Archives for posts with tag: Conversion

Naturalism and the 666

I recently had to search and add some instruction to the little I knew about the book of Revelation, thanks to a Protestant who was trying to convert me. I thanked him by trying to convert him in my turn. When the subject of Apocalypse arose, I shared my personal theory about the 666. Unfortunately, I checked it only after our conversation, and it proved a complete anachronism. I feel fairly ridiculous about this, now that I have learned a much better, and real Catholic, interpretation.

My enlightenment came from Naji Mouawad, a Maronite (Lebanese rite) Catholic, interviewed by Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osODD9qeRLo). Both the guest and the host are remarkable scholars and theologians, and I learned many things in this brief overview.

Mr Mouawad’s biblical lectures, developed over 15 years, are available for purchase on his website, named “Qorbono” (https://www.qorbono.com/). He advises to respect the specific order and begin at the beginning of his 200 talks. The first group of talks, titled “Catholic Foundation” are a pre-requisite to the study of the book of Revelation.

My failed attempt at the interpretation of the 666 symbolism is proof that it is fruitless to examine a detail of the puzzle without referring again and again to the big picture – the “Catholic foundation” – to discover where and how the little piece fits. In the case, I did it the Protestant way, following my own dim light.

Naji Mouawad uses the well-known allusion to the number 666 as the numerical value of letters in the name of Caesar Neron (the count is 666 with the final “n”, without the “n” it equals 616). However, the key to the symbol is to combine the allusion to Nero with a clear biblical passage about another king, Salomon, who collected taxes in disobedience, and raised 666 talents of gold in the year.

Nero is clearly the extreme – though not exactly rare – example of the wicked ungodly ruler, while Salomon’s whole story is a serious warning that the best can fall from grace when they stop listening to God, and oppose their will to the Lord’s commandments. Both followed what the New Testament calls the spirit of the world, and what philosophy and theology call naturalism, to its logical consequences.

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I found this marvelous insight on the Church Militant in the letter Chesterton wrote to his mother the very day of his baptism (July 1922):

I have thought about you, and all that I owe to you and my father, not only in the way of affection, but of the ideals of honour and freedom and charity and all other good things you always taught me: and I am not conscious of the smallest break or difference in those ideals but only of a new and necessary way of fighting for them. I think, as Cecil did, that the fight for the family and the free citizen and everything decent must now be waged by [the] one fighting form of Christianity.

From G. K. Chesterton’s Biography by Maisie Ward
Chapter 23 on Chesterton’s conversion and baptism

Excerpts:
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Excerpted from an article by the remarkable David Warren titled:

In Defence of Hell (February 5, 2012)

http://oldcitizen.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=1381

…Many years ago, when my comfortable faith in atheism suddenly cracked, and I began realizing that the craziest claims of Christianity might be true – and that if they were, I was in big trouble – I found myself enchanted by the rhythms of the Church calendar…

…[I took] an almost sensual delight in the poetry of liturgical movements and expressions, in something telling a story, like a play. I felt a monition against neurosis, in the light of truths beginning to make sense above the level of “pure reason.”

In retrospect the Mass does its work at many levels, beginning with the most visible, for what is beautiful conducts us towards reverence, and reverence unfolds dimensionally into Love. You came for a reason, but like a winter coat, it was no longer necessary inside. You put it on again, when leaving.

My memory of those days was rekindled by a single phrase, a chapter heading, in a recent book by the Jesuit professor of government, James V. Schall. The book is rather generically entitled, The Modern Age; but the chapter, more specifically: “The Brighter Side of Hell.”

Reason cannot know its vocation, without faith; man cannot know his vocation, without God: the book makes points like these, while returning at successive angles to the extraordinary invocation in the opening of the Confessions of St Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
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Two thoughtful posts from Bruce G. Charlton :

The search for meaning and purpose (everywhere except Christianity)

For many decades I was searching for the meaning and purpose of life – and it was a serious search, involving a great deal of time, travel, effort and expense.

I was searching in many, many directions and places, in almost all places – except for Christianity.
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Because I knew all about Christianity, and I knew that the answer was not there; and therefore I resented all discussion of Christianity because it was merely wasting my precious time.

I was impatient and irritable about Christianity, because I knew all about it and I knew it was nonsense.
*
When I eventually discovered Christianity was what I had supposedly been seeking, I felt pretty silly: I was pretty silly.
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What is God?

This was THE question for Thomas Aquinas at a very early age. He devoted all his life to answer it properly and systematically. Of course, he responded also to the second question “Who is God?” but this one needs Divine Revelation to be answered.

Without Revelation, a well-formed and open human intelligence can deduce the basics of the nature of God: eternal, immaterial, immutable, almighty, pure actuality, first cause, creator, even loving. At least, one great pagan philosopher did. Aristotle wrote, for example, that God as final cause moves the world as an object of love (Met. 12.7). Beautiful, is it not?
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In a post entitled Hypocrisy and moral inversion by Bruce Charlton, John C. Wright published excerpts from Dr. Charlton’s booklet Decline of the West explained. I had already perused this booklet and found it very good. Upon second reading of these excerpts and comments from another blogger I saw how well it corresponded to a quote from John Paul II provided in my answer below (edited).

Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s blog is: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/


Hedonism, Sin and Truth

I think Dr. Charlton did a good exposition of the roots of Politically Correct behavior. Lust (hedonism, self-gratification) is the most widespread and obvious in the shallow worldview of our modern barbarians, and it usually goes hand in hand with power-seeking (pride) and greed. I would say lust is the more saintly of their reversed virtues: it does not even need to be disguised like the other two as self-righteousness and revenge of the wronged victim.
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“There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands” (Chesterton)

When Chesterton wrote his book Orthodoxy (1908), he was still Protestant but, like many other Catholic converts, several years before crossing the threshold (1922) he already admired how the good doctrine (ortho doxa) was profound and coherent. He called the heresies dull, and of course they are. Catholicism’s truly divine equilibrium is so fascinating and fills the mind so overwhelmingly that every heresy is pale and utterly boring in comparison.
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The following piece is the first chapter of Father Henri de Lubac’s book The Drama of Atheist Humanism.

I found this remarkable English translation at IgnatiusInsight.com. I can certify it is outstanding, as I have the book in French and studied translation. The translator — certainly a theologian — captured and rendered wonderfully the poetic style, profound insight and exact theological, philosophical and historic views of the original, which is the work of a genius.

In this text written and published during World War II, the author presents the liberation from fate and idols and the awakening to human dignity experienced by Christian converts in Antiquity, followed by the reversal of atheist humanism. This reversal is examined in the rest of the book through considerations on the atheism of Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and Comte.


 A Tragic Misunderstanding

A wonderful piece of sculpture adorning the cathedral of Chartres represents Adam, head and shoulders barely roughed out, emerging from the earth from which he was made and being molded by the hands of God. The face of the first man reproduces the features of his modeler. This parable in stone translates for the eyes the mysterious words of Genesis: “God made man in his own image and likeness.”
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