Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Love the Beast

Recently, I watched Eric Bana's documentary, Love the Beast.  It chronicles his history with a 1974 Ford Falcon xB Coupe that he acquired as a teenager.  As he grew up, got married and became a movie star, he kept this beloved car with him.  He rebuilt it twice with his friends, and, after his film success, had a professional turn it into an unabashed race car.  Thousands of dollars and thousands of hours were spent in this complete transformation.

The highlight of this history is the Targa Tasmania Rally.  It's a 5 day event of flat-out racing across over a dozen stages.  In 1996, he ran the rally with the car before its transformation.  He finished third in his class, when his goal was to simply finish.  Ten years later, with a totally transformed car, he returned to the Targa Tasmania.  It now sported over 500 horsepower and was aptly called The Beast.  The first three days passed without incident.  Day four, however, turned out differently.  A sharp turn suddenly came up, and Eric and his codriver careened off the road.  Both were uninjured, but The Beast had quite a bit of damage.  The Targa was over for Eric and the Beast.

A month after the rally, Eric got the postmortem.  It was not good.  The Beast would have to be totally rebuilt to be drivable again.  There were so many custom parts that he would essentially be starting the restoration over from scratch again. Crushed by the news, Eric struggled with the decision of what to do with this car that he had possessed since he was a teenager.  He talked with Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear, Jay Leno, and even Dr. Phil about it.  They were unanimous.  That car has been with him longer than his wife.  Although other things matter far more, they realized that a car that he had kept for over twenty years and brought through three restorations was worth saving.  And they told him to build it again.

The documentary really struck a chord with me.  Five years ago, I saved money on the side for over a year and paid off debt early primarily to afford a 350Z.  On October 31, 2007, I drove away in my brand new 350Z in San Marino Blue.  I had worked for it.  I had dreamed about owning it.  I drive a 350Z in Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport.  When I moved to Michigan, I got a winter car, just to avoid getting it rusty.  It sits in my garage in the winter, and I wipe snow off a 13 year old car that sits in the cold.

Recently, I began one of my dreams in earnest.  I actually got to compete in my 350Z in real life.  My first five or six events, I was just happy to be pushing my car to its limits.  I was happy to be doing something that other people only dream of doing.  I was happy to learn how 10/10ths is different than 8/10ths.  I felt the butterflies of the rear end sliding, only to catch it gracefully.

By the end of the year, however, I faced a dilemma.  I kept hearing the phrase from experienced autocrossers: "The 350Z is not competitive in your class."  Thanks to an accident in early 2008, I no longer had the original wheels that came with the car.  So I was in the "Street Prepared" class.  And I was beaten regularly by three to four seconds on a 60 second course.  That is no trivial amount.  Better driving would only have reduced my times by a second at most.  The siren call kept whispering, "Sell the Z.  Get something competitive..."

I knew that the Z could do much better within the class, but it would be outshined, so long as it faced cars that weighed significantly less and had more horsepower and torque.  Unfortunately, the 370Z, weighing 200 fewer pounds and 30 more horsepower, stock, is classed exactly the same.  So, the odds are not in the 350Z's favor.  It also faces off against the Mitsubishi Evolution and Subaru STI wunderkids.  If I put race tires on it, it would suddenly be facing a certain Corvette that has repeatedly set the fastest times of the day at autocrosses.  This Corvette likely has 500 horsepower and certainly has gigantic race tires.  It is definitely a beast. Ideally, the Z would top out at 350HP in either class.

Yet, another question lingered in my mind.  "Should I even be contemplating spending $10,000 or more to make a fast car even faster? Shouldn't I be a good husband/Catholic/homeowner/financial planner and save money for things that matter?"  Now, I knew that money would be spent over the course of a number of years, but the expenses of home ownership and the prospects of a family may even make owning a 350Z prohibitively expensive.  I have to have a winter car, and as the sports car slowly transforms into race car, that winter car becomes the "daily driver."  Selling the Z is an even worse prospect, fiscally, unless the other car does double-duty.  Financially, I could sell the Z and the BMW, and get a new sub-compact that has room for babies, and have plenty left over to make it competitive for a stock class.  All 100 HP of it.  But, it would do well in its class.

Yet, I think in the end, Love the Beast provided the answer.  I'd been told "You'd regret selling the Z."  When I saw the pain of loss on Eric's face as he gazed over the wreckage of his beloved Beast, I knew that the Z was MY car.  It may or may not wind up being competitive, but I'll have a blast trying.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On the Need for Authority

One thing that always strikes me about protestants is that they claim to believe in Sola Scriptura.  They say that the Bible is the sole source of revelation.

Unfortunately, that presents problems.  First, it is all roughly two thousand years old or older.  Things were written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, about events that happened in a culture that is vastly different than our culture today.  To even begin to study the Bible in a true "Sola Scriptura" fashion, you need to know biblical Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.  You also need a vast understanding of the ancient Near East culture, history, geography, etc.  Thus, to even BEGIN to rely solely upon Scripture, you need vast amounts of contextual information for the words to even make sense.

Why do you need to know all of this?  Translation is, to some degree, always interpreting from the source language to the target language.  To eliminate bias from translators, one must go to the source language.  Then, a mere mechanical translation sometimes makes little sense to the reader.  How long is a cubit?  How much is a shekel worth?  How can you stuff a camel through the eye of a needle?  As much as is possible, any student of Scripture needs to be aware of these things.  Many translations, despite attempting to be unbiased, still do not immediately make sense without the context, anyway.  Furthermore, one has to consider the type of literature that the passage comes from.  It could be poetry, history, proverbial, legal; it could be a letter, or apocalyptic literature.  There is thought that certain books of the Old Testament are fables, stories used to illustrate certain eternal truths.

All of this effort is simply to get the literal meaning of Scripture.  Above and beyond that are the many varied spiritual interpretations, foreshadowing, typography, cross references, numerology, etc.

Ultimately, if you say that scripture alone is the sole source of revelation, you are spending an awful lot of time and effort reinventing the wheel.  You will also get things wrong, so it'll likely be a lopsided, inefficient wheel at that.

Let's get down to the brass tacks.  People disagree on everything even when it is specific.  When something is vague or open to interpretation, multiply that by a thousand.

We even see disagreement on doctrine among the early Christian peoples.  In Acts 15, the so-called Judaisers were insisting that Pagan converts follow the Judaic law in its entirety.  Others disagreed.  It was such a serious disagreement that it threatened in the Church's infancy to split the Church even then.

How did they handle the dispute?  Did they say to each other, "You know, this doesn't really matter.  Can we just agree to disagree, as long as we follow Christ?"  No, they did not.  Instead, here's what DID happen.  The apostles and presbyters assembled together from the whole Church, discussed the matter, prayed, and came to a definitive decision.  Note that the Holy Spirit worked through this seemingly prosaic and human form of resolution (Acts 15:28).  All were to abide by the decision.  The Judaisers did not go off and start their own splinter group, but submitted to the authority of this council.

This event provided the prototype for all further disputes within the Church, whether they be moral or theological.  The fruits were greater understanding of God's Revelation and a chance to practice humility and compassion.  The greatest fruit, however, was that a signpost was planted, guiding men on the narrow and difficult road, and helping them avoid the wide and easy road to perdition.  Each new council, each new proclamation, guides the weary traveller higher up, borne by the strength of the Lord, so that he might avoid pitfalls on his journey.  In a very practical way, these decisions make straight the paths of the Lord so that we might run swiftly into His loving arms as a good and faithful servant.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Upon this Rock

Text Mt 16:13-19:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Translation Notes:
  1. In verse 18, in Aramaic, the language commonly spoken among the Jews at the time of Jesus, Kephas means both Peter and rock. There is no difference in spelling, gender, pronunciation, etc. It is simply the same word. Petros and petra are the translations for this Kephas into Greek. In Greek, we still see the relation between Peter and rock, but due to gender issues, it is not the exact same word.
  2. In verse 19, the Greek has distinction between you (singular) and you (plural). In proper English, there is no such distinction. In informal usage, southerners have the advantage of using y'all for distinction. Use of "y'all" here would be a mistranslation.
Wild Thoughts and Ruminations:

Here, we see one of the most famous exchanges between Jesus and Simon Peter. First, he asks who others say he is. There are many answers. What follows is a question that we must all face in our lives. "Who do you say that I am?"

The answer each man gives is his alone to give. The answer he gives defines that man. It is THE question. Our answer, ultimately, is given by the way we live. Even if a man outwardly says, "Lord, Lord!", it is empty if he does not pick up his cross and follow Christ. If a man at first denies Christ, but then repents, he is borne out by his actions. Others may say he is a good man or a prophet or a teacher. Some may say he is a madman with delusions of grandeur. Some even deny his very existence.

Simon, however, answers correctly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." It is a bold statement. We, sitting in our chairs or pews, having read this and been preached this all of our lives, will say, "of course! Who else would he be?" His statement was earth-shattering. The Father revealed this to him, but he faced the same fears and doubts that we all face in this life. Was this idea truly from God? Is it from Satan, trying to give me false hope? Does it come from my own hopes and desires? This struggle is just as difficult as it was to step out of the boat and onto the water. He was stepping out where he was only supported by faith. At that moment, his soul stood before Christ, without support or crutch, borne only by this conviction.

And Jesus, reading Simon's very soul, chose him. Jesus knew that Simon would fall in a moment of weakness. Jesus also knew that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Simon could guide the Church when He has risen. Thus, he gives Simon a new name.

Throughout the Old Testament and the New, we find that names are of deep spiritual importance. The first to receive a name is Adam. It quite simply means man. He is the father of all mankind. No human is human without being a son or daughter of Adam. (Hence, CS Lewis' usage.) We see that Abram, the father of many nations, the father of Judaism, was called by God and named Abraham. We see that Jacob, the father of the Twelve Tribes, is renamed Israel. We see that Samson was given his name by the angel of the Lord, and he sacrificed himself for the budding nation of Israel. We see that John the Baptist was given the name John, rather than his father's name Zechariah, to indicate that he had a special mission. We see even Jesus Himself was given a name by the angel Gabriel.

We see here, that Christ gave Simon the name Peter. In Greek, Petros. In Aramaic, Kephas. The Rock. (See translation note above.) In being renamed, Christ gives Simon, now Peter, a new mission. And the new mission follows directly: "upon this rock I shall build my Church." Again, fully, with the Aramaic names in place: "You are Kephas, and upon this kephas I will build my Church." He also continues, "I will give you (singular) the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you (singular) bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you (singular) loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." English is one of the few languages that obscures the translation. There is no such difficulty in Spanish, for instance.

With this name and mission, it is clear that Christ was appointing Peter as his successor in mission and authority. Peter shall lead the fledgling Church and exercise Christ's authority in His apparent absence.

This Sums up so well what I feel about Catholicism

"...The more complicated seems the coincidence, the less it can be a coincidence. If snowflakes fell in the shape, say, of the heart of Midlothian, it might be an accident. But if snowflakes fell in the exact shape of the maze at Hampton Court, I think one might call it a miracle. It is exactly as of such a miracle that I have since come to feel of the philosophy of Christianity. The complication of our modern world proves the truth of the creed more perfectly than any of the plain problems of the ages of faith. It was in Notting Hill and Battersea that I began to see that Christianity was true. This is why the faith has that elaboration of doctrines and details which so much distresses those who admire Christianity without believing in it. When once one believes in a creed, one is proud of its complexity, as scientists are proud of the complexity of science. It shows how rich it is in discoveries. If it is right at all, it is a compliment to say that it’s elaborately right. A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a key and a lock are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key.

But this involved accuracy of the thing makes it very difficult to do what I now have to do, to describe this accumulation of truth. It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, “Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?” he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, “Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen.” The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible." GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Quotesmith continues

"The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home."
~GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the love of GK Chesterton, I can't help myself!

It was as if I had been blundering about since my birth with two huge and unmanageable machines, of different shapes and without apparent connection -- the world and the Christian tradition. I had found this hole in the world: the fact that one must somehow find a way of loving the world without trusting it; somehow one must love the word without being worldly. I found this projecting feature of Christian theology, like a sort of hard spike, the dogmatic insistence that God was personal, and had made a world separate from Himself. The spike of dogma fitted exactly into the hole in the world -- it had evidently been meant to go there -- and then the strange thing began to happen. When once these two parts of the two machines had come together, one after another, all the other parts fitted and fell in with an eerie exactitude. I could hear bolt after bolt over all the machinery falling into its place with a kind of click of relief. Having got one part right, all the other parts were repeating that rectitude, as clock after dock strikes noon. Instinct after instinct was answered by doctrine after doctrine. Or, to vary the metaphor, I was like one who had advanced into a hostile country to take one high fortress. And when that fort had fallen the whole country surrendered and turned solid behind me. The whole land was lit up, as it were, back to the first fields of my childhood. All those blind fancies of boyhood which in the fourth chapter I have tried in vain to trace on the darkness, became suddenly transparent and sane. I was right when I felt that roses were red by some sort of choice: it was the divine choice. I was right when I felt that I would almost rather say that grass was the wrong colour than say it must by necessity have been that colour: it might verily have been any other. My sense that happiness hung on the crazy thread of a condition did mean something when all was said: it meant the whole doctrine of the Fall. Even those dim and shapeless monsters of notions which I have not been able to describe, much less defend, stepped quietly into their places like colossal caryatides of the creed. The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void, but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist; to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds. And my haunting instinct that somehow good was not merely a tool to be used, but a relic to be guarded, like the goods from Crusoe’s ship -- even that had been the wild whisper of something originally wise, for, according to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world.
~ GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Salavation History, Part 2

I lied. This is actually going to be more about Christ's life than post Cross.

The life of Christ is the central event in human history. Gregorian monks rightly reckoned all of history to be judged whether it be Before Christ or Anno Domini (in the year of Our Lord). The common era stuff is for those who wish to deny Christ in history.

First of all, we must tackle the issue of God the Son becoming Man. God could have waved a magic wand and said, "Poof! It's all good!" Jesus' life, death and resurrection is the ultimate revelation of who God is and who Man is. It is the ultimate death-blow to those who would reject the physical world and those who would reject the spiritual world.

God made man in His Image. God then made Himself in man's image in the person of Jesus Christ. His desire for unity was so great that He became united to his Creation.

Jesus was never solely concerned with the spiritual, and never solely concerned with the physical. The two were always bound together. "Your sins are forgiven...Pick up your mat and walk." Jesus taught the crowds, and fed them. He turned water into wine at a wedding. That wine would have been enough to keep my wedding reception guests, all 250 of them, liquored up for a week straight. Literally.

Jesus makes some strange proclamations along the way, though. "You must pick up your cross and follow me." "Can you drink from the cup that I will drink?" "Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life within you." He holds up bread and says, "This is my body." And likewise, the cup of wine, "This is my blood." The very next day, He is crucified. We claim, then, that this physical crucifixion has spiritual consequences. This spilling of blood of the spotless Lamb of God is the sacrifice which reconciles Man to God.

How does this sacrifice unite us to God? How are we incorporated into this shedding of blood? Those two events, the Last Supper and His death on the Cross are intimately linked. In the Jewish understanding of a day, "night came and morning followed...", these two events were at the beginning and the end of the SAME DAY. They are, in fact, the same event, mystically united. They are literally united by the Word of God. The Last Supper began with a washing. It ended with this proclamation that "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood" and he shared those with his disciples.

The blood that dropped from His side is the same blood that He gave his disciples to drink. The body that hung from the cross is the same body that He gave his disciples to eat. The Word spoke and it was (read Genesis 1 and John 1).

"Do this in memory of me."