On (multiperspectival) Truth, Gerunds, and the Church of God

I’m muddling my way through RCIA, with much internal argument and tears.

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For all my Anglican ways….I really am rigidly dogmatic as any sectarian….at least, on two issues in particular. I just know them to be true, as I know my own mother.

(1) The validity and holiness of all devout Christians in various denominations (Calvinist/Reformed, Lutheran, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal, Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, etc etc). Though they are mistaken about many things, there is more truth in all of them than can be rationally reconciled, like different map distortions compressing 3 dimensions of a globe into 2 dimensions of a wall map, and each getting some things ‘more right’. Put simply, they are all in the Body of Christ. A devout Christian in one denomination isn’t particularly more (or less) rebellious to the Will of God than a devout Christian in another section of Christ’s Body. Put another way,  God calls different Christians to different denominations, for reasons I do not understand, but must respect. I can disagree, but must respect, and try to understand.

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(2) “Idolatry”, or the making of “gerunds” (e.g. turning a verb into a noun, or an action toward an object into a thing unto itself)  is  the major pitfall of the Christian life. We are in a boat, rowing toward the further shore, and we must look to the further shore, not obsess over the boat which is just a means to it.  Anything in us which takes “our faith” and sets it in the place of focussing directly (as we should) on the person of God (and inextricably linked with that, the image of God in all persons)….anything that takes the focus off of that, is wrong. It becomes a sort of “belief in our works”, “belief in our righteousness”, “belief in our faith”, or even “belief in our belief” rather than “belief in God”. It is taking the means/conduit of our connection with God, and making that the thing of focus instead of God himself. It can be anything…. our own intellect, or church authority, or emotional feelings, or even our own “personal relationship” with God instead of God himself. It is all the same pitfall, the same very human mistake that all Christian denominations have been doing, and it is not good. Being Tridentine about “The Church” focusing on it at the expense of God is exactly what hyper-Calvinism does about Reason and human intellect. It is not that we can ‘get by’ without these things–we need them–but they must not become the focus, the thing to be venerated. They must only be the means to Christ, who is adored.

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So…if I ever did join the RC….wouldn’t I be a “crypto-protestant”, one of those sneaky Jansenists decried by the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia for “their astonishing and absurd duplicity”? How can I believe in (medieval/Tridentine) Indulgences? Nowadays it is beautifully explained as a shared penance, which is far more palatable, but that is not what Indulgences always were. And “The Holy Mother Church”….isn’t that some serious gerund stuff…even anthropomorphizing the conduit? Isn’t anthropomorphizing non-persons dangerous, because won’t that detract from actual persons…

[by the way…. After hearing a sermon on “Holy Mother Church and her infinite wisdom”, my twin grumbled “I resent being loved by big collective nouns.” To which her husband replied, “Spoken like a true American conservative.”]

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I feel I can only become Catholic if God personally wanted me  to join, it must not be for my longing for a community, or poetry, but for my Christ. For me, anything else would be a personal betrayal to Him.

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Oh…and then there is the perjury issue….

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3 thoughts on “On (multiperspectival) Truth, Gerunds, and the Church of God

  1. Your map allegory gave me a new perspective on this. There is a similar allegory that tries to help people comprehend the fact that we cannot comprehend God, that with something that is only 2D, say a stick figure on a piece of paper can’t comprehend the 3D people in the real world. Or the story of the mother and child who are stuck in a room and cannot get out and the child is born after the mother has been locked in this room, the mother tries to draw the child pictures of the real world, but the child cannot comprehend this having never been in the outside world. In fact that is like an angel trying to describe to a human what heaven will be like. I saw this in a touched by an angel episode. Anyhow, I’m not quite getting the joke of the American conservative??? You’ll have to explain it to me sometimes.

  2. To explain Linda, the joke is that liberals like to be loved by big collective nouns (e.g. the Community, Government, the Nanny State, Big Brother) but that conservatives don’t. Partly, I guess it is playing into the stereotype as conservatives being grumpy individualists who don’t appreciate love from the state.

  3. Hi Chubbic!

    I was reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC :D) yesterday, and saw a passage that reminded me of a conversation we had had about this topic–when I saw your post (tonight) I thought you might enjoy reading about it!

    The idea of the Church being a living entity isn’t something new and faddish or human-inspired, it’s as old as St. Paul talking about the Bride of Christ–and early Church applied that language to itself with firm conviction, going so far as to identify itself as the Ark of God, saving whatever would be saved, from the flood that wipes away sin and the obstinately sinning. What is new, I think is rather treating division as if it were justified and desired by God–something I’ve never heard in either the annals of Christianity, or in the Scriptures and teachings which define it.

    I think you might really enjoy looking at Newman’s “Development of Doctrine” if you’ve never read it–(as far as coming to terms with the differences and growth in expression of unchanging Christian truths)–or perhaps not. At any rate, do know, please, that your sincere searchings are not without devout companionship, both present and past (and hopefully future!).

    Also–I see that you are interested in Michael O’Brien, and he is mightily associated with Eastern Catholicism…are you familiar with the concept of the unity of eastern and western Catholicism (those fully united, but utilizing (totally acceptably) different rites of liturgy? They are referred to as the two lungs of the Church, both of which are equally good and necessary–but they belong to the same body–the same unity–the same body of Christ, united to the same Head…If you haven’t read deeply into it, I recommend it, as I think the example would comfort you mightily and give you hope!) I personally agree with you about finding the good in every denomination (God brings good out of any evil–any evil is an imperfect good–and Christian denominations trying to worship God genuinely seems like a very (even if imperfect) good.) But I also see that, at least for Christians, identifying the Church with the successors of the Apostles isn’t cliqueish–because we didn’t invent it. God did–and the Church has been that way from the beginning!

    I’d be glad to know your thoughts on all that!

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