Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Christian Carnival CCCXXV

Hey all! It's time once again for the Christian Carnival! I'm excited that KBT has the honor of hosting this week. The Carnival, for anyone who doesn't know, is a hosting-rotated blog carnival open to Christians of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox persuasions. If you want to learn more about the Carnival you can go here. If you want to submit an article you can do so here.

Also, dude, this edition of the Christian Carnival also holds the distinction of being KBT's 100th post ever. Rock on. I was going to try and organize this week's posts into overly broad categories but most posts didn't fit so neatly in my neat little boxes, so I gave up on that. (There are three money-related posts this week, which makes me wonder if maybe God's trying to tell me something.)

There's lots of awesome stuff this week. I don't necessarily endorse every word of the posts below, but I found it to be all edifying overall, and challenging in those few places I disagreed. (However, I really hated that jerk Dan Lower. He never knows what he's talking about.) Twenty-five submissions in all this week! Special thanks to Jeremy Pierce of Parableman for being patient with my questions about hosting.

The Banditts
kilama gives us "The Death of a Nation," a piece on abortion in America with some interesting facts.

The Bible Archive
Rey Reynoso presents "Ethics Beyond Duty (1 of 4)" which is "guestblogger Xulon writ[ing] about ethics beyond duty." Lots of fun Scriptural-ethical connections here.

Boston Bible Geeks
danny presents "What Happened to Onesimus?" Some thoughts about the fate of the New Testament runaway slave. danny comments: "Philemon is an often overlooked book, could that be because we don't know how the story ends? This post looks for clues to tell us what happened to Onesimus."

A Christian Mommy
Siobhan McGirr gives us "Sleep Well, Christian Moms!" Siobhan reflects on the value of sleep.

Church Bible
Chad Maslak presents "Christian Praise and Worship," which contains some good thoughts on worship and praise.

Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet
Diane R writes "Working with Generations in the Church," noting "here is a primer on what is really going on generationally." Diane definitely made a connection I had not been so aware of before.

The Dating Divas
Tara presents "Let's Grow Old Together....", saying "I think that the sacredness of marriage is getting thrown out the window! I think that our journey though life should #1 - be focused on the Lord and #2 - be WITH our best friend! My friends and I started up a blog on which we post (weekly) creative and fun dates that we have taken our husbands on. This is to encourage us (...and to help out with the 'What Should We Do?' part...) to continue dating our spouses even AFTER we are married. My husband and I have been having SO much fun dating each other lately that it really bothered me lately when I heard some co-workers complaining about their husbands. I decided to write a post about my thoughts...thus the article: 'Let's Grow Old Together...' Enjoy!"

Doug Boude (rhymes with 'loud')
Doug Boude gives his "Top 20 Life Lessons for Husbands and Fathers." Doug's summary: "In this post, I've compiled what I consider to be the top 20 things that I believe, when implemented and adopted, maximize the success of a husband and/or father in his role in his household. Being a father of 8 children, 4 step children, and 2 grand children, I kinda feel like I'm speaking from experience here :)" Doug is also asking for ideas in comments if you've got them.

Free Money Finance
Free Money Finance's "The Bible on Money" offering this week is "The Bible on Debt". FMF's summary: "The Bible doesn't have a positive perspective on debt." No it does not.

Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength
Weekend Fisher presents "Silencing Iago," which is "about politics, people who sow discord among brothers, and becoming peacemakers." WF makes some interesting connections.

NCSue presents "Mom and the doctor giveth, then mom and the doctor take away." The story Sue tells here is truly heartbreaking and raises lots of moral questions.

Journey Across the Sky
Allen Scott gives us "Gov. Regulation Fails to Regulate Bad Behavior." Allen's summary: "The sound of the word REGULATION gives a sense of safety. It makes people think there are people paid to keep an eye on certain industries and practices to make sure they operate within the law. But it turns out that those who are paid to keep watch are watching something else.These are hired hands, employees paid to be there, they have no vested interest in the people nor the families they are supposed to be looking out for. They are merely getting paid to do a job and when something bad happens they are quick to push the blame elsewhere. They have no concern over the well being of someone living hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles away. The halls of the government are cold and hollow."  If Allen's right about regulation, something has gone seriously wrong.

keyboard theologians
I (Dan Lower) humbly offer "In the Meantime," a brief reflection on single-hood and discernment.

Mike Austin's Blog
Michael W. Austin reviews J.P. Moreland's The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism. Mike also gives some samples of ideas from Moreland's book.

Old Testament and Ecology
Justin Allison presents "God who brings rain in Zechariah | Old Testament Creation Theology," which he calls "part of my study on Creation theology in Zechariah."

Open My Ears, Lord
Janis Van Keuren writes "A Fragrant Praise to the Creator", noting, "the fragrant orange blossoms and the bee buzzing between flowers lift praise to God simply by existing." Wonderful reflection.

Other Food: daily devo's
Violet N. presents "Erecting memorials on our knees." Violet gives a touching reflection here. She remarks that "it’s comforting to think of petitions uttered on behalf of friends, kids, family members, communities, countries, leaders, even the world as little crosses beside the streets of heaven..."

Personal Finance By The Book
Joe Plemon writes about "Why to Build Wealth…Five Wrong Reasons and One Right One," with the teaser: "Is the phrase "wealthy Christian" an oxymoron? It all depends on the motives for building wealth."

Pillar on the Rock
Chris Krycho reflects on how God uses bad things that happen in life for the Good in "How Dirt Makes Us Clean."

Redeeming Riches
Jason asks the question of "How Much Should a Christian Give?" Jason summarizes: "Why is tithing such a polarizing topic!? Find out how much a Christian should be giving!" This is the first in a three-part series, and raises lots of questions--not all money related.

Rely on God in your personal development. presents "Do your work with faith." The post has some good thoughts on faith in God and getting work done.

Tiffany DeLangie presents "Need a Little Inspiration?" Tiffany looks at some recent CCM CDs.

Thinking in Christ
Russ White gives us "Und Now, You Vill Be Healthy." Russ's comments: "The government is moving to regulate our salt intake with the explicit goal of 'changing our taste,' over time. What will be declared 'unhealthy' next?" This is a disturbing trend.

who am i?
Barry Wallace gives us "John Piper and Rick Warren." Barry's description: "Here are a few links to articles addressing the recent John Piper / Rick Warren controversy." It's well worth checking these links out. I'd heard a little about this controversy but they served as a good introduction to the issues at hand.

You Can't Mean That!
Steven Demmler presents "Karl Barth on Openness and Growth." Steven notes, "I let Karl Barth speak for himself on the topic of theological openness and growth."

I was glad for the opportunity to host this week. It was really interesting to read all the different submissions and immerse myself in the issues they raised. I should note that a guy named Dan presented "Jewish Chat and Israel Chat," but Dan and his blog are Jewish, so I couldn't include it in the Christian Carnival proper, but I figured I'd throw out the link in case anyone wanted to see it.

If you want to submit a post to next week's carnival, please follow this link. Again, the Carnival is open to the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants. Posts submitted need not be directly about faith or theology (e.g., they could be, among other things, about politics, homemaking, teaching, or underwater basket-weaving) but posts should proceed from a Christian world-view.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In the Meantime

These are some thoughts that started about a week ago when a TV show I was watching reminded me I was single. That was not a good day.

I don't know what my vocation is. Either it's marriage or it's some sort of consecrated single life (Holy Orders in that case, probably.) Anyway, I realized that day that I wasn't happy being single. I'm not sure why that is. Could be because I'm called to marriage, or it could be that I'm so afraid of turning into this guy* that I can't stop watching myself whenever I make a new friend of the female persuasion. Maybe I'm called to the Priesthood, but I'm really in denial (some of my reasoning for discerning away from the clerical state doesn't quite seem to hold up, to me.) Some days (not today especially) it's enough to make me want God to just slam one door shut, and open the other one wide. Just some kind of obvious sign. That'd be great.

Sometime, when I find and fulfill my vocation, I have a feeling that dealing with the fact of sexuality is going to get a lot easier. Because then I'll have a state I can accept, and live with; no more nebulous single-hood.

It'll come in God's time. In the meantime, please pray that I would be less neurotic when I meet women, and know when to relax and when to be vigilant. (Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility was a huge help in the way of a philosophical framework for living; book recommendations on the subject are good if you can think of any.) But if nothing else, prayer for discernment--in the immediate and in the vocational sense.


* If this is your first XKCD comic, you might not want to browse the site. Sometimes it's a little less spiritual and a lot more offensive than that one. But that comic itself should be fine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Christian Carnival CCCXXIV

Other Food has Christian Carnival CCCXXIV. Peruse and enjoy.

Also, oh man, KBT is hosting next week. This'll be interesting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Baptism and Open/Closed Communion

John Meunier started some interesting discussion on his blog about whether baptism should be a prerequisite for taking the elements at communion. My choice of Church makes it obvious what I believe. But within a historically-minded Protestant framework like the Quadrilateral, I don't see the problem with saying "our communion is open to you if you have accepted Christ and been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." I certainly hope it's not unbiblical; as has been pointed out on Meunier's blog, this would be bad for the Early Church.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Declare your Heresy!

A blog called Revolution is encouraging readers to add their names to a list of heretics the author has compiled from a couple of websites that he considers, quite frankly, to be poppycock. So far the list includes, among many others, "The Pope" (I assume the author took this verbatim from the site(s)), Brian McLaren, Rick Warren (?) Moody Bible Institute (!), and Mark Driscoll (!!).

I definitely signed myself up. I nominated Wesley, Arminius, St. Francis and G.K. Chesterton as potential historical figures who should be included. Maybe it's just a list for those of us whose souls could still be saved. Then again, I've gone Romanist, so maybe I'm irredeemable now.

Hat tip to holy heteroclite.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How I Am Still a Protestant (and How I Am Not)

Warning: This post may be long. If you want the list for things I protest specifically in Catholics, see 1a,b and 3. If you want the list of things I see wrong with Protestant theology, see 1c and 4. But if you have the time, the whole list might be good because I'm sure some tendencies have crossed the Tiber to cross-contaminate one tradition or the other. While I'm sure some of them also have some of these issues, I'm not familiar enough with the Orthodox tradition to list anything specific to them here. If anyone has anything to add that I've missed, please tell me. I'm already thinking of stuff but I kind of want people who read this thing to have first dibs on the stuff that I've still missed as of this writing. I will give credit for suggestions in comments or e-mail.

I have remarked often both to Catholics and Protestants in my life that post-conversion I would still have a Protesant's theological mind. I think there is a good deal of truth to this. The question remains, if I am (like Peter Kreeft has said) striving to be more Protestant than the Protestants, against what do I protest? Surely I can't be more Protestant than Protestants without protesting something.

As a "newly minted Catholic" (as an atheist friend hilariously called me the other day), I am still a Protestant in the sense that I stand in protest against things that are not in line with the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of Christ. I am not a Protestant in the sense that I recognize the authority of something besides Scripture to interpret Scripture (at least in certain situations) without the possibility of error; this was, perhaps, the biggest thing, that a Protestant may protest, and a Catholic may not.

I daresay that it along with its logical implications (anything this authority declares to be true about the Faith, or declares to be apostolic teaching) are the only things I am really bound not to protest. A good portion of the things that Protestants were, at least in their minds, protesting in the first place, I am still not only allowed, but all but bound to protest, as someone who, at least in his mind, has some decent knowledge of theology. Thus I must protest:

1. Inefficient pastoral practices and outlooks related to things like Church discipline, or how the Church sees the world.
1.a In particular for the Catholics, it seems plain on the surface that more reform is needed in the area of how priests are disciplined for serious crimes against children, and in particular when and how they are handed over to police. I do acknowledge that lots of reform has been done, in part thanks to the current Pope Benedict XVI in his later CDF years, but I am still hopeful for more, especially on a local level.
1.b Also in particular for Catholics (related, sadly again, to the pedophilia issue): Some church officials have been too much whine, not enough work on the issue. I trust that many of them (especially current CDF head Cardinal Levada, and I really do trust this) will be working where they can see it necessary for reforms and to prosecute as much as they can within the current system of Canon Law.
1.c. In particular for Protestants, the sometime practice of "church splits" where a church splits over some doctrinal issue that really isn't that big. We're talking about something like drinking wine, or worship styles, more than something like gay marriage.
2. Bad liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi after all. Theologically questionable worship lyrics also go here, but they also occur plenty of the time when there's no liturgy proper happening.
3. Bad theological practice, including for Catholics:
3.a. Seeing the Protestant traditions in an uncharitable light, or not giving Protestants enough credit as Truth-seekers.
3.a.1. Treating all Protestantism as necessarily unhistorical. Most notable exceptions coming to mind: N.T. Wright and Justo L. Gonzalez, both of whom have studied Christian history considerably and yet somehow haven't come to endorse the Roman Pontiff as a theological leader.
3.a.2. Leading into the next point, acting like the Biblical cases for well-known Catholic doctrines (e.g. the Eucharist in John 6 and 1 Corinthians, or the Perpetual Virginity in the Lukan Anunciation) are so painfully obvious that nobody could possibly resist them but for fear of the Truth of Catholicism. While some undoubtedly resist for this reason, some people just don't see the arguments as easily. (And I, for one, am not entirely sold on John 6, though I see much potential for a double-layer of meaning there.)
3.b. Doing no investigation into matters, especially Scriptural matters, that the Magisterium has settled or the cases for these matters, thus leaving themselves wide open to the charge of being "unbiblical" by those Protestants who believe such.
3.c. Failing to read the Scriptures or interact with them outside of the Mass, leaving themselves somewhat legitimately open to the charge of not really engaging the Bible.
3.d. Misinterpreting the doctrines of sola scriptura and prima scriptura such that they sound more circular and baseless than they actually are. (I think there's definitely a truth to them, by the way, even though I think that prima and the Catholic viewpoint are more coherent with history.)
3.e. Treating (even if only in some quarters and/or for some purposes) Thomas Aquinas, like he is a minor Magisterium. He is awesome, but not even a minor infallible voice.
3.f. How we treat dissent, that is, improper lack of assent to Magisterial teachings.
3.f.1. Usually we crack down more on dissent we don't like, sometimes to a point where we raise the standard of orthodoxy higher than it was meant to go for a given issue (a conservative example would be pretending that anyone who uses NFP for anything less than a life-threatening condition is dissenting from proper church teaching on sexuality. A liberal example would be pretending that anyone who favors a more anarchic free market is automatically unconcerned for the poor.)
3.f.2. Usually we show more sympathy, sometimes too much, to dissent that arises from an overemphasis on those things we like to emphasize theologically. (A conservative example would be sympathizing too much with sedevacantists. A liberal example would be sympathizing too much with those parishes which neglect the rubrics for liturgy almost to the point of invalidating the Masses they celebrate.)
3.g. Treating Protestantism as not only lacking in the fullness of the faith, but in such serious error that every soul within it should be regarded as having a state of grace that is nebulous at best.
4. Including, for Protestants:
4.a. Calling everything "unbiblical" that does not resonate with one's particular interpretation of Scripture.*
4.a.1. Gathering that something must be unbiblical if it is taught only in Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy, even if it was taught by several of the Early Church Fathers.
4.a.2. Automatically classifying as unbiblical doctrine that teaches a cooperation of man with God in the project of Salvation (synergism.)
4.a.3. Believing and claiming proudly that one's own conclusions are the "clear teaching of Scripture," found without any tradition, even though the fact of debate presents a serious prima facie challenge to this assertion--and often without going the extra mile to counteract this prima facie case.
4.b. Being much more wary of the influence of philosophy than anything Paul said actually warrants us to be. Noticeable exceptions, I think, include persons as prestigious as Alvin Plantinga, a good number of Prosloblogion Protestants, and the Christian Carnival's own (well, also the Prosloblogion's) Jeremy Pierce.
4.c. Treating (even if only in some quarters and/or for some purposes) John Piper, or Brian McLaren if you're postmodern, or Rob Bell if you like Metrosexianity**, like us Catholics treat Thomas Aquinas.
4.d. Treating Catholicism not as a less Biblical form of Christianity but one which does not deserve to be called Christianity at all--and thus one which places all the souls it holds in peril. I was especially aggrieved, even with the qualification given in the ensuing article, that George Fox University claims to be the highest-ranked Christian college in the nation according to Forbes. Three or four recognizable Catholic schools rank higher on the Forbes list.***
5. For all Christians:
5.a. Conflating Biblical inerrancy and Biblical historical-scientific literalism.
5.b. Ignoring actual reasons that real and logical people might actually choose to reject the Truth, even if we believe that these are the results of a malformed reason and/or conscience, that does not equate to saying that all those who reject Christianity just want to have more fun in bed.
5.c. Fearing especially the philosophical 'modernist' and 'postmodernist' movements enough that one sometimes suspects we have not a real hope in the Resurrection.
5.d. Taking such a highly providential view of church membership that it almost seems to render obsolete any notion that the differences between the Protestant denominations with each other, with Rome, and with the Patriarchs, really matter. Why should those things matter if it is truly God's best ideal that one person be a Calvinist, and another an Arminian? (Given their coexistence under the roof of Rome with at least a provisional blessing to both, I do not feel the same applies, at least not in full force, to Thomist and Molinist accounts of predestination; also, Rome has never to my knowledge in one of her infallible moments said anything implying that one person might be called to be a Thomist and another a Molinist.)****
5.e. Running more than an acceptable risk of heresy in an attempt to exercise our Christian freedom, or to be relevant to the modern world.
5.f. Demanding that the teachings of one's accepted infallible source be not just accepted even in the face of doubt, but accepted without searching and question on the matters at hand, thus neutering the process of seeking the Truth.
5.g. While there is some room for trusting and assenting to doctrines not fully understood once a certain groundwork of doctrines has been laid, I believe it is imperative to most Christians at least to know why they believe what they believe. It may be that in God's design some are not bound to do so, at least not much, but more of them need to do so. (I especially wish more American Catholics would do this, as it might seriously drive down the amount of dissent.)
6. Ignoring social justice in our focus on the need of each individual for redemption from sin by Christ, OR Ignoring the personal aspects of the Life, atoning Death and the Resurrection of Our Lord in our drive to focus on the social gospel.
7. Thinking that a personal relationship with Christ must always be or feel close, especially as a matter of emotion.
8. Wearing the Cross on our faces every day and almost never acknowledging in our faces or our writings (at least, so far as tone can tell) that we are a people who have hope in the Resurrection. Big Offenders: Triablogue. Big Hopers: Al Mohler and Richard Mouw among the Protestants, Archbishop Tim Dolan among the Catholics. (The current Pontiff has an evil-looking face in general, but every non-evil picture of him is simply delightful.)
9. Trying so hard to be pragmatic and realistic that we wind up in cooperation with evil.
9.a. In particular, I think some people (Catholic and Protestant) did this with the recent health-care bill. Considering more fully the matters of abortion on which Catholics and (what I would call good) Protestants agree on, that is, that elective abortions at least, are wrong: I'm still not convinced that we aren't funding further the intrinsic evil of elective abortion. And if we are, at least from the Catholic ethical standpoint...we can be happy about the coverage, but we sure as heck can't be happy about the further intrinsic evil.
9.b. Also in particular, certain groups of Catholics and Protestants, many of them staunch in their traditions, have attempted to fudge on the torture issue, or on a reasonable definition of it, often out of a misguided sense of loyalty to country. 
9.b.1. I fully acknowledge that certain people are genuinely uncertain as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture; while I think that in all relevant contexts it certainly does, it is not those people to whom I am speaking, provided they truly seek the Truth.
9.b.2. Kind of going along with this, treating our country like it is too special to really be at fault morally. Chesterton (someone I think we can all generally agree is decent to read), while quite a nationalist, was also apparently quite skeptical of nationalistic spirit that aimed in any way to elevate the expectations for the state below the typical standards for morality.
10. Making long and judgmental and possibly overly negative lists of things that we feel must be protested against which don't necessarily offer a ton of awesome solutions, even though they're highly critical of the churches we've grown up in, or grown into, when really, all we are is college-graduated kids with a theology blog and too much free time on our hands, and no real right to judge anyone at all, without taking the time to acknowledge...

That many of the things on this list are things we college-grads with blogs need to work on just like everyone else. Even if in some respects my eye has more of a speck than a plank, I must still search for the planks that can be removed--this will enable me more accurately to see the specks and planks in others' eyes.

Okay, so I got a little personal there. But I think in some ways it was good to get that list of things I do feel compelled to protest out there. And yes, I've stopped protesting the big thing. I no longer protest the notion of the infallible Magisterium, and in that sense I will never again be a Protestant. But I have brought with me something that the Catholic Church has perhaps been missing in the same numbers for a few hundred years, the hermeneutic of suspicion of structures and authority that is over-emphasized in Protestant Christianity, but too often under-represented by the Catholics. It is my hope that taking a largely Protestant theological mind with me into the Catholic Church will prove to be a sort of theological completion that will, eventually, help bring a real visible unity to fruition. Eventually, hopefully, the hermeneutic of suspicion and the overwhelming trust some Catholics place in the institutional church will balance out to the proper trust Christ intended. But to contribute to that that, I must continue to protest, and I must continue to suspect--even when it's uncomfortable. Even to those things which I assent, I must strive to know the reason. At any rate, someone must. It is certainly not my job to do this for every doctrine the Church holds true, but it is my job as a Christian to cover my basics.

And while it may have begun as an attempt to state things against which I still protest, and gathered the sum total of many of my frustrations along the way to its completion, this list--especially the part I made for Catholics--would be good to take into theological discussion as a reminder that some of my own bad habits are also on the list.

For instance, if my conviction about the Eucharist grows much stronger it will soon be easy to slip into the trap of the two subpoints of the first point on the Catholics. I pretty sincerely believe as a combined consideration of Scripture and history that if we desire to believe what the Early Church believed and taught, we must maintain a sense of real presence in the Eucharist in our theological worldviews. This does not qualify me to practice the incredibly un-Christian practice of uncharitably assuming that such things are blatantly obvious to anyone who has looked into them for even five minutes. Indeed, considering again Wright and Gonzalez, it definitely doesn't qualify me to assume that men and women who are well-studied like them in history and Scripture are deliberately or obstinately misreading anything to avoid being Catholic.

As far as feedback goes on this list, I'd love some. If I missed stuff, let me know. If you think I'm being unfair about something, let me know. I might not agree, of course, but that doesn't mean I don't want to know where I might be neglecting one thing or over-emphasizing another.

I hope as you read the list and post I have written that you read it charitably; I hope that you can take for yourself a sampling of what you might feel called most to protest within and without your own tradition. I hope it gives a decent understanding of the meaning I feel specifically as a Protestant gone Catholic. I hope that reading this will call everyone, including myself, to a greater self-examination and seeking of the Truth, as we seek to expand God's kingdom together.

And as I am often wont to say to people, please pray for me as I seek the Truth. I will do the same for you.


* Note that this is not meant to say that all claims on what God intends to teach us in the Scriptures are equally valid. It is merely meant to say that the waters are usually muddier than anyone really wants to admit. Really, sometimes they are muddy and sometimes they are clear. Providentially enough, the clearer portions, at least to staunch Catholics and Protestants, seem to be those which present us with serious admonishments to personal (and sexual) purity, even if the exact form of that purity is not always so obvious, and to work for peace in the world when possible, and to work for justice, including an avoidance of social justice, where we can. This whole section is really, truly, an attempt to euthanize the term "unbiblical" forever, because as both a Protestant and a Catholic I generally see that it gets us nowhere in our efforts towards Truth.
** Unless someone gets really offended, I'm so using that again. That said, while Rob Bell's tone does annoy me some (at least from the video I've seen) he appears to be one of the few people who's written actual cyberpunk theology, and I look forward to interacting with his ideas whenever I finally get around to reading him. I just find myself highly amused by how 'indie' and/or 'metro' some of the newer evangelical movers/shakers look, because, God help me, I don't understand it.
*** In my mind, the fact that the clarification has to be to a degree searched for makes this almost a claim by GFU, however unintentional, that Notre Dame and St. Mary's College of California are not Christian colleges. Last year's Obama controversy notwithstanding, I'm 99% sure they still are, what with the first being run by the Holy Cross order of priests, and the second run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, they are still Christian.

**** This footnote is for the picture: I am thinking specifically of the type of Christian who might subscribe more to the ideals of Relevant magazine, and whether they'd really approve of what I'm writing here (obviously, I suspect not, but if such a Christian is reading this blog right now and approves of what I am saying in the paragraph directly right of said button, they should tell me. I'll probably be some combination of embarrassed and relieved.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Notes and Money-Quotes from Love and Responsibility

My notes and quotations as found in my little notebook, amended with page numbers where possible, and amended to include the most awesome quotation in the book. Page numbers are for the Ignatius edition which can be found here on Google Books.

TYPES OF LOVE (Romantic Context)

Love as Attraction

amor complacentia: "Attraction is of the essence of love and in some sense is indeed love, although love is not merely attraction." [page 76]

Love as Desire

amor concupiscentia: love as desire "You are a good for me", vs. [mere] desire (sensual) which can lead to use of the person to fill a lack [page 81]

Love as Goodwill

amor benevolentia[e]: desire for the greatest good for the person [page 83]

reciprocity: love is a "between" [page 85]


The Person and Love: The Education of Love

"There is no need to be dismayed if love sometimes follows tortuous ways. Grace has the power to make straight the paths of human love." [page 140]

The Pers[on and] Chastity: [The]Struct[ure] of Sin

"If I believe that A is good, and I do A, I act well even if A is really bad." [page 163]

"'Authenticity' of feeling is quite often inimical to truth in behavio[u]r." [page 163]

" which true love ought to be particularly attractive, because it creates a real opportunity for the will to immerse itself in the good." [page 166]

The Pers[on and] Chastity: [The] True Meaning of Chastity

"True chastity does not lead to disdain for the body or to disparagement of matrimony and the sexual life." [page 171]

The Pers[on and] Chastity: Shamelessness

"Man, alas, is not such a perfect being that the sight of the body of another person, especially a person of the other sex, can arouse in him merely a disinterested liking which develops into an innocent affection." [page 190]

The Pers[on and] Chastity: Self Control and Objectivization

"Above all, continence cannot be an end in itself." [page 197, 'above all' didn't appear in original notes.]

The Pers[on and] Chastity: Tenderness and Sensuality

"Every human being is a limited good, and for that reason capable of disinterestedness only within limits." [page 203]

Justice Towards the Creator: Vocation

[Brackets within brackets within quotes are things I've added to the quotations in this blog post to clarify how I read them at the time.]

"This attitude is primarily a function of the person: [...[whether they are]] married, celibate, or even virgin [...[is]] of secondary importance." [page 258]

Please feel free to react to these quotations if you please.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Rant on Media, Scandal, Correction, and Reform

I'd been thinking for awhile that I really should say something about the recent scandals in the Church, and how they do or don't relate to the media, and how Catholics should correct the media and reform themselves...

Brother Charles says it all much more eloquently than I possibly could, and what he's written there gets my full endorsement, at least. Other relevant commentary, if anyone (especially anyone looking for good Catholic perspective on the issue) wants to know, Ross Douthat and John L. Allen are good on this one, even if I don't agree with all their conclusions, but in fairness some of the things I disagree with were written before all the...

Okay, time to get a little honest and ineloquent:

The Murphy case is such a screwed up ball of "Gah!" Don't wade in there unless you're willing to suffer lots of heartbreak. In the process your respect for Fr. Bertone (probably), Fr. Brundage (definitely) and even Archbishop Weakland (certainly) will grow, but your heart will break, and (if you're not already convinced) you will know why it is that I believe that there is that decent-sized kernel of truth to what the media is saying, that real reform is needed.

That said, stay away from Maureen Dowd or Sinead O'Connor. The latter especially ought to be strongly chastised for the spiritual irresponsibility of claiming to be a Catholic right as she urges her fellow Catholics to boycott...the sacraments. My reaction to such bafflegab is that it is, quite honestly, so devoid of a well-formed reason and conscience that the only sensible reaction is ajif del kesheg lerah grohak lah lafhul kufvea hacnel feveh zefihez ivanflihewef. Did that make sense? No? Still makes more sense than O'Connor's boycott (Dowd's "Nope" made marginally more sense than what I typed.)

I've got a list of articles and relevant commentary/source material going at my site, but I will eventually take what I find to be the most helpful from there and make a post here. I also won't be totally silent on the issue, but quite frankly I've felt a combination of "It's Holy Week" and "I don't feel qualified to blog about this yet" holding me back. (I did do some writing on a post last night that included some commentary on the issue, but it was more as a bullet-point than anything else.)

Anyone reading this who's Catholic (and anyone Protestant, probably) already knows this, but we in Papist-land could use your prayers right now. First for the victims, that they might heal and that the crimes committed might not keep them from Christ. Secondly for the hierarchy, that it would be filled with Truth-seekers who will change whatever needs changing about church processes. Benedict, if you trust the people who would know, is a good start.

And that, aside from the aforementioned links list and in-passing bullet-point commentary, is pretty much all I'm going to say on the issue, is that prayer is needed.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter Weekend. I did, and I really sincerely hope everyone reading this did, too. Now the Feast begins, and it's longer than the fast. But just like Holy Week, it doesn't constitute a vacation from real problems in the Christian church and, specifically, the Catholic Church.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Evangelicals and Catholics Together"

I finally got around to reading the document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" from back in 1992.

It's good reading and a refreshing attempt at ecumenism between Evangelical and Catholic Christians. I liked a lot of what was said. I kind of wonder if maybe the ancient creeds could've been searched more for agreeable items that could be put forth in a statement of faith (say, the Nicene Creed, sans (at least) filique and confiteor. I also (and considering the group that signed, I wouldn't think that this would be hard) might've appreciated an agreement not to question each others' fidelity to Christ or even to the Gospel, over different interpretations of sola gratia or over acceptance/rejection of sola fide. But maybe that's just me.

And okay. I'd be lying if I said that the language on baptism doesn't sound a little wishy-washy to me:
In the context of evangelization and "reevangelization," we encounter a major difference in our understanding of the relationship between baptism and the new birth in Christ. For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and revivified through conversion. For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again. These differing beliefs about the relationship between baptism, new birth, and membership in the church should be honestly presented to the Christian who has undergone conversion. But again, his decision regarding communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected.
I realize this is a difficult statement to compose, what with the notions of whether baptism regenerates and whether it is what makes one a Christian 'officially,' but I have two concerns. One concern is whether the Catholics should really have agreed to such language, since it almost seems to imply that it's okay for non-Catholic churches to go around teaching that baptism doesn't regenerate--even though it's treated as a near-essential for salvation in Catholicism.* That sounds...not quite spiritually responsible. (Again, maybe that's just me.) But the thing I don't think is just me is that the language sounds a little "true for you but not for me." Example: "for Catholics, the baptized are X" but essentially also maintaining that "for Evangelicals, pre-baptized are also X." Just...sounds a little relativistic. To put it bluntly, it sounds like they stopped just short of saying "for some Evangelicals, baptism is not regenerating," and also "for other Evangelicals and Catholics, baptism is regenerating." While it is within the realm of theological possibility, the only reasonable solution I can see to the conflict seems to mean that baptism regenerates depending on whether or not we believe it does, which seems to get us absolutely nowhere on questions like infant baptism. I'm sort of in a mode of self-doubt on these points, however, because most if not all of the people who signed this thing are very relativism-averse. Kreeft, Mouw, and Glendon** to give brief examples.

I realize the thrust of this has been kind of critical, so I want to end by discussing what I feel the declaration did really well.

On the brighter side, this document does at least agree on the Apostles' Creed, which is a good starting point in addressing issues like what Christians agree on, or ought to agree on. (Some related discussion, in the mode of thoughts about heresy, can be found at the You Can't Mean That! post from this last week's Christian Carnival.)

It discussed Biblical mandates that would seem to tell us to be charitable to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and it discussed perhaps even more gravely that the consequence of ignoring said mandates is a compromise to our witness and a comfort to the dark forces, natural and supernatural, that would suppress Christianity:
While we are gratefully aware of ongoing efforts to address tensions among these communities, the shameful reality is that, in many places around the world, the scandal of conflict between Christians obscures the scandal of the cross, thus crippling the one mission of the one Christ. [...and later:] As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ. The love of Christ compels us and we are therefore resolved to avoid such conflict between our communities and, where such conflict exists, to do what we can to reduce and eliminate it. Beyond that, we are called and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ.
The document concludes optimistically, with a note that is, if a little idealistic, ultimately a pragmatic realization that in the end this isn't "evangelicals vs. Catholics," it is (if a versus of any kind) "Christians vs. 'the world'":
Nearly two thousand years after it began, and nearly five hundred years after the divisions of the Reformation era, the Christian mission to the world is vibrantly alive and assertive. We do not know, we cannot know, what the Lord of history has in store for the Third Millennium. It may be the springtime of world missions and great Christian expansion. It may be the way of the cross marked by persecution and apparent marginalization. In different places and times, it will likely be both. Or it may be that Our Lord will return tomorrow. We do know that his promise is sure, that we are enlisted for the duration, and that we are in this together. We do know that we must affirm and hope and search and contend and witness together, for we belong not to ourselves but to him who has purchased us by the blood of the cross. We do know that this is a time of opportunity-and, if of opportunity, then of responsibility-for Evangelicals and Catholics to be Christians together in a way that helps prepare the world for the coming of him to whom belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
If anyone else has reactions, who's read the whole thing or even just on the immediate context/commentary I gave, please do tell! I really do want people to join on the conversation: I especially want to know if people think I'm off track about the baptism language, because I kind of suspect that I am, but any thoughts about the document or about any of my other particular thoughts on it are also welcome!

A blessed Holy Thursday to you all!


* Footnote: In the sense that if you know you ought to be baptized and aren't working towards it, you're kind of hosed.
** If you don't know who Peter Kreeft and Richard Mouw are, they are respectively a Catholic philosopher and Christian apologist at Boston College, and the president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Not exactly relativists. Mary Ann Glendon, is the woman who turned down the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal because of the justification given for President Barack Obama in all his pro-choice-ness being given a platform to speak at the same graduation ceremony and receiving an honorary law degree there. (Her presence, and her own opportunity to speak, were part of the University's justification.)