Monthly Archives: March 2006
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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…