January 16, 2003

Interesting post from Minute Particulars. Read the whole thing, but if not read this:
The "credibility of others" is woven so tightly within the human act of faith that practically speaking it's inextricable from any notion of faith in God alone. Our faith is in God alone, but the manner in which we become disposed to such an assent very much involves the dynamic of believing in the testimony of other human beings so that we can, as Pieper puts it, "participate in the knowledge of a knower."

Here's where the shoe pinches a bit for me in the issue of how we might respond to those who have "lost faith" because of the actions of others. Of course faith has God as its object. And indeed faith is ultimately a gift. And yes our genuine assent requires the grace of the Holy Spirit. But all of this is sort of highlighting the end of a very long and nuanced theological argument. It's a response to a denial that God is the Source and End of all that is, was, or will be, including the assent of faith in each of us when it occurs; but I'm not sure it's a response to the despair many find themselves in when they are betrayed by priests and bishops.

I think, deep down, everyone wants to be a saint since that's what we were created for. The restlessness that St. Augustine wrote about is a restlessness for sanctity because sanctity is a greater oneness with God. But we want to be saints without the work, or, if work is necessary, then it be done with the surety that the goal (sanctity) will be achieved. Thus when my mother says that in the 1950s Catholics were not any holier than Protestants, she was also saying, "not eating meat on Friday and making every go to Mass on Sunday or they will go to hell" did not work, i.e. did not make them saintly. This is sort of what Nietsche said when he said, "if Christians are redeemed, why don't they look redeemed?".

Similarly, if priests, bishops, and monks are not any holier than the average Joe (despite their access to the sacraments and the arduous journey that includes celibacy requirements and extensive biblical/spiritual learning), then some wash their hands of it because they see that the arduousness of the journey does not even guarantee the destination - holiness. But ...as St. Peter bluntly said, "Oh Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life." It is folly to ignore the paths the saints since you cannot get there without those steps, even if there is no guarantee you will arrive if you do take them.

A Paradox from Minute Particulars:
In theory God can reveal Himself to anyone without our efforts to evangelize. But a corollary to this would seem to be that in theory we can't come between God and another human being. I think these both have to be true lest we distort Creator and creature or limit the power of God. Yet, and I admit this is a strange thing to say, we can't live as if these theoretical notions are true. If we do I think we commit the sin of presumption. We can't presume that God doesn't require our efforts to spread the Good News, even though somehow we know that He doesn't. And we can't presume that our sinfulness won't affect another human being's ability to know God, even though somehow we know that nothing we do could ever finally hinder God.

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