Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ecclesiastical Evolution III: Truth and Love

I still need to make some headway into clarifying the Object and Rule of Christian Doctrine which I have not yet done. Perhaps, what needs to be done is to see what does not constitute an acceptable Evolution, and also to identify what remains constant under Evolution. The danger, as Canon Jerome Lloyd puts it, is that everything in the Christian faith comes up for review if we assume the wrong rule of Evolution.

First of all, can a legitimate teaching of the Church be withdrawn? If we look carefully at mathematics which makes a study of logical truths and is well aware that it has limitations as to deciding the truth, we cannot undo a result. If 1+1=2, 1+2=3 and 1+3=4, and addition is associative (i.e. (a+b)+c=a+(b+c) where the brackets tell you what to do first) then 2+2=4 and there is no way of changing that result when it has been discovered. In this sense, Mathematics is entirely self-consistent because logic is infallible. Of course, Mathematics is not complete and therefore not infallible in matters beyond its capacity - it just cannot reach all Truth, indeed it is very limited in what truth it can say and the Truth of our reality is a matter of faith.

However, if we believe in an Eternal God, i.e. a God beyond Time who is not affected by Time, then He doesn't change or evolve in any way. Our encounter with Him evolves because we are changing, being temporal beings. If then we are in any way to say that we worship the same God as the chap next-door, as the lady on the other side of the world from us, as the child in the slum, as the Queen in her castle, as St Peter, as Our Blessed Lady, as St Maximilian Kolbe, as a peasant sitting in Carthage in 432AD or the man operating an interstellar craft in 6310AD, there has to be some constancy. God is faithful, that is our belief as Christians, and if He is the only God, and He tells us so, then there must be consistency in our encounter with Him.

The consistency embraces both Truth and Love. Indeed if we follow St Paul, then we have, of course Faith Hope and Love as the three Eternal things, and you know what the greatest of them is. Truth does fit in here because our knowledge of the Truth is based on Faith and carried into the future on Hope. If there are statements which are grown, or Evolve from Truth, then they cannot be withdrawn or change in Time. The Rule for Evolution is therefore continuous and accumulative, like the trunk of a tree.

Most important of all is this thing called Love. Now think of this, the very, very basic tenets of the Christian Faith are these:

1) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

2) Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Everything hangs on these. Everything!

The matter and the process of Evolution. The Doctrine of Christ is fundamentally built on Love and anything that goes against this Love is not from God - it is not Christian.

And we're not talking about some mawkish, weak or impotent stirring of the emotions here. This is a love that can say "NO!" as well as "Yes". It is a force that will break down as well as build up, that can slam doors as well as open them. This is not some namby-pamby feeling but the driving force of the entire Universe. All Christian Doctrine must pass the test of Love as we have seen expressed initially in the faith of the Jews, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the writers of the Holy Scriptures, in the aedifice of the Holy Church.

We cannot define Love, we just know it because it is part of our make-up, deeper than genetic, at a smaller scale than the sub-atomic, yet encompassing the largest supercluster of galaxies. Its attributes are set forth quite plainly in the Scriptures and the growth occurs in Holy Tradition. It is organic and therefore continuous and accumulative. Furthermore, it is paramount and trumps all things. For example, our first priority is not our own salvation, our first priority is the Love of God and obedience to Him as He requires and not on our terms. Our salvation becomes then just as much a by-product as the first genuine smile on the face of our baby. The issue of Salvation then is an example of something that evolves naturally from Love.

I did mention in my first musing on this topic on Friday that this "one step at a time" which I described as being akin to the differential equation in mathematics poses problems for the mathematician in that some evolution equations are solved (integrated) by use of a numerical method such as the predictor-corrector method. This involves some approximations on the parameters. This is often okay as long as one sticks to within the levels of tolerance of the system; take too big a leap and you find yourself whizzing away from where you should be.

While it seems that both defining the Object and Rule of Ecclesiastical Evolution is an impossible task, we do find ourselves back to something where we can relate: Love.

More to think about here, methinks.

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