Sunday of the Last Judgment

  1. Leithart’s six impossible things before breakfast
  2. Doubter website doesn’t immunize apostate webmaster
  3. Obama’s secret bomb-thrower party
  4. What’s the deadliest religion?

For the record, here’s the reason for the title.


Over at First Things, Calvinist Peter Leithart continues his quest to stand reality on its head by demonstrating how only Protestants properly respect the sacraments.

If you didn’t do a double-take, you didn’t read that carefully. (Leithart earlier wrote about how he was “too catholic to be Catholic,” which is why I refer to a continuing quest.)

That Emperor has no clothes. [The rest of my draft is deleted because Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick weighed in before publication so much more ably to the same effect. Father Andrew has written a good (slightly flawed) book contrasting Orthodoxy and other Christian faiths, and has developed, it appears, a good sense for the root causes of error]:

It is said that, when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail. My sense is that Leithart’s analysis remains deeply informed by the hammer of monergism (which is heretical and presupposes the heretical Christology of monoenergism)—anything that “man” does detracts from the work of God.

Probably the weirdest (and I don’t use that term lightly) part of Leithart’s argument is his claim that “low church” equals “high sacramentality” and “high church” means “low sacramentality.” This is just an absurdity when it comes to the actual evidence on the ground regarding what Christians believe about the sacraments. Contrary to Leithart’s claim that the more “high church” you go, the less people actually believe in “high sacramentality,” the truth is actually the very opposite. Line up the churches which clearly teach the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and you’ll find a bunch of men swinging censers and wearing funny hats. Line up those who go all-out in their Zwinglianism (i.e., that the sacraments are just signs and symbols with no “there” there), and you’ll find business suits and (increasingly) blue jeans. Associating “low church” with “high sacramentality” is really just wishful thinking that is in no way reflected in what’s really going on in churches.

Why is that? Why is it that “high sacramentality” actually manifests in “high church”? Most Christians throughout history have held to a “high sacramentality,” and most of Church history would also not have known what “low church” was. If one steps outside the monergistic schema for a moment, it’s really not difficult to answer why: If you really believe that what is on that little plate and in that cup are really the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the God-man and Saviour of the world, then you will not be putting those things into styrofoam vessels, nor will you be throwing away what’s left over after communion. What you treasure most, you give your best to. What is most critical, most potent, most precious is surrounded by the greatest glory you can offer. The golden diskos and the golden chalice do not detract from the glory of what they contain but rather express it and draw attention to it.

I’m trying to decide whether Leithart is struggling with the truth of historic, catholic/orthodox Christianity (as did Robin Phillips, the author of Fr. Andrew’s linked article on the heresy of monergism) or whether he has decided to reject and mock the truth, lest the last 40+ years of his career (since I became acquainted with him) be exposed as having been dedicated to serious error.

If the latter, that’s spiritually suicidal. “Heresy” means “choice” – choice against the truth.

C’mon in Peter. I was in error almost 49 years. It’s humbling to admit, but humility is reputed to be a virtue.


Mormon excommunicated over website for LDS doubters,” misrepresents the headline.

I’m pretty hostile to the LDS Church’s doctrines, which take the revivalism of the early 19th Century burnt-over district even further than do the many Protestant traditions invented in that era. But it seems to me from the story that a better headline would have been “Mormon apostate finds ‘doubter website’ didn’t provide him immunity.”

The letter from Bryan King says Dehlin is being kicked out not because he doubted and asked questions about church doctrine, but because he made categorical statements opposing the faith that were disseminated on his website. King wrote that Dehlin’s actions have led others to leave the faith.

“I acknowledge your right to criticize the church and its doctrines and to try to persuade others to your cause,” King writes. “But you do not have the right to remain a member of the church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that church teachings are in error.”

It seems to me that King is right, Dehlin wrong, if only because Dehlin doesn’t deny making “categorical statements opposing the faith” on his website. Or maybe he did deny, but a tone-deaf religious press didn’t think that worth noting, since dissent is categorically valorized these days, so it matters not if it was “doubt dissent” or “repudiation dissent.”


Obama Secretly Partied With Bill Ayers Last Summer

I got tired of this kind of sleazy truthiness several decades ago when a liberal Democrat candidate for office was described by a religious right attacker as “affiliated” with the Church of Satan. Truth was, I think she had one friend who was a Wiccan or perhaps even a member of the Church of Satan. “Affiliated” is a good waffle word when you want to lie, but to lie in a way that’s sorta kinda technically defensible if you hold your head just right and squint. I guess “partied with” can be a good waffle phrase, too.

Polymath Eugene Volokh tells the rest of the story.


Darryl Hart asks If the U.S. Were a Christian Nation, Would that Make Christianity the Most Violent Religion in the World?  Quoting William Cavanaugh, he takes things in a direction that surprised me:

“In the West, revulsion to killing and dying in the name of one’s ‘religion’ is one of the principal means by which we become convinced that killing and dying in the name of the nation-state is laudable and proper.”

But isn’t it better for Christians to kill as members of a state’s military rather than as fighters in some sort of holy cause? Isn’t better that we count soldiers like Kyle not as Christian but as American? The reasons we do are fairly obvious and not necessarily unhealthy. The U.S. is not a religious polity (despite a lot of civil religion). The churches did not call for a crusade against Islamists or secularists in Iraq (even if they did support a military mission for the sake of freedom). The U.S. military requires no religious oaths (even if it does supply chaplains — who may be witches). The policy that governs the military comes from elected and appointed officials for whom religion is not a criterion for service (even though plenty of church members complain that politicians evacuate their religious convictions when holding public office).

This form of secularization is one that protects Chris Kyle from being classified as either a terrorist or a Crusader. That distinction between religion and rule is also at the basis of the modern nation-state, one that some conservatives also lament because of the way it takes over the loyalty and identity of its citizens (i.e., regards them chiefly as subjects of the state and disregards personal or higher loyalties).

I for one, as a Protestant and a conservative of some kind, think the secular nation-state deserves a little more appreciation than it receives from Christians and conservative. It’s powers are so vast that it can turn a religiously motivated killer into a mere state actor. And as a Christian I can say wholeheartedly, that’s a good thing.

I’m way less than convinced.

Maybe it depends on how much killing you take as a given. If the killing is going to be there regardless, I guess I’d prefer it be in the name of a state to which I feel something even less than penultimate loyalty. And then “nationalism” can be the most violent religion in the world.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.