January 19, 2009

Journalists and Scientists and the Search for Truth

I was watching a tape of William F. Buckley interviewing Malcolm Muggeridge and was taken aback by a comment from MM regarding the path to faith and how he felt it was easier for journalists to come to God: because they see the pure fantasy of everything and so begin to long for the Real.

And yet we've seen the tendency of faith in Christ, and trust in the Word and Church, to wither in society at the same time we've seen our faith in institutions wither. Coincidence?

Since a very high percentage of journalists do not believe in God, or at least are unchurched, it seems a bit of an anecdotal deduction from Muggeridge. It even seems to have the opposite effect. Journalists are often left with less respect for the human, seeing mostly only our seamy side, and perhaps it carries over to the divine. (Don't we routinely, though wrongly, judge the Divine by the human? How many are no longer Catholic because of a priest or nun who treated them wrong, or because of their reading of the Inquisition, Crusdades or treatment of Galileo? How many don't love God as father because they can't imagine love coming from a father since their father's didn't love them?)

Journalists see just how much clay composes the feet of our leaders. Rather than yearning for something greater than the merely human, do they anthropomorphically apply that jadededness to God? Does it make them more egalitarian and distasteful of hierarchy? What is the relationship between awe of the people in authority and awe of God, the ultimate Authority? Is it "good practice" for people to feel awe for presidents, popes and prime ministers in preparation for a much greater form of reverence for God? Or does finding the flaws of the former actually better lead one to God?

Perhaps it's one of the flattening quality of democratic life that we lose the ability to make distinctions. On the distinctions of awe we read:
Latria is sacrificial in character, and may be offered only to God. Catholics offer other degrees of reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Saints; these non-sacrificial types of reverence are called Hyperdulia and Dulia, respectively. Hyperdulia is essentially a heightened degree of dulia provided only to the Blessed Virgin. This distinction, written about as early as Augustine of Hippo and St Jerome, was detailed more explicitly by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, A.D. 1270, II II, 84, 1:
"Reverence is due to God on account of His Excellence, which is communicated to certain creatures not in equal measure, but according to a measure of proportion; and so the reverence which we pay to God, and which belongs to latria, differs from the reverence which we pay to certain excellent creatures; this belongs to dulia, and we shall speak of it further on (II II 103 3)";
in this next article St. Thomas Aquinas writes:
"Wherefore dulia, which pays due service to a human lord, is a distinct virtue from latria, which pays due service to the Lordship of God. It is, moreover, a species of observance, because by observance we honor all those who excel in dignity, while dulia properly speaking is the reverence of servants for their master, dulia being the Greek for servitude."
From St. Thomas it is apparent that a clear distinction exists among latria and forms of dulia within Catholic theology.
Buckley asked Muggeridge why it is, if indeed a search for truth is the criterion for finding God, that something like 90% of all scientists profess no belief? And Muggeridge answered that the best ones do, like Einstein and others who are on the leading edge and realize how pitiful their knowledge is.

Fortunately, there are surely as many paths to God as there are people. If we are no longer captivated by the excellence of our modern-day statemen or artists (we should be our recent popes, imo) Philip Yancey writes in the latest First Things about how it was beauties outside of man that led him to God:
When I look back on my own conversion, I cannot credit a gospel tract or an altar call or an exposition of John 3:16. I had encountered these things many times over in childhood and had learned to mistrust them. Rather, nature, classical music, and romantic love formed the channel of grace that awakened my senses to perception of God. Through that channel I came to believe first in a good world and then in a good God. It is a terrible thing to have no one to thank, to feel awe and have no one to worship. Gradually, prompted by beauty and art, I returned to the cast-off faith of my childhood...Modern humanity does not perceive the world as worth God's dying for. We Christians must demonstrate it.

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


A friend of mine who was once the editor of a local newspaper said he believed in the authenticity of the Gospels (though not necessarily in Jesus Himself) because of the very contradictions which makes others find them suspect. While working for the newspaper, he learned that eye witness accounts, even the freshest, most vivid ones, will contradict each other.

He said if the Gospels had been entirely in harmony with each other, he'd be the first to denounce them as made up or doctored.