The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, January 05, 2006

More thoughts on philosophy and Christianity

Pierre Hadot criticizes the idea in Christianity that philosophy is only the handmaiden of theology, and to a certain extent, I think he is right. In all aspects of the Christian life, there is always a temptation to underestimate the role of nature as God made it and human freedom. If we ask a priest or a monk an imporant question about our spiritual or emotional life, we can suddenly have the temptation to feel that we are listening to the voice of God. Many times, when we are young and considering our vocation in life, we expect there to be a letter that falls from the sky from God telling us what to do, or some sort of ecstasy a la Bernini's St. Teresa.
But even if such a letter falls from the sky, what is the guarentee that we will read it in the right manner? Or will we just read into it what we want?

There is story in St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony where the holy monk was being tormented by devils well into the night. He called out to God with all of his heart, but there was no response to his prayer. Finally, as dawn was breaking, the demons left him, and God was made manifest before him. When Anthony asked God why He did not help him when he cried out, the only response he received was, "I wanted to see how you struggled."

The fact is, I am now tired of doctrinal quick-fixes, omniscent holy elders, and leaders who will lead the Church into a brighter tommorrow. "My grace is sufficent for thee...." "The just man lives by faith." And this is where philosophy comes in. We are all human beings who need to use our reason and our wits to get by in this evil world and save our souls. We must not "trust in princes nor in the sons of men." Theology and dogma do not give you an excuse for not thinking (and they don't give you an excuse for becoming a one-man magisterium, either).

Faith must be fully human, and being human in via includes a lot of uncertainity and hashing out things for ourselves. In the end, we don't own the truth, the Truth owns us, and we must follow Him wherever He leads us.

We need help from others, yes (unus christianus, nullus christianus). But in the end, WE ourselves are responsible before the Judgement Seat of Christ.

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