Saturday, June 25, 2005

"Everything is there!"

A passage in Pope John Paul II's last encyclical on the Eucharist reads: "The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing."

While one might cavil about the often awkward syntax of Pople John Paul's writings, at least in English translation, one can't deny that nearly every sentence of his, like this one, is packed with explosive significance. Whether that is because he was a philosopher, I cannot say, but I am sure that as a Catholic phenomenologist he was adept at probing beneath the surface of things for their deeper essential and sacramental meanings.

The reaction of James V. Schall is not surprising, who comments on John Paul's sentence above, saying: "Such words have haunted me -- 'Everything is there!' Karol Wojtyla could explain things tersely." (Source: James V. Schall, "The Philosopher Pope," Crisis, May 2005. Emphasis added.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

SUV soccer moms on cellphones inspire highway terror

A Reuters report out of Washington released yesterday (June 21, 2005) confirmed our worst fears about why seeing an SUV in the rearview mirror full of kids with a soccer mom at the wheel talking on a cellphone inspires terror. The report says that using a cellphone -- even with a hands-free device -- may distract drivers because the brain cannot handle both tasks. Imaging tests conducted by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found showed that "the brain directs its resources to either visual input or auditory input, but cannot fully activate both at the same time." Read more here. [Cellphone SUV crash, pictured right]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fr. Joseph O'Leary's "New Gospel"

Sheeesh! Seems my blog has turned into a bully pulpit for a liberal Irish priest in Tokyo named Fr. Joseph O'Leary (pictured left), who has more time on his hands than he knows what to do with. Just examine the Comments to any one of the recent posts below, and you'll see what I mean. About 95% of all the comments are his. I ought to start charging him a user tax!

Sincerely, I am amazed at the quantity of time his 'apostolate' permits him to spend pouring fourth avelanches of opinion, ideology, theory, and general dissent in commentary on our posts. I suppose he believes he's helping to enlighten those of us stuck in the "bloodless categories" of an "ossified" and "archaic" "scholastic" Catholic orthodoxy. Clearly he's a very erudite and learned priest. He spent some time at Duquesne University when I was in graduate school there in another lifetime. Perhaps his motives cannot be faulted. Still, the sheer quantity of time and energy he spends in this forum is amazing, to say the least.

I concur with 'New Catholic' (the author of a comment) who finds Fr. O'Leary's recent statement that "the anger of a Joan Chittester is Christ-like anger" amusing, though I am no more surprised by it than his celebration of Martin Luther's thought on his own new website. St. Thomas Aquinas says that "the praise of courage depends on the justice involved." Likewise, with the praise of anger as "Christ-like." Of course I know he is assuming the "justice" of Chittester's cause. But by any canon of traditional Catholicism -- from the Rule of St. Benedict to the John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis -- this statement would be simply laughable if it were not so sad.

Sadly, there is a huge gulf between Catholics -- as well as Christians in general -- today. On the one hand are those who follow periodicals like Crisis, First Things, and New Oxford Review. On the other hand are those whose flagship periodicals include Commonweal, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and the like. On the one hand are those who understand themselves to stand in the mainstream of the historic Christian Faith and Catholic Tradition and are dismissed by the other side as stuck-in-the mud reactionaries, throwbacks, medieval scholastics, etc. On the other hand are those, like Fr. O'Leary, 'Lovehandles' (another commentator on this blog) and their champions (Curran, Kung, Chittester, et al.), who understand themselves as standing at the forefront of a new, emergent consciousness and demystified revisioning of Christianity, and are dismissed by the other side as dissidents, liberals, and modernists.

As I have said before, the clearest litmus test to distinguish the two views is their attitudes toward the Bible. The Post-Mod Squad reduces it to a merely human book. It's low, all-too-human view of Scripture it naturally calls "higher criticism." They are the brave new world's "demythologizers." They are the bold and daring ones who, as Kreeft says, "dis-myth" the Bible as having no authority but that which resides in themselves and their eisegetical interpretive prowess. Like the "Buddy Christ" of Dogma, their Bible is whittled down to something on a manipulable human scale -- like a wax nose to be bent this way or that -- to suit their whim. They are the elite ones, the proud and few, who have reached sufficient maturity and erudition to realize that, just as they discovered as children that there was no Santa, they need to move on and grow up. And they're constantly reminding us that we, too, need to move beyond our infantile infatuation with small-minded, Santa-scale writers like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and even Thomas Aquinas (all of whom lack the "credentials" to understand "higher criticism" of the Bible or to fathom its actual meaning) and learn to start taking in the "solid meat" of Charlie Curran, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, and Joseph O'Leary, so that we can grow up, move beyond the scholastic constipation of our spiritual emotions, and chill out with Matthew Fox, Starhawk, and Sr. Chittester over our copies of Commonweal as we plot how to bring the Catholic Church out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. Above all, they realize the importance of outgrowing the "anxiety" of clinging to no-longer-tenable traditional religious convictions. But if we're sufficiently mature and erudite like them, they suggest, we will all eventually recognize that, after all, it's not so very traumatic to learn that there really weren't three Wise Men from the East, or a Star, or a miracle of turning water into wine at Cana, or the multiplication of loaves and fishes, or angelic visitations, or a parting of the Red Sea, or the Ten Plagues of Egypt, or the assumption into heaven of Elijah, or an axe head floating on water, or Balam's talking ass, or, for that matter, an historical resurrection of the historical Jesus that you could have actually seen if you were there (although they'll admit that, if ever, only in a whisper, because it so blatantly contradicts the CREEDS)! And they're REALLY EAGER about sharing this as though it some sort of great discovery!

The point is they've bought into a new paradigm, a new outlook, a new worldview, which, after all, is really quite old -- as old as secular humanism itself. But what they have probably never paused to consider is that it's not half as old or half as great and noble an outlook as Ancient Paganism was.

As G.K. Chesterton (whom Fr. O'Leary reminds us he has "outgrown") has said: "Paganism was the biggest thing in the world, and Christianity was bigger, and everything since has been comparatively small." Well, Fr. O'Leary won't like this, but I can't help thinking that this Brave New Consciousness of his -- this new erudite outlook shared by he and his liberal friends -- is, after all, really quite small. Don't take that as a mere ad hominem. Consider: there were three things to be found in Ancient Paganism that made it great -- much greater than this secular New Consciousness.

First, it had a sense of piety, the natural religious instinct to respect and properly fear something greater than oneself, the humility that recognizes man's place in the order of things. The New Consciousness divinizes Fr. O'Leary's own consciousness -- at least for Fr. O'Leary. There is no magisterium to which he is subject but his own consciousness, his own conscience, his own instantiation of Hegelian "Absolute Spirit," or what have you. The Vatican has no REAL authority, except that which someone like Fr. O'Leary confers upon it by his altogether accidental and sporadic agreement. That, of course, is what nonrevisionist Catholics call "cafeteria Catholicism."

Second, Ancient Paganism had a clear perception of an objective moral order, an understanding that moral laws were absolute, discovered rather than subjectively "created," or socially or eidetically "constituted." The New Consciousness is relativistic, subjectivistic, pragmatic. It places human beings above the law. The ultimate law-giver is the human subject, either individually or writ large in the "collective unconscious." The only thing to ever feel guilty about is feeling guilty, since it collapses objective guilt (since there is no such thing, in its view) into subjective guilt feelings.

Third, Ancient Paganism retained a clear sense of the supernatural otherness of its object of worship. The New Consciousness has essentially lost all sense of the actual supernatural and, with it, a transcendent object of worship. Religion is demythologized, desacralized, demystified, demiraclized, and dedivinized. Consequently it verges in the New Consciousness towards variant forms of Pantheism, in which a "sacralization of psychology" enables people to talk about God while really meaning their own (collective) psyche, and vice versa. On this view we ourselves are seen as objects of worship, thus eviscerating the very concept of worship in the collective self-apotheosis of ourselves. God never makes any demands on us that we do not make of ourselves in this New Religion. By definition He cannot, because He is us.

Give me Ancient Paganism any day before this etiolated cancer ward apparition of revisionist Catholicism fed on a thin soup of demythologized Christianity and water. And give me the solid meat and wine of Catholic Tradition any day before Ancient Paganism. Fr. O'Leary, I'm afraid it will be a cold day in hell before you get around to persuading any of us to buy what you're selling. Write us off as reactionary fundamentalists, if that helps you cope with the rejection. Your comments are most welcome, and we will try to reply to them when we can find the time -- though I'm sincerely afraid that scarcely any of us can manage the kind of time that you seem to have on your hands. Please don't be too disappointed at our intransigence, if we don't respond with delight to your ideas. We're quite "ossified," you see. And we've heard most of these ideas before. They're variations on a very old theme, after all -- one that many of us have tired of some time ago. In the meantime, perhaps you will forgive us if we offer our prayers for you.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Ordained Protestant feminists convert to Catholicism?!

The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church. Edited by Jennifer Ferrara and Patricia Sodano Ireland. Our Sunday Visitor Books. 299 pages. No price given.

Here is a book to inspire the faithful and curdle the blood of most feminists. The book consists of 14 essays, each by a contemporary woman recounting her journey of conversion to the Catholic Faith. They come from diverse religious backgrounds. Some of them, ironically, from very liberal feminist backgrounds. Some were even Protestant ministers -- yep, ordained Protestant women -- before finding their way into the Catholic Church. Beware of exploding dissident heads around you! Most priest wannabee Catholic feminists simply won't be able to fathom the perspective of these writers.

Ann Barbeau Gardiner has a great review of this book, which can be found here. She groups the themes of the writers around three points: (1) their courage, (2) their sense of a need for ecclesiastical authority, and (3) their discovery that holiness is itself a journey. A few excerpts:

"First, the courage of these women is remarkable. It puts many a cradle Catholic to shame. One of them was obliged to run a gauntlet when her Lutheran and Catholic friends asked how she could convert to a Church that did not ordain women. She confides that she was once a 'feminist liberal' too. Sadly, Catholics zealous for the feminist cause still see her as a 'traitor.' Another woman tells us that she hesitated on the edge of conversion because of her attachment to her congregation and her own sister’s accusation of 'disloyalty,' but in the end bravely resolved that 'natural' loves have nothing to do with truth. Yet another recounts how she went through an 'Oh No!' phase that lasted a couple of months, during which she faced, one by one, all the losses her conversion would entail: She foresaw that she would have to tell her family and colleagues something they did not want to hear, that she would worship alone without her immediate family, and that she would lose 'the professional gains' of a decade just before applying for tenure. Each 'Oh No!' raised the question, 'Is it worth it?' But at the close of this searing ordeal, she found there was nothing left but 'Yes' and a deep sense of 'peace and joy.' ...

"Two of these women were married to divorced men at the time they sought to convert, so they had to wait for years for the matter to be settled; nor was there any certainty that an annulment would ever be granted. One of them says that she and her husband lived two years under 'the cross of chastity' as brother and sister, until the annulment finally came and they could be married in the Church. A striking example of courage, sacrifice, and grace! ..."

Again, perhaps as ironic as anything else in this volume, the following observation: "Patricia Sodano Ireland tells of attending a 15th-anniversary celebration of the ordination of women in her former Church and finding it a 'lamentation orgy' about the 'suffering of female clergy at the hands of men,' without a single 'satisfied woman.' Evidently, ordination had not brought them happiness."

Read more of Anne Barbeau Gardiner's review article, entitled "Goodbye, Proud World, I'm Going Home."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Can Papa Ratzi fix what John Paul couldn't?

New Oxford Review editor Dale Vree relates (NOR, June 2005, p. 5) that geopolitical expert Jack Wheeler, wrote an article on his intelligence website, (April 26, 2005), saying:
A Vatican source has disclosed ... a psychological trauma of John Paul II. Whenever Vatican investigators brought the results of their vetting process regarding an individual's candidacy for bishop, cardinal, or other office, and they revealed he was a homosexual, John Paul would refuse to believe it. He did so because accusing someone of homosexuality was a standard practice of the Communist government in his native Poland regarding anyone it regarded as an enemy of the state ... [John Paul] summarily dismissed such accusations ... and would approve the elevation of anyone accused.
In the same issue of NOR, in an article entitled "Reflections on Pope John Paul II's Legacy," Tom Bethell lays the difficulty at the feet of the Pope's understanding of "collegiality":
A striking feature of his papacy was that he evidently thought it inappropriate to discipline brother bishops. Doctrine, emanating from Rome, remained unchanged; but practice, within the far-flung dioceses, was the responsibility of the bishop. Errant shepherds went uncorrected. Jim Hichcock told me: "The only working absolute in his pontificate, as far as I can see, was that bishops could do no wrong. His support of bishops seemed to be virtually absolute, unless there was a public scandal, and sometimes not even then."
Often the flip-side of a man's virtues sometimes reveals his weaknesses. One of our former priests was immensely popular, with great presence as a speaker, warm pastoral sensibilities, and great compassion. His gifts of personalism and congeniality also made him effective as a fund raiser, and he was in demand to head up a number of major building projects in the diocese. On the other hand, however, he could not bear personal confrontation. He could not bear being disliked. Consequently, he passed over with a blind eye numerous abuses in his parish that never met with proper resolution. These are common human failings, as understandable as they are deplorable. And it should come as no surprise that the same kinds of human limitations may circumscribe a pontificate.

As far as the Vatican is concerned, it will be interesting to see how the current pontificate plays out. Many Catholics, of course, are hopeful, given the caliber of theological acumen and orthodoxy they see in the present Pontiff. Dale Vree, for example, writes in an editorial entitled "Three Cheers for the Panzerkardinal":
For years, as Pope John Paul II grew weaker and weaker, your Editor has been saying intercessory prayers on a daily basis to St. Vincent Pallotti, under whose patronage the NOR is published, that our next pope would be more traditional, a much better administrator, more insistent on orthodoxy in the Church, less ecumenical, more anti-feminist, an upholder of Just War doctrine, but no less saintly than John Paul. Your Editor believes his prayers have been answered, in each and every particular. (Read more here.)
Recalling how St. Francis of Assisi heard Christ tell him, "Rebuild my church," we can't avoid the thought that we could use a little remedial maintenance around the Church these days too. There is far greater need for the nuts-and-bolts work of plugging holes in the leaky Barque of Peter than for geopolitical summitry and statesmanship. The challenges facing Pope Benedict are legion, but the opportunities are also great. The same could be said, too, of the Bush administration, whose long-term aversion for doing anything significant about the abortion issue may nevertheless prove to be one of the great disappointments of his presidency for those who voted him into office (see my earlier post: Pro-lifers: sold out by Bush?"). And, thus, we move foreward -- to work and to pray. There is a lot of difficult pruning and cultivating that awaits us in the Lord's vineyards -- work for everyone.

Pro-lifers: sold out by Bush?

It's easy to forget how high the stakes of the last presidential election were for pro-lifers. As Hadley Arkes notes, in a recent article in First Things (April 2005), entitled Bush's Second Chance, "even the most sober observers of the political scene recognized that a Kerry presidency would mark the end of any prospects for the pro-life cause in Congress or the courts." As one conservative news commentator remarked, "we narrowly dodged the bullet that time."

Yet as the dust has settled, it is no less clear that President Bush is doing little, if anything, to address the concerns of those who voted him into office a second term because of his pro-life platform. Arkes writes:
On the matter of abortion, however, the President did not seem to be seized with any comparable sense of moment, or any heightened awareness of possibilities now come into sight. And yet, in the case of abortion, the new possibilities had already been visible for more than two years. The President showed no keen awareness of these possibilities now, just as he had shown no awareness earlier. It was not that the facts were not there to be seen, or that the President had no means of knowing. For at least two years the White House staff, and the President it advises, had ample reason to conclude that America had reached a turning point, and that, with the slightest moves on the part of the administration -- moves so slight that they did not require the exertion of an executive order -- they could have produced some striking gains for the pro-life cause while fostering a deep crisis in the ranks of their adversaries. With moves modest by any measure, Mr. Bush could have advanced the pro-life cause and propelled the Democrats in Congress into an internecine war that would surely have torn them apart, and left them morally exhausted during the season of the campaign. That the President should have had no interest in inducing such strain among his adversaries, at virtually no cost to himself, must be ranked among the great political mysteries of our time. But apparently more pressing than any desire to sow confusion among his adversaries has been the President's desire to preserve his reticence on the matter of abortion.

... For Mr. Bush, this reluctance to speak on abortion has been part of a policy fixed in his makeup and critical to his political design. In 1999, when he was preparing for his first presidential campaign, Mr. Bush took soundings among prominent conservatives, and the word went out: he was emphatically, decisively, on the side of the pro-lifers. He could be depended on to do the things that President Reagan and his own father had done before him to preserve a coalition that included pro-lifers. But, as the report went, he did not feel that he could “lead” with the issue of abortion. Either it was impolitic to make this question his defining issue, or he did not feel confident of his own facility in making the argument. He would speak on this vexing issue only when it was absolutely necessary for him to do so.
The upshot, for Arkes, is that Bush has had no interest in promoting the pro-life cause for at least the last two years. In the President's world, he says, "a willingness to talk about abortion is seen as tacky and unseemly." Read more here.

Analyze this

"The old Pope is out of step with modern life! Well, I should hope he is. Complaining that the Pope is out of step with modern life is like accusing Moses of being out of step with the Golden Calf." -- Joseph Sobran, responding to media spin on the passing of Pope John Paul II.

Reading for Year of the Eucharist

Before he passed from this life, Pope John Paul II declared this the Year of the Eucharist. Throughout this year, not only His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, but many local bishops are calling Catholics to renewed attention, study, faith, devotion and adoration of the Blessed Eucharist. Our diocese is hosting a major Eucharistic congress in Charlotte in September. We have already seen a new focus on Eucharistic teaching in homilies, as well as in our diocesan newspaper (The Charlotte News & Harold). We have even seen a number of Eucharistic processions in local parishes. A number of my friends have purchased copies of books of Eucharistic theology written by the Holy Father himself while he was known to the world as Cardinal Ratzinger. Among these, pride of place likely belongs to God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003). But there are also the earlier related volumes, also by Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), and, much earlier, Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (1986). One should also mention his contributions in Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy With Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference, edited by Alcuin Reid (St. Augustine's Press, 2004), reviewed with keen interest for Ratzinger's favorable remarks about the traditional Latin Mass by the late Michael Davies before his passing.

Not to be missed:

Abbot Vonier's A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist

Without wishing to detract in the least from these excellent choices in reading, I would also suggest a book to which new attention is being called after many years, Abbot Vonier's A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Vonier was a bestselling Catholic author in England during the 1920s -- that golden age of Catholic letters when writers like Chesterton, Knox, and Belloc flourished (you know, writers of the sort that contemporary dissenters have "outgrown" and traded in for the "more substantial" dreamy fantasies of Teilhard de Chardin & Hans Kung). After his death in 1938, Vornier's work fell out of print and was largely forgotten. Yet his writing on the subject probably remains about as clear and fresh and orthodox as can be found anywhere. And it is succinct: his book is a mere 196 pages long. But the work is substantial. Don't take my word for it. Read the Introduction by Aidan Nichols, O.P., who is no theological slouch himself. Then read the book and see for yourself! You will be glad you did.

For one thing, just look what they're saying about this book:
  • "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist is one of the few classics in Catholic theology composed in English.... This book, remarkable for its balance, depth, and accessibility, should never be out of print." -- Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
  • "Stephen Langton, the 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury, famously said, 'If you wish to learn, five things are necessary: purity of life, simplicity of heart, and attentive mind, a humble disposition, and a gentle spirit.' Abbot Vornier's book onthe Eucharist exemplifies the beauty and radiance of all five of these virtues. Not since St. Thomas Aquinas's treatment of this sacrament in the Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae has there been a more lucid and serene presentation of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist than this book. It should be required reading in every course in sacramental theology in every Catholic seminary and college in the nation." -- Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
  • "I have seldom read such a convincing, clear, and comprehensive study in Eucharistic theology as A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Its theological depth comes largely from its fidelity to, and its power to illuminate, the Church's sacred Tradition concerning the Eucharist. The most stunning effect this book had on me was the realization of the shallow and ephemeral nature of most current theology, by comparison. We don't seem to produce theological thinkers like this anymore. Perhaps this book will begin to remedy that lack, by instructing apprentices and stimulating us to imination. We dwarfs had better start standing on the shoulders of giants like this, as Father Vonier himself clearly has done." -- Peter Kreeft.
  • "One could wish most earnestly that every Catholic -- and every Protestant for that matter -- would read Abbot Vonier's book. Both the mystery and the richness of the Eucharist are here: but the book is splendidly readable -- no small achievement." -- Thomas Howard, author, On Being Catholic.
  • "Profound insights.... I recommend this excellent book to all Catholics." -- Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., Editor, Homiletics & Pastoral Review.
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Abbot Vonier, Preface by Peter Kreeft, Introduction by Aidan Nichols, O.P. $12.95 retail. ($10.36 from Amazon links above)

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005)

MADRID, Spain, JUNE 16, 2005 ( Paul Ricoeur, a leading philosopher of the 20th century, died serenely in his sleep May 20 in Chatenay Malabry, Paris, at the age of 92.

Ricoeur's death occurred as he would have liked, sources close to the French thinker told ZENIT. He died at home, not in a hospital. He was spared traumatic suffering and did not lose consciousness. His funeral took place as he requested: It was discreet, and held in his Protestant parish.

Carlos Diaz, founder of the Mounier Institute and professor of phenomenology of religion at Madrid's Complutense University, knew Ricoeur personally. Diaz said that with his death has silenced one of the last Christian voices of major influence in present-day philosophy. Read more here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Catholicism, science, and Western civilization

In July of 2004, we posted a piece entitled "Catholic sources of modern science," in which we mentioned an article by historian Tom Woods about the role of Jesuit scientists in the nascence of modern European science. We also referred our readers to a longer review of Woods' article over at "Scripture and Catholic Tradition." Woods has finally come out with a book that includes full-blown chapters on these contributions of Catholic scientists widely-overlooked in standard textbook histories. His book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, promises to be as controversial as it is informative, and has already drawn the vituperative ire of professor in France who has posted a vitriolic review on (in French). Whether or not one likes the way Woods manages to side-step some of the more ignonimous aspects of Church history (one thinks here of the typical knee-jerk reactions to "the Crusades" and "the [sic] Inquisition"), these are clearly peripheral if not irrelevant to the subject of his study. This is an undeniably well-researched volume, not to be overlooked by friend or foe. The mine of information Woods has managed to assimilate is simply staggering. Anyone wishing for the data to combat the pervasive ignorance that takes the Catholic Church for an enemy of open-minded learning, or takes the Middle Ages for a preserve of benighted supersition and knuckle-dragging mouth breathers, will be grateful that Woods has done this yeoman's job of research. As one reviewer put it, Woods has just upped the price of being anti-Catholic. Tolle, lege!

Getting fit: the shape of the nation

According to TIME magazine (June 6, 2005), p. 50, "The average Amish man takes 18,425 steps a day, and the average Amish woman takes 14,196. A typical American takes 5000." No comment needed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

James V. Schall on Lumen Gentium and universalism

The June 2005 issue of Crisis magazine carries an unusually cryptic piece entitled "Salvation," by James V. Schall, in his usual column, Sense and Nonsense. In it is the following paragraph, which begins with a quote from the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium:
Further, "Eternal salvation is open to those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church but seek God with a sincere heart, and under the inspiration of grace try in their lives to do his will, made known to them by the dictates of their conscience." Grace is seen working outside the visible confines of the Church, but not apart from the Spirit's being sent into the world. Like the court, the Church here insists that the person holding these positions must be sincere and in a position of unavoidable ignorance about the truth of revelation.
And then he adds:
Suicide bombers usually meet this criterion.
Amazing! Simply amazing! What a breath of absolutely fresh, clean air! Clarity! Finally!

He continues:
Finally, Divine Providence does not "deny aids necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet reached an explicit belief in God, but strive to lead a good life, under the influence of God's grace." By such criteria, one wonders who, other than a few unrepentant believers, are not saved? If the vast majority will be saved with these beliefs, why disturb them?
Schall concludes:
One wonders whether there are more erroneous consciences than we are led to believe, or whether the objective order is not more demanding than we suspect.
Indeed. While I would be the first to defend the integrity of the truth contained in Lumen Gentium, such passages as those above, taken in isolation, can certainly suggest such a romantically ebullient soteriology as to seem surpassingly naive. The greatness of Christianity is it's ability to understand both the aspirations and aberrations of human nature. Without a full picture of both the doctrine of creation (which speaks to our human greatness, created in the image of God Himself and destined for eternal communion in the life of the Holy Trinity) and the doctrine of original sin (which speaks to our wretchedness, our condition of terminal alienation and misery stemming from our inwardly twisted disposition -- in curvatus in se -- captured superlatively well in Peter Jackson's image of Tolkien's Gollum), we can't hope for a view of reality that avoids hopelessly naive romanticism, that speaks to the heart of our aspirations, but at the cost of ignoring our aberrations, or that avoids a hopelessly bleak pessimism, that speaks to the heart of our aberrations, but at the cost of despair.

A tip of the hat to Fr. Schall for reminding that the scale may need some balancing again, forty years after Lumen Gentium.

Protestant objections to Catholic beliefs about Mary: a brief response


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Why Mary wept in Arlignton

The following is an excerpt from a letter to the editor of the June 2005 issue of the New Oxford Review, entitled "Why Mary Wept In the Diocese of Arlington." It was written in response to an article by Michael S. Rose on the plight of Fr. James Haley ("Killing the Messenger" in the March issue of NOR), which ought to be read in full by anyone concerned with the fate of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, long known for its stability and orthodoxy. Rose's article, uncovering a tapestry of philandering, homosexuality, embezzling, and outright strange behavior by priests, "underscores a series of supernatural events," according to the letter, which occurred at a parish (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) of which he was a member in this same Diocese a dozen years before these scandals were exposed:
From November 1991 until well into 1993, a young Associate Pastor named Fr. James Bruse at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Lake Ridge, just outside the Beltway in northern Virginia, was the center of a series of weeping statues (mostly of the Blessed Mother) that wept openly and profusely in his presence and others. The tears began small and privately. The first event occurred at his parent's home, and then statues in the rectory began to weep until eventually these private tears became full-blown public events.

Fr. Bruse, a shy and timid man by nature, could not have invented a more tortured way to bring attention to himself.... The statues wept profusely during the height of the episodes, warping wooden furniture and sopping carpets.... Fr. Bruse also bore the stigmata on his wrists, side, and feet. The blood that ran down his arms defied gravity and ran up from his wrists to his elbows, just as Christ would have bled while hanging in agony on the Cross.
The author of the letter, which can be read in full (scroll down to "Why Mary Wept in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia"), is Timothy Ehlen, of Petoskey, Michigan. He states that a book on the events has been published, entitled The Seton Miracles . Also see the online account at The Marian Foundation. People are often skeptical and dismissive of such phenomena as traditional Catholic superstition. See for yourself.

Fessio pulls NOR ads from Ignatius Press periodicals

Fr. Joseph Fessio, apparently incensed by the exposure granted by the New Oxford Review to the controversy surrounding Ave Maria College (AMC) in Michigan and the establishment of Ave Maria University (AMU) in Florida. Fessio, who is Provost of the latter institution, funded by Tom Monaghan of Domino Pizza fame, was invited by NOR editor Dale Vree to respond to an article in by Andrew Messaros, a professor at AMC in Michigan, who aired numerous complaints over the handling of the move to establish AMU in Florida by Monaghan, Fessio, and the AMC board of trustees. It is noted that Messaros, who now holds an academic at another respected position, no longer has any personal stake in the ongoing controversy between AMC and AMU. Further, as numerous letters to the editor by students and staff at AMC in the current (June 2005) issue of NOR reveal, the controversy is far from being an isolated case centering on Messaros.

Instead of Fessio, Nicholas J. Healy Jr., President of AMU, responded to Messaros' article by writing a response in NOR. Messaros was then given the chance, per standard form, of replying to the response. Fessio was again contacted by NOR and asked if anyone wanted to reply to the second Messaros article. This time, he did so (in the Jan. 2005) issue, attacking Messaros in very personal terms. Again, Messaros was given the right to respond, and he did so in kind. Fessio insisted that he and AMU should have the last word. NOR editor Vree replied that according to convention, in publications the original author has the right to have the last word. When Vree spoke with Fessio on August 27th, the latter insisting that he could defeat all the arguments of his opponents single-handedly, leading Vree to assume Fessio would write a letter defending himself from the third Messaros article.

Instead, Fessio, who is also founder of Ignatius Press, had five full-page ads reserved for Ignatius Press pulled from the NOR. He also had three remaining NOR list rentals reserved for Ignatius Press pulled. NOR has also been informed that after its currently scheduled run of ads expires in October of this year, it will not be allowed to advertise in The Catholic World Report and Homiletic & Pastoral Review, both of which are owned by Ignatius Press.

The AMC/AMU controversy has nothing to do, of course, with Ignatius Press. Both AMC and AMU were conceived and brought into existence by faithful Catholics concerned with the future and integrity of Catholic education for the younger generations. Ignatius Press was conceived and brought into existence by a faithful Jesuit priest concerned with the future and integrity of Catholic publishing in the years to come. It is a sad commentary on otherwise good and decent Catholics in the modern world that they cannot resolve their problems without going ballistic with one another. (See New Oxford Notes: "Fr. Fessio Goes Ballistic.")

Query re Ratzinger quotation

If any readers can shed light on the following quotation, its authenticity, its context, or the manner in which Cardinal Ratzinger (if he indeed wrote it) intended it, I should be glad for it. A sedevacantist nun who rejects the authority of Vatican II and the Roman hierarchy since the Council has sent me this text, which she claims is a translation from Cardinal Ratzinger's German work, Die Sacramentale Begreundung Christliche Existenz. She obviously intends it as a piece of evidence that the Holy Father's theology is not to be trusted:
Eucharistic devotion such as is noted in the silent visit by the devout in church must not be thought of as a conversation with God. This would assume that God was present there locally and in a confined way. To justify such an assertion shows a lack of understanding of the Christological mysteries of the very concept of God. This is repugnant to the serious thinking of the man who knows about the omnipresence of God. To go to church on the ground that one can visit God who is present there is a senseless act which modern man rightfully rejects.
If the quotation is authentic, my immediate feeling is that it's been lifted out of a context that would shed some indispensable light on how he inteded it to be understood. Obviously, Catholicism has always insisted on the ubiquity and omnipresence of God, which would compel the rejection of any notion that God is present solely in an isolated locale. On the other hand, Catholic teaching has also insisted that God, who is present everywhere, is present uniquely and in an immediately physical way in the Incarnation and in the Blessed Sacrament, just as He was present in Old Testament theophanies, such as His appearance to Moses in the Burning Bush and to the Children of Israel in the Pillars of Fire and Cloud, as well as His appearance in the form of an Angel (Gen. 16:7, 13; 18:19-21; Judges 6:11-24; etc., etc.). Hence, belief in divine omnipotence is obviously not incompatible with belief in the Real Bodily Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The assertion that one who goes to church the ground that he can visit God who is present there is performing a "senseless act," in any case, would seem troublesome without a further bit of clarifing context. Especially in a year when the Catholics have been called upon to renew their devotion and appreciation of the Holy Eucharist, such sentiments as those expressed in this text (whoever wrote it) would seem to call for clarification.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Legionaries and Fr. Maciel revisited

One cannot help feeling terrible ambivalence about the questions being raised about Fr. Maciel, the founder and Director of the Legionaries (see my post of June 1, 2005: "Why orthodox Catholics are angry with the Legion of Christ"). The Legionaries themselves are recruited from the ranks of the most robustly devout Catholic families one could expect to find. I personally know a number of them. They are remarkably transparent, devout Catholic men. They are true believers. A woman whose apostolate with the Legion's seminary in Thornwood, NY, for the past 10 years has allowed her to observe these seminarians up close concurs. Much of their food, she said, is donated. During the winter months, they live in 40 degree temperatures to help conserve fuel costs. They are holy, straight, zealous young men with radiant smiles and cold hands, but their hearts are on fire with the love of Christ.

Meanwhile, it is hard to read, in Vows of Silence, that Fr. Maciel "courted influential figures in the Curia at lavish dinners" with "fine china, crystal, and a cart of cocktails," and would have them chauffeured to and from their residences in his Mercedes. I have no way of personally verifying whether these claims, or the sexual accusations against Fr. Maciel, are true, although the accumulating charges are troubling. On the one hand, one wants to think best of those who profess to be one's friends and allies in the Faith, and there is certainly virtue in giving one's professed friends the benefit-of-a-doubt under fire. A reputation is a fragile thing, and one is obliged to protect the good name of one's true friends. On the other hand, given the recent climate of scandalous sex abuses by predatory priests in the Church, one recoils from the prospect of sheltering and coddling those who may be guilty. One prays for discernment.

One of the benefits of having Cardinal Ratzinger as our current Pontiff is that he knows more about the clerical sex scandlas than any other cardinal, since the cases have landed on his desk when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and he personally attended to them. He knows -- as far as it is possible for a Church leader to know -- what is going on. In his Good Friday sermon in 2005, he said, "How much filth there is in the Church, even among those ... in the priesthood ...." In this regard, it is highly significant, as New Oxford Review editor Dale Vree has recently observed, that Cardinal Ratzinger himself has reopened the case of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel. "It's a full-sale inquiry," he said, in an editorial (NOR, June 2005, p. 5). Further, Fr. Maciel is reported to have resigned as General Director of the Legionaries on January 23rd, citing his age. This has led to speculations whether he did so in order to avoid further scruitiny by Cardinal Ratzinger. If so, it clearly hasn't worked. The case is going forward. Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice at the CDF, traveled to Mexico in late March of this year to "interview more than 20 people, among them several men who maintain that Father Maciel sodomized them when they were boys..." (The New York Times, April 23). And in early April, "a Vatican investigator began taking sworn statements" in New York from alleged victims (, April 21).

The Ligionaries' publicity offices have long maintained that there is no official Vatican investigation. One waits and prays, imploring the Lord for His mercy, as well as His truth and justice.

Commonweal in bed with the Legionaries?

In an article entitled "Rahabilitating Paul Shanley," New Oxford Review (April, 2005), Dale Vree writes:
In a New Oxford Note last month (p. 16-18), we told you how Commonweal has attempted to rehabilitate Archbishop Weakland (a homosexual), andhow the National Catholic Register, owned by the Legionaries of Christ, has tried to rehabilitate Deal Hudson (an adulterer).
In the June issue of the NOR, Vree adds:
In that New Oxford Note "last month" (March, p. 18), we noted that Weakland and Hudson are back in business as if nothing ever happened, adding: "You'd think Weakland and Hudson wouldn't want to show their faces for a decade or so. Now, that would garner our respect."
Vree notes the marked contrast of Bill Bennett, "who has had the decency to remove himself from the limelight after his gambling habit came to light."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Christian" now a slur

"Christian" has long been a term used as much for its connotative value as for its denotative value. In contrast to its denotative value as an adjective specifying a commitment to Christ or adherence to a certain body of beliefs, "Christian" has often been used for its courtesy connotations. To be a "good Christian" meant being an upright citizen of regular habits in good standing in the community. In this respect it served, much like "gentleman," as a term used for its courtesy value, rather than its original etymological denotation as a member of the land-owning gentry class. Today, however, the term "Christian" is used, in many circles, for its connotative value as a slur. To call a person a "Christian," for some folks, is to deride the person as a provincial ignoramus, a knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing antedeluvian troglodyte.

Thus Howard Dean said in San Francisco this week that Republicans "all behave the same, and all look the same. ... It's pretty much a white Christian party." (Source: Wednesday, June 8, 2005)

Never mind that more American blacks voted Republican in the last election than ever before in US history. Never mind that the majority of Americans in American history, whatever their color or ethnicity, have been Christian. Just as the term "Fundamentalist," which at one time referred to those who subscribed to a Presbyterian statement of key tenets of the Christian Faith (The Fundamentals, 1909), has now come to be used pejoratively against practically anyone who resists the "march of progress" toward a completely secularized and de-Christianized society based on Western bourgeois consumerist values and relativism, so now with the term "Christian." To call a person a "Christian" in this way is like calling a person a "nigger."

No wonder C.S. Lewis, after his inaugural address at Cambridge, in which he had referred to himself as a member of a dying species he called "old western man," joined with his students in referring to themselves as "dinos" -- that is "dinosaurs," who no longer find themselves at home in the contemporary world. But of course that was some sixty or seventy years ago.

One thinks, too, in this connection of Herman Hesse's description of a similar figure in his novel, Steppenwolf:
These horrors [of the Middle Ages] were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, everyone does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzsche's had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today.
Harold Berman, former Professor at Harvard Law School, used to describe the problem as one of "post-westernism." The term sounds like a confusion of temporal and geographical categories until one understands his conviction that Catholic Christendom lies at the heart of the Western identity. The "West" in "Western Civilization" is not primarily a geographical term, but a cultural one. A text in Western civilization may begin with the Mesopotamians or Egyptians and include the Greeks, Romans, as well as a passing reference to the Hebrews. But none of those people identified itself as "Western." That designation awaited the medieval synthesis of Catholic Europe. Forgetfulness of this is forgetfulness of our Western identity. Which brings us to where we are today: oblivion.

That "Christian" is now used as a slur signals the vast distance we have traversed from a medieval Christendom in which theology was the "Queen of the Sciences" to the contemporary world in which theology is hardly recognized as having a rightful place among the liberal arts. To be Western once meant to be Christian. In our contemporary secularized milieu, however, as Wolfhard Pannenberg once observed,
even an elementary knowledge of Christianity -- its history, teachings, sacred texts, and formative figures -- dwindles. It is no longer a matter of rejecting Christian teachings; large numbers of people have not the vaguest knowledge of what those teachings are. This is a remarkable development when one considers how foundational Christianity is to the entire story of Western culture. The more widespread the ignorance of Christianity, the greater the prejudice against Christianity. (Source: First Things, Fall 2001, p. 59)

Infallibility and authority & strength "unfashionable"

Pierre Francois Le Louet wasn't discussing theology. The marketing and style consultant for a French fashion agency was discussing fashion trends. "The masculine ideal is being completely modified. All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned," he said. "We are watching the birth of a hybrid man. ... Why not put on a pink-flowered shirt and try out a partner-swapping club?" asked Le Louet, stressing that the study had focused on men aged between 20 and 35. (Source: AFP Paris 6/8/05) Makes me think of The Wanting Seed, Anthony Burgess' distopian novel in which the social mind-moulders and government enthusiastically promote homosexuality and opposition to traditional family values for purposes of population management and reduction. But there's no telling what we're in for in the long run. As Ripley always said, reality is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The hoodwinking of Catholic Bible scholarship

One of my deep disappointments with Catholic biblical scholarship of the last 50 years is how deeply and uncritically enamored it so quickly became of the whole secularized Liberal Protestant "historical-critical" tradition. Many Catholic Bible scholars since the Second Vatican Council have fancied themselves "liberated" from the "schackles" of an "embarrassingly ill-informed" and insular "rigid scholasticism" and have, for the past few decades, been bending over backwards, as if making up for lost time, to ingratiate themselves with the tyrannical fashion poodles of the secular protestant Bible Game Show. Thus they have rushed precipitously to the circus, hurling themselves over one another to be the first in line to sell their birthright for a mess of bad pottage. How desparate they have been for kudos from their secularized Protestant peers and mentors! How desparate to please their circus trainers and play to the audience at the notoriously agnostic Jesus Seminar (pictured left in New York). -- All together now: "Let's Demythologize & Deconstruct!"

The uncritical and cavalier ebullience with which Catholic Bible scholars (like Dominic Crossan, right) have unwittingly hurled themselves headlong into an abyss is breathtaking in its presumption. I have no quarrel with any Catholic Bible scholar wanting to be "well-informed" or make use of the "best available tools of contemporary research." The problem is the degree to which what counts as "well-informed," and what counts as the "best available tools of contemporary research," has been pervasively coopted by the liberal Protestant establishment and contaminated by assumptions imported from secular naturalism -- assumptions stemming from the Enlightenment as well as post-Enlightenment movements whose pre-theoretical commitments are deeply inimical to the Catholic tradition and Christian worldview. What is most ironical about the eagerness of Catholic biblical scholars to jump on this bandwagon is not merely the fact that the bandwagon's music is brazenly anti-Christian, but that it is such bad music -- the biblical theological equivalent of Anton LaVey lyrics in a setting by Marty Haugen. It doesn't take a sophisticated ear for "the ring of truth" to discern what is wrong here. Anyone acquainted with a little history of philosophy should be able to see that the jig is up.

The degree to which vestiges of a discredited and unsupportable logical-empiricist (positivist) epistemology continue to infect current scholarship can be seen in the continuing recrudescences of fact/value, history/faith dualizations such as appear in the well-schooled discourse of contemporary scholars. When speaking of Jesus, they refer, for example, to "what strict historical veracity suggests," in contrast to images "projected in the Gospels" by means of the New Testatment writers and their "theological imagination." But who and his presuppositionless army is going to justify his presumption that he is conclusively well positioned to tell us what "strict historical veracity suggests"? Who has a point-of-view-from-nowhere? And by what warrant will he presume to demythologize the account of Jesus given in the Gospels?

No less typical are statements such as this: "Reconstructing the Jesus of history by definition never takes us beyond the pre-paschal Jesus." Says who? Oh, I must have forgotten: those tyrannical fashion poodles. But why should one buy what they're selling? What, beside a dogmatic adherence to a residual Humean skepticism about the possibility of anything supernatural occurring in history, should lead anyone to reject the historicity of the post-Paschal Christ of Faith? Nothing. The dichotomizing premises underlying such "scholarship" are supported by nothing but western liberal bourgeois academic prejudice. The emperor of the liberal Bible Game Show wears no clothes. Why would anyone want to be caught dead bowing and scraping before him?

Try thinking outside the "fashion poodle" box, for once. Try reading, for a change, something that challenges your uncritical acceptance of the "Jesus-history-fact" vs. "Christ-faith-myth" bifurcation, like C. Stephen Evans' The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith: The Incarnational Narrative As History (Oxford U.P., 1996) ... unless such a demolition of your history/faith dualizations would blow your circuits. Then, if you can handle the spadework, dig into Roger A. Johnson's classic, The Origins of Demythologizing (Leiden: Brill, 1974) -- which, unfortunately is currently out-of-print, though surely available through a good library (remember those?).

Additionally recommended reading (much of it online):

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jesus our Mother?

Following up on an earlier discussion of God as "Mother," here is brief reprise and critique, based on a quote from St. Anselm of Canterbury about Jesus as "mother," received from my good friend, Edgar Foster.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Schaeffer & the Christian way of life

The Christian Faith as a Way of Life:
The Legacy of Francis Schaeffer

By Eduardo J. Echeverria

April - May 2005

Like countless other people in the fifty year history of L'Abri Fellowship, I arrived at the doorstep of Chalet les Melezes at L'Abri in Huemoz sur Ollon, Switzerland. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), along with his wife Edith (1918-), a prolific author in her own right, founded L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland a half century ago. He, in particular, was a Christian intellectual, cultural critic, practical theologian, author, noted speaker, and evangelist, whose ministry in the last half of the twentieth century incited worldwide study and discipleship centers. It was at L'Abri some thirty-five years ago next summer that I first committed my life to Christ as Lord and Savior, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). It was at L'Abri that I began to understand the Christian faith as a way of life rooted in the truth about reality, about the meaning of life, and communion with God. It was also at L'Abri that I began to understand that living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ entailed the sanctification of the whole of life, including the life of culture, particularly the intellectual life.

There have been many changes in my life since 1970-not the least of which is returning to the Catholic Church in 1992-but throughout them I have always regarded L'Abri Fellowship, especially Francis Schaeffer's understanding of true Christian spirituality, as a point of reference in my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Some evangelical Protestants may find this a surprising claim for an evangelical and orthodox Catholic like myself to make. (On this claim, see my "Living Truth for a Post-Christian World: The Message of Francis Schaeffer and Karol Wojtyla," Religion & Liberty, Vol. 12, No. 6, November/December 2002).

Of course my appreciation is not uncritical-there exist philosophical and theological differences between us, but this is neither the place nor time to air them. Rather, in this personal tribute to Francis Schaeffer on the fiftieth anniversary of L'Abri Fellowship, I believe that the most appropriate way to show my continuing appreciation for him is by expressing my personal understanding of his legacy. This legacy is, I think, Schaeffer's understanding of the Christian faith as a way of life and the first principles informing that understanding.

In what follows, then, I will first say a few words about five core principles that are, as I see it, at the root of Schaeffer's understanding of the Christian faith. Then I will go on to set out his vision of true Christian spirituality.

Schaeffer's Five Principles

(1) Realism about Truth. Schaeffer holds that Christians must affirm a realist notion of truth and its applicability to Christian beliefs. The Christian faith is true to reality. In other words, Christian belief is true if and only if objective reality is the way the belief says it is; otherwise, the belief is false. These beliefs are either true or false, and objective reality is what makes them either true or false. Schaeffer cautions us that once the distinction between truth and falsehood is set aside, as it is in contemporary culture, one renounces the truth of the Christian faith.

(2) Christian faith is rational. Schaeffer holds that there are good and sufficient reasons to affirm the truth of Christian beliefs. Thus, to say that Christianity is rational is to say both that it is not contrary to reason as well as that there are positive reasons for believing it to be true. Indeed, faith, so taken, involves believing some propositions to be true, because faith is a cognitive activity. "True Christian faith rests on [objective] content." Nevertheless, as Schaeffer rightly sees it, faith demands more than believing the truth of some propositions. Hence, faith isn't merely a cognitive activity, because it involves the "whole man" ("his thoughts, his will, and his emotions are all involved as a unit") who trusts in, and is committed to, the promises of the God who is there.

(3) Rational, not Rationalistic Humanism. Although the Christian faith is rational, the Christian believer is not rationalistic. The key difference here is quite basic. It is one thing to say that the Christian faith measures up to the legitimate aspirations of reason, that is, "there are good, adequate and sufficient reasons to know that the Christian answers are truth." It is an entirely different matter to say that man's reason is the measure of all things, including truth. This is Rationalistic Humanism, as Schaeffer also calls this view. It makes human reason the source and basis of all our beliefs. "A rationalist is someone who thinks man can begin with himself and his reason plus what he observes, without information from any other source, and come to final answers in regard to truth, ethics and reality." We must reject rationalism, urges Schaeffer, because "man cannot generate final answers from himself." Rather, divine revelation, God's written Word revelation, is the ultimate cognitive source of what is known-propositional revelation-truths about God, man and the world. Yet, divine revelation is not merely a communication of truths, but also God revealing Himself in "a living person-to-person communication" with man, a relationship in which man is to find his salvation, indeed, his meaning.

(4) Worldview Thinking. Schaeffer stressed the importance of worldview thinking and thus the necessity of Christians thinking of the Christian faith as a total world-and-life view. "Life-orienting beliefs" about God, man's meaning and destiny, reality, morality, and knowledge make up a worldview, giving overall direction and guidance to an individual's thoughts and actions. These beliefs are not necessarily held consciously, and hence they are described as presuppositions, meaning thereby that they function as the perspective from which an individual sees and interprets all of life. Significantly, both Christians and their adversaries think in terms of a total world-and-life-view. Indeed, there exists a conflict of worldviews in contemporary culture, especially between the Christian worldview and Secularism in all its varied thought-forms. Thus, the Christian has a responsibility to work out the implications of this totality-view by articulating, communicating, defending, and justifying it to a given generation.

(5) The Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord over all areas of life. "True spirituality cannot be abstracted from truth at one end, nor from the whole man and the whole culture at the other. If there is a true spirituality, it must encompass all." Christians should be engaged in the project of transforming the whole world, including culture, for Christ. Schaeffer breaks with any hint of dualism, or bifurcation, between faith and life in its totality. "Christ is Lord of all--over every aspect of life." Yes, even the intellectual life is in service of Christ the King. As Schaeffer puts it, "It is no use saying He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lord of all things, if He is not the Lord of my whole unified intellectual life." "I am false or confused," adds Schaeffer, "if I sing about Christ's lordship and contrive to retain areas of my own life that are autonomous. This is true if it is my sexual life that is autonomous, but it is at least equally true if it is my intellectual life that is autonomous."

Christian Faith as a Way of Life

Undoubtedly, the enduring legacy of L'Abri Fellowship is found in Schaeffer's vision of true Christian spirituality, that is, the Christian faith as a way of life. Among the few autobiographical remarks Schaeffer makes about his own spiritual journey the one regarding the spiritual crisis in his own life that took place in 1951 clearly stands out. The immediate cause of this crisis is the "problem of reality," as Schaeffer calls it. That is to say, around that time Schaeffer's growing awareness that something was wrong brought him to the point of realization that there is very little reality to the Christian faith of orthodox believers, namely, this faith is not bearing much fruit in their present lives and, in turn, in the total culture. Schaeffer also experienced this lack of reality in his own Christian life and so he felt the need "to go back and rethink his whole position" as a Christian. He adds: "I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually I saw that the problem [of reality] was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives" (italics added). True spirituality is not just about knowing that I am justified in Christ before God and that, on this basis, I am heavenward bound. This view would seem to leave our present life bereft of the possibility of living in "newness of life . . . right now, between the new birth [in Christ] and our death, or the second coming of Jesus." "Even in justification," Schaeffer adds, "many Christian who are perfectly orthodox in doctrine look back upon their justification as though it were the end of all, at least until death comes. It is not. Birth is essential to life, but the parent is not glad only for the birth of his child. He is thankful for the living child that grows up . . . So it is with becoming a Christian."

Thus, the Christian life is not just about God's forgiving our sins on the basis of Christ's finished work, but also His effecting within us, in the Spirit's power, and in the present life, an ongoing interior transformation that makes us alive in Christ, and in which Christ brings "forth fruit in the Christian, just as the sap of the vine brings forth the fruit in the branch," as a benefit of our communion with him.

Schaeffer's vision of true spirituality, of the life-affirming reality of the Christian's being united with Christ and sharing in his life and benefits, requires an understanding, however briefly in this context, of the following matters. Of course faith in Christ is at the heart of true spirituality, or the Christian way of life, but what is this faith and what exactly is its role within the Christian life? Furthermore, what is the Christian faith's distinctive vision of the truth about God, man, and the world?

What does it mean to have faith in Christ? Schaeffer rightly holds faith to be a certain kind of knowing that is (1) relational, (2) experiential, and (3) propositional or cognitive in nature. Regarding (3), faith, although more than believing, that is, more than being intellectually committed to the truth of some proposition, is not less than believing, because authentic Christian faith necessarily involves believing that certain propositions are true-such as those propositions contained in the Nicene Creed. In this sense, faith is about the objective content of truth (fides quae creditur) that is historic Christianity. Regarding (2), faith is a personal act, that is, the subjective act of trusting God (fides qua creditur), of committing my whole life to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Closely connected to this aspect of faith is (3), where faith is also something relational, a mystical union between Christ and the individual believer. Says Schaeffer, "Christian mysticism is communion with Christ." And in this union with Christ I share in his life and benefits-such as the moral guilt of my sin is gone, my sins are forgiven, sin's power over my life is broken, sanctifying grace, hope, and eternal life-here and now, in the present life, Schaeffer tirelessly reiterates. Furthermore, in this mystical communion, "I am immediately in a new and living relationship with each of the three persons of Trinity," participating in the inner love-life of the whole Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "First," Schaeffer adds, "God the Father becomes my father. Theologically, this is spoken of as adoption . . . When I receive Christ, on the basis of his finished work I become a child of God . . . Second, when I accept Christ as my Savior, I immediately come into a new relationship with God the Son. In theology, this is spoken of as our mystical union with Christ . . . Finally, the Bible says we also enter into a new relationship with the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. When we are justified, we are also and immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit." Thus, faith is about Trinitarian communion and, consequently, the ongoing transformation of my whole existence in communion with the whole Trinity. Let us consider a little further what this means.

How then does the reality of faith function within the Christian life? The brief answer to this question here must be that Christ's finished work of salvation-his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension-encompasses the life of faith in its totality: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification deals with our true moral guilt, sanctification deals with the power of sin, and glorification deals with the substantial healing of human existence, here and now, a foretaste of the future complete redemption of the whole man, indeed the whole creation. Says Schaeffer: "Salvation is not just justification and then a blank until death; God never meant it to be so. Salvation is a unity, a flowing stream, from justification through sanctification to glorification." "Sanctification is," adds Schaeffer, "the most important consideration for the Christian now, because that is the point where we are. It is the present portion of salvation, and in this sense it is the most important consideration of the Christian now."

We can easily appreciate Schaeffer's excitement in discovering what was needed for properly understanding the meaning of Christ's saving work for our present lives is the biblical teaching that "salvation is a unity." Of course this is not just the conceptual unity of a doctrinal truth. It is, fundamentally, the indivisible unity of the objective realities of creation, fall and redemption through Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit. That is, Schaeffer understands sin to be radical, influencing the whole of creation, the whole spectrum of life, including the life of culture, but the meaning of Jesus Christ's redemptive work is, accordingly, equally radical because the whole fallen creation is reconciled in and through that work and, hence, is opened to the re-creating, i.e., restoring and renewing power, of God's Spirit.

What is the Christian faith's distinctive vision of the truth about God, man, and the world? First, God created the world good. Indeed, the creation, especially man who is its crown, actually manifests God's goodness. This manifestation of goodness is God's thesis, His affirmation, His Yes to the creation (Genesis 1:31).

Second, all creation is fallen through original sin. Human nature as a whole has lost its original harmony, and man is wounded at the very root of his being, estranged from God, from himself, and from his fellow humans. His humanity exhibits the marks of being sinful, prone to sin, with sin being a violation of God's will and purpose. This sinfulness denies God's thesis and has its beginnings in Genesis 3. God's response to man's sin is Yes, but also No. Yes, because God, full of love, mercy and grace, does not abandon the fallen creation. Indeed, Genesis 3:15 contains the first proclamation of the Messiah, the proto-evangelium. But also No, because God, judging man in the light of His perfect justice and holiness is the author of the antithesis, of the sign of contradiction between good and evil, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

Third, the Redemption accomplished through Christ's finished work-His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension-abrogates the antithesis between sin and creation. God's original thesis is reasserted and reestablished, but also enriched, fulfilled, and perfected. This Redemption restores the very heart of human nature, causing the rebirth of the human self in Christ (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17). This rebirth manifests itself in the integral redemption of the whole man in Christ through the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with one another in them, which has been given to us in grace (Romans 5:5). Indeed, this redemption in Christ becomes a vision of cosmic redemption for the whole creation, including society and culture, God's grace in Christ restoring all life to its fullness in accordance with His will and purpose.

Against this background, Schaeffer rightly contends that: "We must allow [Jesus Christ] to bear his fruit through us. [O]ur calling is . . . to exhibit God and his character, by his grace, in this generation . . . in the whole spectrum of life and in the whole culture." Now, man's fall into sin affects the whole of human life, namely, first and foremost, man's relationship to God, and from there, his relationship to himself, to other men, to nature, indeed to every aspect of human life. The finished work of Jesus Christ should bring "substantial healing" to each of these areas of life: "healing which will be perfect in every aspect when Christ comes again in history in the future."

I cannot in this context do justice to the rich description and analysis Schaeffer offers of the separations in human existence brought about by sin. There are, however, a few of these about which I must say something. For example, man is separated from God and hence from himself because of a guilty conscience. Through the Holy Spirit's indwelling in man, his heart is renewed and transformed so as to love and obey God, but man still struggles with the frailty and weakness of human nature, and hence sin reenters his life. Says Schaeffer, "Now just as in the conscious area of sanctification as a whole, so here in restoration: everything rests upon the reality of the fact that the blood of Christ has meaning in our present life, and restoration takes place as we, in faith, act upon that fact in specific cases of sin." Thus, in Christ, who continues to call us to conversion, we are freed, in his mercy, from the true moral guilt of sin before a holy God.

Schaeffer contends that the whole of human nature is wounded by original sin and needs to be redeemed, made holy, sanctified. We have therefore another example of a separation that flows from man's revolt against God, namely, the knowing powers of human reason, which Schaeffer thinks, like Aquinas, suffers the wound of ignorance and is deprived of its direction toward truth. This fallen state leaves the proper ordering of our intellectual powers to the truth in a precarious, confused, and disordered state. True spirituality therefore frees the mind of the human person from its vanity, which is a darkened understanding, leading the person to turn away from the truth about God, the world, and ourselves. St. Paul writes, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. That you put on the new man, created to be like God in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:23-24). "This is not just an emotional holiness but holiness in relationship to [objective] content," adds Schaeffer, "holiness in relationship to thought and a set of things that can be stated as true, in contrast to that which is false. What is being dealt with here is the problem of internal ignorance in the sense of rebellion, turning from those things that are truth." Schaeffer's gloss on these verses is consistent with his emphasis that "The battle for man is centrally in the world of thought . . . [that is] either his believing God on the basis of the content of the gospel or his calling God a liar."

This last point brings me to the conclusion of my reflections on Schaeffer's legacy. A consistent theme throughout Schaeffer's writings is the claim that "biblical Christianity has an adequate and reasonable explanation for the source and meaning of human personality. Its source is sufficient-the personal God on the high order of Trinity." "Without such a source," adds Schaeffer, "men are left with personality coming from the impersonal (plus time, plus chance)." In arguing this point, Schaeffer stood firmly against the claim that Christianity and reason were permanently opposed to each other, that is, that the truth claims of Christianity had been overtaken by the progress of human reason. In this context, he especially criticized the claims of the naturalist-nature is all there is, there is no God, and man is just a part of nature-whose view of reality reflects a materialist understanding of man in which he is merely the chance product of matter in motion. In short, man lives in an impersonal universe, according to the materialist.

Schaeffer presents the materialist with the following disjunctive syllogism: "Either there is a personal beginning to everything, or one has what the impersonal throws up by chance out of the time sequence." The question is whether reality, especially human beings, finds its origin in the impersonal, plus time, plus chance? If so, doesn't that mean that "then those things that make him man-hope of purpose and significance, love, motions of morality and rationality, beauty and verbal communication-are ultimately unfulfillable and are thus meaningless, [i.e., irrational] [?]" Schaeffer thinks so-that is, he thinks this conclusion is logically inescapable, namely, "you cannot find any deeper despair than this for a sensitive person. This [materialism] is not an optimistic, happy, reasonable or brilliant answer. It is darkness and death." This conclusion leaves man with the practical fear of the impersonal (the universe is ultimately silent), of nonbeing (of not knowing who I am and whether I have a valid, meaningful existence), and of death (with our hope being only in this life, it is doubtful whether life has any objective meaning or purpose at all).

In contrast, the Christian affirms the truth that there is a personal beginning to everything-the personal-infinite God who is there. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger recently wrote, "The principle that represents the fundamental conviction of Christian faith and of its philosophy remains true: 'In principio erat Verbum'-at the beginning of all things stands the creative power of reason. Now as then, Christian faith represents the choice in favor of the priority of reason and of rationality . . . Even today, by reason of its choosing to assert the primacy of reason, Christianity remains 'enlightened', and I think," adds Ratzinger, "that any enlightenment that cancels this choice [see disjunctive syllogism above] must, contrary to all appearances, mean, not an evolution, but an involution, a shrinking, of enlightenment."

Schaeffer thought he had found the Achilles heal of materialism-Cardinal Ratzinger agrees, and so do I. He was persuaded that, not only did the serious Christian have nothing to fear intellectually from materialistic critics, but also that the Christian answer to the source and meaning of human personality "should make us overwhelmingly excited." "But more than this," Schaeffer adds, "we are returned to a personal relationship with the God who is there." Thus, he writes in a paragraph that summarize his most basic convictions: "If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong [with our thinking]. We are surrounded by a generation that can find 'no one home' in the universe. If anything marks our generation, it is this. In contrast to this, as a Christian I know who I am; and I know the personal God who is there. I speak, and he hears. I am not surrounded by mere mass, or only energy particles, but he is there [and he is not silent]. And if I have accepted Christ as my Savior, then though it will not be perfect in this life, yet moment-by-moment, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, this person-to person relationship with the God who is there can have reality to me."

This is the fundamental truth of Christian faith. I learned it from Francis Schaeffer almost thirty-five years ago, and that is his very precious legacy to me.

[Dr. Eduardo J. Echeverria is a professor at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. Originally published by Break Point (April-May 2005). Reprinted by permission of the author.]

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