Saturday, May 16, 2009

Unable to sleep
Thinking of the one I love
Got the midnight blues
[Written just now]

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U.S. Attorney's office tells employees not to log on to Drudge Report

Oh brother. Look, I have been accessing The Drudge Report for probably ten years from a variety of computers and have never had a problem. This has all the earmarks of attempts to curb the rights of people to access whatever information they want at work that is not in violation of basic workplace ethics.{1} The attempt to blame ESPN for the same thing is also pretty lame because I have been accessing their sites at least as long as I have The Drudge Report with nary a problem there either.

Maybe these offices need to utilize these newfangled devices called "virus protection software" and "firewalls" that someone such as myself who is no computer tech sort utilizes. I have to admit that a story like this really makes me wonder about the quality of intelligence of those we hire for federal positions even more so than I already did{2} but enough on that for now.

Notes:

{1} I mean, it is not as if they were looking at porn at work

{2} This is not rocket science after all.

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Panetta to CIA employees: We told Pelosi the truth

The whole article has to be read and for those who want to know where I stand on the matter, I will tell you but observe her body language in the clip above.{1} Also, here are some offhand comments I made in another publishing medium in recent days:

[I] wonder if Nancy Pelosi knows what the underside of a bus looks like... [5/14/09 @1:14pm]

That one was amplified by this clarification:

[I]t is amusing to see and hear Pelosi's pathetic ass kissing of the president. Folks, SHE KNOWS she is next to be thrown under the bus and to watch her struggle to try and avoid it brings me no small amount of schadenfraude :) [5/15/09 @9:06am]

One of two things are going to come out of this and one of them is not greater power and prestige for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Basically, she will either have to resign her position in the Congress or if she survives she will become a major kiss ass rubber-stamp for the president's agenda beyond what she even is now. Either way though, she has lost any remaining pretense of credibility she may have still had{2} in the eyes of anyone with a normal intact functioning brain. Heck folks, when Bob Beckel of all people on the Democratic side says that someone in his party is a liar, you know they are in more than a bit of trouble.{3} To paraphrase the late Gorilla Monsoon: "stick a fork in her, she's done!!!"

Notes:

{1} While not an expert on body language myself, I am nonetheless reasonably informed on the matter and that Pelosi is lying on this matter is crystal clear when you look at what her face say -to the extent that her heavily Botoxed face can be read of course. (Pay particular attention to her eyes.)

{2} However small it was.

{3} I say this because Beckel defends a lot of stuff that no one who was not a party ideologue would even attempt to defend.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wanted: A Fighting Party

Pat Buchanan as I have often said is a streaky shooter -when he is off he misses by a lot but when he is on, it is usually from downtown and nothing but net. This article belongs to the latter classification.

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On the Issue of Good and Bad Arguments in Apologetics or Elsewhere:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Prefatory Note: The substance of this material was written on May 3, 2009 when I was made aware of it on a discussion list I occasionally involve myself with. Below is the material as it was slightly redacted and revised for an email circular sent out on May 9, 2009. -ISM]

I very rarely do apologetics stuff at all anymore for a variety of reasons. However, here are my thoughts on the arguments made by Ben Douglass, David Palm, and Nick E and positions they have taken on the thread that were sent to myself and others for comment -musings written on the morning of May 3rd when waking up so any deficiencies it contains I apologize for in advance.

I want to note at the outset though that I believe what Ben, David, and Nick have offered in principle is a good thing because if there is one thing I am really tired of (and feel like a broken record in reiterating) it is a lack of ethics so often taken by apologists in general of all stripes. Presenting this kind of thread on their part is helpful because it makes the point that yes there are bad or not so wise arguments that can be made by Catholics in arguing against Protestants (or anyone else) rather than closing one's eyes and pretending that any argument made against Protestants by Catholics is good and any argument made by Protestants against Catholics is a bad one. Ben, David, and Nick by publishing such an article and not following the unfortunate mainstream apologetics trends are doing a great service to authentic dialogue but without further ado, onto the individual arguments and conclusions themselves...

On Argument #1:

I agree with both the argument and the conclusion they draw. I was for those who have forgotten making the argument against 20,000 plus "denominations" as far back as late 2000 myself on Steve Ray's board and telling others not to do so. (Some listened, most others continued making this mistake, others still thought I was wrong to admit that Eric Svendsen actually had a valuable point to make on this matter that others ignored at the risk of looking foolish.) The original source of the thousands of arguments was some David Barrett fellow circa 1982 and he posited about 23,000. But if his methodology is looked at and taken literally with Protestants, consistency demands the same be done with Catholics and to do so would have rendered hundreds of Catholic churches because it counted religious orders, and dioceses and other such things as individual "churches." In the interest of internal and rational consistency you cannot have it both ways.

Argument #2:

I agree with their argument as a rule. I only use the term "anti-Catholic" when dealing with people who have an obvious and deep-rooted hatred for Catholicism or what they perceive the latter to be. I prefer to refer to Protestants as "groups" because Catholic theology -particularly when viewed through the lens of Church as communion or what is called communio theology -which since the Second Vatican Council has been the manner in which these things have been and will be viewed{1}- theologically distinguishes between those properly called "churches" and those which are not.

Argument #3:

I most definitely agree with them on this one.

Argument #4:

I was saying this years ago myself -again we agree.

Argument #5:

I have used variations of the argument they made myself in years past.

Argument #6:

They are right that the argument does not suffice all by itself. But as one of a number of things gathered together to demonstrate a pattern of extra-scriptural appeal, it can be quite useful.

Argument #7:

See my response to argument #6. They are right that this one is even more tenuous by itself (one reason I never had recourse to it myself) but with the right qualification it could still be used. Certainly that St. Paul did not appeal to the Scriptures alone to make this argument shows that one can appeal to other sources and not just Scripture as some Protestants claim for example.

Argument #8:

I do not to some extent agree with this argument because there is a principle those verses convey which also applies when it comes to biblical interpretation. I agree with the writers that this argument can be overused; however, just as the prophecies of Scripture are not matters of private interpretation, neither is the proper meaning or meanings of scriptural passages to be incontrovertibly ascertained in like fashion. The argument works but it is not as broad in scope as many may presume.

Argument #9:

I agree wholeheartedly with argument nine and its conclusions. I doubt any source of the ancient world is as well preserved as the Bible is and while there are some areas "where the original text is indeterminate", as a rule this is not an issue and considering how many sources replicate the same overall texts, again no ancient source I am aware of has nearly as much manuscript integrity as the books of the Bible do.

Argument #10:

I disagree with argument #10. An argument to be given probability of truth cannot be internally contradictory and the same goes with a method of interpretation. If the Protestant arguments of that fashion against 2 Maccabees are valid, then they must accept that the same arguments against Samuel and Chronicles as likewise valid. (Meaning that if the arguments prove the lack of inspiration to Maccabees then the same is the case for Samuel and Chronicles.) But if the person would seek to defend Samuel and Chronicles by various and sundry nuances or exemptions from such a critique, then they undercut the very arguments they used against Maccabees and therefore they must be forced to admit to that. Failing that, their inconsistency must be pointed out for what it is to their discredit though if at all reasonably possible this should be handled delicately.

Argument #11:

I agree with argument #11 to a point. James ii,24 is not a magic cure-all for everything pertaining to the issue of sola fide. However, at the same time, it works well oftentimes because of the ways which Protestants have to jump through hoops to try and claim the text means other than what it says when taken literally. I was able to convince Tim Enloe in years past that the manner in which we understand grace and works was well explained in a passage of Augustine{2} and I agree with Ben, David, and Nick that other arguments are also necessary to drive this point home more firmly. But that does not mean the James ii,24 argument has no merit particularly since it specifically contradicts the sola fide original idea -so much that Luther added the word "alone" to Romans iii,28 and then disparaged the Epistle of James and insulted the writer for not saying what he thought it should say. (Something that would be quite odd for Luther to do if he did not see a serious disconnect between his view and the words of scripture in this passage.)

Argument #12:

Pointing out that Christians should give priority to the words of Jesus of those of Paul is not a bad argument when done correctly. If it is done as an expedient to dismiss the words of Paul then it is bad but if it is to establish a kind of "canon within a canon" then it is not bad because Protestants do this themselves much as anyone does. (In the case of Prots, they place Romans and Galatians seemingly over every other epistle in priority. Catholics used to with the Old Testament do this with the so-called "Deuterocanonical Books.") It is not completely honest to claim that different sides do not place certain works in a priority over others. For this reason, to point out that Catholics often put the recorded words of the Son of God over those of his apostles and adopted apostle is fine. However, once that is done, then showing how Peter, James, John, and Paul's words harmonize with those of first Jesus and then of Catholic theology is the next step. I did this years ago in apologetics arguments and also in an essay I wrote nearly a decade ago on justification by faith but that is another subject altogether.

Argument #13:

I never tried to or thought about taking the approach that they outline in this argument so I cannot comment much. I will say in perusing their argument that I do not disagree with its internal logic but I also do not think you need to make that kind of argument anyway: it is too technical and you run the risk of hanging yourself in the process. I have seen a lot of apologists make arguments or debate in areas they have no business debating on. I say this not just out of an opinion on the matter but because objectively certain arguments or doctrines require presuppositional arguments or doctrines to be held before they can be solidly advanced. In my mind, debates should be confined to the presuppositional arguments or doctrines and not on those which extend beyond it until and unless there can be an agreement reached on the latter ones. (I went over this on discussion lists in years past when discussing what topics Catholics should and should not debate with Protestants publicly.)

Argument #14:

My points about argument #13 apply here as well.

Argument #15:

There is a reason Protestants cite Ephesians ii,8-9 and leave out verse ten and it is because verse ten quite clearly contextualizes the first two verses in a way that leaving it out does not do. I went over this in greater detail in my essay on justification both amplifying the tenth verse and also explaining why the three taken as a whole cohere well with Catholic theology. I would have used the same St. Augustine argument I used to persuade Tim Enloe in that essay but I was trying at the time to do as little exegesis from scripture as possible while presenting passages with more contextualization than they commonly received -from not only Protestants but also Catholics.

Argument #16:

This argument has its value but needs to be approached more carefully than many presume. For example, the writers are correct that some saw it as a justifiable gloss on the text but the concept of "faith alone" that preceded the sixteenth century (yes this concept did not completely fail to predate Luther) was one that included all the theological virtues combined. This was presupposed in its usage but generally, faith was distinguished from hope and charity as distinct virtues. I note this because Luther appeared to interpret faith as being literally "alone" -and by his commentary on one of St. Paul's epistles (I think Galatians but cannot remember: have not done this stuff in a while so I apologize for the lapse) he disparaged charitable works so much that it was made evident that he viewed sola fide as exactly what it says. This made his appropriation of the concept a "theological novum" as Anglican scholar Alister McGrath pointed out years ago.

My point of difference with Ben, David, and Nick on this is that I view this as more than a mere exegestical error on Luther's part. Part of the reason is that those who are involved with a great deal of their resources (time, energy, money, etc) selling a particular concept, product, etc. can at times become so intent on seeing their idea/creation/product accepted by others that they tend to lose their objectivity. The same principle is at stake with the sola fide position -it was the basis of a so-called "reformation" and therefore a lot is invested in it by its apologists/advocates. This is therefore not a matter to take lightly not that Ben, David, and Nick are doing this of course.

Requiring those who advocate for a position or idea to be consistent is not a bad argument at all but instead it is at the very heart of respecting reason and logic. I do not want to appear to accuse the writers of the article of not wanting this mind you but instead to outline the principle behind why I do not agree with them on this point{3} to at least some extent.

Argument #17:

Considering how many Protestants respond to those who previously claimed they were "saved" and "secure" who later on fall by saying "they were never saved to begin with", I am not so sure I agree with the writers on this point. Consistency is a powerful and valuable tool in the arsenal of anyone who strives to make use of the natural lights of reason and logic. It therefore stands to reason that if someone could claim to be "saved" and "secure" at one point but later on (if they fall) are claimed to be "never saved to begin with" that they cannot (and should not) be allowed to have it both ways. I can agree with the writers that this argument is more complex if properly applied and I reiterate at this time my comments in the last paragraph of my argument #16 response -in substance{4} anyway.

Argument #18:

I agree with them 100% on this one. Do not expect more out of sources than what they are and always disclose to the extent you are aware of it the reliability or lack thereof of the source you cite.

Conclusion:

Those are my thoughts on the article. Basically I agree with nine of them (arguments 1-5, 9, 13-14, 18), agree to some degree but have issues with part of them on five (arguments 6-8,11,16), and disagree with them for the most part or completely with four (arguments 10,12,15,17). I admire though the clarification that Ben, David, and Nick put at the beginning of their piece and I make the substance of it my own in concluding this "counter-missive" of my own -so I will quote them at this time in a final footnote{5} and hope this response is of assistance in some way or another.

Notes:

{1} This is a complex theological subject matter which I went over in years past in outline form for those who are interested:

An Outline of Various Church Models Throughout History (circa November 23-24, 2003)

{2} One thing that's always interested me about Shawn's position is his notation of Augustine's doctrine of merit being that God crowns His own gifts in us. [Tim Enloe (circa April 15, 2007)]

{3} If Ben, David, and Nick are merely trying to say that this argument can easily be overdone and taken beyond the point to where it is useful then I agree with them wholeheartedly. If they are trying to say it is not a good argument at all period then I do not.

{4} Namely, the part where I noted this:

"Requiring those who advocate for a position or idea to be consistent is not a bad argument at all but instead it is at the very heart of respecting reason and logic."

Again, I do not accuse any of them of failing to follow this principle -indeed the principle behind their article to a certain extent presupposes it.

{5} To reiterate their introduction at this time:

The following is a list of arguments against Protestantism which, in our judgment, Catholics should not use, either because they are not true, or because, while they might be true, it is impossible to prove that they are, for a plausible alternative explanation of the data exists. This is certainly not a complete list: it is merely one missive fired for intellectual honesty. Neither is it an infallible list: it is possible that one or more of these arguments might be saved. [LINK]

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