Monday, December 20, 2010

On Smarter Catholics IV

The question is, why ought a Catholic to become smarter?

I mean, first, better educated, of course. Smartness is a product of that, I believe.

Not Good Reasons

to inflate one's sense of self-righteousness

to show up others, both inside and outside the Faith

to confirm one's prior assumptions

to treat people in any way as means to ends

Good Reasons

to know and to love and to embrace the truth (God is the end-in-Himself as the True and the Good)

to teach the truth, so that the above may be the case for others

to eradicate error in the self so that the above may be the case

to glorify God (which is the same thing as items one and two)

for sake of pleasure, for to know is the end of man, a goal that should not be prematurely circumscribed, for only the knower knows what to know

So with all of this said,

What are my final thoughts on smartening-up Catholics?

One, stop treating the Faith as if it does not require serious intellectual discipleship. Some seem to think that because knowledge is not essential to salvation, it is irrelevant or unimportant, and therefore requires no rigour. What is the service that true knowledge of God performs? It is clear that, while knowledge is not essential for salvation, it is nearly impossible to obtain without it. Yes, nearly impossible. Look all around the world, even your country: evil deeds are done as a consequence of false ideas. Mao has led and is still leading millions into eternal damnation. So too Marx, so too Mohammad. Abortion is an objective evil perpetrated a million times a day. It is hard to imagine that a million soul are not lost per day as a result. And I don't mean the babies. The Gospel is the only thing that saves. Without the Gospel every error is possible: relativism, militarism, libertarianism, adultery, murder, theft en masse, blasphemy.  Even with the explicit revelation of the Gospel man hangs by a thread over his damnation.

One of my pet-peeves lies in by what books people consider the Faith to be defined. I know I should be a little gentler here, but I can't help it (yes, I can). I don't know why people think the Faith must be defined by books from the 1950s and earlier - I guess because that is the Faith as understood and as handed on to them by their parents. I have been blaming TAN, but maybe I could spread my blame around more widely? I guess not enough has been said about the antagonism inherent among converts, cradles and the in-betweens. But it is relevant.

Catholics, finally, need to be encouraged to move beyond that too simplistic middle-step between knowing their Faith by means of aphorisms and catch-phrases and knowing it deeply, academically and mystically. Knowing of the Faith by aphorism-ists are content with the things they know: the difference between the subjective and objective, between mortal and venial, between Augustinians and Thomists, between liberals and conservatives, what separation of church and state means, what culture of death means, etc. This is a good beginning, but do they have any idea what lies beyond this? Do they care?

I suppose I am obliged to say something about this now. What was the goal of reading all those books that I listed in On Smarter Catholics II after all? I kind of said that above, but here I'll put it more descriptively.

God should be known through and through. His wonderful self (theology per se: subdisciplines of Trinitarian Theology and Christology) and in His deeds (history, salvation history, natural sciences, theodicy, eschatology, Mariology, theology of grace, sacramental theology, metaphysics, psychology, sociology, exegesis) should be studied and adored with full intellect and will. I have no use for those who think theology and catechesis but a means to prove something... You can only love what you know. Know the Lord for He gives gladness to the heart.

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