We’ve lost two heroes recently

The last remaining Marine from the iconic photo of raising the flag over Iwo Jima died on January 29th.

We also lost Bertram James on January 18th. James was one of the last remaining survivors of “The Great Escape” captured memorably in film. (The book is even better and shows how truly difficult the plan was. If you’re interested in it at all, you’ve got to read this book.)

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and through the mercy of God, may their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

Long Live The Queen!

John J. Miller points out on The Corner:

Today, Queen Elizabeth II becomes England’s oldest monarch, passing Victoria. She is currently its fourth-longest-reigning monarch. To become tops in that category, she’ll have to remain queen to 2012, passing George III.

Every day that E2 is queen is a day that Prince Charles isn’t king. May she be the Energizer Bunny of royalty.

I think that’s a sentiment we can all echo.

Passing Debt on to the next generation

An argument you frequently hear against government deficit spending is that it’s not proper to pass our debt on to the next generation. As a general principle, this is certainly true. Unfortunately, those making this argument are often expressing disagreement with what the money is being spent on, rather than on the total amount of spending. As a contemporary example, witness the Democrats who argued so fervently against deficit spending when they were out of power, but are now quite eager to expand the deficit to cover their pet projects.

However, there are circumstances when deficit spending is not only proper, but necessary. For one example, think of a new government building. If that building will be used for the next 50 years, it’s completely appropriate to pay for that building over a 50 year span. Even though we’re passing that debt on to the next generation, the debt is attached to a building they will still be using. An even more extreme example is war debt. It was less than a year that the United Kingdom finished paying off its World War II debt. Had they not passed the burden of paying for World War II on to their children and grandchildren, those generations might not have their own nation to support. Those generations clearly enjoy the benefits of the debt their parents and grandparents ran up, so it’s not inappropriate for them to bear some of the responsibility for it.

As a final point, why are so many of those who are quick to argue that it’s wrong to pass a burden on to the next generation so eager to support the supposed right of a woman to make sure a member of that generation doesn’t exist? If it’s wrong to make the next generation bear our burdens through a financial debt, why is it acceptable to make them bear our financial or psychological burdens by paying with their lives through abortion? Speaking for myself, and most would no doubt agree, I’d rather be in debt than dead.

The Great White Fleet and its Lessons for Today

Why TR Claimed the Seas

Yet if there was a lesson here, it was lost to the U.S. during the interwar period. Just 13 years after the Great White Fleet returned to the U.S., it was physically scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, which set strict limits on the number and size of battleships the major powers could build and deploy. Only after Pearl Harbor and World War II did Americans really seem to learn the lesson that their position as a maritime power could not be wished away, and that their maritime interests could only be defended by a powerful Navy.

That remains no less true today, even as the Navy goes through something of an identity crisis. America’s wars have become up-country affairs, and the big ships of our blue-water Navy are not quite adapted to brown-green waters where today’s conflicts are likely to take place. John McCain, whose grandfather sailed with the fleet (and was among the officers pictured here listening to Roosevelt), recently complained to The Wall Street Journal about the huge cost overruns in the development of a new generation of so-called Littoral Combat Ships.

Isolationism, while rhetorically attractive, is not really an option in today’s world. As this article points out, it dragged us into wars last century and may do so again in this one if we aren’t careful.

Evangelical Author Discovers Early Christians, Tries to Avoid Acknowledging they were Catholic

Bryan Liftin is a self-described “proud, dispensational, conservative, born-again fundie.” He is also the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers, which discusses the early Christians and their beliefs. The following quotes are from an interview he gave to Christianity Today:

I began to see them as my forefathers, that I might feel an organic connection. And that church history is a continuous story. We can recover the fathers as our own and we can recover them through a direct line back, so that all the richness of church history becomes ours. That’s what I want to do for the Christian today: I want the Christian to understand that there’s a richness to their history that they’re missing; embrace it and let it be something that inspires you.

As Steve Ray (a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism) puts it: “So far so good. This was the exact sentiment I had when I began to read them—thinking that I would discover fellow Evangelicals who held to the simply “Bible Alone” and “Faith Alone” theology of “real Christianity.” If [sic] found differently. I find it sad and disappointing that contemporary Christians have avoided and ignored this period of the Church. ”

I can second that concept; I’ve found my faith greatly enriched by understanding what the early Christians wrote and believed. It does remind that we are part of a historic Church that leads back to the time of Christ. We actually did exist before Vatican II, despite what some people seem to tell us. We’re part of an organic Church who teaches the same things that the early Christians taught, we just have come to understand them more fully.

(Side note: an example of this is our teaching on sexuality. Up until the ’60s no one ever seriously challenged the teaching on the use of God’s gift of our sexuality; they have ignored it, but they didn’t raise serious challenges to it. That changed with the Sexual Revolution and most Christians across denominations were caught flat-footed and unsure how to respond. Most responses fell into one of two categories: “You’re right; go at like bunnies and have a good time.” or “Because we said so.” And that’s understandable, they’d never had to think about the issue. Not just they, but all Christianity through history. Fortunately, Karol Wojtyla had been thinking about it, and after his election as Pope, promulgated his teaching of the Theology of the Body
which shows how our entire body, not just our sexuality, “has a specific meaning and is capable of revealing answers regarding fundamental questions about us and our lives.” Papal biographer George Weigel has referred to this as a “theological time bomb” set to explode in the 21st century that could help us recapture a proper understanding surrounding the use and wonder of our sexuality. This is just one example of how the Church can know what God’s teaching is, but not necessarily understand the “why” when first asked.)

Anyway….

Unfortunately, Litfin misses an obvious connection when talking about the beliefs of the Church Fathers:

You have to realize that they’re not evangelicals. So some of the points where we would differ with them would be the points where we would differ with Roman Catholicism. Some of their doctrine of salvation is going to be sacramental. They’re not going to use the term inerrancy, but they give full credence to Scripture, and [see it as] inspired. … There can be a works-orientedness to them, where there’s a paying-off of God. You can see that in Tertullian, for example.

He comes so close, but probably due to a life-long habit misses the obvious point. As he says, Evangelicals will disagree with the early Christians in the same places where they disagree with Catholics. He misses, though, the obvious connection that the early Christians and Catholics teach the same things; the early Christians were Catholics! As Ray puts it:

Yes, he has to ignore and avoid their basic theology and teaching on salvation because it is too sacramental, too Catholic. He wants his readers to know these first Christians, but not to really know them. Let’s find what they believed that agrees with us (the final judges) and ignore the part that sounds too Catholic.

His admission that “You have to realize that they’re not evangelicals” is very revealing. What he is really saying is that he has a different religion today than the first Christians held in the first centuries.

Who has the true theology and practice—those 2,000 years removed or the ones who learned the faith directly from the Apostles? Hum! Who should be listened to with more credence? An admitted 21 century “fundie” or the martyrs who learned at the feet of the Apostles John, Peter and Paul? I know at whose feet I will sit to learn.

He makes a very salient point: why should we take the word of a person living two thousand years after Christ over the word of someone who learned at the feet of the apostles. Ignatius of Antioch, in whose writings we find the earliest extant reference to the Church as “Catholic,” died in 107 and learned the faith from Peter. If Litfin teaches something different than Ignatius, who should we listen to? Doesn’t seem like that hard a decision.

Ray continues:

Litfin says that to discuss their theology opens a can of worms. Yes it would! And for those who dare to open the can of worms very often see the poverty of their modern Evangelicalism.

Modern Protestantism is very different from the early Christians. Those who begin to dig deeper frequently become Catholics. It is a dangerous thing for modern Evangelicals to encourage their followers to read the Fathers since they will soon lose many of the best and brightest to the Catholic Church. I don’t think this will be a big trend, it is far to dangerous to encourage the reading of such subversive literature.

A number of my favorite Catholic authors, if not most, are former Protestants and many of them admit to converting after studying the early Christians. Recognizing in their teaching a sacramental theology, belief in a visible Church with apostolic succession, a sacrificial priesthood, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Church’s ability to teach infallibly. (Not to mention the fact they were preaching without a Bible compiled yet. If the “Bible alone,” were true, what did Christians do before the canon of the Bible was finalized? Sit around waiting for God to give them the Bible? Of course not, they preached what they learned from the Church! After all, many Christians couldn’t read; were they left unsaved since they couldn’t turn to the Bible?)

One Protestant told me they don’t read the early Christians because they wouldn’t know who to believe. That argument is a bit of a canard: there’s not much disagreement on doctrine. As discussed above, the disagreements weren’t so much on the “what,” but on the “why” or the “how”. Where there was disagreement on the “what,” such as the dispute over Arianism about the eternal existence of Christ, a Church Council was called that settled the matter definitively.

And I think that’s the real reason many Protestants don’t want to study early Church history: when they do, they find a Church that is Catholic. Litfin may be fighting recognizing that, but hopefully his book will help other Protestant to realize that fact. As the saying goes, “God draws straight with crooked lines,” and this book may be yet another example of that.
Hat Tip: Steve Ray