Thursday, March 31, 2011

Christian Carnival

Christian Carnival! It's here. KBT is hosting.

The Carnival welcomes Christians of Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic convictions. Posts are below, with author comments in italics:

Henry Neufeld presents Every Christian a Theologian ? an Equivocation posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog. If all Christians are theologians, as Karl Barth claims, why do I say I'm not a theologian?

Albert Rommal presents Elders Oversee the Making of Disciples posted at The Sovereign God.

Katrina Kaczmarek presents The Lion | Love Can Sit Anywhere posted at Love Can Sit Anywhere.

Maryann Spikes (Ichthus77) presents Just Love posted at Ichthus77.

Barry Wallace presents It?s not about Rob Bell posted at who am i?. What's at stake in the Rob Bell controversy?

Tyler A. van der Hoeven presents Christians and Money – The Struggle Within posted at INSPIKS. Is it right to gain a profit for my work through large companies or from my close friends and fellow believers? There are several answers to that question and I would like to share one with a story.

Kaleb presents Our Prodigal Father posted at W2W Soul. We all know the parable of the prodigal son told in Luke 15:11-32. To briefly recap, the parable tells of a son who squanders his inheritance, is forced to endure dire circumstances.

Rey Reynoso presents Get The Gehenna Out of Here? posted at Rey Reynoso. Part 3 in a series on Hell during Hell Week on The Bible Archive.

Jeremy Pierce presents Miroslav Volf on Muslims and Worship of God posted at Parableman. Miroslav Volf looks at whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians and spends some time thinking through the practical issues that (perhaps) follow from his stance on the issue.

Ridge Burns presents Unity and Working Together posted at Ridge’s Blog.

Paula Pant presents What The 7 Deadly Sins Can Teach Us About Money posted at Faith and Finance. I review the Biblical roots of the 7 Deadly Sins, and explain what each of these sins can teach us about money.

I apologize for not making/taking the time to do a more thorough job of hosting. Next time around I will. Please let me know if I missed anyone so I can add their post.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Liturgical Awesomeness

The following link is to a lecture which was recently given at Catholic Univ. of America by Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB. Fr. Driscoll teaches at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon and also at San Anselmo in Rome. He is also the author of the excellent book What Happens at Mass.

He speaks about a very interesting subject: logike latreia (Romans 12:1, commonly translated as 'spiritual worship', but the same words are found in Eucharistic prayers East and West as 'reasonable worship')

(The audio is bad for the first minute or two of Fr. Driscoll's lecture, but you don't miss anything substantial)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not a Theology Textbook: The Last Gentleman

This is the second of a series of posts I started way too long ago about books that are theological, but not theology textbooks.  Example of a theology textbook: Justo L. Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity. Example of a theological non-textbook: Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. While a good non-textbook should mesh well with Christian teaching, it may not mesh equally well on all points and should not be read like a theology textbook.

The book I'll be talking about in this post is The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy. The book is about baptism. I'm only halfway joking. I find that with Percy novels thus far, I can pick a featured sacrament, "the modern world," sex, or hope, and say "this book is about X", and I'll be at least somewhat right. So for the fun of it, if nothing else, I insist that The Last Gentleman is about baptism.

The Last Gentleman concerns the adventures of Will Barrett, an amensiac engineer--custodian--who falls in love with a woman named Kitty Vaught at first sight and sets out to pursue her.

The book's theological tones become more apparent as the story picks up, and Will awkwardly courts Kitty. This leads to his eventual involvement in her family and their affairs, especially with her dying brother, Jamie and brother Sutter. Percy has a lot of things to say about love, hope, despair and sex as Will journeys from New England to the south.

Barrett's world is alienated, and he feels out of place. He is miserable when others are happy and only happy when things are going seriously wrong. When he falls in with the Vaughts he begins to find his place again.

At one point in his journey, Will meets a member of the family named Val Vaught, who has up and joined a nunnery after being influenced by a sister in a social work program. Val is said to be religious, though not in the conventional sense, and the reader discovers later on what this means. She is a gem of a Percy character, and expresses well a common Christian struggle:
‎I believe the whole business: God, the Jews, Christ, the Church, grace, and the forgiveness of sins [...] I'm meaner than ever. Christ is my lord and I love him but I'm a good hater and you know what he said about that. I still hope my enemies fry in hell. What to do about that? Will God forgive me?
One theme that is prominent is the theme of sacrament as a hope for the world. In his travels Will discovers pieces of a correspondence between Val Vaught and Kitty's other brother, Sutter. The correspondence he reads gives the reader a good dose of Percy's recurring theme of the world, really, needing the Church if it is to be human, and what the world will do if the Church is not available.

Ultimately the winding series of adventures that Will has come to their completion on the points of hope and salvation. Accidents and amnesiac incidences that turn out, in the end, somewhat providential or at least for the best, are a big element of the book.

If the book goes wrong it is in overemphasizing the usefulness of the paths of sin as providential. The book's use of the theme of hope may strike some Christian readers as being too vague, and some readers (this one among them, sometimes) may be uncomfortable with Percy's use of sexuality for his philosophical ends. The theme of sacrament is there, but it is milder and less obvious than may suit the taste of some readers. Percy is not a comfortable writer, and not everyone will be comfortable with this.

In the end Percy paints a wonderful portrait of a wanderer eventually finding his way to a sort of home and helping to bring some hope to others along the way. It is not an overtly religious journey, though it is spiritual and sacramental, and as I will insist, with at least some degree of seriousness, it is about the sacrament of baptism. In this novel Percy cannot contain his Catholicism, not that he would want to. Barrett's journey from a sort of homelessness to a sort of home, to a place where he can help give hope, and Percy's portrayal of faithful and philosophical Catholicism along the way, help make The Last Gentleman, in an awesome way, not a theology textbook.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Under What Circumstances: #1

Is it acceptable to punch someone violently?

I'm not asking if it would be legal, I'm asking if there's a circumstance that would make it moral, or even obligatory, civil law aside. Note that the qualifier of violently is added to ensure we are not speaking of merely jovial and fraternal punches, which are a trivial case to my mind.

Let's play "construct the example" here. I'm not trying to argue for a non-Catholic ethic, and "punching people is intrinsically immoral" is an option, but I'm going to want a defense of that.