserves to be in the "Jordan conversation" as the best ever at any position. Yes, I said it, and I won't take it back.

2. Duncan, revisited: When Gregg Popovich, the league's best coach this side of Phil Jackson and the definition of "stern" and "dispassionate," says plainly, "I feel like we all work for Timmy," maybe we have underrated this guy the whole time. Not that he minds.

1. Hilarious. But that's Duncan. Even his hotshot nickname ("The Big Fundamental") sounds like a coach's pregame speech. This dude is one of the best ever, and he acts like the bench kid who slaps the floor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amen, I Say!

Oh, how funny and obviously adorable is this woman? Learning how much Jesus loves her, and a degree from Mizzou to top it off! Be still, my heart! [The grammar fascism would reach unprecedented and unhealthy levels between the two of you.--ed.] True story. She'd also get around to saying I'm not much of a writer; I like starting sentences with conjunctions, and I overuse commas. I blame some Oxford dude, and Mrs. Conway. [Those grammar lessons still give me nightmares.--ed.] Dude, I know. Like being Catholic or something. [Zing!--ed.] I'm in the club now; I say what I think.

The Gateway

I've said eleventy thousand times that the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded rests on The Three Things. If you're going to doubt it, it'll be about these things. Fair enough.

But what is much more sporting fun is to ask your friendly neighborhood papist and convert, "Just what in blazes made you consider it in the first place?" I'm so glad you asked! We could talk for hours about the unworkability of Sola Scriptura, and the attendant Noltie Conundrum, but it doesn't quite make it plain. What does is this: I realized that so-called "derivative authority" was a sham, that its logical system makes a distinction without a difference. I'm saying that everyone who has placed all their eggs in the basket of drawing a distinction between "Solo" and Sola Scriptura are playing mind-games with themselves, because it isn't there. If Sola Scriptura is unworkable, AND the ecclesiastical authorities set up subsequently have no real power, you're almost Catholic by default.

Christianity must be a faith received. It has been, and always will be. I now define Sola Scriptura as, "the rejection of ecclesiastical authority based on an individual interpretation of Scripture." I will grant you that the protestant leaders may not, as we say, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, in the immortal words of Spock, "What you want is irrelevant; what you've chosen is at hand!" I do not envy those who remain in such communities as the principle continues making a mockery of a principled theological-dogmatic continuity with traditional doctrine and morality. In one sense, authority is like a binary switch: you either have it, or you don't. If you've conceded that you do not, you can clothe it in the fine-sounding words of submitting to "God's holy word," but somebody is calling that bluff. Bet on it.

The only remaining question is whether the Catholic claim is writing checks you can't cash. But this is where it gets truly amazing: you cannot account in a principled way for the faith of the ancient Church without the Catholic Church! We're not wishing in vain for certitude, or jumping at high-sounding promises; we can see the truth of them in the faith of our heroes. It's either a true claim, or Jesus didn't come at all. It gets that stark. It's good to get there, because a Christian knows what to do. If I gotta choose between the barque of Peter, and unbelief, then bring me that popish Mass without delay!

Love Is The Answer (Again)

I love that song. Most people just chalk it up to my love of (in their view) terrible music, but the truth is that I love that song for a very specific reason. If you knew the intensity of my fight with God in '09-'11, you might get an idea. It's not going to win any theology prizes, OK? Sometimes, it sounds vaguely Arian. But Dan Seals will tell you, that song helped him become a Christian in 1996.

I didn't know that song until 2010. It came at the perfect time for me. I'm the kind of person who, for whatever reason, makes the simple things really hard at times. That's what I was doing in 2010. The plain message is this: Sometimes, you have to let go, and trust Jesus. It doesn't mean we stop thinking, or not care about Truth. But He is that Truth, and the plainest thing I know about Jesus is that His Name is Love.

Tell you what: I dare you to take the chorus of this song, and make it a prayer: "Light of the world, shine on me; Love is the answer. Shine on us all; set us free; Love is the answer." It's not proper for the funeral Mass, I grant you. But some time that day or the days following, if I die, I want people to hear this song. Thank you, Todd Rundgren, for writing this song.

Moreover, the acoustic version that Mr. Seals did on "In A Quiet Room, Volume 1" is truly haunting and fantastic. Some people don't like catchy songs or drum machines, so this version will go down easier. While I'm here though, please know that I would have paid at least eleventy billion dollars to hear George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley do a version. I digress.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You'll have to pardon the rudeness, but I find the mere suggestion that a Reformed seminarian, with his "literal" interpretation, is a better interpreter of Scripture than St. Anthony of the Desert hilarious.

4. And yes, that means that "Saints" are a real thing.

3. Which means that growth in both sanctification and justification is both possible, and necessary.

2. If that sounds weird or impossible to you, you do not yet grasp the Catholic position well enough to even refute it.

1. When the Catholic Church says someone is justified, that doesn't mean they were "declared" innocent; that means they are in fact innocent.