Well, contrary to all the hubbub about an alleged uprising of the conservative masses (proletariat?) against the totalitarian rule of Barack Obama, it seems that things have gone differently in the over-discussed special election for one of New York’s congress members. It turns out that a district that has been held by Republicans since 1872 has now been won by a Democrat.
Yeah. The days of Barack Obama are clearly numbered. Thats obviously what this indicates.
Now, obviously all of this fascination with this obscure special election is massively insignificant. However, the one thing it has wound up showing is how utterly nonsensical, ideologically driven, and stupid the whole Beck-Palin cloud of noise is. And maybe it also seems to show that at least some of the electorate isn’t completely captive to these sorts of inane voices.
Peter Leithart has two great posts wrestling with some of Augustine’s questions about the nature of the relations within the Trinity and the question of simplicity, particularly his struggles with the biblical affirmation that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Augustine labors mightily to articulate how this can be true if the Father is supposed to have these qualities himself. Leithart throws out one provocative possible solution:
Does the Father have wisdom “in Himself”? Yes, because the Wisdom that is the Son dwells in Him by the Spirit. Does the Father possess His being “in Himself”? Yes, because the Son is the fullness of His deity, and the Son indwells Him through the Spirit. Vice versa: Does the Son have wisdom considered in Himself? Yes, because what is “in Himself” is the fact that the Father dwells in Him in the Spirit, so that His existence “in Himself” is His existence as the Son indwelt by the Father.
And so on.
This allows us to speak of Father and Son distinctly; it also makes it clear that the Father is not Himself except as He has and is indwelt by His Son, nor is the Son Himself except as He has and is indwelt the Father.
To me this seems like a necessary critique of any sort of pyramidal trinitarianism like that articulated by John Zizioulas, for example.
Tacking onto the last post about some hysterics over the blogosphere: Can we please stop with this sort bizarre sensationalism? Seriously, when was the public square ever not run by “bullies, sophists, and clowns”? The idea that things around us are suddenly descending into barbarism is just silly. Its been utterly barbaric for time immemorial.
I honestly wonder if people who make this sort of jilted noise really read stuff that has been part of “the public square” over the last couple hundred years or so. I have trouble finding anything today that is significantly more stupid, barbaric, or insane than what passed for public discourse throughout the last few centuries. Humanity has always been stupid, barbaric, and insane and the notion that once upon a time before blogs and interwebs there was a time of glorious civic virtue and rational public debate is just fantasy. All McDaniel’s post provides is hand-wringing nostalgia for something that never existed.
According to a post on First Things, blogging is generally something that cheapens language and isn’t very helpful. Apparently “The blogpost is biased toward speed, brevity, and cleverness. It thus hands the public square over to bullies, sophists, and clowns.”
Take that, public square. I never knew bloggers had so friggin much power.
Now, I’ve certainly commented previously on the very real limits of blogging as a genre. But to claim that an alleged bias toward “speed, brevity, and cleverness” is a bad thing seems rather odd. What would be the alternative? To be biased toward slowness, verbosity, and dim-wittedness? This reads more like simple ressentiment from someone who has a bone to pick with people he things are faster and cleverer than he.
The article also hints that blogging will somehow make it hard for you to read or write longer things, like books. I find this to be one of the weirdest notions of all. Most bloggers I read seem to read a great many more books than the average person, and they tend to write more things outside of their blogposts than most people I know. Now, to be sure, there are certainly hordes of blog commentors out there who fit these sorts of pejorative descriptions. But we’ve known about that for ages and thats another matter altogether.
So to sum up, aside from the irony of attcking blogging via something that look pretty much exactly like a blog post, it turns out that the author just doesn’t really have a clue what he’s talking about.
Larison is very perceptive in cutting through the fog of triumphal pronouncements about the alleged resurgence of conservatism that the current NY special election for congress is supposed to indicate:
The GOP seems to be making what ought to be an easy win into a national Phyrrhic victory in which the relative strength of conservative activists inside the party becomes vastly exaggerated and identifies the flailing, failing party even more closely with its conservative members. This will make it very difficult for conservative activists to disassociate themselves from the outcome of the midterms next year. What I find strange in the fixation on NY-23 is that the off-year gubernatorial elections probably serve as a much better indicator of large-scale movements in public opinion. Larger, more diverse electorates in large states are involved in Virginia and New Jersey. If things go as I expect them to with a Republican pick-up in Virginia and a Democratic hold in New Jersey, the message will be rather muddled. It will mean that Virginia will have chosen a Northern Virginia moderate who successfully ran away from his earlier social conservatism while New Jersey re-elected an incumbent who was thought to be highly vulnerable and discredited by corruption. Those results could be explained by pointing to the nature of the electorates in both states, but this does not lend itself to a triumphant narrative of Republican resurgence fueled by true believers. The point here is not to write off conservative insurgents or reject protest candidacies provoked by the failures and mistakes of state and local party leaders. These are appropriate and sometimes necessary responses to elected and party officials’ blunders. What also matters is being willing to acknowledge that the political landscape is not necessary what we wish it is or think it ought to be. Hoffmania and its attendant privileging of ideology over actual local interests suggest that a great many conservatives cannot and will not acknowledge this.
This nice dose of sanity speaks volumes against some of the ridiculous claims that have been made — often by evangelicals — about how “real America” is somehow revolting against Obama. One pundit even claimed that this obscure special election somehow proved that “the Obama brand” will be dead in 2010 (2 months to go, folks!).
Doses of sanity such as Larison provides here are quite welcome these days.
I imagine that natural theology is near the top of the list of theological issues that are most fervently argued about and simultaneously most misunderstood. At least since Barth and Brunner’s head-on collision over the matter it has been the subject of voracious conflict with both sides claiming that the other doesn’t really understand the issues.
So, here’s the question: What, in a couple sentences do you understand natural theology to be? Sub-question: Is natural theology licit, that is, does it impart knowledge of God?
We’ve had plenty of discussion about the recent apostolic constitution from Rome regarding the admission of Anglo-Catholics into communion. Clearly there has been a lot of less than informed commentary from a variety of news outlets in the whole discussion. If there’s anything I’ve learned about Anglo-Catholicism from all this its that they are one bizarre group. Indeed, if you ask me this whole thing says far more about the nature of Anglo-Catholicism than it does about the Roman church. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Rome wants as many people as possible to become Roman Catholic. This has always been true. To be sure there are voices of ecumenical opposition from within the ranks, like Walter Kasper and Hans Kung who would like to see mutual recognition and reconciliation between Roman and Protestant churches, but in the main, the Vatican has always and unapologetically desired and sought the integration of all other Christians into itself. That’s simply business as usual. A traditional Catholic self-understanding seems to require an orientation such as this. Nobody should be shocked by this.
However, pause and consider for a moment what this whole thing says about the nature of Anglo-Catholicism (or at least the sort of Anglo-Catholics who are likely to convert to Rome through this recent pronouncement). Apparently Anglo-Catholics desire union with Rome because they truly believe everything that Rome teaches. Ok. But if that’s the case one wonders why they haven’t joined up with the throne of Peter long before now. After all, if I really truly believed that in order to be a part of Jesus’s church I needed to be submitted to the Pope, I’m pretty sure I’d get right on that.
But what we actually see here is an intricate process of making sure that any Anglo-Catholic parishes that come into the Roman fold are able to maintain their polity and liturgical practice. Being able to have their cake and eat it too is at the center of this whole arrangement. Now none of this is to say that the Anglican rite that will be preserved in these churches is somehow silly or irrelevant or worthless. I’m sure its a rich tradition that should be preserved. All I’m saying is that the level of priority it seems to be being accorded by the Anglo-Catholics is pretty crazy. If they really believe that the Pope is the successor of Peter and that all Christians must be in communion with him to be fully catholic, why the hell would they insist that they get their liturgical guarantees beforehand? If being Roman Catholic is as important to them as it seems to be to most Roman Catholics, why does this whole thing turn on them getting to make sure they can run their parishes and liturgies the way they want to?
It all seems to come down to an attitude of, “Well, we’d like to be Catholic, as long as we can still basically do our own Anglo-centric thing.” I suppose I get that and everything, and I’m definitely a fan of enculturated forms of liturgy, but there seems to be something pathological here. The bottom of this whole thing seems to be an issue of sentimentality rather than theology. The Anglo-Catholics seem desperate to preserve their distinctly Anglo nature more than anything else. If Rome is up for accommodating them, they seems happy to jump on board. But one wonders, would the Anglo-Catholics end up converting without these concessions? Would they want to be part of a Roman Catholic church that didn’t give them all their demands in advance? Would they want to be part of a Roman Catholic church that stuck by their doctrine and practice and required them to do so as well, rather than making special arrangements to accommodate their national and cultural sensibilities?
In short, the way this whole issue turns on liturgical preferences and being able to keep married priests says a lot about what sort of mass conversion this would really be if it happened. By bowing to the aesthetic and cultural sentimentalities of Anglo-Catholicism, Rome has made sure that any conversions that come from this will be of an utterly Protestant nature. The sort of Catholic longing that we see in Anglo-Catholicism seems to me to be little more than a sort of sublimity. What we have here is an aestheticization of catholicity which ultimately undermines the credibility of any Anglo-Catholic claim to really take catholicity itself seriously. If this whole debacle showcases anything it is that the “Anglo” designation is far more determinative of Anglo-Catholicism than the “Catholic” one.