Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Stuff on a Couple of Marian Dogmas

So Austin and I had another big huge honkin' conversation with Austin last night. We've basically agreed that it's post-worthy. I should warn, it's long, but lots of its lines aren't full so it'll probably read faster than it seems. It's worth noting that Austin and I have been talking theology for a long time, so we don't always set our reverence-filters to max, even when we're talking about Marian dogmas.
Dan: ok
TBH i'm not the best person to ask about immaculate conception and perpetual virginity
Austin: yeah
i do understand that
Dan: the two doctrines you seem mainly to take issue with, if i'm reading you right
Austin: well now
Dan: we've talked about theotokos
Austin: immaculate conception.... i forgot what that specifically means
please re-define it
Dan: it means being born w/o original sin
Austin: oh, Christ being born w/o?
Dan: nope
that's a Marian one
obviously it also applies to Christ, but that's because he's God and is like us in all things except sin
Austin: so the idea is that mary was immaculate?
Dan: i dunno
i think the main idea is
immaculate vessel for the Son of God
Austin: ah
i thought that the sin was through adam's descendants
Dan: in vulgar terms, since her belly is the holy of holies...
and i was applying that one to Immaculate Conception...but basically, since she's carrying the son of God, the basic rationale is that she should also be without sin, OSLT. there might also be something there in terms of how Jesus received a human nature
i've no idea if that made any sense at all
Austin: i am thinking about it a bit
it just seems like the concept of an immaculate mary is not something that is based on any scripture but is a theological construct based on the necessity for it, because of the way that the theology was made in the first place
Dan: what, what with the Trinity and the Incarnation, etc.?
Austin: no, i mean those make sense
they are theological constructs out of necessity because we see them in the scripture
Dan: okay
Austin: but i don't necessarily see why God cannot be conceived in a sinful womb
especially with the HS at work
Dan: hmm
Austin: i mean, if there was a principle that led me to believe that
i could understand how (implicitly) immaculate conception could be constructed
Dan: ok
so what if it were an implication of a scriptural construct like the incarnation?
it seems then that it would be necessary
Austin: yes, indeed
iwould definitely agree with it then.
Dan: yeah
btw, when i was talking about references of Scripture
in the mass
i was including the many implicit references
in addition to the explicit ones, like "Lord, I know am not worthy to receive you, etc."
Austin: ah yes
you know, i really don't have much problem with the mass structure or the things they say even
or the prayers
it's just the theological stuff about mary
like, that SERIOUSLY trips me up
Dan: what about the declarations on free will?
Austin: free will (even with my strong views on it) is still something i'm willing to debate and consider
but i really am not open to the idea of mary being a pure human being
Dan: what's your objection?
like, how does it contradict the Scripture?
(btw, I'm playing dumb a little: I do have my own objections along those lines)
Austin: it mildly contradicts but i would argue that something so foundational should be more based on scripture
(aye, don't worry about it)
there is little mention of Mary outside of the gospels
Dan: this is true
Austin: i can't think of any epistle references to her off-hand
and none of them mention the idea that she was sinless, though the majority of the epistles talk about Christ as being pure and sinless
i just sorta think that if they were writing it, they might throw in a shout-out to Mary, you know
Dan: ...heh
Austin: something like "Jesus, He was pure and sinless, just like His mom"
Dan: maybe
the thing that i'm working on is this greek word that people won't agree on
it's in luke 1:28
the Catholics are the only ones who translate it as "full of grace" but they, or at least their websites, disagree with CARM about what the word is in the greek
and I myself couldn't say b/c from CARM's site it might just be a different way to spell said greek word in english
Austin: which word?
Dan: that's part of the problem i'm not sure
Austin: ah
being from a reformed church
i am inevitably in much agreement with CARM.ORG [Note: The relevant article on that site is “Mary, full of grace, and Luke 1:28. – KK]
Dan: carm's anglicization: kexaritomena
Austin: so it's not a great place for me to check things out
Dan: catholic answers's: kecharitomene [Relevant article on “How to Defend the Immaculate Conception,” probably anything with that title, but Jason Evert if there's more than one. - KK]
you see my problem?
those look JUST similar enough that the people might be seeing the same greek word and writing it different
now it IS quite clear that they're translating it differently
Austin: yeah
Dan: but one or both might be mixed up about what the word actually IS
and that's a problem
Austin: OH
found the word
hang on let me get this copied for you
Dan: link?
Austin: [Note: This link will be important later. - KK.]
scroll down to 28
it's near the halfway point
after a comma
Dan: yeah, that's a bigass greek word
Austin: yes it is sir
i was thinking the exact same thing
Dan: i wonder if, in some comic awesomeness, the apologists are breaking the word down at different places resulting in different roots/conclusions?
Austin: interesting thought
however i wonder what the difference between the latin and this version is
i think that's more to do with it
Dan: well yes, SORT of.
the latin version translates a lot more explicitly as 'full of grace'
the problem with the CARM argument is that it relies on the latin being the source of the confusion without considering the possibility that maybe the latin translation was keeping in mind marian language that had already become part of the church
in which case the early church, if CARM is right, must have been awfully set on contrabiblical teaching
Austin: indeed
when did the marian doctrine emerge, exactly?
in reference to the latin vulgate
Dan: ...well the nature of emergence requires me not to give an exact date
however, w/r/t latin vulgate, at least two dogmas can be seen earlier than the vulgate
these being, IIRC, perpetual virginity and immaculate conception
Austin: i see
Dan: (there's also one that's still got a chance of being dogmatized, but it only shows up in anywhere near full force in st irenaeus among the fathers, IIRC)
Austin: so it is a possibility that the translation was influenced through these dogmas
Dan: yes
but that would also imply that these dogmas were commonly held in the early church
Austin: perpetual virginity really doesn't make sense to me either :\
she got married to a dude and didn't ever sleep with him
Dan: which presents a problem for CARM guys, if they care about being the historical Christian church
is this not possible?
actually, the best argument i've heard for perpetual virginity
Austin: this is VERY possibly
i've heard it happens a lot in modern marriages
Dan: heh
Austin: i'm just saying that i don't understand why it's held as a dogma
is there some virtue in not having sex?
Dan: there might be
you'd have to ask someone more awesome than i about that
Austin: ah bummer
i must have been mistaken
i thought i was talking to the most awesome one :(
Dan: sorry
Mary's basic question "How can this be if I'm a virgin", doesn't necessarily make sense if we assume virgin simply means "unsexed one"
i mean
i'm sure she was well aware of human biology
so on some level, if she had vowed some sort of virginity, it makes a little more sense
Austin: wait, so you mean that
Dan: i'm not totally convinced by the argument, but it struck me better than most
Austin: it doesn't make sense for her to say, "how can this be, since i've never had sex?" but it DOES make sense for her to say, "how can this be, since I vowed never to have sex?"
Dan: yes, kind of
actually, yeah, that is pretty much the arg
Austin: i do not wish to be unkind
Dan: say it
Austin: that argument [fails very badly]
Dan: not as hard as you think
Austin: well
maybe i'm missing something
but how is vowing not to have sex any different than not having sex
Dan:'s not any different
let's take the first part:
''it doesn't make sense for her to say, "how can this be, since i've never had sex?" '
of course that doesn't make sense
Austin: well first
what is she responding to
what exactly does the angel say here
Dan: and that's the issue
on my rereading of luke the argument DOES fly
and the perpetual virginity IS supported
the angel doesn't say HOW she'll conceive
Austin: ok. lay it on me brotha
Dan: UNTIL she mentions her virginity
let's go with assumption A: when Mary said 'virgin' she meant she'd never had sex
under this context
the angel tells her she's going to conceive
that she's GOING to
not that she has
Austin: aye
Dan: he doesn't even give a time frame
and her response is "how can this be if i've never had sex"
even though she is currently bethrothed
Austin: so he says, "in the future you will conceive a child"... i see what you're saying
Dan: BUT
if 'virgin' implies 'i'm not planning on having sex ever'
then it seems more sensible to say 'but angel dude, how can i have a baby without having sex?'
Austin: yeah
all i'm thinking is
Dan: which of course if she were planning on having relations with joseph, would be silly
Austin: joseph signed up for the WRONG marriage here
if mary was a super hot chick
Dan: HEH
Austin: he would totally not dig that
Dan: possibly not
but if an angel came and told YOU to dig it
you might reconsider
Austin: yeah maybe
you have a point
Dan: it is also not impossible for Catholics to believe that Joseph was actually a widower; in fact it's fairly common belief in the tradition
not defined, but common
i hope the argument makes more sense to you NOW though
i thought it was in trouble for a second myself, then i read the angel's initial anunciation more carefully
it also makes more sense to me now why Calvin and Luther held to perp. virginity: they knew their exegesis
Austin: pretty much all the translations here are future tense
so there's a good indication that the greek is future tense
aye. well perpetual virginity could make sense, then. now i understand why it is a plausible dogma
Dan: dangit xeirx, now i convinced MYself basically
even if i didn't convince you
Austin: wait
convinced yourself of perpetual virginity?
honestly dude, don't try it
it's too hard
Dan: ?
Austin: mary's a champ
for sticking with it
Dan: we're already part of a religion that believes in the RESURRECTION
i thought you were talking about the doctrine
Austin: :D
i know :)
Dan: no, i only intend on that if i discern that i'm not getting married
but i've also discerned that i'm not ever joining the priesthood unless God has a really evil sense of humor
bonus: Catholic answers' analysis of the bigass greek word agrees with the site you sent
Austin: nice
my video card pulled another overheating trick
Dan: insofar as they gave their analysis of the verb as a verb
Austin: so now i am in the cold kitchen :(
Dan: i am sorry :/
Austin: hey, so far this has been a good discussion but i'm really tired
Dan: ok
Austin: and i need to get out of the house as soon as i can tomorrow
because my sister's friend is coming over and she has a wicked crush on me
Dan: i shall ttyl
Austin: i just don't wanna deal with that crap
Dan: HEH
have a good day
and good luck avoiding women as you often have to do
we shall discuss this more later
Austin: can you put our conversation on keyboardtheologians?
Dan: yeah!
i will!
Austin: sweet!
Dan: unless you want the honors
Austin: well as long as you give me credit for a post i don't care who does it
Dan: ok
Austin: it's nice to collaborate and talk about stuff
Dan: yeah
Austin: if this were a work night i would be screwed
Dan: hehe yeah
Austin: no more work nights until i get a job again!
Dan: we might be able to talk more tomorrow though, depending when i'm home
Austin: okay, cool
Dan: have a good one though
Austin: i'll keep my eyes open
you have a good one too, and Gby
Dan: Gby2
Austin: 'night
Anyway, as always, anyone who has further thoughts on the stuff we talked about is welcome to provide them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Hat tip to Fallible Blogma for the video:

I'm noticing a trend here. It seems pretty easily explicable, but the trend seems to be that nobody really likes getting corrected publicly by religious officials, even officials of the religion to which they proudly claim to belong. It seems, interestingly enough, that the Kennedy mentality of dissent stretches far and beyond the Democratic Party. The thing is, whenever anybody attempts any sort of correction in America, the response is "How dare you judge me?" This is then followed by ten thousand reasons the person who is trying to do the pastoral thing shouldn't be doing it. In this case, from what I heard, Hannity's objections mostly fell under the fallacy of tu quoque, or "you do it too." His only other response was to try and force the Father into a false dilemma, and to repeat that this dilemma was reality until it magically became fact. (Hint: That transformation never happened.) Hannity unintentionally brought to my mind the point that the sex abuse scandals leave people disillusioned, but that doesn't excuse his being out of step with his church on the point of contraception. It just does not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What the Early Church was Thinking, c. A.D. 400

Two things the early church might have been thinking when the Canon was first ratified, circa A.D. 400:
“There. Now we've got a veritable repository of all the apostolic teaching that we know is there for Christians in all times. In case all the other writings of our Church get lost, we'll still have this, and it can be there in any case to serve as the only infallible authority. To indicate that we don't want any other authority to be added, it'd also be best if we ended with Revelation. That way, people will know not to add things to the Scripture, and claim that they're infallible. At any rate, anything they need to be saved should be pretty evident and plainly proven from the Scriptures. Seriously, who could misunderstand us that badly?”
“There. Now we've got a veritable repository of apostolic teaching as it was first communicated in the Church. Hopefully people won't think that in ratifying these books to be Canon, we're declaring that our present collection of disciplines, rituals and doctrines are inessential just because they're not plainly proven from the Scriptures. Obviously, it's best for us to end with Revelation, because it looks forward to the times to come. Hopefully they won't think our placement of the book means that nobody's supposed to preach anything as dogma, that's not plain and provable in the Scriptures. Nah. Who could misunderstand us that badly?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dialogue with Austin on a Bunch of Stuff

Decided it would be cool if as a 50th post I posted some dialogue Austin and I had a few years back now. This was during my Modern Christianity class, so that would've been Fall of 2006, that this was happening. At the time I was just learning about the initial debates between Arminias and the others in the Reformed camp and the formation of TULIP, and was about to learn about Pietism. The cool thing about this conversation is how it wanders and meanders. We didn't actually type like this; the text has been sort of regulated to be more dialogue-quality, but ideas should be all there. That doesn't imply that the ideas are necessarily accurate ones, to history or to our current modes of thinking; I've made at least a few corrections in footnote format based on errors I made or based on my developing thoughts since; for example, I've gotten more Catholic and Austin's gotten less into more traditionally Calvinist/Reformed modes of worship. If Austin wants to add some footnotes or reflection of his own to this post, that would be awesome.
KKairos: ...What exactly do you mean by 'Wesleyan books'?
Xeirxes: Well, the teachings of Wesley; bear with me, I'm not familiar with Arminianism at all.
KKairos: Um, not really considered canon.. they're considered sources of Wesleyan-Arminian thought and theology, obviously. as would Arminias's stuff. (Remember that Arminias started out in the reformed tradition.)
Xeirxes: I see. Hmm.
KKairos: The thing is. Arminias said some stuff. Many people disagreed. TULIP was actually a reaction to that stuff he least that's what my church history reading is indicating.
Xeirxes: Hmm. I also heard, the Arminians came up with a spinoff that was intended to contradict TULIP.
KKairos: They may have, but I think we're talking about the same thing.
Xeirxes: After it was made, but it was really controversial and not all AArminians believed it. I think.
KKairos: At any rate there was controversy in the reformed tradition. Obviously, even though Arminianism lives on in the Wesleyan tradition, Calvinism wins in the reformed. I’d have to reread. There wasn't really any acronym listed for either system. Just that the councils were post-Arminias..
Xeirxes: Ah, ok.
KKairos: (The TULIP thing was listed in passing in my book.)
Xeirxes: Passing. Oh. I read that "as passing" rather than "in passing."
KKairos: In other words, tacked on at the end of a paragraph that explained it in more detail. Heh.
Xeirxes: So, I got a ton of sola scriptura verses. But they basically say that proverbs thing.
KKairos: That's good. ...Hrm. I’m still interested in seeing them.
Xeirxes: Galatians 1:8 is good too.
KKairos: I do think Wesley adopted sola scriptura, sort of. Remember that Luther wasn't opposed to using tradition in liturgy. That was more Calvin's thing.
Xeirxes: Ah, Ok.
KKairos: Wesley's quadrilateral makes scripture the trump card.
Xeirxes: Wait, just to clarify--
KKairos: If tradition, reason, OR experience is contrabiblical, than the bible wins
Xeirxes: Liturgy would be literature used in the religion?
KKairos: Ok. So for worship and stuff. This is the way it was explained to me in modern Christianity, is that for Luther, anything that scripture didn't forbid was allowed. But for Calvin, anything that wasn't commanded was forbidden. Obviously there's quite a difference in those two attitudes.[1]
Xeirxes: Yes, okay.
KKairos: So early Calvinists, apparently, took their hymns directly from the scriptures. My understanding, assuming I understand correctly, is that Lutherans would've been allowed a bit more leeway as to, say, the words or tune of a hymn.
Xeirxes: That makes sense; we really don't have much other than a piano and hymns in our church.
KKairos: Yes, but you're still not the same as the very early Calvinists. at least, not if you've sung anything like “You Are My All in All.”[2]
Xeirxes: They probably made their women cover their hair, right?
KKairos: As I think I may have picked up [reference to the hymn.]
Xeirxes: Yeah, we've sung that :)
KKairos: ...It's crazy how all these different ideas grow and develop.
Xeirxes: Yeah, it is :D
KKairos: There was one guy I thought was especially cool; unfortunately in his immediate time his ideas didn't make much impact. They basically had to do with what could be considered essential belief for salvation. Can't remember his name. But basically his theory was that while we could look at scripture and find new things that we considered part of Christian belief, that was fine. However. the only stuff that could make someone heretical would have to be found somewhere in the first 500 years or so of the church. Because in that time there was sort of much more unity as to who was a heretic and who was saved and whatnot.
Xeirxes: Hmm. Well...
KKairos: It's a flawed theory sort of, but I enjoyed learning about the possible origins of the idea about essential and non-essential belief.
Xeirxes: There've definitely been some heretics recently :)
KKairos: Yes.
Xeirxes: Harold Camping, saying that the bible says we shouldn't go to church and they should just listen to his radio show.
KKairos: Who are you thinking of specifically?
Xeirxes: Also this one pastor of my church. He was, like, really doing a bad job, and not caring at all.
KKairos: Well the bible does not really say "go to church on Sunday at 11:00 am and worship God for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes." But it's certainly one of the better methods that's been developed for fulfilling the commandment :). What do you mean by not caring?
Xeirxes: Nope, but he said that the church is going to become evil and that you don't need to gather on Sundays
KKairos: Hrm.. that's...kind of stupid :)
Xeirxes: At least, from what I gather. He was sort of into the Revelations stuff. Eschatology.
KKairos: Eschatology is great.
Xeirxes: So, Arminians DO believe in sola scriptura.
KKairos: Unless you get to being one of those people who won't buy a house or settle down anywhere because Christ could come any day. It sort of misses the point :/
Xeirxes: Yeah :D
KKairos: I would guess that the oldest Arminians would have. For instance Jacobus Arminias himself. I’m not sure what Wesleyan-Arminianism says on the subject. The thing is--
Xeirxes: Hmm.
KKairos: I’m thinking that sola scripture doesn't necessarily mean that no tradition is allowed. but I’d have to check on the subject. Because if that's what it meant it seems Luther wouldn't have allowed any tradition in liturgy.
Xeirxes: Well, even we have tradition.
KKairos: Also I get to read about Pietism next, which means I get to read about john and Charles Wesley and the earliest Methodists. Yes.
Xeirxes: But the argument Calvinists make, or at least in my church is, you do not need ANYTHING other than the bible to come to saving knowledge.
KKairos: Oh.. I agree with that.
Xeirxes: And also, the bible is the sole word of God, and no other books are required for advice or anything.
Xeirxes: Like in terms of running the church, counseling, etc.
KKairos: As far as what's necessary for salvation I agree. However I would not take that so far as to say that extrabiblical sources (particularly spiritual ones) would be necessarily bad sources of those things.
Xeirxes: Well, the extrabiblical sources should preferably be based entirely on scripture.
KKairos: For instance josh harris is an extrabiblical source, but he's not necessarily contrabiblical (I’m making up words here, but I think you understand what they mean). Yes. but the ultimate test (for me) is "does this tradition contradict scripture?"
Xeirxes: Ah, I see.
KKairos: Or "does this author contradict scripture?". and wherever they do, either a) the contradiction must be reconciled or b) the scriptural position must be accepted.
Xeirxes: Well, that's where our church would differ.
KKairos: And of course making things more complicated are the dozens of interpretations coming out of almost any particular passage of scripture.
Xeirxes: Because a lot of things could be accepted, for instance Rick Warren's teaching and stuff. Because it does not have a solid biblical base (he quotes scriptures out of context) we simply do not recommend his books or sell them at the bookstore.
KKairos: But Rick Warren's teaching still isn't considered scripture.
Xeirxes: True, but it's not based on scripture. So we don't look to it for any sort of guidance.
KKairos: In Wesleyan thought nothing that's not scripture (aside from, I would hope, God) can be even on par with scripture, much less be above it.
Xeirxes: Hmm
KKairos: As for Rick Warren. He's...seeming interesting.[3]
Xeirxes: He scares me :o
KKairos: I’d have to read what he's got to say and see how it works with or against the scriptures. Well if certain reports are true he definitely scares me. (I believe certain reports say he's backing some 'Christian' video game where you can pick your side, or something). I don't really like the idea of 'Christian' video games; I think it'd be awesome if someone could convey allegory or Christian morality IN a video game.
Xeirxes: Oh, that stupid left behind series game. Where you can play as an anti-Christian as well.
KKairos: But usually whenever someone actually makes a religious video game it just comes across hokey. Ah, that's the one, thne. then. Ack :/
Xeirxes: If I made a Biblical game I’d make a strategy game based off of the Old Testament.
KKairos: Heh.
Xeirxes: Except for the fact that like 90% of the battles were won through supernatural force :P
KKairos: Yeah.
Xeirxes: So, it'd be predictable; every time.
KKairos: Or really tedious. like having to pick out which of your soldiers lap up the water like dogs. and which ones scoop it with their hands :).
Xeirxes: Hahahahah.
KKairos: And make sure that only the right kind (I forget which) go into battle.
Xeirxes: That's a funny thought :D. Getting the pathfinding to work when they walk around Jericho's wall.
KKairos: Having to wait till EXACTLY the 7th day to blow the freakin' trumpet.
Xeirxes: Yeah, Hahaha.
KKairos: And if you're off by more than a second you lose the mission and must restart.
Xeirxes: "Ooops! You blew the trumpet too early. Start over!"
KKairos: Also, having to go in as the spies and hide in Rahab's roof
Xeirxes: Hahaha. OR even worse: David being chased through the countryside by Saul, and not being able to kill him, but he can kill you.
KKairos: Racing games :)
Xeirxes: :D. oh yeah, so back on sola scriptura. Luther said: “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons -- for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another -- I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God's Word.” And this is quoted from And then, the Belgic Confession: “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein...Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God...Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule.”
KKairos: Yeah.
Xeirxes: So, it sort of does agree.
KKairos: Yeah.
Xeirxes: Because it basically says they can't have equal value, it doesn't say NOT to use them.
KKairos: Yeah.. and if they contradict--I would add 'truly contradict,' to be safe--then scripture is the winner.
Xeirxes: Yeah. A winner is scripture!
KKairos: Of course that is reformation stuff. while there was a Catholic reformation, the Catholic church has never accepted the principle of sola scriptura.
Xeirxes: Whoa, really?
KKairos: No. scripture and tradition are considered on equal footing, at least that's my understanding. So they're considered to be in harmony with one another.
Xeirxes: Wow. that's pretty scary.
KKairos: I don't think that means that nothing in tradition can ever be challenged. Well naturally it's scary to you; you're one of them people of the Westminster confession :p
Xeirxes: Haha.
KKairos: And actually it was pretty weird to me the first time I heard it.
Xeirxes: Well, if you are curious about that. Matthew 15:2-6. That seems to sum it up for me at least.
KKairos: Heh, yeah.
Xeirxes: A lot of Catholic tradition is fine to me, but there's some stuff that 'lives on the edge' from what I’ve seen. like the veneration of the saints.
KKairos: Ah yeah, veneration :/. there's quite a few things that are sticking points for me, still.
Xeirxes: My mom said, when she was a child, they actually prayed to saints per different illnesses experienced or something like that.
KKairos: sounds about right for some families. also I highly recommend reading about the earliest Arminian/Calvinist thought. It's interesting how they make their distinctions regarding divine election.
Xeirxes: There's a joke in our church, when Peter is with Jesus and he's about to ascend to heaven, and Moses and Elijah are there, Peter wants to set up a shrine for each and my pastor interjected, "See? he's already becoming Catholic."
KKairos: Well your pastor got that wrong or you did, because that was at the transfiguration. :p
Xeirxes: Oh yeah. I did. :D
[1] I definitely got the Calvin part wrong. It's definitely that anything not expressly permitted is forbidden.
[2] Modern worship song considered by some to be a modern hymn.
[3] In years since this conversation I've actually developed a large amount of respect for Warren.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Infants and Salvation

For a Catholic, one thing held is that baptism is necessary for salvation. So what happens to unbaptized infants?  One might argue from this dilemma that Catholicism presents an unnecessarily cruel view of what might happen to persons who die before baptism: What could they have done to deserve damnation?

In any Christian tradition, though, anyone being honest with themselves and with the Scriptures has to admit that this is not an easy theological question--it will either be hard emotionally, or hard intellectually, but I'm pretty convinced we can't have it easy both ways unless we stop thinking about it. (It may also be the case, as sometimes happens in Christianity, that it's going to be difficult on both fronts.) People who deny the notion of baptismal regeneration tend to focus instead on saving faith, commonly thought of as a faith which includes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A pastor for whom I have great respect once said that when talking about salvation, a fundamental question to ask is: "Did they know Jesus?"

But there's the thing. As a general categorization, nobody under the age of three meets that mark, because it's just not possible in general for them to have a saving faith (that would seem to require a greater cognitive faculty than they have), much less one that expresses as a personal relationship with Christ.

The most reasonable answer I've heard thus far is: We can't guarantee salvation, but we shouldn't necessarily deny it, either. (The Catholic form of this is that while the Church is bound by the sacraments, e.g. baptism, God is not, therefore we may hope for, but not preach as fact, the salvation of unbaptized infants.) The Biblical basis for both of these variants of hope can be readily seen: God desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. By implication this means that knowledge of the truth is not the same thing as salvation (therefore infants, who lack the cognitive ability to affirm the truth, are not barred by default from salvation.) But it seems like all of the definitions of what it means to be saved--barring exceptional circumstances--imply some sort of cognitive ability on the part of the saved, or some ritual which might be given them. In any case it seems to imply something which many infants who die will lack. (Not to mention those who die without the opportunity for infancy.)

How do you resolve this dilemma? Do you:
(a) Believe that children who are unable to meet and don't meet the marks are damned.
(b) Believe that children who are unable to meet and don't meet the marks are saved.
(c) Believe that children who are unable to meet and don't meet the marks might be saved, but that there is no guarantee.

I believe that I've covered the three broad categories of response here, but feel free to tell me if I've missed one. I'm counting "there is no way to know," or similar statements, as variants of response (c). My answer, in case you hadn't guessed, falls somewhere in the realm of (c). I encourage people to comment and give a response on this question, even if you're just giving the letter as your answer.  Feel free to elaborate on your answer if you want!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Could Never be a Catholic Bishop

Ever wanted to be able to sit around calling yourself a member of the church--like, hypothetically, the Roman Catholic Church--in a way that increases your credit as a member of that church? But to do it while saying a bunch of things that immediately mark you out as someone who is--hypothetically, let's say you're a pro-abortion-rights Catholic--well, to say the least, not in line with said church, or its reason? Hello, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

I'm going to focus on a few gems:
"As Catholics, are we so laser focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join tea partiers and the like to bring down the health care form bill? And at the enormous expense of millions of Americans who suffer every day because they can't afford to get checkups, because they must choose bankruptcy in order to save the life of their loved one?" [in the next paragraph, she responds, "Not this Catholic."
In my forays into Catholic ethics, conversational and more formal, there's one thing I've learned about Townsend's church that she (and most of her family) seems bent on forgetting: You don't do evil so that good may result. In fact, the only time you even have a case for doing anything even resembling evil, is when the alternative is evil; you certainly can't justify doing or promoting an equal or greater evil that way. Townsend also claims:
"[I am] someone who was raised by a family absolutely committed to public service and to making sure that our nation provides health care to the least among us...[w]here is [the bishops'] passion for the families who need health care?" (Italics mine.) 
Ding ding ding! Guess what? The right to live and have health care and everything else is founded on the right to survive. And the bishops haven't compromised it one bit in my book; in fact, they seem to be one of the few groups in America that truly respects the implication that "Life implies Survival." For those of you playing at home, that means "~Survival implies ~Life." The weakest in this case doesn't mean people who are already alive. The Bishops also said, a few years back, that the moral measure of any society is how the weakest are faring. Who are the weakest? I'd suppose it might start with people who aren't capable of defending themselves.

Townsend's claim is made, we are told, on the basis of stuff like what the bill already provides for, and what the Nelson amendment would do.She knows normal people can't verify that evidence without learning a lot of legalese, and even if they could, knowing our lawmakers, the bill might change tomorrow to make their learning moot. She says "[t]he current Senate health care bill expressly prohibits federal funding of abortion", and says that if the Nelson amendment passed, "[e]ven if a woman used her own money to pay the premium for her health care plan in the exchange, she would not be able to access a plan that covered abortion care"). On that last point, apparently, health experts agree with her, but I'm still skeptical, because that caveat "in the exchange" seems to indicate that the plan might still be subsidizing the big A.

No doubt the prevalence of abortion in our country is tied with social sin; issues of morality are hardly ever without a social aspect. But doing evil that good may result is not good.

And as to the title of this post. I could never be an RCC bishop in America, because then I'd have to deal with idiots criticizing my every move, most of them on grounds that don't properly understand the traditions to which they so proudly claim to belong. If you think this post sounds like it was written by a grouchy person, imagine if he was trying to lead a flock that consistently follows the Kennedy mentality of "dissent first, understand later," calling him out repeatedly as being less Catholic (and, by intended implication less Christian) than they. I'm way too authoritarian in nature to be a bishop of anything, especially in the American RCC. I'd have a heart attack on day two of that job.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Baptismal Regeneration...

Seems to have gotten the Council of Nicaea seal of approval! Source is Wikipedia's Latin text here.
"Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatorum." [Modern translation: We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.]
And the article lists Deum de Deo (God from God) and Filioque (and the Son, as in where the Holy Spirit proceeds from, as opposed to just the Father) as things that are in the Latin text but not the Greek text. Interestingly, this seems to indicate that Protestant Christianity isn't bound to take Filioque as an article of faith at all, though it seems to have followed the western tradition in the sense of taking it to be at least a good idea. But it also seems to mean that pretty much the whole one holy apostolic catholic church of that century accepted the notion that there was one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Interesting...

Defining Pornography

I like the definition I (loosely) culled from John Paul II's pre-Papacy Love and Responsibility:
1. "Media which portrays the value of the sexuality of the person above the value of the person as such."
 I feel that this definition is a better one than "I can't define it, but I'll know it when I see it." It seems like it runs the risk of being a little bit too broad, so let's narrow it a little bit.
2. "Media which intentionally portrays the value of the sexuality of the person above the value of the person as such."
Still seems a little too broad: Isn't sexuality itself a part of the person? Therefore, it seems like some artworks which aren't actually pornographic might fit this definition just by placing emphasis on sexuality in particular. Let's refine it once more and see if we can't get something better.
"Media which intentionally portrays the value of the person as an object of sexual use above the value of the person as such."
I think this one works. Note that here when I say "sexual use" I include lust. So if something's designed to incite lust (which is disproportionate longing for or indulgence in sexual pleasure) rather than to simply emphasize the beauty of the person via sexuality (e.g. a Greek nude statue), there's a problem. I think that this definition, if anything, is too narrow: Certain borderline works which have a good deal of a chance of inciting lots of lust are still not labeled pornography. So one last definition:
3. "Media which, by design or by careless accident, portrays the value of the person as an object of sexual use above the value of the person as such."
In other words, if a scrupulous person is drawing a nude artwork, and accidentally creates pornography, then it doesn't seem like it's really pornography in the moral sense. But if they are fully knowledgeable that what they create will probably be pornographic or a massive catalyst for lust, and they do it anyway, then we've got a careless accident. The best analogy coming to mind (probably a rather poor one) is a defensive driver getting into an accident despite their best efforts to the contrary, versus a reckless driver getting into an accident despite their best efforts to the contrary.

So, serious question: Can someone name for me something that isn't at all pornographic or disproportionate about sexuality and the human person, that fits definition number three? This isn't obviously a huge pressing issue in Christianity, but it's a matter of definition I've been wondering about for quite some time, because when I've shared similar (but not equivalent) definitions with people, they usually get dismissed as being too broad. So if anyone has thoughts, let me know. I kind of have an urge to make a list, so I'm going to put item #1 of "things that fit definition #3" down; feel free to comment to add an item, you will be credited. Obviously skin-magazines like Playboy are givens; here I'm looking for not-obvious examples.

1. Jessica Simpson video for "These Boots were Made for Walkin'."