Mark 9:24

Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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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Ira pro nobis

In Dramatic Retellings on May 6, 2012 at 4:15 am

There is little on Earth so glorious as a Solemn High Mass, for it is as near we have to Heaven and as close as we’ll get to Calvary. Still, someone thought he could improve it.

As the litanies closing off the 40 Hours Devotion tapered off into the Introibo ad Altare Dei of a Blessed Sacrament votive Mass, a moment of silence opened up. Into this, a man who sounded unbalanced filled it with some extemporaneous blather.

There is something deep, wide, mysterious, solid, and true at Mass.

“Is it all right if I say a prayer?”

He went on for a bit, in forgotten forgettable words, and followed it up with Amen. A burly bass voice, probably that of the heckler’s confrère, replied jovially.

Beyond a solitary shush, everyone near me stayed silent, as if to pity the men for not recognizing a sacred place. Once the choirster pre-emptively kicked off the Kyrie — Lord have mercy, indeed — only infants in their innocence would disrupt Mass. Very small children, you see, are not culpable for stink and noise.

Seeing this kind of prayer so close to a most reverently celebrated High Mass makes parody of presuming parity. Prayers which are so much less than Mass are hardly prayer. In one kind, selfish-seeming men focused on externals and adulation from a crowd utter meaningless noises, conspiring on an occult script so as to elicit an emotional response. The other, and the opposite, is a High Mass.

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Gravitas, the light of the Son

In Armchair Apologetics, Dramatic Retellings on April 14, 2012 at 9:54 pm

What is our Christian innovation but good, clear authority? We owe no allegiance to any king before God, and after God we each owe allegiance to some other king, endowed by God with a limited right to command us. Curiously alone among the faiths, we unmistakably recognize Him as a benevolent authority commanding clearly.

If you did find God, it's because He led you to Him.

With its kind of authority claim, Christianity stands alone. Polytheists of all stripes vary wildly even within their stripe, as the faith always comes down to individual gurus or individual versions of Mars or Jupiter. New Age crystal gazers and certain pagans posit a vague benevolence, but it is a life-force we command and harness. Chinese ancestor worship doesn’t fit, for dead men tell no tales. Buddhists as such lack a loving King.  Jerusalem the dispersed and Mecca the confused, elder brothers and younger cousins of a sort, do not speak as clearly as Rome.

That God, at the end of a brief sojourn while having his glorified Resurrection body, would as his last act appoint an office manager and a supervisory staff of eleven is remarkably audacious, even novel.  On a moment’s reflection, the practicality of this thing reveals, as in the satisfying click of a lightswitch, a wryness about God. Of course that’s the right way to do it, say the pagans, why didn’t anyone think of it before? 

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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 »

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 »

Samaritan, the mountain pass

In Faith and Reason on March 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

When truth is such an uphill climb, how many men remain in the valleys; how praiseworthy are they who even make the attempt upward.

Among those approaching us at our mountaintop siesta, hopping on the left foot, are the anti-metaphysicians, those materialists who deny even philosophy. Closely behind them, hopping on the right foot, are the apostasists, encumbered by their fathers’ ecclesial fallacies.

We must stand men we cannot stand, for they cannot stand at all.

Where materialists and amaterialists hop, wobble, fall, convicted in belief, Catholics must be the Good Samaritan. Why would we worry? Our faith is the true footing.

Anti-metaphysicians have both faith and reason, lauding the latter to distraction. Denying the metaphysical as much as possible, they prefer a bare minimum faith in one’s senses; not just irrefutable things but inevitable things are their dogmas. True things must be obvious, say they, and so they bind themselves to nothing but that which is already bound. In practice, these materialists test the binding by breaking out of it, at which point it becomes rebellion and willfulness.

Apostasists represent manhandling little truths, unreasonably forcing facts to fit faith. As with all rationalization, all true things bound their way are distorted, a shield against things bound against them. In this way, convenient truths and inconvenient truths are likewise bound to their will. Apostasism is the reverse of the anti-metaphysicians, and it is the same — it becomes rebellion and willfulness. Read the rest of this entry »

Crosseyed

In Armchair Apologetics on February 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

If we accept apostasy, we must accept that it weighs us down. In evangelizing, we must prove to honest men of reason that this terrible burden is a reasonable one.

It is a terrible burden because it means God’s Own True Church, founded to redeem men from sin, could not withstand sin. If you are to stay Christian, I don’t see any honest way around this.

If we see here that even Truth can fall, we are mistaken. We forget that He allows it, perhaps to show that even under persecution He rises.

You may deny reason, but you deny a gift of God. You may deny honesty, but then you do not worship Truth. You may deny evangelism, but you deny loving your neighbor.

Because such crosses deserve names, if you do accept the apostasy hypothesis I give you the name apostasist. Your religion foundationally includes this specific article of faith: the True Church, despite being founded by God Himself, was lost when doctrines were changed, altered or lost, either immediately or over the centuries. Your company includes non-Catholic Christians, various sub-Christian and non-Christian sects and certainly a few cults.

Why such wide company?  Apostasism necessarily does create not clarities or mysteries but novelties. From here, it is easy to see how apostasism harms evangelization.  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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Opposed even to God, opposed to the mandate

In Pursue Truth on February 20, 2012 at 5:41 am

I know of an atheist, opposed even to God, who stated that the Health and Human Services mandate amounts to a rope around his neck — how much more ours?

If you are in favor of this mandate — which compels all employers to pay, through an insurance company, for contraception coverage even when the employer considers it religiously objectionable — you do not give the devil the benefit of the Constitution.

We did not want this fight.

I understand this impulse but for the clear objection: What then when the devil turns round on you?

If you don’t care for freedom of religion, consider that leaving undefended any point of the Bill of Rights is a dangerous precedent. If you don’t care for the Bill of Rights, I wonder with what bread and circuses we’ll ignore the guillotine. Yes, I liken this rope about our necks to be more of a guillotine; no, I do not mean this in a silly, chest-pounding, partisan way.

But before I explain why, I note that, in perhaps a routine pose that I hope is not its most substantial defense, the Obama administration does not yet argue that this action is Constitutional; the Department of Justice — by the by, not consulted — filed a motion to dismiss, instead arguing that the issue is not ripe. This amounts to saying: “No harm yet, therefore no foul.”

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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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