Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mystery, Morals, and Montanism

As I come close to my thousandth post on this little blogling, I find myself with a new challenge courtesy of my friends, Fr Chadwick and Ed Pacht. We are often confronted with a binary view of reality and that binary view is, in many circumstances, perfectly correct but in many others it shouldn't be. For the Atheist/Theist debate, once the appropriate definitions have been agreed, there is a perfectly acceptable binary: either God exists or He doesn't. This may be debated with certain nuances: God is not a thing that exists in the same way that the universe is a thing that exists. If that were true, then scientific theories ought to apply to God Himself such as duration, extension, and location. It is a leap of faith to believe that God exists but not as we do. If He is the Creator of all things, if He brings all things into being, if He is separate from His Creation, then He cannot be comprehended in the same way as that Creation.

Ed will often pick me up on the tendency to be binary rather than to see the both/and given a dichotomy. He is a master of finding the false dichotomy, preferring a form of Hegelian dialectic to black-and-white determination in areas which are more properly grey. Likewise, Fr Anthony will see things in my writing that I hadn't intended, such as Romanticism which may be more due to my naive idealism than anything else.

 In my discussion on Liberalism, especially on the bankruptcy of its substance as a means of Divinity, I might be accused of semantics, overuse of logic, and an unwillingness to be generous to people struggling with discrimination. As soon as I mention infallibility, Ed will challenge me on the use of such a term. I do see Logic as being infallible in its sphere of influence, likewise Mathematics. However, it has to be remembered that deductive logic is largely empty in that it makes no new discovery. Logic is not a means of discovering the riches of God's Creation: it is only a single means of communicating what is, and thus presenting the scientist with a means of using a leap of faith to test his hypothesis. Logic is the way that human minds grasp for the truth and communicate truth. Once we step outside its bounds, we lose the capacity to make such a communication. Thus, for the most part, intellectual recourse does require a logical structure so that two people can at least have a common ground for discussion. This is why I subject the tenets of the Liberal Agenda to my rather tenuous grasp of logic.

Liberal Tenet 2 says: No one source of information is infallible.

As a Christian, I believe in God and therefore I believe that there is a single source of infallibility. Yet, if I say I understand that infallibility, I will have made God small enough to fit into my worldview. This is intolerable, and perhaps this is what the Liberals really mean when they say that there is no single source of infallibility. However, the infallibility that Liberals are usually talking about here is that of human morality. Is there an infallible source of morality? Liberals say "no" in line with Tenet 2 and use that to justify the equality of homosexual relationship with heterosexual, and the equivalency of male and female. It is absolutely none of my business what goes on in other people's bedrooms. It is, however, God's business: He gets that right being the Creator of all things.

However, try to force me to accept that homosexual relationships are the same as heterosexual ones in the eyes of God, and I will point to the single source that comprises the Doctrine of the Church that sex is God's plan for the propagation of humanity, that sex outside marriage is sinful, and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. I will point to Biblical sources, and to Tradition to justify my premises, and Right Reason to justify my conclusion. Of course, the Liberal Agenda says that the Biblical words don't really mean what Tradition says that they mean, and that Tradition was influenced only by the ambient culture because it wants to justify what it now believes to be right and fair. As far as I can, I say "live and let live!" in order to honour in the other person that which God has put, namely the freedom to choose, but I will always teach the Catholic Faith to any who will listen to me.

Morality is has an objectivity which comes directly from God’s inherent righteousness. He is the source of all that is good and His justice is meted out in the supply of what is truly good to the obliteration of all evil which lurks in things due to their imperfections that come from their separation from Him. Sometimes I wonder whether Time itself is the means by which God allows us to participate in our own creation and salvation. The trouble is that, once we become convinced that something is a moral truth from means other than God's revelation, we seek it out in God’s revelation and this leads to eisegesis which is nothing less than a perversion of exegesis. This is where the Montanists went wrong.

The Montanists separated from the Catholic Church in the mid-second century claiming that they had special inspiration from the Holy Ghost which actually inflicted greater stringency on its members. There is some debate as to whether Tertullian joined their number, but most of the information we have about the Montanist sect comes from his writing. Montanists also ordained women and most notable in their midst are Maximilla and Prisca (or Priscilla).

They were largely charismatic in their thinking and their public ministries tended towards the orgiastic, believing that their prophecies superceded the teaching of the Apostles. There is a great deal of confusion about what they taught or why they are indeed heretical, but it is clear that the Montanists did upset the Catholic Church greatly with their presence. In his history, Eusebius reports Apollinarius saying:
There it is said that a recent convert named Montanus, while Gratus was proconsul of Syria, in his unbridled passion to reach the top laid himself open to the adversary, was filled with spiritual excitement and suddenly fell into a trance and unnatural ecstasy. He raved and began to chatter and talk nonsense, prophesying in a way that conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation.
There are wild stories of dubious credibility about what went on, but it is clear that the Church rejected Montanism on the grounds of its lack of order, precisely because it ignored St Paul's warnings in I Corinthians xiv. They refused to be ruled by anything other than the spirit that they perceived to be holy. To my mind, this is exactly where the Liberal Agenda sits. It re-interprets what we have been given, namely the Tradition of God (NOT of Men, as they would have it) to fit what they believe to be right. Again, what we see in Montanism is those who mean well - who mean very well - being corrupted by the spirit of the air who appears as an angel of light. Yet, as St Paul warns in his letter to the Romans, they fall "[b]ecause that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."

The Liberal Agenda essentially tries to earth the Holy Spirit. Ironically, this is precisely of what they accuse the Catholic Church. Yet, they are the ones trying to fit the words of Our Lord into the culture of our time using Tenets 2 and 3. God's Morality is set clearly in the words of Our Lord. If the Lord uses the word porneia, as He does in St Matthew xix.9, and porneiai in St Matthew xv.19 backed up by St Mark vii.21, then He is clearly speaking of acts in which one prostitutes oneself literally or figuratively. He lambasts adultery, upholding the commandments of His Father. He calls it sin, even if one just looks upon a woman with lust in the heart. What is in the heart matters, and if we cultivate any form of pornography (which is the polar opposite of ikonography) then that is a sin and we need to repent. Only in the Liberal Agenda can the act of having sex be a human right. If they want to be that equianimous, they ought to generate the same right to all animals for if animals get to have sex and reproduce, they are lucky! Many die before. Eros is not, and never has been agape or philos for that matter.

The Liberal Agenda will say, "how dare you try and limit the Holy Spirit?!" The Catholic Church says, "we do not limit the Holy Spirit. WE are the ones that are limited by our falling away from God." If we wish to limit ourselves to matters earthly and matters earthy, then we forget about the Holy Spirit which is opposed to the will of the flesh.  I can hear the cries of "Oppressor!" at my front door now!

So how are we to allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Ghost, particularly as we prepare ourselves for Whitsunday?

First, we recognise the Eternity of God's Goodness and seek His Kingdom. We must limit ourselves to God's Rule so that we distance ourselves from the noise of our own flesh. Of course, we are going to struggle, and may of us will struggle horribly, because it will mean an abandonment of good things for things which are the best. We have to accept that struggle, but never to hate our flesh because it is as much part of us as our mind and spirit.

Second, we need to study. God cannot contradict Himself, so the Holy Ghost will not draw us into things which contradict Who God is and how His Goodness works. We need to be able to guard ourselves against the voices of wishful thinking that cloud our minds. We cannot afford to create a voice in our head which is supposed to be God's voice. Do we expect Him to speak to us with our own voice?

Third, we pray to the Holy Spirit and ask that, through the grace of our Confirmation, we should allow Him into our lives and beings. He will seek conformity - a shaping together - of all members of the Church. I believe we are always seeing this conformity at work when Christians seek each other out for communion. This is why the Great Synod of October has my deepest prayers.

Fourth, we allow ourselves to be still in our prayer and to embrace the Mystical. Mystery is an anathema to those who believe that perfect knowledge can be had in the Universe. Bad Science tries to remove Mystery, Good Science recognises that there are limits to the knowledge it can derive through its methodology. Indeed, as Dionysius the Areopagite would have us, in our prayer to God, we need to cast off our ways of thinking in order to find a true communication with Him. Logic is only from humanity for humanity, though its infallibility is a gift from God even if its scope is limited. It will still need to be jettisoned: all words will need to be jettisoned.

Fifth, we get back to doing our everyday tasks in all their mundaneness yet seeing God at work even in the most trivial of things. If we are truly led by the Holy Ghost, then we will see miracles and can expect them because of God's faithfulness, not our own. We will always find an answer to our prayers, just not always the answer we expect (that really would be limiting the Holy Ghost!), but we will be able to recognise it because we are in the process of aligning our hearts to God. We are to suffer and must expect to suffer at the hands of the world. That is the fact of the Fall. Yet, we are to cultivate that faith in God and seek to participate with Him as He creates us into what we really are.

As the Church prepares for her birthday on Whitsun, we should make an effort to embrace God in His Mystery and not allow ourselves to be led astray by things that are below. I pray that our Pentecost may indeed set us all on fire for God!

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