Saturday, February 22, 2003

Today is The Chair of St. Peter

The Authority of Peter

"What can your piety decree that is more commendable, more religious, than that in the future no one be permitted to attack decrees established not so much through human as through divine decisions? Otherwise, those who dared to have doubts about God's truth may really deserve to lose so great a gift of God.

The universal Church has become rock through the erection of that original rock, and the first of the apostles, the most blessed Peter, heard the voice of the Lord saying: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." Hence, who would dare beat against this impregnable solidarity, except either antichrist or the devil? It is he who, persevering unconverted in his malice, seeks to plant lies, using instruments suited to his wrath and falseness, while under the false label of carefulness he feigns to be seeking the truth. His unrestrained fury and blind impiety have deservedly marked out for themselves a reputation to be despised and shunned...

I use the freedom of the Catholic faith and without fear exhort you to be on the side of the apostles and prophets."

Pope St. Leo the Great

This was written eleven hundred years before the Protestant Reformation.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Academia nuts, cont'd

This morning while I was sitting in my phrontistery I came upon an interesting, almost incredible, article by Joe Klein on the Time website. The article is on George Bush's confident approach to the coming war with Iraq.

I find the article interesting because it clearly proves something that many of us have long suspected: those in the "intellectual elite" in this country have no clue what religious faith is about. In this article Klein shows that he thinks that religious faith is little more than an emotional security blanket. To Klein faith is perhaps comforting to some folks but not real, not "scientific" and therefore, not to be taken seriously by intelligent, mature folks. This is bad enough, but Klein goes on to further silliness.

"There are religious traditions — the Jesuits, the Jews, the Shi'ites, certain suffering segments of Protestantism — for which grace is a constant anguish, a goal never quite attained but approached through learning or good works. "The Evangelicals take their marching orders from Paul, who said you have to 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,'" Martin E. Marty, the University of Chicago theologian, told me last week. "The implication is that once you've worked it out, once you've been born again, you don't have to be fearful or tremble so much anymore."

To Klein faith should, apparently, lead those who hold to it to doubt, to an ever-present emotional angst. When we come to accept Christian faith we become neurotics, it makes us more thoughtful. Piffle. I would like to present here a description of faith from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." ‘Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.’ "

"Faith is certain." As I have written in another post, faith differs from knowledge but that does not mean it is not certain. After all, we believe that having faith involves accepting God's word as truth. It seems to me that any Christian who is in a "constant anguish" over grace is not living in faith; he or she has not accepted God at his word. Faith should lead us to a quiet confidence in God's providence in our lives and in his mercy when our days on earth are over, it should not lead us to become emotional wrecks.

I do not mean to say that because President Bush is a Christian that plays any part in his absolute certainty about the war. I do say that the President's faith should inform his decision-making decisions about the war. I would say that if President Bush is not confident that he is taking the right approach to the Iraq situation, then the country is in deep trouble. However, his confidence should not come about because of his faith in God but because of his confidence that he has a clear understanding of the situation and that what he is doing is right. In times like this we do not want a neurotic, angst-ridden President, no matter what his religious belief.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Lord, Liar, Lunatic
There appears to be some discussion going on around blogdom concerning the argument advanced in proof of Jesus's divinity: "If Jesus was not who he claimed to be, he was either a liar or lunatic of the first order." As far as I know this argument has been advanced by many apologists including C. S. Lewis.

On thinking about this line of reasoning it appears to me that it is equivalent to those statements made by many modern, sophisticated, and educated Catholics who are troubled by the idea of miracles. In their concern they make great efforts to explain them away. You have all heard the statement: "Well, when Jesus fed the 5,000, you know, really, they all had fish sandwichs with them (all having just stopped at McDonalds' before the rally.), he didn't really multiply the loaves as it says there."

We desperately want to explain things, to reduce them to terms we can understand.

In Fides et Ratio #9, our Holy Father tells us where the fallacy of this thinking lies:

The First Vatican Council teaches, then, that the truth attained by philosophy and the truth of Revelation are neither identical nor mutually exclusive: “There exists a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards their source, but also as regards their object. With regard to the source, because we know in one by natural reason, in the other by divine faith. With regard to the object, because besides those things which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, cannot be known”. Based upon God's testimony and enjoying the supernatural assistance of grace, faith is of an order other than philosophical knowledge which depends upon sense perception and experience and which advances by the light of the intellect alone. Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 5:9; Jn 5:31-32)."

As human beings we have the ability to reason and to love -- to make choices. There are, however, things that cannot be known by human reason. God through Scripture and Tradition has revealed these things to us. To try to conflate the two types of reason, or to try to deny one or the other type, is to reduce our humanity. There comes a point at which we must agree with the sentiment expressed on the old bumper sticker: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." We have to choose to believe or not to believe.

When we give a very practical explanation as "proof" of something in Scripture we are, in effect, denying the necessity of faith. There are some things that we cannot explain or make sense of. All of Christianity hinges on one miracle, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Try to explain that one in nice, neat, scientific terms. And if we try to deny the "lesser" miracles, how can we accept the "greatest" miracle?

Also, if we say that something in Scripture is not true, say that Jesus did not multiply the loaves and fishes but the crowd brought all that stuff with them, what do we finally accept as true? The Bible says Jesus performed a miracle, it does not say the crowed brought the groceries. The Bible says that Jesus suffered, died, and was buried and that he rose on the third day. Do we question that?

As an apologist it is tempting to try to explain, and reduce, the faith for the uninitiated. We fall into the trap of thinking that we have to tie it up for our brother or sister into a nice neat package and say, "See, it all really makes sense after all." To do this, though, is simply to do a disservice to the one being evangelized. At some point the unexplainable must be faced, the leap of faith must be made, otherwise there will never be faith. Christianity, in that case, becomes another intellectual adventure, pablum for the mind.
Just War

Tom, over at Disputations, has posted a quote from Peter Nixon's blog which reads as follows:

"That we can even speak seriously of the concept of a "just war" should remind us that we are the reason that Christ was crucified. Ever bullet, every bomb, every death is one more nail in His hand, one more spear in His side, one more thorn on His brow. If a Christian has a duty to pick up the sword, then let it be a grim duty, and when it is done let us clothe ourselves in sackcloth and ashes and repent of what we have made of the world God has given us."

In response I would like to post the following quotes from a couple of our Islamic brothers:

"If one allows the infidels to continue playing their role of corrupters on earth, their eventual moral punishment will be all the stronger. Thus, if we kill the infidels in order to put a stop to their activities, we have indeed done them a service.... To kill them is a surgical operation commanded by Allah the Creator... Those who follow the rules of the Koran are aware that we have to apply the laws of retribution and that we have to kill.... War is a blessing for the world and for every nation. It is Allah himself who commands men to wage war and to kill. The Koran commands: "Wage war until all corruption and all disobedience are wiped out!"
Ayatolla Khomeni

"What worries me is this: One would have thought that the rapidity with which the FBI cracked the World Trade Center bombing case would have sent a powerful message to terrorists that the United States is a tough place to operate in. Rather, it has done the opposite. The people arrested last week used it as an excuse to carry an even more audacious terrorist campaign. They have gone from killing a handful of people at the World Trade Center to contemplating mass wanton murder, such as the destruction of two tunnels. One can only shudder to think what the next group is going to contemplate."
Interview with Bruce Hoffman Director of Strategy,
Rand Institute
International Herald Tribune June 28, 1993

"We must reject democracy in favor of Islam, which is the unique political system worked out by the Almighty ... Our march has just begun and Islam will end up conquering Europe and America.... For Islam is the only salvation left for this world in despair."
Sheikb Saeed Shaban Leader of the Sunni majority in Tripoli, Lebanon

We American Christians seem to have arrived at the conclusion that to fight for what we believe is somehow sinful. We seem to think that if we are challenged it is automatically against God’s will that we respond to the challenge. We want to be nice. The rest of the world has the advantage over us in this regard -- they are not afraid to fight and kill for what they believe in. They know full well that if there is nothing worth dying for, there is nothing much worth living for. I agree that we must make even this response out of love, as C.S. Lewis said it may be necessary to pray for your enemy while you are killing him. But it seems clear that the response must be made – unless, of course, we are all willing to convert to Islam at the point of the sword.