December 26th, 2009


Crossing the finish line

Today was the last hike for our Hiking Merit Badge group. I started this MB with several Scouts just over two years ago. Well, we could never quite get everybody on the same hikes. Then, more Scouts wanted to do the MB. As of today, I have now hiked all the hikes for the MB more than twice: the MB requires five 10-milers and one 20-miler; I have now hiked eleven 10-milers and two 20-milers to get all the Scouts through the MB that I can.

It was a cold morning with a dusting of snow on the ground when we gathered for this one. Seth hadn't mapigated yet, so he was to be our mapigator, which made Marshall the leader. Jeth was my second adult. We were on our way about 9:15 or so.

This was to be a local hike, a walk down memory lane. We planned to walk through Ellettsville and into Bloomington (at least, the edge thereof), then through Camp Wapehani (where I went to Scout camp back in the Jurassic) which is now Wapehani Mt. Bike Park, and finally to the County Fairgrounds, where we would be picked up by Marshall's mom.

It's amazing how many little things you notice when you're walking through familiar country that you've always driven through before. We were seeing our current stomping grounds through fresh eyes.

We walked through town to the park, then down Hartstraight Rd. to Woodyard Rd. We then had to cross Curry Pike, the first of the dangerous street/highway crossings of the day. Woodyard Rd. combines with Vernal Pike to cross Indiana 37. Vernal Pike then sneaks into Bloomington the back way, past a salvage yard. We were cold and tired and hungry as we turned off of Third St. at Landmark and made our way to Second St., where we ate lunch at a convenience mart adjoining the Co-op.

We reached the Co-op just short of 1:00 p.m. We had three miles or so to go. We went down Second St. (Bloomfield Rd.) to Weimer Rd., and turned south toward Wapehani. Just before we reached the camp entrance, we heard baah-ing. There were goats and a llama in somebody's yard.

We came into Wapehani and rested a bit on the foundation of the old warehouse, where once I was Camp Quartermaster. Then we hiked over the dam and up the hill, past the new cell tower that tops the ridge and down onto Tapp Rd. One mile to go, and it was the hardest. After we crossed Indiana 37 again, I called Marshall's mom and said we were 20-30 minutes out. She took off to meet us at the Fairgrounds.

Probably the most dangerous crossing was of Indiana 45 at Airport Rd., but by then, we were almost within sight of the Fairgrounds. We stumped past Karst Farm Park and finished the last little bit on the soft grass and path of their frisbee golf course. We were picked up at the first gate to the Fairgrounds just before 4:00. The day's work: ten miles or so in six hours and 45 minutes.

And the best part is, we're done. As soon as Seth and Marshall (and Jeffrey and Jordan) finish their hike reports, they qualify for the badge. Our next Court of Honor will be January 25. Collapse )

Picking a few nits over Wesley's ecclesiology

I read John Wesley's Ecclesiology, by Gwang Seok Oh, this month. It's basically the published version of his doctoral dissertation. It's pretty good -- and very comprehensive. Yet, I have a bone or two to pick with it.

Gwang gives an extensive account of Wesley's move to ordain ministers, especially for America. He shows how Wesley derived his understanding of ministerial orders -- particularly as it pertains to the differences between presbyters and bishops -- from the Puritan-influenced (but still very Anglican) King's and Stillingfleet's historical work.

What it came down to at the time was an argument from necessity. There was no other way to accomplish the end in view within the canons of the Church of England, so Wesley stepped outside them to do what (in his view) he had the innate ability to do. Up to that time, he had, as a dutiful son of the Church, scrupulously obeyed every rule regarding orders and the sacraments. but in order to provide for his followers in America, he went beyond the rules. Assuming for the sake of argument that the theory he derived from King and Stillingfleet held good, his actions would be seen (borrowing RC lingo) as "valid but not licit."

Gwang doesn't use such language, of course. Coming as he does from Korea, there is a lot of Calvinist Protestantism bred in his bones. He's as Methodist as they come, to be sure, but he frequently betrays a tendency to emphasize Word over Sacrament, and to occasionally assume the basic rightness of historic Protestant assertions about Catholic theology (without bothering to prove his assumptions).

But the nub for me, is that he never really addresses the core of the Necessity argument. For neccesity doesn't just mean that every proper desire must have some way of fulfillment, so if you are blocked at every turn you may properly step outside the box you find yourself in and do as you will. That is the Scotch view of the state of nature: "I am among barbarians who refuse to do justice, therefore, the social contract is null and void and I am returned to a state of nature and am justified in doing justice as and how I think meet."

No, given what I have read by Wesley about his own reflections on the Methodist movement -- which surprised him very much and succeeded against even its leader's inclinations and prejudices -- I am convinced that Wesley believed that the blessing of the Spirit of God on the Methodist movement had been objectively demonstrated. In other words, it was the will of God that Methodism survive, as it was the (ever-surprising) will of God that John Wesley should lead it. He had been called, and given responsibility, and he felt he could not simply shrug and say, "Well, I tried."

This is a very different kettle of fish from, "I've got to find some way to accomplish this goal." It was, to Wesley, a matter of choosing to obey God rather than men.

In the end, of course, neither Catholic nor Covenanter will accept Wesley on these terms. It is of no matter to me that they don't. I'm just saying that if you want to understand Wesley -- as Gwang Seok Oh wants to, and mostly does -- then you have to understand the weight of the necessity argument he used to justify his actions. For Wesley, it was a command from God -- rather like the dominical expression, "you give them something to eat," I think. He acknowledged that the bishops he approached for help were perfectly free to refuse to help him, and he didn't blame them; but that did not absolve him of the direct responsibility from God to take care for the souls God had placed within his extraordinary cure.