Friday, September 02, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold: One Convert's View

Fr. Benson wrote a popular novel about the end of time. In the course of it, a character mentions Protestantism, and says, "It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead. Men do recognize at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration. And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left." (Lord of the World, p. 8)

Now, one of the features of the aforementioned Noltie Conundrum is that piety eliminates one possibility out of hand: the Holy Spirit cannot speak mutually exclusive truths about the same matter which is not adiaphora. This is so because the Holy Spirit is God, and God cannot lie.

So the alternatives remaining are: God protects me infallibly at all times when interpreting the Scriptures, (which one's opponents may also claim) or my opponent does not possess the gift of the Holy Spirit. The other option is to conclude that this methodology is itself wrong.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold: Further Thoughts

Practically, Sola Scriptura goes by another name: ecclesial fallibility. We saw before that a person who has no obligation to believe some ecclesiastical court is correct isn't going to defer in the future, simply because the new authority isn't Catholic. There is no principled position between "me and my Bible" and Catholicism. The purpose of Protestantism is to affirm the individual interpretation of Scripture. The resulting chaos is not an aberration or fluke. The honest Christian begins to question the Protestant methodology precisely when he cannot determine in a principled way the difference between divine revelation, and his own opinion.

What we affectionately dub "The Noltie Conundrum" illustrates another aspect of the problem, that is, ascertaining the content of what God has revealed, given mutually exclusive claims about that content, in light of a mutual invocation of the Holy Spirit.

It is a Protestant dilemma, on Protestant terms. It will not make you Catholic by itself, but it may well open the door.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold

It was actually a political discussion, but as with so much in conservative Protestantism, those lines are dotted, at best. Anyway, Rachel Held Evans came up, and she's the perfect boogeywoman, of course, with her predictable left-of-center political views, and denigration of conservative theological positions. The key point is this: you may not think she's much of a Christian, but she's the perfect Protestant. The alternative to "Scripture Alone" surely is the Church. To turn it around, having rejected the Catholic Church, one cannot be surprised that Rachel calls your bluff in the same way, and on the same terms, as the Reformers did 5 centuries prior.

Your makeshift magisteriums--whether alternative structures, or shared interpretations--are even easier to desert than Rome had been. Bad news, kid: the center will not hold. "Conservative" Protestantism is "liberal" Protestantism waiting to happen. It's just a matter of time. Because ultimately, the arbiter of what Scripture says in the Protestant system is the individual, though many people get good at mental gymnastics attempting to deny it.

"If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me." Submission could only be provisional, unless the alleged errors of Rome and its tyranny are to be repeated in every community, they reason. The only problem is that dogma--supernaturally revealed truth--cannot change, because God cannot change. Infallibility has to be a part of any religious system involving vital divine communication.

So either we live with each person as their own Pope, intentionally disregarding Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17--among other things, that we be one--or, having noticed that we share much in common which cannot be explained on Protestant terms or with Protestant methods, and we reconsider our previous rejection of the Catholic Church.

Some people assert instead that knowing infallible divine Truth is impossible, and that to desire it is a fool's errand. But if this were actually true, it would be downright wicked of God to hand out divine justice for failing to profess something that man has no way of knowing. In other words, if judgment and reward from God is real, then the Truth upon which that judgment rests is knowable.

In fact, the reason Catholic apologists emphasize history, especially in the Christian era, is because that history provides ample evidence of the preservation and communication of divine truth over time. The community whose job it is to communicate, defend, and explain that truth is the Church. A reasonable person at least considers becoming Catholic when he or she realizes that the parish down the street is an outpost of the Church he or she finds in history.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trump Doesn't Represent Me

I got pretty emotional in thinking through writing this post. I flat-out don't like Donald Trump; I don't live in the thought world where he is a viable option. This man mocks women, the disabled, and ethnic minorities. He doesn't make sense when he talks, and time reveals that he has no idea what he's actually talking about. He revels in his own ignorance. I actually suffered through the primary debates, and I wondered how someone so manifestly unfit could have made it this far. I guess people have learned to reflexively defend anyone on their side, no matter how absurd the notion. That makes me saddest of all.

I'm supposed to say that of course Clinton is worse. Perhaps she is, at that. But I find I don't care. What good has it done, supporting these Republicans, anyway? Abortion goes on, along with the destruction of the family, gay "marriage," rampant gun violence, religious bigotry, and a host of other problems. If my social media feed is any guide, so-called "conservatives" have nothing but selfish rage underlying whatever opinions they hold. Even if some progressives really are using the power of government to make certain views unpopular, what if there is no philosophy to which we return?

It's not that there is no harm in Clinton winning, but ask yourself: "Is this an election I want to win?" I say, "No!" Donald Trump is evil; he deserves to be repudiated in no uncertain terms. How did we get to the point where we have accepted all of this as the price of doing business? No, I will not.

We at least used to be able to say--despite whatever moral flaws in the philosophy of government there were--that we had intellectual rigor, respect, and good faith in the offering of an alternative. What'll we say now? What can you say?

Jeb Bush recently said you can't insult your way to the presidency. Reluctantly, and with much trepidation, I hope he is right. I doubt I could convince most people to follow my way of thinking. But however you would describe my vision, it isn't this. I still think this is right, and to accept Trump is to give tacit support to all of it. Not me. Not today, or any day.

Monday, August 29, 2016

To Kill A Mockingbird

I watched it again last night, and though I had some gnawing sense that the version I had was missing some scenes--Doesn't Cal take the kids to her church?--it still shakes with great moral clarity as a film.

Atticus is still the center of the story for me, though of course the innocence of children confronted with ugly human compromise with evil is a major theme. I have half-jokingly said before that I may be the only person whose hero is a fictional character. It remains true, in this case.

Though he becomes a victim of the violence against him and his own despair, Tom Robinson is a hero, also. It was absolutely right to feel sorry for Mayella Ewell, even if it became dangerous for Tom to act upon it. Recognizing the danger only accentuates the virtue.

Calpurnia showed solidarity as well, teaching the Finch children virtue, and showing them love, even if they will be the beneficiaries of a society that surely hasn't dealt fairly with her.

And I never before noticed the depth of Helen Robinson's grief, when Atticus comes to tell her that Tom had been killed. I was deeply moved; I felt it, perhaps as I never had before. How many real-life Helens do we have today? Too many. Far too many.

I would certainly recommend the film if you haven't seen it, and better yet, the book. There was a documentary attached, and a black lawyer commenting on Atticus said, "When you are peerless--when you really are--everyone is your peer." May that holy paradox be true of all of us, my friends.