Mark 9:24

Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Meta for a metaphor

In Armchair Apologetics on October 31, 2012 at 2:32 am

Consider that Paul, the inspired author of most of the epistles, having seen the glorified Body of Christ, knowing what end Christ’s body finally meets, and presumably knowing about what language Christ uses about his body throughout the Gospels, uses this specific metaphor: the Church is the Body of Christ.

When Paul was made blind, what truth did he see? What truth did he say, unknowing but inspired?

What could such a metaphor really mean? If it is true, and if it is scriptural, and if it is inspired — full of the Spirit — surely it has at least a divine meaning and purpose. It must speak to some deeper principle. Catholics may point out that Christ will not die, now that the Resurrection shows He triumphs over death. Similarly, the Body of Christ will, in some visible way on this earth, live right up until the end times.

Catholics also may explain this as affirming the four marks of the Church. Like Christ’s body, Catholicism is one, a matter disputed principally by log-eyed men. She is holy, for the Church Triumphant is in heaven and the Church Suffering is headed there, however the visible Church Militant fails us. She is Catholic, which is a word that means simply universal. That the Church is apostolic is simply a way of saying her authority goes back to the apostles, which is important not because of the apostles but because of Christ. There is a real historical claim backing each of these up, putting aside doctrine and scripture, claims which have no analogue among apostasists.

I am curious what apostasists make of this passage on their own, not just what other verses they go to to defend against this interpretation. All I can think of is what apostasists cannot say.

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Heresy, that wayward righteousness

In Lay Meditations on September 16, 2012 at 6:18 am

At the core of many heresies [1], if not the spark or the first impulse, there is some understandable, and sometimes laudable, wish. Though all heresies distort some truth at the cost of others, some simplify the truth while others exaggerate a truth. What man tired of mystery isn’t tempted to want a simpler truth better understood, and what man enamored with a point of truth is not tempted to ignore other truths for the sake of his beloved?

Righteousness brings conviction, which can be a good, so long as it is applied evenly; no man with in the cancer of self-righteousness convicts oneself.

Today, simplification of divine truth is sometimes called modernism. Laughingly so, it must be hoped — accommodationists, seeking to smooth out the hard teachings of the church with a wink or a shrug, have haunted the Church in every age [2], right back to the Arians [3]. Because these Sadducees let fashion or politeness trump truth for the sake of peace, they forget the truth which sustains them; therefore, this sect dies and is forgotten [4].

More sympathetic by far, and more dangerous, is the love of truth. It is not for the hatred of the Church or Christ or the truth that a really dangerous heresy arises, but by obsession with a truth at the cost of others. Not only this, but often it is the same love of truth and hatred of scandal which causes the most lingering schisms from the Church. Take these three: In the early Church was Donatism, in the Middle Ages were the reformers, and in this age exists some forms of traditionalism [5].

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Lost at sea

In Lay Meditations on April 7, 2012 at 1:45 am

Near the shore of a storm-rocked sea, breaking foam crashing against a cliff, a lighthouse may guide the way. It is a kind of pun, and a kind of parable, to say the Church is such a lighthouse: Christ, who is the light, built His house so that we may know the Way toward Him.

I have a difficult time believing that the one, narrow Way would make so many local ways, springing up and falling down through the centuries as they do.

“If some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness.” — G. K. Chesterton

If there is one peril — Christians, you know there is ultimately one peril, which is Hell — there must be only one lighthouse. There cannot be a cloud of lighthouses. There must also be a clear idea about what that lighthouse means, where the rocks are in relation. This not just a matter of life and death but a matter of eternal life and eternal death, to borrow a turn of phrase. If there is no clear relation, we are be better off with a lifetime’s intuition, “as infants, tossed about by the waves.” But if Protestantism is true, there are two reasonable possibilities:

  • First, there is not now, and will never again be until the Second Coming, a single lighthouse. This is intolerable, if indeed this is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. Moreover, if Truth so poorly sustains we are less subject to God than to some terrible Demiurge. Hardly Christian; safely discarded.
  • Second, the true light, the Holy Spirit, we must pursue, and in the fire of pursuit are made saints. But this is also hardly Christian. Assuming your copy of Miracles lacks Chapter 11, I’m happy to explain.

If men pursue God, who therefore changes, this stands not just opposite to the sense of Jewish revelation but contrary to it.

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Horror at the mob of Christians

In On Atheism on March 31, 2012 at 1:23 am

New Atheists invoke the curious case of Hypatia in their mythology of the Christian mob, seeking to undermine the Christian claim of imitating Christ. Though New Atheists abandon good sense along the way, they certainly have the right sense. While Christianity rarely resembles a mob as much as the New Atheism, Christian mobs are always worse.

As Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem, all Christians must lament the watering down of Christianity. Only the repentant return from Babylon, and rarely if ever have all returned.

Let us remember: In the atheist age of Dawkins, there is no common ground among men opposed to God but a single cri de coeur — or is it cri du jour? — for it is a fist in flickering torchlight, raised alone against the Manor and, often, manners. As a whole, New Atheism is led not so much by figureheads but by acclamation, by which their Adams ascend and fall. They are not a community but for one purpose. If some elements dispute this characterization as odious dictionary atheism, it stands that some dispute it and some defend it. The New Atheism is self-devouring in many senses.

If I particularize the New Atheists, do not confuse this with condemning them more than anyone else. Such as it is in the eternal human story, found among pagans of every stripe. Larger devours smaller, shouts drown out saner voices. With no cause but one, such men band together only as barbarians against the eternal city — long enough to divide the spoils, but not so long as to linger together when back home. But Christians — Christians are not made for division.  Read the rest of this entry »

Admire men, those men unmired

In Armchair Apologetics on March 29, 2012 at 1:04 am

St. Thomas More’s career does not reveal a nice man, or so YouTube Atheists have revealed many times. Were this true, I could not be more surprised if they said St. Augustine had been licentious. (Arguments focusing on the bad behavior of Christians typically miss the point on several levels.)

I don't think this hangs in the papal apartment.

Putting aside ad hominem, for that is thankfully not quite universal among the anti-Christian and sadly not exclusive to them, I find two major objections:

  1. Bad behavior is not forgotten evidence, but the first evidence, datum numero uno, Exhibit A.
  2. Behavior at-large ignores the question of admiration, i.e.: Which Christians admire which Christians and why?

Our first objection is somewhat rote, however solidly true, so let’s focus on the second: Just as admiration for St. Thomas More is not from More’s jerkishness but his martyrdom and the events which led to it, St. Thomas Aquinas is not admired for his grand size but for his grander synthesis, and G.K. Chesterton is not admired for his pre-Hitler opinions on the Jews but for the joy and common sense which infused everything else he wrote, including his post-Hitler opinions on the Jews.

To wit, which Christians admire the Westboro Baptists? I suppose Westboro Baptists do, but who else? Can we really say that they, if admired by any other Christians, are admired from Christian principles?  Read the rest of this entry »

Men, die for your wives

In Lay Meditations on March 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Too many of us postmoderns wield words like a fly swatter, in fits haphazard and careful with terms. Definition, best a scalpel for discerning truth, is instead wielded as a sword, and poorly — imagine a stubborn 6-year-old boy with a pocketknife. For example, take Ephesians 5. Say some: Please.

Male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, all have some cross, in imitation of Christ. Do we imitate Him further?

For reference, refer to the two verses from Ephesians every postmodern knows of:

Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord.

… and …

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.

Why are men not required to submit? (Why does outrage so often approach glee?) From here we usually see an emotional appeal: Toss Ephesians so to toss Paul so to toss the New Testament so to toss the Bible and finally be rid of Christianity. If we love our brother, we should not let him wave his hand so furiously. His wrist will hurt.

We might begin by mentioning the preceding verse —

Be subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

— but suppose we forgot this. From just these two verses, and the smattering of Christian teaching everyone knows, we can easily appeal to truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctors of the Church

In Armchair Apologetics on February 21, 2012 at 1:28 am

Place yourself in the shoes of a pagan who knows little about Christianity, but who has taken the first step of accepting that Christ has authority and Christ is God. Our convert also knows about sin, and has the sense he is missing something. To wit, he’s sick and he knows it.

Some particular man may find walking around his fellows while sick helps. Perhaps the fresh air, or the camaraderie, rejuvenates him.

As if living a virtuous life were not already difficult enough we have to discern it, too.

But this takes too low a view of his illness, which is always terminal. It undermines the clear objection that some sick man be dissuaded of his diagnosis by meeting our wanderer, and vice versa; we also forget the effort may kill him. This also ignores our others, so ill that a brisk walk would always kill them. Hospitals, with doctors and nurses and somewhat controlled conditions, make natural sense.

I write this because Christianity presents, broadly, two choices:

  1. Merchant square, or
  2. Hospital for sinners.

If you make the case that God wants the merchant square model, you have a unique argument to hawk.

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Where points the mountain

In Lay Meditations on February 5, 2012 at 12:06 am

It takes no originality to describe the ascent to truth as climbing a mountain. Christians should take pains to add an emphasis: We do this by only by the grace of God.

Whoever we credit, rightly or wrongly, one feature of an ascent to truth is that as we near the peak it becomes clear we are not headed exactly where we thought we would be. Our chosen path turns too rocky; this land is too real.

Central to mystery is knowledge before us, but still even more some great knowledge beyond.

Discerned as it is by mortal reason, it must occur to us that this summit of small, striking truths can hardly be the Summit of All Truth; this even though the view is nothing we would have thought of; this even though it is eerily as our clearest, sharpest dreams.

From higher yet come the subtle hints of the great tapestry which is Creation, and in the thick air up here we see that we are caught on its messy side. From this height there is just the hint, just glimpse enough, of a greater pattern than we can ever know here. We can almost see something just beyond the cusp of the horizon, and only in the corner of our eye does the sun show his face.

Leaning forward, outward, past the bay below us, we sometimes see as in a sharp focus that all things, and not only all things we see, point in no uncertain direction. To what? — but at that point the horizon impedes us.

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Duck impressions

In Armchair Apologetics on January 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Suppose you want to prepare to come into the house of a man you’ve adored from afar, a man who all your life you’ve believed to enjoy bird hunting and collecting postage stamps.

Because you know you will meet him someday, you want to know as much about what he likes. These are his defining characteristics, after all — from what could you better discern truths about his character?

St. Francis preached for birds, because nobody else was around.

Even better, with effort and a fair amount of luck, you find the perfect gift — a sheet of rare 9-cent stamps showing mid-Atlantic waterfowl migration. Having deduced something about his sense of humor, you think he’d especially appreciate the printer’s error. How else would he see the Canadian Goose fly north for the winter?

Here’s the trouble: You flavor who he is based on baggage you don’t realize you have. You miss the otherwise obvious clues that show he is instead a fan of the NES game Duck Hunt and rubber line date stamps.

When you meet and this folly is revealed, our gracious host accepts your present and loves you all the more for your effort, but it’s still a major missed opportunity. Knowing you as he does, his relationship with you could not be better; your relationship with him must basically start from scratch. His use of Forever postage snaps into focus, and it dawns on you when an orange gun makes sense.

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Admirable atheists and the schizoid man

In On Atheism on August 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

There are a few atheist personalities I admire with splagchnizomai, and because of their love for truth. Doctrinally, we know atheists can have truth because God is good and without God exists nothing and nobody, and this parallels the notion introduced to me by annotations in The Divine Comedy that every vice is a twisted virtue. Lewis confirms this, most notably in Out of the Silent Planet, where “evil”  has no closer analogue in the Martian language than “bent.”

Truth is always the priority.

I repeat myself: it is a plain fact that there is truth everywhere. Indeed, it is so plain that we need not resort to religious reasoning to make heads or tails of it, though I did take that liberty. Starting from the premise that no man is wholly without virtue or truth, here are at least a few admirable trends in what so many atheists call simply, “the movement.”

  • Fidelity to truth. Rejection of Christianity may often be the first religious experience an atheist has, if from a place of reverence for truth. If from a place of mockery and iconoclasm for the sake of iconoclasm, however, it is a hollow movement.
  • Believing firmly that belief matters. Fr. Robert Barron pointed out the now-obvious observation that atheists care about religion as much as the deeply devout.
  • They are very vocal. In an age when the Gospel is stifled by pseudo-evangelical compromises and platitudes and doing your own thing, atheism rings like a clear bell in a foggy swamp, to borrow a phrase.

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