Tag Archives: relativism

November 14: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xiv – ‘ A place for everyone at table.’

 

Throughout the parables and miracle stories Jesus is forever flouting rules and tradition; and offers no apology for so doing. He certainly went to the Temple to pray, but often accompanied by outcasts whose presence defiled the holy place. Jesus was committed to fullness of life above and beyond any and every system. He made people search for God not only in holy books, but principally in daily life; he uses everyday language – calling on everyday experiences; he insists we are constantly in God’s presence, not just when we formally pray – he makes care and concern for the other the key factor for kingdom living.

The Twelve certainly expected the messiah to be heroic – and they were disillusioned when he didn’t live up to expectations. Saint Paul’s vision of Church is more in line – centred on the Word in service of the community – but by the Second Century the Church was rapidly becoming institutionalised according to a shape at variance with Jesus’ own vision. This was when ecclesiastical [ritualisation] became more important than ecclesial [community in faith]. However, the original vision was never lost, nor will it ever be lost. Truth always survives, despite efforts to constrain it. What came to be known as the dark ages was when the Church had difficulty in controlling what was happening – whereas from the perspective of the Spirit it was a time of creativity and growth.

Is the real Jesus the middle-class revolutionary we have inherited? Are we true to the prophetic figure from Nazareth? Was the following of Jesus meant to be via a respectable religion? Can the freedom of the oppressed, and the empowering of the powerless happen this way? We surely should be recognised as different – to live for Jesus demands much more of us than to die for him. It means seeking justice, inclusiveness and equality – a place for everyone at table. Kingdom living was not something Jesus inaugurated for others to embrace and follow. He is the Kingdom. The Kingdom is how he lives and relates. What was he seeing that captivated him so much?

We are brought up through co-dependency – some are in charge, most aren’t. Our role is largely passive obedience. God is father, the Church is mother, making our relationship that of children. In such a setting the discipleship of equals has no chance. Adult is reserved for those in charge. Compassion is a fascinating quality in Jesus – it is always a verb, not a noun. Compassion means entering into the suffering of another, not just being there to help; and has nothing to do with pity and mercy.

AMcC

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Evening Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

“What is theology saying?”

austinTomorrow night is the last of Fr Austin McCormack’s  Thursday evenings this term!  Please feel free to come  even if you have not made it to the previous lectures. An interesting theme as we approach the birthday of our Saviour:
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.

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October 11: CONSCIENCE IV: Under the Microscope, Continued

_Blake_-_The_Ghost_of_a_Flea_-_Google_Art_Project

William Blake, the Ghost of a Flea

There is such a thing as a true conscience and a false conscience.  Our true conscience is the one that is in touch with God’s law.  But it can be submerged beneath a false conscience that is formed not by God’s law, but by all sorts of other influences.  Today, it can be difficult to get away from the influence of our culture’s easy-going morality and its message that if something seems good to me, then it is good.    It is important to realise that this kind of thinking usually comes from ‘doctrines that have lost the sense of the transcendent or are explicitly atheist,’ as Pope Saint John Paul II said in his remarkable Encycylical Letter, Veritatis Splendor [no. 32].

In his last homily before he was elected to the papacy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said,

“We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognise anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires”                                                                                  [Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on 18 April 2005].

Strong words.  But what is this “relativism”?  It is the popular teaching whereby the individual conscience is held up as the ultimate moral authority answerable to nothing but itself.  It refers to no objective criteria by which to evaluate its decisions; the only requirement is that of personal sincerity.  It does not refer to anyone else to discover what is right.  Personal sincerity is considered sufficient to justify any action.

In relativism, there is no awareness that if personal sincerely is the only yardstick by which I measure the moral content of my actions, moral chaos soon results.  What if, for example, I sincerely believe that causing harm to my next door neighbour is good because I sincerely believe him to be wicked?  Or, what if I sincerely do not believe that the foetus of a human being is human?  To call such exaltation of personal opinion a “dictatorship” is not too strong.  We try to tell ourselves that this way of thinking is tolerant of different points of view.  But what of the point of view of the one who is weaker than myself, and whose human existence and potential I “sincerely” do not acknowledge?

If you are even reading this post, you probably would not go to the lengths I have just described, but it is not necessary to ascribe consciously to such relativist or individualist doctrines in order to be susceptible in a lesser sense to the kind of thinking that goes with them.  The selfish tendencies that we all have as a result of our fallen nature can make it hard, at least at times, to realise that conscience is not about personal sincerity.

Then what is conscience about?

Conscience is directed beyond ourselves toward God and true goodness in a manner similar to the way a compass directs a traveller toward her destination.  The difference is that the traveller knows before she sets out that she doesn’t want to go round in circles, stay in the same spot, or end up further away from the place of her destination.  We expect a compass to direct us to a place that is different from the place where we began.  We do not necessarily have the same expectation with regard to our conscience.  We might prefer it if our conscience would kindly sanction what we are doing, or planning to do. We don’t want it to challenge us or deprive us of our fantasy.

SJC

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