Monday, 30 April 2012

Disagreement in the Church

Church history is mostly about the consequences of disagreement. From synods to heretics to sectarian war, our history begins with a disagreement about something. I remember writing a paper on the filioque clause, without the context of the history behind it, and finding a conclusion at the end. Afterwards I read up on the changes in the ecclesial landscape that resulted from it and shook my head in wonder.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that the early church wanted to lay out markers for what counted as Christian and what didn't. It's unfortunate that their solution was to write creeds and require people to uphold them. It seems to fly in the face of Jesus' own teaching that people will know Jesus' disciples because of the love they have for each other (Jn 13:35). The move from loosely organised disciples to an institutionalised church has created some baggage: creeds.

I know I'm a victim of the books I've read, but I can't help think that Badiou's analysis of Paul's work presents us with a solution. There is a single truth that creates the subject and which binds the movement together: Jesus is risen. This is the truth that supports Jesus as Christ* and which gives support to Jesus' teachings, especially about law and love.

And really, love is what unifies us. Everything else is opinion. We all have opinions about how to interpret certain passages of scripture, but they cannot override the command to love. We should also be able to debate and discuss any disagreement with our fellow believers without ever compromising the core unifying spirit of Christ. My hope is to be in a church that encourages these kinds of discussions. I want to work these things out with other believers to understand how we should best live out the commands to love.

* Yes yes, I know that Peter said it before Jesus was crucified. That's a post for another time. The point here is that Paul makes this faith claim and derives his theology from there.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How faith and reason are required for truth

This is a long quote from another page. It's worth reading the whole thing, though. If you don't have time, just read this part.
"The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), proclaiming that man is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. They, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each human being has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.

Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.

Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. The believer is called to offer that truth to his contemporaries, as did the Lord, even before the dark omen of rejection and the Cross. The personal encounter with the one who is Truth in person compels us to share this treasure with others, especially by our witness."
Vatican Radio - Pope: Homily at Mass in Revolution Square, Havana:
Special note for me is the parallel that he draws between Pontius Pilate and the refusal to find the truth by declaring that it's impossible to know. His criticism is directed towards giving up the search itself. Truth might not be easy to find or easy to accept but it should not be left alone.