Wright on Rome

Over at Christianity Today there is an article on Protestants who defect to Rome. Bishop N.T. Wright is quoted in the article, but his full quote is not provided. Here is his full quote:

a. I’m on sabbatical writing Volume IV of my big series, on Paul; so I don’t have time for more than a quick response.

b. ‘Sacramental, transformational, communal, eschatological’? If you gave me that list and said ‘Where in the Christian world would you find that?’ I could easily and truthfully answer: (i) in the best of the Reformed tradition — spend a couple of days at Calvin College, or read Jamie  Smith’s new book, and you’ll see; (ii) in much of the best of the  charismatic movement, once it’s shed its low-church prejudices and discovered how much God loves bodies; (iii) in the best of… dare I say it… Anglicanism… ; (iv) in some bits (not all) of the Emerging Church movement . . .

c. Trent said both much more and much less than this. Sacramental, yes, but in a muddled way with an unhelpful ontology; transformational, yes, but far too dependent on unbiblical techniques and practices; communal, yes, but don’t let the laity (or the women) get any fancy ideas about God working new things through them; and eschatological?? Eschatology in the biblical sense didn’t loom large, and indeed that was a key element in the Reformers’ protest: the once-for-allness of the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection as producing, not a new system for doing the same stuff over and over, but a new world. Trent, and much subsequent RC theology, has had a habit of never spring-cleaning, so you just live in a house with more and more clutter building up, lots of right answers to wrong questions (e.g. transubstantiation) which then get in the way when you want to get  something actually done. In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer,  at a deep level, to the nature/grace question, which is what’s at the  root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary  claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational,  communal nor eschatological. Nor biblical. The best RCs I know (some  of whom would strongly disagree with the last point, some would  strongly agree) are great conversation partners mainly because they  have found ways of pushing the accumulated clutter quietly to one  side and creating space for real life. But it’s against the grain of the Tridentine system, in my view. They aren’t allowed to say that but clearly many of them think it. Joining in is just bringing more of your own clutter to an already confused and overcrowded room…

d. I am sorry to think that there are people out there whose Protestantism has been so barren that they never found out about sacraments, transformation, community or eschatology. Clearly this person needed  a change. But to jump to Rome for that reason is very odd. It reminds  me of the fine old German NT scholar Heinrich Schlier, who found that the only way to be a Protestant was to be a Bultmannian, so, because he couldn’t take  Bultmann, became a Roman Catholic; that was the only other option in  his culture. Good luck to him; happily, most of us have plenty of  other options. To say ‘wow, I want that stuff, I’d better go to Rome’ is like someone suddenly discovering (as I’m told Americans occasionally do — sorry, cheap shot) that there are other countries in the world and so getting the first big boat he finds in New York to take him there . . . when there were plenty of planes lined up and waiting at JFK. Rome is a big, splendid, dusty old ocean liner, with lots of grand cabins, and, at present, quite a fine captain and some excellent officers — but also quite a few rooms in need of repair.  Yes, it may take you places, but it’s slow and you might get seasick  from time to time. And the navigators have been told that they must never acknowledge when they’ve been going in the wrong direction . . .

e. I spent three very happy weeks as the Anglican observer at the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops last October. They were talking about the Bible: about how for so long they have more or less banned the laity from reading or studying it, and how now they want to change all that, to insist that every Catholic man, woman, child, cat and dog should have the Bible in their own mother tongue and be taught to read it, study it, pray with it, individually and together. Hallelujah! Who knows what might happen. Question: why did nobody say this in 1525? If they had, we’d have been saved a lot of bother.
Let’s engage cheerfully in as much discussion with our Roman friends as we can. They are among my best ecumenical conversation partners, and  some of them are among my dear friends. But let’s not imagine that a renewed biblical theology will mean we find ourselves saying ‘you guys were right after all’ just at the point where, not explicitly but actually, they are saying that to us . . .

Aside from what may be an implicit endorsement of women’s ordination in there, that’s pretty good stuff! I particularly like his rejection of Mariolatry in Rome. Perhaps Rowan Williams should listen to Bishop Wright more.

Information Today

According to this post, Google can “can hold an entire copy of the web in memory, all the world’s written information on disk, and still have plenty of room for logs and other data sets.”  Greg says:

A standard Google server appears to have about 16G RAM and 2T of disk. If we assume Google has 500k servers (which seems like a low-end estimate given they used 25.5k machine years of computation in Sept 2009 just on MapReduce jobs), that means they can hold roughly 8 petabytes of data in memory and, after x3 replication, roughly 333 petabytes on disk. For comparison, a large web crawl with history, the Internet Archive, is about 2 petabytes and “the entire [written] works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages” has been estimated at 50 petabytes, so it looks like Google easily can hold an entire copy of the web in memory, all the world’s written information on disk, and still have plenty of room for logs and other data sets. Certainly no shortage of storage at Google.

This morning I chatted via video with my brother in Dubai, this was done via Skype. My daughter talked to his daughter who was literally half the world away. And all this produces a yawn. I can see everything that has ever been written uploaded, searchable, translated, stored and easily retrieved and it will produce boredom in most of the population.

I think there are going to be some huge breakthroughs in medicine, communication, theology and all kinds of other fields in the next century due to this awe-striking mass of information. And yet, talking to my brother on a screen is about as exciting as making toast – the awe-factor is gone in an age jaded by so many astounding breakthroughs. I guess that’s how life always goes.

Sacramental Faith

Writing in 1982, James Jordan gets to the heart of the difference between a catholic, Biblical approach to the sacraments and what the rest of “evangelicalism” has become:

…the sacraments are seen the same way: men are to make a decision, then be admitted to baptism (the Baptist view) or to the Eucharist (the Lutheran and Calvinistic view). The Bible, however, indicates that faith is presuppositional. The child is to be taught to believe from the beginning. It is not his initial decision which evidences his faith, but rather his perseverance to the end. He participates in the sacrament, in both its forms, from the beginning. The sacrament of God’s grace is not something he must attain by making a decision, walking an aisle, memorizing a catechism, or going through a rite of confirmation; but rather the sacrament of eating dinner with Jesus at His House is the presupposition of the child’s growth in grace.

Google Wave

Related to my last post on information overload, I received a coveted invite to Google Wave today. I have no one to “Wave” with, so it’s essentially a dud right now, but my initial experience with it matches a review I read a week or so ago. The essence of the review was that Wave makes communication even more overwhelming. Not only do you IM people “live”, you see what they are typing and they see what you are typing prior to clicking send.
If you have multiple Waves occurring at the same time, you’ll have messages coming in, documents getting updated, and other things going off all over the place. I don’t see it as very helpful. The only way I think it will work is (like everything else) to use hierarchical authority and drill down when you need to, but that would be old school and Wave can’t be old school.
I think tools like Wave may catch on at the high school/junior high level, but I can’t see it moving into the workplace. Do you know how often people where I work use the (pathetic) asynchronous features of SharePoint? About never. Do people use discussions instead of e-mail? No. Do they work on the same document or mail versions of it around? Generally, the mail it with their name attached to the file as a revision, straight out of 1997. People where I work barely know how to use Word, do you think they’ll catch on to Wave? No way.
The niche I see for this tool is as a college age and younger time waster while doing homework, assuming people DO homework anymore and don’t just use Google to cheat. But what do I know? This might be a huge hit and I just can’t see it right now.

Too Much Information

It seems like the challenge I face in this world is that I am drowning under waves of information. Twitter feeds, Facebook stream, Google Reader constantly shooting more articles at me. Newspapers arriving at the door, books glaring from the shelf, papers on various subjects. Movies to watch, shows to keep up with, sports talk bombarding me with the soap opera that is the NFL.

All of it crashes in upon my brain every day and I have to try to prune it back, manage it, reduce my inbox, get my unread items to zero. I am tempted to cut the tether binding me to the Empire of Information, but I can’t summon the willpower to do it. What if I miss some amazing trend in theology or come up short when someone mentions the name of a 16th century author whose works have recently been unearthed from a dig in central Saxony? I would like to change, but not today, not today Lord.

Mind your own business

Thomas Fleming deconstructs the central myth of many conservative Republicans:
To explain the decline of American Christianity, conservatives continue to cling to the myth of a nation settled by pious believers seeking to found “a shining City on a Hill.” But this republican Eden, on which God has uniquely bestowed his blessings, was corrupted by the Tempter. The American people are still, for the most part, good and faithful Christians, but they are under assault from immoral Hollywood movies, wicked journalists, and pointy-headed intellectuals, etc. Setting aside the obvious problem of equating New England (particularly the worst aspects of it) with all of America, we should ask ourselves this: Could men and women of strong faith really be corrupted by Hollywood movies that no Christian has any business going to see? Can you imagine Saints Peter and Paul attending the premier of Kill Bill or Saint Monica watching Lost with little Augustine? If America were, in fact, a basically Christian or moral nation, Hollywood would be out of business, and so would most colleges and universities.
Conservative Christians are right to complain that they are being persecuted by the government, and I do not have a solution to this grave problem except to suggest that they are wasting their time in trying to change the laws. Instead, they might consider the example of early Christians living under the pagan Roman Empire. Most Christians paid their taxes to Caesar, served in Caesar’s army, and were good neighbors  and loyal citizens of Caesar’s empire. They did not engage in futile protests about infanticide, nor did they abuse and insult their pagan neighbors. They minded their own business, went to church, and prayed for the empire’s conversion. If today’s American Christians had the faith of a mustard seed, they would spurn the false prophets who have enslaved them to a party or political ideology and go about their Master’s business.

Thomas Fleming deconstructs the central myth of many conservative Republicans:

To explain the decline of American Christianity, conservatives continue to cling to the myth of a nation settled by pious believers seeking to found “a shining City on a Hill.” But this republican Eden, on which God has uniquely bestowed his blessings, was corrupted by the Tempter. The American people are still, for the most part, good and faithful Christians, but they are under assault from immoral Hollywood movies, wicked journalists, and pointy-headed intellectuals, etc. Setting aside the obvious problem of equating New England (particularly the worst aspects of it) with all of America, we should ask ourselves this: Could men and women of strong faith really be corrupted by Hollywood movies that no Christian has any business going to see? Can you imagine Saints Peter and Paul attending the premier of Kill Bill or Saint Monica watching Lost with little Augustine? If America were, in fact, a basically Christian or moral nation, Hollywood would be out of business, and so would most colleges and universities.

Conservative Christians are right to complain that they are being persecuted by the government, and I do not have a solution to this grave problem except to suggest that they are wasting their time in trying to change the laws. Instead, they might consider the example of early Christians living under the pagan Roman Empire. Most Christians paid their taxes to Caesar, served in Caesar’s army, and were good neighbors  and loyal citizens of Caesar’s empire. They did not engage in futile protests about infanticide, nor did they abuse and insult their pagan neighbors. They minded their own business, went to church, and prayed for the empire’s conversion. If today’s American Christians had the faith of a mustard seed, they would spurn the false prophets who have enslaved them to a party or political ideology and go about their Master’s business.

Fall?

The weather is consistently in the 70’s here, not really Fall-like, but not summer either. Very few acorns this year, following last year’s complete zero and the massive amount in 07. I saw one tree on another block with tons of acorns, but that’s it.

I saw a mouse crossing the road yesterday. I also saw a young doe maybe 20 feet from me that waited until I got closer to run.

I met some guys to learn book binding yesterday and that was fun. All I did was fold paper, make a tool, punch holes in the paper and wax string. I didn’t have time to get to sewing and binding. I’d like to learn how to do it and start doing it at home, but I think that’s a long way off right now.

Here’s a super cheap seminary that I might go to. Or not.

Great to see Notre Dame win yesterday, but I wish they would dominate a game once or twice.

Imperial Implosion

Bill Bonner writing at the Daily Reckoning says:

Our old friend Marc Faber is “highly confident” that things will turn out badly.

“The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today, wars, massive government debt defaults and the impoverishment of large segments of Western society,” he writes.

“We have a money-printer at the Fed,” he continues, “which guarantees runaway inflation, wholesale debasement of the dollar, and a major lowering of living standards for most Americans and many Europeans as well.

“Meanwhile, Paul Volcker says that China’s rise merely ‘highlights the relative decline of the US.'”

So there you have it: China on the way up, America on the way down.

That’s the drama that we’re watching every day, here at The Daily Reckoning. In our view, the peak of US wealth and power probably came during the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Lehman Bros. But there are probably a lot more shoes to drop before people are fully aware of what is going on.

The way we see it, almost the entire 20th century was a mistake…a dead end.

Europeans were clearly on top of the world when the century began. Then, after WWI the Europeans in America took the lead role. But WWI shook their faith in their evolving political order. Not long after, the German hyperinflation and the Great Depression shook their faith in their economic and financial order. This left a huge vacuum, which was soon filled by ruthless adventurers and ideological schemers. Much of the rest of the century…from ’39 to ’89…was spent in hot wars and
cold wars against these Bolsheviks, Fascists, Stalinists and Maoists.

In the end, the more reasonable and consensual societies of the West won the battle. But they, too, were transformed by 50 years of war and nearly a century of bad ideas.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you,” Nietzsche warned.

Looking into the abyss created by Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo, Pol Pot, and the rest, Western societies decided both to fight them…and to join them. Tax rates soared. Regulations multiplied. University professors taught socialism, Freudianism, modernism, cubism, feminism, racism…and every other ‘ism’ they could think of. Parents spent good money to spend their children to universities that turned them into mush-heads.

And – perhaps most ominous – in the United States of America, the military grew into a greedy, grasping goliath…the very thing Eisenhower had warned against.

Then, there were counter-trends in the ’80s…led by Margaret Thatcher in England and Ronald Reagan in the United States. But these were mostly frauds. Top marginal tax rates were rolled back. And there were some cuts in regulatory procedures. But government spending tended to go up anyway. Worse, Ronald Reagan mistook the Soviet Union for a genuine threat and increased military spending even further to combat it.

And now, the United States staggers under the weight of its eternal wars…its imperial illusions…and its everlasting efforts to provide bread and circuses. If it kept its books like a private enterprise, it would be broke. If it were a public corporation, it would be de-listed.

Still, it spends and spends…and there is no stopping the spending. Trillions are spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for no apparent reason. But who complains? Too much money is at stake. There are too many lobbyists for too many industries and too many special interests involved. Military spending – even in a time when America faces no substantial challengers – cannot be rolled back. Neither can social spending.

Marc Faber is right. There too, there are too many people with too many dogs in this fight. Both military and social spending will continue to expand until the empire is ruined.