on Biblical interpretation
reader s.f. has been hounding me relentlessly on the topic of Biblical interpretation. s.f., you see, is roman catholic and in any debate between catholics and protestants the topic of how one interprets Holy Scripture is bound to come up sooner or later. so, for s.f., and because it's just a generally good idea to know these things, here are some thoughts on hermeneutics, that is, the science of interpreting text, especially as it pertains to Scripture.
before i begin, i'd like to point something out. hermeneutics is a science. it is an orderly, logical system of research consistently applied to produce meaningful results. it is based on certain assumptions, perhaps the most fundamental of which is the validity of human reason followed by the assumption that we are all, both the author and the reader, reasonable beings who attempt to organize thoughts free from contradiction and unwarranted leaps. i can hear some of you retching even now. "the arrogance of it! placing human reason above the Divine revelation contained in Scripture!" that's not what i'm doing. look, the Bible teaches us that God is rational. He is consistent: "I change not." He invites us to "reason together". clearly, our faculties of reason are but a dim reflection of His own, but they are a reflection nonetheless--we are created in the image of God. hence, if one denies that the science of hermeneutics is applicable to Scripture, one denies Scripture itself.
some of you probably now suspect me of circular reasoning: "so in order for hermeneutics to be valid, you depend on Scripture--but how can you know that Scripture teaches the validity of hermeneutics without first applying some valid method of interpretation, eh, locdog?" on the surface this would seem fatal, but if one merely assumes that God is reasonable and that we are reasonable, we can escape the loop. and if we don't make these assumptions, we cut our own throats, for if neither God nor man is reasonable then there is no hope of us ever understanding anything anyway, so why bother? works out beautifully, doesn't it?
without further delay then, the eight basic rules of Biblical interpretation. i'll use gospelcom.net as a source, by the way, but the choice is more or less arbitrary. the basics of hermeneutics extend back at least as far as socrates, were used by the early church fathers themselves (hear that, catholics?) and are accepted by theologians and legal types the world over even today. i'll give the rules then add my own thoughts on them. be warned that this might get a little long.
rule 1: definitions the most fundamental of all the rules, for unless we at least know the basic meaning of the words used, we have no hope of ever understanding the meaning of a text, Biblical or otherwise. an advanced medical text, for instance, would make perfect sense to a doctor, and would probably be at least somewhat intelligible to a lay person if he but knew the vocabulary. otherwise, it's all greek. you'll note that most "deconstructionist" attacks on Scripture, culture, the constitution, etc., start with lawyerly arguments over words. your more extreme types will go so far as to tell you that words have no objective meanings. the speaker first translates his thoughts into language, which is a poor fit at best, and then the listener tries to translate that language back into thoughts to understand the speaker's message. there are problems of idiosyncrasies of usage, personal bias, limited vocabularies, etc. i'm going to assume, however, that it is possible to convey meaningful, objective information with language at least to some extent, because to say otherwise, frankly, is silly. i can't even tell you that language doesn't have an objective meaning unless the words i use to make that statement are at least on some level representative of my thoughts. if my wife, therefore, says "go to the store and get a gallon of milk on your way home from work tonight," i disobey at great peril. no debates over "but what does 'store' and 'gallon' and 'milk' really mean?" will be broached.
rule 2: usage always consider the intended audience. we don't take the president's remarks to a classroom full of third graders at one of those silly photo-op events to hold the same force as a state of the union address. if an MIT professor were to be invited to mrs. smith's sixth grade science class to talk about what it's like to be a scientist, he probably isn't going to lecture on tensor dynamics and the non-euclidean geometry as it applies to space-time curvature in einstein's general theory of relativity. the Bible was written, first and foremost, for a jewish audience. the main characters are all jews. the people they speak to are usually jews. they use jewish idioms, refer to jewish customs, etc. so when the king james rigidly translates a phase like "they that pisseth against the wall," we must consider that this is a rather colorful jewish idiom for "men".
rule 3: context we interpret a word or verse in light of the words or verses surrounding them. anyone who's listened to a congressman retract or defend a politically incorrect statement will invariably appeal to rule 3. "i was taken out of context," he'll say. what he means is that the particular words he was quoted as using had their meaning altered by the surrounding words, but since those surrounding words weren't given, his meaning was distorted. unfortunately, since context arguments are most frequently used by politicians who are simply trying to pretend they didn't mean something they obviously meant at the time, people are very cynical about this rule. let's suspend our disbelief, however, and suppose that the "Word" referred to in John 1:1 really is Jesus since a few scant versus down John describes the Word in terms of the incarnation. it's right to be skeptical when someone is backpedaling, but context is an essential rule of proper interpretation, and the Bible--or any book, film, song, essay, speech, etc.--would be gibberish without it.
rule 4: historical context the source i cited above calls rule 4 "historical background" but i prefer to stick with the word context from rule 3. for just as the meaning of a passage or word is often gleaned from the words surrounding it, so the meaning of a passage or word is often gleaned from the culture surrounding it. we must consider, for instance, that when Jesus asked the samaritan woman to give Him some water, He wasn't being chauvinistic. in a sense, He was flattering the samaritan since her race and the jews didn't exactly get along. a jewish man wouldn't want to be seen cavorting with a samaritan woman, let alone drink from one of her unclean pots. historical context really comes into play in the Old Testament. it would be virtually impossible to analyze the writings of the prophets unless one knew something about the babylonian, syrian, persian, and greek empires and how they related to israel. one more word on this topic. we, as modern readers, ought not to judge Scripture in terms of late twentieth/early twenty-first century political correctness. when paul says that women should be in subjection to their husbands or that it's shameful for them to speak up in church, he isn't being a sexist and he wasn't trying to assert a phallocentric dominance under the guise of religion. let's forget about the pc psycho-babble: Biblical Christianity gives women the fairest treatment of any major religion. far and away, bar none. in historical context, the rabbinical tradition of first century jews held, for example, that female testimony was inadmissible as court evidence. they even said that the Scriptures should "sooner be burned than given to a woman". when compared with paul's "there is no male nor female in Christ Jesus," one can see that Christianity was a quantum leap in women's liberation.
rule five: logic deduction, where we start with premises and draw necessary conclusions, and inference, where we start with observations and draw highly probable conclusions, apply to the Bible the same as they do to everything else. as a matter of fact, i think all Christians ought to have at least a rudimentary understanding of logic, and should probably take a formal course in it or, if they can't, read up on it on their own. some Christians find paul difficult to understand because they aren't used to thinking logically. it's sad, but true. paul, perhaps more than any other Biblical writer, wrote like a philosopher. his arguments are methodic and consistent and developed within a formal structure of Old Testament precedent. you may be able to get the gist of what he is saying without following the argument, but if all you can do is skip to the conclusions, then sooner or later you are going to screw something up. if, on the other hand, you can follow the flow of the man's thoughts, then you can anticipate his conclusion before you arrive there. this is extremely helpful because it lets you know when you are on the right track, or when you've committed some error. furthermore, we believe that the Bible on the whole obeys the basic rules of logic, that it is free from contradiction, that its conclusions are valid and reached by sound argumentation, and so forth, and that it should be approached with this in mind.
rule six: precedent this rule can be applied to both words and doctrines. words first. we interpret the hebrew and greek words in a fashion which is consistent with their usage elsewhere in the text. sometimes words have their meanings derived from context instead, but even then our approach must be orderly. a great recent example of this would be the "Jesus box" that was recently discovered. it's re-kindled an old debate on the perpetual virginity of mary since the word rendered "brother" in "james, the brother of Jesus" can also be rendered cousin. it has been argued by some throughout church history that Biblical references to Jesus' "brothers" are actually talking about his step-brothers or cousins. it should be noted, however, that while the text does allow for that interpretation, it is not the most straightforward in light of other textual examples, and that the choice of translation is based on a doctrinal, not textual, supposition where it is believed that had mary had sex with her husband even after Jesus' birth, she would have been a less suitable mother for Christ. now doctrines. most cults take some single, isolated verse stripped completely of its context and argue that it says thus and so, and even then the meaning they are arguing for is usually implicit rather than explicit. we needn't address ourselves only to cultists here, by the way, because even very sincere and otherwise orthodox Christians err from time to time by ignoring doctrinal precedent. the Bible has a consistent message throughout, and doctrines are never altered or revised. anything that is taught implicitly in one passage is taught explicitly elsewhere. if there is ever confusion of the sort where an implied teaching appears to contradict an explicit teaching, deference is shown to the explicit.
rule seven: unity we form a doctrine by taking everything the Bible says about something and combining it into a consistent whole. gospelcom.net uses the example of the Trinity, which i think is a good one. heretics and cultists frequently claim that the Bible doesn't teach the Trinity, meaning that there is no particular verse or passage where the word Trinity is used or where the concept of the Trinity is explained. actually, that's true. however, if you combine everything the Bible says on the subject of Godhead, the orthodox definition of the Trinity is the only possible reconciliation. any other version, and we contradict Scripture in some fashion.
rule eight: inference we've talked a little bit about inference in rule five but it's important enough to deserve its own place among the Big Eight. the gospelcom.net explanation gets it right if interpreted in context (there's that word again...) but one thing i don't like about their explanation is its incorporation of the phrase "[inference is] a logical consequence." that's a little messy, because when people hear "logical consequence" they think "necessary consequence" as in a geometric proof where we start with premises and through sound argument arrive at an unassailable conclusion. that's deduction, not inference. inference means, when all is said and done, making a reasonable guess. for example, every time we drop something, it falls. we infer therefore that such behavior will continue in the future. we can't prove that it will--we don't have a perfect understanding of what the thing we call "gravity" is--but it always has fallen in our experience, no observations which contradict this have ever been discovered that we know of, and so our inference is considered to be valid. an inference is reasonable--something that we have probable cause to believe, like how highly probable it is that the pittsburgh steelers would beat a last-place high school football team if they ever played a game. i infer that Jesus doesn't really want us to gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands or handle snakes and scorpions because everything else i know about Him goes against the notion that He's a sadistic madman.
well, that's it. those are the Big Eight. there are other collections of rules, of course. some churches have their own version of the rules which are based more heavily on theological assumptions (that the interpreter be a spirit-filled Christian, that he is diligently seeking the truth, etc.) but even these collections must take for granted that the above eight are valid. that doesn't mean that these other collections aren't applicable, of course, it just means that the set given here is the bare minimum an intelligent person would need to understand anything to a reasonable degree of accuracy, including the Bible.
locdog hopes s.f. is now satisfied
God bless you, esera tuaolo
it took locdog's blog nearly three months to claw its way up from blog obscurity to slightly mitigated blog obscurity by receiving its 1000th visitor. from there, it has taken a little less than two weeks to get to 2000, where i'll arrive sometime this morning. i'll refrain from comment on the bizarre coincidence that this milestone falls on the holiday most closely associated with satan. apparently the gods are not without a sense of irony. anyway, how did i do it, perhaps you ask?
was it my deft prose? my eloquent argumentation? my silky-smooth approach?
nope. it was a big, gay, polynesian, former nfl defensive lineman named esera tuaolo. my site has been flooded with traffic from google and other search engines with "esera" (or "ezzy" as i have come to think of him) and "tuaolo" as the most frequent keywords. there were a few searches which were rather more...uh...enticing
female reporters in locker room
esera tuaolo naked
yikes. when i pointed that last one out to my wife she quipped that the young man(?) who had haphazardly stumbled into my site must have been shocked, absolutely shocked, when he realized that it was, in fact, a Christian blog. say...that gives me an idea. ok, google, here you go:
esera tuaolo fireman calendar
sexy esera tuaolo
xxx porn esera
sweaty shower esera
hot tuaolo action
there...that should do it. now then. did you know that Jesus Christ died for your sins?
locdog hopes everyone has a happy halloween
folks, relax about halloween. some of you Christians out there, particularly among my evangelical brethren, are way too uptight about all of this.
Christian bloggers have been posting all about halloween's sordid history--as if the problem was that somehow Christians still weren't aware of the holiday's ties to pagan rites. here's a clue for you all: we know. we hear this stuff every year from every pulpit and Christian talk show under the sun. time to move on now, ok? there are bigger problems facing the world than trick-or-treating and glowing pumpkins.
"but you just don't understand, locdog! those pumpkins were to scare away evil spirits and people used to sacrifice goats under the light of the full moon with the chanting and the blood and the evil and blah blah blah!" that's right. pagans did those sorts of things. they celebrated all sorts of wacked-out stuff. but we don't. to us, halloween is a celebration of candy and costumes and fun. it's an american tradition, not a pagan one, despite its roots. and it is one of the few days left anymore where people can really feel a sense of community. check this out:
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
paul is talking about Christians who would go into pagan temples (which were actually the best steakhouses of the day) and order up a delicious porterhouse that, yes, had been sacrificed to an idol. paul's take on it? paraphrasing, if you feel guilty about it, then don't eat those steaks, but if you don't have a problem with it then enjoy your meal. i'll take mine rare, paul.
paul also points out that we shouldn't use our liberty to become a "stumblingblock" to others. in other words, don't rub your liberty in your brother's face or cause him to join you in something his conscience forbids. contrariwise, don't put your brother under your legalism. maybe you don't want to participate in halloween activities. maybe you don't want your kids to. that's fine. but don't judge your brother if he lets his kids get dressed up and go chase a bit of harmless fun. if sitting down in a pagan temple to eat meat sacrificed to a false god is ok, then you cannot tell me that it's a sin to go trick-or-treating.
locdog's favorite halloween treat was probably those delicious popcorn ball thingies
update: i don't usually do these "updates"--they're more of a joshua claybourn thing, but hey, he did link me so i've gots ta give him props. how'd i do, josh? anyway, josh has chimed in with some excellent historical mumbo-jumbo that you crazy cats and kittens will really dig. he argues that the customs we most frequently associate with halloween are actually Christian in their origin. check it out.
ariel sharon, the man who threw a government but nobody came
topping off today's political trifecta, cnn is gleefully pronouncing sharon's government DOA after benjamin ben-eliezer the labor party threw a hissy fit, took their marbles, and went home.
"Israeli governing coalition collapses," cries one headline. "israeli coalition crumbes," echoes another. what's all the fuss about? hard to say, considering that while an important faction of the unity government may have walked, sharon's position is still quite tenable. in fact, it's looking like he'll get his version of the budget that started this whole mess passed even without labor.
for the record, the official cause of the dispute is the labor party's denied requests for more welfare bucks. no, really. they wanted funds diverted to their pet projects from one of sharon's own, the settlement programs--thus elevating social pork to the level of homeland security. and this in a land where going to the mall involves taking one's life into one's hands. anyway, sharon balks at labor's budget but offers a compromise, the labor party rejects his compromise and offers one of their own, sharon refuses, labor walks.
Labor had proposed that about $147 million earmarked for the Jewish settlements be diverted to fund social services benefiting pensioners, one-parent families, students and low-income locales.
and by implication cnn would have us believe that sharon is against pensioners, one-parent families, students, and low-income locales? oddly similar to how president bush must be opposed to the environment since he doesn't like the kyoto protocol. actually this whole stinky scenario seems vaguely familiar. obstructionist socialist party trying to block homeland security efforts for political gain...now where have i heard that before...
so what's really going on here? turns out that ben-eliezer (who served under labor party p.m. ehud barak and is the party's current leader) is facing a party primary in two weeks. how interesting. even more interesting is that ben-eliezer is rather more hawkish than your typical labor type. could it be that he's facing a little heat from the left and fears his grasp on the party will soon slip away?
Labor MK Haim Ramon, a contender for the party's chairmanship, said he is glad Labor would not participate in a government whose social and economic policies he said are wrong.
"I have been saying for a few months now that (Labor) should withdraw from the government," he said.
that from the jerusalem post, by the way.
so benjamin ben-eliezer sees his core support being eroded with only two weeks separating him from a primary. clearly, he has to do something to sure up his base, but destroying the unity government? what some people won't do for power. anyway, keep your eyes open for the "belligerent warmonger sharon drives israeli government to ruin!" angle in the coming days from the american press. should be a hoot.
locdog can't wait to read the new york times's coverage of this one
jesse ventura, one-eyed king
he's not perfect, but you know what they say about monarchies in the land of the blind...
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, upset by what he felt was a partisan tone of a memorial service to honor the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, said he will try to appoint an independent instead of a Democrat to fill Wellstone's seat until a new candidate is certified.
Ventura had said he favored a replacement from Wellstone's party, but that was before he walked out of Tuesday night's memorial service.
Ventura referred to a speech by one of Wellstone's closest friends, Rick Kahn, in which Kahn said to the crowd, "I'm begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone."
"I wanted to hear the sons. But Rick Kahn's, I found his so offensive to me as an Independent, or to anyone who is not necessarily going to vote for Senator Wellstone who still respects him and came to pay their respects," Ventura said. "It drove the first lady to tears."
you can get the rest of the story here
ventura's stock just jumped ten points in locdog's estimation
walter mondale, lord of the underworld
didja ya happened to catch any of the wellstone "memorial service" last night? i saw bits and pieces of it on fox and concluded pretty much the same thing the ap writers did in their choice headline "wellstone memorial turns into rally".
if we were to reverse engineer paul wellstone from the spectacle witnessed last night, we might conclude that he was a shameless partisan who would let no tragedy, however great, dissuade him from ensuring democratic control of the senate. with bill and hillary clinton leading an impressive coterie of democrats, all pressing flesh and beaming smiles, the atmosphere frequently lacked only balloons, confetti, and rioters to be a democratic convention. unusual considering that this was a memorial service, more unusual still considering that it was a memorial service for a man whose famed liberal ideals transcended all other motivations--presumably even partisanship.
the evening's climax came not at the eulogies offered by senator wellstone's sons, but at the pulpit-pounding stump speech of democratic loyalist and wellstone campaign treasurer rick kahn who, as the ap put it "adopted the late senator's fiery speaking style and abruptly demolished the leaky dike that had held back most political speech since the accident." a political dike erected by democrats.
the moratorium on political speech in minnesota has taken on the aspects of the berlin wall. snarling guard dogs and machine gun posts scan the barbed tops for anyone foolhardy enough to poke their heads over the parapet. when dick morris attempted to make a break for it by taking on mondale, wellstone's hand picked heir-apparent, he drew withering fire from the towers
"One of these days the Democrats are going to nominate someone who actually is dead," said Dick Morris, a Fox News analyst and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Calling Mondale "a hack," Morris described Democratic efforts to woo him to replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone as being "close to necrophilia." He added: "I've been calling Mondale a hack for 20 years."
Former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois said any criticism of the former vice president should wait until after Wellstone's memorial service.
"Paul Wellstone isn't even in the ground yet," she said, accusing Morris of "nasty name-calling."
the good ex-senator never bothered to point out why an attack on mondale is an attack on wellstone despite her obvious implication that somehow, in defiance of all logic, this was indeed the case. but republicans need not attack mondale to find themselves amidst a firestorm--indeed, gruesome images of wellstone's death surface like a recurring nightmare to quell vile republicans who dare defile the reverent silence established by democrats with anything, even good wishes. when republican senate candidate and mondale opponent norm coleman appeared on cnn to extend his condolences, he was blasted by james carville as a man who "stands for nothing but attack" and senate majority whip harry reid added that "Mr. Coleman is campaigning. That's why he's on your program." coleman was doing no such thing, but the message was clear: republicans must maintain absolute silence. or else. resurrecting moseley-braun's imagery--and then some--reid went on to denounce newt gingrich, who had taken to the airwaves to launch a preemptive strike against mondale.
"Couldn't they keep Newt Gingrich off television bashing Vice President Mondale until after the funeral?" he asked.
Referring to new Republican polls that showed a Mondale-Coleman race virtually even, Reid said that Republicans were busy polling over the weekend "while they're gathering the bodies out of the woods in Minnesota."
is it just me, or does somebody else smell a talking points memo? apparently they'd given kahn the same memo because he was working the exact same spin, albeit from an opposite direction at the "memorial service". for if an attack on mondale is an insult to the memory senator wellstone, then support of mondale honors all that was noble and pure about him.
"If Paul Wellstone's legacy in the Senate comes to an end just days after this unspeakable tragedy, our spirits will be crushed, and we will drown in a river of tears,'' Kahn said. "We are begging you, do not let this happen.''
from the previously-cited ap story.
so vote for mondale or you'll shove his remaining family and friends into shuddering paroxysms of grief, you heartless thugs. i don't know if rhetoric like this ever has a place in american politics, but if it does, it certainly isn't at a memorial service. in fact, kahn's words were far more insulting to the wellstone legacy than a vote for coleman could ever hope to be. by extension of kahn's logic backward into wellstone's life, wouldn't we have to conclude that in order for his plea to be meaningful the sum total of paul wellstone's existence was counting the number of democratic seats in the senate? his "legacy" hangs on walter mondale? God save you, paul wellstone, if that's true. but his family and friends can take heart: it ain't. paul wellstone was an idealist, and his ideals will be kept by those who loved him regardless of what we find next wednesday morning. his legacy will live on in everything that he said and did, in all the changes he made and the lives he touched as a senator, father, and husband.
in the meantime, it is apparent that the democrats have a consistent and well-coordinated strategy to ride the plane that carried three wellstones and their entourage to their graves all the way to political fortune in november and intended last night's "memorial" as a launch point--hence mrs. moseley-braun's "wait till after the memorial" remarks. politics being what it is, i'm not surprised. i am surprised at how blatant they are about it, how altogether crude in their approach. attacking walter mondale is attacking paul wellstone? why, is mondale lord of the dead? evidently so, because electing mondale has become the very enshrinement of a dead senator's spirit. it worked for jean carnahan. if robert torrecelli had been hit by a bus rather than a steam-roller sized subpoena, he probably would have won in a landslide. seems like the only flaw in morris' sardonic analysis is al gore--after all, the democrats did nominate a corpse and still found a way to lose. on closer inspection, it seems like the fundamental miscalculation of the gore campaign was indeed their reluctance to be too closely linked to the clintons, and not their reliance on a hopelessly inept candidate. this is a mistake gore 2004 is not likely to repeat, particularly after the tragic passing of perhaps the most beloved clinton of all--certainly the most classy. say it with me now "a vote for gore is a vote for buddy!"
if al adopts that as his ‘04 campaign slogan, locdog promises to re-register as a democrat
blogger button error
< whine >
if on connecting to my blog you get a username/password box to connect to buttons.blogger.com, just hit the cancel button. this may be residual weirdness surrounding the hacker attack on blogger a few days ago. i checked the blogger homepage but didn't see any mention of the problem. figures. any of you other blogger bloggers experiencing this?
< /whine >
locdog would appreciate any info
some thoughts on roman catholics
today has been nuts just like yesterday, but i finally have a moment to sit down and post a few thoughts. this probably won't be the best thing i've ever written since time constraints transform my normal style into something more suited to stereo instructions or phone book entries. not sure why that is.
anyway, i've noticed that the things i write about catholics (meaning roman catholics) are always very controversial. now, i've never been one to avoid controversy. contrary to what some of you may think, this isn't (only) because i'm argumentative. to be honest, none of the reasons for avoiding controversy have ever stuck me as very good. the most common reason is that people are afraid of giving offense, but as far as i'm concerned if a person politely and respectfully speaks their opinions then they aren't responsible for someone else's emotional response. the second reason--and this one is even more irritating--is that people these days have this fear of taking a firm position on anything. think about it. the politicians we respect are the "moderates". we don't want vigorous debate, we want "bipartisanship". in religion we want ecumenicism, in ethics we want relativism, etc. as soon as someone's mind has been made up, we regard them as close-minded. evaluating the evidence, weighing the arguments, and reaching a sober-minded conclusion based on careful reflection is often confused with prejudice. that's just plain wrong, folks. unfortunately, there are a lot of prejudiced people running around out there and if one isn't careful, one can easily get associated with that crowd. to avoid that, then, i'd like to clarify a few things:
1. being catholic doesn't mean you aren't saved don't get mad at me for pointing out the obvious, you catholics. you and i both know that there are a lot of my evangelical brethren, particularly of the more fundamentalist bent, who believe that catholicism resides a few rungs down from satan worship on the spiritual ladder. if this sort of bigotry wasn't so prevalent (and it isn't as prevalent as you might think, but it's still bad) then i wouldn't need to say this. but it is, so i do. so there.
2. being catholic doesn't mean you are saved i don't care if you were baptized as an infant, went through your confirmation, and have never missed a mass in eighty years. God isn't impressed. salvation comes by grace through faith, so unless you have at some point made a personal decision to accept Christ as your Savior, all the liturgy on earth won't do you a bit of good. there are plenty of devout catholics who won't be in that number when the saints go marchin' in, because what they were devoted to was the roman catholic church and not Jesus Christ. "sorry," He will say "i never knew you." so if you combine numbers 1 and 2, what do you get? the same thing you would get if you replaced "catholic" with presbyterian, methodist, greek orthodox, or protestant non-denom, which is what i am: going to a particular church doesn't get you into heaven. Jesus does.
3. not being a catholic doesn't mean you aren't saved again, don't get mad: this one wasn't ever my rule. rome has backed off of this lately, but talk to your grandmother some time. when she was a girl, she was told that heaven would be full of catholics, and hell would be full of heretics like myself. my great-grandmother used to tell me stories about the priests back when she was a little girl in italy. the stuff they told her wasn't pretty. i'm not holding any grudges, mind you, i'm merely pointing out that this sort of theological bias has existed in the past and it may exist today in greatly reduced forms in the states or in the same form in more backward regions. anti-catholic prejudice is the hot-button issue today, but historically it's been the other way around. i'm not applying this to any of my readers, either, it's simply a general thought.
4. rome isn't the great whore of babylon those of you who've read chick tracts know what i mean. those of you who haven't are probably better off that way. actually, some of his older ones are great, but he seems to have gotten more dogmatic with the years and his dogma has gotten more and more bizarre. the theory is that the whore talked about in Revelation is actually the roman catholic church, who will eventually succumb to ecumenical currents and dilute the message of the gospel to accommodate all other faiths. the unitarian/universalist crowd is doing that right now. maybe it's them. rome denies no essential of the Christian faith and as long as that's the case then we should look for whores elsewhere. times square around midnight would be a good place to start.
5. free form worship and liturgical services have their pros and cons all Christians could benefit from learning this simple fact: there is no one right way to do it. if you want to sing the olde hymns then rocke on. if you want to rap or play disco, party like it's 1999. if you want bells and smells, ring and sniff. if you want a touchy-feely love fest, then let's all have a group hug. God is a spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. as long as you are doing that, then your service is as good as the next guy's. God might want you to be a roman catholic but He might want me to be a southern baptist or greek orthodox. the important thing is that you've prayed about it and you believe you are where God wants you to be. the fact that your dad was a catholic or a lutheran or a seventh day adventist doesn't mean that you are automatically supposed to be too.
6. some things i like about rome the catholic church's pro-life position is awesome. 'nuff said about that. their emphasis on the intellect is admirable--especially when evangelical circles have an all-too-frequent anti-intellectual bias--with the rich symbolism of a catholic mass particularly engaging. their members are usually very devoted, enough to put most protestants to shame. they've done a lot of great missionary work. they do a wonderful job taking care of their infirmed or elderly members. the sick are always visited, the elderly always have bingo. everyone else is pretty much on their own, which brings us to...
7. some things i don't like about rome marian dogma. birth control. transubstantiation. the concept of a priesthood. confessions to said priests. intercessory prayer through saints. the dry, emotionless environment which contributes so readily to spiritual apathy, in other words, the emphasis on intellectualism comes at the price of emotion and they, like many evangelicals, need to find a happy medium. legalism, legalism, legalism. ex-catholics--i've known some bitter, frustrated ex-fundamentalists but not nearly so many as i've known bitter, frustrated ex-catholics. people got tired of the legalism, the judgment, the condemnation, the shame, the hypocrisy...all of it. true of other faiths, too, of course, but to a lesser extent. there was a line in the movie dogma (not a good movie, but truer than some would like in parts) where a character said "i think God is dead" and got a cheerful "then you're a good catholic!" as a response. that's a problem. people don't just get turned off towards rome, they get turned off towards God all together. not always, but far too often.
that's it for the list. wrapping this up, a lot of the catholic posters in here are sincere Christians who love the Lord and the roman catholic church as well. in all honesty i think that's great. but i think that some of you need to recognize that there are serious problems in your church, probably the greatest of which is that many of your rank and file members are left spiritually empty and that emptiness turns to resentment. there is more to being a Christian than being a good catholic, and while rome might not explicitly deny that anymore, they've done a terribly poor job of affirming it. if Christianity is a list of do's and don'ts, places you have to be and things you have to say, penalties for missing those or for doing or saying other things you weren't supposed to, then it is no wonder people just throw up their hands and quit. rome doesn't emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that is a big, big problem. intellectually it's all there, and you may be the sort of person who can appreciate that, but i'm not being unrealistic when i say most aren't. people want Jesus. they need Jesus. it may be, for instance, that you guys have got it right and He really is present in the communion bread in a literal way, but if that's the case then even the physical body of Christ is leaving some people hungry--even He said that we cannot live by bread alone. people need a spiritual connection with Him and i don't believe rome has done enough to help their members establish it. if anything, they've made Christ a stern, distant figure separated from them by layer upon layer of saint and church bureaucracy.
i know what some of you are thinking: "that's not right! that's not what we believe at all! why, if you'll just look up this confession or that edict then you'll see that we have clearly stated on such and such a date that..."
it is great that you guys Get It, but many people don't. they don't perceive things the same way as most of the catholic readers here do. they don't see the richness and glories of church doctrine, they see a bunch of difficult concepts and stuffy philosophy that they never quite fully understood, but which all boils down to lots of rules. those perceptions are important. they are crushing people's faith. denying them or failing to address them is dangerous. some have resorted to superstition to compensate for emptiness or lack of understanding--the ones who are always seeing mary in their tortillas or whatever. others just give up. neither is a solution but both speak to a real problem. and because it isn't a problem for you, dear catholic reader, doesn't mean that it isn't a problem--and they aren't just bad catholics. they are people who have been left behind for whatever reason, and i'm telling you, they aren't that rare. if a professor flunks one student out of one hundred, then that's the student's fault. if he flunks 40 or 50, then he needs to face the possibility that maybe his teaching method isn't quite what it should be.
locdog has had his say, catholic readers, so feel free to fire away in response
busy, busy, busy!
i've been absolutely swamped today. guess that's what i get for being so lazy this weekend. either tomorrow or the day after, depending on my schedule, i'm going to try to do a post on sound Biblical interpretation. before that, though, i'm going to post some general thoughts on roman catholics. for whatever reason, the catholic posts are always the most controversial ones in here, and i wanted to clear up a few potential misconceptions regarding my positions on rome. till then.
locdog's pittsburgh pens/panthers/steelers all won this weekend, which more than offsets the monday malaise