Thursday, 30 June 2011

Reason for Faith In Christ

One thing that deeply disturbs me about the average Christian I run into is why they believe and what they believe about Christ's sacrifice. There seems to be two dominating motivators in their faith concerning the cross. Of course I'm speaking very vaguely and generally. One is the the age old concept," Fifty million screaming fans can't be wrong!" They derive the correctness and truthfulness of what they are going to have faith in from the flock's flagrant certitude. They want to belong to the flock, they want the things promised by Christ, eternal life and all that, and they know that all of that is contingent on their belief in the cross. So they believe, or very frequently say they do, and convince themselves that they do. But if I were to ask them how and why the cross works, they would say," It just does. That's what God wanted, and Christ took your place. The end." To be perfectly frank, that is possibly one of the stupidest answers that can be given and still be correct.

They want to be part of the flock. There is a difference in being analogous to sheep in that we have shepherds, and then behaving without reason, doing things simply because the rest of the flock does them... being 'sheople' if you will. That we are sheep does not mean that we are idiots; it does not mean that we act without reason, or that we have no reasons for our faith. It's this fundamental disconnect that is the reason why the faith of millions is so utterly shallow, and why millions are falling away. They have no reasons for their faith. Pure faith is for things beyond human understanding, for instance," Where did God come from?" Well, we take it on faith that He is from all eternity, but even still the philosophers and the Holy Catholic Church have explained why God cannot be temporospatially conditioned, and why he must come from all eternity. It's the "how" that requires the faith, because we have reasons for the 'why.' We know why! Now, what if you just put the 'why' in the faith box? You aren't taking responsibility for your faith; indeed, you have no real cause for faith! I'm not suggesting that such a person has no faith, only that they are alloying it with ignorance and juvenility.

I had said that there seemed to be two different motivating factors; the second one is guilt. Somewhere, someone told them that Jesus died for their sins." Well, that's nice! I can go on sinning, then!" And then they say," No, no, no. He died BECAUSE of your sins." which doesn't make the person feel very good. At that point the person who is telling the guy about Jesus takes the moral high ground and guilts a person into living a moral life and buying into this story called the bible. Then, the 'convert,' if you can even call them that, is indefinitely miserable and struggles to conform to this ideology for which he has no real reasons to believe in, and a shoddy faith. But it's ok! It will all work itself out in the end! He gave his heart to Jesus! Or did he?

The problem here with both of these is that they are born from fear. Anyone's faith may be partially derived from certain fears, the knowledge of necessities if you will, and what will happen if they aren't met. But they are also derived, primarily derived from love. Love has to be there at the beginning when something real and good is created, because love is the creative element. Pope Benedict XVI recently said," In the beginning, there was the creative word. In the beginning, the creative word --- this word that created everything and created this intelligent project called the cosmos --- is also love." That is why a man and a woman come together in love and marriage, which is the unity of love, to create; that is why children should be conceived and born in wedlock. That's why sex is reserved for married couples. True love is supposed to be there, and love does not take, and love is patient; love is most of all prudent. When we take up a faith in the cross we become a new creature, recreated.

Pope Paul VI said in April 1974's Good Friday Address," The mystery of innocent suffering is one of the most obscure points on the entire horizon of human wisdom; and here (Christ with Pilate before the Jews) it is affirmed in the most flagrant way. But before we uncover something of this problem, there already grows up in us an unrestrained affection for the innocent one who suffers, for Jesus, and for all innocent people -whether they be young or old-who are also suffering, and whose pain we cannot explain. The way of the cross leads us to meet the first person in a sorrowful procession of innocent people who suffer. And this first blameless and suffering person uncovers for us in the end the secret of his passion. It is a sacrifice."

The holy father, Pope Paul VI, was addressing what is called theodicy, the problem of evil. Someone asked the philosopher Diogenes 2,300 years ago whether or not God existed, and Diogenes replied," Oh, I don't know if he exists... but he should." Think about that for a moment," I don't know if he exists... but he should." Why does he say that? Why would he say that? A pagan philosopher, a man who lived like a dog? Because, he saw the suffering of the innocent in the world, he the saw suffering that cannot be explained. He saw evil. He saw the wicked prosper, and escape justice. Diogenes saw what we all see, and said aloud what is whispered perpetually in every human heart, begging us to have faith," I don't know if God exists... but he should."

Christ establishes and exemplifies our notion of innocent suffering, that is, wrong suffering. When we become aware of innocent suffering we become aware of guilty suffering. We weigh ourselves against him and see what we deserve. We don't imagine hell, we don't imagine butchery is what we deserve. The first thing we imagine that we deserve is the abstract bitterness of this life. We see why things are the way they are, why we suffer; we see the cycle of our own actions. With this comes repentance for our sins. But we also see a glint of hope that our innocent suffering does not go unnoticed, and that it means something, specifically in Christ... that our individual suffering means something special to God and humanity. Then, we think of the soul and we imagine that if these things be the case with the body, they must be the case for the soul. It is then that we understand heaven and hell. It's then that we make the choice with the whole man, the whole self, body and soul, to live for Christ. It's right then that we realize the generosity, the benevolence, the munificence and beneficence of God, as St. John Chrysostom (the Golden Tongue) was fond of saying.
Those are all very fine notions and words, but how does Christ's sacrifice pay the debt? If a man could take another person's place in punishment, then it would be 'man for man.' For instance if one man was to be put to death for murder, and another took his place, would all murderers go free, thereafter? No, only the one whose place was taken. So, how then can Christ, one man, pay for the entire human race? Does that make any kind of sense at face value? No, it doesn't, and that is why the majority of Christians just pretend there is no inconsistency here, and ignore this paradox as if it didn't even exist. They ignore this glaring, most obvious problem, and because of their ignorance and laziness have no real reason for their faith. Again, I do not say that they do not have faith, only that it is alloyed with ignorance and laziness.

So, how does this paradox vindicate itself? Could they tell me? Some could, for certain; can you? Stop, and think about it, do you know 'why' it works? Do you have reasons for your faith that Christ, one man, has the ability to die for all men? Think good and long on it; you just may find what a superstitious creature you are. We must put superstitions away from ourselves. We aren't simpletons! The paradox vindicates itself in this way: Christ is the God-man. His divinity is united with our humanity and our humanity is united with his divinity. His humanity takes on the same traits of his divinity (because they are one), particularly that it is not confined to space or time; it is omnipresent and omnipotent. It is eternal. His humanity has the ability to suffer infinitely for (that is, on behalf of) a finite amount of human suffering, which is the whole sum of all human misery from the first man to the last. He has the ability to pay an infinite amount of debt. Every moment of his life, exists now and everywhere. So, Christ can and did die once and for all, for all mankind. That is how the argument vindicates itself.

We know 'why' and have reasons, but do we know 'how?' No, that is the mystery of faith which the apostles spoke of so often, that we know why but not how. It is the how that requires faith. It takes no faith to say," 1+1=2" The reasons for our faith are deductive. They are in perfect accord with each other. It takes no faith to say," This is why." That requires reason, the very thing which makes us human. That there is a 'how,' and that it is accomplished and done... this takes faith, and is divine. Sola Fide, faith alone, is a heresy. WE need faith and reason together.      

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Charismatic Renewal- What's Wrong?!

Today was the holy feast of Pentecost, and I noticed that people weren't too excited about that. That is in large part due to the arrogance of many Catholics, who seem to make the Holy Spirit the third wheel. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), however, is also to blame. In the United States of America if someone starts talking about the Holy Spirit working, all the sudden Catholics clam up and shut down; it's an instantaneous effect. They are ready to be mocked for the namesake of Jesus Christ, for His Eucharist, they are ready to profess that God is their Father. But the Holy Spirit is a danger zone, a vague amalgamation of everything mystical, unbelievable and gooey about the Christian religion... and is to be treated as quickly as possible and never more than as necessity would demand.

This is not primarily the fault of the CCR, but I will show what I mean. When people hear "Holy Spirit," most of them think," Power of God." as opposed to," God." Their concept of the Holy Spirit is contaminated by the bombastic and heretical displays of "the Holy Spirit" in Protestant communities. When a Charismatic Catholic says something like, "We want the Holy Spirit to show up!" Everyone goes," Oh, Jesus Christ! REALLY?" That's because they suddenly think of a Protestant televangelist crying profusely into a microphone, or babbling in "tongues" between points during his sweaty, loud, sales-pitch of a sermon. Or people get a mental image of someone "laying hands" on people and them being "slain in the Spirit." Or they remember some obnoxious Protestant friend, acquaintance, or family member telling them that they don't have the Holy Spirit and need to get a "real, deep, personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, and then they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Finally, perhaps, they remember some deranged Protestant, or charismatic Catholic accosting them to tell them that the Holy Spirit has a message for them, or a prophecy.  

Catholics don't like to talk about the Holy Spirit for the exact same reason that Catholics don't like to have the scripture quoted to them. Protestants have hijacked the scriptures in their mind, and now the scripture, especially the Old Testament, belongs to "the heretics." Again, Catholics aren't comfortable with these things for the same reason many people aren't comfortable with sex. They make absolutely wrong associations with sex and it becomes something that will always be a little bit dirty.

In the average Catholic mind, but especially in the average traditionalist's mind, very one is doing fine and being Catholic until the Charismatics show up. And to be perfectly frank, that's because the Charismatic crowd is aging, which makes it easy to write off their strangeness as senility and naivety, but also because they are weird! That's right. I said it! Many members of the CCR are weirdos; many don't pass for normal, not by anyone's standards. So, being a Catholic and having the CCR around is kind of like going shopping at the mall... with your mom. You're there, trying as hard as you can to look surly and jaded so that everyone thinks you're cool. Then, all of the sudden, a piercing voice cries out from across the store," Hey! Is this 'COOL???!" You look up to see your mom holding the most uncool article of clothing in the whole store, and all the blood drains out of your face, as your worst nightmare comes true... everyone knows that you're related.

But here is the thing. There are two reasons why this has happened. There are two reasons why the CCR is dying out and why it is treated in this way by the laity and the priesthood, alike. The first reason is the most natural reason, which is wantonness. Many members of the CCR want to seem special by being able to have direct experience with the divine that they can lord over each other, and their fellow Catholics. That is precisely why the CCR is viewed like a mole on the Body of Christ by most Catholics. It's because the CCR has made itself into an auxiliary to the Church, instead of making the Church charismatic. They are constantly in need of convincing parishes that they need charismatic groups. That's a hard ticket to sell, and when it comes down to it, very often the people who want those groups either don't get them, or they have to resort to pointing out the fact that it is their right, and that they have the support of the bishop. That's terribly, terribly sad.

The reason that happens is because the CCR people come together to do "charismatic stuff" and talk about "charismatic things," but they aren't giving their charisms away. Here is exactly what I mean by that: It's as if they are set on fire, and they keep coming back together so that they can have a hotter fire; that's the wantonness I was talking about. By hotter, I mean that they keep coming together primarily to have a more intense experience with the divine. However, this means that the fuel get's burnt up; the CCR movement dies and goes away, because of wantonness.

As Catholics, we know that the sacrament of marriage points to the relationship of mankind with God. It is intended to exemplify for us that blessed union we have with God, through His Holy Spirit, by the will of the Father, and the sacrifice of His Son. One of the strongest elements of marriage is sex. We engage in sex, or we should engage in sex because we love our spouse, not because we love sex. If we engage in sex with our partners because we love sex, don't we reduce them to an object? Don't we do violence to their dignity and their humanity? And if we do harm, don't we know that whoever harms is more harmed than the one who was harmed? Absolutely we know that! We know it from the scripture, from the Church, and from the philosophers. Now, if we have an immature and selfish sexuality, and love sex instead of having sex be a means of love, will we not start doing anything to obtain that gratification? Will the person no resort to masturbation or pornography, eventually?

Well, that's what is going on with the CCR. When they only come together for the "experience" of the Holy Spirit, and not because they love the mission or because they love the Holy Spirit, they are doing violence to the Holy Spirit of God. Further, they are creating deep wounds within themselves that are not easily healed. What if they obtain a few of these experiences, but then later are faced with the reality that they cannot make God act? Won't they feel rejected, and won't their faith suffer? Won't they do what all addicts do, and try to find a way to make it happen? Won't they resort to formulas to make the Holy Spirit "show up?" And won't they keep coming back to the same place to get their fix? Yeah. And who's to blame? Not the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many members of the CCR and many CCR groups are perpetually trapped in this cycle. They are engaged in a form of masturbation, and just as a sense of shame accompanies the one type, it also accompanies this type. This is another reason that CCR members often turn away from the community, and into their own created community. If they were not ashamed, they would not be turning inward, as if to take blows on their backs. This is how the CCR becomes and remains an auxiliary, instead of going out and sharing the gifts, soberly.

The second reason that the CCR gets treated so badly is that they have suffered greatly at the hands of the progressive movement. This is twofold. On the one hand, in the eyes of the Progressive agenda, the CCR is a legal catalyst for change, to bring about their own warped agenda. To their perverted outlook, the CCR is a godsend that is meant to level the playing field and make the priesthood and laity indiscernible from each other. This is a sort of "ecclesiastical Marxism." It's as if they wish to say," We can wield the Holy Spirit as good and better than the priesthood." The problem with that, of course, is that one does not 'wield' the Holy Spirit. We are wielded by Him. Another permutation of this error is that some in the CCR can tend to look at the priest a power source, a covering for their mission. The problem with this is that they are, and must be, participating in the mission of the priest. A priest does not, for instance, participate in the mission of a parish staff; rather, the parish staff exists solely to assist and facilitate the mission and vocation of the priest. The priest isn't a "spiritual battery" on loan from the diocese.

So, these things are a problem, but not nearly as bad as the one I'm about to mention. I had said that the final reason was twofold. Well, the other half of it is that false ecumenism has infiltrated the CCR. There has been a  woefully lamentable copycat culture in so much of the CCR on the individual and community level, and the people they're copying are the Protestant Evangelicals. There is nothing that the Roman Church despises more than a novelty, and that is what the CCR has largely reduced itself to: a hackneyed novelty, borrowed from those outside of the One True Church. Protestant praise and worship music is found there, raising of hands, "words of knowledge," prophesying, a disorganized and Protestant species of prayer (seeking to manipulate God into action), etc. Further, as in similar Protestant prayer groups, the leadership is top heavy with laity, and that isn't necessarily the fault of the lay persons involved. It's a problem created by the reality of the CCR's image; for a priest to get deep into the CCR, and in some cases to have anything to do with it at all, is vocational suicide. If you're priest that holds "healing Masses" or hangs out with the CCR, you're branded a freak by your confreres, they'll turn their backs on you... and so will their parishes. So, their backs are put against the wall and are forced to opt for either extremely limited 'obligatory' involvement or none at all.

There is a lurking notion amongst many charismatics that the Holy Spirit cannot work without chaos. That is a purely Protestant notion, and it's based on the idea that chaos leaves open room for the Holy Spirit to do whatever it wants to. The best way to describe this phenomenon is to call it a paradoxical formula for making the Holy Spirit "show up." That's no good, and it's un-Catholic. Our greatest revelation of the Holy Spirit is in the Mass, a very organized entity to be sure.

This copycat culture arose because they were jealous of what they thought the Protestants had, as if the Protestants have something which the Catholics don't. They have forgotten themselves, that we are the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in whom the fullness of the truth abides. That wantonness pops it's ugly head up again. There is a big, big difference between spiritual wantonness and spiritual hunger. One thing many in the CCR don't realize is that first of all, and I can speak from extensive experience, is that Protestants tend to embellish and fantasize about the activity of the Holy Spirit in their own community. If a person get's sick, Satan is attacking them! It's not because "brother so and so" ate bacon for the last 20 years and is dying, now. And if brother so and so stops eating ten pounds of bacon a month, begins exercising, and gets a new lease on life... THE HOLY SPIRIT DID IT! If their church faces closing down, it's because Satan is fighting against their community. It's not because their pastor was a dope and told everyone that their church was 501C3 status for the past five years when it wasn't, giving out tax write-off forms and the government wants its money, now.

In many ways, the CCR is envious of nothing other than the assertions of a juvenile faith, and a juvenile interpretation of phenomenon. However, to go a little further, the Holy Spirit works in an extra-ordinary fashion amongst Protestants, for the very reason that they don't have what we have. They don't have a sacramental faith like the Churches of the Apostles do. The Protestants "need" what we might call substitutes in place of the sacraments, because without them they cannot justify their faith, because there is no substance to it. That's the big disconnect. Many CCR don't realize what they are jealous for.

The CCR is rejected by most Catholics for the same reason that Catholicism is rejected by most people. Most people have a faulty understanding of Catholicism because a Catholic with a faulty view of Catholicism gave them that view, or an immature Catholic didn't know how to present reasons for their faith. Sadly, most Catholics don't seem to know what the Catholic faith is. Similarly, most people in the CCR don't seem to really know or understand what the CCR is. If the CCR has no sense of itself, it will go away, because,"... the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion."

Many in the CCR lust for the mystical and miraculous experience of the divine. But just to highlight why that is wrong, St. John of the Cross,"... considers any desire for private revelations and visions to be both unnecessary and an insult to God's providence." ( The greatest thing that the CCR can set before its eyes is the fact that they are meant to be a "renewal." They are a harkening back to times past, in the early Church when the Spirit was strong and to be seen everywhere in actions. They've only to remember how Catholicism became great.

The whole purpose of the CCR is not to create little enclaves of extraordinary involvement with the Holy Spirit, but to ignite a movement within the whole body of Christ, the society of all Christians that will heighten the level of involvement with the Holy Spirit and draw back to the true faith the lost sheep of the House of Israel, the Church, and to strengthen those who are already strong. The purpose is to not only have greater hope, but to be a visible sign of and reason for it.

Does anyone in the CCR imagine that their purpose in existing is to making it so that everyone in the Catholic Church raises their hands during worship, prophesy, speak in tongues, etc? No! That is not the purpose. Earlier, at the beginning I said that it was like the CCR was a bunch of people who were on fire, and that they preferred to burn together; that they were selfish, without meaning to be. They exist to facilitate the ministry of Christ. Recall the scripture and the words of Christ," I have come to set a fire in the earth, and how I wish that it were already blazing!" The CCR is not doing this. Sure, they wish that the world was blazing, but what are they doing about it? Praying? Worshiping? And in what manner? Is it a Catholic manner? And is this really what they are supposed to be doing?

Don't we know that it is through works that we must advance the kingdom, too, if not more so? Does the CCR avail itself to the Spirit of Charity through good works, or primarily through enthusiasm and prayer. Perhaps, it is best to hear St. Anthony of Padua on the matter, he says plainly what I hint to, namely that the CCR should be manifesting a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, manifesting the Renewal more through works. I am no one, but at least hear him, because he was a great miracle worker and the very kind of man that the CCR member wants to be," The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. ACTIONS speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found not fruit but only leaves."

He continues," We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we should request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God."

The CCR must not be a movement of lip service, seeking only to be warmed by the light, but not seeking to warm. The CCR must not be wanton; it must not forget itself and its Beloved. The CCR must not be a light that shines inward, or it is darkness; it must shine outward. The heart and purpose of the CCR is of divine origin. It must be stewarded, it must be faithful, or it will be punished. It will suffer the way the Church has with the Great Schism and the Reformation. It will suffer death. The CCR can and should look to precedent in the early Church for itself, and it should rid itself immediately of all adulterations, and copycating of what is happening amongst those deceived by heresy. These are hard words, but it is the hard truth of it, and I don't think I'm deceived in saying so, nor that I deceive anyone by saying so.

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Satan's Argument

I firmly believe that Satan's expulsion and that of 'his' angels was the direct result of an argument. By that I mean that Satan is a wayward logician, an irrational philosopher. I have often wondered what was said. Lately, I've been thinking on the question again, and I think I just might have it. Of course, this is complete assumption, but I imagine that you might agree.

I believe that Satan was in heaven the opposite of what Socrates was on earth. Socrates went about perpetually asking," What [IS] virtue?" When no one could answer, a lot of people assumed that he knew the answer to his own question, since he was so skilled at asking the question. Others hated him, because they pretended to knowledge they did not have and Socrates possessed a profound ability to reveal just how empty headed sophists are by doing nothing other than asking the right questions. Socrates did a great service to the world by his pursuit of philosophy, and made other humans better.

Satan, I think went around in similar fashion, asking," What is evil?" The answer being," Evil is nothing, but rather the lack of something." To which he would say," If evil is nothing, then nothing is evil! I can do no evil because I do not know what it is, because I cannot know nothing." Or something such to that effect. Just rough ideas. So, he may have fashioned himself into a proliferator of false enlightenment, a fake abolitionist from the chains of  "what may and may not be done." He pretended to give a greater freedom than the Creator gave when He bestowed freewill. He pretended to reveal something more dazzling than the truth itself. And who knows, perhaps Satan believed his own philosophy if only for a moment. We can be certain though that he knows his error, now, having been ejected from heaven's height. He lost the argument.

When Satan lost the argument, it's because he controverted the incontrovertible God. Christian theology agrees with Jewish theology that the angels were created on the first day, when light was created. And this belief is very interesting in itself and would take a long time to talk about, but I'm going to assume that everyone understands intuitively why this belief is held... intellect and light are predicated of each other, "angel of light"... so on. Man was finally made and when he was created God said," Let us make man in Our own image and likeness." When God did that, Satan is not far off.

Suddenly, Satan had the opportunity to take vengeance on the image of God. Satan, out of his bitterness for losing that argument, attacks mankind, on God's account. Look also at what the Serpent said to Eve," Eat, and your eyes shall be opened and you will be as God." She ate from the Tree of the "Knowledge of Good and Evil." There is something to this concept of 'knowledge of evil.' It's almost as if Satan venomously states to God in all of this," Oh I know what evil is, huh? Well, fine, so... do... they!" Satan consigns man to his same fate, through deception, calculating against man's freewill.

Anyway, obviously, we could go on forever on this subject, but I'm interested to hear what you think about these ideas. These ideas, give way to many other ideas, and well... that's exiting. 

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~