Saturday, 5/28/16

  1. The enigma of Reformed Catholicity
  2. I repeat: …
  3. Scores of Millions?
  4. The personal and the political
  5. This orange-colored bomb
  6. Ask the right question
  7. The dead man’s lament
  8. The metaphysics of life after death


James K.A. Smith now cements his position alongside Hans Boersma on my “why don’t these Calvinist Evangelicals follow their logic and intuitions into Orthodoxy?” list.

It’s like the tennis game. Stop the players mid action and ask them to describe how they hit the ball, how they anticipate its location, and so on. Most couldn’t fully articulate it. Articulating isn’t playing. And playing isn’t articulating. But which is more satisfying: listening to the play-by-play or watching Serena Williams work her magic?

The funny thing about faith is that we tend to prefer the play-by-play. And it’s more than preference; it comes with a bias. The play-by-play is somehow superior to Serena. Explicit trumps tacit. As a result, Christian formation usually looks like acquiring more information, reading books, defining doctrine, refining arguments, and so on. This is where Smith comes in, turning the whole program on its head.

Instead of asking what do you think? he asks, what do you want? Why? Because our loves matter more than our notions. Desire speaks louder than doctrine. That doesn’t mean the latter is unimportant, only that it’s insufficient. The explicit does not trump the tacit. You can master the rules of the game, but if you don’t learn to play, what’s the point?

(Joel Miller, reviewing You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit). This kind of insight is not a fluke. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies books “re-vision[] Christian worship as a pedagogical practice that trains our love,” yet the most “high church” examples in his denomination are few, Evangelical faux-spontaneity, with “play-by-play” pop theologizing being more typical. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s alive and well elsewhere (see items 6 & 8)?

Maybe he thinks his denomination is reformable. Maybe he loves it too much to give up. Maybe he’s a reincarnation of the Mercerburg theologians.

There’s some interesting stuff afoot when the “University” that left me with so many embittering anecdotes from my three semesters there can now host the Paradosis Center. If I were still a Calvinist, I might be doing a play-by-play on God’s providential preparation for the coming hard times.


Donald Trump has now secured enough delegates to win nomination on the first ballot.

If Hillary becomes president, it won’t be my fault for not voting Trump, it will be the fault of Trump supporters for nominating such an abysmally terribly candidate in the first place.

Trump fans don’t get to foist this ridiculous buffoon on us and then blame us when he loses. It doesn’t work that way. Sorry. No. If you vote to place Trump in the general election, the inevitable landslide defeat, and the 8 year reign of Queen Hillary, will be on your shoulders.

(Matt Walsh on Facebook introducing this.)


Two major contributors to the economic decline of the white working-class: Scores of millions of third-world immigrants, here legally and illegally, who depress U.S. wages …

(Pat Buchanan) My bullshit detector isn’t completely inefficacious against bullshit in support of a theme I’m generally sympathetic with, such as the white working class crisis. But “scores of millions of third-world immigrants” struck me as false and inflammatory.

It is both.

There are indeed, barely, scores of millions of foreign-born persons in the United States: roughly 40 million. But even with a flexible definition of “third world,” there are not scores of millions from the third world.

Here’s an informative set of slides from the Census Bureau. There is quite a shift of immigration patterns over the 53 years from 1960 to 2013, with immigration from Europe and Canada dropping from 84% of foreign-born to 14%, and most of the difference is Mexico (28%) and Latin America (24%) — fairly described as third world, I guess. Those numbers are from Pew, but the Census Bureau graphic captures the general trend.

Immigration shift

But 26% percent are from South and East Asia — immigrants that tend to have bachelors degrees or higher:

Educated Asians

Those degrees are not in feminist studies or liberal arts generally,

Techie immigrants

and that shows up in how they are employed:

Managers and techies

Applying the percentages to the numbers, more than 10 million immigrants are employed in management, science and arts , fewer in lower-paid service occupations.

One  common perception that Buchanan evokes but doesn’t quite say is true, though: The threat to “working-class” whites is from “south of the border, down Mexico way,” from where the educational and occupation profiles are much different.

Time is too short to explore how the surge of immigration starting in the 70s might relate to the abortion holocaust and our (i.e., white folks’) demographic collapse.

(You can learn a lot in the wee hours with the insomnia that tends to follow a cortisone shot.)


Randy Berry joined the State Department in 1993, a time when gays and lesbians in the federal work force tended to lie low. He was circumspect about his personal life early in his career — with good reason.

Today, Mr. Berry, the State Department’s first envoy for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, draws on that history often as he makes the case abroad that societies can and should become more inclusive.

It has fallen to Mr. Berry to persuade and nudge governments about a subject that remains taboo in many places …

Mr. Berry said he has been surprised by how respectfully he has been received in some conservative countries.

(America’s Global Campaign for Gay Rights, emphasis added) Carl Trueman may have the reason why Mr. Berry is treated respectfully even by governments that oppose the mostly-perverse ambitions he’s been sent abroad to advance:

[I]t behooves all Christians to think clearly about the issues and to make that separation between pastoral response to, and care for, the person struggling with issues of sexuality and the larger social ambitions of a movement that has a vested interest in denying any distinction between the personal and the political.


Which brings us to the State Department Office of Inspector General’s report involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It reveals one big thing: Almost everything she has said publicly about her private server was a lie. She lied brazenly, coolly, as one who is practiced in lying would, as one who always gets away with it could.

No, she was not given legal approval to conduct her business on the server. She was not given the impression it was fine. She did not comply with rules on storage and archiving. Her own office told U.S. diplomats personal email accounts could be compromised and they must avoid using them for official business. She was informed of a dramatic increase in hacking attempts on personal accounts. Professionals who raised concerns about her private server were told not to speak of it again.

It is widely assumed that Mrs. Clinton will pay no price for misbehavior because the Democratic president’s Justice Department is not going to proceed with charges against the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

This is what everyone thinks, and not only because they watch “Scandal.” Because they watch the news.

That is the civic decadence they want to see blown up. And there’s this orange-colored bomb . . .

(Peggy Noonan)


Most people in our culture have had their minds and their character formed and shaped by the practices of the modern consumer state. The role of human beings is understood to be production and consumption. There is an accompanying extreme value placed on the illusion of free-choice and a good life defined by self-fulfillment (meaning being pleased with myself for the choices I have made). In our world we are taught to ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and mean by it, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” But the more proper question for a Christian is, “What kind of person do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “How is that possible?”

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


Many people are staggered the first time they attend an Orthodox funeral. [I was. Tipsy] The frankness with which death is addressed and acknowledged disturbs our modern sensibilities. Some of the ancient hymns that are traditionally sung by the choir are laments sung from the point-of-view of the departed:

As you see me set before you mute and without breath, weep for me, my brethren, family, and all who know me, for I spoke with you only yesterday, and suddenly the fearful hour of death came upon me. Come, all those who love me and give me the last kiss, for never again shall I journey or talk with you until the end of time. For I go to a Judge Who is impartial, where servant and master stand side by side. King and soldier, rich and poor, are held in equal esteem. For each will be glorified by his own deeds, or will be put to shame. But I ask and implore you all to pray without ceasing for me to Christ our God, that I may not be put into the place of torment because of my sins, but that He may appoint me to a place where there is the light of life. now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The funeral marks only the beginning of a new communion. In Orthodox practice, prayers are offered on the third, ninth and fortieth days after death, and every year on the anniversary of our parting. Funeral services conclude with the ancient hymn, “Memory eternal!” In which the Church prays that God will forever remember the departed. To be remembered by God is nothing less than life eternal.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


As an Orthodox believer, I am comfortable with not knowing much. Strangely, Orthodoxy has a whole spiritual lifestyle based on not knowing much – it’s called apophaticism …

Why do the Orthodox pray for the dead? “Because it is of benefit,” comes the official answer. Exactly how it benefits is a field for speculation and theologizing, but not a field for dogma …

What apparently disturbs many Christians is the notion that we don’t actually know a lot about what seems an important matter (where I’m going to go when I die, what it’s like, how do I get there, etc.). But that is the plain truth. We don’t really know very much.

But we do know certain things, and they are the things that matter. When I say we “know,” I mean that as a solid data of the received faith, the very core of Christianity, we “know” or have been given to “know” certain things. We know that Christ died and was buried. We know that He rose on the third day. We know that He “trampled down death by death,” He “led captivity captive.” The way to the resurrection has been opened by Christ. We know that “if we are Baptized into His death, we shall also be raised in the likeness of His resurrection.” And these are, generally, the sorts of things we know and can say for certain.

We are nowhere in the Scriptures, nor in the Tradition, given a roadmap complete with rules for life after death. Some like to make up rules because it makes a form of preaching sound plausible: “Unless you accept Christ as Savior, you’ll go to hell.” But, such preaching is largely based not on the Scriptures, but on the roadmaps of certainty forged in the debates of the Reformation. The Christian gospel is not based on accurate knowledge of the roadmap. The gospel is based on the certainty of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the promise that His resurrection is the sure and certain hope of all of creation to be delivered from its bondage.

Christ did not come to reveal the metaphysics of life after death. He came to destroy death. Having done so, those who follow Him seem strangely drawn towards the creation of a new paganism in which the afterlife is central. The truth is that union with Christ, in His death and resurrection, are the only central things in our faith.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)

* * * * *

“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.