The dream about my son

When I was pregnant with my son, I had a dream, and in that dream I was pregnant. I wanted to know the sex of the baby, so I looked down at my stomach and saw a window in it. I could see the baby through the window. He turned, and I could see his male sex organs!

Then sure enough, a few months later I had a boy.


Jordan Peterson on Postmodernism

I love this man and have watched many of his lectures. This is a MUST SEE video. Only 12 minutes long. Gives a brief overview of what conservatives are up against, and briefly describes how to make conservatism appealing to young people.

Scary dream about my dad

When I was about six or seven years old, I had an frightening dream about my dad.

Daddys apt complex in huntington beach
Photo of the complex where my dad lived for a while in Huntington Beach, in the early 1970s. I took this from the HB pier in July 2017 while Rachel and I were having lunch with Carol and Julie.

For a short time he lived in an apartment complex on the sand in Huntington Beach. He lived in two apartments there, one a studio and the other a two bedroom. My dream was of us in the two bedroom place. There was no furniture in it. A small man with a green robe on was wondering around the apartment. When I say small, I mean he was about my size at that age, maybe smaller, and he was definitely a man, not a boy. He was an old man in fact and was bald. He had a rope around his waist as a belt for the green robe. It was like a monk’s robe since it opened in the front, and some fabric was gathered around his neck. It might have been a hood, I am not certain.

My dad walked into one of the bedrooms, and the small man walked in after him. A few moments later, the man walked out and has a sinister smile on his face. I waited for my dad to walk out, and when he did not, I went into the room to see where he was. There was a pile of bones on the carpet next to the closet. Somehow I knew that the man had devoured my dad. I was so scared and sad that I woke up. I think I went into my mom’s room and slept on the sofa for the rest of the night.

It took me a long time to understand this dream. My dad struggled with drug and alcohol addictions for most of my life. I now believe that this was a prophetic dream, telling me that the addictions would consume him. As frightening as that is, I have hope, however, since the bones will rise again.

I still don’t understand what the color green symbolizes. I searched online and as far as I am aware, there aren’t any religious orders that wear green robes.

Deeper issues between Catholics and Protestants

I am mainly posting this here for my own reference.

There are deeper issues between Catholics and Protestants than disagreements about this or that doctrine or dogma. I recommend starting with the bolded part, then reading the whole thing.

Both the Protestant and Catholic positions affirm the authority of Scripture as the divinely inspired (“God-breathed”) written word of God. So the Catholic teaching concerning the authority of Scripture entails that Scripture has authority over the Church, because the Church affirms both that Scripture is God’s word, and that God is the ultimate authority over His Church. Therefore the Protestant-Catholic disagreement concerning Scripture is not as simple as saying that according to one side Scripture has authority over the Church and that according to the other side Scripture does not have authority over the Church. Rather, the actual disagreement regarding Scripture is over four points that are not per se about the divine authority of Scripture. They are: (a) whether Christ also gave teaching authority to men, (b) whether that teaching authority continues through the succession of ordinations, (c) whether that teaching authority includes the authority to determine what is the authentic interpretation of Scripture, so as to determine for the Church what is orthodoxy and what is heresy, and (d) whether the deposit of faith is not limited to what was included in the Scriptures but also includes the Apostolic Tradition which the Apostles preached orally, and is preserved in the Church Fathers. The Catholic position answers yes to each of those four. Protestantism answers no to one or more of these four.

Source: Authentic and Inauthentic Reform

How big is your Jesus?

jesus i trust in youOne of the things that persuaded me to become Catholic was the idea that Christ established a Church that has continued into the present day. Once I understood Apostolic Succession and the magisterium, I found this more compelling than the alternative view I had been implicitly raised with and unknowingly accepted.

The alternative view is that Christ started a church but then left it for some unknown reason to fall into error. An even worse implication might be that he was too weak or unloving to keep his church from error. Yet, he somehow guided this church to codify the Bible infallibly, and to define a few key doctrines correctly (ie, Christ’s divinity, the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity), but there was little else that this church did that was correct.

I do remember having that conception of the church, so let me explain it, at least how it seemed to me. It fit with how I imagined Christ’s ministry while he was walking on the earth. He was an itinerant preacher, wandering from place to place, preaching the Gospel and performing miracles. He appeared to be outside of the established Jewish hierarchy, railing against it to discredit it, to encourage people to abandon it and to follow him. Catholics (and, presumably, Orthodox) are the modern-day scribes and Pharisees under this view. The modern-day Christian preacher is analogous to Christ, who is calling people out of Pharisee-ism (ie, legalism, doing activities that obligate God to provide salvation) into a true relationship with Jesus.

I don’t know if I can speak for others. But that’s how it looked to me.

I see now that my picture of Christ’s relationship to the Jewish hierarchy of his day was wrong. Why? Because that hierarchy was established by God, going back to Moses and Aaron. Christ was not discrediting the hierarchy itself or its authority. He was only discrediting the poor conduct and lack of faith of its individual members. For example:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice…” (Matt. 23:1-3)

Sitting on Moses’ seat means that the authority structure was established by God. Would Christ encourage people to abandon or disrespect that authority structure while it was still active?

The Catholic claim is that the priesthood of the New Covenant is a continuation of the priesthood of Melchizedek, not of Aaron (again, per Hebrews 7). Christ is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron, and he established a hierarchy that is founded on, and operates through, himself. The Apostles and their successors participate in and express Christ’s priesthood, just like the Jewish priests participated in and expressed Aaron’s priesthood. Today, we say that Catholic priests operate in persona Christi, which is Latin and means “in the person of Christ.” So when, for example, I go to confession, I am confessing to Christ, not to the priest. The order of Melchizedek forms the backbone of the Church (read more about this here, starting at 1544).

Christ has kept this hierarchy, and the Church it supports, free from error in regards to its teachings on faith and morals. To me, this is a miracle. It is the very sort of miracle he would perform for us. To me, it means that he is a lot bigger and more loving than I originally thought.

It such a peaceful feeling, to enter into that which has already been established.

Cultivating the habit of kind interpretations

Father Faber writes: “The standard of the last judgment is absolute. It is this—the measure which we have meted to others. Our present humour in judging others reveals to us what our sentence would be if we died now. . . . We ought, therefore, to cultivate most sedulously the habit of kind interpretations.” Unfortunately, […]

via Judging Others — SaintlySages

Learning about straw man arguments and bad faith

The internet is a great place to do research. There is so much out there that is interesting and factual. However, there is also a lot that is not factual or is founded on poor logic.

strawman scarecrow
The straw man is easy to knock down.

Today I want to show you what a “straw man” argument is. Think of a straw-man argument just like you would think of a scarecrow in a garden. A scarecrow is easy to knock down because it is not a real opponent, right? If you want to win an argument, it is tempting to setup a verbal or intellectual “straw man,” then you can just knock him down with your argument and declare victory.

It works like this. Somebody sets up an argument based on something their opponent did not say. They misrepresent their opponent–this is the first step in creating a straw man argument. Their misrepresentation becomes a “straw man” that they knock down by falsely discrediting their opponent. Let me demonstrate. Let’s say I said this: “Joel said we should never go to Rubios again. He is wrong and here is why.” Then I go into some detail about why Rubios is great and why we should continue to go there. I get to “win” the argument, but it was really no win at all, because Joel never said that we should not go to Rubios any more. I had a “victory” over something he never even said.  I’m sure you can agree that this would be no victory at all.

Now, let’s use a real life example that you will probably encounter somewhere on the internet: anti-Catholic Christians saying that the Catholic Church teaches people to earn their salvation by performing good works. These anti-Catholic Christians do this by misrepresenting what the Church teaches about meriting salvation.

The Catholic Church does teach us to merit our salvation. But these anti-Catholic Christians don’t understand how the Church uses the word merit. The just make up their own false definition (this becomes the “straw man”), then they refute it. They tell people that when Catholics say merit, it means that Catholics believe they earn salvation through good works, but it is not true.

Obviously this is a problem because it means that there is no real exchange of ideas and

straw man
The Church does not defend the idea that we earn salvation by performing good deeds. Those who say it does have committed the straw man fallacy.

no real conversation. But it may be the signal of a deeper problem: that the person is not interacting with others a good faith way. Good faith means treating others fairly, giving them the benefit of the doubt, understanding the limitations of the medium, being willing to overlook minor flaws in the argument, making genuine efforts to understand the argument, correcting or eliminating straw men and other fallacies in one’s own argument, etc. Bad faith means that the person just wants to win, is not willing to have an honest dialog, and will make no concessions. Repeated and uncorrected straw men might signal bad faith. They might signal that the person is not willing to have an honest discussion. If you ever sense bad faith, it is time to evaluate how much interaction you want to have with that person.

I do not know why anti-Catholic Christians do this all the time with the word merit. With all the information available online, it is easy enough to actually verify what the Catholic Church means. It makes me wonder if they are arguing in bad faith.

merit badges
Merit badges are super cool, but don’t get them mixed up with the Catholic teaching on salvation.

But perhaps not. For example, I have wondered if people associate the word merit with the Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts can earn merit badges, right? So perhaps the word merit is strongly associated with the word earn. Maybe their chain of reasoning goes like this:

“Boy Scouts earn merit badges which includes doing good deeds. Catholics believe they earn (merit) salvation by doing good deeds.”

I can see how somebody would assume that merit means earn, if they associate merit with the Boy Scouts. But I have no idea if I am correct about this. There must be something driving this pervasive problem and I’m just trying to explain what it might be.

I do know this: when Catholics say merit salvation, they do not mean earn salvation. They have not taken their cue from the Boy Scouts about what the word merit means.

Merit means reward, and the word reward is used quite a bit in the New Testament, even by Christ himself.

My song this morning

I woke up this morning with this song in my mind and heart, Create in me a clean heart:

Then a little while later, I read the Bible readings for today. There is a section of the mass called the Responsorial Psalm. It is when a section from the Psalms is read, and the congregation responds. Today’s is from Psalm 81, and it made me smile.

R. Sing with joy to God our help.
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.


Grace and the sacraments

I’d like to talk about grace. Specifically, how grace is given and the mechanism for how it flows into the life of the believer.

I was a Protestant/Evangelical for a short time, but definitely not a theologian. So I might not represent the Protestant/Evangelical view on this point correctly. On the other hand, there may be multiple views since there isn’t one governing body among them to define orthodoxy on this point. Even so, I am open to being corrected.

It seems to me that under Protestant/Evangelical theology, there is no explicit “vehicle” to impart grace, no explicitly defined way that grace flows into the life of the believer. It is just sort of like an invisible cloud that somehow appears, surrounds, or is absorbed into the believer’s soul once faith in Christ is exercised. If faith in Christ ceases, the cloud departs. For those who believe in Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS), the cloud never departs.

Protestants/Evangelicals reject the necessity of the sacraments. I have had the impression that they reject the physicality associated with the sacraments. They seem to recoil at the idea that God has instituted something physical as a way to channel grace into the life of the believer. To them, grace is only imparted in an unseen, spiritual manner, like an invisible cloud.

As I have mentioned before, I spent a lot of time in a gnostic cult, where we actually studied different gnostic texts by famous gnostic authors (such as G.I. Gurdjieff and his most famous disciple, P.D. Ouspensky). So I am very well acquainted with it. Gnosticism has two main ideas: 1) there is special, hidden knowledge which is only given to certain people, and this knowledge is what saves people. 2) the physical realm is undesirable, evil, and/or ultimately unnecessary. It needs to be shed and discarded the way a snake sheds and discards his skin.

-The physical is bad!Because of that experience, anytime I see people rejecting the physical, claiming it is unnecessary or bad, my alarm bells go off.

The Church does not teach that special knowledge saves people, and she teaches that the physical is good. So good, in fact, that our physical bodies will be resurrected. Because of this, the sacraments make sense to me precisely because they are physically based.

The Church teaches that the sacraments are the normative “vehicle” through which grace is given to Christians. This physicality speaks to the goodness of the physical creation, to Christ’s humanity and his physical body, to the idea that the physical is good, that God loves the physical, and he uses it for our good.

I take the physicality of the sacraments as evidence for the the Church’s claim about who she is, not as evidence against that claim.

Edited to add: this post is based on a comment I left on a blog called Orthodox Christian Theology.