Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reformation Day 2010: A word from Peter Kreeft

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day, a day on which many Protestants commemorate Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517. Writes Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, "The Protestant Reformation began when a Catholic monk rediscovered a Catholic doctrine in a Catholic book. The monk, of course, was Luther; the doctrine was justification by faith; and the book was the Bible."

Continue reading....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weird: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) omits "under God" in leading the House in Pledge of Allegiance

This is deeply troubling,  since the purpose of inserting "under God" in the Pledge was to distinguish America's belief that human rights and dignity have their source in God with the Soviet belief in philosophical materialism and that it is the State that exclusively imparts to us our rights.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6evyllqZAw&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reformation Day and Schism

That's the title of my latest column on the Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
Sunday, October 31, is Reformation Day. It marks 493 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to that famous door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The Augustinian monk set in motion a sequence of events that reverberated through Western Christendom and continues to mark and separate us today.

Since returning to the Catholic Church in late April 2007,  Reformation Day has taken on a different meaning than it did when I stood on the other side of the Tiber. Nevertheless, even as a Protestant, my enthusiasm for October 31 never rose higher than modest appreciation for what I thought were Luther’s, and later Calvin’s, significant contributions in helping Western Christians to retrieve what had been lost. I say “modest appreciation,” since it always seemed to me rather unseemly to get too excited about schism and mutual charges of apostasy and heresy.   It would be like celebrating the 10th anniversary of your divorce.  You may think that the divorce was a good idea, but not because you think divorce itself is the proper end of a marriage.

Luther himself, though excommunicated by the Catholic Church, never saw his movement as anything more than a renewal movement within the Church.  We, of course, know now that the movement he started had a life of its own, resulting in scores of different and often conflicting understandings of Scripture, sacrament, and Church, and each finding something of Christianity’s traditions to challenge.

But in order to arrive at this present state of theological diversity and ecclesial fragmentation, you needed more Luthers, of which there has been an endless supply.  His success made Luther a towering example to emulate.  Combine that with an ever diminishing memory of a unified Western Christianity, along with the spirit of the Enlightenment—that detachment from familial, ecclesial, and cultural traditions is the beginning of reason—and schism then becomes a sort of secular sacrament. Although Luther argued that justification is by “faith alone,” it is clear that he did not anticipate or support the modern idea that Church is by “the faithful alone.”

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Louis Bouyer on the Reformation

Three days before Reformation Day (October 31), I bring to your attention one of my favorite essays, penned by the president of Ignatius Press, Mark Brumley. Entitled, "Why Only Catholicism Can Make Protestantism Work: Louis Bouyer on the Reformation," Brumley writes:
Interpreting the Reformation is complicated business. But like many complicated things, it can be simplified sufficiently well that even non-experts can get the gist of it. Here's what seems a fairly accurate but simplified summary of the issue: The break between Catholics and Protestants was either a tragic necessity (to use Jaroslav Pelikan's expression) or it was tragic because unnecessary.

Many Protestants see the Catholic/Protestant split as a tragic necessity, although the staunchly anti-Catholic kind of Protestant often sees nothing tragic about it. Or if he does, the tragedy is that there ever was such a thing as the Roman Catholic Church that the Reformers had to separate from. His motto is "Come out from among them" and five centuries of Christian disunity has done nothing to cool his anti-Roman fervor.

Yet for most Protestants, even for most conservative Protestants, this is not so. They believe God "raised up" Luther and the other Reformers to restore the Gospel in its purity. They regret that this required a break with Roman Catholics (hence the tragedy) but fidelity to Christ, on their view, demanded it (hence the necessity).

Catholics agree with their more agreeable Protestant brethren that the sixteenth century division among Christians was tragic. But most Catholics who think about it also see it as unnecessary. At least unnecessary in the sense that what Catholics might regard as genuine issues raised by the Reformers could, on the Catholic view, have been addressed without the tragedy of dividing Christendom.

Yet we can go further than decrying the Reformation as unnecessary. In his ground-breaking work, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Louis Bouyer argued that the Catholic Church herself is necessary for the full flowering of the Reformation principles. In other words, you need Catholicism to make Protestantism work — for Protestantism's principles fully to develop. Thus, the Reformation was not only unnecessary; it was impossible. What the Reformers sought, argues Bouyer, could not be achieved without the Catholic Church.

You can read the whole thing here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) says Joe Miller "not fit to lead." What would be your comeback to that accusation if you were Miller?

According to The Weekly Standard:
Senator Lisa Murkowski, the write-in candidate in the Alaska Senate race against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, oozed with contempt for Miller during a debate last night, which was televised on Alaska's KTUU:


MURKOWSKI: Scott is not ready to lead. Joe is not fit to lead. I have been leading this state [crowd boos]--I have been leading this state for 8 years. And I will continue to do so, bringing the seniority that I have built, the work ethic that I have built, and the passion for a state that I love.


Senator Murkowski was appointed to the U.S. Senate by her Daddy after he resigned from the U. S. Senate to assume the Alaska governorship. So, here are some possible comebacks that Miller could have employed if he had interrupted her:
MURKOWSKI:  Joe is not fit to lead.
MILLER: Since Frank Murkowski is not my father, I can understand why you don't think I'm fit to lead.

MURKOWSKI: Joe is not fit to lead.
MILLER: If I'm not fit to lead, and I beat you in the Republican primary and you are now running as a write-in candidate, aren't you really saying that the voters are not fit to vote?

What's your comeback? (Make it clean and clever)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My conservative journey on a liberal road; an excerpt from Return to Rome

Jonah Goldberg of the National Review just published an edited volume, Proud to be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation (Harper, 2010). It consists of 22 chapters by young conservatives telling their stories about why they tilt right. I have not read the book, but the names of some of the contributors I know well, including the insightful Matthew Lee Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy.

There was a time when I was a young conservative. (I turn 50 in two weeks). In my book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press, 2009), I briefly recount my political change of mind--when I shifted from liberal to conservative--in my early 20s:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dallas Willard's Knowing Christ Today; an excellent treatise on faith, reason, and the Christian university


Over a year ago Harper Collins sent me a gift copy of Dallas Willard's new book, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. Soon after I received the book I came across Stan Guthrie's review of it in which Guthrie quotes from a piece I published in First Things' On the Square. It is an essay in which I offer an assessment of Notre Dame's awarding an honorary doctorate to President Barack Obama.

In that piece I make these comments, which Guthrie quotes in his review:
Unless the university does not believe that the Church's understanding of the moral law is true and knowable, it can no more in good conscience award an honorary doctorate of laws to a lawyer who rejects the humanity of the proper subjects of law than it could in good conscience award an honorary doctorate in science to a geocentric astronomer who rejects the deliverances of the discipline he claims to practice.

At some point, a Christian university must recognize that the truth it claims to know matters, even if the truth is unpopular, and even if the propagation and celebration of that truth may put one's community at odds with those persons and centers of influence and power that dispense prestige and authority in our culture.

Willard, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California, overtly defends what I merely suggest in my piece: the loss of confidence in theological truths in both inside and outside of Christian communities is the result of the academic and popular culture abandoning the idea that theological traditions, and moral notions deeply connected to them, can be real and trustworthy sources of knowledge.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What the Tea Party Movement believes, parts 1 and 2

I found these videos to be clear and compelling.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLD6VChcWCE&feature=related[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0MESB6VZM4&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Neuhaus' Law confirmed again

(HT: Carl Trueman)

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus proposed what came to be known as Neuhaus' Law: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." Over at Reformation21, Liam Goligher shares this tale from the Church of England. Apparently, in the Anglican communion, opposing the ordination of female bishops has gone from optional to proscribed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Evangelical Catholicity and "The New Evangelical Scandal"

I published this last year in Houston Baptist University's periodical The City. My essay is one of two responses to Matthew Lee Anderson's insightful piece, "The New Evangelical Scandal." The other response was penned by my friend, John Mark Reynolds, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Torrey Honors Program at Biola University. As you can probably tell, I had a lot of fun writing it. Here it is republished in toto.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chris Castaldo on the Catholic Church and the New Evangelization

My friend, Chris Castaldo, an Evangelical Protestant pastor, has posted an entry on the Gospel Coalition blog ("Pope Unveils Agency for New Evangelization") in which he invites input from his readers. If you want to read the post and the comments, go hear. Although Pastor Castaldo's post is well-written, informed, and thoughtful, as many of us have come to expect from him over the years, I can not say the same for the public witness of some of the post's commentators. Thus, Catholics easily offended by incendiary and uncharitable descriptions of their faith should avoid reading the comments. And if you do the read comments and choose to opine, do so with a spirit of charity.

My sister, Elizabeth, in action

My sister, Elizabeth Beckwith, on the Late, Late Show ten years ago (June 2000):

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ4gSNJK9A4&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Don't know much about theology

That is the title of my latest essay published on The Catholic Thing. Here is how it begins:
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were watching an episode of “The O’Reilly Factor” in which the host, Bill O’Reilly, was interviewing Bill Maher, a comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time.” They were discussing religion, with the focus on Christianity. Neither one seemed to know much about the topic, though Mr. O’Reilly seemed slightly better informed. And this on the Fox News channel, which is supposed to be friendly to traditional religious faith.

Mr. Maher, if you did not know already, is particularly hostile to Christianity, saying things about Christians – their intellectual powers and the rationality of their beliefs – that would not be tolerated if it were one religious believer speaking about another. If Maher, for example, were a Fundamentalist Christian and said on national television that Islam is a false religion, he would be excoriated for being “Islamaphobic.” But because Maher maintains that all religions are false, he is hailed as an edgy freethinker and a courageous comic willing to speak truth to power. You are a bigot, apparently, if you think one religion is true and all others false. But if you think no religion true and thus all of them false, you are a paragon of cultural sophistication.

To give you an idea of Mr. Maher’s intellectual acumen, consider this comment, from his 2008 documentary, “Religulous”: “The only attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt.” Yes, arrogance is bad, to be sure. It is a character flaw that each of us should avoid. But if “arrogant certitude” about the big questions is to be shunned, and the nature of man is a big question, then is it not arrogant certitude for Mr. Maher to claim that he offers to his audience the “only attitude for man to have about the big questions?”

>>> continue reading

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 15 on Catholic Answers Live!

On October 15 3-4 pm PDT I will be the guest on Catholic Answers Live to discuss my recently published article in the September/October 2010 issue of The Rock, "Government Forms (and Deforms) the Soul."

Portions of the article are adapted from my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010)

Going to Ole Miss - October 18

On Monday, October 18, I will be in Oxford, Mississippi speaking at the law school at the University of Mississippi on the topic, "Disenfranchising Believers: Why the Religious Motive Test Violates Religious Free Exercise."

Is Catholicism Rational?: Reflections on the Catholic-Protestant Divide

Suppose someone, like me, a life-long Christian, after considering the arguments for and against Catholicism, decides that the case for Catholicism makes more sense to me than does the case for Protestantism, even though I believe that one can become and/or remain a Protestant without being unreasonable in doing so.

I raise this query because there are some--on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant divide--who think that if you don't see the obvious truth of either position (depending on which side is arguing) you either (1) suffer from an epistemic defect in your cognitive equipment, (2) fail to appropriate to your noetic structure, either as a consequence of oversight, ignorance, or stubbornness, that one essential argument, book, or article written by this or that fabulously gifted apologist, or (3) have a sub-rational motive or cause for maintaining, or converting to, your current ecclesial home.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My two appearances on EWTN's "The Journey Home"

New readers to Return to Rome may not know I have appeared twice on the EWTN program, The Journey Home, hosted by Marcus Grodi. On both programs I discuss my return to the Catholic Church after 30 years as an Evangelical Protestant. Just click either one to watch the video:

Sister Mary Ann and the Conversion of Baptists

I posted this at my old Return to Rome blog earlier this year. But it's worth a repost.

Over at Chris-tocentric (clever name), Chris Castaldo shares this humorous story:
Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency, was out making her rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of gas. As luck would have it, a Texaco Gasoline station was just a block away.

She walked to the station to borrow a gas can and buy some gas. The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had been loaned out, but she could wait until it was returned. Since Sister Mary Ann was on the way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car.

She looked for something in her car that she could fill with gas and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient. Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried the full bedpan back to her car.

As she was pouring the gas into her tank, two Baptists watched from across the street. One of them turned to the other and said,

‘If it starts, I’m turning Catholic.’

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not exactly the Arian controversy

Over at several blogs, the "future of Evangelicalism," as they like to think of themselves, is debating who and what counts as a "hipster" and whether it matters or not. See here, here, here, and here. My own sense is that if the past is any guide, today's "hipster" is destined to become retro-humor. This means that Brian McLaren, for example, is just Henry Emerson Fosdick who listens to Steely Dan on his iPod. He's rougly a decade away from becoming the ecclesial equivalent of another victim of a bad 8-track album cover photo-op. Eternal truths don't go well with polyester, Che t-shirts, or even vinyl. Consider these examples:

[caption id="attachment_135" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Evangelical Hipster "band" circa 1962"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_141" align="alignright" width="231" caption="Christian Hipster "mag" circa 1968"][/caption]

Tim McGrew's article on "Miracles" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Timothy McGrew, a philosophy professor at Western Michigan University, has just published a very nice entry on "Miracles" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You can read it here.

What is his best song?


I'm totally taking this idea from my fellow patheos blogger, Scot McKnight, who on Jesus Creed asked this question about the Beatles, "What is their best song?"

[dailymotion]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xhyfn_neil-youngdylan-my-back-pages_music[/dailymotion] (Bob Dylan with Roger McGuinn, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Neil Young singing "My Back Pages"- click for lyrics)

Sacred Texts, Holy Images: Baylor's historic exhibition of religious art

The Baylor press release reads:
From September 25 until November 28, 2010, Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum will have the privilege of housing two of the greatest masterpieces of modern religious art: Georges Rouault’s Miserere and Marc Chagall’s Bible series.  The opportunity to exhibit these two remarkable collections is made possible by the generosity of the Mark Foster Foundation, which has established Fine Arts in the Academy to “advance the serious study of art, history, and Western civilization on America’s college campuses by putting students face-to-face with masterpieces of our own Western tradition.”  Initiated in2009 as a response to the declining role of the fine arts in the liberal education of college students, Fine Arts in the Academy enables students to examine the cultural, moral, and spiritual foundations of Western civilization through direct participation in the art itself.  Bruce Cole, president and CEO of the American Revolution Center at Valley Forge, art historian, and former director of NEH, has outlined the importance of such engagement with the arts: “In this age of uncertainty, we can draw from the humanities’ deep well of wisdom.  For perspective, guidance, and even consolation, we can look to the arts and letters.... We cannot neglect the great democratic imperative: to give each succeeding generation a brighter light, a broader perspective, and an enriched legacy with which to face the future.”

You can read the entire press release here. However, if you want to find out more about visiting Baylor in order to view the exhibition as well as to attend community lectures and a symposium, go here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Greetings from Waco, Texas - Welcome to Return to Rome at Patheos.

This is the first official day of Return to Rome on Patheos.com. For those patheos readers who don't know much about me or this blog, let me encourage you to read my website bio and then my May 5, 2007 Right Reason posting on my return to the Catholic Church.  Other prior postings and published articles of mine that may interest readers are the following:

(Photo: Me in 1968 [in Las Vegas] at my First Holy Communion)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Can We Be Good Without God? Natural Law and the New Atheism

That's the title of the talk I am giving tomorrow, October 9, at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. It's scheduled for 11 am. For more info, go here.

Can We Be Good Without God? Natural Law and the New Atheism

That's the title of the talk I am giving tomorrow, October 9, at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. It's scheduled for 11 am. For more info, go here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Christianity Today's strange story on Al Mohler

This story is the buzz on the Evangelical blogs, the most important of which is Justin Taylor's at the Gospel Coalition. (He has the whole skinny here). As a Catholic, I have no dog in this fight, but it seems to me that the article's author, Molly Worthen, a PhD candidate at Yale, pens a few cheap shots that should cause any well-known religious figure with theologically traditional sensibilities to think twice about agreeing to an interview with her.

There are two passages that stand out as particularly outrageous. Here is the first:
Mohler has gone to great lengths to counteract this assumption, to nurture a polished, well-read breed of fundamentalism that is a far cry from H. L. Mencken's caricature of the literalist bumpkin. "He knows he's carrying the mantle of Southern Seminary, which has been, at its best, patrician in its appreciation of culture and learning," says J. Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and a friend of Mohler. Students at Southern are not sawdust-trail Baptists but the smartly dressed sort who can make small talk about literature and art.

Imagine it was not 2010, but 1910, and it was H. L. Mencken writing about American blacks attending college for the first time: "Students at Howard are not ordinary sharecropper Negroes but the smartly dressed sort who can make small talk about literature and art." The bigotry would be obvious (as, no doubt, Mencken, with no temptation to court subtlety, would have wanted it).

Dr. David Anders on relics and intercession of the saints

(HT: Called to Communion) On Marcus Grodi's radio program, Deep in Scripture, Dr. David Anders offers a biblical and historical account of the theology of relics and the intercession of the saints. Listen here at Called to Communion..

Dr. David Anders on relics and intercession of the saints

(HT: Called to Communion)

On Marcus Grodi's radio program, Deep in Scripture, Dr. David Anders offers a biblical and historical account of the theology of relics and the intercession of the saints. Listen here at Called to Communion.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ralph Wood's Providence convocation address: "From the Bible Belt South to the Deep Catholic North: A Four-Act Drama"

On September 15, 2010, my Baylor colleague, Ralph C. Wood, gave the academic convocation address at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. Ralph is spending the 2010-2011 year on the Providence faculty as the Rev. Robert J. Randall Distinguished Professor of Christian Culture. A couple of nights ago he emailed to me a copy of his September 15 address. While I sat reading Ralph's talk in the Starbucks at the Barnes & Noble in Waco, I found myself emotionally gripped by Ralph's powerful words. Although I am neither a Baptist nor from the South, I seemed to know the roads he traveled and the characters he encountered, though for me they had different faces and names and reside in different places. Here are some excerpts:
The second most crucial religious event beyond my baptism also occurred during my undergraduate years. Prospective Baptist preachers who were serious about their vocation wanted to be educated at Baylor University. I was one of them, and I yearned for "Jerusalem on the Brazos," there in the heart of Texas, at the school that was the veritable buckle on the Bible Belt. Yet in 1959, the total cost for a year's education at Baylor was $2,000. My schoolteacher parents were earning $300 per month. And while this not a negligible income in the late 50s, it was clear that my matriculation at Baylor would work a financial hardship on them. While they didn't forbid me to enroll there, I elected not to do so. Instead, I enrolled at the former East Texas State College in the town of Commerce 60 miles east of Dallas on the blackland prairie. Little did I know the difference this decision would make.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ralph Wood's Providence convocation address: "From the Bible Belt South to the Deep Catholic North: A Four-Act Drama"



On September 15, 2010, my Baylor colleague, Ralph C. Wood, gave the academic convocation address at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. Ralph is spending the 2010-2011 year on the Providence faculty as the Rev. Robert J. Randall Distinguished Professor of Christian Culture. A couple of nights ago he emailed to me a copy of his September 15 address. While I sat reading Ralph's talk in the Starbucks at the Barnes & Noble in Waco, I found myself emotionally gripped by Ralph's powerful words. Although I am neither a Baptist nor from the South, I seemed to know the roads he traveled and the characters he encountered, though for me they had different faces and names and reside in different places. Here are some excerpts:

The second most crucial religious event beyond my baptism also occurred during my undergraduate years. Prospective Baptist preachers who were serious about their vocation wanted to be educated at Baylor University. I was one of them, and I yearned for "Jerusalem on the Brazos," there in the heart of Texas, at the school that was the veritable buckle on the Bible Belt. Yet in 1959, the total cost for a year's education at Baylor was $2,000. My schoolteacher parents were earning $300 per month. And while this not a negligible income in the late 50s, it was clear that my matriculation at Baylor would work a financial hardship on them. While they didn't forbid me to enroll there, I elected not to do so. Instead, I enrolled at the former East Texas State College in the town of Commerce 60 miles east of Dallas on the blackland prairie. Little did I know the difference this decision would make.

Baptist version of via negativa

My Baylor colleague, Roger Olson, writes in a blog entry entitled, "Me and Al Mohler":
Just for the record (in case anyone cares), as an unapologetic, unashamed and determined evangelical I wish to state for the record that Al Mohler (cover story subject, Christianity Today, October, 2010 and picture story at AOL’s Welcome Page, October 4, 2010) does not speak for me.  Thank you very much.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bob Dylan & America - The Augustinian Artist

That is the title of a conversation that appears in the most recent issue of The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University. I am honored to be one of the discussants, along with Paul Cella III, Sean Curnyn, Benjamin Kerstein, and Benjamin Domenech.  However, my contribution is dwarfed by those of my fellow discussants, who offer a lot more insight than I can possibly muster.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Domenech's opening comments:


Today we’ve gathered a group of five friends and colleagues—includinga Catholic, an Evangelical, an Anglican, an Orthodox Christian and an Atheist Jew—to discuss Bob Dylan, perhaps the most influential musician alive today, and particularly his fascinating approach to the spiritual realm, and how he writes about faith and God.

Forgive me if I start with a memory, which seems less wrong if only because the subject we have in Bob Dylan is the king of reminiscing, mostly about what never was and what never will be again.The first time I heard Dylan—reallyheard him—was a decade ago, my freshman year in college, when the top ten single list included songs from R. Kelly, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and Destiny’s Child. Standing out from a sea of cliche-ridden Pulp Fiction posters and ludicrously over-sexed pinups, there was one guy on the hall, a short guy dressed in black who had put up just one poster: a vast picture of Johnny Cash. He had moved in ahead of us all, and was listening to an album that I would only later come to adore, Dylan’s Time Out of Mind. I, still stuck in the shallow rut of teen angst songs, listening in the pre-iPod age to a mash of eighties guitar rock, hippie reboots, and hip hop, mocked it like the young foolI was. “Hey, it’s The Frosh in Black,”I said to the guy. He did his part to reinforce the image by wearing a lot of black—and eventually the whole hall called him that.

You can read the whole thing here.

Bob Dylan & America: The Augustinian Artist

That is the title of a conversation that appears in the most recent issue of The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University. I am honored to be one of the discussants, along with Paul Cella III, Sean Curnyn, Benjamin Kerstein, and Benjamin Domenech.  However, my contribution is dwarfed by those of my fellow discussants, who offer a lot more insight than I can possibly muster.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Domenech's opening comments:
Today we’ve gathered a group of five friends and colleagues—includinga Catholic, an Evangelical, an Anglican, an Orthodox Christian and an Atheist Jew—to discuss Bob Dylan, perhaps the most influential musician alive today, and particularly his fascinating approach to the spiritual realm, and how he writes about faith and God. 
Forgive me if I start with a memory, which seems less wrong if only because the subject we have in Bob Dylan is the king of reminiscing, mostly about what never was and what never will be again.The first time I heard Dylan—reallyheard him—was a decade ago, my freshman year in college, when the top ten single list included songs from R. Kelly, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and Destiny’s Child. Standing out from a sea of cliche-ridden Pulp Fiction posters and ludicrously over-sexed pinups, there was one guy on the hall, a short guy dressed in black who had put up just one poster: a vast picture of Johnny Cash. He had moved in ahead of us all, and was listening to an album that I would only later come to adore, Dyl-an’s Time Out of Mind. I, still stuck in the shallow rut of teen angst songs, listening in the pre-iPod age to a mash of eighties guitar rock, hippie reboots, and hip hop, mocked it like the young foolI was. “Hey, it’s The Frosh in Black,”I said to the guy. He did his part to reinforce the image by wearing a lot of black—and eventually the whole hall called him that.  
You can read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why Everything Sucks by Craig Ferguson


(HT: Southern Appeal)

The Perils of Intra-Christian Apologetics

That is the title of an essay of mine that was published today on The Catholic Thing, an online periodical for which I am a regular columnist. Here's how the essay begins:
"St. Paul in Athens," a window in Baylor's Robbins Chapel
In March 2006 one of my graduate assistants, a Baylor doctoral student, visited my office to discuss with me his personal journey in the direction of Catholicism. An alumnus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister, this student,  I’ll call him Joseph, told me that he and his wife were on the brink of choosing to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.  He wanted to know from me, President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, if I could give them any reasons why they should not make the move.  Much to Joseph’s surprise, I said “no.”  
Although I was a year away from my own Catholic moment, I had reached a point in my Christian journey where I began to see more peril than promise in intra-Christian apologetics. This is not to say that I did not believe, or do not continue to believe, that when one is asked about one’s faith that one should not offer reasons for why one is Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. I do not doubt that one has a responsibility, in the words of St. Peter, “to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15a). Thus, if Joseph had asked me to explain why I was a Protestant, I would have done so. But he did not ask me that. He asked me to give him reasons why he should not become Catholic. 
There is a question here that many Catholics eager to evangelize other Christian brothers and sisters may not appreciate. As someone who now has been on both sides of the Tiber, I need to explain precisely what I mean. I could not in good conscience provide what Joseph requested. For I did not know whether, at that time in his journey, Catholicism was becoming to him the only Christian tradition that he thought plausible to believe. Because he was a follower of Jesus and cared deeply about his walk with Christ, I had to treat Joseph’s inquiry with a certain delicacy, making sure that I did not place in his path a stumbling block.  Months after meeting with me, he and has wife were received into the Catholic Church, and I soon followed.
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