The Terrors of Certainty

Does this Make Jason and the Callers Terrorists?

I can’t say I agree with this fellow’s reasoning, but when it comes to charism he seems to have more of it than the guy in the flannel cap.

One of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, and the leader of one of the most “liberal” Catholic hierarchies in the world, has denounced “traditional” young people for wanting “to be clear in their positions,” warning that it is a path to “terrorism.” In a related interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishops’ conference, applauded people in homosexual partnerships who want a “lifelong” relationship.

“I am astonished that most of our young people, and also Catholic homosexuals who are practicing, want a relationship that lasts forever,” Marx told America. “We must begin with the main points of the doctrine, to see the dream: the dream is to have a person say, a man and woman say, ‘You and you, forever. You and you, forever.’ And we as church say, ‘Yes, that’s absolutely OK. Your vision is right!’

“So we find the way. Then perhaps there is failure. They find the person, and it is not a great success. But life-long fidelity is right and good.”

He added, “The church says that a gay relationship is not on the same level as a relationship between a man and a woman. That is clear. But when they are faithful, when they are engaged for the poor, when they are working, it is not possible to say, ‘Everything you do, because you are a homosexual, is negative.’”

In his Stanford lecture, Cardinal Marx said, “I had a discussion with some of the students,” before the lecture, who asked him, “‘Cardinal is it true that the younger people are more traditional?’ And that’s true.”

“But that is not dangerous,” he said. “I have no problem with tradition. But we have also the tendencies that the people want to be clear in their positions. Black and white populism is growing in Europe. And that is the beginning, perhaps, of populism, of terrorism, that’s clear.”

“The atmosphere of reducing the complexity of the world, to give simple answers, to give black and white answers, is growing, and I think that is very dangerous,” the cardinal said.

Maybe Jason and the Callers’ defense is they aren’t young people.


56 thoughts on “The Terrors of Certainty

  1. Jeremy Tate – Jeremy is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington D.C (M.A.R). He first experienced a conversion to the Christian faith through the ministry of Young Life as a senior in high school. At Louisiana State University Jeremy explored a variety of campus ministries before discovering Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). Through RUF he came to understand the necessity of the Church for living the Christian life. While in seminary he gradually came to believe that this Church can only be found in its fullness in the Catholic Church. He currently lives in Annapolis, MD where he teaches U.S. History and leads Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jeremy and his wife Erin are expecting their fourth child.

    Tater was always such a feisty little bugger here in OL comboxes.

    Contra Frank, maybe for the Taters (what’s Taters precious?), 4 or more is about right

    Pope ‘sorry’ for rabbit remark: Francis apologises for press conference comment about large Catholic families
    Last month, Pope Francis said there was no need to breed ‘like rabbits’
    He urged ‘responsible parenthood’ and said three children was ‘about right’
    Comments sparked anger and some said they are hurtful to Catholic mums
    Pope ‘truly sorry’ his remarks about families ’caused such disorientation’


  2. I’ve never been as unimpressed with the notion of basic Catholic decency and morality than I have of late:

    * Jason goes blue regularly in a podcast with an unbeliever

    * Bryan rallies behind Jason, comparing him to a modern day G.K. Chesterton or Walker Percy

    * Kenneth tells lies about me publicly and offers no remorse or apology

    * I find gay pornography, some of it of a quite heinous and possibly illegal belonging to a self-professed “progressive Catholic”

    How much of this is a consequence of a system that says when you sin, don’t worry. You just follow the steps to get back in God’s good graces without worrying about the harm you’ve done to others?

    How many of these guys are duped into thinking that as long as they’re on the Pope’s team, that’s all that matters?

    It’s messed up.


  3. It is the dignity and the danger of Protestantism that it exposes its adherents to the insecurity of asking the question of truth for themselves and that it throws them into the freedom and responsibility of personal decisions, of the right to choose between the ways of the sceptics, and those who are orthodox, of the indifferent masses, and Him who is the truth that liberates. For this is the greatness of Protestantism: that it points beyond the teachings of Jesus and beyond the doctrines of the Church to the being of Him whose being is the truth.


  4. A hymn written by Cardinal Marx:

    A debtor to mercy from Rome,
    Develp’ment Of doctrine I sing,
    Nor fear, with Frank’s charism on,
    My novel constructions to bring.
    The terrors of law and of God
    With me can have nothing to do;
    The Caller’s approach is a dud
    Come, Bryan, please adopt the new view.


  5. In a church full of people such as Mother Theresa and St. Francis, why do so many converts to Rome want so badly to be Graham Greene or Jack Kerouac?


  6. ec, beware the obedience boy temptation. Dishonest sales pitches are different from ongoing sin. Plus, Christians shouldn’t be known for being better than other people.


  7. D.G.,

    I disagree. We can overreact to The Obedience Boys. If there is no visible moral difference between Christians in churches and pagans outside of churches why would I believe anything taught in said churches? Why would Paul speak of Christians with whom we should not even eat? Let Bryan Cross be the one who boils the Faith down to mere head games.


  8. If there’s no difference how would it be just to excommunicate people for moral failure combined with lack of repentance? Hey, we’re all sinners, just keep showing up. That’s what liberals do.


  9. ec, “If there is no visible moral difference between Christians in churches and pagans outside of churches why would I believe anything taught in said churches?”

    Because you need the righteousness of Christ?

    All I’m saying is, when Christians talk about being different (read better) from the rest, they are glorifying themselves not God.


  10. Law/gospel tension is a healthy thing & those who try to smooth it over too much inevitably end up either in the Motel 6 with the pants around the ankles or on TBN with a bunch of oddballs.

    I say maintain the tension. Kind of like how I know mom & dad love me, but I’m not testing it by pulling too much s**t.


  11. Here’s a Rorschach test: Does Covenant Reformed & the Central Classis of the URCNA owe Patrick Edouard an apology for deposing him as a minister after he admitted to sleeping with members of his congregation?

    If the Church is a hospital for sinners and Christians can’t be expected to behave any better than anyone else, why should he subject to unemployment just because of normal human foibles? After all, he felt bad, he apologized.

    If all his job entails is preaching an objective message of forgiveness that is outside himself, why should his behavior be important? He’s just the messenger — the message is all about Jesus.

    We do have a practical problem that the man is now in prison, but why couldn’t he continue in ministry up until he left and get his job back when he returns? He was never accused of preaching false doctrine.


  12. And then take the test a step further. A Southern Presbytery of the OPC disciplines a minister because his wife and daughter are not in worship.

    Were the Presbytery in error for practicing church discipline at all?

    Was the Presbytery in error for confusing erratic church attendance with sin?

    If erratic church attendance is a sin is it a greater sin than say, adultery, because church attendance gives us access to Word & Sacrament whereas adultery is just something common that we share with the rest of humanity, of whom we can not be expected to act any better?


  13. The obedience boy question is partially answered (as implied by Erik) by 1) the commands regarding church discipline and 2) the qualifications for the church offices. We ought to be growing in our obedience.

    The dangers of overstating the obedience case are illustrated by Lot and Samson. And maybe by Stephen King’s Tommyknockers (you are not “becoming”).

    Mostly joking in regards to King.


  14. I think the greatest dangers of Obedience Boy-ism is men who have a tin ear, come off as bullies or boors, and confuse actual sins with their own private conceptions of sin. This is where we get people going the extra mile to set up systems that they think will promote holiness but only end up getting people in bigger messes than they started out in (think Doug Phillips & Bill Gorthard).

    I get concerned, though, when I see the reaction against these guys veer into antinomianism, which just plays into the other side’s hands.

    People need to have enough wisdom to stay in the middle on law/gospel and don’t go careening off to one extreme or another. That’s why I quit defending things like nudity in film — I started to look like a stubborn tool instead of just admitting that I sometimes make compromises and enjoy things that maybe I shouldn’t.


  15. Erik, just a quick note to commend your statements here on sanctification which comport well with the Heidelberg:

    Question 45. What does the “resurrection” of Christ profit us?

    Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; (a) secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; (b) and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.

    Question 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?

    Answer: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ’s blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; (a) and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives.

    Question 81. For whom is the Lord’s supper instituted?

    Answer: For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.


  16. Erik, stick to links, and keep away from grammar. That’s what I do, and I get all the chicks, let me tell you!

    Oh, and copy paste of the confessional documents, see, I can do that too:

    CHAPTER 13
    Of Sanctification

    1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

    3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

    My life greatly improved when I subscribed to RubeRad’s daily westminster and daily catechism, straight to my inbox, every 12:17am. Just thought you would all want to know how sanctified I am, yo, and all that.

    Oh, and Kenneth is defending the doctrine of Hell with the drunks. Breaking out the popcorn, my friends, enjoy the show!


  17. Mark,

    For whatever reason I think the continental Reformed struggle less with these law/gospel tensions than Presbyterians do, which is odd because the Westminster Longer goes into much greater detail in specifically cataloguing sins.

    How I get in the middle of these intra-Presbyterian debates is another question…


  18. Erik, I spent the weekend with my fellow church mates, helping a retired OPC minister move. They are around my age or younger, were raised CRC (me, an ex-fundy).

    I actually didn’t know until I looked up on WIKI that the RCA is the church from the 17th century here in the Americas, the CRC was a 19th century split off, all I knew was the URCNA was relatively young (mid 90’s or so).

    Anyway, I appreciate the rich heritage of the dutch.

    They threw in a Also, “If you ain’t dutch, you ain’t much”. in this thread, love the “overly presbyterian church”, yo. That link is worth a click if can spare the few minutes. Toodles.


  19. Andrew,

    The CRC began with a group of newer, poorer Dutch immigrants who were initially assisted by the wealthier, more established RCA. They soon split off (After only about seven years, if I remember correctly) over concerns about Freemasonry and other things. When the CRC started (in 1857?) I think they only had six churches. Kromminga’s CRC history gets into all this. Interesting stories.

    One of the original CRC church buildings is still standing in Pella, I believe.


  20. Erik, I don’t think the point is that the third use and discipline are negligible. I think the point is that moral superiority isn’t a mark of the church. How could it be with the third mark being exercised?


  21. Belgic 29 on the marks of the Christian (distinguished from the marks of the church):

    “With respect to those, who are members of the Church, they may be known by the marks of Christians: namely, by faith; and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Saviour, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbour, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. “


  22. Mark, but where is all things being equal, the best human beings around” or “morally superior to those outside the church”?


  23. Zrim,

    I think the problem you run into are with Paul. He makes lists of what Christians look like and what people who aren’t Christians look like — long lists.

    He goes a step further and says that church leaders need to meet even higher standards.

    Then he goes even further and says that, after due process, we shouldn’t even eat with people who call themselves Christians but don’t line up with the lists — at least when it comes to serious, public sins. 1 Corinthians 5:

    Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

    5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

    3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled bin the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.1

    6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church2 whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

    So if a church tolerates gross public sins on the part of its members, that’s a problem. It’s not that they’re “the best human beings around”, but their behavior had better be better than those around them.


  24. Erik, if our behavior is better than those around then why can’t we claim to be better human beings? But no disagreement that if a church tolerates gross public sins on the part of its members, it’s a problem. The comparison is the believer to God’s law, not the believer to the non-believer (or the church to the world).


  25. We would have no claim to being better human beings because fruits of the Spirit are just that – fruits of the Holy Spirit that lives in us and are working in and through us.

    Guilt-Grace-Gratitude. No boasting or lording over allowed.

    I have experienced this pretty consistently in a decade in the URCNA. People seem to get it.


  26. Erik, that’s fine but what you had said originally and seem to want to keep saying is this: “If there is no visible moral difference between Christians in churches and pagans outside of churches why would I believe anything taught in said churches?” That sounds like the moral superiority of its members is a mark of a true church. What happens when the members of the Mormon church or Masonic Temple down the street seem to outshine the church bearing all three marks?


  27. Zrim,

    That’s a really good question.

    I need one of Chortles’ Venn diagrams.

    Two circles: right doctrine and right living. Where they overlap are the true churches and believers.

    If you go to a church where the teaching sounds solid, but everyone is sleeping with everyone else – run away.

    If you go to a church with exemplary families but they tell you that you will become a god – run away.


  28. For me a lot of it comes down to, anyone can say they believe anything, but people who really believe something worth believing are usually people you can trust, who avoid life-altering sins, and who exhibit sound judgment in their day-to-day lives. Belief and practice are always ultimately linked.

    If not, why did Jesus come to teach as well as to live a sinless life (other than the redemptive reasons)? Why not just say a bunch of heavy things and live like everyone else? That’s what most intellectuals throughout history have done. Does it make them wrong about everything? No. Does it make them worthy of worship as Jesus is? No.

    We emulate Jesus, not those intellectuals.


  29. Erik, I hear you. I just worry about placing yokes on ordinary believers to somehow outpace everybody else. It sounds good for about three minutes until you realize it’s hard enough measuring against God’s objective law–adding the subjective opinions of men makes it worse.


  30. Zrim,

    I agree with that.

    That’s where we get into debates not over sin, but in methods that people advocate for avoiding sin. To that I say we can agree that X is sin, but you may take path A to avoiding it while I take path B. If you want me to take path A like you, tough — that’s just your preference.

    This is where Christian liberty is an issue and why having things like the URCNA Church Order requiring elders to “promote godly schooling” is a legitimate concern. My kids schooling is not the issue, my kids learning and living up to reasonable expectations for their Christian morality is the issue and how I get there as a parent is my decision, not my church’s decision or my elder’s decision.


  31. Add to that decisions on things like what my wife wears, what my daughters wear, what kind of music I listen to, what kinds of music my kids listen to, how we spend our time on Sundays outside of worship, and a host of other issues that are matters for my conscience, not someone else’s opinion.


  32. The opinions I’ve learned to care deeply about are the opinions of those I’ve made vows to, those who share my blood, those I spend holidays with, and those who will likely be at my bedside when I die. Everyone else is a distant second, unless they make a very compelling case that I’ve overlooked something that God has told me very clearly that I should or should not be doing.

    And even then, you had better be nice about it or I’ll tell you to get lost based on your bad attitude.


  33. EC, you wrote yesterday: “A Southern Presbytery of the OPC disciplines a minister because his wife and daughter are not in worship.”

    As a member of the Southern Presbytery of the OPC (Presbytery of the Southeast), but not a member of the judicatory (as I was not a member of the presbytery until after the trial was underway), I can tell you that the Presbytery did not discipline the man. Rather the presbytery proposed discipline pending all appeals. The minister is not today under discipline and will not be unless and until his appeal were to fail.

    Secondly, the Presbytery only proposed suspension from the office and did not propose suspension from the means of grace. The presbytery did not question the salvation of the minister, only his ongoing qualifications to be a minister of the Word. Hopefully these are helpful clarifications.


  34. EC,

    It was encouraging to read that you have changed your view on some moral issues such as nudity on film. I read OldLife often and sometimes scroll through comments. In times past I have often been amazed at some of the things I have seen defended by commenters.

    My views have changed over time, Lord willing more in conformity to the Word of God, and it is a rare thing in the social media world to see a change acknowledged. Thank you, it is helpful for us who generally linger in the read only section.



  35. B,

    Before you put me up for sainthood, I’m not saying that I never watch nudity in film any more. I still watch R rated stuff. I just don’t try to say the content is not problematic for a Christian.

    I do agree with Darryl that as mature people we weigh these types of things with the artistic and intellectual merits on one side and the objectionable content on the other and sometimes decide to watch in spite of the objectionable content. That’s what grown men do. Will we have to answer for that someday? We might.


  36. B,

    On the trial, are we Monday morning quarterbacking? Yes.

    Is the trial fodder for that kind of thing? Yes, especially given Valerie’s article that The Aquila Report picked up.

    It appears to me that it is a situation that could have been finessed short of a trial, but I could be wrong. I just don’t see any public scandal on the part of the minister. I admittedly don’t know all of the details, though.

    That’s perhaps the problem with a trial that is part public, part executive session. It might be wiser to go all one way or the other.


  37. An underlying theme of the trial that concerns me is the degree to which mistaken notions of patriarchy may have creeped in. The notion that a Christian man keeps his women folk fully under control. This notion has some biblical merit, but it also has the tendency to go to far in the hands of sinful men (which we all are) — something we see from Tim Bayly, Doug Phillips, and some of their allies. It has a way of not ending well.


  38. EC,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Regarding the trial, I am not going to argue one way or the other to your points as I do not want to influence the due process that the case is still going through. Maybe afterwards we can talk one on one.

    Regarding facts of the events, the Aquila articles are short on them as would only be expected from an observer present for less than 1/7 of the trial and other commentators present for 0% of the trial.

    Monday morning quarterbacking is common, the problem of course is when we Monday morning quarterback without having seen the game itself or when we make our opinion from someone who saw less than 1/7 of the game and spent most of their time talking about the waiting lines for concessions.

    I would encourage discussion with those present for most or all of the case before coming to any conclusions.


  39. THe OPC trial got Reddit attention, Shane Anderson is being evaluated by the redditors (in case anyone was wondering):

    One comment from Shane Anderson on the Aquila Report facebook page:
    Tragic to see so much speculation (i.e. gossip) and accusations against an entire presbytery, it’s pastoral ministry, and the many church members (men, women, and children) who served that day be passed along casually in this public space.
    First we get a microaggression deconstruction of the presbytery, claiming that we don’t honor women’s bodies–a frankly bizarre accusation that has nothing to do with the reality of our life together in Christ. This is offered by a scholar who flew halfway around the world (who pays for this sort of thing?) to our tiny church and attended 1/7 of a multi year trial that involved years of other interactions. Even the day she attended, a significant portion of the content was behind closed doors. But this account gets reproduced and spread as if it is true.
    Now we have a minister, from another denomination weighing in on a case he also has no involvement in, and which is still being appealed, based on his private interactions with people he knows—-is any of this appropriate? What happened to scriptural methods?
    I was there, and the accounts we are hearing are selective and highly prejudicial. I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears an entirely different story: a church that loves its members, is patient, and wants desperately to restore broken relationships in Christ’s grace. I don’t say this to defend myself– I say this because our churches and ministers are Christ’s and love his sheep and his ministry of grace, they are not perfect, but they are not what they are being publicly smeared as.


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