Archives for posts with tag: Faith

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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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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Intellectual atheists try to present their main premise as rational, but it is not. For example, the titles of these two best-sellers, The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, advertise clearly the lack of rational thinking in those books. Even an atheist like Terry Eagleton felt compelled to refute such a presentation of atheism. In his book Reason, Faith, and Revelation: Reflections on the God Debate, he did us the service of exposing the irrationality and naive faith in Progress of “Ditchkins,” as he humorously branded the Dawkins-Hitchens duo.

I can speak only of the impression I get from the titles, but judging by what Eagleton and others said, my impression is not false.

God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens)

This proposition is simply a contradiction in terms: if there is a God, he is necessarily great, otherwise he would be no god at all. Maybe irony was intended, but it came out rather as mockery, which is not a good predictor of sound philosophy, especially considering the accusatory tone of the rest of the title: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

The main premise of materialist atheists is that there is nothing to existence but matter and that those who admit the existence of God as creator of the world are delusional. However, the atheist premise is indemonstrable and self-refuting while the God-created world is perfectly rational in sound philosophy (from Aristotle onwards).
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I wrote the following page a few years ago to accompany GKC’s article “Philosophy for the Schoolroom” included after. It was an answer to a friend’s comment acknowledging doubt as a normal scientific attitude. As a cradle Catholic I never really saw a divide between faith and reason but it seems it has to be explained even to a pious Catholic convert. It was probably a remnant of former agnosticism or Protestant fundamentalism, or both. The philosophical comments inspired from Maritain were written more recently and reworked until now.


 Faith and reason

There is a widely spread state of mind pretending that faith and reason exclude each other and that being skeptical on everything is a fundamental scientific attitude. But, on the contrary, doubting everything is not at all scientific thinking. Science has to question everything, especially its postulates, but a true scientific mind does not doubt everything in the first place. I learned this from the works of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Then I read recently the following article by G. K. Chesterton.
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