Sunday, October 31, 2004


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Switchfoot, _The Beautiful Letdown_

Met a couple young Germans ("der Henry und Kristen") today in Starbucks. I was there to grade quizzes and heard the sultry strains of DEUTSCH over my shoulder. Bliss! I overcame my usual enjoyment of eavesdropping and introduced myself in DEUSTCH. They are both engineers from Berlin and apparently hang out every Sunday at Starbucks (on Zhonggang Rd. across from the science museum, FYI). They complimented my speaking, but I knew the truth: "Ach, es war einmal besser. (It was better once before.)" Wie schön, looks like I'll be hanging at Starbuck's every Sunday from now on, insh'allah.


Michael Moore’s _Fahrenheit 9/11_

I finally saw it last night. It was worth the wait.

I'm a basically conservative guy, I think, but I must admit I enjoy Michael Moore's work. Ignoring his, let's say for the moment, "overextension of fact and semi-fact" -- as well as my total ignorance of film theory -- I hereby assert the man knows how to make stunning documentary films. The scene of 9/11 "happening" without the usual images, but with only the noise – wow, I nearly had to leave my seat for air. Stifling. Haunting. Humiliating. I was the only USAmerican in the theater, so it was even more isolating. To everyone, mere tragic bizarre news. To me, a complete tragic bizarre end of the world as I knew it. Any distance from that event that I’ve had here in Taiwan was instantly vaporized last night.

Now, before any readers get all angried up about my frothing, liberal “Mooreonics” – I'm well aware of and and the MooreWatch. For the sake of argument (something I am NOT about to get into), I'm happy to grant – heck, let's be generous – 50% of F911's material is bogus. Assuming that's true, it's a shame for Moore's reputation and for dupes like me. But then again– What about that other 50% that's true? I refuse to miss a moral forest for factual trees. Moore, as far as I can tell, is happy to take hits as long as it ensures Bush takes an even greater hit.

Speaking of the upcoming election, let me now position myself for maximum angry egging vulnerability: I am not voting in this election. Mostly because the overseas voting process left me at a loss. That's not an excuse; it's just an explanation. But even if it were easier to accomplish, I feel like my hands are tied. I'd never vote for John "Abortion is my Motor" Kerry. But I have very little peace about supporting Bush. Ach, I'm simply TOO IGNORANT – there, I said it! – about the candidates and the issues, so I'm abstaining. A lousy move, I know, but there it is.

Astonishingly, blogging is way down on the TO DO list these days. This has been a VERY active weekend. Saturday morning I helped a friend assemble furniture in exchange for breakfast, then recorded dialogues for a lesson, graded quizzes, had a team meeting at Banner, saw _Shark Tale_ [a rare but undeniable animation letdown for me], came home to grade quizzes and read, went to F911, slept, woke up Sunday morning, went to Mass, returned home for my wallet, returned to Mass for my God, ate a small lunch, went to the gym, went to Starbucks, met a couple Germans, graded a couple dozen quizzes, went to the Shelter, came home, checked email, wasted time. And here I am. Inhale!

I'm sorry to be so mundane these days, but shtuff'sh got to get dun! My mind and soul are active, but my hands are too busy. Bye till later...

Thursday, October 28, 2004


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Busy. Long Friday tomorrow. Seven hours of teaching. Then preaching at English Corner. Should be sleeping now.

Will be preaching on reaching our potential. It was a little hard to get ideas going, since I had to start with another dude's sermon. But then it flowed pretty nicely into some thoughts on the (philosophical) distinction between potential and possibility. I also emphasize the common (theandric) potential of LOVE and CHRISTLIKENESS God calls ALL of us to, even if by uniquely personal existential paths. (Allow me the big words; I don't use them in my sermon, but they really capture what I'm going for.)

Rather than measuring ourselves against fiction’s commodified heroes, we need real human models of “grit and grace” (hat tip to Simone Weil?). But, in turn, rather than limiting ourselves to human models, we need the supreme model of Christ, the living God-Man. And rather than striving for maximal career, fitness, erotic, intellectual, etc. potential, we must strive for maximal holiness: love, joy, peace, patience. And reaching our fullest potential -- or potency -- means admitting how impotent we are to begin with. True potential is finding our gifts AND GIVING THEM BACK to God.

In other news, have had thoughts on authentic versus inauthentic celibacy. Would like to blog about it.

Recently bought standing crucifix, much like this, but with a base to stand upon:

Before I left the parish, the nun called me back so the priest could bless it. Very cool. It’s been immensely helpful already for centering and deepening my prayer.

And in case you were wondering, this is more or less how I look these days:

But remember, envy is a sin. Guard your heart.

Get your own portrait (care of the Japanese, of course) here:

(You'll notice I selected "The White Skin".)

One final thing:

My roommate, James, has left for China (Szechuan province) until 14 November as part of the Back to Jerusalem Movement. He went with another of my teammates from last year, Stephanie, but she'll return, Inshallah, 22 November. This is an exciting movement and precisely the sort of work for which we can learn from Matteo Ricci's example and for which we can hope and plead for St. Francis Xavier's intercession. Please pray for James (you, reader, and you, St. Francis) and the Church in China.


Teacher White (my common Chinese moniker)...out

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Speaking of happiness

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This gives me some, so I'll share it.

Pardon me as I learn, in fits and starts, to grow down.

Eight letters... acht Sendbriefe... ochos correos... 八封信

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That's right, last week I got the letter bug and wrote eight (long overdue) epistles to friends and family. Some of you dear readers are in fact recipients, so keep your mailboxes peeled! I hope this is the beginning of a new (or renewed) era of letters for Elliot. I love writing -- and getting -- letters. They move at a more human, more manageable pace than most emaildry. Stoked.

I remember during my first year of college I was getting overwhelmed by the unprecedented torrent of email from people I had always before spoken to in person. I put my foot down and sent out a few real letters. The torrent quickly subsided. For, a letter is a kind of gauntlet. It says I have the interest and self-discipline to sit down and write and send a letter -- now do you? Separate the wheat from the chaff, baby.

I leave you, but not alone

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Another great day with Fr. Ramon. Due to the typhoon (Typhoon Nock-ten -- awesome name!), he offered to pick me up in town. Cool. He also bought me lunch at Subway (at a secret location, known only through private personal transmission; I am now among the Knowing). Cool. Then we chatted in his office for about 40 minutes before my Bible study. I learned three things (I get to keep the details):

1) Knowing that I failed my homework for last week (to experience God's love like a baby), I have (been) recommitted to accepting God's love apart from all self-legitimizing, self-respecting efforts to please Him. I have been reassigned to know, as the pulse and fiber of all reality, that love of God, particularly in its feminine and Marian dimensions.

2) I'm not very good, to say the least, at accepting anyone's love and I am skeptical of happiness. I have for too long relied on "growing up" and being stable, when in fact I must "growing down" into the Kingdom. My "religiosity" must become authentically Christian, which is to say it must cease being performance-based and instead become love-based. Such is the life of children, where love abounds in scandalous disproportion to performance. Another part of being a child (again) means accepting happiness, rather than merely abiding it.

3) I know again, in the living tissue of my soul, that GOD LOVES ME! That may sound trite or triumphalistic or emotional or whatever. But for once, I don't rally care how it "strikes the reader." I haven't felt the peace and sheer -- how to say? -- solid freshness of knowing I am loved. I am loved. I am loved from all time. I am loved despite my sins and even without my "best efforts." I am God's beloved.

I think Elliam Fakespeare said it best when he wrote, "To know God is to know you are loved." Well, praise Him, I know God again. I am loved! I say that as openly and repeatedly as I have because it hit me tonight that such confidence is a rare gem in this world. Who, first of all, can confidently say she is truly loved? Can you -- yes, you -- say that without hesitation? Second, and more importantly, who can say with equal confidence that she is LOVED BY GOD HIMSELF. Can you say that? The center and author of all life Himself has directed his boundless love AT ME. That's no small thing and it's worth repeating.

It was with this unshaking sense of peace in my heart that I led my three faithful Bible study members to consider the fact that when Jesus calls us -- and He is always calling all of us -- He is calling us TO GOD'S LOVE. My students wanted to settle for a nice house, a happy garden, a calm mind, and the like. But Christ, God in Christ, calls us far higher, and thus along a more perilous path, TO HIS LOVE.[1]

At that point, one of the students looked me straight in the eye. She was obviously pondering something immense. She asked me, very slowly, gravely, "Give... me a reason... to faith him." My heart had begun racing faster and faster with every word. Give me a reason to trust Jesus. Wow. That’s what being a missionary is all about, to cross cultural and personal barriers in order to translate my reasons for hope into another person’s life. Go time.

Shedding as much theo-philosophical pretense as I could, I told her my three reasons for trusting Jesus. First, because I hear and respect the truth He speaks. Second, because I have sensed His personal loving comfort for me, both in prayer and in the fellowship of other Christians. Third, because of His Resurrection, Jesus is the only person I trust to guide to death -- and beyond. It was a powerful time and I knew I really was making a difference for God, even if in only three young(er) lives. The Faith makes sense, I'm increasingly convinced, only in a mission setting. I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I can learn that truth in person.

Good night. I need my rest. I deserve my rest. I'm a man in love.

[1]Although I didn't address this idea in the study, I will do so here: personhood is an essentially loving condition, or mode, and the world is an essentially personal state of affairs. The key to every moment, and in fact every larger trend, is the culmination in knowing we are loved. God embraced the world in Christ and faith embraces Christ in the Spirit. Christ is the knitting needle that plunged the fabric of divinity into, and not merely atop, the mesh of the world. He plunged into the full range and depth of humanity -- birth to death -- and remerges to pull the whole mesh BACK UP to God.

Free rare book day!

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Like a bolt of lightning, I found the whole of Georges Florovsky's classic mini-treatise on Scripture and Tradtion, _Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective_, online. I've been searching for this work for months through Amazon, Bookfinder, Loome Books, etc. And now, call me a dog, a simple Google search (for "florovsky", that's it!) has struck gold. I've compiled all the chapters from their various online sources and formatted them all into one Word document. I'll be printing it out at work or somewhere else over the next few weeks. Sweet.

Let the Secular Jihad begin!

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The Guardian's Charlie Brooker recently panned Bush for his performance in the presidential debates. Brooker's article has been rescinded and dislcaimed by the Register, but I still found it cached in Google.) Roasting Bush, or any figure, is fine as far as it goes. I mean, I didn't watch the debates, but, even from a single glimpse of them on the news in the gym, I must admit Bush struck me as, well, a bit off. I'm no Bush-baiter and I don't take much interest in political gossip. I've been nestled in Taiwan (or, before that, buried in college) for most of Bush's presidency, so I haven’t made much sport of following the hilarious trail of Bushisms and Dubya faux pas. Mocking anyone on purely physiognomic or behavioral grounds is only slightly better than despicable. I suspect much of the anti-Bush (or anti-anyone) rhetoric, in style if not in content, is due to an ingrained eugenicist elitism in the US ethos. Chauvinistic hedonism is thus a political as well as moral worldview. As long as the 'tards don't know we're mocking them, it's all good.[1] And as long as we can marginalize Bush as the 'tard in charge, it's all good.

Still, while I generally avoid reading too much into a person's foibles, I must admit Bush did look distincly on edge, keyed up, a little baffled -- almost high -- during (at least one of) the debates. This could have been the result of a crafty liberal visual spinjob, but... well, let me just say that Bush, in this instance, seriously lacked the demeanor I hope to see in my national leader.

At any rate, Brooker, a moron apparently too witty for his own good, closed his roast of Bush with these infinitely rational words:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?

UN-BE-LIEVABLE. I guarantee you this guy makes a pet hobby of skewering religious fanatics (presumably like Bush) for their jihad-crusade mentality. And yet, he thinks he has a pass to joke in a widely published periodical about killing another human being, the leader of the United States of America. Inciting violence, however whimsically intended, is still a monstrous game. Behind every joke lies a truth and behind every turth lies a joke. In this case, unfortunately, Brooker grasped neither the rudiments of humor or the truth of moral dignity.

Of course, that's fine, because he's but a sturdy little cog in the machinery of reason anf human freedom trundling over the undying corpse of faith and piety. In a strange way, jihadists and violent fundamentalists are more honorable because they see violence as a necessary means to a higher good; they at least don't toy with violence like Brooker, the powedered dandy at the keyboard. A jihad is at least stunning, almost stunningly beautiful, in its intensity. Brooker's secular jihad, by contrast, is nothing but a flabby hypocritical jab at the bogeyman of the week. Trivilaizing violence is precisely how it becomes more user-friendly, more accessible, more mundane and thus more common. Immoral journalistic humor can be just as desensitizing as ultra-graphic cinematic carnage-porn.

Say what you will about Bush, he is still a human and he needs and deserves our prayers and charity, even if not our vote. That, a moral injunction, is as far as I'll take this political discussion, since so much of this "political" campaign is actually a moral battle. I know Kerry did not endorse Brooker's article or the "retarded" flyer, and I'm not attacking him for either. There are clay feet and glass walls all around, but we must not check our conscience at the voting booth.[2]

[1] Seeing flyers like that, and knowing a cognizant human hand is behind them, set me so much on edge I cold punch a wall. I used to suffer from an extremely bad temper and it's f---king vile propaganda like that makes me long to drive my knee straight up through the guilty bastard's jaw -- if not in reality then, I confess, in my mind as I daydream or drift to sleep. Miserere me, Domine.

[2] Yes, B.O., a fasting man can legitimately recommend food to a hungry friend.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Holy crap

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Crude? Sure.

Predictable? Guilty as charged.

But mirthful all the same.

As you may notice...

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I've tweaked the "look and feel" of FCA. Have a look at my patrons and heroes and tell me what you think.

I have many thoughts, but most of them are deep within. Slapping them onto my blog, how ever cathartic, would cheapen them. The Internet is an orgy of holding forth, so I'm sure you'll survive my abstension from my usual prolixity.

A quick (as opposed to long?) news flash: the Catholic Church will be releasing a new catechism of social teaching tomorrow (October 25)!

[T]he "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" is divided into three parts that present the foundations, contents and pastoral applications of Catholic social teachings. ...

Part of the catechism is expected to deal with the theological and anthropological underpinnings of the church's social teaching, as well as a wide range of classical social doctrine themes....


At the Shelter tonight the speaker, a fulltime missionary man with family, preparing for longterm service in China, spoke about Jesus as Lord, and not merely as Friend or Savior. It was whizzbang! Straight out of the Council of Trent at times! I'm sure he ruffled a few feathers with his statement that our assurance of salvation is assured only as long as we are *following* Jesus, but this is a perfectly sensible, and biblical, take on things. Of course, I know how feeble such assurance sounds to many ears. He emphasized salvation as a process and spoke, albeit implicitly, of the biblical distinction between forensic justification as an act of monergistic grace and salvation (qua obedient holiness qua deification qua theosis) as an act of synergistic grace.

Back with Fr. Ramon again tomorrow. I'm excited about it, but also none too little apprehensive. My homework, as you may recall, was to encounter God's love like a two-day old baby encounters his mother's. I did that for a couple days, but then pretty quickly "moved on." It's amazing how boring I can find God sometimes. That's a scandalous admission, I know, but being a redeemed sinner is a scandalous thing. I love God very very much -- but as we all know, familiarity breeds contempt, and we hurt most the ones we love most.

I sense I am in my teenage years with God. The old tricks are just that, old tricks. It is now up to me, *by the grace of God* always calling, stirring, illuminating and ennobling me, to step up into a more disciplined, mature life with God. The past couple months, I realized yesterday, have involved me gaining endurance -- like a massive engine warming up, or a giant stirring from an ancient slumber -- for each day and week of teaching. Teaching middle schoolers ESL requires a slow-twitch, marathon kind of energy that, more than anything else, needs time to develop. I lost a lot of my ESL steam over the relaxing summer, and have since taken a lot of exhausting hits getting back on the horse of daily teaching.

That kind of marathon endurance is what I lack thus far in my walk with Christ. Obviously, he's brought me this far (despite my best efforts to the contrary). Basically, I think I've hit a wall and it's time for God to work on me deeply, rather than me continuing to flit broadly on the surface of devotion. I can't stay a baby forever, but I can certainly starve myself. If I may be so vivid, I feel like a spiritual bulemic these days: I have intense periods of divine fellowship followed by intense bouts of willful disobedience and concupiscent weakness. Faith is a vital part of life, which means it can be grow and change as well as stagnate and die. Mine of late has been doing a lot of both.

I have hope in his grace abounding much more than my sin, but I also dread what taking up His Cross will mean for my present and future. I realized a few nights ago I am in a washing machine of God's loving will: I am tumbling around the same issues but not yet sure where I'll settle. He's pounding the dirt and stiffness out of me; and it's terrifying at times. I thought of the Stations of the Cross and asked myself if many people and events in my life so far have been mere landmarks, or weigh stations, along the road to the Cross. For, make no mistake: that is the final destination of every Christian this side of the beatific vision of God in heaven. On my way to the cross, who shall walk with me? Whom have I left behind? Whom shall I leave behind? Whom or what shall I find on the road ahead?

I want to leave you with a great quote I came across on the Pontificator's blog. I ask you to read it and meditate on it for a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. As I've said before, one of the strongest draws for me into the Catholic and Orthodox faith is the majesty and intimacy of Chrsit in the Holy Gifts. Rather than resting on my ingrained Protestant minimalism, asking why I *must* believe such "carnal" things about the Eucharist, I have walked, and then run, into the more ancient maximalism that shouts, "Why *don't* I believe this! Thank God I *can* believe all this!"

When the wild olive has been grafted on to it, the good olive entirely assimilates it so that its fruit is no longer proper to the wild olive tree. In the same way men’s righteousness by itself avails nothing. But once men are united to Christ’s Flesh and Blood by partaking of them, straightway the greatest benefits result, the remission of sin and the inheriting of the kingdom, which are the fruits of Christ’s righteousness. Just as we receive from the holy table a Body far superior to our own, the Body of Christ, so in consequence our righteousness becomes a Christlike righteousness. The saying, “we are the Body of Christ and individually members of it” should not be regarded as referring merely to our body. Far more justly we should ascribe this participation to the soul and its activity, since “he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” These words show that this participation and growing together apply particularly to mind and soul.

For this cause He did not merely clothe Himself in a body, but He also assumed a soul, mind, and will and everything else that is human, in order to be united to the whole of our nature and completely penetrate us and resolve us into Himself by totally joining what is His to that which is ours.

Since in respect to sin alone He can have nothing in common with us, He can have no concord with those who sin nor be united with them. Out of love for man He received all other things from us, and out of even greater love He joins what is His to us. The first means that God has come down to earth, the second that He has taken us from earth to heaven. So, on the one hand God became incarnate, on the other man has been deified. In the former case mankind as a whole is freed from reproach in that Christ has overcome sin in one body and one soul; in the latter each man individually is released from sin and made acceptable to God, which is an even greater act of love for man. Since it was not possible for us to ascend to Him and participate in that which is His, He came down to us and partook of that which is ours. So perfectly has He coalesced with that which He has taken that He imparts Himself to us by giving us what He has assumed from us. As we partake of His human Body and Blood we receive God Himself into our souls. It is thus God’s Body and Blood which we receive, His soul, mind, and will, no less than those of His humanity.

It was necessary that the remedy for my weakness be God and become man, for were He God only He would not be united to us, for how could He become our feast? On the other hand, if Christ were no more than what we are, his feast would have been ineffectual. Now, however, since He is both at once, He is united to those who have the same nature as Himself and coalesces with us men. By his divinity He is able to exalt and transcend our human nature and to transform it into Himself.

It is clear, then, that Christ infuses Himself into us and mingles Himself with us. He changes and transforms us into Himself, as a small drop of water is changed by being poured into an immense sea of ointment. This ointment can do such great things to those who fall into it, that it not only makes us to be sweet-smelling and redolent thereof, but our whole state becomes the sweet-smelling savour of the perfume which was poured out for us as it says, “for we are the sweet savour of Christ.”

St Nicholas Cabasilas

Please pray for me, God's most beloved sinner, God's prodigal son without the guts to run away.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

New Links Day!

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  • Ni3 hao3 ma1? Get a load of this Awésomě Pīnyīn Cǒnvértèr!

  • Learn Chinese characters at 中文.com (

  • Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Möchten Sie lernen? Check out the LEO English\German Dictionary

  • Gustarìa lernen español und alemán? Check out this English/German and German/Spanish dictionary

  • Got questions? Get Catholic Answers

  • Got any, related, questions? Get OrthodoxInfo

  • In need of some reasonable apologetics? Peruse Bede's Library

  • The Anthony Trollope of Catholic apologetics: Dave Armstrong and his Cor Ad Cor Loquitor blog, where you can get a serious discussion of pretty much any topic under the theistic sun.

  • The Modern Day Summa of Online Catholic Apologetics: Dave Armstrong's Biblical Catholic Webpage

  • The Bible in 3-D: John Salza's Scriptural Catholic Webpage

  • Christos Anastasis! Fr. Michael Pomazanksy's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

  • What's the story, what's so funny? Funny Stories (as well as cartoons,
    jokes, useless facts and more)

  • Enter the Bible online, in many translations, through the Bible Gateway

  • Enter the (full) Catholic Bible online, in the New American Translation, care of the USCCB

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church, care of the USCCB or, in a more organized format, care of the Vatican (also available in German,
    in Spanish, or in the original Latin)

  • Testing...testing...1...2...3?

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    Good newzzzz...

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    Yesterday[1]was Viator's annual field day and I went early for the Mass and to see my kids run around like, well, kids at a field day. It was great fun. How I wanted to run, just once! I kept shouting at them to keep their heads down and elbows in for the sprint. In vain. Most of them ran like Forrest Gump minus the leg braces (and th' theck Suth'en aiksent). All heart, but rather painful to watch.

    I left the school a couple hours later to meet some friends for lunch and then I went to the bank to transfer my salary, that's been building up without an outlet, to my longstanding account in the USA. Now I can use that money *online*[2]. After that I helped a coworker pick up an unexpectedly large amount of GEPT (General English Proficient Tests) materials for students.

    Now, I'd gotten to bed late Wednesday and got up early Thursday, so after all this hustle and bustle on my day off, I got home and was WIPED OUT. I went upstairs, checked my email and a few favorite blogs, lay on my bed, read a little of Newman's _Apologia_, and then feel asleep at 6:30 PM. (That shudder you felt yesterday at the same time was a ripple in the space-time continuum; and that chill you felt was hell freezing over. Blame me.) Then I slept, without a moment of consciousness, until 1:30 AM. Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, refilled the toilet (so to speak), turned off my PC and lay back in bed until I fell asleep again at 3 AM or so. The next thing I knew, my alarm went off at 6:50 AM. Almost eleven hours of sleep in a single night. Uncanny. Seductive. I have rarely if ever (apart from bouts of sickness) slept so early for and so long. But it was exactly what I needed.

    Of course, damn my eyes, here I am, up late, retarding the effects of last night's bliss. I think I have somnophobia, honestly. Time to face my fear and get on bed. Ta ta.

    [1] I wrote this post on Friday but couldn’t publish it for some blog-horrific reason.

    [2] Speaking of which, I believe I *just* cleared my college debts -- snap! -- in one fell swoop (or click, as the case may be). Sure, I don't have, ahem, quite as much moula in my account for now, but I should be all right once I get my next pay check November 1. O God, bless this move; may I no longer be under the burden of debt, how ever light or manageable it is.

    It's times like these I wish I had a dentist friend...

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    Tonight at the gym (after a week away), I asked, in my always bloodied but unbowing Chinese, if they had replaced a piece of equipment I'd turned in when I found it broken a few months ago. Nope. As it was near closing time, some of the lights were off and we were talking in semi-darkness. When the guy looked me square in the face to speak, I noticed something in his upper row of teeth. One tooth was noticeably less shiny, more opaque even, than the rest. I was as sure as a green youth like me can be that one of his teeth was a fake. I doubt it was just a shadow since the teeth on both sides of it were uniformly reflective and natural-looking.

    This led me to wonder: assuming his tooth was a fake, what about enamel makes it shine like it does, and did? (Or maybe all his teeth are fake and enamel looks dull!)

    Calling dental aficionados?

    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    In the spotlight now! Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!

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    I got this email today about my blog post, Sex is love..." (28 June 2004):


    I saw your piece on sterile sex and have passed it along to many people. Before I photocopy it many, many times I wanted to let you know how helpful a article it is. I'll be making it available to participants at a conference my parish is hosting. Here's an article in the local Catholic newspaper about it:

    God bless you.

    I thank God His truth about marriage, sex, love, life and chastity is getting the emphasis it needs in the USA (or any other place in our fallen home) and that my little words may contribute to that evangelization. All I ask is, remember, folks, it's Elliot Bougis, not Eliott Boogis, Elliott Bongis, Eliot Bowgis, or any other well meaning perversion . ;op

    Augustine Day by Day - October 20 - Blessed the Peacemakers!

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    "Some people are peacemakers in themselves. By conquering and subjecting to reason all the motions of their souls, and taming their carnal desires, they become, in themselves, a kingdom of God. They enjoy the peace that is given on earth to persons of goodwill, the life of the consummate and perfect person of wisdom."

    -- Sermon on the Mount 1, 2

    In all fairness, this idea, of internal spiritual subjugation, is one of the larger meanings behind the notoroious Muslim concept of "jihad." This hardly erases the huge gaping ugly fact that jihad also has a completely martial meaning in the Qur'an, but it does give a hint of hope.

    Prayer. Lord, whatever you give me is too little for me. Be you yourself my inheritance! I love you with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind. Of what value is anything you give me that is not yourself!

    -- Sermon 334, 3

    October 20

    Christian Heritage - October 20 - Perfect Faith

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    "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. What does it mean to enter into temptation? It means to turn one's back on faith. Temptation grows stronger in proportion as faith weakens, and becomes weaker in proportion as faith grows strong. To convince you, beloved, that Jesus was speaking of the weakening and loss of faith when he told his disciples to watch and pray that they might not enter into temptation, the Lord said in this same passage of the gospel: This night Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. Is the protector to pray, while the person in danger has no need to do so?

    "But in asking whether the Son of Man would find faith on earth at his coming, the Lord was speaking of perfect faith. That kind of faith is indeed hardly to be found on earth. Look at God's Church: it is full of people. Who would come here if faith were non-existent? But who would not move mountains if that faith were present in full measure? Mark the apostles: they would never have left everything they possessed and spurned worldly ambition to follow the Lord unless their faith had been great; and yet that faith of theirs could not have been perfect, otherwise they would not have asked the Lord to increase it."

    Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 115

    Augustine makes a good point, albeit obliquely, in the first paragraph. Was Jesus’ prayer for Peter hypothetical, a mere rhetorical flourish before the final bloody curtain of Calvary? Or was it a genuine prayer? Assuming the latter -- most certainly -- how can we deny the reality of which the prayer worked against, to wit, the FAILURE of faith? Is there not an ultimate point of sinful regression in faith that demands something at least conceptually (if not verbally) like "mortal sin"? I'm reminded of Romans 6 and Galatians 5 and Luke 8 and Revelation 22. Grist for the prayer mill.

    What's the difference?

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    Few things exasperate me more than when my I call my unruly students to task and a ragdoll "I'm sorry" dribbles down their chin. "Don't say that," I tell them, "because I know you're not sorry. I want to see if you're sorry. In fact, don't say anything; just be a good student."

    How am I any different to God? He calls me to task and a pathetic, reflexive "I'm so sorry" dribbles down my soul. What does God say?

    "Talk is cheap"?

    "Show me don't tell me?"

    "Apology accepted. You know I lived, died and rose again just so you could piss on my glory in your new birth"?

    "I'll believe it when I see it"?

    "Oh, don't worry about it. Shucks, I know you were just kidding around"?

    "No sweat, kid, I see you as holy in Christ (even though we both know the truth... shhhh....)"?

    I'm genuinely asking this. What good is my "contrition" if it's nothing more than a verbal speed bump back into sin? Am I being scrupulous? Or am I just being honest?

    Augustine Day by Day - October 19 - Faith Working Through Love

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    "You have before you Christ as your end. You have no need to go on looking anymore. The moment you believed, you already recognized it. But faith alone is not enough, unless works too are joined to it. 'Faith working through love,' says the Apostle! [Gal 5:16 -- EBB]"

    -- Sermon 16A, 11

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: "We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone." Classic hair-splitting theologumenon.

    Is faith alone sufficient for salvation? Yes! Is faith alone sufficient for salvation. No!

    We are saved by faith ALONE as much as I speak by grammar alone. Human speech is totally inadequate without grammar AND vocabulary; faith in God, likewise, is completely inadequate without assent AND obedience. Grace for believers, like cognition and human breath for speakers, is the basis for both. No new ground on my part, I admit, but I had to get it off my chest.

    Prayer. Lord, my God, listen to my prayer, and may your mercy hear my desire.

    -- Confessions 11, 2

    October 19

    Christian Heritage - October 19 - Abide in Jesus Christ

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    "Like the stones of a temple, cut for a building of God the Father, you have been lifted up to the top by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and the rope of the Holy Spirit. For your faith has drawn you up and charity has been the road leading to God. You are all fellow pilgrims, carrying with you God and his temple; you are bearers of Christ and of holy offerings, decked out in the commandments of Jesus Christ.

    "And so do not cease to pray for all other people, for there is hope of their conversion and of their finding God. Give them the chance to be instructed, at least by the way you behave. When they are angry with you, be meek; answer their words of pride by your humility, their blasphemies by your prayers, their error by your steadfastness in faith, their bullying by your gentleness. Let us not be in a hurry to give them tit for tat, but, by our sweet reasonableness, show that we are their brothers and sisters. Let us rather be eager to imitate the Lord, striving to be the first in bearing wrongs, in suffering loss, in being despised, so that no weed of the evil one may be found among you; but abide in Jesus Christ in perfect purity and temperance of body and soul."

    Ignatius of Antioch (AD ca. 50~117), Letter to the Ephesians 9-10

    Ignatius wrote seven letters written to various communities he visited on his way from Antioch to his martyrdom in Rome. These letters offer us insights into the Church in that era and also a wealth of theological insights.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004


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    Currently listening to...

    Various Dwight Yoakam tracks. A word to movie fans ("cinemati"?): every movie I've seen with Yoakam in it is very good (e.g., _Slingblade_ and _Red Rock West_), and Yoakam performed very well too. "He's -- got -- his -- littl'ways!"

    Currently eating...

    Reese's Peanut Butter Cups WHITE CHOCOLATE style.[1] I am not amused. Why should I be? I've never liked white chocolate. It's an unappetizing paradox (unlike Mexican fried ice cream, which is a delicious paradox). White chocolate is everything you try to forget chocolate is -- lots of sugar, lots of fat, lots of comforting calories -- and yet nothing of what chocolate really is -- a coco-based treat. White chocolate is for me like protein-free beef. White chocolate is the psychopathic albino Jesuit assassin of the candy world. White chocolate is the thick, shifty-eyed kid your parents wish you wouldn't invite over for the weekend. And now, that creamy, insouciant mass of sweetness, white chocolate, is spooning with the peanut buttery filling of arguable the greatest candy on earth. I’ll call these PB cups “whiteys.” And I’ll call them scandalous. Kill whiteys.

    [1] One of our teammates had a visitor from the States recently and he hooked us up here with PB cups. For some strange reason, he avoided the classic flavor of semi-divine revelation, opting instead for the whiteys and the new “inside out” flavor. The inny-outies are much closer to the Platonic perfection of the original PB cups, but only because the filling seems to be Nutella, Europe’s Hercules in the Chocolate Olympus.

    Currently thinking...

    Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
    Where confusion reigns, wisdom shall usurp.
    Where pain moans, joy shall burst into chorus.
    Where longing creeps, peace shall strut.
    Where the cross stands, the empty tomb awaits.
    (c/o E. Fakespeare)

    Currently reading...

    _Der Tulpenmann: Erzählungen_ by Marie Louise Kaschnitz (Reclam Verfassung)

    A sample (ein Auschnitt):

    »Der Circus, von dem ich Ihnen erzählen will, Herrn Luigis Circus, war ein trauriger, ein Wrack von einem Circus, so könnte man sagen, ein Ding, das sich noch eine Weile über Wasser hält, aber was hilft das, es geht schließlich doch unter, es ist zum Untergehen bestimmt.«

    And now, my translation (und jetzt, meine Übersetzung):

    "The circus I want to tell you about, Mr. Luigi's circus, was a sad wreck of a circus. You might even say it was a thing holding itself over water for a time -- but for what good? Ultimately it sinks down. It is destined for sinking."

    Two comments from me, FCA's resident wannabe German scholar. First, this is wonderful German prose. Notice how my translation is four sentences, while Kaschnitz's is only one. One long, rich, intricate, symphonic, disorienting, precise – and thus quintessentially German – sentence! Wie erhaben! (How sublime!) Granted, I've read only two of Kaschnitz's stories so far, but that first sentence had me in the throes of Teutophilia and hasn't let me go. Her work, so far, reminds me of Roald Dahl's: surreal yet gritty, enchanting yet menacing, profound yet unassuming, fluid yet crisp. I love German and Kaschnitz makes that easy to say.

    Second, Willkommen in die herrliche Welt der Reclam Bücher (welcome to the glorious world of Reclam Books)! Reclam books are a fundamental part of German literary culture. The Reclam Verlag (publishing house) was founded in 1828 and their little books have become the bread and butter of any moderately advanced German student's life. Reclams – little, yellow, different[2] – are economical, almost uniformly printed reprints of hundreds and thousands of German classics as well as translations of numerous non-German works. Reclam also offers anthologies of critical literary essays (of other Reclam works, of course), sociology, philosophy, etc.

    Reclams are great for students because you get the same great words for half the price, and ideal for traveling bookworms (ahem!), since you can pack dozens of classics in a quarter the space. For example, before me sit the following little volumes, all which fit easily in my hand:

    + Martin Luther, _Schriften: "An den christlichen Adel der deutscher Nation (To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation)"[3], "Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (On the Freedom of a Christian)", und "Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Letter on Interpretation)"[4]

    + Friedrich Nietzsche[5], _Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben (On the Utility and Disadvantage of History for Life)_

    + Joseph Roth, _Die Büste des Kaisers: Kleine Prosa (The Emperor's Bust: Small Prose Works)_

    + Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm, _Ausgewähtle Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Selected Children’s and Household Fairy Tales)_

    + Johann Wolfgang Goethe, _Novelle (Novella)_ und _Das Märchen (The Fairy Tale)_

    + Franz Kafka, _Erzählungen_

    I wish USAmerican and English literature had a similar series. Sure, I think Penguin (ah, Penguin) runs a series of affordable reprints, but there is simply no press to match Reclam in terms of quality, range and affordability (not to mention sheer intellectual coolness).

    A final word: IF ANY OF YOU READERS ARE IN NEED OF GERMAN TRANSLATION SERVICES, I'M YOUR MAN. As you might be able to tell, I love reading and writing German, and translating keeps me sharp. Now it's off to grad school to get my Spanish back in working shape. Achtung! Aviso! Erfolg! Éxito!

    Na, auf Wiederschreiben!

    [2] The majority of the Reclams are yellow, but bilingual volumes are orange.

    [3] Wherein Luther excoriated the Anabaptists and lent considerable support to the military suppression of them.

    [4] Wherein Luther defended his infamous insertion of "alone" ("allein") in his translation of the Bible due to his all-consuming vision of salvation by "sola fide."

    [5] Note the spelling. For most English speakers, Nietzsche is to German what "nucular" is to, well, English. But remember, his name is most accurately (yawn, I know) pronounced "Neecha". Simple, see? It's hardly nucular science.

    Monday, October 18, 2004

    "One wonders why one wonders."

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    c/o Elliam Fakespeare

    Well, I'm glad he's still got a creative thought in his head; I'm tapped out.

    I did not go to see Fr. Ramon today. I have been sick for the last few days and needed to go home after work to rest. Having tweaked my blog a bit today and posted the quotes for yesterday and today, I hope I will not be online again till tomorrow. Seriously. As a Desert Father might say, "The weeds of sin strangle the fruits of both God and life." Bye bye.

    "We ought to be on our guard, in case our conscience has stopped troubling us, not so much because of its being clear but because of its being immersed in sin." -- St. John Climacus

    Augustine Day by Day - October 17 & 18

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    Praising God - October 17

    "Does not our mouth daily praise God as much as our limitations allow? What we praise is great, but the instrument by which we praise him is still weak. See how we stand and pray to God at some length. Our lips move often in song, but our thoughts rove about through all kinds of desires."

    -- Commentary on Psalm 145, 6

    Prayer. The human person is one of your creatures, Lord, and its instinct is to praise you.

    -- Confessions 1, 1

    Aristotle believed all men by nature desire to know; Augustine believe all men by nature desire to know God. I agree with them both.

    The Harbor of Life - October 18

    "Removed from the high waves of the outside world, those who have chosen a quiet life are, as it were, in a haven or a harbor. But where is their expected joy? They will still find causes for regret and problems with temptations.

    Let us love one another. Let the ships in the harbor be carefully arranged with regard to one another, so that they not collide. Let the evenness of peers and a constant charity be observed there."

    -- Commentary on Psalm 99, 9

    Prayer. May God in his mercy grant that every day we may be troubled, tried, disciplined, or make some progress.

    -- Sermon 16A, 12

    Well, lookee there, Augustine's captured my present lot in a single sentence. God, have mercy on me, a son of God, by having no mercy on me, a sinner. Have mercy on my faith, O Lord, by having no mercy on my sin.

    Christian Heritage - October 17 & 18

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    The Joys of Friendship - October 17

    "What can be more pleasant than to be spiritually so closely united to another, so completely one, that no arrogance is to be feared, no suspicion dreaded! Correction of one another causes no pain, nor does praise bring a charge of flattery. A friend, says the Wise Man, is the medicine of life. That is well said, for no other medicine is as powerful and efficacious where temporal ills are concerned as to have someone hastening to us with sympathy when anything goes wrong and congratulating us when things go well. So, shoulder to shoulder, the two bear each other's burdens, each one thinking that his own is lighter than that of his friend. In this way friendship heightens the joys of prosperity and mitigates the sorrows of adversity by dividing and sharing them.

    "In friendship are joined virtue and pleasure, truth and enjoyment, sweetness and goodwill, feeling and doing, all of which take their beginning from Christ, grow through Christ, and are perfected in Christ. It should not therefore seem too hard or unnatural to ascend from Christ who fills us with the love we have for our friend to Christ who gives himself to us as a friend to be loved, so that pleasure follows upon pleasure, sweetness upon sweetness, affection upon affection. And thus, friend cleaving to friend in a Christian spirit becomes one with him in heart and soul, and by the steps of love rises to friendship with Christ and becomes one spirit with him."

    Aelred of Rievaulx (AD 1109-1167), Spiritual Friendship.p; PL 195, 669-672

    Aelred was a member of the Cistercian Order who later became abbot of Rievaulx and was noted for his theological and spiritual writings. His celebration of friendship makes him a kindred spirit with Augustine of Hippo.

    Luke, the Evangelist - October 18

    "Having followed the far-famed Paul in his countless tribulations on land and sea, the venerable Luke is well deserved to be praised by him. Since this evangelist of the Lord earned the commendation of so great an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles, surely it is not too much to say that he deserves the praise of everyone. Let us praise him then, beloved, together with the apostle. With one voice, heart, and tongue let us extol him, proclaiming him a true physician of souls sent by God. The whole burden of his teaching seems to be nothing other than a medicine for ailing souls.

    "The gospel is called the good news because it tells of the kingdom that follows toil, the life that follows death. If you love God, the gospel is written for you. And if it is written for you, accept this most precious pearl, the gift of the evangelist, and carefully guard in the depths of your heart this pledge of a friend. O what a gift, what a pledge, if you stop to think, reflect, and deeply ponder! And if with great vigilance you pay good heed to it, it will bring you happily to the joy that lasts for ever, where you will exult unceasingly with the choirs of angels."

    Paul the Deacon (AD 730-799), Hom. LIX: PL 95, 1530-1532

    Paul was a monk of Monte Cassino and is noted for his history of the Lombards. While at Aix he wrote a collection of homilies for Charlemagne.

    Saturday, October 16, 2004


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    A friend of mine, a Catholic girl, let's call her Jane, was once talking with a friend of hers, a former Catholic, let's call her Jill, about the Eucharist. Jill found it silly to the point of being absurd that Jane believed Christ was truly and wholly present in the Sacred Gifts. Despite her Catholic upbringing, Jill denied the Real Presence. Jesus is, after all, everywhere. She was pushing a sort of ubiquity argument against sacramental grace.

    Now, Jane is hardly a cunning or aggressive Catholic. She just tries to live for the Lord. But I, a more cunning and aggressive type, have never ceased to feel a tingle of delight by the razor-sharpness of her simple, unassuming retort. Jane, who agreed with Jill that Jesus is everywhere, found it silly to the point of being absurd for Jill not to realize what this means. If Jesus is everywhere, then he's also in the Eucharist. QED. Jill’s ubiquity argument against the Real Presence had backfired.

    The ubiquity argument is a common tactic when people, often Protestants, are grappling with the more concrete implications of Catholic and Orthodox theology. Ubiquitous spiritual power is more convenient than incarnational grace. If we can get grace anywhere, anyhow, then we needn’t listen to the strange man in the strange hat, let alone the strange man with the strange holy book. To most contemporary Protestants, for example, there is nothing special, nothing exceptionally special, about the Lord's Supper. It is merely one more act in the larger ocean of living faith. Likewise, the authority and chrism of the episcopacy over the laity is seen as a presumption against the ubiquity of the gifts of the Spirit. Are we not all priests? Are we not all one in Christ? How dare we limit God’s grace?

    The ubiquity argument becomes especially handy when resisting the Petrine authority of the bishop of Rome. Protestant apologists are quick to remind us Origen, for example, said Peter spoke for the whole Church and that Christ gave the keys to the whole Church in Peter. Augustine, they also remind us, said Peter spoke for all believers, like any other believer, and that Christ spoke to the whole Church when he spoke to Peter like any other believer. These quotes from these two Fathers are favorites since, again, they ubiquitize and nullify any special, concrete grace the Pope might have.

    But what hit me today is this: if it’s agreed that Peter could speak on behalf of the whole Church then, what prevents his successor from doing so today? If Christ could speak to Peter as the figure for the whole Church, why can't he do the same today? Like Jill’s ubiquity argument against the Real Presence, the arguable "ubiquitousness" of Origen and Augustine's views on Peter actually backfire, since they grant in and of themselves that Peter can be, and in fact was, the voice – and ear – for all believers. The first crucial shoe has dropped. The other shoe then drops when we balance their extremely (and uncommonly) symbolic exegesis in these cases with the numerous other Patristic (*and Augustinian*) cases of a robustly concrete Petrine theology.

    Augustine Day by Day - October 15 & 16

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    Brothers and Sisters at Peace - October 15

    "Bad brother or sister, quarrelsome brother or sister, you are still my brother or sister. You say, just as I say, 'Our Father, who art in heaven.' Why, then, are we not together in one?

    "It is not a friend, not a neighbor, who orders us to be in harmony, but rather he to whom we say, 'Our Father.' We have together one voice before our Father. Why do we not have one peace together?"

    -- Sermon on John 26, 11

    Prayer. Forgive us, Lord, all these things in which we have been led astray. Help us to resist being led away.

    -- Punishment and the Forgiveness of Sins 2, 4

    Bond of Fraternity - October 16

    "O Catholic Church, true mother of Christians, you are right in preaching that God should be adored with an entirely chaste and pure heart. Indeed, to live in him is the blessed life. You also unite brothers and sisters to one another in a bond of religion that is stronger and closer than ties of blood. You unite citizen to citizen and people to people, not by a mere grouping together, but by the bond of fraternity."

    -- The Customs of the Church 30, 62-63

    Prayer. O Sacrament of love [the Holy Eucharist -- EBB!], sign of our unity, bond of our fraternity, whoever long for life have here its very source. Let them come here and believe; unite with you and live.

    -- Sermon on John 26, 13

    Christian Heritage - October 15 & 16

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    Let Us Always Be Mindful of Christ's Love - October 15

    "If Christ Jesus dwells in a person as his friend and noble leader, that person can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.

    "Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he or she is at the summit of contemplation; on this road one walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example."

    Yet more clear proof that the hiearchical Catholic Church stifles charismatic personalism. Oh, wait.

    Teresa of Jesus of Avila (AD 1515-1582), Life 22, 6-7.14

    Born in Avila, Spain, Teresa became a Carmelite nun, advanced in prayer, and left her Order and the Church a legacy of her spiritual growth in numerous writings. Luis de León, O.S.A., was the editor of her writings and thus saved them for posterity.

    Building the Foundation - October 16

    "God's disciples need to have firmly anchored in their souls the remembrance of their Master, Jesus Christ, and to think of him day and night. They must learn where to begin, and how and where to construct the rooms in their buildings, and how to bring those buildings to completion. Otherwise all the passers-by will mock them, as our Lord said about the man who set out to build a tower and could not finish it.

    "The foundation is already laid, as Saint Paul said: it is Jesus Christ our God. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold or silver or precious stones, or with wood or straw or stubble, his work will be brought to light, because fire will reveal it and test the quality of each one's work [1 Cor 3:12-13 -- EBB].

    "Good habits and righteousness in all its beauty are what Paul compared to gold, silver, and precious stones. Faith is like gold; temperance, fasting, abstinence, and the other good works are like silver; while the precious stones are peace, hope, pure and holy thoughts, and spiritual understanding that contemplates God and the grandeur of his being, and keeps silence, trembling before the inexplicable, uncommunicable mysteries of the Godhead."

    Philoxenus of Mabbug (AD 440-552), Hom. 1: SC 44, 27-31

    Philoxenus was the bishop of Mabbug. He was an outstanding theologian and master of the spiritual life, who achieved a remarkable synthesis between the Syriac and Greek traditions.

    "[Keep] silence, trembling before the inexplicable, uncommunicable mysteries of the Godhead." Oh, yeah, no doubt, that just made the quote bar!

    Necessary thoughts

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    Tim Enloe has, to put it mildly, major issues with the apparently necessitarian nature of Catholic theories of the development of doctrine. He thinks Newmanian historical theology is overly (and artificially) teleological, abstract and anachronistic, better suited for the 19th century of Butler and Paley's questionable natural theology.[1] He further denies that the Church is a necessary feature of reality. He resists any understanding of history that *demands* things progressed this way or that, particularly if that way is to Rome. He rejects the Platonic idea that the Church (or any other thing, I suppose) "hovers over" the messy fabric of history, unfolding in flawless geometric precision.

    I do not mean to "target" Tim. I just so happens his views trigger thoughts in me. I refer to him as much as I do to give my thoughts a sense of focus, not, I repat, to make Tim my great white whale. I also do not mean to "refute" any of Tim's objections. These are just passing thoughts about some of my hesitations to embrace them. One of my main reservations about his objections is that, if the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, does not exist as a real but transcendent object in God's sovereign, eternal plan, then how could the Bible either? If the Church does not hover over and unfold in the lived fabric of history, why can we say the Word of God, as a transcendent reality, hovers over the printed fabric of a Bible? If there is no overarching "template" of the Church, which is the metaphysical instrument of God's Spirit forming the Church in concrete history, why are we so sure there is an eternal template of the Bible? The Scriptures use equally strong language about the value and role of the Word and the Church.[2]

    I've expressed this reservation to Tim before and he has replied to me that he is not a nominalist or a Platonist, but is instead a Trinitarian. Trinitarian metaphysics (a la Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, et al.) transcend and simultaneously nullify the skewed conceptual biases of nominalism and Platonism, just as the Holy Trinity Himself transcends and demolishes the apparent incompatibility of the One and Many of life. I have told him that, despite his anti-necessitarianism [inhale!], he must accept it at some level, since, as Trinitarian, he surely believes ante-Nicene theology necessarily *had* to develop as it did in accordance with the truth of God's nature.

    But, in a recent discussion of presuppositionalism, he says the difference between the necessity of theological (Nicene) Trinitarianism and Newmanian/Catholic ecclesiology is that the Trinity is the metaphysical ground on which reason can function at all. He denies the same kind of transcendent importance for the Church, since it is but a means of grace and not grace in se. The Church is a transcendental," not the *source* of reason or grace.[3] We must not understand history according to the perfect, platonic "development" of the Church from it apostolic seeds. We must instead understand history *and the Church* -- and in fact everything -- according to the multi-unitary truth of the Trinity. He is the ground of being as much as the ground of reason as much as the ground of history and ecclesiology.

    These are immensely respectable claims by Tim. But I am still uneasy about his overall anti-necessitarianism. Of course, let me qualify that uneasiness by saying I do not believe the Church, or Trinitarian theology, or the cosmos itself, *had* to develop as it did. Such metaphysical necessity -- let's call it antecedent necessity -- really does bind the hands of God. I am inclined toward a more necessary, or teleological, view of ecclesiology and theology in the sense of consequent necessity. By this I mean that we should respect the necessity of things *because* God has, as a mater of historical or theological fact, guided things that way. For example, I do not think "homoousios" or the "hypostatic union" are antecedently necessary formulations of the truth of the Trinity and Incarnation. Their formulation depended on a vast network of highly contingent social, cultural and philosophical developments. Nicene and Chalcedonian theology are, however, *consequently necessary* for us since we recognize God, as the Triune ground of being and reason, providentially led His Church to that theology.

    I respect Tim’s preference, as it were, for the Trinity as the ground of transcendence versus the Catholic inclination to regard the Church as a similarly, *but not equally*, august object of faith. I respect it, but I think it is flawed for the simple reason that we cannot extricate Trinitarian dogmas from the Church any more easily than we can separate the development of the episcopacy in general, or the papacy in particular, or the canonization of Scripture, etc. from the Church. Tim insists he is a Trinitarian, and I don’t deny it. What I do deny is that he can derive his Trinitarianism from anything but the Church (or, more accurately, the Bible *in* the Church). While it’s true our understanding of the Church must derive from the Trinity[4], it’s equally true that our understanding of the Trinity is necessarily drawn from the Church. Tim is a Trinitarian which *means* he is at least necessarily a Nicene Christian. Thus, no matter how strongly Tim insists on the ultimate ontological “rank” of the Trinity Himself, he must necessarily do so in terms derived from the Church itself (by God’s authority, of course).

    The crucial upshot is that every Tim’s non-negotiable Trinitarianism depends almost entirely for its orthodox essence on what he says is a mere transcendental. He cannot subjugate the immense transcendent rank of the Church without also undermining the orthodox Trinitarianism he holds so highly. To be frank, if the Church is a mere, skewed, flawed, defectible and defected canvas for truth, but in fact not the ground and pillar of truth, then the whole basis defending Trinitarianism dissolves. The dogmas of Nicea were not necessary to make the Church Trinitarian, but were *necessary* to explain and vindicate the way the Church lived and worshipped prior to them. In the same way, to paraphrase and adapt something Cardinal Newman said, the dogmas of ecclesial *and papal* infallibility are necessary to explain the way the Church and the popes acted prior to those dogmas.

    Fear not: obviously, the Trinity is still the ontological basis for all things. But it’s sheer Gnostic whimsy to say we can know this apart from the mystical and historical authority of the Church. Obviously, the Bible testifies to the Trinity, but it’s willfully ignorant to say we see this so clearly *apart from* the tradition of the worshipping Church prior to Nicea and, especially, the declarations of Nicea. The Trinity grounds all things; but the Church – the People of God around the Word of God – grounds our Trinitarianism. Although the ante-Nicene Church was not Nicene, it was orthodox. Likewise, although the Church prior to “questionable” papal developments was not monarchial, it was papal. Nicea was no more antecedently necessary than Trent or Vatican I; but they are all subsequently necessary. We rely no more on the supposedly “inherent” authority of Nicea *without the transcendent authority of God* than we might rely on the authority of the pope without the authority of the Triune God.

    [1] I think Tim oversimplifies Newman’s approach. First, not only should his theory of development be understood in light of Newman’s theory of assent as he articulated it over ten years into _An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent_. I can’t do justice to explaining Newman’s epistemology, so I’ll refrain from doing it injustice. Suffice it to say, though, that I think Tim too hastily stuffs Newman’s views into the rationalism of Paley and Butler. Newman’s _Grammar of Assent_, as basically a work of personalism, was so bold precisely because it resisted the impersonal rationalism of Paley. In this vein, I strongly encourage Tim, or anyone, to read Fr. Stanley Jaki's meditation on the _Grammar_.

    My second reason for saying Tim simplifies Newman’s supposedly Paleyesque telelogicalism is because Newman consciously rejected it himself. See Edward T. Oakes’s review in First Things of Philip Johnson’s The Wedge of Truth, especially the last two paragraphs. Newman’s theory of assent, and consequently of the development of doctrine, was highly patristic and *phenomenological*, and distinctly less scholastic and rationalistic (cf. Etienne Gilson’s preface to the Image Books edition of Newman’s _Grammar of Assent_.) Newman has such a “teleological”, which is to say personal, view of historical theology because he has an even more deeply personal view of faith and reason. God *speaks* to us in His revelation, both immediately in our souls and, albeit more mediately, to our reason in the theological and ecclesiological developments of that revelation. To deny His voice in Christian revelation is tantamount to denying His hand in the development of His Church.

    [2] God bought the Church, not the Bible, with His own flesh and blood (cf. Acts 20).

    [3] I think this is a non-starter, since no one claims the Church is the *source* of grace, but is merely (!) the incarnate *vessel* or sacrament of grace. The sacraments, like the Church itself, derive their power from the Triune God (cf. CCC 1066fff.). This does not make them any less "necessary," though.

    [4] As James Likoudis explains in _Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism_ (cf. chapter V), this is precisely what St. Thomas Aquinas argues in his _Contra Errores Graecorum_. The Vicar of Christ has his place on earth because the Son of God has His place in heaven. The Son proceeds from the Father and transfers His grace to the Church as a mystical *and* concrete body. Likewise, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through/and the Son and sanctifies the human person as an invisible *and* visible unity. To deny the incarnational, juridical aspect of *ecclesial sanctification* in favor of the pneumatological, mystical aspect of personal sanctification is but to deny the need for a visible head over the Church; and vice versa.

    Friday, October 15, 2004

    Augustine Day by Day - October 14 - Seek the Lord

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    "Certainly, even the impious and the unjust seek God, so that after they have found him they may no longer be impious or unjust. But how are they already blessed while they still are seeking him?

    "They are happy by their hope not because of what they have but because of what they will have. They are happy, not because they seek God but because they will find what they seek."

    -- Commentary on Psalm 138, 2-3

    And all this time I thought Vatican II infiltrated the Church with its universalist drivel (cf. CCC 840ff.)! As I said when piloting Mark Shea's CAEI: at a deep spiritual level, even for atheists, God, and the eschatological hope of glory surrounding him, is the punchline that keeps us telling the joke day after day after day. Heaven is the feast of laughter and Hell is the freely chosen darkness of never getting the joke you were made to hear.

    Prayer. O God, you are the Truth and the Light of my heart. Let me listen to you and not to the darkness within me.

    -- Confessions 12, 10

    Pattern, principle, Protestant, Popery, and the like [UPDATED]

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    I have added a paragraph, the penultimate one, to this post. Please have a look.

    Maniacally devoted readers of FCA may recall the discussion about Scripture and Tradition that has (sort of) taken place in the past few days. Two of my most vocal commenters have been the inimitable Tom R and Kevin Johnson.[1]

    Now, I am more than a little distressed by Tom's possible descent into deism.) That prayer concern notwithstanding, I want to draw your attention to an important tension at work between Dr. James White, Kevin and Tom.

    Dr. White's position is straightforward and fairly well known: Rome egregiously flouts the clear teaching of Scripture on almost every front, and is therefore a sacralized, man-centered, pharisaical (not to mention out-dated) bureaucracy utterly inimical to the Gospel. Roman Catholicism is wrong because it’s anti-biblical. Period.

    As a self-confessed Reformed Catholic, Kevin has a more nuanced position. To adapt his own words, he “take[s] the claims of Rome seriously yet still maintain[s] some amount of distance from her.” Keeping this safe distance rests largely on the belief that Roman Catholicism (and, perhaps to a less flagrant degree, Orthodoxy) not only violate the Scriptures (a la White), but also have wandered from the Tradition of the Church they claim to exalt. Roman Catholicism is wrong because it is anti-biblical and anti-traditional.

    Now, I readily admit Ref Cath is not urging a novelty. Claiming, in fact reclaiming, the "catholic" Christianity is the essence of the magisterial Reformation. The magisterial Reformers did indeed want to return to the earlier, purer orthopraxis of the Church catholic. Far from rejecting Christian tradition *in order to defend* the biblical truth, as Dr. White is always ready to do, the Reformers claimed merely to be resurrecting the catholic tradition from Rome's privations and perversions.[2] This is Kevin’s position as well. He is assured that an honest look at the Living Tradition of the Holy Catholic and Orthodox Church will betray the bodies that claim those epitaphs. He is entirely confident the Tradition accords not only with the Bible but also with Reformed theology.

    And then, there's Tom. Tom is, by my dim lights, in a very tough spot. He admits he now rejects the (Reformed/Baptist/Protestant) claim that the Church of history was always Protestant (and, perhaps, just waiting until the Reformation to come into its own). He admits the Church never lived or worshiped in way that sola scriptural Protestantism dictates. On the one hand, he agrees with Dr. White that the pre-Reformed Church strayed massively from the biblical truth. On the other hand, he disagrees with Dr. White that there ever was a Church that lived biblically. . “Now I see it [i.e., the Church] was paganised from the very time of the Apostles,” he laments.

    White's (and Svendsen’s and Webster’s and Engwer’s, etc.) patristic research centers on mining out the few, slim traces of biblical gold in the post-apostolic Church. Their work does not, make no mistake, aim to vindicate the Church’s tradition. At the end of the apologetical day, they are satisfied to say the early Church was not Roman Catholic, *even if that means admitting it wasn’t Protestant either.*[3] But Tom's new position forbids even this back-handed compliment. Apparently, Tom thinks, all truth was lost immediately after the death of the apostles and that the paganized ecclesial hierarchy kept this secret until Luther and the Renaissance broke it all wide open.

    Not until closer to the second than the first millennium after Christ was any serious attempt made to harmonise denominational traditions with the supposed holy book. Protestants may be willing to argue that God abandoned the church hierarchy to its self-chosen apostasy, but they recoil from saying that the entire body of believers was affected. Yet this is what history shows. Even in Elijah's time, God preserved five hundred who would not bow to idols. Post-33 AD, He doesn't seem to have preserved any.

    Tom’s very unfortunate impasse signals a deep flaw in the Protestant outlook. Simply stated, Protestantism is fundamentally schizophrenic about its heritage. The Reformation exploded as it did with two competing aims, and this tension persist today. On the one hand the Reformers stood above the countless errors of the Fathers with the burning might of a perfectly perspicuous and printable Bible. On the other hand they stood with the Fathers against the countless errors of Rome with the burning might of the testimony of Tradition. Tom has become a cynical Anabaptist; James White and Kevin are, in their own ways, triumphal classical Reformeds; both are authentically Protestant. Kevin may want to console Tom with Reformed catholicity; he may want to assure him his beleaguered Protestantism is but the true voice of Tradition; but Tom sees behind the curtain. He knows the early Church was not Calvin's Church; unfortunately, he also thinks the early Church was not the Bible's Church. Tom cannot explain why he accepts the “core beliefs” of Christian Tradition since he once stood over it with the burning might of a holy book. Kevin, for his part, cannot explain why he rejects many aspects of the Tradition since he stands above it with the burning might of a holy book in its holy tradition. This is the Reformation come home to roost.

    Every attempt by, say, Keith Mathison, or William Webster, to defend Protestant distinctives based on patristic testimony is subject just as viciously to the complaints of patristic ambiguity leveled against Catholicism and Orthodoxy. If the tradition speaks so clearly in favor of some Protestant distinctives, why do these get the pass from contradictory patristic claims, while clear Catholic doctrines must fight for some idealized hermetic unanimity? Reformed Catholics (or classical Protestants) are just as “bad” as fundamentalists: the latter bind the Scriptures to a narrow, extra-ecclesial exegesis while the former, admitting intra- or sub-ecclesial exegesis, just as narrowly bind the tradition.

    I’m certainly willing to be dissuaded, but Only Rome, in my eyes, has a sufficiently incarnated principle of orthodoxy by which and with which the Scriptures can be understood in the Church. Fundamentalists forbid any scriptural ambiguity. Eastern Orthodox and, to a lesser degree, Reformeds forbid patristic ambiguity. But then Rome, old Rome, strides into the debate with an annoying air of authority. Fundamentalists cannot tolerate personal uncertainty since their regula fidei (rule of faith) resides solely in their personal conscience. Solo Scriptura. Tradition 0. Heroic, populist, pious – but inevitably sectarian. Who has the right exegesis of Scripture?

    In turn, magisterial Reformeds (and I’m inclined, hesitantly, to say Orthodox, as well) cannot tolerate uncertainty in the Tradition because their regula fide resides in a fixed statement of faith by which Scripture must be read. They have the upper hand on the fundamentalist in that they accept Christian tradition as an exegetical (not to mention inspirational) guide for living by the Scripture. But they suffer from the fact that nothing but the Scriptures are infallible. Sola Scriptura (or maybe sola Traditio). Tradition 1. August, magisterial, rich – but only more slowly sectarian. Who has the right exegesis of tradition?[4] Whether construed as a primitive cluster of creeds (K. Mathison, D.H. Williams, et al.), or as a complex theory of conciliarism (Querini, T. Enloe, et al.), a *fallible* regula fidei is worthless. If the regula fidei – formally distinct from, but essential along with, Scripture – was infallible in the early Church, it must be similarly infallible today. But who has this regula fidei?

    Much is made (by White, Mathison, King & Wesbter, et al.) of the fact that Rome apparently dichotomizes what the early Church always held together, to wit, the Scriptures and the apostolic Tradition. The intent is to show how UNpatristic Rome's Tridentine (partim-partim) theory of revelation is. But even the staunchest partim-partim view of tradition does not undermine the unitary authority of the Scriptures in Tradition. Trent's insistence on the dual nature of the sources of revelation stresses a simple fact: Tradition and Scripture are not numerically identical. They are *conceptually differentiable* precisely in virtue of the fact we can conceive of them separately. Precisely by agreeing the early Church held the *two* things together demonstrates there are two things, and not merely one material source of revelation. Asserting that fact in no way negates the more Vatican II-style view of the organic, dynamic and *spiritual unity* of Scripture and Tradition. By analogy, my eyes are two distinct things at an anatomical (conceptual) level, but they still *function as one* at a neurological {spiritual) level. They are numerically distinct but they -- *and only they together* -- render the same single image *in focus*. Blurriness in either eye is the ambiguity of life as we know it.

    And it seems to me only Rome can tolerate both scriptural and traditional ambiguity (not to mention gnostic arbitrariness) by having a *clearly identifiable means or principle* of navigating both verbum Dei and the regula fidei. No magisterial Reformer today would dare claim to have *the* truth on an ecclesial matter, since, by his own admission, he must defer his interpretation to that given more wholly (kata holos) *in* the Church. Reformeds claim to have the *source* of truth, but only Rome (and Orthodoxy, but differently) dares make the claim it *really* has the irreformable truth itself. Rome has all that the others offer, but synthetically, organically, harmonically. It has the guidance of conscience; it has the guidance of infallible tradition; and it has the unassailable authority of the Scriptures, breathed of God, to authorize both conscience and council. A person facing ambiguity in its declarations has the advantage of expecting continued guidance, not merely encoded and given to our predecessors.

    For an excellent discussion of this idea, see Greg Krehbiel’s review of Mathison’s _The Shape of Sola Scriptura_.[5]

    [1] It should go without saying everything in here is my opinion and I do mean to insinuate any smug, secret insight into any of the persons I discuss. They are just material examples I've spoken with before. And hey, I'm fair game, too. ;)

    [2] Cf. Calvin’s preface to King Francis (section 4) in his _Institutes_ and his Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto.

    [3] It is this nimble, utilitarian condescension toward Christian tradition that I find so repugnant in most Protestant patristics. I liken it to enduring your grandfather’s confused rambling just to get the dirt on your odious father. If the early Church shows anything, it shows that, if it was sola Scriptural, that doctrine could not produce and has not ever produced unity.

    [4] I've never quite "gotten" the thrust of the Orthodox (Khomiakov/ Meyendorff/ sobernost) critique of the papal infallibility (or austere conciliar infallibility, for that matter). The claim is that Catholicism and Protestantism are just flip sides of the same ecclesial virus: a search for absolute, external authority. The further claim is that in this pursuit, the papacy doesn't resolve anything over against Protestant mayhem since it too is viewed as a "text," also in need of interpretation.

    Well, to use a technical term, "duh." I hope we can all agree we must interpret the sources of faith. The question is not *whether* we interpret; nor is it, excepting fundamentalist rejection of all tradition, *what* we must interpret, to wit the Scriptures in the Tradition. The question is *by what means* we interpet. Seems to me Orthodoxy is actually more susceptible to the accusation of "textualizing" the Church precisely by treating the Tradition as another text alongside the Scriptures. Both are living, and both speak, after a fashion. But *how* do they speak? I am still unconvinced the pattern of orthodoxy, whether purely scriptural or scriptural-traditional suffices without a divine principle of orthodoxy.

    [5] I originally linked to Greg's review via Dave Armstrong's blog, the only palce I could find it online until Greg reposted it from his old blog.

    Christian Heritage - October 14 - The Power of the Cross

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    It's baaaack!

    "Unknown strangers, poorly dressed and without contacts, traveled all over the world proclaiming someone who had been crucified, and offering a life of fasting in place of drunkenness, and irksome self-restraint in place of sensuality. It can hardly have been easy for those addicted to such vices to receive these exhortations to renounce them and live upright lives. And yet whole peoples seized upon this teaching, whole nations embraced it.

    "What was the treasure the apostles cherished? The power of the cross. He who sent them had given them no gold — that is to be found in the courts of kings. Instead he gave them something kings are incapable of acquiring — he gave mortal men the power to raise the dead and cure the sick. Compare the earth of kings with that of the apostles; notice the difference in the nobility they both possess: the king enjoys great renown; the apostles are humble but, mortal men though they are, they do the works of God by the power of God. They raise the dead, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, cure lepers, and by these signs banish infidelity and implant faith. Disbelief in the face of these miracles recorded in scripture would be truly astonishing."

    Eusebius of Emesa (AD 263-340), Or. 14, 7-8

    Eusebius was the bishop of Caesarea and is chiefly known for his Ecclesiastical History.

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    To all the rest...

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    Speaking of Reformed Catholicism, I want to reassert a point I made a few months ago when I made the rounds (for a few weeks) on the Pontificator's, Dave Armstrong's, Tim Enloe's, Kevin's, Ref's, et aliae blogs. To wit, the closer to the Catholic truth Reformeds get, the less ground they have for maintaining their separation from Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The more we see (or claim to see) that Trent (and Orthodoxy's rejection of the Reformers) was based on "mere misunderstandings," and that everyone was saying the same thing "only in different words," then the less *fundamental* disagreement there is between Reformeds and the Catholic Church. If the Reformers and Rome were in agreement the whole time, what still legitimizes the separation from Rome?

    By contrast, the deeper into Calvin's anti-Roman polemics you get, the less ground you have for reconciling with RC and Orthodoxy. This is why I am highly (but not zealously) skeptical of Ref Cath's two aims: ecumenism through catholicity. The (presumed) catholicity of the Reformers discredits their schismatic reforms; the (presumed) heresy of the Reformers, by contrast, discredits their claim to catholicity. We know Calvin et al condemned the Roman Catholic Church and, ultimately, eagerly cut themselves out of its ranks.

    But what I hear more and more from Reformed catholics, for instance, is that the reformers begat all this naughtiness because they “misperceived” what the RCC was actually teaching. Far from a cognizant, schismatic rejection of actual Catholic dogma, they were “misled” by their nominalistic biases, various devotional abuses, infelicitous non-dogmatic comments about the Eucharist, etc. into calling the RCC the synagogue of Satan. If the differences are real, however, saying anything less than this hardly seems authentically Reformed. Saying the same, though, hardly leaves room for Reformed catholicism. Reformed ecumenism is Reformed retreat.

    No matter how “catholic” the Reformers might have been, it remains clear they were not fully, catholically orthodox. No matter how close we (re)discover the reformers were to the Catholic Tradition, it is hard to deny they broke its bounds in novel ways and were thus legitimately condemned by the RCC. And even if we agree the Reformers should be pardoned for their dissent against the RCC because of their intellectual/ existential/ historical limitations, this only exaggerates the need for the Reformed world to redress its founders' withdrawal from the RCC and seek full communion again.

    The best of the best of the best

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    Kevin Johnson said I'm taking the easy way out by engaging with sub-Reformed apologetics like James White and Eric Svendsen. He said I should deal with the primary source materials of the Reformation. He said I'm not really "getting to the bottom of Protestantism but merely feeling comfortable about rejecting a fundamentalism that even many Reformed Protestants would reject today".

    My reply:

    Dear Kevin,

    I intend to read (and keep reading) the best of the best of the best theology: I'm making my way through the _Institutes_, and Mathison's _Sola Scriptura_, Ref (when I can), etc.

    But all that takes time. In the meanwhile, I have a query for you. I would like you to explain how, apart from his rejection of the riches of Christian tradition that you take a liking to, White (or Svendsen, et al.) does not press authentically Calvinist/Reformed arguments against Roman Catholicism. I mean, he may not embrace the fuller sacramental and ecclesial depths of Calvinism which Ref is working to unearth, but in what ways exactly would you or do you reject his attack on the Mass and the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, holy icons, Catholic (or Orthodox) soteriology, the mystical and intercessory communion of saints, the deuterocanonicals, the papacy/episcopacy, etc.?

    If White and Svendsen's anti-Catholic work is so sub-Reformed -- and if it didn't cost you the last hint of Reformed credibility some people give you! -- I invite you to refute White's _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ and Svendsen's _Evangelical Answers_. But, unless you're willing to refute their anti-Catholic arguments, how can you say I'm not getting a good defense of Reformed theology *as it impinges on my acceptance or rejection of Rome*, regardless how it impinges on the construction of a Second Christendom?

    It sounds like you're cutting off White's plainly Calvinist nose just to spite his plainly fundamentalist face. In White's defense (I suppose), I don't think this is fair. White's less than "catholic" Calvinism does not in any way detract from his more than anti-Roman Calvinism. You may say he doesn't represent the best of Reformed apologetics because he leaves out important parts of the story, but do you seriously believe he doesn't marshal the best arguments available against "Roman Catholic claims"?

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    最近... zur Zeit... actualmente... currently...

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    [This became a much longer post than I anticipated writing, and deals at some length with the relationship between Tradition and Scripture in the Church. I welcome your comments and trackbacks/links hereto.]

    Listening to:

    *Ahmad's Blues* by Ahmad Jamal

    A luxurious and vibrant album. I never knew how much I enjoyed piano jazz. Thanks for the refresher, Ahmad.


    _Apologia Pro Vita Sua_ by John Cardinal Henry Newman. This book is part of a lrger "Newman kick" I am working my way into. His prose is limpid and the genuineness of his soul shines through this apology (defense), the aim of which was exactly to clear Newman from suspicisons of "Romish" duplicity. I'm looking forward very much to the fifth section of it, in which Newman defends his faith in the Catholic Church.

    _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ by James White. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to cover the bases on their way into Catholicism (not the lest because you can look naysayers in the eye and say you *have* read the best apologetics and *are* still convinced of the Catholic truth). It's a hard book for me to, not because White is advancing any (or at least not many) new arguments. As I said, I have been slogging through the blog wars up to my chin for over two years. It's hard for me to read because I see how fundamentally opposed White is to the most basic elements, let alone specific doctrines, of Catholic (and Orthodox and Anglican) thought. It's almost an exercise in futility to retort to White's rigorous "pretorts", since doing so properly requires vast epistemological and philosophical preliminary groundwork. He has such a fundamentally Fundamentalist view of the Faith that it's rather like my arguing "good" vs. "bad" art with a Russian who knows no English. Each of our points have their own grammatical and aesthetic valifity, but we are simply different *cultural* beings. Jabbing our fingers at the same texts and events misses the more basic point of what we already agree or disagree those items mean in the whole web of reality. As long as White refuses to acknowledge the logical and chronological preeminence of Tradition, he will subject every thought to what he thinks is straight biblical teaching, but which is actually a rigidly constrained Enlightenment and semi-gnostic outlook.

    Speaking of the preeminence of Tradition, consider Eric Svendsen's attempt in his _Evangelical Answers_ to meet the challenge of the canon on purely scriptural grounds. He attempts to show how clearly inspired texts clearly refer to other parts of the canon as inspired, thus verifying the alleged self-testifying nature of Scripture. He notes, for example, that Paul (in 1 Timothy 5:18) quotes the Gospel of Luke in close conjunction with a similar quote from Deuteronomy, thus demonstrating Paul's unblinking acceptance of that gospel as inspired Scripture. Likewise Svendsen notes how Peter certifies the whole corpus of Paul's writings as inspired (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16). Thus, all we must do to know the canon apart from Tradition (and the Magisterium) is find enough support of all the books of Scripture *directly from Scripture*.

    Heroic as it is, this approach is rife with error. First, if all that is needed to to authenticate inspiration is a direct citation, then more than a few of the "apocryphal" books (the deuterocanonicals) get the same green light. What's more, if an intra-scriptural quote is one of the prime bases for establishing canonicity, then a few pagan works also get the green light (see Acts 17:28-29, Titus 1:12 and Jude 1:9).

    Further, apart from having received it from Christian Tradition, what basis do we have in the first place for accepting the testimony of Peter or Paul? We accept the authority of apostles for the same reason we accept their writings: by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Living Tradition of the Church tells us to.

    What is the clearest case of Tradition not only clashing with the Bible but in fact of it protecting and glorifying it? It predates the Tradition of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines established since various ecumenical councils. It predates the much discussed Tradition of the canon. It predates the Bible itself. What is this seismic Tradition? Nothing less than *the Christian tradition of honoring the Bible at all*. The Christian tradition about the Bible *could* have at some point done away with the OT and the apostles’ writings, and relied solely on Montanist-type ecstasy for guiding the Church. (Marcion and Montanus are the exact cases in point.) the Tradition *could* have been that the apostles’ writings were barred from any public access and simply adored from afar as holy objects, endowing all worshippers with magical power and eternal life, regardless of what words were in them. It *could* have been that Paul one day declared, on apostolic authority – let’s say in Berea, to spice it up – that the Gospel forbid any further consultation of the OT. It *could* have been that Jesus declared he really did come to do away with the Law and the Prophets in order to declare the Gospel of God. And it *could* have been that the Jews one day tossed the Tanakh out the window in favor of the superior Babylonians’ legal code. (In fact, this is something like what the Samaritans did, accepting only the Pentateuch since it alone had the namesake of Moses explicitly in it. Hm, sounds strangely like Protestant canonical logic....)

    Now, ex hypothesi, by what authority could we have resisted these Apostolic, Messianic and Mosaic declarations? We have no such authority. We submit to the Bible simply because the Church, that organized body of Christians into which we are born, in conjunction with the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, tells us to. The Jews did not chuck the OT because Moses, and then the Prophets, with the power and voice of God, *told* them not to. The apostles did not chuck the OT because Jesus, with the power and voice of God, *told* them not to. Early Christians did not chuck the apostles’ writings because the apostles, with the power and voice of Christ, *told* them not to. We, in turn, do not chuck the Bible (contra the Jesus Seminar, etc.) because the Church has always *told* us not to.

    Forget debating Mormons, JWs, Muslims, et al. from the Scriptures (a la Ron Rhodes). How would we resist someone even more radical that says the Bible itself, in its entirety, is bunk, and that the true Christian religion has been surviving for centuries, like a precious hidden “remnant”, in the succession of verbal prophecies in, say, Moscow, Idaho? Our only answer would and could be, “Well, that’s an interesting theory, sir, but true Christianity is *biblical*. I'm sorry to offend your Muscovite zeal, but without the Bible, there simply is no Christianity. That’s just the way we have always done it. It’s our Tradition and that’s non-negotiable.” At which point, strangely enough, a Protestant would leap in and say, “In fact, Christianity is based *solely* on the Scriptures! We are not subject to some vague Tradition. We have the Scriptures as our sole guide. That’s what true Christianity is and always has been about! It’s just the Christian way.”

    Simply stated, there is no *biblical* argument for the Bible. There is but the unbroken Judeo-Christian Tradition standing in defense of it. Strange as it may sound, I can imagine a Christianity without a Bible; but I can't begin to envision a Christianity without Christians. I can imagine a People Not-of-the-Book; but I don't see how anyone can imagine a Book not first of the People of God. And since God has always placed authoritative, albeit not sinless, leaders over His People, I am nearly as hard-pressed to imagine a Christianity without something very much like the Magisterium.

    I admit my "Tradition of the Bible" proposal may sound absurd, but that only serves to verify it. Everything in a Christian reader that is, I presume and hope, saying, "No, no it *couldn't* have been different, Elliot. The Jews, Jesus, the Apostles, the Church, nobody could have just chucked the Bible. That's impossible. God would never allow it. We believe in God alone based on the Scriptures alone." But of course, all such pleas are nothing more than the power of Christian Tradition within you. To be fair, this instinct is right: God would *not* ever allow the Bible to be dropped from Judeo-Christian Tradition since He Himself is sovereign over the maintenance and preservation of that Tradition -- just as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches teach.

    My demonstration of "the Bible Tradition" may seem so fundamental, so obvious, to you that you simply say, "Okay, fine. Of course we have to accept *that* tradition. But otherwise, from there on out, it's *prima et sola Scriptura*." But the problem is that admitting the need for "the Bible Tradition" eo ipso demolishes the "prima" in *prima Scriptura*. If the Church's "Bible Tradition" logically and historically precedes our reception and submission to the Scriptures, whence *prima Scriptura*? To be logically consistent, we must admit *prima Traditione cum Scriptura*. Neither I nor the Catholic and Orthodox Churches claim we could really be "sola Traditionalists" since, again, Tradition is inextricably bound up with the Scriptures. Tradition is formally primary; Scripture is materially primary; but their "hypostatic union" (or "hylomorphic unity") exist as one entity: the Word of God. Hence, in truth, the RCC should be accused of endorsing "sola Dei Verbum". Sola traditione christiana *et* scriptura in ecclesia.[1]

    The claim that the RCC follows *sola ecclesia* as its rule of faith -- since it defines the canon and meaning of Scripture in the life of Xns -- cuts both ways. Each of us, in the Protestant schema, defines the canon and meaning of Scripture in our own lives. What's the principled difference? I might as well say I follow "sola Elliotus" as my rule of faith. As it stands these days, I have lost the confidence-bordering-on-hubris I once had as a Presbyterian to say I can or should or *could* willfully, serenely and authoritatively interpret the Bible *apart from* the vast chorus of the historical, visible Church which the Holy Spirit has built [cf. Eph 4:11-16] and which must express itself by some concrete, identifiable means, whether in Geneva, or Rome or Constantinople or Moscow, Idaho.

    Jesus doesn't deny us the freedom to interpret the Scriptures [cf. Luke 10:26], but he always provides a clear way for us to know the Truth [cf. Luke 10:37]. God sent Jesus to *personally and visibly* resolve disputes among his disciples [cf. Luke 9:46-50]. Jesus sent his apostles to *personally and visibly* settle squabbles [cf. 1 Cor 4:19-21, 11:2, 34b; 2 Cor 10:8-11, 13:2-4; Philemon; Heb 13:22, etc.]. The Church sent people - for the first *and ensuing* generations - to personally and visibly settle disputes [cf. Acts 15:22-35; 1 Tim 4:12; 2 Tim 2:1-2; Titus 2:1, etc.] Why should I expect anything less from the God Shepherd *today*?