Archives for posts with tag: Authority

Third Great Crisis in the Universal Church

The longest crisis in the Church of Antiquity, Arianism, began soon after the last and worst Roman persecution, under Diocletian. Its nature was dogmatic, hence a crisis of faith. Arianism advanced a change in the profession of faith (Credo) over a seemingly intellectual and semantic point, unimportant at first sight, but which was in fact the very foundation of all revealed dogma: the double nature of Jesus Christ, divine and human. The main task of the first ecumenical councils was then to establish Christological dogmas on solid bases, including the dogmatic proclamations about the Blessed Virgin, which also aim to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.

The Arian heresy, being a fundamental one, will still be felt strongly, although with more subtlety, all along the other two great crises.

The second great crisis is the Protestant Reformation. It was not mainly a dogmatic or intellectual crisis, but above all a crisis of authority. The object was to elevate the conscience, the personal will, against the legitimate authority of the Church. Various other heresies were added, but mostly to justify the revolt, and the Protestant individualism, especially the individual interpretation of Scripture, was the main culprit in the crisis and the tens of thousands of divisions that followed.

The nature of the present crisis is one of morals. The problem was already present in Protestantism, but the Reformers themselves and every sensible person saw from the first generation that the depravity consequent to the individualistic outlook in religion was threatening the whole society. The civil powers and the seriously religious people actively fought this tendency and were able to generally maintain the Western Christian moral standards, thus avoiding chaos. But the imbalance remained pervasive.

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Living Tradition

Catechism

To a Protestant who was under the impression that we Catholics consider the Catechism as more authoritative than the Bible, I pointed out that the Catechism has the authority the Church’s Magisterium lends to it. The Bible alike is authoritative only because the Catholic Tradition and Magisterium guarantee it is a faithful and inspired report of Revelation*. The Catechism is, in a systematic and technical way, a faithful report of all the important teachings of the living Tradition. Each phrase, and almost each word in it, like any other authoritative document of the Church, has many bearings in the Tradition and the Bible, as can be checked in the numerous references.

Bible

Most Protestants, it seems, practically equate the Word of God with the Bible, as if the divine Revelation was only present to us in Scripture. But it is not so: the Word of God is a real living bodily** Person, who promised to stay with us through a living organism that he entrusted with his Revelation.

The Bible is not historically prior to Tradition, nor has doctrinal precedence on it; the Old Testament was produced by the Jewish Tradition, the New Testament by the Catholic Church Tradition. As the Bible is all about Christ, His Bride the Church inherited the Jewish Tradition and the Jewish Bible from Him. Then the Old Testament, Torah and Prophets as well as the Greek books, is hers, too.

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Arianism and Rebellion

Posted on John C. Wright’s blog:

November 14, 2013
Arius and his followers denied that Jesus was fully God by nature (homoousios) and added a superfluous iota (homoiousios) to the theological term to make him a divinized man, thus a lesser “god” than the Father Almighty.

November 15, 2013
Affirming that Christ is not God by nature leads immediately to denying him God’s authority and power for a host of things. Another logical and immediate consequence is the loss of reverence and obedience to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, whose authority is automatically suspicious if her founder is not God. A third most important consequence is that the Eucharist and other sacraments are then deemed to be human inventions and not the only means to receive God’s grace (the Church teaches that everybody who is saved, including non-Christians, is saved through actual or desired baptism, that is, through the Church, the Body of Christ). Every heresy, false religion or schism, as every grave sin, is basically a refusal of God’s authority over one’s conscience. For Christians, it is also the denial of the Church’s authority to assess what comes from God or not, and to distribute God’s gifts as instructed. Some consequences take time to become manifest; for example, the Arians would not think, in the 4th Century, to abrogate the Eucharist, but Luther did a thousand years later.

I agree entirely with Mr. Wright that the territories plagued for three centuries with Arianism were easy prey for the barbarians.

[See also the preceding comment by John C. Wright on various errors and heresies and his answer to Stephen J. on the same question of Arianism.]

Leftism and Sturm und Drang

Posted on Bruce G. Charlton’s blog [Leftism as rebellion against reality]:

November 15, 2013
This is very perceptive and well said: rebellion against reality can never win, but will never cease.

Maritain pointed out interesting things on the subject in his essay on Luther. He said that the Reformer was in fact the precursor of the Romantic movement [Sturm und Drang] in opposing his subjectivity, his self, to God and the entire Church. His phrase “Tell them Dr Luther will have it so” is a proud refusal to accept anything from “the other” that would not fit his views. Luther is the type of charismatic “hero” whose heroism consists in being a (preferably young and genius) rebel against all authority, and doing the contrary of real heroic deeds.

It appears that the layer added by political correctness to the inversion of values was previously taught to modern people by the Romantic movement. All this ultimately boils down to the original sin: I am god unto myself and owe nothing to anyone, particularly to God – hence the propensity to gradually negate God’s authority, then his existence. The philosophically inclined usually call that enlightenment.

Emotion over Truth

John C. Wright wrote the following in his essay Parable of the arbiters (July 13, 2012 scifiwright.com):
“The claim of the Protestant type would take us to the arbitration of the intellect. Oddly enough, Reformers are sometimes criticized (at least in Catholic circles) for their emphasis (we call it overemphasis) on the spontaneous and emotional and passionate nature of their communion with God.
I reject these criticisms as being a misunderstanding of the Protestant mind.”
[…]
“All Protestants, even those who reject Puritanism, have a strong inclination toward the ideal of pure worship, a simplicity and purity of rite.”
[…]
“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”

(Science-fiction writer, philosopher, lawyer and technical writer, John C. Wright was raised Lutheran but he was an atheist most of his life; he converted to Catholicism around 2004.)

My comments (inspired mainly by Maritain’s essay on Luther in Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau and Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio):

These criticisms are perfectly valid, but I grant you emotionalism is an important consequence of the real cause.

“Strong inclination”, “ideal”, “simplicity”, “purity”: if all those words do not connote moral or aesthetic emotion, I don’t know what they are for. Not that they are unjustified, far from it, because love for beautiful ideals, simplicity and purity and all good things is our motivation to be and do good.

“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”
Our two superior faculties are not intellect and sensibility, they are intellect and will, the coupling of which in the liberty of TRUTH being the image of God in us. Thus the opposite of intellectualism is not emotionalism, it is voluntarism. Of course, decisions of the will are often expressed emotionally, hence we may tend to conflate the consequences and the cause.

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