Déjà vu all Over Again with Ralph Martin

He’s done another video in the wake of the “unearthing” of Michael Scanlan’s prophecies:

Let’s be honest, Ralph: we’ve been here before.  And you dodged the serious question that never seems to change.

Back in 1982 you wrote a book entitled A Crisis of Truth, where you documented the drift from both Biblical truth that Roman Catholicism had experienced.  In a sense the video above is a quick summary of the idea of that book, forty years out.  (TBH Mother Angelica’s rant–and her response to a bishop that didn’t like it–was more to the point.)  So here we are again, you saying the same things and the rest of us trying to figure out a response.

The response many of us did at the time was to exit from the Catholic Church.  It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s one that some of our brothers and sisters didn’t follow us in, but we did it anyway.  But we felt that we could not live the life that Jesus Christ had intended to and stay in either the miserable pastoral system that was and is Catholic parishes in the US or in a church where what were then called “countercultural” (they’re mainstream now) elements were undermining the Church.

For me at least, your book was in part a justification of that decision.  I had seen what happened when the church I grew up in (Episcopal Church) underwent an assault like this, and I had no desire to go through this again.

Now you call us to follow Jesus in a serious way.  And that’s good.  But now we have an Occupant of the See of St. Peter who is basically dangerous, and dangerous people seem to lurk everywhere.  (I was always afraid this would happen sooner or later.)  Back in the day the accession of St. John Paul II put a stop to much of the mischief you documented in your book, or at least drove it underground.  You cast aside your guitar-strumming and prophecy-proclaiming form of Catholicism for #straightouttairondale, a volte face I still marvel at.   But that still leaves those who stay with the same hard choices–harder, really–that we had two score ago.

I’m not one of these people who say that “if you get saved, you must leave the Catholic Church.”  That’s basically conceding to the Church it’s own idea of what church is all about.  But once Jesus transforms our life we have to be somewhere until we ascend up to heaven.  Some have and will stick it out, but some will not, and what you say now–and what you have said in the past–will influence that decision in ways you may not find to your taste.

I would be the first to admit that life in the Pentecostal fast lane has its problems, from Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology to its screwy racial idea.  But so far I’ve been able to leave many of the problems I would have had to deal with on an ongoing basis behind, and my church allowed me to work at a denominational level, something Roman Catholicism would never dream of.

At the end of his book The Power and the Wisdom, Fr. John McKenzie wrote the following:

There is another obscurity in one’s mind more difficult to express and not without some dangers.  Reflection on the New Testament gives one a keener sense of the differences between the Church which wrote the New Testament and the contemporary Church.  If one wanders down this path far enough, one will find oneself at its end in the company of the Reformers; and a Roman Catholic cannot join this company.

As a part of a Wesleyan tradition now, we’re way past Luther and Calvin.  Be careful of what you say, Ralph Martin; some of us may take it seriously.

Update: I posted a link to this piece on the video’s comments.  They responded by turning the comments off.

Another Scanlan Prophecy, and How Did Ralph Martin Get to #straightouttairondale?

Ralph Martin has posted a follow-up to his broadcast of Michael Scanlan’s prophecy:

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, much of what he says is fine.  One of the things I’ve tried to do is to discourage people from leaning too hard on the benefits of the civilisation (such as it is.)  The call of Jesus Christ is too high to do so, either in times of prosperity or certainly in times of trouble like we’re in now.  In this country the worst thing we do is wrap our Christianity around “moving up,” and I’ve decried this for a long time.  It may produce big numbers but it isn’t prepared for what we’re facing now.

My real issue is his context, and that may seem abstract, but it’s not.  He’s come up with another prophecy from Fr. Scanlan and that brings up two important questions, one for the time it came out and one for now.

In the traditional Roman Catholicism Martin professes to live in, the prophetic gift didn’t (and doesn’t) work in the way that Scanlan exercised it.  The Church has generally taught that the Holy Spirit acts through the church as a whole.  The way he exercised it is more in line with what we’ve seen in modern Pentecost.  So how can he fit the two together?  Or better, how did Ralph Martin, like Scanlan, get to #straightouttairondale?

The fact is that many of us at the time, when confronted with this radical call, couldn’t figure out how to respond to that meaningfully in the parish system then and now.  So we left.  Given the current state of things, the only way to do this is to go for a “church within a church.”  That was what the Sword of the Spirit was all about, and it wasn’t all that Catholic.  (It had other problems, too.)  That’s also what SSPX is about, and they’re having problems.  The Trads are trying to do the same, and they’re not getting the cooperation from the Church they think they should.  It’s great to set forth a radical call to the Gospel, but how do we get there?  We couldn’t figure it out forty years ago, why should we think you can?

There’s no doubt that we’re facing bad times.  There’s also no doubt that the Catholic Church at large in this country is unprepared for them or unprepared to defend its flock.  Do we need two layers of problems when it’s hard enough to deal with one?

But I guess these are the problems that result when you’re better at making unlikely transitions within the Church rather than facing the problems the way they are.


Michael Scanlan’s Amazing Prophecy

I’ve been puzzled about the spike this week in the stats for this post about Michael Scanlan and the University of Steubenville.  A friend of mine put me on to an email blast from Ralph Martin; a video version of this is below:

My response to this was as follows:

Now I understand the major spike in the stats for my piece on Michael Scanlan.

There were many people in the 1970’s who were looking for/prophesying about a time when Christians would be “at sea” so to speak. But then two things happened.

The first was the election of John Paul II as Pope in 1978. He managed to set the RCC’s “house in order” as best as possible. The Renewal suffered the consequences of this but it happened.

The second was the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980. He too put some things in order.

To some extent these two events with others stalled the collapse foreseen at the time (tbh I was looking for a collapse, too.) But now things have shifted and we’re back facing the abyss again.

One note: when Ralph Martin speaks of “Christ’s body” he interprets that eucharistically, in a good #straightouttairondale way. I doubt that this is what Scanlan had in mind. The powers that were in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (and that includes Ralph Martin) had a strong remnant theology undertow, which drove the whole covenant community movement. The “body” he was referring to was the group of saints which were not part of the falling away he refers to elsewhere. Irrespective of the merits or demerits of the covenant community system, it goes against some basic Catholic teachings, something that the Church was “looser” about at the time than it was under JPII.

The Relationship Between the Giving of the Law and Pentecost

A neglected topic taken up by Bossuet in his Elevations on the Mysteries:

When God wanted to give Moses the law on Mount Sinai, we read four important things. He descended to the sound of thunder and trumpets. The whole mountain seemed on fire, and one could see a flame break out in a cloud of smoke. God engraved the Decalogue on two stone tablets. He pronounced the other articles of the law in an intelligible voice, which was heard by all the people.

To publish the Gospel law, he renewed these four things, but in a much more excellent way. The work began with a great noise: but it was neither the violence of thunder, nor the sound of trumpets, as we hear in a fight; the noise which God sent was like that of an impetuous wind, which represented the Holy Spirit; and who, without being terrible or threatening, filled the whole house, and called all of Jerusalem to the beautiful spectacle which God was going to give them. We saw a fire, but pure and smoke-free, which did not appear from afar to frighten the disciples, but whose innocent flame, without burning them or singeing their hair, rested on their heads. This fire penetrated inside, and by this means the law of the Gospel was gently imprinted, not in insensible stones, but in a heart composed of flesh, and softened by grace. There was a word, which multiplied admirably. In place on Mount Sinai God spoke one language, and one people; in the evangelical publication which was to bring together in one all the peoples of the universe in the faith of Jesus Christ and the knowledge of God, in a single speech we heard all languages, and each people heard their own. So Jesus established his law much differently than Moses. Let us believe, hope, love, and the law will be in our hearts. Let us prepare inner ears for him, simple attention, a gentle fear which ends in love.

The giving of the law as a “figure” of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is something that has gotten neglected as the practice of type/antitype has gone out of fashion in Christian circles.  It should not: such a hermeneutic shows that the Old Testament and the sacred history of the Jews was the preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.

Modelling, Quantum Mechanics, and Theology

Recently I wrote a post for another of my blogs entitled Do We Need a New Math to Understand Physics? where I discussed yet another article I linked to, Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math. It’s probably too technical for most readers of this blog, although seeing Tolkien cited in a scientific/engineering publication is not to be missed.

In the common parlance we’re used to speaking of mathematically-stated laws that govern what happens physically in the universe.  I think a model-prototype concept is better.  Whether the physical phenomena “know” about these laws is debatable; whether they obey them is not unless the “law” is disproven or a special case added.  What this signifies is that we have modelled the physical phenomena successfully and in the meanwhile enhanced our understanding of what is going on, which in turn is the promise of future progress.

In theology a model-prototype concept has been around a long time.  The difference between theology and mathematics is in the priority.  With mathematics we have physical phenomena which we model using mathematics.  In theology we have a living model (God) who creates the prototype (the material world.)  This sort of “type-antitype” is well rooted both in the Fathers and in the Scriptures themselves.  Evangelical hyperliteralism is the order of the day now–so much so the atheists use it–but the church will regret adopting it before it’s over with.

In the past I have used the model-prototype construct to make an analogy between theology and mathematics, which I do at length in My Lord and My God.  The purpose of this work is to show that the idea of that analogy can be used to show that the reason why the post-Nicene I church set subordinationism in the Trinity aside is due to weaknesses in Greek theology, weaknesses that mathematics can address.  It can also be used to refute really poor, God-dishonouring theology such as the Sydney Anglicans set forth.

The divergence between the divine model and the material prototype has been understood in theology for a long time.  It’s embodied in the difference between created and uncreated beings.  The main implication of that is that, although the model and prototype are certainly related, the material world is definitely a “step down” from the spiritual/divine one.  In the discussion of mathematics and quantum physics, the difference between continuum mathematics and discrete quantum mechanics is at the heart of the discussion.  The question now is whether we change our mathematics to suit the physical world or build on what we have to describe it, understanding the differences.

That too has a theological analogy.  TBH if there’s one thing that’s gone AWOL in the last half century or more, it’s the ability of the theological world to think abstractly.  Much of what passes for theology today–from the modern and post-modern musings of the left to the “waist-down” religion of the right–shows a deeply carnal mentality.  It’s one reason why, like my Anglican deacon and friend Bruce Hilbert (whose home was destroyed in the recent tornado here,) I’m glad I took the technical route rather than the seminary one.  Unfortunately the technical fortress is likewise facing being breached, a conflict upon which the future of scientific advance hangs.

On the other hand, the discrete nature of quantum mechanics once again brings up the whole issue of how deterministic the universe really is, which certainly does have important theological implications.

But I digress…theology these days deserves better than what passes for it, but improvement is easier said than done.

Gavin Ashenden Goes #straightouttairondale

He’s done it, in his interview with Kevin Turley of EWTN.

When he took the Profession of Faith, I’m sure that Gavin thought he had crossed the river and “swam the Tiber.”  But when he was interviewed by EWTN, he went #straightouttairondale and crossed the Rubicon; from that there’s really no turning back.

An explanation of the #straightouttairondale hashtag is here.

R.R. Reno Comes Out on the Short End of the Gas Attack

It was a vicious counter-attack, to be sure, and had the desired effect:

I regret my foolish and ill-considered remarks about masks and mask wearing on Twitter on Tuesday, May 14. Masks are clearly indicated in many situations. I used over-heated rhetoric and false analogies. It was wrong for me to impugn the intentions and motives of others, for which I apologize.

As a World War I buff, I was honestly gobsmacked by this.  The Germans first used poison gas at Bolimow on the Russians; it didn’t work out very well because it was winter and the gas mostly froze.  The Germans got better with it, as did the Allies, although on Western Front the Allies had the upper hand because the Germans were on the wrong end of the prevailing winds.  Soldiers on both sides had good reason to wear gas masks.

World War I was an especially nasty business, but until armies broke under the strain the men who fought were courageous.  Their courage and devotion to duty in the face of an awful situation inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in his portrayal of the hobbits heading to Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.  Reno’s “over the top” comments (another World War I expression) deserved the gas attack they got on Twitter, which led him to can his account.

As an aside: trad Catholics should celebrate these people too, the Catholic soldiers of France, Italy and Austria celebrated Mass under difficult conditions ad orientem.

Laughter, – an antidote to fear, death and the human condition. — Gavin Ashenden

In a seedy hotel in Paris, Oscar Wilde lay on his death bed. His life had been a search for beauty and elegance. He had been a master of wit and adventure; until his life crashed. On his death bed, two things happened. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church and he made one of his funniest remarks. Known for his…

via Laughter, – an antidote to fear, death and the human condition. — Gavin Ashenden

Yes, You Can Use That Music

That sentiment came to mind when I read this comment on my posting of the Word of God album All of Your People:

I was worship leader in an Antioch CA prayer group and an Assemblies of God mission for 5 years in the ’90’s where I used these songs.  I first heard them at Friday night Healing Masses at Holy Redeemer Center Oakland, CA.

There’s a lot of history packed into this little comment, and some lessons to be learned.

First: yes there were such things as “Healing Masses,” people like Francis McNutt were very much in the forefront of things like this.  Current interest by Pentcostals in liturgical worship and how to integrate the full Gospel into it would do well to take a look at what actually happened.  (This was also very evident at the Steubenville conferences of the early 1980’s as well.)

Second: in all of the discussion of the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there’s very little attention given to the obvious dumb question: “What were the classical Pentecostal churches doing in response?”  Since they had carried the standard of modern Pentecost since the turn of the last century, it’s reasonable to ask this question.  The answer is simple: it depends…the Assemblies of God churches tended to be more receptive to some kind of involvement in the Renewal.  That paid off when many Catholic Charismatics (and others) realised that the metastable nature of communities and prayer groups was unsustainable, and suddenly Pentecostal and independent Charismatic churches reaped the rewards of new members.  In some cases (like this one) they brought their music with them.

As for the Church of God…well, not so much, there was some hostility to the Renewal, probably because they didn’t go through the ordeal of legalism that was usual in those days.  There were exceptions, the largest of which was Paul Laverne Walker’s Mt. Paran church in Atlanta, but they were exceptional, at least for a long time.  (The Church of God eventually rewarded Paul Walker by making him General Overseer in 1996; his son Mark is the new President of Lee University.)

When I joined the North Cleveland Church of God, it was inconceivable that worship music such as the Word of God would be used.  It went against nearly a century of music tradition in a stylistic way; most in the Church of God preferred a more lively worship style.  That is going by the wayside; that’s one of the complaints I made in this post, what was considered heavenly in the past is no longer, now we are going for a worship style that is slower and more repetitive than was practiced in Ann Arbor!  But now we know it’s possible to use Ann Arbor’s music in a classical Pentecostal church.

I think the lesson from all of this is that church music and worship styles are products of many things, including doctrine and theology, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic and generational preferences.  To simply get up and proclaim that “this is from the throne room, that’s it” isn’t helpful and has led to a great deal of the conflict on this subject.  We need to worship in a way that really does draw us closer to God, and not just because someone says that it should.

Note: my YouTube channel, which is now mostly music from the “Jesus Music” era, has gotten a little boost during this COVID-19 isolation era.  Maybe people are taking my suggestion seriously about checking things out!