Thursday, February 21, 2008

That We Might Become God

I read this yesterday in the Catholic Catechism, and felt a little confused by it (emphasis added):

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":[] "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

Footnotes are as follows:
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.

I do not understand in what sense man might become God. This sentiment, which as far as I know is found only here in the Catechism, reminds me of the Orthodox notion of deification. I was unaware of its firm position within Catholic thought as well. My understanding is that the Orthodox position qualifies the meaning of "become God" to such an extent that I no longer see the purpose of using those words. If I mean to say that in my walk of faith, I can be blessed by the Holy Spirit to take on the very qualities of God's holiness, why not say just that? Why say, "you can become God, but of course I don't mean that in an ontological sense"? Words are delicate things, and weak minds like mine are easily confused and made afoul. Perhaps this is my own problem, and not the Church's though.

The Fatima Show

I don't know if any others pondering conversion to Catholicism were able to catch EWTN's "FATIMA: ALTAR DO MUNDO" last night, but it sure didn't do much to rope my bride into the idea of "Popeing" (it being her idea to watch). Actually, it didn't do much for me either.

Since my reaction to the images displayed on this program was largely emotional and subjective, I have few details to share. I will only say that it strains credulity to assure would-be converts that they aren't required to believe in any of the apparitions. The formality and frequency of ceremonies conducted there, especially by Pope John Paul II, e.g., in "crowning" the statue of the Our Lady of Fatima with a crown containing the bullet by which he was shot, leads me to believe that one would be far outside the mainstream to disbelieve that this was a "true" apparition or an event good for Christianity. So tell me all you like that the apparitions are 'optional' belief. I will agree with you that your statement is formally true. However, the more Catholic culture ingests these private revelations, the more they become a real part of public Catholic identity. Perhaps that last sentence should be in the past tense.

Gold Images

Tooling around the EWTN Religious Catalogue, I came across this 14KT Gold "Trinity Crucifix". I would feel like something was wrong if I were purchasing a $600 piece of gold anything to wear around my neck, but considering what my wife's engagement ring cost, perhaps I am short-sighted or hypocritical (or both).

Beyond that though, I do not like this (or any) depiction of God the Father. I believe that depictions of the Father are more modern practices than ancient. I found this Catholic website which denounces depicting the Father as an old man:
The creating of images of God the Father as an old man is to literally create a false god, another idol to worship. It falls short of reflecting upon the true nature of the Divinity of God the Father as He has been [] revealed to us through Jesus Christ and consequently through the Church that has preserved the original teachings of the Apostles.

In addition to this "Trinity Crucifix", I know I've seen an image of the Father with the Son crowning the Virgin Mary on the ceiling of the University of Notre Dame Cathedral (as seen on T.V.), and in the Basilica built at Fatima (also as seen on T.V.).

My subjective belief is that to make a solid gold image of what one imagines God the Father to look like is a foolish thing. Even if I were to accept that the wearer of this precious medal believes it to be only an image and not an idol, I think it is foolery. The Old Testament says, in my subjective interpretation, that no man can see the face of the Father and live. I would not counsel my children to ever depict the Father's face, therefore.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I wrote this on Catholicity Question's second post today, and thought enough of it to post here:

"[This follows from a conversation about whether Protestants would do well to look back to the first generation of the Church for lessons on Truth.] It strikes me that adhering to paleo-orthodoxy would be far more logically consistent for those of our stripe than is adhering to Reformed "fathers". Again, I see many problems with paleo-orthodoxy, but it still makes more sense than having Luther's or Calvin's works on your shelf next to scripture, and using [those] (effectively, even if you don't admit it) as the proper, authentic articulat[ion] of biblical systematic theology. The logical conclusion of asserting that the church fell into near-total apostasy leading up to the Reformation is, in my opinion, that the church is never trustworthy whenever viewed removed from it's primitive days. *Hence, primitivism seems more logical than fallible developmentalism.*"

I guess I like that little term that popped into my head, "fallible developmentalism" (maybe it's not even my term... who knows...). I suppose some prudent Reformational students will dog on me that I fail to understand the real essence of the Reformation. They're quite possibly right. But to my simple understanding, you either fully trust the Spirit's hand in doctrinal development, or you trust His involvement somewhat less than fully. If there is no reliable litmus test of what is "Spirit Approved", then primitivism is a safer haven.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mary And The Fathers Of The Church

Finished! I finally made it through Fr. Luigi Gambero's Mary and the Fathers of the Church.

While Fr. Gambero is easy to follow, I think I read this book in three different segments. I had to put it down for major life events like a move and law school finals, but also because at times it was deeply difficult emotionally. As a non-Catholic, I did not find the early Church evidence to compellingly point toward modern Catholic Marian expressions and teachings. But I don't think compelling me or making an argument was the author's intent; it should be insightful and edifying for a Catholic reader.

Fr. Gambero ended with John Damascene (d. ca. 750). It wasn't until he covered the later Church Fathers, and only by looking East, that clear expressions of Mary's mediation of all graces, her Assumption, and her Immaculate Conception began to emerge. But giving doctrinal development the room it requests, this late arrival is not of major moment for me.

What was difficult was the opening chapters, which described the spring of Marian developments from which the Church Fathers later drank, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James. When I read this opening, it was a time when my wife and I were a bit more caustic in our discussions about Catholicism and Orthodoxy. She thought that I was buying books only to learn arguments to support what I had already decided to do in my heart. And I wish it could have been that easy. But even in my time of eagerness, I struggled with the effect this apocryphal text later had. I learned how it "cast an undeniable spell over the Christian mentality of the first centuries" and "profoundly conditioned Christian liturgy, preaching, popular devotion, and art." From it we are told the names of Mary's parents, their sterility, Mary's premature birth, and Mary's presentment at the Temple. Many miraculous events are also described.

For one inclined to panic at the drop of a Marian needle, this was like a cherry bomb dropped into my trousers. It was just too much to handle, and I stopped reading this book further. I'm glad I've been able to get through it since, but still feel anxiety over the influence that this (largely tall) tale had on the Church.

I guess I need to reflect more on the belief that the Holy Spirit allows the Church to preserve and develop doctrines. This could ease my concerns over the use of texts that were outside the deposit of faith as major sources for later development.

However, concerns remain. Marian development strikes me as having a unique historical attribute. While there was great and often painful hedge trimming done in other areas of doctrinal development (for example, anathematizing predestinarianism and semi-Pelagianism alike), I don't think there was similar hedge trimming related to Marian excesses. I was hoping to see in this book that there had been some tension between various ancient scholars on the proper roles and attributes to ascribe to Mary. Instead, I found none. That may be the way the Holy Spirit has chosen to commend a truth. I simply note that it appears different from the development of other doctrine.

"The Catholicity Question"

The Catholicity Question is a new blog with promise:

"For the past decade, I’ve been working, worshipping, and thinking through what various people label “Reformed Catholicism,” “Protesting Catholicism,” or “High Church Calvinism.” I love this world, and have almost joined the Anglican Church on a few occasions. Eastern Orthodoxy holds quite a bit of attraction, but I can’t get over the icons and veneration of the saints. I’m too much of a Protestant to even think about joining the Roman Catholic church, though I read Roman Catholic authors without discrimination."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sports Fast

I have a nagging feeling when I become engrossed in sports.

First, my conscience feels a sense of guilt whenever I use time unproductively. That's a standing rule for me; I believe I should be able to justify how I use all of my time.

Second, my conscience feels great guilt when I become deeply emotionally wrapped up in a particular sporting outcome. So in this sense, watching a fight in which I have no "dog" may effectively be a better undertaking than watching a game in which I have deep interest.

How sorrowful when I spend an evening stressed about a sporting event's outcome, an outcome God long ago foresaw, and which has no bearing on my worth as a person, or the value of my contribution in sharing the light of Christ with the world. This is especially so when an event is on the Lord's Day. Recreational or relaxing it certainly is not (as, say, sailing or fishing may be). It contributes nothing to my feeling refreshed and energetic the next day. It does not make me a better Christ-bearer to the world. How sorrowful when I spend the remainder of an evening angry or moody about a particularly disfavorable sporting outcome. There's a much greater fight in which I'm engaged, one which does have bearing on my worth as a person and a disciple of Christ!

So I have been after distancing myself from sports. I think baseball is the only one about which I really cringe at the thought of giving it up. I do enjoy it's microcosmic life drama. I enjoy sharing in a passion my grandmother and father had for the same team.

I will continue to reflect on whether the use of my time and talents on watching, following, becoming engrossed in, and discussing sports is fulfilling my calling in life. I invite you to do the same. I should note that I think sports could be wrong for me (because of the way I emotionally react), but perfectly fit for the next Christian.