Thursday, January 29, 2015

High school diva

This is of interest for documenting the double standards of Rachel Held Evans, who reminds me of the high school diva in teen dramas. The classic queen bee mentality:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Demon possession and allied themes : being an inductive study of phenomena of our own times

Literal Antichrist

Prelude to the Parousia

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thes 2:3-4).
I'm going to discuss a neglected interpretation of this passage, but I will summarize some alternative interpretations before getting to that particular interpretation:
1) According to the preterist interpretation, this refers to events concerning the Second Temple in Jerusalem. But there are problems with a that identification:
i) According to our sources, nothing happened between the time of writing and the fall of Jerusalem that matches Paul's description in 2 Thes 2. 
It's possible that our sources are deficient, but if so, that's an admission that there's no supporting evidence for this interpretation.
ii) If this was fulfilled c. 70 AD, then there's a sense in which it's much too soon to be a useful precursor to the Parousia. After all, it's now 2000 years down the pike. If the interval between the prelude to the Parousia and the Parousia is that distant, it loses significance.
iii) If this was fulfilled c. 70 AD in a symbolic sense, then it's hard to see what grave error Paul is correcting. If the return of Christ is symbolic, what difference does it make to say he came back in the 40s or the 70s of the 1C? In any event, it's business as usual. All the same moral and natural evils continue as before. 
3) Commentator Gene Green thinks it denotes the imperial shrine in Thessalonika, dedicated to Julius and Augustus Caesar. But there are problems with that identification:
i) Would Paul refer to a pagan shrine as the "sanctuary of God"?
ii) From Paul's perspective, why would it be wrong for the Antichrist to oppose the imperial cult? 
iii) Green says "the apostle describes a cult center where people go to offer worship" (312), but I don't see where Paul in fact says that. Green's statement is far more specific.
iv) What historic event does Green think fulfilled this identification? It can't be the imperial cult, itself, for that wasn't opposed to other heathen devotions. 
v) Surely it's awfully provincial to say that Jesus could not return unless and until something happened at the imperial shrine in Thessalonika. 
4) Premils think it refers to the rebuilt millennial temple. But given that the Second Temple in Jerusalem was still intact and functioning at the time of writing, it's hard to see how such a labyrinthine allusion would be intelligible to the original audience. 
5) Commentator Greg Beale believes the "temple" is a synonym for the church. I think that interpretation has much to commend it, although it needs to be fleshed out. 
6) But let's consider a final identification:
It has also been thought by some patristic and modern commentators that Paul is referring to the heavenly temple, where God sits (Ps 10:4: "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord, his throne is in heaven": cf. Isa 66:1; Mic 1:2; Hab 2:20; 1 En 14:17-22; 2 Bar 4:2-6). A. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Yale 2000), 420.
This doesn't mean the Antichrist literally usurps the throne in the heavenly temple. Rather, Paul would be trading on ancient "war in heaven" motif. The Antichrist is an agent of Satan–the archetypal irreligious rebel. The "god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4). So this would be a colorful way of depicting the Antichrist's insolent impiety. 
It has the advantage of allowing for a future fulfillment, as well as bringing the signs of the Parousia into closer conjunction with the Parousia itself. 

Mormonism and homosexuality

The LDS church views itself as the One True Church. It also likes to package itself as a family values faith. But it, too, is caving in:

A Refresher on “Apostolic Succession”

Thomas Hobbes said “The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof”.

History has borne out this statement. The question of “authority” is at the heart of every discussion between Protestants and Roman Catholics since the time of the Reformation, and yet the Church of Rome (“Roman Catholicism”) bases all of its claims to authority upon “apostolic succession” … the notion that there was an unbroken succession of “successors” from the time of the Apostles till now.

Bryan Cross has said “The Church always had the concept of apostolic succession.”, but that is an equivocation of terms, and it is based upon another, older, different equivocation of terms.

For a long time, Roman Catholicism claimed a direct succession from Peter, through a line of popes. However, the study of history has turned that “direct succession” story into a puff of smoke. More recently, the doctrine suggests that “the Apostles were a ‘college’, and this ‘college’ had unnamed successors – but the real authority of the Apostles”. That, too, is bankrupt.

We actually have a speech from Paul, in his address to the elders in Acts 20, that describes what the earliest church understood “succession”. Does he say, as the CCC says, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time”?

There is not a hint of “continuous line of succession until the end of time” in Acts 20. Instead, what we have are admonitions to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock ...” This is an admonition that is set aside any time a Roman Catholic makes an appeal to suggest that Protestants are “Donatists”...

Paul continues “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from your own selves [‘those of you “within”, who have positions of teaching’]” will arise men speaking twisted things.”

The “twisted things” are clearly shown over and over again among Roman Catholic doctrine and practice.

“The word of his grace” is able to “build you up” -- but this is not a guarantee of “a continuous line of succession until the end of time”. It is a warning to be diligent, for ministers to “work with their hands” ...

This shift of both concept and language from “pay careful attention to yourselves” to “continuous line of succession for all time” has its foundations in the Gnostic concept of “διαδοχἡ” (“succession”). That is not a biblical word, and Ratzinger equivocates by first equating the non-biblical “διαδοχἡ” with the biblical “παράδοσιν” (“paradosis” or “tradition”).

In truth, the concept of “διαδοχἡ” (“succession”) becomes swapped for “παράδοσεις” (“tradition”) in the Roman Catholic view – it is an unexplained and unexplainable (from extant sources) swap that merely duplicates the method that the Gnostics of the day were already using.

As Hans Von Campenhausen pointed out, “it is the Gnostic Ptolemaeus (who died prior to the time Irenaeus wrote) who provides the earliest evidence known to us of this new, theologically oriented usage. In the Letter to Flora he speaks explicitly of the secret and apostolic tradition (παράδοσεις) which supplements the canonical collection of Jesus’s words, and which by being handed on through a succession (διαδοχἡ) of teachers and instructors has now come to “us”, that is, to him or to his community. Here the concept of “tradition” is plainly used in a technical sense, as is shown particularly by the collocation with the corresponding concept of “succession”.

That is an illegitimate way to twist the language. The apostles gave no concept of “succession of persons” to the early church – especially not “a continuous line of succession until the end of time”.

But that illegitimate illusion is the focal point of the only explanation that Rome has for its own claims to authority today.

Michael Brown interviews Kurt Eichenwald

For those who still care:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DEA dragnet surveillance

Raoul Wallenberg and AHA

I'm going to comment on this:

AHA opposes the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR36).

And during this time, we’ve passed over 200 so-called “pro-life” laws, but they all discriminate in one way or the other, against our neighbors who are still in the womb. As Christians, we have absolutely no business abandoning any of our neighbors. Think about what we’ve done and how ridiculous we’ve been. Although we know that ALL are created in God’s own image, we’ve passed laws saying that if you are in certain areas, and as long as the mother has seen an ultrasound, then she can murder her baby. But, if the mother travels to another location, she may not need to see an ultrasound, but might have to wait 24-72 hours before murdering her child. 

Take a comparison: During WWII, Raoul Wallenberg made heroic efforts to save as many Hungarian Jews as he could. And he succeeded in saving upwards of 100,000 Jews from the gas chambers.

But by AHA logic, Wallenberg had blood on his hands. His efforts were "discriminatory." He only tried to save Hungarian Jews. And even then, he was only able to save a fraction of the Hungarian Jewish population. 

By AHA logic, he "abandoned" other European Jews. By AHA logic, unless he had a strategy to save every European Jews, he ought to refrain from saving any European Jews. Let the Nazis kill them all.

By AHA logic, Wallenberg should have made hoodies, beenies, lapel pins, and T-shirts with inspirational slogans instead of issuing protective passes to Jews and creating safe houses for Jews. 

Although we know that ALL are created in God’s image, we’ve written laws saying that the person’s rights can be violated, as long as their mother murders them under certain conditions. How can we, as Christians, consider this a step in the right direction? We cannot. We know that ALL are created in God’s image. In creating these acts, laws and restrictions, we are in effect telling the culture that, as long as certain conditions are met, it is OK to go ahead and murder your child. As we continue doing this, doing the same thing over and over and over again, we are pouring more and more blood on our hands. We are all guilty.

AHA has a groupthink quality. It creates in-house narratives which it imputes to prolifers. It invents fictional stories about pro-lifers. These in-house narratives assume acreedal status in AHA. 

Take the assertion that "we are in effect telling the culture that, as long as certain conditions are met, it is OK to go ahead and murder your child." What actual evidence do they have that that's how the general public forms its views on the morality of abortion? 

It is very simple. God told us not to murder. “Thou shall not murder.” He didn’t say that you could murder, as long as you counseled the mother about breast cancer. He never said that you could murder, as long as you have your parents' consent. He said “Thou shall not murder.” That’s it.

HR36 doesn't mandate abortion. Abortion already exists. It's legally protected. HR36 chips away at preexisting laws. The point of HR36 is not to authorize abortion, but to prevent abortion. It falls short because prolifers are not omnipotent. 

One of AHA's chronic moral confusions is its failure to distinguish between process and principle, methodology and ideology. A law restricting abortion is a means to an end. A process is a means to an end, not in end in itself. The law itself is not the principle, but a method of achieving a desired result. It is not a moral compromise to do less good when that's the most good you can do at the moment. 

Unconditional submission

I'm going to respond to some remarks a commenter made at Beggars All:

Cletus Van Damme said...
You've moved the goalposts. guy's point is not that all catholics actually submit or never dissent, but that RCism, by the nature of its claims, allows for an actual change after submission - there is no such change allowed by Protestantism by nature of its claims. That's Devin's point which James and Svendsen are missing - everything remains under "private judgment" in Protestantism and perpetually so - because of the very nature of its claims. NT believers had to use private judgment in submitting to Christ/Apostles authority claims - that did not make those claims superfluous or meaningless (let alone worthy of rejection/indifference as Protestantism does in rejecting any body claiming divine authority/infallibility).

i) Private judgment is perpetual in Catholicism. The difference is that Catholics transfer private judgment from the laity to popes and bishops. Instead of laymen exercising private judgment, they submit to the private judgment of popes and bishops. But make no mistake: it's private judgment through and through.

ii) The difference is that Catholics arbitrarily relinquish the private judgment of the laity. It's an exercise in wishful thinking. Make-believe. They follow their private judgment to up a certain point, then suddenly act as if the private judgment of their religious superiors is unerring.

Is it really so difficult to see that a revealed religion demands, from its very nature, a place for private judgment and a place for authority? 

Protestant theology has that. The place for authority is occupied by God's written revelation. 

A place for private judgment, in determining that the revelation itself comes from God, in discovering the Medium through which that revelation comes to us, and the rule of faith by which we are enabled to determine what is, and what is not, revealed. A place for authority to step in, when these preliminary investigations are over, and say "Now, be careful, for you are out of your depth here....these and a hundred other questions are questions which your human reason cannot investigate for itself, and upon which it can pronounce no sentence, since it moves in the natural not in the supernatural order. At this point, then, you must begin to believe by hearsay; from this point onwards you must ask, not to be convinced, but to be taught." Is it really so illogical in us, to fix the point at which our private judgment is no longer of any service?"

That's a familiar paradigm. We see that dynamic in cults. You submit to the wisdom of the cult leader. You submit your decisions to him. He tells you how many wives you may have, how many kids you may have. If he orders you to assassinate his rival, you carry out his command without question. Nothing is more dangerous than unconditional submission to the judgment of another sinful, fallible man. 

No, the problem is such teachers and teaching are always subject to error (where error is defined as conflicting with my current provisional interpretation of Scripture) - hence semper reformanda and the ever-conditional authority of confessions and the like.

That's why everything remains subject to private judgment as I said above - there's no actual "submission" to such teachers (how can there be, given the nature of Protestant claims in the first place and rejection of the types of claims RCism and other bodies make).

This is where Catholics pretend that merely probable evidence enjoys the same warrant as certainty. Even though their private judgment in trusting Rome in the first place is admittedly uncertain, once they arrive at that uncertain conclusion, they posit certainty for the "divine teaching office" of the magisterium. But the actual state of the evidence, by their own admission, falls well short of warranting that confidence. 

(And, of course, Protestants deny that there's even probable evidence for the claims of Rome. Rather, there's impressive evidence that the claims of Rome are false.)

This might carry more weight if Scripture predated the church. 
It did. It's called the Old Testament.
But the church was operating for decades before Scripture was complete - the identification of the canon was based in part on the life of the church.
We could turn that around. Scripture was complete long before the church was complete. Indeed, the church of Rome is still a work in progress. Periodically redefining or reinventing itself.

Except the identification of the extent/scope of Scripture is not guaranteed to be free of corruption by your own principles.

i) Even if that were the case, so what? We have to accept the situation God has given us rather than invent a fictional ideal more to our liking.

ii) And if God intends to secure the scope of the canon for his people, he can ensure that result.

As said above, Scripture came out of the church which was operating with their successors before Scripture was completed. Therefore, they left behind both, not just one.

Scripture came out of individual Bible writers.

Now this is interesting. James [Swan] keeps on asserting Devin is assuming what he needs to prove, and yet what proof do we have that the model/precedent set by the Jerusalem council was a one-off thing that would no longer be followed once the final word of Scripture was penned? Granting sola scriptura, I would think that would have to be pretty explicitly stated in Scripture to be consistent.

Well, one reason it's a "one-off thing" is that it included apostles and a stepbrother of Jesus. But that's unrepeatable.

Similarly, you and James seem to agree apostolic preaching/practice of the faith preceded inscripturation. So at a minimum it seems Tradition and inscripturation were operating in parallel until the last sentence of the last book was written correct? So why assume that pattern and the rule of faith suddenly changed and shifted in essence in terms of transmission and operation when the last inspired word was penned – would it not be more reasonable to assume the pattern continued by default (especially when the church was already operating for decades) unless there was strong evidence to the contrary?

It's equivocal to equate apostolic preaching with "tradition." "Tradition" is something that's handed down from generation to generation. That's hardly equivalent to temporary oral communication. 
And given your rule of faith, such evidence would have to exist in the writings/Scripture themselves correct?
Sola scriptura doesn't exclude extrabiblical supporting evidence.
But if your rule of faith was not operating during inscripturation (as James [Swan] notes), I fail to see how that can even be possible, let alone probable since any appeal to support SS would violate the original meaning/intent of the words.
What words is he even referring to?

Because you only agree with those councils solely because they happen to agree with your interpretation of Scripture.

What's wrong with that?
You are telling me that a rule of faith that has infallible preaching/practice (i.e. Tradition) alongside infallible Scripture is not contradictory to Sola Scriptura. That would mean there are 2 infallible authorities, not one, which is contradictory to SS. 
i) That confuses a mode of communication with the content of communication. 
ii) Moreover, apostolic preaching isn't "tradition" (see above).  

Rabbity Catholics

Papal lackey Dave Armstrong has been defending the pope's statement about Catholic who breed like rabbits. What's striking is the pushback from normally loyal Catholics. The pope's remark hit a sore nerve among the faithful:

wfee said...
I appear to be one of those "irresponsible parents". My wife has had 7 c-sections.
I agree with your facebook visitor.

Multiple C-sections are grave matters and should be considered carefully -- but in many cases the "danger" statistics are overhyped.

Examine your wikipedia statistics:
13 per 100k c-sections result in death -- That means that 99,987 did not die. Yes it is mathematically 3x worse chances, but it still a small chance.

On our firstborn, my wife experienced a partial accreta. Thank God we had a very expert OB/GYN who was able to effectively dig it out. We were warned every time that the odds were increasingly worse to have this occur with each subsequent pregnancy -- the likely fix would be a hysterectomy. 6 additional c-sections later... no accretas.

Your Wikipedia statistics say we were up to a "6.74% [chance of accreta] after six or more. " That's still 93% chance of no problems.
The chance of a car accident on the way to the hospital is probably higher. (Maybe not higher than the chance of a deadly accident, but you'd have a pregnant lady in the car...)

Our OB/GYN would portray these statistics in such a manner that would scare my wife all the time -- If I followed the verbal math she gave us, by the 3rd c-section we had a 175% chance of accreta and certain death. Of course we were offered sterilization options with every c-section.

If I told you that I had a financial investment that promised a slow growing return of 20 years that would cause you to lose all of your investment only 3% of the time would that scare you away? What about 7% of the time? If you still invest it at at 7% risk are you financially irresponsible? Of course not, there is still a 93% chance of good return. Those are significantly good odds of everything going well.

I disagree with the appeal to medical knowledge & statistics here. The culture I witnessed going though this scenario for real was that the medical facility wanted to sterilize us so that we couldn't have children after the very first c-section.

I disagree with having multiple c-sections being characterized as a "mistaken perspective". Your facebook friend is correct -- the pregnant woman & her husband's reasoning is very much required to determine "irresponsibility".
JT WIlson said...
If I'm following this reasoning, there is a significant risk of mortality with the woman's c-section, making in it wrong for her to bear another child. What happens when that logic is applied to prior centuries?

In the 1850s, a British woman's chance of death in childbirth (forget limiting to c-section) was 5/1000. Should any woman in prior centuries have risked more than one child? Certainly there was a great risk of orphaning the first. Looks like a population problem to me.

David L Alexander Uh, if that is indeed what he [Pope Francis] did, and given what little he could possibly know of the circumstances … probably not.

Jesus Perez Dave. Interesting article. Is your contention that the simple fact of having 8 C-sections [is] irresponsible parenthood or that plus a number of other factors? I have difficulty with this.

Michael Liccione Even granted that the Pope's view of that particular woman’s choices is correct, I think it was an error to cite a particular individual. Doing that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark.

Jesus Perez This is a tough one Dave. My wife has had three c-sections and we were told not to have more children after our second child. I don't think we're being irresponsible. We want to have more, and we know many faithful couples who've had multiple c-sections.

David L Alexander Dave: "It's not about having eight children, but about having eight c-sections. The two scenarios are vastly different from each other. But …" … but those are medical judgments, not strictly moral ones, and the Holy Father risks being outside his area of competence, much less his authority. Thus it is no surprise if "that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark."

David Palm Scott and Kimberly Hahn have six children and I think all of them were born via c-section.

David Palm Were the Hahns irresponsible to have six children via c-section?

David L Alexander Dave: My son from a prior union was born via c-section, and his mother had three miscarriages (one before, at least two after that we know of), and any subsequent births would most likely be c-section, as she was of small stature. We were in consultation with more doctors than I could shake a stick at. 

I question that such public displays are an appropriate venue for such rebukes, whether it's the Pope, or the pastor who lives down the lane. That it was indelicate and ill-mannered is my argument. I don't need to copy and paste from medical journals, and I don't need schooling from you on the risks involved. I had a ringside seat, and saw lives and a marriage ruined. Including mine.

Brendan Malone Dave, I love your work, but I've got to disagree with you on this one - as others have already said here, the issue is whether or not it was appropriate to actually publicly utilise that woman, and that specific scenario as an example of parental irresponsibility.

Surely her human dignity demands more than to be treated as an object lesson in irresponsibility for all the world's media?

Brendan Malone One other thing - I know of two very responsible and faithful local Catholic families who have been really hurt by the fact that Pope Francis used their specific family situation as an example of parental irresponsibility in front of the world's media.

Earlier today the wife of one of those families posed an important question on Facebook: 

"Everyone talks like NFP works all the time. It doesn't. I'm thankful for that cos I wouldn't have had all my kids if it did! But what if the woman highlighted by the pope HAD used it and was still in the same situation? Irresponsible then too?"

Paul Croarkin "There are many thousands of pro-life doctors". BS. Try finding one who won't prescribe contraception.

Paul Croarkin So, what was our option? Abort? V-bac was out of the question.

Rachel LaPointe I have to disagree with your comment a few up about whether nfp working or not has to do with this. In a way, it has everything to do with it. If NFP is unreliable, then responsible parenthood becomes extremely difficult for those who need to not have more kids. Say a young couple has six kids, by way of csection, can't risk another, but she's only 35. Do they have to abstain completely for the next 15-20 years, due to unreliable NFP? If you can't rely on NFP then you are risking a whole host of other issues.

Rachel LaPointe Paul, I know several people who have tried every modern method, and all have failed to correctly identify the fertile window. For most women, one method will work at least, whether creighton, Marquette, sympto thermal or billings (or any of the others). But I know at least one person, who right now is considering leaving the church because no method works and she can't justify using contraceptives or being sterilized and remaining in the church.

Rachel LaPointe And diocese support is crap in so many places. Excuse my language, but I've known too many people to get zero support. Some areas may be good, but many are not.

Rachel LaPointe Dave you can have unreliable signs. Constant mucus screws up lots of methods. Unreliable temps is easy to obtain for any mom if there's a sick kid or any other disturbance. And methods that rely on hormones can miss peak leaving you in unending highs and never ending abstinence if you struggle with cycles of varying lengths. 

This isn't the norm that I'm talking about. But never-ending abstinence when constantly hoping you might get one or two days every month or two is destroying marriages and faiths. The church teaches us that sex is important for marriage right? Celibate marriage is NOT the norm.

Rachel LaPointe Her husband is involved. It's a big burden for both of them.

Mary Ellen Wilhelm DeLong The pope chose a poor example to to make his point.. He should have chosen a woman with cancer who ABSTAINS as an example of responsible parenthood or an impoverished family with no means to sustain themselves or a mother with a serious heart condition etc. The example he used was subjective and poorly chosen.

Rachel LaPointe What if the woman in the example was perfectly following an NFP method, and had a method failure?

Rachel LaPointe I'm going to point out some hurdles to the advice given (all of which she's heard before, and I won't be pointing out again). 1. Money. NFP doctors aren't cheap, and insurance coverage can vary. 2. Every method has a method failure rate. It is possible that a woman could have such varying signs, without major underlying health issues, where she would fall into the category of none of the current methods working. 3. At some point, after numerous methods have failed to be accurate, there is a distinct lack of trust. Part of this stems from what I consider to be a normal response to nothing working. Another large part stems from a general vibe in the NFP community that something will just work or you aren't doing it right, or you aren't holy enough, or whatever. I doubt that those vibes are intentional, but the people who have issues ARE shot down and told they are imagining or it's otherwise their fault. That's "gaslighting" and is an abuse tactic. I'm part of a fairly large group of friends who have experienced these things, it's not an isolated experience of just a small handful of people.

I'm also only saying all this in an effort to bring our stories to light. We're all in the minority of people who do practice NFP. We don't want church teaching to change, because we see the wisdom in it. We love JP2 and the theology of the body. But that doesn't discount the trials, and I think when we are just told "suck it up" it's not enough, because that could mean life or death, or a baby coming that we can't afford or any number of very serious things. Not everyone is able to be like St Gianna. 

For this group, we were excited with the pope's remarks.. to us it was a pat on the back of "You are doing the right things by being prudent and avoiding pregnancy". It wasn't a "Well, if you get pregnant in life or death circumstances, you'll be happy anyway because NFP makes you open to life" (a common common thing to hear on certain very large NFP groups here on facebook). The NFP offices seem to put an emphasis on the "rainbows and butterflies", which makes anyone who experiences major struggles feel abnormal. Most of us probably don't look like the happy couples on the brochures. And combine that with experiences of people who get shot down when they ask for help, well, there's an issue. It's much larger than what I could put in a facebook comment, and it is something dear to my heart.

Benjamin Baxter Part of the problem is that this explanations adds suppositions which, while plausible, Pope Francis isn't mentioning. He's leaving a lot to guess at. It is certainly a failure of communication (as a remark made to everyone.) Pope Francis is not a good public speaker. He's a personal communicator, one-on-one. Trouble is, he's speaking publicly. 

Now, being a good communicator is not a requirement for sanctity. However, being a good communicator has been a quality of the papacy for the last thirty years. People listening to the pope and expecting that are understandably distressed. 

Bottom line: The role of someone who "gets the Pope" is not to condescend or assume hostile motives but first to recognize that someone is angry and, more likely than not, has a very understandable reason for it. 

Someone I know talked about these remarks as brilliant. They aren't. They're likely interpersonally effective in the moment but they are publicly scandalous because they are shared around the world. If someone is going to speak to "the little ones" about Pope Francis, recognizing the genuine distress is a huge first step, and recognizing it as a legitimate distress is the most important second step.

Kathy Jones When I was growing up , our family doctor (a wonderful Catholic guy) and his wife had 11 children......all by c-section. All healthy, beautiful etc. I can see the Holy Father's point....still he picks his spots to say "Who am I to judge."

John D. Lewis How many c-sections is responsible then?

John D. Lewis How many natural births is responsible then? (I ask this because I think the same logic can be obtained perhaps; for example, as teacher of NFP, my wife and I would usually flippantly say something like "The Church calls us to 'responsible parenthood' which means, most likely, God does not want us to have 0 or 1.3 children nor 25 children." But having just thrown that big 25 number out there, now I'm wondering what a truly "irresponsible" number would be? And how would one distinguish between "irresponsibility" and "providentialism" I wonder? I would think that having 0 children due to selfishness would be the worse sin than having 25 children due to irresponsibility. Am I wrong there? In conclusion, one thing I think we can all agree upon is that whether it's the 3rd or 13th c-section, when one looks at that precious new LIFE smiling at ya, you'd have to say "Oh happy fault!!!!"

Playing hooky

This is a sequel to a post I did several years ago:

As the Superbowl approaches, some pastors are decrying Christians who skip church to watch the Superbowl. A few quick observations:

i) i agree that many Americans have skewed priorities when it comes to sports. (And not just Americans. The same holds true for Europe, the UK, and Latin America.)

That said, unless you think professional sports is sinful, a prudent pastor should pick his battles. No point attacking something that's popular unless it's sinful. That's a lost cause. 

In cases like that, it's best to take advantage of the situation.

ii) At the risk of stepping on some toes, most church services are eminently forgettable. How many church services in your experience ever made an indelible impression? If you attended one less church service per year, what difference would that make? Would you remember the service if you hadn't played hooky that Sunday? 

iii) Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that watching football is more important than attending church. Mind you, that depends on the kind of church you attend. There are situations where you'd get more from reading a good Bible commentary. 

iv) Someone might object that this isn't a fair way to assess church attendance. The value of church attendance is cumulative and fairly subliminal. A form of spiritual maintenance. A regiment or discipline which helps to keep you from drifting. 

If that's the argument, I agree. But by the same token, skipping one service has negligible effect. 

v) A better question is what we do in our spare time generally. It's not enough just to complain about how many churchgoers fritter away their leisure time on trivia. They need advice on how to make better use of their free time. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

INFANT BAPTISM DEBATE: Gregg Strawbridge vs. James White in Orlando (March 23, 2015)

"Pregnant by chance"

Papal lackey Scott Eric Alt is once again attempting to save the pope's rancid bacon. 

Now, per­haps Mr. Hays has heard of a fal­lacy that goes by the name of argu­men­tum ad vere­cun­diam. It’s the obverse of an appeal to author­ity, and the gist of it is that some­one who has no creden­tials in some area lacks cred­i­bil­ity. The rea­son it is a fal­lacy is because you should judge an argu­ment based on its own mer­its, not any pre­sumed inex­per­tise in the per­son who makes the argument.

It's always nice to see a Catholic apologist openly admit that the claims of Rome are logically fallacious. At one stroke, Alt invalidates Catholicism by pointing out that appealing to the Magisterium is an illicit argument from authority. 

Actu­ally, all I really meant was that the woman was con­sciously set­ting out to get preg­nant.

So does he know that? Even if she wanted to get pregnant again, what makes him assume that she was "consciously setting out get pregnant again"? 

After all, having regular conjugal relations is good in its own right. And if in the process of having conjugal relations, pregnancy results, so much the better. That's a boon. A windfall. 

They do so by delib­er­ately hav­ing sex when the woman cal­cu­lates that she is most fer­tile. 

How does Alt happen to have such intimate knowledge of this couple's sex life? Does he have a hidden camera planted in their bedroom? 

What about sexual spontaneity in marriage? Is that a foreign concept to Alt? What about a married couple having conjugal relations whenever the mood strikes–which may or may not coincide with ovulation? 

First, he poses this ques­tion: “Do fer­tile cou­ples who engage in reg­u­lar con­ju­gal rela­tions delib­er­ately seek to achieve preg­nancy, or is that sim­ply the nat­ural out­come?”
Well, again, that misses the point.

That hardly misses the point when that is the very point which Alt is laboring to make.

 The pope was speak­ing to a woman who wanted another pregnancy. She was try­ing to get preg­nant. This wasn’t a sit­u­a­tion where the woman just became preg­nant by chance. 

"Pregnant by chance"? Isn't copulation designed to procreate?

His point to her was that she should make an effort to avoid pregnancy. If preg­nancy had hap­pened any­way, in spite of her effort to avoid it, there would have been no rebuke.

How should she avoid it? By refusing to have sex if her husband initiates a sexual overture at the "wrong" time? If you're going to abstain from sex, why get married in the first place? 

Surely it's easier to practice abstinence if you're not sleeping right next to a member of the opposite sex. Shouldn't you avoid putting yourself in that tempting situation in the first place? 

Sec­ond, Mr. Hays attempts to apply a sort of Pascal’s wager to another preg­nancy for this woman. If she got preg­nant again and the baby should die, is that child worse off than if he had never been conceived at all?
Of course, what Mr. Hays neglects to men­tion here is that Ms. Wahlund does not merely say that there is a grave risk to the baby’s life—there is a grave risk to the mother’s life too. “Her uterus,” she says, “is paper-thin.” Now, think about that. There is a grave risk that her liv­ing chil­dren will be left with­out a mother. So the wager that Mr. Hays pro­poses here is just non­sense, since we’re talking about both lives.

Alt continues to miss the point. How is it a risk to the baby at all given the alternative (i.e. certain nonexistence)? 

“Con­tra­cep­tion,” he con­cludes, “is far riskier to the baby than a risky preg­nancy.” I frankly don’t know what Mr. Hays means here. How is con­tra­cep­tion risky to an unborn child? If a woman has already con­ceived, pre­sum­ably she’s not going to be using con­tra­cep­tion; she can’t get simul­ta­ne­ously preg­nant. If a woman is not preg­nant, and is using NFP rather than some illicit form of contracep­tion that, say, pre­vents implan­ta­tion only, then there’s no baby in the first place. You can’t put a life at risk that does not exist. So Mr. Hays just makes me scratch my head at this point.

I see that Alt is intellectually challenged. The alternative to a high-risk pregnancy is contraception–in which case (if successful) the existence of the baby is preempted. Therefore, contraception poses a greater threat to the baby than a high-risk pregnancy. How can you save "both lives" if you prevent one from ever existing? One scenario involves total deprivation. A lost opportunity.

To recur to my illustration: take a cancer patient who has a choice between terminal cancer and life-threatening treatment. Considering the alternate to treatment, the cancer is riskier than the treatment. Absent treatment, the patient has everything to lose. With treatment, the patient has a chance to survive. 

Third, Mr. Hays shifts the ground of argu­ment and tries to make it a ques­tion of risks due to age rather than risks due to poor uter­ine health. He asks: “Since when has it been church pol­icy to tell Catholic moth­ers to stop hav­ing chil­dren above a cer­tain num­ber or above a cer­tain age?”
Well, it’s not, and that’s not the issue here. The issue here is the health of the mother, not the age of the mother or how many chil­dren she already has. There may be issues that arise, in this woman or that woman, as a result of the aging process, which also make it fair to dis­cuss whether avoid­ing preg­nancy would be wise. But the real issue is the woman’s health, not the woman’s age.

Is Alt really that clueless? It's a question of consistency. Given increasing risk factors with advancing age or additional children, if it is "irresponsible" and "tempting God" to have a risky pregnancy, then the Vatican should tell Catholic wives to stop after having X number of babies due to mounting risk factors, or to stop having babies after a certain age due to mounting risk factors. 

But when in the history of the papacy has that ever been the case? Throughout church history, women kept having babies until they either hit menopause or died in childbirth. Since when did the papacy tell them to stop due to multiplying risk factors? 

I will, how­ever, say this. The idea that NFP is some­thing that is just “easy for celi­bate clergy to say” shows that Mr. Hays is deeply igno­rant of the defenses of NFP that have been writ­ten by married Catholics. He should take a look at this one. Sim­cha Fisher is very hon­est about how dif­fi­cult NFP is.

To  his credit, when Alt is confused, he's consistently confused. I didn't say NFP was easy for couples to practice. Rather, I said it was easy to people who don't have to practice NFP to impose that on others. It's easy for Catholic clergy to say it. The Magisterium is just like the Pharisees who "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Mt 23:4).

Did Francis violate the seal of the confessional?

Papal lackeys have been working overtime to defend the pope's instantly-infamous statement about rabbity Catholics and a mother who "tempted God" by becoming pregnant for the 8th time after having 7 c-sections. 
Some papal lackeys have speculated that Francis had additional background information about this woman's situation. 
However, a larger problem which this issue raises is how he acquired this sensitive, personal information in the first place.  An obvious source of information would be the confessional. But if he's publicly divulging confidential information disclosed to him in the confessional, then that's grounds for automatic excommunication. According to the CCC,
1467 Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives.72 This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the "sacramental seal," because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains "sealed" by the sacrament. 
2490 The secret of the sacrament of reconciliation is sacred, and cannot be violated under any pretext. "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason."284
According to the Code of Canon Law
Can. 1388 §1. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict.
Perhaps, though, the pope could weasel out of this by claiming that he is above the law:
Can.  1404 The First See is judged by no one.

"Stop talking about a first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark!" - Larry Hurtado

This statement sums up Larry Hurtado's opinion on all this hearsay. I agree with him. Here are his reasons to stop talking about it:

In the Doctrine of God, “ontology and character are bound up with each other”

In this article, Derek Rishmawy cites Turretin and makes the point about the God of Exodus (indeed, the God of the Old Testament):
I thought it might be worth presenting a chunk of Turretin’s exposition of the divine name as a prime example of the tradition. It’s instructive in itself, not because everything in it holds up, but because many haven’t taken the time to look at what this type of argumentation looks like. Also, because it makes a key point that, whatever you do with the rest of it, still needs to be heard: ontology and character are bound up with each other. There can be no simple bifurcation between being and doing.
The etymology and signification of the word is such as agrees with God alone. From Scripture, it is evident that it implies most especially three things which are seen to be connected (Is. 44:24-26):
(a) The eternity and independence of God, inasmuch as he is a necessary being, and existing of himself, independent of any other, self-existent (autoon)–“I am that I am” (Ex. 3:14). Hence he is called simply the being (ho on, as the ancient philosophers and Plato especially acknowledged). John describes him by the three distinctions of time: “which is, and which was, and which is to come” (ho on kai ho en kai ho erchomenos, Rev. 1:4). In reference to this we have that expression of the ancient heathen: “Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus will be, O great Zeus” (Zeus hen, Zeus esti, Zeus essetai o megale Zeu, Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.12.10).
(b) It implies causality and efficiency because what is the first and most perfect in each genus is the cause of the rest (for God is by himself so that he is the cause of being to all others, Is. 44:24).
(c) It implies immutability and constancy in promises because he really performs and does what he has promised by giving to his promises being (to einai), not only self-existent (autoon), but also essentially existent (ousion) and essence-making (ousiopoios). In this sense, he says that he had not been known to the patriarch by his name Jehovah (Ex. 6:3), not as to the signifying word (for the contrary is evident from the book of Genesis), but as to the thing signified (because he had not as yet given being to his promises concerning the multiplication of seed, the bringing of people out of Egypt, their introduction to Canaan, etc.). 
He had made himself known to the patriarch by his power in the creation of the world, in its government and in the bestowal of many blessings and their wonderful defense; but he had not as yet really declared himself to be Jehovah, by fulfilling the promises given to the patriarchs. But since eternal existence, omnipotent power and immutable truth belong to God alone, the name Jehovah (which embraces these three) ought to be peculiar to him alone. –Institutes of Elenctic Theology Volume 1, Third Topic, Q. IV, Sec. V
As I said, there are a few things that are instructive about this passage. For one thing, the diversity of sources appealed to is always enlightening to note, simply because at certain times Christians, or especially Evangelicals, have been accused (and been guilty) of intellectual ghettoization. Turretin can comfortably appeal to pagan philosophical and literary tradition in order to supplement his point.
Even more important is the point we see in subsection “c”. Turretin engages in some theological exegesis by appealing to the acts of God, the character of God, in order to ensure the point about the being of God. As Vanhoozer has argued, metaphysics is unavoidable because we must give an account what God is like in order to account for who he has shown himself to be. What must the God who acts in this story be like in order to do and say the kinds of things we see in the biblical narrative? 
In the Doctrine of God, “ontology and character are bound up with each other”. However, in Rome’s doctrine of “The Church”, ontology is the heart of Rome’s claim to being “the Church that Christ Founded™, and yet the character of its popes, bishops, and foundational characters throughout history is beside the point.

Are any Roman Catholics able to say why this is so?

HT: Peter Escalante

Quoted as saying, “pedophiles are seduced by children in ‘a lot of the cases’”

This story is from 2012, and the individual named here has since passed away, but this deserves some publicity because of the the attitude that is reflected within even lower levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchical structure, and the minor celebrity role that this priest played in the lives of many Roman Catholics: 
A Catholic newspaper has removed an interview from their website in which a priest said that pedophiles are seduced by children in “a lot of the cases” and the abusers should not go to jail.
During an interview with National Catholic Register, 78-year-old Father Benedict Groeschel was asked about his experience working with priests involved in abuse.
“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case,” Groeschel explained. “Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”
“Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that,” he continued.
Groeschel called the abuse “an understandable thing,” and pointed to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who he called a “poor guy.”
“Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.”
Groeschel pointed out that “sexual difficulties” were rarely prosecuted 10 or 15 years ago, and now if “any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily intercourse — they’re done.”
“And I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime,” he added.
By Thursday, the original interview was no longer available on National Catholic Register, but could still be accessed [note: it is no longer available] in Google’s cache.
“Father Groeschel’s suggestion that sex abusers of any profession should not get jail for a first offense — because, he claims, they don’t ‘intend’ to abuse — is simply incomprehensible,” one Catholic told columnist Matt Abbott. [note: it is no longer available] “Doesn’t he know that a good intention does not by itself make an act good? Hasn’t he read the Catechism of the Catholic Church?”
“Moreover, with all due respect to Father Groeschel, it is utterly irresponsible to suggest that a priest, who is in a position of moral authority, should be excused for permitting himself to be ‘seduced’ by a young person.”
Groeschel has a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and hosts a television talk show on the Eternal Word Television Network, which also owns National Catholic Register.
On Thursday afternoon, National Catholic Register Editorin Chief Jeanette R. De Melo added a note on the page where the interview hadoriginally been published.
Note -- we may be grateful to this publication for the honesty to state at least this much, and to leave this statement up on its website. Especially given how frequently Roman Catholicism seeks to sweep this sort of thing under the rug.
“The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse,” De Melo wrote. “Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize.”
“Given Father Benedict’s stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.”
Calls to National Catholic Register were not returned by the time of publication.