Monthly Archives: March 2006

Conversion and Ecumenism

I have posted the powerpoint file of my presentation on “Ecumenism and Conversion” at the Chelsea Interchuch Council on the EIC’s Website. You can download it from here.

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"Year of Grace" update and Chelsea ICC

New update on my “Year of Grace” conversion retro-blog.

I had a great time last night with the good folk at the Chelsea Interchurch Council: over-whelmed by their welcome and well-fed. I gave a talk on the relationship between Ecumenism and Conversion. In the mornning I will post the Powerpoint presentation on the EIC’s website and post the link so you can check it out for yourself.

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No semi-divine beings in Christianity, Judaism or Islam

Today I found an began reading a little gem by Fr Aidan Nichols (see previous blog) called “Catholicism and Other Religions”. It is an excerpt from his book “Epiphany : a theological introduction to Catholicism”. Most of the book appears to be published on the “Fr Aidan Nichols Homepage” at the “Epiphany home page”.

Here are some meaty bits:

“The principal Jewish objection to the Church [one could say the same about Islam—David] where doctrine is concerned is her affirmation of the divinity of Christ. However, it can be noted that in the first centuries of the Christian era, the same theological principle guided a process of internal clarification among both Jews and Christians: the infinite qualitative distinction between the uncreated and the created, ruling out as this does any suggestion of intermediate beings or conditions [again, this is an issue for Muslims—David]. Just as Judaism pruned away its more extravagant apocalyptic imagery, and a tendency to angelolatry, so the Church shunned the homoiousion (“like in being [to the Father]”) of the semi-Arians and clove to the view that either Christ is consubstantial with God or he is of no transcendent significance whatever. It is possible that it was an initial encounter with an implicitly heretical Christianity rather than direct confrontation with the orthodox tradition of the Nicene faith that accounts for the vehemence of rabbinic Judaism’s rejection of patristic Christianity [once again, the same could be said of Early Islam, where the heretical form of Christianity was Nestorianism—David].”

Later he adds, with regard to Islam specifically:

“Catholicism, however, welcomes Islam’s grasp of the divine aseity — the terrible distinctness of God from the world — not least in a postChristian epoch in the West where to a vague “new age” religious sensibility the distinction between what is divine and what is not divine is altogether elided.”

All this is, in a sense, what I was trying to get at in my discussion with Charlene Spretnak. Mary is not a semi-divine being, and neither is Christ. Christ is wholly human and wholly divine—two distinct natures united one person—he does not straddle the divide as a “bit-of-both” or “part-man-part-God”.

There’s lots of other really interesting points of view on this, but you can read it yourself.

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A Lutheran Pastor peddling "The Goddess Rosary"?

I am indebted to Fr Marco Vervoost (an Anglo-Catholic priest who studied at Luther Seminary with me—go figure why so many of who went through Sem at that time have ended up either in the Catholic Church, or in the catholic wing of the Anglican Church) for this little gem on his Heretics Anonymous page. Follow the links.

Some protestants will say “Look: that’s where Catholicism leads you.” Answer is: Nope. That’s where you end up as a Protestant if you are deprived of the personal Motherhood of Mary.

Note that the “Goddess Rosary” does not name Mary. It isn’t about Mary. Mary is decisively written out of the rosary prayer just as the name of her Son Jesus is written out. There is no way this prayer can have any claim to be Christian. It is completely gnostic. Totally disincarnate. If it isn’t “anti-Christ” it is certainly “anti-Mary”. Shiver…

Be afraid. Very afraid—if you are a Lutheran…


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Re-assessing "Missing Mary"

In response to my previous blog “Mary: A person, not a “goddess” or a “metaphor””, Charlene Spretnak, author of “Missing Mary” replied:

Dear David,

Alas, I am somewhat dismayed by what you posted on your blog re my book, which I feel will mislead your readers and, no doubt, send them running from the book, should they ever encounter it.  Let me try to clarify what I was trying to convey about the “goddess issue” re Mary before you posted that:

I.  Scholars of comparative religion and the history of religion are well aware that many elements in Mary’s biblical story — let alone her syncretic blendings in the various cultures of Europe and elsewhere — link her historically with attributes and symbols that were earlier associated with various goddesses.  This is simply historical fact, whether one likes it or not.  My point in the book is simply to say that the Church should celebrate this ancient flowing into Catholicism, rather than refusing to discuss it or denying it.

II.  In Missing Mary I do not say that Mary is or should be a goddess, which she obviously is not.  Rather, I note all the cosmological, goddess-like symbols and attributes that she accrued through the centuries.  Again, this is simply a matter of the history of religion.  Then I engage with the Protestant and the post-Vatican II view of such mystical symbols and attributes.  Those who insist that Mary is solely a regular human, just like us, feel that all that spiritual honoring of her from the Council of Ephesus right up to Vatican II was simply a mistake, an embarrassing theological error which should be thoroughly eradicated.  I do not feel that Catholics of those centuries were benighted and were sliding down an errant slope, for there is an obvious theological logic to their glorification of Mary.  First, since she was born without Original Sin, she was from the start in a category different from the rest of humanity.  Second, for centuries it made sense to all those Catholics that since the Incarnation was a mystical event the woman who assented to it and allowed it to occur in her very flesh was part of the Mystery in ways that other humans are not.  Her mystical role in this cosmological event was eventually expressed with mystical, cosmological symbols.  She was perceived to me more-then-human but less-than-divine (that is, not a goddess).  I do not think the millions of Catholics who shared this theological reasoning for centuries were fools or “uninformed.”  I think that the post-Vatican II Church’s denying of this entire dimension of Mary’s spiritual presence constitute a profound loss for Catholicism.

Hope that helps.  Guess we’ll just have to disagree on these two points.

Regards, Charlene

I replied:

I think, in two short paragraphs, you have done away with just about every concern I had in your approach. I was feeling very confused up till now because I found myself agreeing with so much I couldn’t understand how you seemed to be coming from this other direction. In fact, I agree entirely with what you have said in these paragraphs–there is no need to agree to disagree. (I would still want to be careful about saying she was “more than human” but “less than God”, I prefer “truly human” and “fully imaging the divine” sort of thing, but that is probably more a matter of linguistics).

Last night I came to a page in the book where you said as simply as could be said in one sentence: “She is not God”. And that made me stop and think that perhaps I had completely misunderstood where you were coming from. Yes, I think we can celebrate the fact that the “stream-of-goddess-consciousness” has flowed into Mary. In fact, Mary makes the goddess-stream true in a way in which it was not true before it flowed into her. If you get what I mean.

I still want to explore further what ramifications this has for our understanding of God as “Father”, however. More of that later.

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Christianity: "An Unbelievable Evil"?

I started of rather liking this guy on the Stephen Crittenden show the other day. After all, to go from 20 years jail to helping Aboriginal kids in Redfern kick the booze and the drugs is a pretty amazing trip by anyone’s standards. I was beginning to think that redemption was truly possible sans evangelion. But then Stevo asked the 6 million dollar question and the billion dollar answer:

Stephen Crittenden: You don’t have a very positive view of Christianity, do you?

Rocky Davis: Well basically people – I do, I do have – I’ll tell you exactly and I’ll explain myself and clarify myself. We believe in the religion of Jesus, we don’t believe the religion Jesus practiced was Christianity, the religion that Jesus preached is Islam, and we don’t believe that he ever preached Christianity. Christianity is a culture of invasion, and if anyone can tell me that it’s not, I need people to openly debate whether it be on live TV or in front of an audience, that Christianity was used as a weapon to invade all the world’s indigenous peoples, Canadian Indians will tell you, Maoris will tell you, Cook Islands will tell you, Africans will tell you, the English used Christianity to invade and conquer and enslave. Christianity were the founders of slavery. Not Islam. And I was never invaded by a Muslim country. Everywhere the Christians went, they plundered and they robbed and they murdered and they enslaved, and they raped. Christianity is a religion of child molestation. In terms of actual religious theology, Christianity is an unbelievable evil.

Stephen Crittenden: Rocky, thank you very much for being on The Religion Report, it’s been great talking to you.

Rocky Davis: OK no worries, thank you very much.

Stephen Crittenden: There’s a story that’s a marker for the future. Aboriginal Australia with a Muslim face. Rocky Davis of the Aboriginal Dawah project.

Um. Righto. Yeah. Ah…

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"In the Churchlet of the Self"

I should have gotten around to blogging this one ages ago, but it hasn’t gone out of date. Its from Diogenes at Catholic World News, and entitled “In the Churchlet of the Self”. A quotation will give you an idea of what he’s railing about:

“To find a church where I could feel like my spirituality would be nurtured like it was in the Roman Catholic Church, where I can be authentically me, and where people have the freedom to decide for themselves what they believe and how they express their faith, is a beautiful thing,” she said.
Check out the entire article.

One of the things I had to defend myself against when I became a Catholic was the assertion that “David became a Catholic because he likes that sort of thing.” Really. I could have done “that sort of thing” as a Lutheran, even if my congregations would have just raised their eyebrows a little higher than usual and said “that’s just David”. In the end, being a convert to the Catholic Church is all about submission to something bigger than yourself. I haven’t mastered that bit yet, but I’m working on it. Or maybe the Church is working on me…

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"The Gift of Faith" – B16

I have just read through all of the transcript of Papa Benny’s Q&A session with the Roman priests. I was blown away by one response he made on the subject of “Faith as a gift”, and was going to put up a few paragraphs, but I think the whole thing deserves reading closely:

Faith, ultimately, is a gift. Consequently, the first condition is to let ourselves be given something, not to be self-sufficient or do everything by ourselves – because we cannot -, but to open ourselves in the awareness that the Lord truly gives.
It seems to me that this gesture of openness is also the first gesture of prayer:  being open to the Lord’s presence and to his gift. This is also the first step in receiving something that we do not have, that we cannot have with the intention of acquiring it all on our own.

We must make this gesture of openness, of prayer – give me faith, Lord! – with our whole being. We must enter into this willingness to accept the gift and let ourselves, our thoughts, our affections and our will, be completely immersed in this gift.
Here, I think it is very important to stress one essential point:  no one believes purely on his own. We always believe in and with the Church. The Creed is always a shared act, it means letting ourselves be incorporated into a communion of progress, life, words and thought.

We do not “have” faith, in the sense that it is primarily God who gives it to us. Nor do we “have” it either, in the sense that it must not be invented by us. We must let ourselves fall, so to speak, into the communion of faith, of the Church. Believing is in itself a Catholic act. It is participation in this great certainty, which is present in the Church as a living subject.

Only in this way can we also understand Sacred Scripture in the diversity of an interpretation that develops for thousands of years. It is a Scripture because it is an element, an expression of the unique subject – the People of God -, which on its pilgrimage is always the same subject. Of course, it is a subject that does not speak of itself, but is created by God – the classical expression is “inspired” -, a subject that receives, then translates and communicates this word. This synergy is very important.
We know that the Koran, according to the Islamic faith, is a word given verbally by God without human mediation. The Prophet is not involved. He only wrote it down and passed it on. It is the pure Word of God.

Whereas for us, God enters into communion with us, he allows us to cooperate, he creates this subject and in this subject his word grows and develops. This human part is essential and also gives us the possibility of seeing how the individual words really become God’s Word only in the unity of Scripture as a whole in the living subject of the People of God.

Therefore, the first element is the gift of God; the second is the sharing in faith of the pilgrim people, the communication in the Holy Church, which for her part receives the Word of God which is the Body of Christ, brought to life by the living Word, the divine Logos.

Day after day, we must deepen our communion with the Holy Church and thus, with the Word of God. They are not two opposite things, so that I can say:  I am pro-Church or I am pro-God’s Word. Only when we are united in the Church, do we belong to the Church, do we become members of the Church, do we live by the Word of God which is the life-giving force of the Church. And those who live by the Word of God can only live it because it is alive and vital in the living Church.

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Why haven’t they made this guy into a bishop yet?

Cathnews this morning carried the report that Fr Aidan Nichols has been appointed the “John Paul II Visiting Lectureship in Roman Catholic Theology” at Oxford University.

When I was coming into the Church, I read Fr Nichols’ book “The Shape of Catholic Theology”. It gave me a good handle on the new path along which I was being led (I hesitate to call it a “garden path”). I have since come to see that Fr Nichols is something of an expert on everything, and well deserves the title “Sacrae Theologiae Magister”.

I also had a very memorable lunch with Fr Nichols when he was visiting Melbourne for an intensive course at the John Paul II Institute. Kate Cleary (who was then the librarian of the Caroline Chisholm Library) rang him on the pretext of having briefly met him in the UK and offered to take him to lunch. He accepted (it was that or sandwiches at the Priory…), but was thinking to himself (as he told us over coffee and port) “I must know this woman from somewhere…”

In the meantime, plans changed and Lutheran Pastor Fraser Pearce offered to host the lunch. Myself and another Lutheran, Dr Adam Cooper (who has recently done his doctoral dissertation at Durham) were also invited.

In any case, Kate then arrived at the Priory on the appointed day, bundled him into the car and drove him out through the suburbs to the Donvale manse. All the while Aidan is thinking to himself “I don’t know who this woman is, where she is taking me, or why I am having dinner with a bunch of Lutherans!”

Nevertheless, the lunch turned out to be a spectacular affair (the Pearce’s are excellent hosts) and good theology was talked and ecumenism done. And I can add “Fr Aidan Nichols” to my list of droppable names!

There only remains one question…

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That other place to the north…

It will not be a surprise to many that I am a great Dame Edna fan. While I was not very impressed with her song beamed in through hyperspace at the close of the games, I did like the not-very-witty and terribly predictable but also very “Melbourne” poem with which she introduced it:

Ah, Melbourne, the city of my birth,
It’s not as hot as Brisbane,
Or as far away as Perth.
It’s much bigger than Adelaide,
And compared to Canberra it’s bliss,
And if you’ve been to Melbourne,
You can give ***** a miss.

**** (here insert name of prominent Australian capital city not yet mentioned)

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