Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Please Don't Eat the TULIPs

Please Don't Eat the Tulips

It's spring, and the flowers are blooming, but there is one whose blossom never fades, even in the snows of Geneva: the TULIP of Five-Point Calvinism.

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perserverance

Five-point Calvinism used to belong to Presbyterians and some Baptists, but today, it seems that everything outside of Catholicism (and evangelicals along with some mainstream denominations) is coming up TULIPs. The face of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" Jonathan Edwards appears on tee shirts of young Protestants like Che's on coffeehouse Reds. Behind the praise band and uplifted hands of your local nondenominational church may lurk Calvin's idea of a Sovereign God whose will is behind everything from the flea biting your dog to 911.

Also, who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.

The theological issue is legitimate. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, how can a mere creature defeat His sovereign will? Even St. Augustine wound up in this brier patch when he tangled with the Pelagians. 

The Catholic answer (the Bear has misplaced his CCC; most conversations with Red Death start with "I can't find my...") is, to the best of Bear's recollection, that God grants grace and we cooperate or not. If you wind up in Hell it is because you have decided to reject God.

On the contrary, according to TULIP, (1) there is not one atom in a person capable of either moving toward God or resisting His grace; (2) the game is rigged from the start; (3) Jesus did not die for everyone, but only those destined for salvation; (4) if you're predestined, you cannot escape God no matter what; and (5) no one can ever lose his or her salvation.

If you Watch Porn, God Will Make Your Wife Miscarry

Following that logic, God, according to Calvinist superstars like John Piper, determines everything, including every sinful act. And God punishes accordingly. Not just 911, but, well, hang on for this one:

A man asked if his wife miscarried as punishment because he watched pornography. Pastor Piper did not give an unequivocal "yes." It was more like, "You're probably onto something there, Sunshine." Why God caused the miscarriage if He also caused the guy to watch porn was not addressed. You can't have a rational discussion under the pretzel logic of Calvinism.

The Bear admits that fewer issues have been thornier and more controverted than exactly how we are saved. Pope Francis reintroduced "Pelagianism" to the vocabulary of Catholics. But, the Bear figures you didn't come for a monograph on soteriology, including the relationship between the sovereign will of God and the will of man. 

The leaders of the Reformation parted first from the Church's teaching, then from each other.

Bear Conducts Research in the Field

The Bear's curiosity led him to discover the "young, restless, and reformed" movement. It is a sort of backlash from the more vapid expressions of evangelicalism. Aside from a few outspoken Calvinists like Piper, you are not likely to hear it preached. "God loves you and wants you to prosper" goes down a lot better than, "most of you sitting out there are going to Hell and there's not a damned thing you can do about it, so why are you even here?"

The Bear asked one young minister recently about the discrepancy between what he preached and what his nondenominational church actually believed. He quoted 19th Century English preacher Charles Spurgeon that there can be no misunderstanding between friends. In other words, he, like Spurgeon, did not preach the doctrine he believed and excused it by hand-waving.

That seems a bit disingenuous to the Bear.

Protestant Wars

The Bear read Spurgeon's own "Defense of Calvinism." Its deficiencies are typical: highly selective proof-texting to justify an emotional experience of great comfort. Both Spurgeon and the young preacher with whom the Bear spoke described a sudden comfort in knowing the saved could never, ever lose their salvation. (Spurgeon said a salvation you could lose is not worth having.) Come to think of it, whenever the Bear has talked to a Calvinist, he gets this same testimony centered on "comfort."

No one has ever been presumptuous enough to tell the Bear he was certain of his predestination, but that is the tenor of the witness. One assumes if they believed the contrary - that they were among the damned and there was nothing they could do about it - they would not be so comforted.

The Bear also read Roger Olson's "Against Calvinism." Olson does a thorough and even-handed job of demolishing TULIP - especially the idea that God must be behind sin.

The controversy is instructive in this way, though. Evangelicalism was found wanting and there was a reaction. One heresy is the revenge of some other heresy, Bear supposes. No matter what Catholics think of Pope Francis, they should understand that Protestantism is not just fractured, but unhealthy.

Don't sell your soul for all-you-can-eat doughnuts and a variety of fresh coffee.

The Tower of Siloam

The Bear is surprised how Calvinists can miss how Jesus Himself addresses worldly calamities. In Luke 13 1-5, Jesus was questioned whether the people who lost their lives in the collapse of the Tower of Siloam were being punished for their sins.

Jesus, typically, uses the question to illustrate a broader point. Everybody dies. Make sure you're ready, because you never know the hour. If Jesus had wanted to launch into a discourse about how God punishes people for their sins with bridge collapses or the like, He would have.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Statement On Hope and Life Press

The Bear was sad to learn his publisher is going out of business. The first thought he had was how we brought out two books of which the Bear is very proud despite holding such radically different opinions. We worked to make our partnership successful, which is why the Bear can say he’s sorry to see Hope and Life go and wishes Marcelle the best.

The silver lining is that rights to the Bear’s two books (and Red Death’s one book) will revert much sooner than they would have under contract. As in at once. It will be nice to own JUDGING ANGELS and SAINT CORBINIANS BEAR LENTEN COMPANION for BEARISH HUMANS. They will be transitioned to independent ebooks and made available on Amazon until the Bear lands another publisher.

The sequel to JUDGING ANGELS is being worked on for a release as Christmas comes up.

The Bear is aware he still owes a few books to people. He hasn’t been feeling well lately, but will make that happen.

If anyone has any questions or comments, now’s the time.

Bear out.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen!

Our resurrection icon is on the right. The olive oil lampada burns 24/7.
A first class relic of St. Maurus is on the shelf, sent by a reader.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sad Day on Good Friday

You may remember our goat Holly.

We drove down to Kentucky to pick her up. She had been bottle fed, and the Bear wondered if the man was going to be able to go through with the adoption. She rode back in his lap. Such things are not uncommon in Zoar.

We are up to 20 goats now. Many are descendants of Holly, her children and grandchildren. She was sweet, but would stand her ground against Fox. She was the leader, the queen and the favorite.

Yesterday, she got into trouble delivering a pair of kids. Red Death is not squeamish and knows how to get in and position a kid in the birth canal. She has handled several difficult deliveries. This time, however, nature had played a cruel trick. The kids were post term and big. The first one didn’t make it, but proved impossible to dislodge. There are gruesome expedients, but there was neither room nor time.

Holly exhausted herself and the necessary .40 caliber decision had to be made.

We’ve been lucky, plus Red Death knows her business. We have lost a few kids, but fought for and saved more. This was really hard on her, though. Not just losing a favorite pet, but it was a desperate fight she lost and had to end herself. Bear can only imagine.

There’s probably a lesson to be drawn. But the Bear would feel like one of Job’s insensitive and foolish friends trying to draw one.

Farm life puts you close to life and death. You pay for the joy of holding a newborn kid or gathering fresh eggs from your familiar hens. The coin is sudden death. Fox is still the ancient foe and death watches unseen not only when we leave this world, but sometimes when we enter.

Yet, we still have kids frolicking in the pasture. Bear likes to just watch them; his personal goatquarium. Goats have a surprising amount of personality. The ones we had to bottle feed because their mothers rejected them are especially fun. A couple days ago, one of our twin sons said a kid “teleported” through the fence to run up to him. Little ones stay where they belong more because they like the company.

Bottle babies, however, prefer humans.

Like Holly.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Catholic Book Reviews: The Bridge Of San Luis Rey

Poster for Possibly Better 1944 Movie
This is on your Books I'm Going to Read Someday list, unless it is is on your Books I Was Forced to Read in High School list. (Spoiler alert: the bridge collapses.)

The famous novella by Thornton Wilder is really the extended remix version of the Collapse of the Tower of Siloam in Luke 13:1-5. So whose version is better? The one by Jesus or the one produced by the dreary and overrated literary generation of Wilder?

The Bear is going to have to go with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity on this one.

One might say, "Thornie got a Pulitzer for his little book, Mister Smarty Bear, so who are you to judge?" It is true that Judging Angels (which is a whole lot thicker and has a higher body count without any "collapsing bridge" gimmick) has been snubbed. The only possible reason is ursophobia. The Bear has yet to find a big enough closet in which to hide, except that one (you know the one) in your house.

Jesus famously did not go into the merits or demerits of the victims of the Tower of Siloam collapse. It is ridiculous that a Franciscan Friar would think to perform some scientific inquiry into a similar event. The Inquisition gave Brother Juniper what he had coming for being an idiot child of the Enlightenment, rather than a Catholic. (Spoiler alert: the Spanish Inquisition was really bad.)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Or Rock City. One of the two, anyway.

That aside, the literary conceit works to give an almost voyeuristic look into the lives of the victims of the collapse of a bridge on which no one in his right mind would set foot. We are gulled into hoping Wilder offers some insight into the mysteries of fate. But, he really has a different salmon to fry.

A small one, but, hey, at least you can blow through it in a couple of hours if you don't try to sound out all the names.

There is a moral. Now, a moral is better than a wrong answer, which Brother Juniper’s absurd inquiry could only supply.

Jesus sensibly says there’s nothing special about the victims. We all die. Sometimes unexpectedly. Usually alone. Occasionally with others in a newsworthy event. Bears don't watch news. In fact, we shrug and say, "One death is a death, more than one death is at least two."

Think about it.

One minute you’re in a tower built to the Palestine Construction Code Of 30 A.D., or crossing a deep chasm on a swinging bridge built by primitive people a century before out of vines and sticks and the next you’re dead. Or you slip getting out of your tub. You're still dead, plus you're naked.

Be ye therefore ready.

Wilder’s extended remix of the economical tale in the Gospel is not an improvement for the banal moral. But, three stars for a tale told with cleverness and sympathy. Whatever you can say about him, Wilder at least wrote to please real people.

However, the Church already had its answer to Brother Juniper’s inquiry, and, as the old expression goes, the story is offensive to pious ears. No chance is missed to bring up the Inquisition or depict Catholics as superstitious.

These are choices Wilder made. There was no real Bridge of San Luis Rey collapse, he troubled himself to learn next to nothing about Peru, and he decided to set it in a period that was a PR low point for the Catholic Church.

To be fair, an abbess is a good person, and her goodness survives in an unexpected way. It is unclear whether her goodness has much to do with her religion.

This suggests the real point of the story. Such as it is, the Bear will not give away the moral, which is: "There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

Whoops. Anyway, Bear thinks "be ye therefore ready" is better.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Why the Bear is Done with Church Controversy

The Bear has decided he will no longer write about Church scandals and controversies.

Instead, he would rather write about how to survive in the Church we have. Culture. There are important things going on and most people can't see the forest for the trees. Leave it to a Bear to see both.

And goats. Our latest (video to come) brings our flock to 20, all but two born right here in Zoar.

As you might have gathered from a pungent recent post (perhaps the very one that landed the Bear in Facebook Jail) he has come to a strong opinion about that during Lent. There is something wrong when you can't tell what season it is from reading Catholic blogs.

Fortunately, there is no lack of other places to read about scandals.

Are there problems? Of course, and serious ones. The path of sheer ubiquity and relentless tinkering chosen by Francis has created a new level of difficulty for thinking Catholics. But, the Bear thinks it will be a thousand years before we see another South American or Jesuit Pope. So we're vaccinated.

Even so, time is short. Eternity is world without end, amen. 

Does that mean the Bear has gone all Michael Voris and thinks it was horrible to criticize this pontificate? Not exactly.

Before we knew everything we needed to know about who Francis was and what he wanted to accomplish, it was legitimate to try to solve him. However, the Bear has decided there is nothing new for him to say about Pope Francis. At some point, the good he is doing must be balanced against the evil. And, he does see a downside to relentless well-deserved criticism of the Church.

Has the cottage industry of critical Catholic bloggery done some good? Perhaps. The Bear hopes so. Have we reached the point of diminishing returns? The Bear will let you answer that. Has there been more than a little ego involved? The Bear can only answer for himself: yes. If Pope Francis did not exist, the Bear would have had to invent him.

Certain realities must sometimes take a back seat to the work of getting into Heaven. We can be right, but wrong. Correct, but uncharitable. Dogmatically pure, but shipwreck the faith of a person for whom Christ died.  See the eighth chapter of the first Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians to see how this works.

Pope Francis will be dead soon.

Let Bear say that again. Pope Francis will be dead soon.

His legacy is by no means certain. At least he has made most of the vipers feel safe enough to slither out into the open where we can see them.

And, now, the Bear will let you in a big secret smart lawyers know.

Nobody ever changed the opinion of anyone by argument. The Bear knew he was not going to change anyone's mind during closing argument at the end of a trial. Most jurors had probably made up their minds before opening statements were finished. No, the Bear used his closing to give the best arguments to help anyone on his side during the most important part of the trial: the part that happens in the jury room.

Let's be honest. We are blogging for people who already agree with us. The minority of those who care have already chosen sides. The rest aren't listening anyway.

In the meantime, we cannot both stand apart from the Church as a thousand Addison DeWitts, Critics of Everything, and remain inside it as the vehicle for our salvation.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Divine Beauty - Film

Here is a project with which the Bear could not be more proud to be associated. A film from the Bear's polymath Maltese-American publisher, Marcelle Abela. The Bear is an old radio broadcaster, as is Red Death*, and we both enjoyed getting back into some voice work.

In another matter, the recent banning of this ephemeris from Facebook continues. On the other hand, the Bear's net worth did not drop by billions since. Coincidence? If you value this little (and it truly is little) blog, please consider sharing with your friends by retweets or other means to help make up for the FB strangulation.

Thank you - the Management

*as in experienced

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