Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fast thoughts on the Synod

Since Ben asked, here's my thoughts. And Codg, I read your piece - well-written, though I disagree with some of it.

Progressive Discovery: Not even a progressive-friendly pope is shielded from angry traditionalists - and there's a lot of them

I remember when John McCain was running for president, and it came out that Palin's daughter had gone and gotten pregnant. The expectation from liberals (were they even 'progressives' back then?) was that this would absolutely sink Palin among the religious right. Why, they despise sex with a passion, particularly underage sex! How could they ever be expected to tolerate this mother of a harlot?

The result was their being perplexed when the response from the right was largely 'That's unfortunate, it's a mistake, we wish her well. Palin is great!'

I think something similar went on here, maybe even with the Pope himself. There was this idea that the Pope - certainly the Pope and a synod - could change everything. Gay marriage for all! Abortion is no longer a sin, nay, it's a sacrament! Divorced lesbians getting married after their mutual abortions, blessed by the new female priest! There was that energy in the air for a great moment of triumph. 

Besides, what can traditionalists do? Revolt? Against the Pope, who as we all know, can do no wrong according to Church teaching because that's actually the doctrine of infallibility and not some weird mockery of it? Pshaw.

Well, it turns out the traditionalists can say that changing Church teaching on the progressive hot button issues is heresy, and nothing says 'schism' like heresy. Even if cardinals or even a pope have a hand in declaring it.

The conservatives came to near open revolt over this sort of thing, once they started to suspect - not without reason - that they were walking into a rigged synod. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways (and I do believe the Holy Spirit's at work here), but much to the chagrin of modern sensibilities, sometimes it works through threats.

Vague wishy-washiness is a progressive Hail Mary, and it's been heavily muted by the synod itself

Let's be blunt: progressives only rely on vague, open-to-interpretation documents when they absolutely can't get anything else. They'd sanctify anal sex and condemn "homophobia" / "any criticism of sexual proclivities whatsoever" in canon law if they thought they could get away with it. So when they're forced to talk about respecting Church teaching while attempting to meet the diversity and cultural sensibilities of the areas they're ministering to, while that's still a case of progressive subterfuge - it's also a desperate one. 

It's a situation they're forced into, not a place they want to be.

Do not get me wrong. Subterfuge and intentionally wonky interpretations of Church teaching is bad. They're threats, and Inquisitor Crude says these things should be suppressed. But it's also nothing new. Oh, liberal clergy are going to skirt around doing the good and moral thing and look for any technicality that lets them do everything from hang an idiotic rainbow flag in their church to give communion to the local feminist abortionist? 

There's a name for that: 'The current state of affairs.' The fact that they added some convoluted flaky pastoral-talk doesn't change that.

And keep in mind, there was a price paid for maintaining that status quo: formal synodal rejection of the that idea marriage can be dissolved, that gay marriage or even same-sex sexual relationships are moral or on par with actual marriages, and more. I know some people think that progressives are happy to pay lip service to those kinds of things even while not believing them, but if you think that, you're a decade out of date. To say 'Gay marriage is immoral and the Church cannot accept it' is not something you can wink and nudge while saying, and have the modern progressive tolerate you. It's a great way to be considered an enemy who, given the opportunity, they will destroy so as to make an example out of. (Unless you're a suitably brown muslim, in which case even your gang rapes will get downplayed.)

It's a bit like the Jubilee forgiveness of abortions. Some traditionalists are aghast, thinking it's a kind of Papal move to make pro-abortionists happy. Even if that were right, it's pointless. Forgive a feminist for having an abortion and she'll be outraged that you dare claimed that what she did was at all a sin to begin with. These maniacs are not the fringe; they are the forefront now. And vague wishy-washiness can't pacify maniacs.

Now, what it can do is confuse otherwise well-meaning and sincere people. Big problem, that. But again - that's not new.

It's made progressive cardinals look ineffective, and traditionalist cardinals into heroes

Progressives looked at the synod as a potential watershed moment that could see, if not total victory, then at least major and explicit advancement on their issues of choice. They walked away with vague pastoral talk and the very teachings they despise being formally reinforced, even if that reinforcement is insincere for some.

Traditionalists, meanwhile, not only managed to emerge apparently triumphant, but now knowing which cardinals are progressive, which are wishy-washy, and which are nigh heroic. Burke, the African cardinals, and more come to mind in the latter case.

Now, more than ever, traditionalists have a better idea of which cardinals they can count on, and which they have to watch closely. Whether this will translate into action is another question, but juxtaposing this with the weakening of the taboo traditionalists sometimes have regarding criticizing high rank clergy, and hey - the potential for interesting things to happen is there.

And that's my summary for the moment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On the Koukl-Rauser feud

So Greg Koukl and Randal Rauser have been going at it over the culpability of atheism. Koukl seems to be taking a rather strong line, nearly unheard of nowadays, that atheists are culpable in their unbelief - that their unbelief is itself a bad thing, something they should reject, fight against, and will ultimately be made to answer for. Rauser is taking the opposite view.

Ed Feser decided to weigh in on this one, and frankly, it's a bit like having a skirmish between the Somalian navy and some pirates interrupted by the arrival of the Russian navy - everyone rushes to get their story straight because they know if they don't, one of them is about to get blasted into debris.

Rauser made the typical rhetorical move of trying to suggest that Ed was really on /his/ side, and that Koukl is really the target here:
Fair enough. Except I agree with your critique of Koukl and I don't find your purported disagreement with me to be substantive. (In other words, you should say that Koukl's wrong and I'm right!) 
Smooth, Randal.

Ed responds by saying, well, Koukl only gave a short video here, and more can be said by him - indeed, he seems able to sidestep your objections. Randal's response to this is silence, at least until Koukl follows up with a larger explanation of his thoughts.

Koukl himself says he's in some agreement with Feser, but otherwise sticks to his guns: he sees Paul's condemnation of the atheist as both clear and severe. The atheist is culpable, on his reading of Paul. It's not a commendable act of honesty, or being-true-to-oneself - it is condemnable, even if sincere.

At this point, Rauser goes all-in against Koukl, and he makes an interesting move: he argues that if Koukl condemns the atheist for his unbelief, then the Christian should be condemned insofar as -they- lack belief too:
The dilemma for Koukl is clear: if atheists are morally culpable for suppressing God's revelation, the doubting Christian is as well. So if Koukl wants to retain this reading, then he can do so. But if he wants to be consistent, shouldn't he start condemning Christians who doubt for willfully suppressing God's revelation to them?
Rauser has more to say, but I think this is the only real interesting point he brings up. And he invests heavily in it too. What's telling here is that Rauser immediately jumps to a pretty weird extrapolation of Koukl's views, and then calls Koukl out for not condemning Christians along with atheists. Why does Rauser care about that? Well, because he's playing a rhetorical game. This isn't about the argument anymore, it's about instinct and emotion, particularly what instinct and emotions can be provoked in onlookers.

Rauser immediately has support from the world's most boring and unsuccessful evangelical atheist, Edward T. Babinski - basically John Loftus, but somehow more dull. Probably not the best way to start out this encounter. (Let's face it; when you get low-ranking clerics of the Cult of Gnu on your side, it's generally evidence that you're doing something wrong.)

At this point, I should probably note that my opinion of Rauser has dived over the years. Koukl, meanwhile, I've only heard of indirectly. And Feser, of course, I'm a fan of.

Meanwhile, someone makes the point that a Christian 'willfully suppressing' their belief in God would not be a Christian, and Rauser tries to fire one from the hip to discourage this line of thought:
You're free to take the position that a self-described Christian who doubts is willfully supressing God's revelation and thereby is, in fact, not really a Christian. I don't agree with you, but at least you're consistent.
This passes for a bit, until Brandon of Siris shows up (I'll be calling him that more, because it picks him out amongst other Brandons, and also makes him sound like a Lord of the Rings character.) Brandon being a sharp guy who I've snapped at before. Tenacious. Brandon's not buying Rauser's interpretation of the line:
I read JohnD's point in a different way, namely, that taking the doubting Christian to be "suppressing God's revelation" in the sense an atheist does is equivocation: if the doubting Christian were actually "suppressing God's revelation" in the way an atheist does, he would stop being a Christian, for the same reasons atheists aren't Christians. And, indeed, this is a genuine problem with this entire line of argument: since there are relevant differences in mindset between a doubting Christian and an atheist, which are precisely what allow one to classify the one as a doubting Christian and the other as an atheist, it follows that it is entirely possible on Koukl's supposition to take the moral situation of the other to be different from the moral situation of the other. 
Sensible. But, Rauser's playing a game here: he reasons that knocking atheists for their unbelief is one thing, but no one's going to side with Koukl if ANYone with ANY doubt is a sinner too. Especially if they're considered to be /just as bad as atheists/.

There's just one problem, and Brandon's noticed it: this is a bullshit line that's not going to work. You certainly can't argue that a Christian experiencing doubt yet nevertheless believing is on the same plane as an atheist - the Christian believes and is actively committing to belief. The atheist, especially the admitted and avowed atheist, has given in entirely. Randal's move won't work - and it's a move meant for rhetorical sting more than anything. At best, he may be able to argue that unbelief in Christian is a -failing-, but not on par with out and out atheism. But that's diluted to the point of being uncontroversial; the controversy would lie back with the 'atheism as sin' claim.

Randal's having none of it. In part because it's his best shot at Koukl - if this goes down, his whole argument gets a whole lot harder to sell.
Brandon, you write that for "the doubting Christian to be 'suppressing God's revelation" in the sense an atheist does is equivocation'".
But that is not correct. On Koukl's view, anybody who fails to recognize the "plain and clear" evidence of God's existence and nature is culpable, whether that person identifies as an atheist, an agnostic, or a theist. 
To me? This doesn't pass the smell test. Rauser's claiming what must follow given Koukl's view, but it's a sloppy extrapolation at best - not the sort of thing he should be confidently claiming, especially in light of the fact that he can't present any quote of Koukl taking this same line about Christians. And Brandon's having none of it in turn:
This seems to make the obvious error of conflating first-order and second-order recognition of plain evidence as if they were the same thing, which they are not. The distinction is an easily recognizable one in everyday life. To accept plain evidence is not the same as recognizing the plainness of the evidence in one's reasoning; the former requires no reflection, but the latter does.
To put the same point from a different direction, your claim merely propagates the problem: "fails to recognize" in what way? Quite clearly the doubting Christian cannot "fail to recognize" things that point to the existence and goodness of God in the same way that an atheist "fails to recognize" things that show the existence and goodness of God, because ex hypothesi he is a doubting presently Christian, not a formerly Christian atheist. You have literally done nothing to show that the failure to recognize in each case is the same kind rather than different kinds of mindset that happen to be able to be described, if one is loose and vague, in broadly similar terms. 
A word of wise to someone who argues with Brandon: don't try to pull a fast one on him. He's not going to bite, and he actually seems to really enjoy nailing hides to the wall of people who try to do so. He's relentless when he smells bullshit.

This goes on, and my prediction is that it's going to go on for a while, until Rauser likely flees the field, or tries to claw his way to a face-saving truce. He doesn't have the winning argument here, and he got too aggressive in trying to deploy a rhetorical move against Koukl.

As for my own view on the matter? I'm far more sympathetic to Koukl than Rauser. Biblically, I think it's clear that faith and belief is not just this thing that you either have or you don't. It's a clear and certain good to have, it's an evil to lack it, and one is meant to embrace it and heighten it in their lives. Rauser wants to sidestep this, and basically treat religious faith as this thing that, if you have it, hey wonderful - but if you don't, that's maybe unfortunate from one perspective but doggone it at least you're true to yourself and he still respects you, it's not a mark against you in any way.

I no longer think the latter is correct.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

ISIS in the rear view mirror

Imagine, in 200 years, the conflict with ISIS being regarded in the same way as the Crusades are regarded right now.

Would you say, then, that you are on the wrong side of history?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Vox on Churchians

To be perfectly honest, Vox is right.

If anything, he's not harsh enough.

I'm tired of these political hacks in preacher's clothing, feigning belief in a religion that only seems to interest them insofar as it has immediate political use. I'm not going to pretend their lectures are worth listening to, even for a 'dialogue'.

They are Churchians, not Christians, not even theists. It's time they were showed the door.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Compassion of the Clergy

When I see Catholics talking about the need to be welcoming, I often get the impression that the only people they want to make feel welcome are themselves. They seem like clergy who miss the days when being a bishop or a cardinal meant schmoozing with political movers and shakers, being welcomed to all the nice functions, being respected by the cream of the community. They didn't sign up to be sneered at by the elite, but to rub elbows with them.

People point out that liberalizing churches hasn't succeeded in attracting more people to them, but these clergy don't really care about that anyway. Let the church shrink, but let them sit a little bit closer to the guest of honor at the banquet, and hey - mission accomplished.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The saddest thing about the Christian liberal...

..Is that they've lost the strategic suspect of the cultural left, and the conditional tolerance of the orthodox Christians. And they lost it at the same time.

Being a Christian is a liability in liberal circles, to the point where your faith needs to be an absolute joke - a Christian who believes accepting Christ is irrelevant, who believes that God revealed Himself to man to support abortion and gay marriage, and more. Any orthodox content is openly laughed at, or whispered at best.

It used to be that liberal Christians could at least count on a grudging 'We all share faith in Christ' attitude among more conservative Christians, but even that's falling. The orthodox, rightly, see liberal Christians as dupes or traitors, and have gone from a neutral 'big tent' attitude towards a liberal presence in their church to actively wanting them to leave it entirely. "But by casting us out you'll lose our souls!" no longer has pull, because the realization is that the soul is lost if it isn't sincere and right in its remaining anyway.

So they're left with the most diminished voice of all. The strategic, formal respect of the left is gone, and the patient, neutrality of the right is gone.

Of course, they won't mind too much. Everyone regarding them as irrelevant dupes just gives them one more opportunity to get up on the cross and throw a pity party for themselves, which is the very thing that attracts them to Christianity to begin with.