Monday, March 31, 2008

Help Get Out the Vote

...for my friend, pro-life blogger extraordinaire, Jill Stanek.

Jill writes:

I've been informed I made Women's Voices Women Vote's list of top 10 female bloggers due to your votes!

I mentioned earlier this month having received notice of the contest and that I'd sure like to see a pro-lifer make the list. Thanks!

WVWV is now holding a run-off, although I'm seriously content just to have made the the top 10.

It does appear by the bios and a scan of my competitions' blogs I'm not only the sole pro-life woman represented but also the sole conservative.

And my oh my, at least one of my liberal sisters apparently can't handle the 9:1 ratio, in particular little ole me! Wrote Taylor Marsh...

But a word about Jill Stanek. She is one of the most virilently [sic] anti-civil rights for women activists on the "pro-life" side. Though I, for one, will never understand how dictating to a woman how she lives her own life is being "pro-life." But Stanek is very popular, in fact the most highly trafficked blogger in her category, so credit where it's due. But let me be blunt. In the 21st century it would be a wonderful change if the conversation on abortion wasn't put in terms as strident as what moves Ms. Stanek.

You gotta love the irony in Marsh's typo, considering that "virile" is defined as "of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or befitting a man; masculine; manly".

Cast your vote for Jill here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What's So Bad about Open Marriages?

Off and on for the past few weeks, I (along with several others) have been involved in an exchange on the Families Against Planned Parenthood blog with a commenter who goes by the name "Student" — apparently a woman in her early twenties who is currently in law school.

The discussion thread's original focus was the alarmingly high STD rate among US teenage girls, and has since also come to touch upon other aspects of sexuality.

Like billions of other people who have walked the earth since the dawn of time, Student makes no bones about her approval of premarital sex, and so I asked her if her non-objection to non-marital sex in this instance also meant that she likewise did not object to any and all non-marital sex, including, say, adultery.

She responded:

How and why did you make this leap? Isn't that along the lines of "If you don't have a problem with driving, surely you likewise don't see a problem with driving drunk, right?" One does not logically follow the other.

I replied:

In a word: no.

You opened the door on this one by saying you see no problem with sex between two people who aren't married to each other. Adultery is one example of sex between two people who aren't married to each other.

For the sake of consistency, it would seem that if you believe it's not necessary (morally speaking) for two people to be married to each other before they have sex, why would you see a problem with adultery—other than for reasons that are entirely arbitrary?

She then replied:

And driving drunk is an example of driving — but I DO NOT find it acceptable...

Following your logic I wouldn't have a problem with pedophilia or beatiality either.

I replied:


Remove the sexual act from the context of marriage and openness to the possibility of procreation, and anything is possible.

Slippery slope? Maybe. But I'd say it's more of a package deal.

Student also said:

I have a problem with adultery because of the dishonesty. If you're comfortable enough to be intimate with someone, you should be honest with them. If you want to call that an arbitrary reason, so be it.

I replied:

Who said anything about dishonesty? What if a couple mutually agrees to have a so-called open marriage?

Objectively speaking, is adultery within an "open marriage" wrong?

I should say, though, that I couldn't agree more with you when you say, "If you're comfortable enough to be intimate with someone, you should be honest with them." The only problem is that you're missing the point that any and all non-marital sex is, by its very nature, a dishonest act.

The sexual act speaks a language of permanent, committed love—a language that two persons who are not married to each other are not capable of honestly speaking, for they have not yet made said commitment, and either of them is free to end their relationship at any time.

Student replied [regarding my question about the morality of a so-called open marriage]:

If the couple both agrees then, no, I wouldn't consider it "wrong."

It's against this backdrop that I came across this article (via Mark Shea), to which he gives the headline, "HuffPo Labors to Destroy Last Vestiges of Christian Conception of Marriage and Family".

The article, which is actually titled, "Open Relationships: What the World Already Has", could be summarized as follows:

I live in an open marriage. I'm honest about it. Deal with it.

Shea, for his part, elaborates, and offers his usual trenchant analysis:

A culture which recognizes absolutely no basis for sexual restraint beyond mutual consent is a culture that ultimately can offer no reason at all not to approve any form of sexual coupling, tripling, etc that may occur to any number or combination of consenting persons. Ultimately, not just gender, but age and even species cannot matter and will be swept away as "irrational taboos". After that, it will just be a matter of time before materialist dogma eats away the idea that things like "choice" (a mere epiphenomenon of brain chemistry, after all) and "equality" are some sort of inviolable rock of adamant. Eventually, it will all be about power because when every pretension of "I ought" is seen through, what says "I want" will remain, for it never made any metaphysical claims. As Lewis points out in the Abolition of Man, man's conquest of nature turns out to be nature's conquest of man.

Of course, Lewis did not foresee that our culture of sterile narcissistic hedonism was in a losing competetion with a fertile Muslim culture that is only to happy to take the reins of what passes for civilization as the secular West continues its suicide.

These two sentences from the article jumped out at me:

Our behaviors tell us we're not monogamous. History shows us as being non-monogamous.

Well, um, yes, but history also shows that man has a rather pronounced propensity to behave in such a way as to do unspeakably nasty things to his fellow man.

One neglects to acknowledge the reality of original sin at one's own peril.

What a tragically ironic world we live in, where one pats oneself on the back in an effort to extol the putative merits of being "honest" about one's decision to engage in that which is, by its very nature, dishonest.

But then again, as Shea is wont to say, "Sin makes you stupid."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Amazingly Cool Video Revisited

I first mentioned last month about this very moving video — put out by an apostolate called Catholics Come Home — showing what the Church is all about, but it's worth doing so again, as it has now been posted on YouTube:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Going Before the Judge

My co-worker Eric Scheidler sent this e-mail a few hours ago to our supporters in our ongoing fight against the Abortion Fortress of Aurora:

This morning I am heading into downtown Chicago to confer with our attorneys before a "Settlement Conference" this afternoon with lawyers for the City of Aurora and federal Judge Virginia Kendall.

We will be addressing the serious violations of pro-lifers' First Amendment rights during our protest at Planned Parenthood. The conference will be at 2:00 p.m. in Judge Kendall's chambers.

PLEASE PRAY for me and our attorneys today, and for Judge Kendall and the other parties in the conference as well.

Perhaps we will be able to secure greater respect from the City of
Aurora for our constitutional rights today. If not, our case will
proceed to trial.

I echo Eric's request for prayers for our attorneys as we seek redress of violations of our rights (see here, here, here, and here for but a few examples).

Here's a Headline I Didn't Want to See This Morning

Courtesy of the idiot-proof DoD:

U.S. fumbles 4 nuclear fuses
Missile parts sent to Taiwan in error

By Josh White | The Washington Post
12:45 AM CDT, March 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department mistakenly shipped secret nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan more than 18 months ago and did not learn that the items were missing until late last week, Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday, deepening concerns about the security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Yeah, I'd say so.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The 28th Anniversary of the Murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero

On this day in 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in San Salvador, El Salvador.

I've had a special admiration for Romero ever since I first saw the eponymous film about his life (and death) — an admiration that was strengthened greatly when Jocelyn and I visited his tomb and the chapel where he was murdered during a trip to El Salvador eight years ago.

When questioned about Romero by Italian journalists last year prior to his trip to South America, I was heartened to learn that Pope Benedict XVI remarked, "I have no doubt he will be beatified."

If you haven't seen the movie, run, don't walk, to the nearest Blockbuster and rent it. Or, better yet, stay where you are and get it from Netflix.

This is hardly an “I’m gonna make me some popcorn and take it easy tonight” type of movie, but as far as showing the ugly reality of man’s inhumanity to man, and the insane brutality that so typified life in Central America in the last quarter of the last century, it’s amazing.

The closing scene, and a few others, too, are absolutely stunning — all the more so, because despite some artistic license, the movie is depicting events that really happened.

Christ Is Risen!

Indeed He is risen!

As of late, dear reader, you have no doubt been hearing reflections on the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ articulated by those much wiser than I.

That said, all I will offer is this seemingly random thought that has occurred to me each year on Easter Sunday (since at least 1991, when I was in seventh grade) upon hearing the Gospel reading from John 20.

Perhaps this sounds puerile of me, but I must admit I'm always tempted to chuckle when I hear it proclaimed that my namesake mentions not once (cf. verse 4), but twice (cf. verse 8) that he outran Peter and reached the empty tomb first.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Homosexuality and Disarming Bombs

There are some things life in which there is no room for error — things one must get exactly right, for the consequences of failing to do so are disastrous.

One of these is following the instructions for disarming a bomb. (Thankfully, though, this is something most of us will probably never have to worry about doing ourselves.)

Another is understanding the the truth of the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality and same-sex attraction (SSA). Unlike disarming a bomb, however, this is something all of us must endeavor to study, understand, appreciate, and be able to articulate, as it is perilously easy to get the Church's teaching wrong, either in whole or in part, and the consequences of doing so can so readily result in the loss or souls — either by redefining the moral law to tacitly wink at same-sex acts, or by uncharitably preaching a false gospel of irredeemable hostility to persons living with same-sex attraction.

I've been meaning to post on this topic for some time now, and this BBC article — which Mark Shea rightly characterized today as "the usual blah guaranteed to kill brain cells" prompted me to do so.

A few months ago, we received an e-mail, the likes of which we get from time to time, accusing us of hating homosexuals. In all honesty, I felt sorry for this person, as she is so self-evidently uninformed about what the Catholic Church teaches (and thus, what we believe).

The best I could do, I figured, was to try, as charitably as I could, to point out her misunderstandings and refer her to other suggestions for further reading.

I've included below said e-mail and, following that, my reply. To date, I have not received a response from this woman; still, I maintain hope that she reconsidered some of her inaccurate perceptions.

-----Original Message-----
From: [Name Withheld] [mailto:[]
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 6:56 PM
Subject: Letter for you


I have read over your website and I have a question. If the Pro Life Action League's main priority is conserving traditional Christian values and praying for the well being of our society, isn't condemning an entire community of our neighbors and rallying to prevent them from experiencing God's greatest gift-- love, and the ability to declare that love publicly through state and federally recognized marriage-- extremely counterproductive to your cause??

Your bible, as well as the first 5 books of the bible, known as the Torah to your Jewish friends and neighbors, clearly quotes the following in Leviticus 19: 17-18: "Thou shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Also, in the New Testament Matthew 5: 43: Jesus says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself". I have combed through both testaments with extreme care over a period of several years and NEVER have I seen God or Jesus command that we love thy neighbor only if he or she is heterosexual. Its just simply "love thy neighbor" period.

Something else doesn't make sense to me. You may argue that God said that homosexuality is an "abomination". Why would we, as a community, chose to recognize that piece of scripture but clearly ignore every other abomination that God (allegedly) claims? For example, God clearly states that working on the Sabbath day is an abomination and should be punished by death. Strangely enough, I happened to pass a Family Christian stores on a Sunday once and lo and behold... it was open! People were working! Should they be put to death? If we follow with your understanding of taking God's word seriously and literally, then we should. Additionally, the bible declares it an abomination to consume pork or shellfish, yet I was invited to a lovely baptism cermony recently that ended with a luncheon of ham steaks, potatoes, and vegetables. But they were good Christians! They had their child baptised! Should we ban them from church because of their pork-based lunch? And following the same logic, should we ban gays who are monogamous and love each other from marrying? How can we support one of those ideas and not the other without being entirely hypocritical??

To me, people who choose to spend their time and energy preventing people who love each other from marrying because of their gender is wholly UNchristian. It goes against the most important and beautiful gospel of your lord, Jesus. Jesus said that the bedrock of Christianity is love for our neighbor. It would seem as though people who rally against gay marriage are not true Christians at all, and going against the most important tenet of the word of God. Worst of all, these people are ruining the reputation of true Christians who choose to preach love and tolerance, like Jesus did.

But then there's that old adage: if you hate homosexuals, maybe its because secretly you are hiding some same sex feelings yourself. It would certainly seem that way in the case of Republican Senator Larry Craig, among numerous other cases.

I implore you to look into your heart. Would Jesus really want you to prevent the state's recognition of LOVE between two people? Wouldn't Jesus want you to support love in all of its forms? After all, we are ALL made in God's image, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trangendered people, genderqueers, polyamorists, etc.

I welcome a response! Please write back any time.

Thanks for your time.

[Name Withheld]

Do not believe anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.


I replied:

Dear [Name Withheld],

Thanks for writing.

First, let me clarify that all of us who work for the Pro-Life Action League are Catholic; furthermore, we accept, believe, and profess everything the Catholic Church teaches, including her teachings on human sexuality.

That said, it seems you have some significant misconceptions about what the Church teaches about homosexuality.

To find out what the Catholic Church actually teaches about homosexuality, please allow me to make a few suggestions for further reading.

My first suggestion is an entry I posted on the Generations for Life blog last year in response to a document on homosexuality issued by the U. S. Catholic Bishops.

This blog post, as you'll see, contains extensive blockquotes from a pseudonymous blogger, CourageMan, a Catholic man with same-sex attraction who is committed to living chastely.

If you're looking for an authentically Catholic Christian perspective on homosexuality, I can't recommend CourageMan's blog highly enough. Not only does he possess an all too rare firm grasp of the Church's teachings in this area, but he's also an amazingly talented writer — the kind of writer one really enjoys reading. My only regret is that he doesn't blog more often.

I also cannot recommend highly enough the writings of Ron Belgau. Like CourageMan, Belgau is also a Catholic man with same-sex attraction who is committed to living chastely.

I would recommend in particular two of Belgau's essays: "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality"? and "Sodom and the City of God". The second of these is probably the best single essay I've ever read on homosexuality.

I would also recommend the writings of Eve Tushnet — yet another amazingly talented writer — a woman with same-sex attraction and a convert to Catholicism who is also committed to living chastely. Her blog is here, which also contains links to many of her essays and articles written for various publications.

Yours for Life,

John Jansen
Generations for Life
Youth Outreach of the Pro-Life Action League

Monday, March 17, 2008

Massive Creation

From The New Liturgical Movement, via Sean Dailey:

The music in New York and at Vespers in Washington at the Shrine is forward looking and impressive. It seems impossible that at the Pope's April 17th Mass in Wasington, D.C., that anyone could possibly schedule The Mass of Creation by Marty Haugen,: the Sanctus, the "Great Amen," and Agnus Dei. Composed in 1984 (I think), with obvious Broadway influence and overdone melodrama, it has been an unrelenting presence in parishes all over the country. In fact, it is legendarily over used, in every season, again and again and again, so much so that these parts of the Mass sometimes seems like the movie Groundhog Day.

In all honesty, I can't bring myself to get worked up about this.

Although it might scandalize some St. Blog's hangers-on, I actually don't mind some of Marty Haugen's music—including "Mass of Creation".

There. I said it.

One thing I will say, though, is that this reference prompted me to recall my favorite "Mass of Creation" anecdote:

My college choir director once told me about a wedding he attended, the music for which included "Mass of Creation" — only in the program it was rendered "Massive Creation by Marty Haugen".

Apparently they had only hitherto heard "Mass of Creation" spoken and never seen it in print.

Now, whenever I hear or see the words "Mass of Creation", I can't help but chuckle.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Abortion, Politics, and Economics

DarwinCatholic has a fascinating post in which he argues that three assumptions commonly accepted in some circles "are partly or wholly false", to wit:

1) Economic well-being (as measured by a low poverty rate and a high median income) has been greater under Democratic administrations than Republican ones in the last 30 years.

2) Abortion rates have either been lower or have decreased faster under Clinton than under Reagan, HW Bush or W Bush.

3) There is a strong correlation between economic well-being and the abortion rate.

Check thou it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"This Time for Sure!"

If you've ever seen The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, you'll probably recognize the recurring scene in which:

...Bullwinkle would attempt to pull a rabbit out of a top hat (to Rocky's dismissal: "Again?!" or "But that trick never works!", and Bullwinkle's [response], "Nothing up my sleeve...Presto!" or "This time, for sure! Presto!"), only to pull out something unexpected instead (such as a bear), and occasionally even Rocky himself.

It's funny, because it's a cartoon, and nobody ever got hurt due to the fact that Bullwinkle was a slow learner.

What's not at all funny, though, is that for the past several decades, our culture has taken this same Bullwinkle approach ("This time for sure!") to promoting so-called "safe sex" "safer sex".

Condoms, condoms, more condoms, and even more condoms are the answer to preventing STDs, right?

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Neither Do I Condemn You"

In today's Gospel, we read the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).

Neither do I condemn you

For many reasons, this is one of my favorite Gospel stories. One thing I find amazing about it is that it almost didn't make it into the Bible. In fact, before the Bible was assembled the way it is today, some versions of John's Gospel didn't include this story.

St. Augustine says (cf. De coniugiis adulterinis, 2, 6) that many early Christians were afraid of keeping this story in John's Gospel since it showed Jesus as being so merciful that they thought it might lead people to think that the reality of sin wasn't as big of a deal as the Church made it out to be.

Apparently, the Holy Spirit wasn't concerned about this, since He made sure the story was kept in there.

How Soon is "Soon"?

Take a look at the picture on the left. I'll talk about it more further down in this post, but for now, I'll just say that this is a sign that stands outside an abortion clinic in Chicago, just a few miles from our office.

Since today is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, it's worth taking some time to consider one of the claims the abortion industry likes to make—specifically, the idea that abortion is simply one "reproductive choice" (no better or worse than any other "reproductive choice") a woman should be allowed to make if that's what she wants.

But do abortion clinics really encourage women to consider all of their "reproductive choices"?

Not so much.

As Carol Everett, who at one time managed multiple abortion clinics, has said:

I'm sure you've seen those numbers advertised that say "Problem Pregnancy," "Abortion Information," or "Pregnant?". When a young girl finds out she is pregnant, she may not want an abortion, she may just want information.

But when she calls that number that's paid for by abortion money, what kind of information do you think she is going to get? Remember, they sell abortions. They don't sell keeping the baby. They don't sell giving the baby up. They don't sell delivering the baby in any form. They only sell abortions.

The counselor that the girl speaks to on the telephone is paid to be her friend. She is supposed to seduce her into a friendship of sorts to sell her the abortion.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

At a children's pro-life prayer vigil last July, I took this picture of a sign in front of American Women's Medical Center (an abortion clinic near the North Side intersection of Western and Diversey Avenues in Chicago):

At our annual Empty Manger Christmas Caroling Day this past December, I took this picture:

How soon is "soon"?

This sign is symbolic of the false promises and lies that abortion is based on. Sure, abortion providers say they believe in giving women a range of "reproductive choices", but when it comes right down to it, well, that's another story.

How old is this sign? I honestly don't know. I'd seen it at least as early as 2005, but never thought to take a picture of it until last summer.

I'm guessing, though, that the sign is at least eleven years old.

Why do I say that?

Notice that the sign lists the abortion clinic's phone number, but not the area code.

It's for this reason that I'm guessing this abortion clinic has been advertising that "obstectrics [sic] and prenatal care" will be "coming soon" since at least 1996.

You see, before 1996, the entire city of Chicago was part of the 312 area code. That's why businesses usually didn't bother to include the area code when listing their phone number; it simply wasn't necessary, because every number in the city had the same area code.

But in 1996, most of the city of Chicago (including this abortion clinic) was switched over to the 773 area code. After this new area code was created, nearly everyone in Chicago began to include their area code when listing their phone number, as it now was necessary.

See, for example:

...the used car dealership a few doors down from the abortion clinic:

...the tae kwon do school across the street:

...the cafe across the street:

...the Chinese restaurant around the corner:

Have You Prayed for an Abortion Provider Lately?

What can we as pro-lifers do to counter an "Appreciation Day" for workers in an industry built on false promises and lies?

Lots of things, I suppose, but the first thing that comes to my mind is prayer, especially considering how many abortion industry workers have quit and are now pro-life. Their conversions would not have been possible without prayer.

For more on the importance of praying for the conversion of abortion providers, see this post I wrote at this time last year.

[Cross-posted at Generations for Life]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Obama Disciple Wins Deer in the Headlights Impersonation Contest

When we protested Barack Obama's undying support for abortion as he announced his presidential candidacy in Springfield, IL on February 10, 2007, my co-worker Eric Scheidler captured this picture:

Lemmings for Obama

(Eric wrote about his rather ironic exchange with the signholder here.)

This fellow's sign was brought to mind when I saw this:

HT: Jeff at Chicago Pro-Life Activist

Thou Shalt, Like, Not Kill, Dude

I defy you to read this story without laughing:

Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher

JERUSALEM (AFP) - High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

"The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic [sic] phenomenon," he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to "see music."

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil's Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.

He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

HT: Sean Dailey at Blue Boar

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rest in Peace, Frank Petta

Frank Petta died Monday, March 3, at 4:15pm at his home in Elgin, IL, in the presence of his wife, Ann, and his family. Please remember Frank and his loved ones in your prayers.

I first met Frank in 2001 when I started attending meetings of the Chicago Area Chesterton Society, which he had founded many years prior.

Frank is a man I look forward to telling my children about, as he embodied so many qualities I want them to embrace: an indefatigable love of Our Lord and His Holy Catholic Church, a hunger for truth and justice, a robust sense of humor, a profound humility — not to mention the ability to effortlessly recite, at length, passages from Chesterton.

Frank will be greatly missed.

Visitation and Funeral

His funeral will be Friday, March 7 at 10:00 am at St. Thomas More Parish in Elgin [map], and the wake is Thursday evening, March 6 from 4:00 - 8:00 pm at the Laird Funeral Home in Elgin [map].

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Requiescat in pace.

Introibo ad Altare Dei

As of the first Sunday of Lent, Berwyn, Illinois, the working-class Chicago suburb that has been home to Haus Jansen for the past three years years, has been home to a church — St. Odilo Parish — that offers the Tridentine Mass every Sunday (at 1:00 PM).

Happily for us, St. Odilo is a mere four blocks from our place; thus we often end up splitting our time between it and St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago (whose recently redesigned website is about 8,000 times better than its old one).

Father Tony Brankin, who enjoys a well-deserved reputation among local orthodox Catholics, has been pastor of St. Odilo for just over a year now, and has been steadily implementing several changes within the parish (e.g., moving the tabernacle back to the center of the church, introducing various modes of chant, making plans to install a Communion rail salvaged from a recently closed South Side parish), all the while taking care not to change too much too fast — in my opinion, an eminently wise and prudent decision on his part as pastor.

This coming Sunday, March 9, the storied Paulist Choir will be singing for the 1:00pm Tridentine Mass. For y'all who are local folk, consider coming (see map and directions here). Our pamilya will be there with bells on.

(Whilst searching for information about the Paulist choir, I happened upon two articles that I couldn't resist posting links to: one is a New York Times article from 1918 [!] about a concert the choir performed at Carnegie Hall; the other is an article about the choir from a 1954 edition of Time magazine.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Is Sola Scriptura Biblical?

Several weeks ago, a Protestant fellow who goes by the name HisMan left a comment on an entry I posted last year.

I had said:

[S]ola scriptura is a position that is itself not supported by Scripture (cf., for example, 2 Thess. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:2, Luke 10:16, Rom. 10:17, 1 Pet. 1:25, 1 Cor. 11:2, 1 Cor. 15:3). which HisMan said:

The scriptures you list in fact support sola scriptura as they ALL point to the word. I don't suspect that Paul was saying anything different than what he inlcuded in his epistles.

In turn, I posted a comment telling HisMan I didn't have time to respond at the time, but that I'd try to do so in the near future.

Hence the reason for this post. If you're still poking around these parts, HisMan, this one's for you.

My first reaction is that this argument begs the question.

Beyond that, it's also worth pointing out that whenever one attempts to interpret Scripture in such a way as to justify belief in sola scriptura, he is ipso facto negating said belief.

Indeed, if sola scriptura were true, then the Bible would require exactly no interpretation by any person, since this interpretation would necessarily be derived from an extrabiblical source. In that case, Scripture would simply interpret itself.

As Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin has pointed out:

If you have the idea of sola scriptura as one of your founding theological principles and you don't give Tradition a normative role then you've got to derive your system from Scripture alone.

That's when you run into problems, because there are many questions that Christians need answers to (e.g., "Who is it okay to baptize and just how do you administer baptism?") that aren't answered in Scripture. Scripture thus points beyond itself to Tradition for these answers. In fact, Scripture itself is simply the written component of Tradition.

Without the extra-scriptural complement of Tradition, Scripture does not contain enough data to provide confident answers to all the questions that need confident answering (such as the ones mentioned above), and so one attempting to operate from the perspective of sola scriptura will inevitably have to propose some kind of system that can't be fully grounded in Scripture in order to answer those questions.

But if you reject the premise of sola scriptura and allow Tradition to fill in the missing pieces, you end up with enough data to build systematic theology--even if the result is a system that must, by definition, go beyond Scripture in the data it treats as normative.

Jimmy Akin has some other instructive posts dealing with different aspects of sola scriptura here, here, and here.

I wish I'd the time to write more on this topic, but I don't. Thus, I'll simply link to a couple of articles by some fellows who are much more knowledgeable about this subject than I:

This last one I found particularly fascinating. It begins:

I wondered: Is it really true that we Evangelicals never treat extrabiblical tradition as authoritative revelation? Is it really the case that all Evangelical belief is derived from the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Bible alone? Do we really speak forth only what Scripture speaks, keep silent where Scripture is silent, and never bind the conscience of the believer on those questions in which Scripture permits different interpretations?

I wondered. Especially since the living fossil of the Tradition of the Table of Contents still inexplicably swam like a coelacanth in the ocean of Evangelical faith precisely where we said tradition had gone extinct. What if there were other supposedly extinct extrabiblical coelacanths down there too?

To find out, I decided to try an experiment. I would look at Evangelical -- not Catholic -- belief and practice to see if there was any other evidence of tradition being treated like revelation. I would see if there were any other rock-bottom, non-negotiable, grade A, can't-do-without-'em beliefs which, like the Table of Contents, were not attested (or very weakly attested) in the Bible, yet which we orthodox Evangelicals treated like revelation. If I found such things, and if they had an ancient pedigree, it seemed to me this would be very strong evidence that the apostolic paradosis not only was larger than the Bible alone, but that it had -- somehow -- been handed down to the present.

So I started taking a good long look at non-negotiable Evangelical beliefs as they were actually lived out in my church and churches like it. To my surprise, I found several such weakly attested non-negotiables...

Read the rest here.