CONFESSION: YESTERDAY AND TODAY: The Newman Lecture

Another fascinating lecture, which gave me some insights into my own life, as well as why ‘confession is good for the  soul’,. As usual the Storify is linked below the Soundcloud, and Professor Charmley outdid himself in live-tweeting this one, there is a huge amount of meat here for your digestion.

Professor Henry Mayr-Harting is former Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford (1997-2003), amongst many other honors.

 

//storify.com/ProfJCharmley/confession-yesterday-and-today-professor-henry-ma/embed?border=false[View the story ” ‘CONFESSION: YESTERDAY AND TODAY’ Professor Henry Mayr-Harting” on Storify]
On a personal note, Yay! for me, I got quoted as well. :)

Lukewarm Christianity and Cul-de-Sacs

Return of the prodigal son

Return of the prodigal son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from an old article,  The London Times of August 2003, and Matthew Parris is an atheist but, he diagnoses exactly what is wrong with modern Christianity, and I would venture to say why so many churches (including mine) are losing membership. See what you think:

Anglican evangelicals are right. Knowingly to appoint gay bishops robs Christianity of meaning. It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus’s teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God. Christianity is not supposed to be comfortable or feel “natural”. The mind of God, contemplating the behaviour of man, is not expected to be suffused with a spirit of “whatever”. As it happens I do not believe in the mind of God. But Christians do and must strive to know more of it.Nothing they read in the Old and New Testaments gives a scintilla ofsupport to the view that the God of Israel was an inclusive God, orinclined to go with the grain of human nature; much they read suggests a righteous going against the grain.

Certainly it is true that Jesus departed from conventional Judaic teaching in the emphasis He put on forgiveness, but neither the story (for example) of the woman taken in adultery, nor the parable of the prodigal son suggest that He countenanced a continuation of the sins of either. What these stories teach is that repentance is acceptable to God however late it comes, and that the virtuous should not behave in a vindictive manner towards sinners. That is a very different thing from a shoulder-shrugging chuckle of “different strokes for different folks”.

It’s true you know, any other reading of the Bible is simply misleading at best, and it would more accurate to say false.

“Inclusive”, “moderate” or “sensible” Christianity is inching its way up a philosophical cul-de-sac. The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing.Belief grounded in everyday experience alone is not belief. The attempt, sustained since the Reformation, to establish the truth of Christianity on the rock of human observation of our own natures and of the world around us runs right against what the Bible teaches from the moment Moses beheld a burning bush in the Egyptian desert to the point when Jesus rises from the dead in His sepulchre. Stripped of the supernatural, the Church is
on a losing wicket.

Even as a ten-year-old boy in Miss Silk’s Scripture class, when I heard the account of how the parting of the Red Sea could actually be explained by freak tides, and that the story of the loaves and fishes really taught us how Jesus set an example by sharing His disciples’ picnic (so everybody else shared theirs), I thought: “Don’t be silly Miss Silk! If Jesus couldn’t do miracles, why should we listen? If the bush was just burning naturally, then Moses was fooled.”

Matthew Parris – An Atheist Homosexual with a Better Understanding of Christianity than many Church leaders! | The Wee Flea.

He’s right, Christianity without God is pretty much meaningless, In a comment long ago on Jess’ Watchtower, I referred to many of our churches as “A coffee shop full of do gooders”. Now mind you, there is nothing wrong with doing good works, we are called by Christ to do so, and He gives us the grace to do so, out of our own assets, not by getting the government to steal our neighbors stuff to give to our other neighbors, minus a handling fee. But we are also called to be God-botherers and partakers in the mission.

But Christianity has always believed that “we are not of the world, although we are in the world”. I think we have had it so good for so long in the west that we have forgotten that. We think Christianity is supposed to be easy and comfortable. if it is, well, you’re not doing it right.

Something else I’ve learned on Jess’ blog is that most of us there are on our second or third church before we found one with what we were looking for. There’s another commonality amongst us: that have been there for a considerable period, we’re either hot or cold, , quite liberal or very conservative (that’s most of us). None is lukewarm.

Maybe we all read Revelations 3

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

CatholicHerald.co.uk » Nowadays, chastity is the ultimate rebellion

The Triumphs of Love, Chastity, and Death (cas...

The Triumphs of Love, Chastity, and Death (cassone panel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are several things I like about this article. first it’s always wonderful to see somebody escape from what has become too often a destructive, nihilistic culture and emerge into the light of Grace.

It’s also nice to see this issue presented as a positive, too often it’s thought of as denial, it’s not, as she shows here.

A bit from her article,

Modern-day Tannhäusers are all around us: men and women addicted to pornography; singles seeking love through sex; and spouses desiring pleasure to the exclusion of procreation. Our Catholic faith teaches that a way of forgiveness and restoration is open to them. Yet all too often we give them up for lost, speaking of chastity as if it were a virtue reserved only for virgins. In doing so, we effectively buy into the culture’s lie that slaves to pleasure will never be able to find freedom in Christ. […]

A line in the first chapter jumped out at me: “The most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.” That was my black grace moment. At the time I read those words I was trapped in a vicious cycle. Lonely because I was not loved, I offered myself to “lovers” who did not love me. Chesterton forced me to recognise what I had been trying to suppress: how deeply I longed to experience healing, to have my life ordered from the top down, to know the poetry of not being sick.

With time (and more Chesterton), I began to experience the white grace of conversion. But reluctant to put myself under the authority of any particular denomination, I tried to walk the Christian walk on my own. I soon discovered that changing my beliefs wasn’t enough to change my habits.

It was clear that all the desires I had ever indulged had failed to bring me closer to the love I sought. And it was likewise clear that the only way I would ever receive such love was if I learnt how to give it properly. But how was I to learn?

How indeed. We live in a culture that denies anything has lasting value. Whose catchphrase far too often is “What have you done for me, lately?” And yet lasting values are still here, there’s a fair number of us who know this, maybe not the majority, and certainly not the loudest minority, but we are here.

And this:

Admittedly, chastity is not the in thing. But in a society that has ceased to be Christian, that is what makes it so very interesting. Here in the West, Christianity had a good, long run as the prevailing culture and is now once again the counterculture.

Pope Francis gets this. That is why, when he speaks about chastity, he uses the language of rebellion. Addressing young people on the theme of the diocesan World Youth Day 2015 – “Blessed are the pure in heart” – he urged them to “rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone … [Rebel] against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”

 

Continue reading CatholicHerald.co.uk » Nowadays, chastity is the ultimate rebellion.

That may just explain a lot about Pope Francis, maybe he sees something that we don’t, a way of reaching young people, who want something better. I’d like to believe that anyway.

And one that is assuredly true, our culture does not believe us to be capable of responsibility for ourselves, nor does it know the difference between lust and love, and without knowing the difference, society will suffer badly, as will we who become too involved in it.

Eamon Duffy: Newman and the Papacy; The Newman Lecture

B_HG-pXWoAA3ZQ3These just keep getting better and better, this week’s third (delayed) Newman Lecture is Professor Eamon Duffy on Newman and the Papacy. It is quite fascinating on a topic that I like most American know little about. We have perhaps overemphasized the importance to us of that little fracas that we call  “The Civil War”.

The lecturer this week is Professor Eamon Duffy.

Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow and former President of Magdalene College.

Enjoy

Storify simply will not embed for me here, so I would suggest you follow the link and read Professor Charmley’s live Tweeting and comments as you listen to the lecture.

Eamon Duffy: Newman and the Papacy (with images, tweets) · ProfJCharmley · Storify.

This was my reaction then, and even more so now.

Christ the Physician Walks the Wards

Professor Carole Rawcliffe

This week our Newman Lecture from UEA is by Carole Rawcliffe of UEA. Here is part of her biography:

Carole Rawcliffe was an editor on the History of Parliament Trust (1979-92) before becoming a Senior Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at UEA (1992-7). She was made Reader in the History of Medicine (1997-2002) and Professor of Medieval History (2002).

Her research focuses upon the theory and practice of medicine in medieval England, with particular emphasis upon hospitals, the interconnection between healing and religion, and urban health.  As editor of The History of Norwich (2004), she maintains an interest in the East Anglian region, and has written extensively on its medical provision.  Her most recent book, Leprosy in Medieval England (2006), is a study of medieval responses to disease.  She is currently investigating concepts of health and welfare before the Reformation.

Her full biography is here.

I found this one particularly interesting, especially when I contemplated how few of our medical people even believe in God anymore,let alone that  He will help in particular cases. of course, that hit close to home with me, since I have seen His work, when all of our skilled people had given up.

You’ll also note that this week Professor Charmley has provided us with the visual aids as well. Actually there is a Storify story linked at the end of the article, I simply could not get it to embed, so I compromised.

Here’s Dr. Rawcliffe

And here is a slide show of the visual aids to watch while you listen. I am afraid the may have gotten somewhat jumbled. Sorry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

The Decline and Fall of the Person

Dr. Jeff Mirus over at Catholic Culture did some musing the other day on his stack of unread books. I tend to be sympathetic because I have one of those plus a bunch of half-read ones on my Kindle. That tends top be life in the Information Age. His musing is a lot more informative and useful than my whining though. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The grand synthesis between Christian revelation and classical reason which formed Western culture placed the person at center stage. As a direct result, the universe was perceived as pregnant with meaning, created by and for persons, and capable of generating a kind of wonder that leads back to the Creator. But under various internal and external pressures, this intensely human synthesis tended to break down. People began to relativize ideas—the human grasp of meaning which is so often subject to disagreement, debate and conflict. And they began to absolutize facts—descriptions of material reality which are amenable to physical measurement and empirical proof.

There are so many ways to trace this shift in perception that it is difficult to know where to start. However it is traced, what we now call “science” gradually took the first place in human studies. Deeply dependent on earlier Western ideas about order in the universe as a whole, the rapid advance of the physical sciences won them deep respect. They offered largely non-controversial benefits to mankind while appearing to reduce the need for moral improvement.

The attraction is not hard to understand. Nobody has to grow in love or overcome habitual vices to appreciate the benefits of science and its resulting technology. In fact, whether good or evil, the achievements of science readily appeal to personal selfishness. They can make us healthier and more comfortable; they can reduce sweat equity; they can maximize pleasure.

I can’t really say I disagree with any of that nor, in some ways, do I think it bad.

Unfortunately, this relativization of what we might also call the moral or the spiritual, and this absolutization of what we must call the material, led the West as a whole to commit a fundamental error. We might call it a philosophical or a logical error, but it is just as much an error of common sense. A whole culture began by choosing to focus overwhelmingly on the material world. For obvious reasons, it then lost awareness of what it chose not to focus on. Finally, it proclaimed—completely without warrant—that what it was focused on is all there is. In other words, the West slipped progressively into a deeper and deeper materialism.

This has created gargantuan problems. If everything is material, how can we account for meaning and purpose? The answer is that we cannot, and the long-term result of this reticence concerning meaning is an insistence that everything must be random. In its evolutionary form, this randomness is thought to tend toward continuous improvement, at a huge but justifiable cost to whatever is left behind.

Nothing to disagree with here either but like the author, let’s think about this a bit. If there is nothing but the material world, then there is no cause for any morality at all, might is right is the way they phrased it in Camelot, if for some reason you are not the one with the power, you simply do not matter, get out of my way. Sounds a lot like a stone age tribal society, doesn’t it? Or maybe the twenty-first century industrialized world. Because in large measure we have devolved to a society in which if you can’t buy enough influence from the corrupt court, you’re gonna lose.

Another way modern Western culture has dealt with the absence of meaning is through the reduction of happiness to pleasure. It is an ever-present human tendency to prefer easily-gained and primarily physical pleasures over hard-won but more deeply satisfying growth in perfection (which presumes purposes and ends). Technology excels at producing pleasures for our consumption. Unlike ideology, pleasure does not provide an alternative form of “meaning”. Instead, it makes it easier to forget meaninglessness. In this sense it is also an escape from moral responsibility. But this is really a flight from despair, a flight from the frightening emptiness of a valueless existence, of a life without meaning.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me as well, and I suspect it is true for a large part of our populations. There just aren’t many things our society thinks worthy of belief, are there?

There is quite a bit more at this link, The decline and fall of the Person: Musings on my stack of unread books – Catholic Culture. all of it worth reading, including Benedict’s  Caritas in Veritate. But let’s finish as Dr. Mirus does, because I don’t think it can be improved on.

[…] But when I looked at the clutter on my desk today, I realized that there was a very definite pattern to the clutter. A pattern, yes, and therefore purposes and ends and meanings which can only be discerned by persons.

To put the case in a nutshell, there really is a theology of the body. The end of our modern insanity is to learn again who we really are. I have chosen my words carefully: I do not mean what, but who.

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