Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Καθολικός διάκονος: Rejecting faith as a resource

Καθολικός διάκονος: Rejecting faith as a resource: Deacon Scott Dodge's post-Easter post and, man oh man, does he not waste any time getting to the tough material.  Deacon Scott and Scott Eric Alt, a Catholic convert writing out of Cincinnati, regularly produce solidly written, intellectually provocative Catholic blog posts.  Follow them both and enjoy!

Deacon Scott takes Albert Camus' reckoning of postwar reality as the starting point for reflections on faith.  Dodge:

In his New York lecture, "La crise de l’homme" (trans. "The Crisis of Man"), Camus proposed metaphysical, as opposed to political, revolt as the answer to the absurd predicament in which humanity found itself in the wake of the desolation wrought by the modern world (i.e., World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, especially under the shadow of the mass murder of European Jews). In light of these bloody catastrophes and others, Camus felt everything and virtually everyone was discredited, which is why he insisted that only through such a rebellion could a person gain authenticity by living in solidarity with poor and oppressed of the world. 


Admittedly, the Church in 1945 was badly in need of reform. Many of the needed reforms would flow from the Second Vatican Council. Even Pope Pius XII, considered by too many as nothing more than a reactionary arch-conservative, grasped this and did a lot to initiate reforms between the end of the Second World War and his death in 1958.


Properly grasped, faith is not a "resource" upon which one relies, a mere coping mechanism. It especially bears noting on this Easter Monday that faith is faith in a person, Jesus Christ risen from the dead and already reigning at the Father's right hand, transforming the world from within by the power of the Holy Spirit. This transformation is the rebellion and revolution Jesus came to bring. Jesus' revolt is very much in line with what Camus suggests in The Rebel.

Deacon Scott, who knows evangelical Protestantism and Latter-Day Saint Mormonism, makes a point here congruent with theological neo-orthodoxy dating to Karl Barth's revised edition of Epistle to the Romans.  "Faith" here serves for what Barth called "religion"--the attempt of man to reach God on man's own terms.  This endeavor is bound to fail, but in so doing can convince itself that the problem lies with God, not man himself.  That is, even in failure, human arrogance cannot admit to itself that it, and not God, has failed.  Camus, the French Algerian agnostic, grasped a similar, yet nonetheless different, version of this.  Dodge notes, though, that Camus, like one of St. Augustine of Hippo's Platonists, saw the distant shore but didn't travel toward it.

Camus once told his friend Paul Raffi- "Catholic thought always seems bittersweet to me. It seduces me then offends me. Undoubtedly, I lack what is essential." Perhaps it was because he viewed faith too generically, as a resource that allows a person to avoid the reality of a screwed up, broken down, world. It may well be the case that Camus' grasp of faith can be attributed to the Church's reductive and narrow proclamation of the Gospel at the time. It was right about this same time that this narrow, simplistic, and reductive proclamation was starting to be challenged by theologians like Henri De Lubac, Yves Congar, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Von Balthasar once described what is often termed neo-scholasticism as a pastry with a lot of dry crust. 

Just peddling out "faith" isn't going to win over this culture spiraling out of control.  God's revelation in Jesus, our crucified and resurrected Lord, will. Dodge:

My own experience has taught me that I do not "have" faith to provide me with simplistic answers to life's most vexing questions. I think it's faith that allows me to shout "Why?" in the assurance I'm not shouting the most human of questions into a void. I receive this assurance by seeing that between where I stand and the void stands the Cross of Christ. 

Deacon Scott then investigates von Balthasar and Pope Francis' embrace of radical faith and thus evangelization.  Read it all here.

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