Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Pope IS a Catholic...

Here's a report in The Times of an interview of ex-prime minister Tony Blair by the "gay magazine, Attitude". Mr. Blair was rumoured to be a Roman Catholic throughout his period in office, but did not convert until after leaving. (A Catholic prime minister would have been a constitutional problem, as the prime minister is responsible for recommending selections for Church of England bishops. How a hypocritical prime minister is any better in this area is not clear!):

Despite making noises about the problems of side-lining "faith" and founding the "Tony Blair Faith Foundation" since leaving office, Mr. Blair was a most aggressively secularist prime minister. (The rhetoric he has used in these post-office "noises" imports the assumptions of secularism even when he thinks he's contradicting it - Christians don't follow a "faith". They follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God - a living person).

To my mind, this interview shows the bizarre and tyrannical contortions of the secular mind. The main thrust that the Times reports on is that:
  • Mr. Blair thinks that the Pope is wrong on the subject of homosexuality.
  • He points to what he sees as the fact that younger generations are right on this subject, and we need to listen to them.
  • He thinks that the Pope and others of his mindset should be encouraged to search out other ways of interpreting the Bible, in order to come to a viewpoint more friendly to homosexual behaviour.
Thinking that the Pope is wrong about this or that is OK. As a "Protestant" I think this rather a lot. For one, I think that the fundamental Reformation "Protest" is correct. The Pope is wrong about the heart of the Bible's message, because he denies that salvation comes to us from Jesus Christ by faith alone (and not also on account of our good works and the supposed "merit" of the Catholic church). I think that he's wrong about a whole host of things flowing from that.

But I do realise that he is... the Pope. In Roman Catholic teaching that means that he's considered to be the representative of God upon earth, and the ultimate guardian of God's truth. That's not an optional Roman Catholic belief, open to discussion or change. Either you accept this belief, or you reject Roman Catholicism - there's no middle ground. I don't accept it, so I'm not a Roman Catholic. If you are a Roman Catholic, though, then your role is to be taught by the church's teachers, not to teach them. Roman Catholicism is hierarchical. Protestantism holds that every individual believer has the right to search the Bible's teachings for themselves, and that they can be correct in their understanding when a church's official leaders are wrong. Roman Catholicism, though, says the opposite: the hierarchy is God's appointed interpreter, and if your interpretation disagrees with theirs, you're wrong.

A lay member of the church, and especially a very recent convert, such as Tony Blair, speaking off-hand about the ways in which the Pope needs to be re-educated, is the height of secular madness. It shows that Blair's real church is still, as when in office, the church of secularism. On Roman Catholic assumptions, the Pope cannot be wrong on such basic matters as whether man-woman marriage is the only God-ordained context for sexual pleasure or not. If you think he's wrong about that, then really you can't be thinking he's anything that Roman Catholicism has taught about what the Pope is.

Quoth Mr. Blair: "We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith." That's 100% classical secularist arrogance. Note: it's always the person disgreing with some humanist teaching (such as a pro-homosexual position) who is being urged to "rethink" or "evolve" or "be open" or some-such. Mr. Blair, of course, being pro-gay and in-line with humanism, needs to do no such rethinking: rather, his job is to correct the people who haven't yet come in-line. Thus under the guise of open-mindedness and tolerance, you get to dictate your inflexible dogma to... the Pope! Note also the talk about "approach[ing] your religious faith". That's the humanist mindset at work. By the way - in Christianity, we bow humbly before Jesus Christ to be taught by him, through his word. It's not a "faith" which we "approach" to decide how we want to shift and shape it according to contemporary mores.

Continuing: "What people often forget about, for example, Jesus or, indeed the Prophet Muhammad, is that their whole raison d'etre was to change the way that people thought traditionally." Pure secularist arrogance - Mr. Blair merely assumes his humanist position as the correct one, and tells others that they need to change what they think - the dictum of "change" of course doesn't apply to his own thinking. What this piece of secular-speak is about is a Jesus re-made in Tony Blair's image - one whose whole reason for existence was to challenge the "forces of conservatism" and agree with Blair's political ideology. A Jesus re-made in our own image, though, cannot save us from our sins by his death and resurrection - which is he actually came to do. Strictly, speaking of Jesus' "raison d'etre" is blasphemy; actual Christianity holds that Jesus is self-existent; the second person in the Godhead, uncreated, without beginning, existing of himself. The real Biblical Jesus did not come to "change the way that people thought" by taking them away from the Old Testament (which Blair writes off in a very trite way), but to bring them back to it. His own testimony was that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them - and that not a single jot or tittle of them would be taken away until all was accomplished (Matthew 5:17-21). Indeed, to that testimony he added the chilling words that if we teach someone to disobey the least of the commandments given to us there, we will be called the very least in the kingdom of heaven, should we be in it at all. Mr. Blair, though, replaces all this with a nice secularist Jesus who came to persuade us to go with the flow of whatever godless direction society is now flowing in. I've seen quite a lot of newspaper pieces criticising the Pope for being "out of touch" and having a bad PR operation lately. The underlying assumption is that failing to please the secularist press is one of the most unimaginable crimes to commit in the modern world. Well, duh. The Pope's a Catholic. Being out of touch is not an actual crime in his code of Canon Law. Criticising him for not bowing to secularist ideology (popularity! be in touch! agree with the liberal elite!) is not a very penetrating criticism - it's not what the Pope is meant to do.

Here's that write-off of the Old Testament: "When people quote the passages in Leviticus condemning homosexuality, I say to them - if you read the whole of the Old Testament and took everything in that was there in a literal way, as being what God and religion is about, you'd have some pretty tough policies across the whole of the piece." One thing that secularists who try to address the teaching of the Bible can never be accused of, is of being deep or thoughtful. Mr. Blair's point of view is that the Old Testament (and the New, whose strong condemnations of homosexuality aren't mentioned in this piece) is itself fundamentally wrong (and ergo, not revelation from God). To sidestep that with a general comment about (not) taking "everything" in a "literal way", is intellectually foolish. What secularists normally mean by a "literal way" is "some bizarre forced interpretation which I, the great authority, with no Biblical study or interest in the Bible except for cherry-picking it for my own purposes, insist is the 'literal' way". This quote though raises the whole question of authority again. So, please tell us: what other interpretations are there when homosexual activity is called an "abomination"? What does a non-literal interpretation of that mean? Is there actually a route from "abomination" to "good and pleasing to God, equal with marriage"? Note that Mr. Blair does actually concede in this quote that the Old Testament really does condemn homosexuality - he just wants to sidestep the impact of that by telling us not to take too much notice of it.

Actually, if God lays down some "pretty tough policies across the piece" for us to follow, what we ought to do is to follow them. Even if the Pope might be fallible and we might be allowed to disagree with him, I presume that Mr. Blair doesn't presume to re-educate God. If God lays down "tough policies", then the deal is, we get to follow tough policies .He's God, and he made us. The idea that God's role in the universe is to give us a pleasant life, as a kind of super-sized version of the welfare state, is modernist bunk. Again, this is pointing to a conclusion: Mr. Blair's real religion, that of his heart, is secular to the core. God has to be the big Father Christmas in the sky, not a big meanie who is so rotten as to contradict contemporary mores. Mr. Blair passed and sought to pass laws enforcing his pro-gay views on the whole of the country - on pain of being carted off to prison if you didn't obey them. He seemed to believe that the prime minister should have such powers... yet thinks that it's too much if God has similar ones. What's that? That's secular humanism.

Does God intend that all the laws given to the nation of Israel should apply in the same form to all nations today? No. How do I know? Because the Bible says so (Acts 15:10). How do I know that God's disapproval of homosexual activity is not one of those things that was temporary and merely suited to the state of Israel at that particular time and place? Because the Bible says so (Romans 1:24-27, Jude 7, 1 Corinthians 6:9). Later in the piece, Mr. Blair states his disapproval of those who merely quote the Bible as an authority on this subject instead of taking their cue from the modern world. Well, of course. I'm a Christian, so I think that the teaching of Christ and his apostles is the corrective of what's wrong in modern society. Mr. Blair, though, thinks like a secularist, and so thinks that the modern world should correct the teaching of Christ and his apostles. You're either one or the other, and Mr. Blair's making it pretty clear which.

Mr. Blair might not be in any sense an orthodox Catholic. But the Pope is. Criticising him for it passes muster when talking to fellow secularists. Outside of that narrow self-referring and intellectually vacuous circle, it doesn't. Memo to secularists: it's not your conclusions that are the first things we want to disagree with: it's the assumptions you start from. Miss that, and you'll never understand anyone except yourselves.

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