Friday, August 26, 2005

Link to Think

* An article on Thomas More at NRO. This article touched off some discussion in "The Corner" here, here, here, here, here, and here.

* The Maverick Philosopher discusses the definition of naturalism in Quentin Smith's Metaphilosophy of Naturalism paper.

* The Salisbury Project (HT: E^2)

* A good summary at the Christianity Today weblog on the reasons why Pat Robertson is able to ignore criticism. He has managed to give himself the superpower of indestructibility. (I honestly wouldn't have any problem with Robertson myself if he would stop always trying to wiggle out of having to acknowledge his mistakes.) Caleb also has an interesting discussion of Robertson. [In fairness, Robertson has issued an apology for the comment about assassinating Hugo Chavez. I haven't yet been able to figure out the point of giving Bonhoeffer (who conspired to assassinate Hitler) as an example (of waging war against one person? Of legitimate assassination attempts? I don't know). The clarification is not very clear, but he does apologize for the statement.]

* A small controversy has erupted over the pope's granting of special indulgences to those participating in World Youth Day. I'm not sure I see the problem. Contrary to the common perception, indulgences are remissions of consequences for sin, not remissions of sin; the idea is that even when sin is forgiven, we have to deal with its consequences, and indulgences are given as ways of eliminating some kinds of consequences. Part of genuine repentance is reformation of behavior, and the point of indulgences is to take into account special efforts to reform one's behavior. Ultimately, the real issue is not indulgences but Purgatory; given Purgatory, indulgences make considerable sense as one more means whereby God graciously shows mercy to the human race. It is not surprising that people who don't believe in Purgatory would look askance at indulgences (although their real point of disagreement is with the doctrine of Purgatory), but Catholics certainly have no reason to do the same. For more information on indulgences, see Jimmy Akin's useful article summarizing the Catholic theology of indulgences. Luther's 95 theses is the locus for informed Protestant criticism of indulgences; Luther gets the basic characterization of indulgences right, but rejects the idea that the Pope's ability to remit penalties by indulgences can extend outside canonical punishment (i.e., punishment required by canon law). And that's the only reasonable basis even for Protestant criticism of the doctrine; too many people who think they are following Luther are really just massively bungling. Luther also criticizes mischaracterizations of indulgences, of course; but that's not a point of disagreement between Luther and Rome. Some of Luther's theses are such that Rome would officially have agreed with them even in Luther's day -- they deal not with the theology of indulgences but with deviations from it. Some, on the other hand, are with the theology of indulgences itself. I wish people would make more of an effort to get this sort of thing; matters are difficult enough without making them worse by refusing to characterize the problem correctly.

* On a similar but unrelated note, Miriam Burnstein discusses 18th & 19th century Catholic-Protestant relations at "Cliopatria".

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