Wednesday, 5/27/15

  1. Six of one, half dozen of the other
  2. Is Putin not just shrewd, but wise?
  3. Are we going to suffer more development of doctrine?
  4. Cheapening the Faith
  5. A prayer for moderns


Why did it take so long for heliocentrism to gain acceptance?

Copernicus’s book was published in 1543, and yet few astronomers advocated heliocentrism until the 1600s. Arthur Koestler suggested this was because the book went unread; but [Owen] Gingerich famously tracked down all extant early copies and found that many were carefully annotated by the sixteenth-century astronomers who owned them. Most of those astronomers, however, saw Copernicus’s heliocentric system as just another way of doing astronomical calculations, not as a claim about which bodies are in actual motion.

Stephen M. Barr, reviewing Owen Gingerich, God’s Planet.

Sorry to bother you if you already knew this. I wasn’t directly concerned with the slow adoption question, but always was a bit puzzled at the anger toward geocentrism of those for whom helicentrism is axiomatic, since the difference is, superficially, just one of two ways of calculating, one dramatically more elegant than the other.


In Tuesday’s online Wall Street Journal, two items down from Ireland to Hasten Same-Sex Marriage Legislation, I saw Russia’s Putin Signs Law Against ‘Undesirable’ NGOs:

Critics of the law said that lack of a clear definition will allow for abuse. The new law is the latest step in what rights groups say is the Kremlin’s policy of clamping down on critical voices, some of whom have been accused of being pawns in a Western plot to repeat a Ukraine-style revolution in Russia.

Yeah, critics speaking to the Wall Street Journal would say that. It might even be true.

I know it was just coincidence that the two items were juxtaposed so, but I couldn’t help thinking that Putin had some reason besides frank insurrection for concern about some kinds of outside influence. Witness the money that flooded into Ireland to incite a “yes” vote for same-sex “marriage.”

40+ years ago – not unlikely, in 1969 when it was brand new – I read a bit of prophecy porn titled The United States in Prophecy. I believe I bought it at Moody Bookstore, now apparently defunct, which made it all the more remarkable as the book posits that the United States is not the hero, not the knight in shining armor, but nothing less than Babylon the Great, whose fall is greeted by a mixture of shock and awe on the one hand and, perhaps, a bit of relief on the other.

Google “Babylon the Great is fallen” and you’ll get pages of articles about Revelation 18:2, where fallen Babylon had “become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal,” all suggesting, perhaps, that the fall was not then recent. Standing alone, that’s pretty obscure, as is notoriously true of the whole book of Revelation.

The author of The United States in Prophecy, though, looked to Jeremiah 50 and following, which gives some of the characteristics of Babylon, and which I excerpt with interjections of what I remember of the book:

Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls; Your mother [England] shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations [the U.S. is the youngest great nation] shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert … Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine [and they’ve danced the dance we called]; therefore the nations are mad … O thou that dwellest upon many waters [Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico], abundant in treasures [the U.S. was the dominant economic power in 1969], thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness [do I really need to say?] … And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake [Hey! How about that slate of 2016 POTUS hopefuls! – not in the original, but can you blame me?], saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.

I no longer believe that the Bible prophesies our day and age, with Babylon being a code for any extant nation. (Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. That’s for Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and the other false prophets of my lifetime.)

They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes (“they” is not Mark Twain, by the way).

Prophesy, too, rhymes; it plays antetypes and types over and over again. And I don’t believe that cycle is over yet.

I find it utterly plausible that the United States could “rhyme” with Babylon prophetically, and fall in a mighty echo of its fall. In fact find it more plausible every year – lately, every month.

Vladimir Putin may never have thought about Jeremiah 50ff, or Daniel 5, or Revelation 18. But he is at least rhetorically distancing himself from us, and for some of the right reasons. There are Western NGO that he shouldn’t, please God, allow to roam his cities and countryside.


In San Francisco, Roman Catholic dissidents make a startling claim:

Jim McGarry, an organizer of the group Concerned Parents and Students, has written an open letter addressed “to the administrators at the Catholic High Schools in the San Francisco Archdiocese” which was published in the National Catholic Reporter.

… After calling the assertion that the archbishop is authentically representing Catholic teaching “incorrect,” Mr. McGarry states: “Our opposition to the Archbishop’s language comes from inside, indeed from the very core of the Catholic tradition.” And it is here that Mr. McGarry makes an incredible leap: the teachers’ position represents not dissent, by development of doctrine.

Mr. McGarry asserts that in the Church now such a development is taking place in the changing attitudes of some toward homosexual acts, and that this change must take place through a dialogue …

In another ill-advised move, Mr. McGarry invokes the name of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose seminal work An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine laid out the principles by which the proposed changes in Church teaching could be evaluated and authentic development of doctrine could be identified. Mr. McGarry claims that the shift in attitudes of some toward the morality of homosexual acts constitutes a development of doctrine of the type that Newman describes. Is this so? Fr. Dwight Longenecker has treated this topic at his blog here, clearly spelling out that the answer is “no.” Not wanting to step on his toes nor repeat work already done well, I encourage the reader to read his piece.

Orthodox do not believe in “development of doctrine” in the sense that Cardinal Newman defended, but I don’t see his defense as countenancing the sort of innovation liberal San Franciscans want.

But wait! Flash news from Rome!

A one-day study meeting — open only to a select group of individuals — took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with the aim of urging “pastoral innovations” at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.

Around 50 participants, including bishops, theologians and media representatives, took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier.

One of the key topics discussed at the closed-door meeting was how the Church could better welcome those in stable same-sex unions, and reportedly “no one” opposed such unions being recognized as valid by the Church.

Participants also spoke of the need to “develop” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and called not for a theology of the body, as famously taught by St. John Paul II, but the development of a “theology of love.”

Monday’s meeting is just the latest attempt to subtly steer the upcoming synod in a direction opposed by many faithful Catholics. A statement on the study day released by the German bishops’ conference May 26 said there was a “reflection on biblical hermeneutics” — widely seen as code words for understanding the Bible differently from Tradition — and the need for a “reflection on a theology of love.”

This, too, is seen as undermining Church teaching. By replacing the theology of the body with a “theology of love,” it creates an abstract interpretation that separates sex from procreation, thereby allowing forms of extramarital unions and same-sex attractions based simply on emotions rather than biological reality. Gone, say critics, is the Catholic view of marriage, which should be open to procreation.

(National Catholic Register; H/T Rod Dreher) It’s not just liberal San Franciscans, but liberal Germans, Swiss and French.

I pray – literally – that the triumphalists in Rod’s comment stream – the ones so confident of the indefectibility of the Roman Church – may be reinforced in their delusion on this issue if no other.


On a recent train ride, I sat next to a young German woman living in the United States. She was raised by atheists, but had a deep religious longing. She was baptized and tried Christianity. Her experience of Christianity in Germany left her wanting something deeper, and through a friend, became a full convert to Islam.

(Dominic Bouck, Sons of Nones)

This phenomenon – Christianity stacking up poorly against Islam because it’s shallow – bugs me. I don’t doubt that “shallow” is a real perception, brought about by progressively dumbing down, making important doctrine (or even dogma) optional, all in an effort to be attractive.

Attractive to whom? I’ll take one atheist with deep and authentic longing for a spiritual life over twenty people who’ll graciously join your church and attend a couple of times a year – if you’ll lower the price enough.


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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.