Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Russ Smith on the purpose of Sola Scriptura

I was reading my fellow parishioner Russ Smith's blog Jack of Clubs, and found the following excellent paragraph:

"The most important thing to remember about Sola Scriptura is that its purpose is the liberty of the Christian. We see this in Aritcle VI [of the Thirty-Nine Articles] in the provision that whatever is not found in scripture "is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith". The concern of the reformers was not to state an abstract epistemological principle, but to correct a specific abuse that had crept up in the church. Too often in evangelical and reformed churches this principle is seen as an end in itself; as if the purpose of worshipping God were to avoid any unbiblical practices, rather than the other way around. This back-door pharisaism is particularly ironic because it uses the very principle that ought to free us from fear as a source of anxiety -- the haunting fear that we might do something that isn't found in the Bible."

Russ' point strikes me as correct. Sola Scriptura is meant to be a liberating principle that frees us to obey the Lord. It was definitely not intended to be a tool with which those who are impossible to please may disrupt the peace of the established Church of God. You can read Russ' entire article here.

Book Recommendations

Last summer I read Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man by Chesterton. I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Chesterton is the apologetic master par excellance before C. S. Lewis. In fact he is Lewis' master in many respects. The Everlasting Man is must reading for thoughtful Christians for several reasons. Among its many treasures is an excellent discussion of the competing Christian and naturalistic "stories" of man. Along the way, Chesterton demolishes the evolutionistic view of humanity's origins.

Read this description of the evolutionary anthropologist's over-reliance on the fragmentary fossil evidence:

"He can only clutch his fragment of fact, almost as the primitive man clutched his fragment of flint. And indeed he does deal with it in much the same way and for much the same reason. It is his tool and his only tool. It is his weapon and his only weapon. He often wields it with a fanaticism far in excess of anything shown by men of science when they can collect more facts from experience and even add new facts by experiment. Sometimes the professor with his bone becomes almost as dangerous as a dog with his bone. And the dog at least does not deduce a theory from it, proving that mankind is going to the dogs--or that it came from them."

Besides this, The Everlasting Man features an in-depth analysis of paganism, contrasting its mythological and demonic stages with Christianity. Chesterton's thesis is that modern Westerners are so familiar with Christianity (in the sense that familiarity breeds contempt) that they do not appreciate the real uniqueness of it. In fact. Christianity makes extraordinary claims about itself. In the process of showing how the Christian religion is not reducible to generic religion, Chesterton articulates the Lord-Liar-Lunatic conundrum that Lewis later popularized in his classic Mere Christianity.

For a classic short piece by Chesterton you may want to check out "The Diabolist". I will be referring to this piece here at UO in the future. You can count on it.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Retort to Maureen Dowd

On the 4th, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote an Op-Ed piece entitled "The Red Zone." Her piece seems to be part of the Times' "official story" that the election was hijacked by the Christian right. I wrote this letter to Ms. Dowd to confirm her fears that there is indeed a real Christian right that wants to re-establish Christendom.

Ms. Dowd,

In your latest editorial you wrote:

"The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule."

This is brilliant analysis! Republicans and Christian right nut-jobs are really fearful, intolerant, and ignorant theocrats in sheep's clothing.

But isn't it true, Ms. Dowd, that you fear, marginalize, and avoid considering their ideas? When was the last time you read the Gospel of St. John, studied the Nicene creed, or contemplated the five ways of Thomas Aquinas? Did you even "get" Dostoevsky's Brothers K?

The moral and intellectual tradition of the church has been going for 2000 years. From whom did your virtues come and at what date did they arrive? Or, did they arise out of the thin air of your own brain?

I always savor the irony when secularists parade their list of virtues for us all to bow down to. What authority do they have to impose the "values" of tolerance and radical secularism upon us? What Moses came down from Sinai to give us these laws?

Tolerance is a wholly neutral concept. One can tolerate evil or good, it makes no diffence because tolerance is just tolerance. Tolerance is an attitude, not a virtue.

Secularism is a wholly negative concept: it merely means the absence of religion. Your values are devoid of content, Ms. Dowd.

In order for your concepts to have any meaning, you must assume the reality of good and evil. And these, my dear, are spiritual realities. Your pseudo-values are parasitic on the good, depending for their being on Good itself.

Have I lost you, Ms. Dowd? Neglected your St. Augustine, have you? Maybe you should read Plato on the death of Socrates before you move on to heavier things like Trinitarian monotheism. Apparently, sensitivity and familiarity with the Christian foundations of civilization are not required for Op-Ed journalism at the Times.

BTW, the militant a-theism of the secular left is Exhibit A that there can never be peaceful co-existence between people who believe that religion has a legitimate political aspect and people such as yourself.

More and more people are recognizing this. The upshot is that the Enlightenment project has failed, and it will be only a matter of time before American government is re-founded on explicitly Christian values.

Andrew Matthews

"I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot"

Well, he lost--much to the relief of many I know. John Kerry was unfit to lead this country for many reasons, not least because he was the real idiot. As unwise and undiscerning as the mass of Americans can be, they still possess the instinct for self-preservation. And a candidate who actively works to discredit a war being carried on in the interest of America doesn't understand human nature very well. As long as Americans still possess a basic love and concern for their own country, they will support actions that are taken in their defense. There will never be another Vietnam because the 60's are over.