2K Makes You (and mmmeeeeEEEE) Virtuous

That’s because two-kingdom theology allows you to distinguish between what is and isn’t explicitly a matter of faith.

For instance, Rod Dreher goes batty over Ben Carson’s remark (in support of Trump) that “Sometimes you put your Christian values on pause to get the work done.”

Unless Rod is thinking about joining the Covenanters, his very citizenship is an instance of putting aside Christian convictions — the Constitution, hello! — in order to accomplish a measure of social order among a people with different religious (and other) convictions. Or is Dreher in favor, as an Orthodox Christian, of some kind of Constantine political order? Then please send back the advance on the book on the Benedict Option since the original Benedict Option arose out of a sense that political establishment compromised genuine faith.

A little 2k could also help Archbishop Chaput who seems to be doing his impersonation of college undergraduates who fear the campus of Princeton University is but little removed from Ferguson, Missouri. The wikileaks of emails with critical remarks about Roman Catholic political maneuvering shows a hyper-sensitivity normally associated with 19-year olds (maybe spoiled ones at that). Chaput quotes approvingly an email from a non-Roman Catholic friend:

I was deeply offended by the [Clinton team] emails, which are some of the worst bigotry by a political machine I have seen. [A] Church has an absolute right to protect itself when under attack as a faith and Church by civil political forces. That certainly applies here . . .

Over the last eight years there has been strong evidence that the current administration, with which these people share values, has been very hostile to religious organizations. Now there is clear proof that this approach is deliberate and will accelerate if these actors have any continuing, let alone louder, say in government.

These bigots are actively strategizing how to shape Catholicism not to be Catholic or consistent with Jesus’s teachings, but to be the “religion” they want. They are, at the very core, trying to turn religion to their secular view of right and wrong consistent with their politics. This is fundamentally why the Founders left England and demanded that government not have any voice in religion. Look where we are now. We have political actors trying to orchestrate a coup to destroy Catholic values, and they even analogize their takeover to a coup in the Middle East, which amplifies their bigotry and hatred of the Church. I had hoped I would never see this day—a day like so many dark days in Eastern Europe that led to the death of my [Protestant minister] great grandfather at the hands of communists who also hated and wanted to destroy religion.

Michael Sean Winters thinks that the charge of anti-Catholic bigotry is overheated and shows the calming effects of 2k:

The supposed “bigotry” towards the Catholic Church exposed in the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, released by Wikileaks last week, is nothing of the sort, despite the best attempts of some to make it so. This whole controversy is simply an effort, a stupid effort, to stop Clinton’s ascent to the White House. I say stupid because crying “wolf” is never a smart political or cultural strategy and, besides, anyone who is genuinely concerned about bigotry could not possibly be supporting Trump. This is about Republican operatives who hold the portfolio for Catholic outreach doing their part to ingratiate themselves with Trump.

Even though Winters is Roman Catholic and writes for the National Catholic Reporter, his additional comments reveal that he understands 2k and is willing to employ it:

First, conservative Catholics have every right to be Republicans, to try and play their faith in ways that correspond to their conscience, to reach conclusions that might differ from that of more liberal Catholics. They sometimes leave aside certain concerns that I think are central to the relevance of our faith at this time in history, but as Halpin said in explaining the context of the email, there are those on the left who do the same. The bastardization came when conservative Catholics claimed theirs was the only acceptable application of faith. Second, by aiding the reduction of faith to morals, these conservative Catholics have unwittingly been agents of the very same secularization they claim to oppose. As soon as our faith is no longer about the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, it has no claims to authority and people will walk away.

The only problem for Winters is that his bishops and pope keep commenting on political matters that invite the laity to bastardize the faith by seeking papal authority to back up — like — their own opinions — man.

Even Kevin DeYoung sheds a little 2k light to the allies who are usually tongue-tied by the transformationalist rhetoric of its NYC celebrity preachers:

This does not mean I think every Christian must come to the same decision in order to be a good Christian. There are simply too many prudential matters in the mix for Christians to be adamant that you absolutely cannot vote for so and so. . . . While our church might discipline a member for holding the positions Clinton holds or for behaving the way Trump has behaved, this does not mean we have biblical grounds for disciplining a church member who, for any number of reasons and calculations, may decide that voting for either candidate (or neither) makes the most sense. And if we wouldn’t discipline someone for a presidential vote, we should stop short of saying such a vote is sinful and shameful.

Now just imagine if Pastor DeYoung’s church or those of his gospel co-allies actually disciplined ministers who supported ministries of different faith and practice. It would be like having the Gospel Coalition show precisely the opposite of what DeYoung recommends for Christians when sorting out politics — firm about theology and ministry, soft about policy. But as we now know, the opposite is usually par for the course — indifferent about denominational distinctness and aggressive about civil affairs.

More 2k, more confessionalism, healthier churches, better citizens. Will that fit on a bumper sticker?

The Trinity is so Fourth Century

While New Calvinists decide how to receive the teachings of Eastern bishops, Roman Catholic cardinals have moved on. According to Christoph Cardinal Schonborn:

AL [Amoris Laetitia] is an act of the magisterium that makes the teaching of the Church present and relevant today. Just as we read the Council of Nicaea in the light of the Council of Constantinople, and Vatican I in the light of Vatican II, so now we must read the previous statements of the magisterium about the family in the light of the contribution made by AL.

The funny thing about the evangelical controversy over the Trinity, the updated version offered by the likes of Ware and Grudem comes for the sake of outdated views of women’s roles.

Appropriating the past is tricky. Best to hire a historian.

Roman Catholics and Calvinists Together

It may not be ecumenical, but Michael Sean Winters understands what some of us have been sayin‘:

What is it about bathrooms? Throughout the Jim Crow South, there were separate restrooms for blacks and whites. When I bring my dad, my uncle and my niece to Puerto Rico every winter, my niece claims the one bedroom with the private bathroom and the guys share the other one. Three hundred years ago, it was a mark of honor to be able to accompany the monarch as he took his toilette. Now, privacy seems most significant, and therefore the most easily endangered, when we discuss bathrooms.

Still, even I have been taken aback by the current “bathroom wars,” fought over the issue of whether or not transgender persons should use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender at the time of their birth or to the gender by which they now identify themselves.

I am surprised, first, that this issue has seemingly become the next frontier in the civilizational struggle for equality. I understand that the issue is of great concern to the sliver of the population that is transgender. A family I know has a child that just changed his gender, and the process, and the result of the process, has certainly not been without anxiety and stress. The fact that the legal struggle seems focused on schools, when all kids are going through puberty, seems especially designed to throw gasoline on the fire. My sense is that this issue has less to do with the people it ostensibly concerns and more with those who are professional culture warriors on both the left and the right.

It baffles me that the Obama White House has latched on to this issue as a key part of its legacy. The fact that his administration has done so does not evidence the breadth of concern for other human beings and their travails. No, it evidences the degree to which some on the left, especially those with power, glom on to whatever issue seems trendy and cool at the moment. As Thomas Frank points out in his new book Listen Liberals, the “creative classes” that dominate the liberal establishment are far more animated by the need to get someone an abortion than they are to get people a job. Furthermore, how is this a federal issue?

It also baffles me that conservative critics of any accommodations being made for transgender people use such false and inflammatory language to describe the situation, warning darkly that the Obama Administration rules would allow men to prey on your daughters in the bathroom. (What is to prevent predators from doing that now?) A transgender person who now identifies as female and desires to use the women’s bathroom is probably going to cause less of a stir in the ladies’ room than in the men’s room. Think of Caitlyn Jenner. The way she looks now, I can’t imagine feeling comfortable if she walked into the men’s room.

Can Sexism Be Far Behind?

In the run-up to the PCA’s debates about repenting corporately for racism, I wonder if the opponents of racism have left room for excluding women from church office. Consider the following definition of racism (with assertions of gender hierarchicalism for the r-word):

Racism Excluding women from special office is the denial of the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27) and its implications to someone of another ethnicity sex. Racism Male-only elders and deacons in the church is a contradiction of the visible unity of all believers in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22, Revelation 5:9, 7:9). Racism inside and outside the church Male privilege inside the church and the family is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31, Luke 10:25-37, esp. 29, 37), and of God’s creation of all people in his image (Genesis 1:27, Acts 17:26). So theologically, racism preference for men in church office entails a denial of the biblical doctrines of creation, man, the communion of saints and is disobedience to the moral law. We will not mince words. Racism Male dominance in church office and marriage is not only sin, serious sin, it is heresy.

To be clear, racism is arguably different from excluding women from church office. Furthermore, the consequences of racism have been far more consequential than barring women from special ecclesiastical office (though I know some feminists disagree). But the question is whether the PCA’s condemnation of racism leaves wiggle room for distinguishing racial equality from equality of the sexes. (Have we all forgotten the CRC‘s arguments for ordaining women?)

In fact, the power of egalitarianism is so strong you have to wonder if the PCA will have the wits in a decade to avoid repenting not merely for tolerating financial inequality among its members but even advocating it. After all, once you start down the road of equality, doesn’t history suggest your brake fluid runs dry? Consider the logic of social justice warfare among Roman Catholics:

We have an economy of exclusion, and a polity that refuses to challenge the ideology of the market that has generated the economy of exclusion. We do not start with the most basic human quality, work. We start with an alien and hateful ideology rooted in supposed “economic laws” that are, in fact, human creations, not natural ones, but which are so prevalent, no one dares to question them. This is why, if you go to a conference on Laudato Si’ and they do not speak about both human ecology and multinational corporations, they don’t get it.

Dueling Videos

When you live by the image, do you also die by the moving image?

Whatever the answer, Roman Catholics are decidedly split over videos produced by the infallible magisterium.

Less restrictive Roman Catholics like Michael Sean Winters and Anthony Annett are cringing over the USCCB’s video on religious liberty.

Annett comments:

First, the video’s approach to liberty genuflects at the U.S. Constitution. From the outset, the video sets the standard for religious liberty in the U.S. constitutional order rather than the Gospel. With its tropes about our “first freedom,” it fails to appreciate the roots of this in Lockean liberalism—predicated on an autonomous individual shaking off coercion, rather than on a social animal seeking the good realized in mutual relationships. In the Catholic conception, this “common good” is the highest good in political life, and it cannot be reduced to the good of individuals, either taken separately or summed. In this Catholic framework, the role of the state is the realization of this common good, not the protection of individual liberty. And yes, by the principle of subsidiarity, this includes respecting the legitimate autonomy of the Church. But this is a very different perspective on religious liberty from the one arising from the U.S. constitutional framework.

Second, the video wallows in America-first jingoistic nationalism. The video is replete with “patriotic” images like American flags. Even worse, it goes “all in” on American exceptionalism, with one speaker even proclaiming that “the U.S. is the greatest country in the history of the world.” This derives from a quasi-Calvinist notion of America being the realm of God’s chosen people, which is completely antithetical to Catholicism and insulting to Catholics all over the world. Another speaker argues that the American approach to religious liberty should be “a model” for the rest of the world. Honestly, the slogan “make America great again” wouldn’t have been out of place in this video.

Third, the video presents a misleading and partisan view of religious liberty violations in the United States. It claims that the Little Sisters of the Poor are being “harassed by the U.S. government,” when this “harassment” boils down to filling out a form to opt out of the mandate to include contraception in health-insurance plans. (To be fair, I believe that the Little Sisters do have a valid argument on principle, but to claim harassment is way over the top). Aside from the contraception mandate, the video also refers to the legalization of same-sex marriage and even to the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma. It makes references to the rights of business, but not to the duties of business or the rights of workers. Missing is any reference to the egregious attacks on the religious liberty of Muslims, most notably with the Republican presidential candidate calling for a complete ban on people entering the country based solely on religion. Missing is any reference to local (typically Republican) government efforts to impede the Church’s ability to aid migrants and refugees—the criminalization of a basic Christian duty. And in the week that Dan Berrigan died, missing is any reference to religious-based conscientious objection to funding the great evil of nuclear weapons. And yes, the video includes Hillary Clinton, for some bizarre reason, but not Donald Trump. We know that images speak volumes.

He has three more points.

In contrast we have Pope Francis’ most recent prayer video.

To which Michael Matt (apparently not a pay, pray and obey Roman Catholic — but neither is Annett showing great subjection to his bishops) responds:

If Pope Francis really wants to do something for women, he should denounce the very idea that divorced and remarried Catholics–public adulterers who have abandoned their wives!–can return to the sacramental life of the Church. He should hold high the model of the Virgin Mary, Queen of heaven and earth. He should consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. He should advocate for the safe return of wives and mothers to the exalted pedestals Christendom built for them a thousand years ago (so despised by the modern feminists). He should turn away from the fanatical Modernist ideology that is destroying the Church, undermining the family, eradicating Christian marriage and leaving women vulnerable to a vicious world where morality is no more, marriage contracts mean nothing, sex means everything and women are left to fend for themselves without children, husband, or God. And this wretched condition they would call emancipation?

The remarkable aspect of this contrast is not simply the significant disagreement among the laity in a communion whose apologists trumpet the church’s unity, but also the very different messages the bishops are sending despite papal supremacy and audacity.

As Annett says:

I don’t see the USCCB devoting nearly as much attention to the priorities of Pope Francis—climate change and environmental degradation, poverty and inequality, the global arms trade and the death penalty, care for migrants and refugees.

Which Roman Catholic will tell Protestants who the real Roman Catholics are?

Why Worry About Change?

When you can always interpret.

George Weigel tries to get out in front of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on the family. But he couldn’t beat Cardinal Kasper (and, oh, by the way doesn’t a Cardinal outrank a layman in teaching authority?):

As is his wont, Cardinal Walter Kasper was first out of the starting blocks, announcing that the apostolic exhortation (whose date of publication he got wrong) would be a first step in vindicating his proposals for a “penitential path” by which the divorced and civilly remarried could be admitted to holy communion—despite the fact that his proposal had been roundly criticized and rejected at both Synods and in various scholarly articles and books in between. The Kasper spin was then picked up by some of the usual media suspects, who called on the usual Catholic talking heads on the port side of the Barque of Peter, who took matters further by speculating that the apostolic exhortation would open up even more revolutionary paths, involving the Church’s eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage and other matters on the LGBT agenda.

But not to worry, the Council that many think unsettled the church has actually settled what popes can do:

By declining Paul VI’s suggestion about a papacy “accountable to the Lord alone,” Vatican II made clear that there are limits to what popes can do. On the bottom-line matters at issue in the two recent Synods, for example, no pope can change the settled teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage, or on the grave danger of receiving holy communion unworthily, because these are matters of what the Council’s Theological Commission called “revelation itself:” to be specific, Matthew 19.6 and 1 Corinthians 11.27-29. Nor has Pope Francis indicated in any public statement that he intends any deviation from what is written by revelation into the constitution of the Church.

Michael Sean Winters is even later to the pre-publication spin and offers his own prebuttal.

But what if the bishop whose job it is to interpret Scripture and tradition interprets dogma so it doesn’t change but its meaning does? This was the option favored by Protestant and Roman Catholic modernists. If modernism could happen once, why couldn’t it happen again (as if it ever went away)?

And then we have the problem of reason and what people with minds do to texts. Sam Gregg recently invoked Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address to call not his communion but the entire West to its former high esteem for reason:

One of the basic theses presented by Benedict at Regensburg was that how we understand God’s nature has implications for whether we can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable. Thus, if reason is simply not part of Islam’s conception of the Divinity’s nature, then Allah can command his followers to make unreasonable choices, and all his followers can do is submit to a Divine Will that operates beyond the categories of reason.

Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.

Gregg warns rightly that “irrationality is loose and ravaging much of the West—especially in those institutions which are supposed to be temples of reason, i.e., universities.”

But if Father Dwight is any indication, irrationality also has its moments well within the confines of Roman Catholic parishes (even beautiful ones). If you wonder why the virgin Mary is the Queen of Heaven, just take a rational look at your Bible:

We simply have to read the Scriptures with Catholic eyes and understand the Jewish context of the Scriptures to see how the Catholic beliefs about Mary are all contained in the Scriptures. The problem is, they are not stated explicitly. Instead they are locked in the Scriptures to be understood and teased out. As the church came to understand more fully who Jesus really was they then began to understand more fully the role of his Mother, and as that became clear they also began to see that these truths were already there in the Scriptures. . . . The truths about Mary are subservient to the truths about Jesus because she is always subservient to her Son and always points to her Son. It is about him. It is not about her. . . .

Luke chapter 1:26-38 and Revelation 12. Consider first the passage from Luke. This is, of course, the story of the Annunciation of Jesus birth by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. . . . The angel Gabriel is called “the Angel of the Lord”. He is the main messenger direct from God. Therefore his words can be taken as a direct revelation from God. His message to Mary is therefore God’s message to the world. He declares solemnly that Mary’s Son will be the Son of the Most High, but he will also be the heir of David and the King of the Jews and furthermore his kingdom will have no end. In other words, he is king of heaven.

In the Jewish understanding of monarchy the Queen of heaven was not the king’s wife, but the king’s mother. Solomon’s mother Bathsheba played this role in the Old Testament. It follows therefore that if Jesus is to be the heir of David’s throne and be king, then his mother would be the Queen. Furthermore, if Jesus is also to reign over the kingdom of heaven, then his mother would be the Queen of Heaven.

At some level, Christians on both sides of the Tiber need to give up the idea that their convictions are rational in the sense that people with well functioning minds will recognize the point of Christianity. Aside from the noetic affects of the fall which predispose unbelievers to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Christians also affirm truths that defy reason — like the resurrection and the Trinity.

But if what Father Dwight does with Scripture is any indication of the interpretations that attend sacred and infallible texts, no amount of bishops and cardinals bringing their conciliar foot down on papal authority will prevent interpreters from interpreting.

#interpretationhappens

The More Things Change

The more apologists say they don’t.

Odd is the way that Protestants who notice changes in Roman Catholic life hear that they don’t have the correct paradigm for understanding the past. Odder still is that Roman Catholics who are in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome (and so have the right paradigm) don’t deny but notice changes:

Still, the Church of Pius was vastly different and I do not think there is any denying it. Great theologians, who would later play a key role at the Council, men like Henri de Lubac and John Courtney Murray, were silenced. Giovanni Battista Montini was exiled to Milan for his “liberalism”, and not given a red hat, but he would go on to become the greatest pontiff of the twentieth century. Pius’ obsession with communism muted his voice in denouncing the fascism of Italy and Germany and he was one of the few modern pontiffs not to issue an encyclical on social teaching. Even the visuals were vastly different: Compare this video of Pius’ coronation with a typical Pope Francis Mass.

Perhaps most importantly for the forthcoming discussion, there were obvious doctrinal developments, even changes, in the 74 years between 1939 and 2013. In 1939, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was a theological opinion, not an officially proclaimed dogma of the Church. There were no “Fortnights for Freedom” because the Church still officially condemned religious liberty. And, while the Church taught that marriage must be open to procreation, she did not yet teach that every conjugal act must be open to procreation.

If you were to count back 74 years from 1939, you would see a vastly different Church. In 1865, the papal states, though considerably shrunken in 1860, were still in existence and the pope was the sovereign of all Rome, living in the Quirinal, not the Vatican. The Syllabus of Errors, condemning all things modern, was only one year old. On May 16th of 1865, Pope Pius IX appointed the convert Henry Edward Manning as the Archbishop of Westminster, and Manning would play a key role in the development of Catholic social teaching. He also kept a fellow Anglican convert, John Henry Newman, under a cloud of suspicion. The Kulturkampf, with its persecution of the Church in Germany, and the First Vatican Council, with its definition of papal infallibility,were still a few years in the future. In France, the Church flourished with spiritual energy and Marian visitations. Six years prior, Charles Darwin had published his book Origin of the Species which was the challenge all religions in profound ways yet, drawing on her intellectual resources, it was the Catholic Church that fared better than most at integrating his seminal work on evolution with the biblical account of creation. That intellectual work had to wait until Pius IX went to his eternal reward.

In the United States, of course, the Civil War came to an end that year. The war had broken the nation’s three largest Protestant churches – the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians – into northern and southern branches, but the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church remained united. Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina, had conducted a diplomatic mission to Rome on behalf of the confederacy the year before and, in 1865, he was refused permission to return until his northern confreres secured a presidential pardon. Planning was underway for the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore. Canon law was still undeveloped in the United States and, so, there were no pastors with canonical rights, and the selection of bishops was still a complicated process beginning with the priests of a diocese and the suffragans of the ecclesiastical province both drawing up ternas of candidates for submission to Propaganda Fide. Yes, the Church in the U.S. was still governed through that congregation because we were considered mission territory.

Jump back another 74 years, to 1791, and we see a Church that was virtually prostrate. The popes had been forced to suppress the Society of Jesus, which had been the most stalwart support for papal authority, seventeen years prior. Pope Pius VI had gone to Vienna nine years earlier to cope with the spread of enlightenment ideas, sponsored by the Emperor Joseph II, but the trip had been a failure. And, of course, in France, the Assembly in 1791 mandated that all clergy take an oath to the Civil Constitution on the Clergy, adopted the previous year, provoking a schism that would last more than ten years and which laid the groundwork for the violence against the clergy that would commence in earnest in 1792 and last through the “Terror,” culminating with the suppression of the peasants in the Vendee. In the United States, on the other hand, our new, first bishop, John Carroll, was undertaking his first full year in office and, already, moving to help the Church engage the culture and avoid a sectarianism that he rightly feared would harm the Church in the U.S.

When you add that papal teaching (not dogma but infallible) comes precisely out of these changing contexts, you do wonder what the converts see who think they have escaped the fluidity and diversity of — yuck — Protestantism.