Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barqueing up the wrong tree

Francis J. Beckwith said...

“Is it just me, but why is that there has never been a great Calvinist saint on par with Augustine, Aquinas, or John Paul II? When I think of Reformed theology, holiness and love do not jump out at me.”

i) That’s a very revealing comment coming from somebody who likes to accuse his opponents of “bigotry.” I’d be hard pressed to find a more bigoted statement than his.

ii) I also don’t know how the conversation suddenly jumped from the proper way to designate members of the church of Rome to the piety of Calvinists.

iii) How we answer his question depends, in part, on whether we judge saintliness by Catholic standards or Biblical standards. For example, is devotion to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa a mark of sanctity or idolatry?

Likewise, this is how John-Paul II responded to Cardinal Law’s complicity in the priestly abuse scandal: “Archpriest of the Patriarchal (now Papal) Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Member of: Congregations: for the Oriental Churches; for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; for Bishops; for the Evangelization of Peoples; for the Clergy; for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; for Catholic Education; Pontifical Council for the Family.”

http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/documentazione/documents/cardinali_biografie/cardinali_bio_law_bf_en.html

Is that a mark of the late pope’s saintliness or his moral blindness?

I also don’t know why Beckwith thinks Augustine can be so holy and loving, but a Calvinist cannot. What’s the differential factor, exactly? It can’t very well be belief in predestination.

Is it that, after his conversion, Augustine sent his longtime mistress packing, a woman who bore him a son? Why not do the honorable thing and take her to be his wife?

On the other hand, George Whitfield (to take one example) does strike me as an example of saintly Christian character.

iv) As a rule, holy folks aren’t famous folks. They generally lead quiet, unobtrusive lives. Godly mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, and friends who live and die in self-effacing obscurity. Some of them are backwater missionaries or small town pastors. The whole notion of “great saints” whom we can tabulate bespeaks a cult of celebrity which is incongruous with true sanctity.

“No offense, but you have no idea of the joy and peace I have found on the Barque of Peter. For once, I know what why it is important to be holy.”

For someone who’s full of peace and joy, Beckwith seems pretty irritable.

As far as the “Barque of Peter” is concerned, Catholicism is like a superyacht with a glorious upper deck while the lower decks are taking on water. A fantastic view–until it sinks below the waterline.

“It's not just because I'm ‘grateful to God,’ which sounds like something I need to conjure up.”

Christians need to “conjure up” a spirit of thanksgiving? Gratitude to God is just a conjuring trick?

“Rather, it's about kneeling prostrate at the altar at which the Eucharist rests and allowing the grace of God to transform me from the inside out. It is indeed quite a gift, these sacraments.”

When I read this sentence, I can’t suppress the mental picture of devotees who prostrate themselves before images of Buddha, Kali, Lakshmi, Ganesha, &c. Christ and Krishna become interchangeable.

9 comments:

  1. Can't some of the Puritans and various missionaries count as "saints?"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here are some examples of what Steve and Steven are referring to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "For someone who’s full of peace and joy, Beckwith seems pretty irritable."

    Honestly, so do you, Steve, even though I appreciate your candor and intellect. Whether you realize it or not, you sound like an angry person. Are you?

    It's okay! We all are for one reason or another.

    I could go on about my issues, but who'd care? Instead of being angry, I just take a Sominex and go to bed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. JOHN SAID:

    "Honestly, so do you, Steve, even though I appreciate your candor and intellect. Whether you realize it or not, you sound like an angry person. Are you? "

    I'm not the one making claims about my emotional state. Beckwith did. I'm answering him on his own terms. Learn how to follow an argument.

    "Anger" is in the eye of the beholder. To a nancy-boy, a real man must be angry.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Is it just me, but why is that there has never been a great Calvinist saint on par with Augustine, Aquinas, or John Paul II?

    It's just you.

    But I would expect that kind of statement from a non-Reformed Evangelical Protestant, even if "former." They seem to know very little of church history and even less about those who blazed the trails before us. Beckwith seems to know less about Reformed Theology, its theology, adherents and history than even Dave Hunt.

    I would expect, however, that a (former) President of the Evangelical Society would have some knowledge. But alas, I seem to be in the habit of kidding myself when it comes to giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  6. BB Warfield? From the Banner of Truth:

    "B.B.Warfield married his wife Annie in 1876 and they left for honeymoon in Germany. He was also studying at Leipzig at that time. On a walking trip in the Harz mountains they were overtaken by a terrible thunderstorm. It was a shattering experience for Mrs Warfield from which she never recovered. She was more or less an invalid for the rest of her life. They had no children and Warfield cared for Annie all her days. The students would see them walking slowly together about the Seminary campus. BBW was always gentle and caring with her. He could never leave her for very long. This was one of the reasons he was rarely present at church courts or heard speaking from the floor of his presbytery. He was not outstanding in debate. His time was spent with his beloved Annie." (from http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?32)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I forgot BB Warfield. That's another great example.

    ReplyDelete
  8. First saints that spring to mind for me are Whitefield and Edwards, both stellar exemplars of the faith. Let's not forget the Great Awakening and God's use of the Reformed saints in bringing many to Christ.

    ReplyDelete