Monday, February 21, 2011

Faith, fear and fury

The Internet is a remarkable thing because it can actually hide people from people under a welter of words. Writing on the Internet, or even via email, puts up this rather protective screen which allows us to in some way be separated from its intended recipient. There's a big danger to this. Just today I read this on Facebook:
"Your brain is a field of demonic weeds, and your words are like poison. God bless you."

Well, isn't this a happy little statement? The worst thing is that this statement was not - repeat not - spoken in jest, but came from the lips of what appears to be a Benedictine brother of what appears to be a very Traditional Catholic persuasion. Indeed the thread whence I have plucked this edifying soundbite contains some rather remarkable damnations from this over-excited Religious person. I wonder what St Benedict would have made of his rantings. Of course, I could not enter this fray with any words, nor really should I. What makes me mildly amused is St James' teaching on the tongue being demonstrated with curses and blessings in almost the same breath.

First, anything I would say would automatically be disregarded as the ravings of a Protestant Heretic who makes a mockery of the Catholic Church by feigning allegiance to the Pope, yet has not had the guts to Convert to the One True Faith. Second, there is nothing I would want to say because such individuals have made up their minds.

Also today, a good friend of mine gently chided me by wondering whether I regarded "liberal" as being synonymous with "bad and wrong". Of course, I replied that I didn't regard "liberal" as being synonymous with "bad and wrong" since there are "bad and wrong" things which aren't liberal. I wasn't being entirely serious, of course.

The issue in hand is Mankind's search for certainty. We need to be certain of something in our apparently brief sojourn through this weird little experience called Reality. The more everything warps and changes around us, the more we long for finding some stability, and the more we cling to the little pockets of comfort that float by us as we take our short-lived spin in this temporal Maelstrom. The more we think about our situation, the more we realise that all the things we hold onto are uncertain. This results in crises of faith and belief. There isn't a Christian out there who hasn't felt the sudden panic about the possibility that God might not actually exist. If there is, then I doubt that he has thought sufficiently about what he believes.

St Thomas Aquinas maintains that the existence of God is not self-evident, and I am inclined to believe him.
No one can mentally admit the opposite of what is self-evident; as the
Philosopher (Metaph. iv, lect. vi) states concerning the first principles of demonstration. But the opposite of the proposition "God is" can be mentally admitted: "The fool said in his heart, There is no God" (Ps. 52:1). Therefore, that God exists is not self-evident. (Book 1, Question 1, Article 1)

Whatever God is, His existence is unique. Analogies must fail, logic must break down, pictures, patterns, proofs, parables and propositions must be inadequate to describe how God can possibly exist. It is a question of faith, a faith that requires positive action in order to open one up to the indescribable existence of God.

When our faith is tested then it's very easy to give in to fear. I speak from experience here. We can and should cling to what we hold to be true. The entirety of the Christian Faith is a search for the Truth, a Truth that promises to be found by whoever seeks it, but not necessarily in the way the seeker expects. Yes, when we are afraid then we should cling onto our Faith. GOD is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. If, amid the storm, we can cling onto nothing else but the flimsiest thread, this is usually sufficient to bring us through. Even so, some of us lose that thread. This is a tragedy, but I am convinced that this is not the end of the story.

However, if we cast a eye over our charitable Benedictine brother above, we see something very different from taking refuge in God. Here we see a man whose understanding of Holy Church has been challenged and he seeks to defend it with all his might as a good Christian should. However, when he is out-gunned and out-manoeuvred, as we all at some point in intellectual debate, he resorts to making his understanding absolute and demonises his opponent for speaking heresy and vile blasphemy when there has been nothing of the sort. A pharisaic device, wouldn't you say?

In his first letter to the Church in Corinth (v.5), St Paul does issue the instruction "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". The "one" in this case is a man who has committed fornication with his own step-mother. Elsewhere, St Paul does mention to St Timothy handing Hymnaeus and Alexander over to Satan to learn that blasphemy is wrong. I get the sense that St Paul is letting these folks lie in the beds of their own making apart from the Christian brotherhood in order that they may learn the way back. This is surely the basis of Benedictine excommunication. Whatever one's interpretation of these verses from St Paul, we can be certain of what they are not. They are not condemnations to Hell.

Christians should be very wary of those who condemn others to Hell. As far as I am aware of Christian doctrine, Holy Church has no power to condemn anyone to Hell, nor does she have the power to raise anyone up to Heaven. Saints are declared to be so: the Church is able to make an official recognition through God's revelation that a person has attained the heights of Heaven. This is not the same as the Church creating her own saints, nor does she create her own sinners.

I will willingly confess to the reader that I am a sinner and have frequently, if not daily, fallen short of God's glory, but, unless you tell me, I cannot possibly say that you are a sinner. I may see you commit an act which the Church recognises to be sinful, but without knowing your mind, I have no business to say that you are a sinner. This is something that exists between yourself and God. Holy Church cannot declare someone to be a sinner.

However, there is something quite wonderful here: the Church has been given authority to forgive sins and to proclaim God's forgiveness. So here we have a God who would rather his Church proclaimed Forgiveness rather than Judgment. That's the reality of it, and it makes more sense than trying to second-guess the mind of an utterly unique being. We Christians are often chided by atheists for believing in a God who is arbitrary in His condemnation. They fail to see that this "wrathful and vengeful God" is trying very hard to convince a group of people to whom He has bestowed the capacity for free choice to choose Him freely. We will have to take the consequences of our sins, but we are being given the opportunity not to take them with us when we die. They also fail to see a God who knows that the situation is minutely complicated by the actions of myriads of myriads of free wills all possessing a fallen nature. The trouble is that it isn't just the atheists who fail to see this - sometimes it's us Christians.

But then, what do I know? I'm only a Protestant Heretic who makes a mockery of the Catholic Church by feigning allegiance to the Pope, yet has not had the guts to Convert to the One True Faith.


Conchúr said...

If the said Benedictine is who I suspect it is, he is, as far as I'm aware, a sedevacantist.

Anonymous said...

You have made an "encounter of the Third Kind" with the Dimond Brothers. They are false Benedictines but real frauds. Don't worry about them.

Fr Anthony