Here are two fine thinkers to consider on the false secular religious cults today- Michael Brendan Dougherty and Douglas Murray.
Here are two fine thinkers to consider on the false secular religious cults today- Michael Brendan Dougherty and Douglas Murray.
This man understands that the self-rigtheous virtue signalling on issues of faux- diversity, is not Christian but an heretical take on the Christian message.
He could be more forceful in his denunciation of racism and align himself less with the Austrian School economically but is a brilliant scholar.
Here, we have a man who was brought up Jewish but who is more thorougly Christian in some ways than many Christians out there. These forms of pretend-Christian ‘social justice’ and the genuine thing are different in an ultimate way. Gottfried gets it!
Fr Raymond Collins’ book, Accompanied by a Believing Wife, is very impressively clarifying and highlights superlatively once again how important rigorous scholarship is along the Christian Way.
Thank God for those who lay the ground work for deeper insight by way of academic devotion. This helps us Incarnate the scripture in Synergy.
His work is a fine alternative to literalist readings of texts without proper context. These often trite ‘readings’ which make big claims about the Gospel saunter brazenly with the air of orthodoxy but amount to no more than perilous community-compounded mistakes.
We can all breathe easier when the stuffy air of pompous proof-texting has been filtered by the scholarship suitable for Incanate synergy and lives, lived in Truth.
”The church always arrives on the scene a little breathless and a little late.”
Bernard Lonergan, Quotes for the Journey, Wisdom for the Way
Here’s a fine article by Eastern Christian Ric Ballard, complete with some wonderful, necessary quotes, on the place of the Eastern Catholic Churches. More Orthodox=More Catholic. More Catholic=More Orthodox. https://easterncatholicspiritualrenewal.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/when-christianity-died.html
”The whole teaching of the Latin Fathers may be found in the East, just as the whole teaching of the Greek Fathers may be found in the West. Rome has given St. Jerome to Palestine. The East has given Cassian to the West and holds in special veneration that Roman of the Romans, Pope Gregory the Great. St. Basil would have acknowledged St. Benedict of Nursia as his brother and heir. St. Macrina would have found her sister in St Scholastica. St. Alexis the “man of God,” “the poor man under the stairs,” has been succeeded by the wandering beggar, St. Benedict Labre. St. Nicolas would have felt as very near to him the burning charity of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Vincent de Paul. St. Seraphim of Sarov would have seen the desert blooming under Father Charles de Foucauld’s feet, and would have called St. Thérèse of Lisieux “my joy.” (Fr Lev Gillet)
”If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we cannot do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other. But if we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political, and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.” (Thomas Merton)
A treasure trove for Orthodox Catholics, from DeVille.
Fr Charles A Gallagher and Mary Rousseau have written a book between them which is at times a spiritual classic. It plays on the passion of marital love beautifully and there’s a real sense that they’ve listened carefully to the symphony of sexual experience.
At other times though it is unfortunately wishy-washy and could have really done with more careful scholarship, backing up some of the more extravagant claims. I appreciate them drawing on personal experiences and they’re often hitting the mark or coming close, that’s all well and good; yet it feels something of a lost opportunity.
Overall though, this is an excellent endeavour and useful at the very least as a prologmena to a fuller Theology of Marriage and Human Sexuality. Importantly, it is giving a truly ‘sacramental’ account and highlighting a genuine Marital spirituality in more incarnate detail than many of us are used to. In many ways, they appreciate the gift of the vocation of Marriage and treat it with commensurate seriousness. With certain Eastern Christian correctives, such as acknowledging that the Marital state is eternal, this has a sweetly profound message.
Indeed, Sex is Holy is tantalising in many places. The ins and outs of Married life are explored without the usual rigorous twisted contortions, which try and make sex ‘licit’ at best. This work then, clears some of the dust off a genuine path to Holiness.
The authors don’t just celebrate ‘natural’ sex either, whatever that might mean and which would be a mistake in many cases. Instead, they do offer a pretty solid Theological reading of the purposes and place of Mariage and sexuality.
Although they powerfully place sex front and centre, I don’t think they are correct in some of the particular details. For example, in the idea that sex, almost in and of itself, ‘makes a marriage’. Whilst this is in line with a common Roman Catholic teaching, I don’t find that to be correct.
People who never consummate a Marriage sexually would still be considered Married in many Eastern Churches, unless I’m mistaken and I think there’s something right about that. As a general rule though and bulwark againt a marriage of ‘friendship’, their point is most welcome!
Marriage is indeed a qualitatively different relationship from friendship and they do well to point that out. Generally, sex is an integral part of the overall synergy of a good Marriage, blessed by the Church and with God’s Grace can transfigure our love.
My position would see the church marrying the pair and this sexual element, as well as others, each coming in their right place to ‘seal a marriage’. This ‘sealing’ is not something automatic and it is incongruent for Catholics and Orthodox, even moreso than others, to make arguments comparable to a ‘once saved, always saved’ soteriology. Lest we forget- neither the liturgy or sex in some isolated form are magic. These appear to be different emphases, pointing to important truths about this Holy way of Marriage.
Another point I’d like to make, just because we talk about the ‘eschatology’ of something doesn’t mean we’re treating it with it’s proper Incarnational significance. You’ll know, if you follow this blog, how much of an impact Fr Schmemann has had on me, but we should not hero worhip and David Brown has criticised him for not treating creation seriously enough in spite of the noble rhetoric he uses. Careful discernment is always important and a sense of history, vital.
You will notice that I tend to focus on Marriage more and I think it’s probably more helpful in context. The word ‘sex’ wll capture all the attention of course with a work like this and it’s a bit overwrought in how they apply it so broadly, I think. The juxtaposition with ‘Passion’ helps however and that word takes on new power when we look at the work of Fr John Behr, Jamie Moran and others. It could help us in seeing the beautiful truth of Marriage in Christ, going beyond the passions and sin and death to new life in Him.
Therefore, if we may read this book charitably, back it up with Scripture and more academic efforts, as well as our own intuitions and experiences, then we can reap much reward from it.
They’ve shown how Marriage and Sex are loving and passionate; indeed stronger than death and we just need to correct some misunderstandings of some Biblical passages to fully harness the power of work like this.
”Returning to the question of Paul’s place in the history of Christian asceticism, we see that a significant gulf separates him from patristic thought.
Paul’s conception of marriage and celibacy was shaped by a worldview steeped in traditional Greek ideals for life in the city-state. Rather than commanding a place at the start of the Christian ascetic tradition, Paul is one of the last participants in a marriage discussion whose antecedents reach as far back as the pre-Socratics.
Fully within the parameters of that discussion, Paul assesses the value of marriage and celibacy with regard to prevailing circumstances. For him it is not a matter of choosing a lower or higher standard of morality, but of forestalling important decisions in life on the basis of expediency.
For later Christians, however, the focus would shift to a dualistic understanding of the world, cleaving the individual into body and soul, and demanding a choice between sexuality and spirituality. This difference between Paul and the patristic authors is real and cannot be explained away either by such theories as we examined in chapter 1 or by the insistence of the Fathers themselves that their positions derive from the apostle’s writings.
While the Fathers often appear to speak the same language as Paul, their conceptual world is so different that even the words “sin,” “holiness,” “marriage,” and “fornication” take on theological implications quite beyond anything Paul imagined.”
-Will Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7, 2nd Edition
“Although we should affirm the wonder and mystery of sexual intimacy and romantic attraction as God’s good creations, we need to set these aesthetic enjoyments within the context of the Christian virtues of fidelity, self-sacrifice, and patience in suffering.
Bringing this together, our pastoral approach should be double-edged, seeking to challenge our culture’s worship of sexual desire and personal fulfillment while offering a different vision of human flourishing. Christian formative involves both RESISTANCE and REDIRECTION. But is is the redirection of our desires that enables our resistance of cultural idolatries. Failure to attend to the dynamics of our desires leads to inevitable self-deception regarding the ‘freedom’ of our actions. Especially within our sexual lives, our hearts must be truly captivated by the goodness of the Christian vision of life, so that our whole self is drawn toward it, or our commitment to live in tune with it will be brittle.”
― Jonathan Grant,
“when we try to address discipleship through ideas and beliefs alone, “it’s as if the church is pouring water on our head to put out a fire in our heart.”
― Jonathan Grant,
Below are a number of Eastern Christians, or Christians knowledgeable about Eastern Christianity; and resources that can deepen the Catholic faith. The more Orthodox the church becomes, the more Catholic it becomes and vice versa.
Dr VC Samuel
Fr Tom Loya
Fr Georges Florovsky
St Maria Skobtsova
Deacon Stephen Muse
Fr John Chryssavgis
Fr Eugen Pentiuc
St Gregory Palamas
Fr Andrew Stephen Damick
Robert Taft SJ
Steven Christofourou and Christian Gonzalez
Frs Paul McPartlan and John Zizioulas
David Bentley Hart
Fr Aidan Kimel
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
Rediscovering the message…
”…I have singled out key moments of engagement from the earlier history of the Christian tradition. The ancient Greek understanding of beautiful bodies as graced by the divine was renewed at the Renaissance, just as the potentiality of sexuality as a religious metaphor was rediscovered in Baroque art. Indeed, I want to suggest that there is a desperate need for sexuality to be freed from the rather narrow range of associations it has come to acquire in the modern world. For much of human history it functioned as an important religious metaphor that spoke of the fruitfulness of relationships with the divine in intimate generosity and giving, and it could do so again. Christian Baroque art is unintelligible without such presuppositions, and in my view speaks all the more powerfully as a result.”
David Brown, God and Grace of Body 14-15
Dedicated to Grace.
“The political left, which has long embraced identity politics, encourages racial and ethnic loyalty. It is manifest in liberal support for multiculturalism, hate-crime laws, racially gerrymandered voting districts, affirmative-action quotas, and other policies. “Stick together, black people,” says popular black radio host Tom Joyner, an Obama booster.”
― Jason L. Riley, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed
James KA Smith’s work is really wonderful in broad strokes and the basic thesis is a powerful one. There are many materially worthwhile lessons and a suitable respect for the goodness of creation in his ‘romantic Theology’.
Taking his cue predominantly from Fr Schmemann and Charles Taylor, he rejects the ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ distinction, showing perceptively that we are indeed what we love.
Some of the examples- consumer habits, the university, etc are excellent. However, it all seems too one-sided in particulars or to be operating on a two-poled spectrum rather than taking a more nuanced Ecclesiastes, Wisdom approach; seeing fragments, as David Tracy talks about- both dark and light.
Smith rightly realises that everything is meant to be informed by the churches liturgy and his Theology of Creation- the Eucharist as the penultimate supper– is magnificent. There is an opportunity for Mission hinted at brilliantly but not suitably developed.
Pointing out the secular liturgies is well and good but he doesn’t show how they might be recapitulated sufficiently and to what part of the heart each speaks, with precision. Sure, he proclaims prophetically that we are culture-makers and that this is Eschatological! In the Kingdom, these synergistic co-created realities will be redeemed. Tis is so important and most welcome! Like his brilliant friend, Norman Wirzba, he sees that food, culture, agriculture, and a diverse array of supposedly ‘secular’ facets are indeed to be Transfigured in the Kingdom; yet sometimes their anthropologies don’t do this Proclamation justice. There is a real, vital, need for discernment to separate the wheat from the chaff and in the particulars he misses the mark. It is here, at times, that his work starts to falter.
It’s relatively easy at this time and in his country to critique consumerism, for example, and militarism but there are much more subtle corrupting liturgies which need alluded to. Many of the well-intentioned (anti) Christian kinds that depersonalise and disincarnate the Gospel by trying to ‘institutionalise’ them pass him by. I mean the kind Ivan Illich pointed to in The Corruption of Christianity. Smith and many of his, more ‘liberal’ and supposedly ‘radical’ compatriots are blind to the shadow-side of many of these sacred cows- ‘open borders’, ‘social justice’ and other high-sounding but potentially and commonly pernicious terms which treat people more as ‘individuals’ and focus on ‘rights’ without responsibilities, respect for communal elements or an appreciation of the common good.
As O’Donovan says ”the common good includes maintaining the ability for a community to pass on its values to future generations.” James KA Smith’s acknowledgement of the communal and liturgical elements of personhood lends itself to this more nuanced perspective but he has not realised it entirely.
Moreover, ”In 2001, Pope John Paul II wrote that the mercy of hospitality is to be guided by prudential judgment:
Certainly, the exercise of such a right [to migrate] is to be regulated, because practicing it indiscriminately may do harm and be detrimental to the common good of the community that receives the migrant.” * Nobody can say with a straight face that JP2 was an enemy of ‘the stranger’ and I’m not among his biggest fans but he did show that Love is Just and discerning. It is not nihilism, whereby any difference is to be flattened out.
God’s Kingdom includes many nations after all and needs to have a healthy Pentecostal diversity in Christ. Many of Smith’s suggestions even presuppose a relationship with Jesus first and at his lesser moments, he doesn’t put first things first.
I have recently been discussing this collapse of The Gospel in to one’s political views and voting ones personality. Through dialogue, I’ve come to think that rather than Saul, aka St Paul, being healed by ‘the community’ in a manner reflective of our political ‘communities’, which are often not proper communities*; Saul was healed first by a personal encounter with Christ.
Then, through Him found the proper love for the community grew. An organic community of Faith, Hope and Love, as well as a common good. A Body… Not a ‘rights-‘ based group of individuals comparable to the American context or various European contexts.
Furthermore, there are differences between refugees (especially of Mary and Jospeph’s times) and the exiles of Israel, as well as some timeless similarities. There is also a major difference between refugees and economic migrants; as well as genuine, peaceful migrants and intentional troublemakers. It’s not a simple one size fits all solution, by any means and requires loving discerment.
Perhaps Christ was pointing to this dark side of politicising the Gospel when he ‘rendered unto Caesar’, knowing in His Wisdom that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions… we should be careful about the language we use and maybe I’m wrong; perhaps words like ‘danger’ aren’t the best words for describing these well-intentioned agendas which I’m sceptical of and God forgive me if I’m wrong or if anti-Christ is too strong but Illich makes an excellent case for Passionate loving discernment!* Politicizing the Gospel to conveniently suits one’s economic/political views and proof texting to ‘prove’ it without discernment and historical/Theological context is bad confirmation bias and not humble enough.
‘Danger’ from the persecution of others, eg Martyrdom, is different from the danger of misleading others and is a call to be humbly responsible. Making a case for martyrdom in calling for ‘open borders’, etc may be a gross misinterpretation of Witness.
A Catholic Saint in the twentieth century, Saint Pope JP2, showed a more multifaceted Witness in Incarnate context- allotting love and justice their own place and time, with due discernment.
There is nuance to many of these positions; it’s not even a pole from one side to another. So, it’s not easy but it is important to caution against overly simplistic eisegesis and castigating others without solid Theological argument. Especially because there is a shadow side to The Gospel, which Illich ably demonstrates. I do not call people I disagree with anti-Christs and Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner, but I do aim to acknowledge the shadow-side of The Gospel.
Moreover, in Smith’s particular work, the importance of The Word and especially the more auditory elements of The Gospel Message are underdeveloped… Some of the symphonic qualities of Tradition, which require intense listening and attentiveness, spring to mind.
‘The conservative, authoritarian stance, then, invents a patriarchal authority as an idol designed to blot out the unknown father – and the whole process by
which we hunt him in his hiddenness, and only find him as our heart goes
through searing difficulty and changes as a result. Therefore, this stance seeks
not to find the real God, but to be declared ‘right and proper’ by idolatrous
authority. What drives this stance is not only the creation of a false father, but
also the need for justification by him.
The real divine father will not justify us in this manner. He blesses and owns
Christ at the river Jordan, but he also allows Christ to be wholly non justified,
invalidated, and disapproved, by his accusers. We should remember, it was not
the liberals who crucified Christ. They were off some place else, drinking and
carousing, or making money, or whatever the slack and lax did in those days. It
was the conservatives, the authoritarians, the kosher people who were trying so
hard to be ‘right’ in order to please ‘the patriarchal authority’, who killed Christ.
These are Christ’s most dire enemies – because they think they follow him.
When such conservative, authoritarian people are challenged by Christ’s
radical heart truth, they cannot cope with that challenge, given the unchecked
and unredeemed state of their hearts. So, they invalidate the challenger. He’s
not in with the patriarchal authority, and so the substance of what he actually
says, or does, can be dismissed, and entirely ignored, because he has no right
to speak and act as he does.
This is the game played by the accusers of Christ at his trial. The game was
played by the religious authority of the Jews who were kosher. Christ was
regarded by them as non kosher. This outraged them. How dare this man say
all that he said and do all that he did? He didn’t have the blessing of the fathers
of the past. He went beyond the fathers of the past. He selected what he
regarded the core of the past fathers and ignored the rest, making a
differentiation of wheat from chaff in the tradition: but how dare he do that? –
he was innovating, pleasing himself, rewriting religious history and scorning
religious tradition! He was an anarchist with no respect for religious authority!
That his words and deeds had existential ‘heart validity’ was of no interest to
Christ’s accusers. He was insisting on standing on his own turf, and they were
insisting he must stand on their turf. By refusing this, it no longer mattered what
heart actually dwelled in his words and in his deeds. He had no right to speak
or act, except on their turf, the turf of tradition and authority. Just by insisting on
standing on religious turf in a different way, he must be wrong, bad, deluded.
Non-kosher: not capable of being valid.
Christ has rejected this ‘rightness’; he calls it ‘self-righteousness.’ In extremis, it
leads to what St Isaac of Syria called ‘the derangement of zeal.’ He did not
mean that very different zeal, or fervour, of a heart on fire because it is being
burnt in God’s furnace to ashes, but the zealotry and fanaticism that declares
existence a simplistic matter of right and wrong. Whilst there is a difference
between the ‘two hearts’ in all of us, a heart of flesh and a heart of stone, and thus a difference in which heart we pursue, the genuine righteousness has
nothing to do with the self-righteousness of the conservative, authoritarian
stance. In self-righteousness, we prove our standing and prove we are worthy,
by virtue of there being an external standard by which to measure ourself. But
this external standard is, however moral it pretends to be, a humanly
constructed idol, and is not the aim to which God binds the heart seeking him.
The real truth of heart, real integrity, needs a much more subtle, and interior,
yardstick to ‘read’ the heart’s stand and deed, its deep motive and inward
And the real divine father addresses, engages, and blesses, only that subtle,
inward place so hard to discern, and refuses all external proof. Christ is allowed
to be publicly disinherited, shorn of all support of tradition and denied all mantle
of authority. He is shamed and humiliated, and neither his father, nor he, lifts a
hand to insist on his external rightness. St Peter followed him in this when he
was crucified upside down, but St Paul could not go so far; he insisted on a
degree of proving his credentials, proving his validity, at his trial. But then Paul
is the nous man, and Peter the heart man. Paul could see the heart; Peter
could act from the heart, in all its tragedy and glory. Paul may be the nous of
the church, but Peter is the rock of the church’s heart. His entire life was
making mistake after mistake, yet as soon as he had been foolish or deceived
in heart, acknowledging it and using that ‘wrongness’ to go deeper. By making
errors, even by the ultimate betrayal, he found heart truth. In the end he knew
from his own effort and mourning ‘where Christ was coming from’ in the heart.
He rejected the judgement of the mind for the knowing and seeing of truth in
The conclusion is clear. No one who seeks rightness or validation can walk the
way of heart. You can only make yourself ‘right with God’ using the mind: the
intellectual mind that polices behaviour but cannot gaze into the heart to
perceive its impulse.
The search for truth in the heart is different. It is this search that Christ’s whole
Jamie Moran, The Wound of Existence pgs 127-128