Saturday, April 5, 2008

Quiet Lately.

It's been a long time since I've done any real writing for this blog, and a long time since I've shared with others my thoughts as I try to discern whether to convert to the Catholic Church. If any of my old contributors are still around, please know that this sabbatical was at first unintentional, and that I would like to soon return to regularly sharing my thoughts for discussion.

My absence was instigated primarily by one particularly tiring debate that followed a substantive post. More generally though, it was instigated by a growing sense that coming to agreement on terms of the Christian faith for any two people is a seemingly uphill battle. I was tired.

I drank in deeply an accusation that I didn't know what a particular ecclesial body 'really' taught in its true or pure form. Having been raised in that tradition by a man ordained to its ministry, and having studied it intently to find its refutations of certain Catholic and Orthodox critiques, I was deeply offended at the suggestion of my own ignorance. But I knew that if I replied with my own religious qualifications to speak, I would not be speaking in charity.

So it was easier to walk away from the whole frustrating debacle. Where this was weak of me, I apologize to my interlocutor and anyone benefiting from the discussion. Where it was my effort at a restrained, temperate reaction (which is contrary to my nature), I have no regrets.

I hope in future discussions to be more bold, and yet more gentle. If a fellow Christian tells me I don't understand "Reformed teaching", "Lutheran teaching" or the like, I will invite them to explain the correct position. Where one's explanation seems to inconsistent with a mainstream source describing that tradition, or seems to state as settled something that mainstream sources continue to debate, I will merely point out what I see to be an inconsistency, and then discuss the view as my fellow Christian presents it. I will not, however, accept that any one individual view is a qualified characterization of an entire ecclesial body, unless it appears to present a consensus view.

I think for the sake of Truth, we must be cognizant that no two views are truly alike. When I characterize Reformed theology, it is really "Reformed theology as Thos. understands it" that I present. Peace in Christ.

14 comments:

God's Paintbrush said...

I think your last two paragraphs are true and perfectly said. =) May God grant you serentity, wisdom, and clarity in your discernment. Hope to see you home soon! =)

Gil Garza said...

Great to see you back posting! I enjoy the conversation.

While the art of rhetoric is generally lost on this present generation, I have found that one may present very strident positions and so long as a few :) are randomly interspersed, the comments will generally be taken ever so gently.

So here's :) to more postings taken :) ever so gently! :)

Thos said...

G.P.,

Pleased to meet you, and may God bless your (very different) discernment efforts too!

Gil,

It was a strident position that put me in such disrepute with one reader (that is, the nature of Communion in the Reformed circle). I'm oh-so tempted to revisit it, but think I'll wind up turning away from blogging again if I do. We'll see what else we can come up.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

Glad to see you back, Thos! I missed your posts and wondered what happened to you. :)

Thos said...

Kim,

Thanks. I never meant to be "away" (and hope this post doesn't unreasonably raise hopes that I'm "back"), but I would like to return to sharing some thoughts I've been having, and hearing others'.

I was also focusing my efforts on other efforts of discernment and on introducing our newest child into the world (this past week).

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

Your wife had a baby last week?? Well, congratulations!!! That's wonderful! Please don't feel pressured to post. I'm sure you'll be needing your energy elsewhere, my friend! Wow! Such happy news!

Bob said...

Congratulations on the birth of your newborn child!

A search for Truth is a search for Christ. As someone who loves God, you can't avoid wanting to know more about God. Of course, it's a subjective search, so we need a more reliable guide or guide post to help us shuck off our own personal errors. I'm discovering the guide is "better" than the guide post. I hope that's not too obscure.

Principium unitatis said...

Good to you see you back Tom, and congratulations again, on the birth of your son. I don't want to discourage you from blogging (all other things being equal), but, it takes courage to be a truth-seeker. It takes courage to tell someone that "you don't know x" is an ad hominem. (See here.)

Of course your interlocutor might be right that you don't know x, but if we are pursuing the truth, we don't let ad hominems serve as substitutes for refutations of claims or refutations of arguments. Sophistry is not the same thing as truthseeking. Sophistry is about manipulation and intellectual bullying to get you to believe something, or keep you from no longer believing something.

See sophistry for what it is, and call it for what it is, and then laugh at it (if only internally) for the weakness that it is. It is what people resort to when they don't have the stronger thing, i.e. the answer to your question or the refutation of your argument. In other words, see sophistry as evidence of absence of knowledge of the very truth you seek.

The truth is a free gift offered to all. We may not all be equally gifted in understanding the truth, but the truthlover shows what he loves [i.e. the truth] to all sincere inquirers, because he loves it, and wants to share it. If he does not have the truth you are seeking, he freely admits it and goes to look for it; he doesn't resort to ad hominems. (Why should he resort to ad hominems, if he is a truthseeker, since he himself doesn't have the means to show that your objections or arguments are flawed or invalid?) The truth fears no challenge. It doesn't have to resort to force or bullying to show itself for what it is or to defend itself.

There is a place and time for an appeal to authority (in my opinion), but an authority that treats us according to our dignity as rational beings is one that patiently teaches and instructs, not one that merely beats us back into rank and file with verbal bullying. Even in "faith seeking understanding", there is still a place for "understanding" and feeding the intellectual hunger of the one seeking to understand. Keep being a truthseeker. Have courage. Don't be intimidated. Be humble enough to say, "Ok, maybe I don't know x, but how exactly is my argument unsound? Why doesn't the conclusion follow? What exactly is wrong with my objection? etc." That is, in my opinion, part of what it means to become like a little child, to be willing to ask questions, willing to seek and dig and scrap and push until you find the truth you are seeking.

You will be ridiculed and scorned. That is part of the suffering that comes from being a truth-seeker, rather than an ideologue. The Truth Himself was crucified by fallen men. And fallen men will persecute those who genuinely seek Him. This ridicule and scorn is part of taking up our cross, and receiving into our bodies the five wounds of Christ.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thank you for your gracious encouragement. As I've reflected on what happened in my last spat, I think I fell off the high road from the get-go, by my use of a loaded term (specifically, the title of a particular heresy). I meant to pick apart some underlying aspects of that heresy as it may or may not relate to some present practices, but we got hung up on whether anyone was "guilty" of heresy X. Trying to agree on the meaning of that term, and noting that it had never been used against Group Y before, sunk the underlying discussion I set out to have.

Live and learn.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

Bryan, forgive me for asking you this in Thos' combox, but have you ever dealt with the issue of penal substitution? I'd love to see you flesh out that teaching vs. the Catholic Church's teaching (which I assume is at least slightly different). Any chance of that happening? It's an area I am very confused about and could use some clear, concise commentary on. Thanks for considering it!

Thos, ONLY if you have time and inclination: What is your understanding of the differences between Catholics and Reformed Protestants on Christ's atonement coming from a Reformed background like me?

Thos said...

Kim,

Thanks for posing some excellent discussion points. I think I'll brush up a bit before trying to respond. I will admit though that, as we've come across penal substitution and atonement in places like our confessional statements in church, I've been uncertain to what extent what we confess agrees with the Catholic view.

Bryan's from a Reformed "background" too, and even better, studied at a Reformed Seminary (he's humble, so doesn't taught it much). He's also a very sharp knife in the drawer, if you hadn't gathered. He'll probably have a much richer answer.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

Thos, yes, I agree with you. Bryan is a sharp dude. I hope he responds to my request on his blog.

Another can of worms here, so to speak: I just found out that the Westminster Confession lists the Pope as the Antichrist (25:6). Thoughts? lol Do you think that belief holds true today? I'd love to hear Bryan's take on this, too.

As you can see, my head has been full lately. TOO full! ;)

Thos said...

Kim,

"Another can of worms here, so to speak: I just found out that the Westminster Confession lists the Pope as the Antichrist (25:6). Thoughts? lol Do you think that belief holds true today?"

Yes, the WCOF has that language. Since you gave the citation, I assume you read that it has some strong language. I know that the PCA adopted the WCOF as it's confessional standard with two modifications, one of which was the removal of that line (and I can't remember what the other was). We keep the first part of that sentence, just taking off it's end (from the semi-colon on, I believe). That was certainly a prevalent (and perhaps important, for their purposes) view at the time of the Reformation. The more ardently Reformed with whom I converse still believe that the Pope is an Antichrist, in that he is leading people away from the "true" faith. I do not subscribe to this position.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

You're right! I didn't know that!

(Not linking there, so here's the cut and paste version):

http://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_preface.htm

I'm glad to hear the PCA took that line out. We're "regular guests" at a PCA right now, but have been members of that denom in the past without really knowing what we were supposed to believe. Now that I'm more interested in the semi-minutia of it all, I'm finding out all kinds of things I didn't know (like the Pope being mentioned in the WCoF. Now I'm trying to figure out whether or not penal substitution is the better explanation of Christ's death. How far into this stuff do I really want to dig? Kwim? I'd like to rest SOMEWHERE. Ugh.