Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Points of Authority

For Christians:

1. For all Christians, it is God in Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the ultimate author of life, which demands higher obedience than any other authority by God's very nature.
2. It is right and just that human beings should have an authority to which they answer, beginning with the above; intuitively, humility demands at least the potential recognition of an authority higher than oneself.

For Catholics:

3. The law of the Church is made for the betterment and salvific benefit of mankind.
4. Re: 3, The specific laws of the Church are to be made for man and the benefit of mankind.
5. The laws of the Church should be made simple when possible and soundly reasoned in accordance with Revelation, so as not to unduly burden the clergy or laity. (A good deal of Scriptural intuition lies behind this, I think.)
6. The Canon Law consitutes a higher authority (where there be conflict) than the laws of man; thus for instance, to make an obvious example, if some country's law mandated that non-Christians receive consecrated hosts, the Catholic priests there would be obligated to disobey said law. (This is a good example for all Christians, not merely Catholics, because the majority of Christians would agree it is ambiguous at best to distribute communion, however symbolically conceived, to non-Christians.)
7. If one is committed to the Catholic Church it is fruitful and good, not merely obligatory, to follow the Church's law even if it does not appear to that one's understanding to live up to the standard of simplicity outlined in (5).
8. It is acceptable to turn away from early authorities in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven; e.g. to refuse to follow an unjust law which conflicts with one's Christian calling in direct command or in indirect obedience, for instance to natural law or some portion of Canon Law, even if followed in accordance with (7).
9. One unjust law does not render all the laws, rules and regulations set down by an earthly authority null and void.
10. There may be some earthly authorities which are rendered null and void by sufficient amounts of oppression and unjust legislation.
11. We should, in accordance with (1) and (2), take care that when we seek to be free of earthly authorities we do it in accordance with humility and truth, not because we seek more power or control for ourselves.

I'm honestly going a bit off the cuff here, kind of throwing some ideas out and seeing what sticks. I don't think much is controversial here, at least not to Christians, but some thoughts:

I think perhaps (1) and (2) should be switched in keeping with the sort of evolutionary (though not logically argued) nature of this sequence of points. I'm not sure how the fruitful part of (7) happens. I'm curious about (8) and what exactly would meet the conditions of (9). This list is probably off in at least one or two places and by no means Catechetical (the day someone starts reading this blog as a catechism is the day the Church has run out of good ideas.) I imagine for Christians in non-Catholic traditions that some parallel thoughts could be drawn to denominational laws, though I'm not sure the laws themselves would carry the same weight theologically.

And yes, that title was a Linkin Park reference.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Conclave Song from High School

I wrote the original back in high school and it's been floating around my head for a long time; here's the format as I'm introducing it to the internet.

A-Poping We Will Go

A-Poping we will go,
A-Poping we will go!
We are the Cardinals!
A-Poping we will go!

A Pontiff we will find,
Who's holy, wise, and kind!
We are the Cardinals!
A Pontiff we will find!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Man on the Other Side of the Tiber

This may not be the last thing I have to say about religious identity, in particular because ripples from a shift in religious identity will likely take awhile before they settle down completely, if they ever do. Perhaps given the current sad rift between Christians, this is inevitable. I would be curious if anyone else who has crossed the great river has had similar experiences.

They have a saying in the Catholic Church--"Crossing the Tiber." Now the Tiber is a river, and as I understand, the crossing of the Tiber means going Catholic, what with the Tiber being geographically associated with Rome.

Maybe this, or maybe this isn't, a common experience in conversion. But in my experience, one thing that happens, or at least can happen, is that part of you will remain on the other side for the river, with the same sensibilities and preferences you had before. Now the Tiber can be a dangerous stream, and I daresay it's not necessarily much easier to get the rest of you over than it is to get your deciding portion over in the first place. There was a time in my life after my conversion when that man shouted louder, when I felt the urge to turn back more strongly. When that time ended my reaffirmation of my initial choice to swim the Tiber, but I’m not sure I did so in the healthiest manner, perhaps to mask my own insecurities about my chosen path.

The Scripture does tell you to put to death what belongs to the sinful nature, and it also tells you to die to yourself. But one thing the Scripture does not say is to kill yourself. I think somewhere along the line I tried to shoot the man on the other side of the Tiber. I'm fairly confident that I missed, and hit some other people instead. I'm also not entirely confident that that I was always aiming for him to begin with, and I'm not very proud of that possibility.

There are, certainly, plenty of things one can be angered about legitimately, and I don't mean to decry my embrace of Catholicism in the name of charity, real or superficial. But to anyone who suffered unjust displays of anger from me as a side effect of religious identity--I am sorry. Please forgive me.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cylinders and Crosses


The experience of God's massive and overwhelming nature is best found, for me, on sunny days or black nights. I'm not sure anything captures the beauty of the Creator any better than seeing His creation bathed in the light of His great lantern, and realizing that He is yet still bigger, yet still more shining. Or that anything captures His scope, His power and might, as well as staring into the void of space, and realizing that He is yet bigger, more massive, more infinite than the universe itself. When I apprehend the beautiful view of a landscape in the sun, or the void of space at night, I come closest to what I might call a healthy fear of God--"be still and know that I am God"--and that this God could crush me, that this God is more eldritch and big than the whole organism of the Earth and more consuming than the void, but that yet this God wants to know and to love me.

I don't understand.

Of course I can spend all the time I like chasing experiences that teach me the attributes of God by their massive yet massively imperfect analogy. But though nature comes close, there are, still, places and times in my life God can be found in yet more direct fashion. I speak, at least in part, of moments in time spent kneeling before and metal cylinders or crosses, housing something that looks like bread.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is here yet again! The Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox convictions. As such, while on this blog Papists represent, the reader should bear in mind that not every article linked here is written by persons who would consider themselves such.

Devotional

Josh Wiley submits Daryl Evans' post Bible Verses About Trials: 20 Scriptures on Tribulations, over at What Christians Want To Know.
We all go through trials in life. Check out these inspirational Bible verses about trials and tribulations.
Romi brings us God Knows from his blog In the Way Everlasting.
"There is no such thing as coincidence."
Isabel Anders submits Guidance in Small Doeses from her blog BlogHer.
 What words of wisdom have influenced your choices or given your life new direction?
General Theology

Dave Moser sent along All the Commands of James from his blog, Armchair Theology.
The book of James has a reputation for being full of legalistic commands but if you look at all of the imperative verbs all at once you will see something interesting.
I present The Story of a Soul here at keyboard theologians.
I will (perhaps boldly) claim that in the Christian tradition it must be said that a soul's response to God is the primary and founding response it makes to all things.
Other

Paul Kuritz presents Not By Bread Alone: The Hunger Games: The Book at Paul Kuritz: Opinions.
Does the novel The Hunger Games achieve its strength by tapping into the Christian story?
Shannon Christman submits Fellowship that Endures from InFaith's Mission Blog, a post by Jeff and Cheryl Norbie.
It seems as though the Lord is teaching us that His love transcends time and location.
Christman also sent along History from Ridge's Blog, by Ridge Burns.
Sometimes my history and my sentimental emotions get in the way of progress.
There you have it, folks. Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Christian Carnival. Feel free to go to the Carnival's official site to submit a post for next week!

ADDENDUM: I've added the entry under devotionals that was submitted via Blogcarnival. I had told Maryanne that I would be counting those and then forgot to do so. But please note that Blogcarnival is not really an approved submission method anymore and as far as I know, no host is bound to honor it.

The Story of a Soul

Marilynne Robinson, in the first of her so-far-excellent collection of essays When I Was a Child I Read Books, makes an interesting observation.
In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered some set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it.
Robinson is critical of this and sees a reductionism of the soul to a "token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with [...] the felt experience of life."

I find this interesting. I'm not sure if I totally buy it, though to be honest, I'd be hard-pressed to name offhand the last time I heard a Protestant minister or even a Catholic priest mention a soul without talking about salvation pretty explicitly.

That said, I'm not sure it's as bad as all that. I think there might be a way to recover some of what Robinson believes we've lost (which I take from further context to be a sense of creativity of the soul, the soul as a world-experiencing object) without sacrificing the importance of salvation. Where the rubber meets the road, whether the soul is saved or lost is certainly the most important thing. And whether or not this implies a reduction of soul to its status, I will (perhaps boldly) claim that in the Christian tradition it must be said that a soul's response to God is the primary and founding response it makes to all things. Creativity, perhaps all experience at root, is all co-creativity, sustained only by the God who made the earth. That said, I do think there's already some talk about people who are creative in religious circles, whether their creativity is explicitly religious or not, and I think maybe, to a degree, Robinson is being a bit picky about the fact that maybe we just don't refer to peoples' souls in these contexts.

And while some people might see the following list as still reducing to a saved-or-lost mentality, I think the Catholic tradition has a lot to offer in terms of developing one's soul in relationship to God--morally and ethically, in the confessional and in the works of great theologians, philosophically, in some of those same works, aesthetically, in appreciation of nature, and prayerfully, in standards like the Liturgy of the Hours.


I wonder if the notion of vocation and co-creation could serve us well here as well. Encouraging creativity among Christians can never hurt. Certainly the Catholic souls of Augustine, Aquinas, Chesterton, Tolkein, Percy, O'Connor, Greene and Endo are present in their works. Certainly the souls of Calvin, Wesley, Lewis, and Robinson herself are present in theirs. The souls of many of those saved are not merely saved, they are in rapture. The how, the story of how a soul responds to that salvation--perhaps that is where the real creativity (or at least co-creativity) begins. How do we respond to the fact of salvation and sacrament after the fact, how does it change our response to the world, how do we then develop in relation to God? A plant emerges from a seed, but the plant does not reduce to the seed; perhaps this is how we could retain a healthy respect for the fact of souls saved and lost, without sacrificing other aspects of a soul's development. I'd be curious to see what Robinson has to say about souls she may doubt the salvation of. I would certainly volunteer that I would like to look at each of them and find them beautiful enough to help develop creatively or to experience more, but perhaps most of all enough to save.

For the record, a good bit of this post was written while listening to Jars of Clay. That awesomely, explosively creative first big album. (It's also been sped up a bit by Winamp, but that's my own special thing, and the music's just as good otherwise.) Just thought that was worth mentioning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Waiting for the Clouds to Move


I went to a park near my house today to finish a Marilynne Robinson essay, “Imagination and Community,” from her so-far-excellent When I Was a Child I Read Books. And I will talk more on that book later; it's setting me down some interesting intellectual paths.

At any rate this park is basically a small forest, and I knew it was likely to be a bit cold for me in the shade I took a light jacket. I found a clearing with some play equipment, and thought at first I might settle on a swing and do some reading. This proved a bit uncomfortable, so I sat on the sawdust and leaned against the ladder of some monkey bars. I had noticed where the sun was likely to be headed, based on where it was rising, and I wanted to see if the clearing would get sunnier as the day went on.

While I was reading Robinson I did find some of my efforts to enjoy the sun being thwarted by clouds. Now by the standards of certain predictions of those persons known as “weather-people” the weather was actually quite nice, and it was by my standards, too. The sun-breaks came and went, and watching them on the way in was a fun distraction from the essay. I also found myself checking periodically to watch the progress of the sunlight when it came out in fuller force, and was pleased to find my prediction was right.

A startling moment: I discovered there was a spider crawling on my leg. How it got there without my noticing I don't know. I made a startled movement and a noise, and the spider jumped off. I watched my new friend for a second to see if it would crawl away, and it did. For a second after I was paranoid, but it did not return. It reminds me of an incident at University of Portland in which a ladybug had hid in my backpack and traveled with me across the campus.

At some point I noticed that the clouds were moving rather quickly, and that in a few minutes the sun would be out in full force for at least a few minutes. I overestimated, I think, both the time that would take and the time the sun would be in the pure blue sky, but I noticed something more interesting in the meantime.

I could see the sun through the clouds. At the first I wondered if maybe the ball I was seeing was actually the moon, but it wasn't. It was just the sun, obscured enough by the clouds that it was vaguely safe to stare. Based on the slight weirdness that followed in my eyes, I don't recommend it often, but it was an interesting experience. It reminded me of the description of the Miracle of the Sun, though if I understand correctly, people saw the sun at Fatima not through the clouds but in the open sky.

It also reminded me of an incident in the Old Testament, which a Christian blogger had brought to my attention a good few months ago now, in which God covered his face so that Abraham would not die from seeing it.

And once that sun did finally emerge from the clouds, it did emerge about as dangerous to my eyes as anything short of God could be. A notion about the sun, from C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Or another, from Chesterton: “The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything.”

I have remarked to one or two of my fellow people in the last month or so that I feel it is misguided for people to say that the world is beautiful when what they mean is that it looks beautiful. For the world to be beautiful it must be beautiful when there is rain as well as when there is sun. But perhaps there is still value in the fact that the world often looks more beautiful in the sun than in the rain. Sometimes it takes the sun to reveal the beauty of the world. Sometimes it takes God to help us see the beauty in people, to reveal their nature as it really is. The sun is really God's delegate for nature (as the moon is the sun's delegate at night), to do the duties for the natural world that God does for people.

Really, in this light (pun!), sun-worship is an understandable mistake. There is some analogy between the Divine and the sun. Just as the clouds made the sun 'safe' to see, so there is a 'fog' or a covering that makes the Divine safe for now, as we see through the glass darkly. Perhaps at that time when we can see the Divine without dying, we will be able to see the sun clearly, in the open blue, without wrecking our eyes. And we will see all, both nature and persons, as they were meant to be and in their proper lights.

For now, when I get up and leave those moments of seeing the sun through the clouds, and failing to see the sun in the clear blue, maybe the best I can do is thank the sun for shining, and God for assigning it the task.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Practice

I know a guy named Luke who told me the other day about a routine he had had once, of buying flowers for a girlfriend. It wasn't necessarily a thing he did just to mark special occasions, or to gain favor with her or make up for something he'd done wrong.

It was something he just did sometimes when he happened to be in the right place, and being there reminded him. Not exactly a liturgical ritual, but routine enough that it was a practice for him.

Now of course some men do buy flowers to get out of trouble or with lesser motivations, but not this guy. And of course, lacking a lot of utilitarian value, they're not going to be every girl's thing. But somehow I doubt their instrumental value was the point for Luke, or for the girlfriend in question. Obviously if she was not the type for flowers as a romantic gesture, a different routine would have been more appropriate. But the point is, it was something he just did sometimes, to show his affections.

I know this isn't just a thing exclusive to romantic endeavors for him--I know it extends to his spiritual practice as well, and many of us can recall the time he took a bunch of us to a very fancy restaurant on his birthday. And paid. Of course, he's not the only person on the right track in these departments, but his is the example I'm sharing today.

I know at the least that I could use more of that initiative to just do things sometimes with no substantial reason or motivator except to show others that we care. For that reason I found that particular tidbit to be pretty awesome.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Christian Carnival, for March 7th, 2012

[Note: Some stuff had to be rearranged category-wise and I'd missed Dustin White's post from Belzian. There was also some weird stuff with the URLs a couple of links were going to. Apologies on that, all links, quotes and posts are now included under the proper posts and in proper categories, and all the links work. That said...]

Welcome to this week's Christian Carnival, y'all. The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox convictions and hosted by a different blog each week. This week it's the keyboard theologians' turn, so here we go. In a typical host's caveat, my hosting this carnival doesn't automatically mean I endorse everything everyone has to say: Part of the point of the carnival is to be exposed to different points of view, after all. Anyway, have a look around and have fun being informed and challenged.

Apologetics

Carson Weitnauer presents Is Religion Bad for Kids? at Reasons for God.
Richard Dawkins and others claim that religion is bad for kids, even comparing it to child abuse and locking children in dungeons. I look at the evidence and find that these claims are leaps of faith, not supported by the evidence.
Janeva asks, Why Evil? over at In Front of God and Everybody.

General Theology

Carl Ayers gives us Mongergism, Syngerism, and God's Image over at Theological Pursuit.
How does the concept of being created in God's Image affect discussion concerning monergism and synergism? Are we saved or justified on account of faith alone? Is there any sense in which we are saved or justified on account of works? In two posts I seek to lay groundwork to answer that both monergism and synergism have merit.
I ask some sci-fi motivated questions about Prosthetic Bodies and Marriage here at Keyboard Theologians.
I recently re-watched the first season of the sci-fi anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which raises some interesting issues.
Devotional

Jennifer Vaughn takes A Look at Spiritual Awareness Month over at à la mode de les Muses.

Russ White gives us Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin over at Thinking in Christ.
This final separation is separation from our Creator, God. What is the impact of separation from God? Spiritual death. To be spiritually dead is to be in rebellion against that which sustains you, to choose to live while choosing not to connect to the source of all life. It is a desire to be in the power of God while not being in the presence of God.
Over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, Rebecca LuElla Miller speaks of Pollen.
"Pollen" is an article making an analogy regarding suffering. In particular I looked at James 1:2-3 and 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Other

Over at Adventures of a Girl Who Loves Jesus, Michelle is provoked...
Journey with me to the mission field.
Ridge Burns considers The Ten Commandments over at Ridge's Blog.
I’ve been speaking all week on the Ten Commandments – twelve lectures on the Ten Commandments. Do you know the problem with the Ten Commandments? They’re convicting. They drive you to the person of Christ. They point you there because you realize there’s know what you can live to the standard of the Ten Commandments.
Rob Sisson looks at God's Glorious Provision on InFaith's Mission Blog.
Our God is the God of glorious provision! He provides in the strangest ways, but He always provides.
Dustin White at Belzian explores The Sacrifice of Jesus from a Non-Religious Perspective.
Throughout history, we have seen many great individuals sacrifice themselves in order to promote an idea or message they thought would be for the betterment of humankind. Many of these individuals did make great impacts on the world, which had long lasting impacts. Others simply have been lost to the sands of history. One such sacrifice was that of Jesus. Yet, it is also one largely misunderstood, or even denied by various individuals. With a closer, historical look, we can once again see what his sacrifice was, and whether it still effects the world today.
Finance

Jocelin at One Money Design talks about How to Talk to Your Elderly Parents About Their Finances.
Talking to our elderly parents or grandparents about money is not necessarily easy.  It is admitting to ourselves that they are not doing as well as they could and may need some assistance. 
Go to the Christian Carnival blogspot page to submit a post for next week's carnival.

Prosthetic Bodies and Marriage

I recently re-watched the first season of the sci-fi anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's an excellent piece of work. While the show is neither Christian nor Catholic, it raises interesting issues for Catholic theology. One such issue concerns prosthetic bodies and marriage.

A number of characters on the show are cyborgs, or humans with fully functioning prosthetic bodies. Most of their humanity, physically speaking, is in the approximate 3% of their brain that is still the original flesh-and-blood they were born with. Everything else is their prosthetic body and brain.

While this technology is far from real-life, very similar technology is likely to develop as the science of engineering artificial human body parts develops.

So the question then becomes whether marriage and the marriage act would be appropriate for persons with prosthetic bodies?

In Catholic ethics, intentional frustration of the procreative faculty of a given act (by artificial contraception, or by other methods) is considered an intrinsic and grave evil.*

Prosthetic bodies, at least as imagined by Ghost in the Shell, are certainly not impotent, as at least a few episodes of the series seem intent on pointing out. But they do seem contraceptive or rather to act as contraceptives, or at least to be sterile or infertile.

Sterility in itself would be no problem for a Catholic couple. But if the prosthetic body itself acts as a sort of contraceptive, this seems to change the game. I suspect for those of us who call ourselves Catholics, the morality of marrying and the marital act where prosthetic bodies are concerned will hinge largely on the question of whether those bodies are considered artificially contraceptive, or merely infertile or sterile.

Perhaps the situation is most analogous to that of women who have had hysterectomies.** In this case the  intent of the procedure in the first place would seem to play a role. If that is the case then erhaps that procedure, not the marital acts following it, would be the act which one could properly call right or wrong or should at least take the primary focus in theological-ethical discussions.

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* This doesn't mean all contraception is the worst evil ever (lots of things are grave and intrinsically evil in Catholic tradition), but it does mean that it cannot be considered in Catholic moral tradition to be a "good" thing.

** One might ask why I'm not noting vasectomies here--I considered it, but a good key difference is that as far as I know, while not all men in marital situations are expected to reverse them, vasectomies are not candidates as moral actions in Catholic theology, whereas hysterectomies can be for medical reasons.