Sunday, 7/24/22

Francis Beckwith writes of his return to Roman Catholicism

Because I am a philosophy professor—someone who traffics in concepts, ideas, and arguments, and gets paid to do it—you would think my reversion was purely a matter of the intellect, that my choosing to return to full communion with the Church was the result of a detached rational consideration of the contending arguments offered by competing Christian groups. Although a decade ago I would have agreed with that account, or at least been highly sympathetic to it, I am not too sure about it anymore.

In my 2009 memoir, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic, I carefully explain what I thought were the primary reasons for my reversion. As I note in that volume, I was impressed and moved by the Catholic Church’s liturgical and doctrinal continuity with the earliest Christians, its unity and apostolicity even when enduring dissent and courting controversy, its uncanny ability to have within its ecclesial leadership both the wheat and the chaff while never abandoning the rule of faith, and its remarkable dexterity in remaining rooted in unchanging truths while faithfully addressing the theoretical challenges and practical problems endemic to every age and culture.

But now I realize that that cannot be the whole story. Becoming Catholic is not like buying a car, selecting a health-care plan, or picking out a pair of slacks tailored to one’s specifications. It is not just a matter of weighing pros and cons and making a choice. It is more like falling in love. Yes, you have your reasons, but you are also moved by something that is not directly under your control.

The Heart Has Its Reasons.

Every part of that resonates with me as I think on my journey from Evangelicalism to Calvinism to Orthodox, including the part where I was initially a bit deluded about the role of logic in it all.

The key event in modern disenchantment

It is certainly a beautiful space, but it felt looted to me. This is a statement about my own deep sacramental sensibility, I guess, and one about how difficult it is for me to get into a religious frame of mind in a Protestant space … The blankness of it all, you know? … For me, to be in a holy space like this fills me with an alienating sense of abstraction — as if God were far away and unlike us.

To be clear, I do recognize austere beauty in the Protestantized Oude Kerk, but it does testify to a faraway God. At least it feels that way to me — and this matters for my re-enchantment project. As with my previous two books, I am writing for all small-o orthodox Christians, and I want to be able to encourage my Protestant readers to find pathways back to enchantment. What I’m running hard up against is the fact that the Reformation was the key event in modern disenchantment.

Rod Dreher, In The Oude Kerk (emphasis added)

Gimme that new time religion

The better our science gets, it seems, the harder the creationists fight. As Ronald Numbers points out in his definitive history of creationism, at the beginning of the 20th century the first creationists did not contest geological time. Devising workarounds for the biblical six days, they concerned themselves with how life on Earth had come about. It is only in our own time that young Earth creationism has become a touchstone of fundamentalist belief.

The Webb telescope vs. young Earth creationism

The Commonality of Putative Opposites

Both the fundamentalist and the higher critic assume that it is possible to understand the biblical text without training, without moral transformation, without the confession and forgiveness that come about within the church. Unconsciously, both means of interpretation try to make everyone religious (that is, able to understand and appropriate scripture) without everyone’s being a member of the community for which the Bible is Scripture.

Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

A sense of entitlement

According to this vision, people need and are entitled to sexual activity: that is the underlying idea. A person deprived of sex has a life scarcely worth living.

Jennifer Robach Morse, The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along.

I do not recommend this book. My objection is mostly to its tone, I suppose — like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

But the quoted excerpt hits a bullseye.

Illustration of how this even affects putative Christians. When I was new in Orthodoxy, I got into an excessively-long email discussion about Orthodoxy with a conservative activist woman of my acquaintance, who was a pastor’s wife in the Calvary Chapel movement (you can find less flattering accounts than the movement’s own mothership site by a simple search for "Calvary Chapel"). One of the most gobsmacking moments was how she denied the ever-virginity of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos in the ancient dogmas of the Church) roughly thus: "It would be perverted if she and Joseph didn’t have sex after Jesus was born." I’m quite certain that "perversion" was the concept she deployed.

I’m not aware (both from memory but also from seven decades of observing human behavior) of how powerful the sexual appetite is. I have reflected a lot on the ease with which one can slip into sexual sin, though I doubt it would be edifying if I tried to put my reflections into words. I feel less appalled and more "well, that seems to be business as usual" when it happens.

But the sheer presumptuousness of some motormouthed heretic calling the Virgin Mary a pervert, and by implication calling all Catholic and Orthodox monasticism perverted, still boggles my mind.


I’ve been gazing, then averting my gaze, from the hot steaming mess at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries since his postmortem disgrace. Nothing I’ve written is ready for prime time. Maybe it never will be. How do you write anything meaningful about the mystery of iniquity?

It’s a long way to Heaven dear Lord,
it’s a hard row to hoe
And I don’t know if I’ll make it dear Lord
but I sure won’t make it alone.

SmallTown Heroes, Long Road, from their one-and-so-far-only "byzantine bluegrass" album Lo, the Hard Times.

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

One thought on “Sunday, 7/24/22

  1. If Rod Dreher wants to find any enchantment in the protestant world, he’s gonna have to look in pentecostalism. But some (including some of them) would question whether they’re “protestant” rather than a new thing.

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