Friday, 30 April 2004

"Unnaceptable"

Unacceptable?!!!

A poorly cooked omlette is unacceptable. Budweiser is unacceptable. Robbie Williams in his capacity as celebrity is uncceptable.

When British and American soldiers are found (thought let's wait and see how deep the rot is) to be torturing, urinating on and generally abusing imprisoned Iraqis, I don't want want the word "unacceptable" to be heard, thought or said. How utterly short does that word fall of the evil of that?

I wasn't expecting the BBC to say that abusing prisoners was sinful, or disordered (which sounds practically benign to me, but Fr. Paul says is theologically severe) - how could they? It's unacceptable is what it is, "that's not how we do thing in America" says Bush, temperately, moderately, sickeningly. Actually, what you don't do in America is refrain from using nouns as verbs - we're dealing with a slightly more serious issue here. Can no-one say "this is inhuman" or even bring themselves to say "this is flat out wrong"?

It's pathetic. We (the West I suppose I mean) feel as though a bad thing has happened, but we can't commit ourselves to the idea that what has happened is an atrocity, a locus point of evil in our world.

All that "unacceptable" commits us to is reprisal,
not fit to wear the queen's uniform
and my but doesn't the punishment fit the crime. We punish the offenders (f*cking sartorially at that) because there actions didn't meet our relativistic, non-commital, post-Christian, Nike (just do it) bloody cultural standards. My moral sense compels me to vomit, but my body hasn't caught on.
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Hello all. This is just a note to say that I'm back at Camberley HQ. Dad just picked me up from the station. He and I are both a little tired, so methinketh a still even is oportune; soon I shall be drinking Waggledance in the bath.

Brief mention of work today. Got about a million phone calls today (as it's that time of the month) including several that were some woman trying to send us a fax, and caused me befuddlement. Busy enough in general, but by no means exhausting - nice. Bad business near the end of the day though in the form of a woman who had been declared bankrupt, and wanted us to stop her pay going to her old bank account. We didn't get the new details in time, so she had to spend £20 for the privilege of the cancelation, while we issued her a cheque, but she neglected to ensure that we changed the name on the cheque so that she could actually cash it. The new details she gave us were her friend's. So she's got no money at the minute. She sounded pretty irritated.

Apparently Ati at work is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Presumably that involves a lot of theology I'm not aware of, but the signal thing seems to be that they keep the Sabbath with none of that Sunday nonsense.

I was just handed an exciting new phone to speak to Mum at work on. She's doing an on-call shift in the haematology department you know.

Beer and bath. It's the freaking bank holiday weekend. Woo!
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Tuesday, 27 April 2004

Just a quick note to smirk at the washing up abilities of our house. I took a mug from the cupboard this morning with tea-stains in it, and my beakers had visible milkage.

Hehe.
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Monday, 26 April 2004

Hello. I suppose if I'd had anything much about the weekend to blog, I would have blogged it at the weekend. James is back now though, so such things are less likely to occur.

Stayed up too late bumming around in James' room. Just as well Rob doesn't seem to have arrived back either, or I probably would nevr have got round to going to bed. Where is he anyway? Surely he has things to be doing.

Got sunburn on Saturday, sitting in the garden reading. It was quite irritating this morning getting up, but it seems workable now. Work is relaxed, but I don't seem to be getting much done. And no - that's not the reason. Remunerations keep thwarting me, so I think I'll start seeting some people up instead.

Seem to be spoiling myself recently - choc ices and Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Bars - mmmmm. And fruit - nature's candy. And beer. And nice cereal. And the weather is gratuitously pleasant. Why does it never rain on me? I think the reason I don't read so much these days is because a) I don't have to, and b) because it's boring to sit inside and read, whereas it is pleasant to sit outside and read. There are some nice places in Duryard - as opposed to our joke of a back garden - so I might spend some more time round there at the weekends, trying not to look too dodgy, which might work, as the students have come back now.

I love this time of year. But I wonder how I will stop myself from being envious when the students finish exams and, despite being concerned about their respective futures, are able to freely revel in it.
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Sunday, 25 April 2004

Trackback: 'cos it's only as embarassing as having no comments.
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In James' absence, you may have noticed, copious use has been made of his computer. Such is the situation with his books, so I find myself, reading Mark Shea's Making Senses Out of Scripture (sic) being informed that "Bethlehem" means "house of bread", and being reminded that Jesus was laid in a feeding tray. "Bethlehem"- fine - I don't expect to discern Hebrew word-play, but you'd have thought I'd picked up on the manger after hearing about it like two jillion times.

It's very good to be reminded that you don't "get" Scripture in it's entirety, not because you don't know "the original Greek", but because "As the heavens are higher than the earth, / so are [God's] ways higher than your ways / and [God's] thoughts than your thoughts." Which reminds me of the Rosary. Twice in Luke 2, it says something along these lines - "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." - about things she didn't "get". Mysteries, you might call them.

Pat at Christians Together &c. said she overheard some people walking out of The Passion saying they'd seen worse. For the record, I think Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange disturbed me more than Gibson's film did. And this is fine I suppose, granted that I don't equate art with reality, 'cos Alex and his victims just don't mean with the same force as the agony in the garden, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion, or indeed today's (glorious) mysteries.
[So] God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech you, that meditating on the Mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain to what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Not that I 've prayed the Rosary today. It'd be pretty weird if I didn't, having said that...

Lot of rambling going on today, in my head at least. Wish haloscan was running, then I could read my comments...
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Saturday, 24 April 2004

"When I woke up you were gone, and the TV was blue."
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I added some links to entries where people introduced themselves to ease comprehension. If people want to post new ones, I guess I'll notice, and change the links.

I never wrote an introduction for myself, on the assumption that no-one who didn't know who I was would want to read a blog about my life. That's what this used to be you know - a personal blog. In recent times however, I've opened it up to the input of my near relations.

I, that is Mark Dobson, am a chap. My parents were good enough to give me a Christian upbringing (thank you) and I was recently received into the Catholic Church. I rather expect that I'm not the best person to try and summarise my personality, but I think I'd better give it a shot - for the sake of completeness you know. Quiet, generally calm and easygoing, pedantic. Although, as I say, I'm quite quiet, I like arguing with people at times. I have a violent dislike of being wrong about things, which sometimes leads to people to think that my opinion is worth seeking. I have a (ahem) catholic taste in art, mostly music and film, ranging from the gratuitously awkward to the tragically banal. I like Top of the Pops.

I live in Exeter, from whence I graduated with a, if I may be permitted to say so, first class degree in English studies. After a little time spent sponging off the state, I found a job as a payroll assistant for Devon County Council. I don't seem to do very much, but I do sing in the Exeter University Choral Society.

That should just about do it I think.
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Friday, 23 April 2004

From Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum.

"Commissions as well as councils or committees established by the Bishop to handle ?the promotion of the Liturgy, sacred music and art in his diocese?[...]"

Wow - I hope the Plymouth diocese has one of these. I'd like to know what they're up to.

"As early as the year 1970, the Apostolic See announced the cessation of all experimentation as regards the celebration of Holy Mass[62] and reiterated the same in 1988."

Ooh - I think I'm glad I missed that.

"Nevertheless, from the fact that the liturgical celebration obviously entails activity, it does not follow that everyone must necessarily have something concrete to do beyond the actions and gestures, as if a certain specific liturgical ministry must necessarily be given to the individuals to be carried out by them."

Oh dear - are there churches where people feel under a constant obligation to be 'useful'? Hmm. Personally, I'm very happy to let the liturgy be performed by people who know what they're about, and to concentrate on what I am receiving rather than how I'm facilitating it. For this reason, I'm glad to have Wednesdays free again. I like playing guitar at mass, but I prefer to be caught up in it, and to be able to sing.

"(thus the word ekklesia is related to klesis, or ?calling?)"

Ooh.

"The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy."

I was given to understand that there is some flexibility involved in this - that priests can alter the readings, at least, to suit pressing pastoral needs. I guess this is probably more about things that occur in ever mass, like the sanctus &c.

There's more on this - hmm. No Liturgy of the Word without the Liturgy of the Eucharist - Hmmm.

Homily - never by a layperson. Hmm.

"[66.] [...] students of theological disciplines"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Lisa a theology student? Actually, I probably just imagined it. Ignore me.

" In Holy Mass as well as in other celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy, no Creed or Profession of Faith is to be introduced which is not found in the duly approved liturgical books."

That's gotta hurt.

"It is appropriate ?that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner?"

That's interesting too. I am occasionally, not very often, inclined to think that it would be nice to offer peace to everybody. I gather that the idea of this is for the peace to be significant, but not divert from the Eucharist. Really, if I want to get chummy with the rest of the congregation, it would be a good thing to do so in the context of the messa, i.e. not limited to the building, or to Sundays.

"?The purpose of a variety of colour of the sacred vestments is to give effective expression even outwardly to the specific character of the mysteries of faith being celebrated and to a sense of Christian life?s passage through the course of the liturgical year?"

Having said that, I fully sympathise with Delian's unease at being obliged to wear pink at certain times of the year.

It's a good thing that the vatican has a website - otherwise, I'd have to look a lot harder to find this stuff. Woo. Thanks James.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2004

A quick update, Dad phoned me last night and suggested that we borrow the little car and use Adrian and Emma's car as well which would give a great deal more flexibility than one big car. Also the little cars will be easier to maneuver and hopefully park.

Also I got caught by a pigeon playing poo-poo bombadiers yesterday morning on the way to work, thus my jacket and bag went into the laundry last night. Unfortunately someone else was already using the only washing machine, so I didn't quite have enough time to fully dry everything before the laundry room was locked for the night.
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Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Adrian and Emma called me last night about a week-long holiday starting on the 5th of July. They asked me to make some suggestions about what would suit me.

I'd like to be able to go swimming especially in the sea, walks in woodland and along coastline. Adrian mentioned the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

I think I'd prefer renting a flat to Youth Hosteling, and it might be an idea to ask Mum and Dad if we can borrow the big car, since Adrian's little car might be a little squashed and underpowered if all five of us are in it.

With regards to work, I've changed my day off to Thursday and have made some progress with the clocks I'm working on, including a "wonderful" American clock and an unusual (to me) hybridised strike\chime clock. Linda and William are showing their customary efficiency and their provision of hot drinks and hob-nobs for those who enjoy them has been much appreciated.
A slight mishap that left me temporarily underpaid was quickly rectified when David found out about it.

I'll be at Camberley this weekend for a dentists appointment on Monday, so I may blog again sooner.
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Monday, 19 April 2004

"lord laserous explosion" - that's fantastic...
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If someone could give me a good definition of an angel, I'd have a stab at answering the origional question... - Adrian

Well, I'm working with this definition of angels:
329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'"188 With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word".189

330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendour of their glory bears witness.190

Christ "with all his angels"

331 Christ is the centre of the angelic world. They are his angels: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. . "191 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him."192 They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"193
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Sunday, 18 April 2004

Free Will

I don't know 'owt about physics. This is frustrating, because though I can spot a dodgy piece of textual criticism at 50 yards and probably am not too shabby at detecting manifest illogic, when it comes arguments about the physical nature of the world, I don't know what I'm working with.

Never mind, I can but try.

I already said this in my own comments boxes (makes me look more popular see), but Norris' argument seems pretty dodgy to me.
No one has free will. Every thing that people do is predictable provided you have enough information, except for some quantum randomness. But, if you had several universes, with the same starting conditions, you could predict how many would have each outcome.
The future is as definite as the past. It just for some reason, we remember the past, entropy increases and the universe is expanding.
K. So firstly there's this business of qunatum randomness. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't a little bit of randomness serve to completely undermine the idea of perfect order? Someone said this to me about gravity. The odd thing about gravity, right, is that for it to act as a force, or whatever, it must take into account the whereabouts of all matter simultaneuosly. I think. So every change affects everything else. So to write off "quantum randomness" is wrong.

But Norris has a solution. It involves mulitplying out universes so that you can predict a general trend of probability. To which my response is "Yes, and?" It's still just probability. You can have as many universes as you like, but if you single one out to predict what's going to happen in it you can only say that it might belong in such and such a group of universes with a particular outcome. Of course you can predict the outcome of a universe - it's a different thing to say you can predict it accurately.

And then there's there's idea of "enough information". I think enough information would have to be all information really, wouldn't it - correct me if I'm wrong? The person whose mind could contain that would have to be, in a sense, greater than the universe. Let's call him God Steve. I suppose you might try and say that Steve was in fact the universe, simply consisting of all the requisite information, but predicting is an action, so it takes both the intellect to process the information and the ability to act, which, for the sake of brevity, I'll call will. So you have the material of the universe, um - M, the intellect of the universe, I, and the will of the universe, W.

So at very least, Steve is M+I+W.

Actually, if Steve is the universe, he'd be himself plus the requisite intellect and will to predict with. (M+I+W)+I+W.

No, it'd have to be ((M+I+W)+I+W)+I+W.


I think I can see where this is going. And yes, I am aware that the brackets don't really add anything. So a pantheistic, or materialist Steve, ends up as perpetually being an I plus a W short of self-awareness. And naturally, a being less than Steve hasn't a hope in hell of predicting the universe.

There you are, a little bit of epistemology for you.

"But Mark, isn't this getting a little close to nihilism, the denial of the individual's ability to know anything? Steve's not even self-aware, and if he doesn't know what's going on, how am I meant to?"

But I don't believe in a pantheistic Steve.
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Saturday, 17 April 2004

While I'm here, and as I didn't blog on Monday, which is what I intend to try doing for a while, I should probably try and say what I've been up to this week. Not too much I think.

I've been cooking food a bit. I got bored of pasta with sauce, and I can never be arsed to make stir-fries these days, so I bought a book of simple recipes for one person along with a bowl to put fruit in. We had a bit of an online shopping session, so I made a concerted effort to stock my cupboard with handy ingredients. So far I've had creamy mushrooms on toast, which were staggeringly good, and a spinach and pine-nut omlette, which was probably the est omlette I've ever made, but seemed like a lot of effort for the pay-off, flavour-wise.

On Wednesday was Christians Together at County Hall, for the first time after lent. It was odd not to see people until then. We had an impromptu look at the last chapter of John and general chat. The Passion came up again, because someone had just got around to seeing it. They didn't like the fact it wasn't strictly biblical, and when I said that was because it was based "on a vision by some nun", Rikky said that one of the problems with Catholicism was that it had a lot of extra-biblical things in it owing to the gradual acceptance of say, nun's visions, by the Church. I didn't want to get into trying to defend Tradition to that many evangelicals at once, but I couldn't let that slide, so I asked if Rikky wouldn't mind having a chat about it at some point. A little later he said a few more things to me personally, about how there are some ex-Catholics in his church, that "people thinking for themselves" was why he thought they left, and that there are some Catholic churches which are okay, in fact they're pretty much Evangelical, but that quite a lot of them are much too superstitious. He also espoused the simplicity of salvation, with the implication that Catholicism was based on bolting on unneccessary features. Bascially I want to try and present my side of the story, and see if he can make anything of it. It's quite daunting.

Been watching The Games, as people who've read mine and James' blog might be able to have guessed. I don't think it's so entertaining as last year. Not sure why. There's no-one who I particularly want to win, above the others, though I was pleased when Jordan/Jodie (people keep telling me they are not the same person - pah) won the fitness test, despite being in clearly terrible shape. I suppose I'd like to see Pat Sharp do well, but not for anything except comedy value. At work Michaela and Sarah were saying how they thought Katy Hill was being really horrible to Lady Hervey, but I'm pretty sure they're both being stupid in different directions. Katy's not good at shutting up, and Isabella's not good at not being offended. And Jodie's good at being illogical and, without apparent guile, making everything worse. Well that's how I saw it. So they hate each other, I think. And Lady Isabella looks really funny when she's drunk - teetotal's a good look for her.
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Does anyone have an opinion on whether or not angels have free-will?
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I shall email you some more on this, not because I think I am in 'danger' of being wrong and I’m afraid to have it on here, but somebody who is not a Catholic needs to talk to you about your recent experiences away from (no offence intended) other Catholics and no one down in Exeter seems to be bothered to[...].

[...]

I have posted this in your comments box so the people who read your blog are aware I have not conceded your point and that I am responding to it.
Well let's have it then Gavin; it's practically a week since I was received into the Church!

I do know that the two preceding paragraphs aren't linked by context, but the impression that a reply would be forthcoming was publicly posted on my blog in the interests of fairness, and yet I'm still waiting for your thoughts on the matter.
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Thursday, 15 April 2004

I wish Jill did not leave caps lock on after her family research work. And another thing Nicholas (he of Carpe Biem) cannot spell his own fathers name!. So much for advanced education
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jUST TESTING
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Monday, 12 April 2004

Ooh. I didn't pay enough attention to the official letter I got from work saying I got my pay increment. Assuming it's not some cruel hoax, I've gone up two scale points rather than one, resulting in an extra £84.50 per month gross.

Woo.

And happy birthday to Rachel for tomorrow. I don't think she reads this though.
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Oh arse.

On Saturday Rachel asked me if she could use the internet on Sunday, and I completely forgot. I expect it's too late for it to be worthwhile now, and that she found a more strenuous way of getting access, but I'd better go round in any case.

But later, when normal people might be up. When do normal people get up on bank holidays?

Oh scratch that - she might be up relatively early. She says the Maltese are early risers. Up with the lark, and, I think, the snail:
The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!
- Robert Browning
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Sunday, 11 April 2004

Too late for a happy Easter? Probably. (Yes James I know...)

Happy Easter!

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Saturday, 10 April 2004

My Reception at the Easter Vigil

Some Most good things are better experienced than read about e.g. worship in general, the Mass, and, say, oh I don't know, the Easter Vigil. On the other hand, it would be fairly perverse not to mention it I think. So here you are.

Rachel, Norris and I set out at about 1920, arriving a bit early. Tamsin and Martyn unfortunately couldn't make it - Martyn's on some medication for a persistent headache and Tamsin didn't want to leave him, so we can pray for them. It's a bit odd when you do something official in church, like be received. It meant that everyone I knew was scattered round a bit except for the people who were being received with me at the front right. Rachel was meant to sit behind me with the sponsors, Karen Silcox and her husband Colin set up about halfway back, and Norris ended up on the front left. He seemed okay about it, and was getting on okay with Mike's wife, whose name I, embarassingly, could not remember.

Bit of a procession to the back of church to light a stonking great paschal candle. I'm not quite sure why, but when lit it made a fairly hefty whumph, if you see what I mean, which was pretty dramatic. I am given to understand it's meant to represent, in addition to apparent things, the pillar of fire which God provided for the Israelites coming out of Egypt. In any case, we all got our own candles lit off it. I didn't mention that the lights were off did I? Well they were - the idea was to symbolise the darkness of the Old Testament before the final revelation of Jesus.
129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. - CCC

Man alive there were a lot of readings! It was good. The lights remained off until the New Testament readings. I wasn't so sure about some of the solo-singing on the responsorial Psalms, but the choir did an excellent job - holy, beautiful and intelligible - what more could you ask for in a Psalm?

The lights came on in a very theatrical way (they must have done this before) and after that it was Mass like most weeks apart from bits for us guys (and we were all guys, which Fr. Harry seemed pleased about). A restatement of baptismal vows (always a good idea - reminded Norris of The Godfather Part One) a, I must say, bodged profession that "I [,that is, we] believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.", an anointing with oil and that was us in full communion with the Church and permitted to receive. And we did. And about that, perhaps I'd better say very little except that I'm glad. Thank you for everyone who's supported me, especially those who did so, and do so, with little understanding of why I would do such a thing, only seeing that I meant it.

Well, after Mass there was no official thing to do, except that some people wanted pictures of the newly-received, so I just talked to various people I knew, generally wandering round like I don't know what I'm doing, which is usually the case. Norris said that he'd "never been to anything like that before." I'd never been to anything exactly like that before. It's a nice service, in itself.

Mike gave the three of us a life back to the Esso, and we wandered over to the chaplaincy for some Maltese Easter treats, which were good, myself bearing a can of Stella for the sake of a rather childish in-joke. 'Hem.

And then to bed.
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Mark Shea ain't the only body that can post poetry ya know, even poetry by George Herbert:
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
I was going to post Book 4 of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis too, but it turns out it's far too long. That link's only the first page...
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Friday, 9 April 2004

There was rather a lot on on Good Friday, and I involved myself with a good portion of it. I've said morning prayer (ooh, I think that's an absolute link as opposed to a relative one - that's a step in the right direction) on my own before, and most frequently during last summer, but noticed that it was on this morning, so I went. Fr. Paul said he thought it made more sense as a communal activity, and I would tend to agree, but it's not always so easy to manage when you're not a monk. We had enough time to say a Rosary after that, so we did.

I then hastened to Southernhay United Reformed Church for an ecumenical service which was going down. Not sure what to say about it really. Readings, hymns, the poem I posted above, a sermon in which The Passion was mentioned three times.

A Good Friday procession followed, led by a dirty big cross (six people to carry) then the Salvation Army. It was good. Delian, who's a deacon at Sacred Heart said it was usually a bit chaotic, but this year it was good. We were, on the whole, quiet, letting the procession speak for itself. Maybe it's because central Exeter is pedestrianised, but we didn't get catcalls like James did; not that I could hear anyway. We stopped at various places in the city centre, for a reading, a hymn and a prayer. I'm not sure how many people joined us, except for one Big Issue seller wearing a "McShit" t-shirt who stayed right to the end, the end being the cathedral green, where we erected our cross next to two others.

After little while at home, it was time to go back to Sacred Heart for the Stations of the Cross. It's a very simple service and a very good idea, to my mind.
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Wednesday, 7 April 2004

There's a lot of Bible on the blog these days. I don't want anyone thinking that the only reason I believe in a) Christianity and b) Catholicism is because I read it in a book which I happened to be told was factual.

So, in the interests of variety, an old post on the resurrection.

James' original post. Very much liked the cut of his jib.
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Faith Alone? - quick verse

How I could possibly have forgotten this, I have no idea:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil 2:12-13)
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Faith Alone? pt. 3

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, pain...Image via Wikipedia
Will chips in:
This seems to be a free-for-all now, so let's go. In my opinion, deeds are a display of true faith. I think the emphasis of this passage you two are going on about is that any faith without deeds is not likely to be a true faith. I don't interpret this to mean that you need to do deeds simply because having faith on it's own is not enough.
No fisking - no editing.

James 2:24 - You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

That's what I expect Will means. Frankly, I agree with everything he says - from this verse in isolation, I would never argue that works were necessary for salvation. To my mind there are two apparent senses of "justified". Firstly it might mean that works show that a man is living by faith. Secondly it might mean that a man is made just by faith through works. And there's nothing in the passage to convince me that one of these must be the primary sense. I could try looking at the Greek perhaps, but I think it would probably be a waste of everybody's time.

On the other hand, I do think that Scripture, especially the gospels, cumulatively justify the Catholic position.

Matthew 7:21-27, Matthew 3:3-10, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 5:48, Matthew 6:14:15, Matthew 10:21-22, Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 10:37-39.

I had a feeling I'd run out of steam. Nyeh.

Anyway, these all have something to do with accepting the gospel of our Lord and getting off our arses and doing something with it. To me the idea that I have to meet God halfway and not just let him wash over me is actually fairly overwhelming. It's a tendency, a general state of affairs, and I daresay each one of these passages may be read entirely contrary to my own beliefs, but I think that to deny our co-operation in the work of God is to take an agenda to the gospel.

On the plus side for Gavin:

How do you account for the fact that James 2:24 flatly contradicts what you say?

I have to give that up, on reflection. Not that I think it especially impressive that I abandoned a line of argument before Gavin even mentioned it.

On the plus side for me, I'm moving into context now. "Context"'s a big word, and the only sensible answer is to read the Bible to see what it says really. Order your copy today.



Now, having said that, I think there's probably enough going on in James 2 of itself to undermine Gavin's position. I mean, Luther had to abandon the whole of James before he could make his theology work. Apparently he couldn't read it in a harmonious way. But we've got to.
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Faith Alone? pt. 2

Gavin's first rebuttal.

It's nice to take single verses out of context and against the background of the entire Bible, as you can often prove anything then e.g. the two you quote. And as the Bible "contain[s] some things that are hard to understand” it is a dangerous practice to start picking out bits from here and there on their own.

You have yet to say how the context alters anything at all. Out of context, yes, one can abuse the Bible, but I really don't think I am, and you have yet to demonstrate how I am doing so. As it is, my two out-of-context verses trump your absolutely nothing at all any day. I seem to recall a large part of the "background of the entire Bible" being the insistent request of God that his people live as though they believed in him. I think that's prima facie evidence for the necessity of considering "works" as important, thought not by any means as some sort of alternative route to God.

Also isn't the Bible useful for teaching, rebuking etc? If that doesn't make it an authority what would? Does that fact it is the inspired word of God come into it as well?

I never said the Bible wasn't an authority. In fact, it doesn't seem so very long ago that I appealed to it to attack your extra-biblical idea of sola fide. You and I both believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but I don't believe it stands on it's own. How could it? It never says anywhere of what books Scripture comprises. We know this because we were taught it - it was handed on to us as the inspired word of God.

Further[,] have you read John 3:16?

How do you account for the fact that James 2:24 flatly contradicts what you say? By criticising my method of quoting Scripture out of context shortly before doing it yourself - the difference being that you don't actually get round to quoting it, merely giving the reference.

Looking at John 3:16 for the very first time, under the direction of my learned friend, I see it says "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

How does that [a]ffect your requirement for works and faith to be saved?

It harmonises with Catholic teaching well enough, whilst not agreeing explicitly. Belief which doesn't inspire action should hardly be called belief, neither, surely, can a purely intellectual assent to belief in the Son of God equal the promised "participat[ion] in the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).

[The Catholic Church] is an impressively self-consistent, coherent and sincere organisation, but one that I believe has got it wrong.


Well I admire your sincerity.

It is also wrong for you to say that my view is a “groundless assertion” merely because it differs to yours.


Yes, it would be. But that's not what I said, nor why I said it. I think it's wrong of you not to pay enough attention to notice the deliberative way in which I said "insofar as it is stated". That is, you stated no grounds for your opinion, rendering it, with absolute objectivity, an assertion.

I shall email you some more on this, not because I think I am in 'danger' of being wrong and I’m afraid to have it on here, but somebody who is not a Catholic needs to talk to you about your recent experiences away from (no offence intended) other Catholics and no one down in Exeter seems to be bothered to[...].

Well, by all means. Most of the non-Catholic Christians I know have kept pretty quiet about it. I must say that your timing leaves something to be desired... Must point out however, that I don't respond in-depth to e-mails at work, and my yahoo address is generally unused. I promise to read and think about whatever you send me though.

Ooh, hang on. You don't think you're in 'danger' of being wrong? I'm not entirely sure what your inverted commas mean, but I know that I have no intention of ever assuming that I'm safe from "hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

If you're right in your new viewpoint it won't do you any harm and it you're not it will be what you need.

Perhaps I am aggressive in my viewpoint but maybe a challenge for you will be good. It will either set you back on your prior path or affirm for yourself your new one.


Well quite.

I have posted this in your comments box so the people who read your blog are aware I have not conceded your point and that I am responding to it. - Gavin



An afterthought. Consider the following:
I wouldn't say [Catholicism] was great. I'd say it's inconsistent with the Bible. - Gavin

It is an impressively self-consistent, coherent and sincere organisation, but one that I believe has got it wrong. - Gavin

The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." - Catechism of the Catholic Church
I mean, which is it? Impressively self-consistent, or dismissive of the Scriptures? Too ignorant, or too clever by half? I expect what you mean by "self-consistent" is that it doesn't contradict itself because it thinks that Sacred Tradition can trump Sacred Scripture, but that just isn't the case. I could be wrong of course - perhaps you really are arguing two entirely contradictory things. Who can say?
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Responding, on a snippet by snippet to basis to another's argument (I believe it is called fisking) is a relatively venerable tradition, for the internet. It strikes me, however, that whereas on my own blog I get the authoritative voice and final say on the editing, Gavin doesn't.

So here's his unadulterated material.
It's nice to take single verses out of context and against the background of the entire Bible, as you can often prove anything then e.g. the two you quote. And as the Bible "contain[s] some things that are hard to understand” it is a dangerous practice to start picking out bits from here and there on their own.

Also isn't the Bible useful for teaching, rebuking etc? If that doesn't make it an authority what would? Does that fact it is the inspired word of God come into it as well?

Further have you read John 3:16? How does that effect your requirement for works and faith to be saved?

I also never said the Catholic Church was ignorant or unstable. It is an impressively self-consistent, coherent and sincere organisation, but one that I believe has got it wrong.

It is also wrong for you to say that my view is a “groundless assertion” merely because it differs to yours. Neither of us has got very far into this debate yet and neither has presented any points of view that could be called groundless in our own opinions. We might believe each others are wrong but that does not make them groundless as I am reasonably sure neither of us believes what we believe on irrational grounds.

I shall email you some more on this, not because I think I am in 'danger' of being wrong and I’m afraid to have it on here, but somebody who is not a Catholic needs to talk to you about your recent experiences away from (no offence intended) other Catholics and no one down in Exeter seems to be bothered too.

If you're right in your new viewpoint it won't do you any harm and it you're not it will be what you need.

Perhaps I am aggressive in my viewpoint but maybe a challenge for you will be good. It will either set you back on your prior path or affirm for yourself your new one.

I have posted this in your comments box so the people who read your blog are aware I have not conceded your point and that I am responding to it.
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Tuesday, 6 April 2004

Faith Alone?

Image of "Dawn: Luther at Erfurt" wh...Image via Wikipedia
Catholicism teaches a gospel of faith and works. The Bible teaches one solely on faith. If that isn't inconsistent I don't know what is. - Gavin

Well, if what you said was true then you'd be right, but I absolutely refuse to grant your conclusion, as your second premise is faulty. It is as plain as daylight to me, looking at the bible, that the idea that "The Bible teaches [a gospel based] solely on faith" is not a given.

Here's Catholic teaching on justification, grace and merit. I would encourage you to peruse it - it's not that long. If you must, however, take this as a hasty non-infallible summary by someone who has much to learn: Faith leads us to works - God takes our works and makes them good, as we are not in any way able to, fully by his own grace. Salvation by works alone is pile of pish, and a slur on Catholic teaching. As I say, see what the Church says.

If the Bible speaks for itself, let it - it wouldn't need your help.

In the meantime, I'll just give you a couple of passages that undermine your (insofar as it is stated) groundless assertion. I don't expect that you won't have an answer, but I do think that it won't do the fullness of Scripture justice. We both know that the Bible "contain[s] some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." You apparently think that the Catholic Church is ignorant and unstable, but all your arguments have ever done for me is built up my admiration for the fullness and coherence of Catholic teaching.

Just two verses for the moment, and these may well suffice, because the Church's teaching accounts for them and your's doesn't seem to.

Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

James 2:24 -You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In fact, this is a bit too easy. How will you account for the fact that James 2:24 flatly contradicts what you say? I think the whole of James 2 mirrors my inept summary of Church teaching rather well too.
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Monday, 5 April 2004

Well now - gosh.

I thought that I was probably going to be a little too apprehensive about my 5 month review, but this is ridiculous. I was feeling a little too ill (just a cold) to be properly nervous actually, but even had I been in fine fettle, chewing my fingernails, I needn't have worried 'cos not a bad word was said about me. So I'm past the probationary stage, and properly contracted with a little increment as an award that works out at about £15 per month net. Nice.
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Sunday, 4 April 2004

The Curt Jester reminds me that pretty soon it's going to be the anniversary of about a gazillion Catholics being received into the Church. This fact has sort of drifted past me before, but it's great! It's like having another birthday or something.

In fact, come to think of it, my baptism is even more like one big collaborative birthday - Born again, of water and the spirit on the same liturgical day as the liturgical birth of our Lord.

And then there's Pentecost, and that's the Church's birthday, which is to say the body of Christ, which is to say "Huzzah! Once more, it is my and many other people's birthday!"

This religion thing can be fun, although perhaps you're finding all this far less engaging than I am.

It's no good though, I think the Queen is still one birthday ahead of me.
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Saturday, 3 April 2004

Suffering and Freedom

Adam, Eve, and the (female) serpent at the ent...Image via Wikipedia
Hey Mino, how's it going?

"But this is a God who does not want the joy and happiness of his sons."

No it isn't. God himself is the happiness of his sons. To be content in this world would be nice, yes, but it would be making do with a sort of synopsis of God's goodness. So, I dunno, God is more like Hamlet and this world is like the Cliff Notes. Perhaps more to the point, didn't your Dad ever get you to do something that you didn't want to do, but turned out to be a good idea after all? Like get out of bed and go to school in the morning? The difference is that we get to grow up into people whose intelligence approximates to that of their fathers, and because of our own experience and love know that we have to kick our own kids out of bed. But we don't grow up into God; instead he allows us sonship.
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
"It seems that the bad exists just to remind people to "call" God from time to time: kind of post-it !!!"

I can't imagine a more necessary post-it then. It seems to aptly sum up a Christian approach to natural evil, the type that would have confronted Adam and Eve had they never rebelled. Again, if we made do with the world when we could have God, we'd be fools. There's sin too of course, which is turning from love of God to love of the world, and that suffering comes from ourselves. I suppose what you really wonder is why we have to call God anyway.
[W]hat is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

We maintain that we have a dignity which is absolutely bound up with being like God, with aspiring to be "perfect [...] as [our] heavenly Father is perfect." We also maintain that a part of this dignity is our ability to say no. We can say, "Screw you God, I don't want you." And there is beauty enough in the world for us to seek God, and ugliness enough for us to shun him.

"They will remind of him only when they have bad times!"

I expect you mean remember him. Well, it isn't true. Speaking personally, I'm telling you that I feel drawn to God not only when I'm suffering, but when I'm content and when I'm happy. Not all the time of course.

"Why sacrifice and sorrow have to lead to God and not joy and happiness?"

Well, I sort of accounted for this above, but I'll just restate briefly. a) Joy and happiness do lead to God actually b) It is only natural that a sense of the lack of God should inspire people to look for him.

"Never heard of Saint Francis?"

Well, I've heard of him. newadvent.org tells me there's at least eight though. Don't know anything much about them. Care to share?
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Gratuitous scripture time:
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
Love it.
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Thursday, 1 April 2004

I wouldn't say that I was doing a lot of thinking this evening, but I was thinking. RCIA was on the theme of new beginnings, which is - ahem - apt.

The world seems full of people who, though not queueing up to lynch me, obviously don't understand why anyone would become a Catholic, least of all myself. I can see why they might not, but sooner or later I'm going to have to, for my own spiritual sake even if for no-one else's, get a little more acquainted with why I believe in a catholic and apostolic church over and above churches which view themselves as one amongst many.

On the other side of the fence, I have about 2000 years of Christianity to get acquainted with. It's all a bit much when you thought you had your education out of the way. I figure I'll start small, like reading Justin Martyr's work, whose name, btw, I think I'll take on.

These are bizarre times. Please pray for me.
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