Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reply to Apolonio Latar

My comment awaits moderation at Philosophia Perennis, so it's at least possible that it will be rejected (and I wouldn't blame them, since I didn't exactly model scholarly detachment in my remarks). Here it is, lest it be blown away into the ether.
I am totally out of my league in commenting on this blog. Let’s get that out of the way now. And I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and my philosophical/theological education leaves plenty to be desired, too. But I take exception to a couple things here.

If you are to become Catholic because of a theology, get yourself a book and do not waste your time in the Church.

That remark strikes this convert as smug, although I’m sure Mr. Latar didn’t mean it this way. So my spiritual life must be a shining example of mature, full-orbed Catholic faith before I even bother seeking conversion? Well I guess I’ll just crawl back into the little hole of Reformed private judgment whence I came then.

Or maybe not.

The fact is that people come to the Church on all sorts of paths, and for all sorts of reasons. Far more important than how we come to be Catholic is that we remain faithful Catholics, no? Of course I totally agree that being Catholic is much more than dotting a few theological i’s and crossing a few dogmatic t’s. I’ve spent years now learning just how true this is, and I’ve got a long road ahead of me before it will be really true in my life as I’d like it to be. But the fact is I wouldn’t have bothered with the full-orbed and mature Catholic life of faith if I had not first been convinced of the truth of what the Church teaches. And I daresay I’m not the only one for whom this is true. So I think it unfair to wave a Dogbert-esque paw of “Bah!” in our direction because of the path God laid before us. :-)

I don’t think theology does not have any value, but I do not think it is sufficient for certainty. What gives us certainty is an encounter.

An encounter with what? Or whom? Does not the Mormon have an “encounter” in his “burning bosom” experience? Do not believers of all sorts of religious traditions have “encounters” to which they point as fundamental to their certainty about what they believe? Of course they do. And of course the point is that “encounter” is inherently subjective. That’s not necessarily to say it’s all bad, but it’s not sufficient, either. The Protestant no doubt argues that he has an “encounter” with the Word of God in Scripture, and Pentecostals certainly say that they have daily “encounters” with the Holy Spirit. But I wouldn’t want to be Protestant anymore, and I don’t think it’s doing justice to the Catholic Faith to say that it’s better for them to remain Protestant or Pentecostal if God uses the Truth to draw them closer to himself.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen.” Certainty is something that follows from the supernatural gift of faith, not from an “encounter” (however that may be defined).

Now back to the twilight of those who converted for the Truth (but who are seeking the Lord’s Face nevertheless).



No comments: