Have Faith

Some people on the Catholic Right spend a lot of energy and keyboard time making the rational argument for the Resurrection, touting evidence and all. On the other hand, there’s a general belittling others when they ply the intellectual side for matters non-religious. So which is it? And why does it seem the Right, so soaked through with neoapologetics, pickpockets the approach of the Enlightenment to make a case the Lord himself seemed satisfied to present in a way different way.

At my parish, the staff splits up various questions the students drop into the query bucket. The other week someone suggested someone should tackle “How do we know the Resurrection is true?” Check out page 5a and see if I wander too much into rationalism.

I’m not suggesting either of the two Marks or their like-minded comrades lack faith. I’m sure these folks have as much faith as I. (Given their approval of authority and obedience, I’m sure they leave me far behind in the related quality of trust.) But I wonder, if the Risen Jesus thought encounters that solidified the foundations of the Christian sacraments were sufficient to spread his Gospel, why so many believers try to make this a matter of intellectual persuasion? All you have to do is go to Mass for three hours on Easter Eve, then hang around for social time till early the next morning to see the Resurrection proclaimed and lived.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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16 Responses to Have Faith

  1. Francesco Cesena says:

    I’m having difficulty deciding which is funnier: the insistence on viewing a 2000 year old religion through a 200 year old political paradigm, mistaking the analysis of testimony for something other than faith, or the pride in an unreflective, irrational (and therefore inhuman) approach to life’s great questions.

    Put the three together and you get a perfect storm of hilarity.

    Might I suggest Giussani’s “Is It Possible to Live This Way”, especially “Volume 1: Faith.” It can’t clear away that crusty paradigm, but it might help with some of the other confusion.

  2. brian says:

    I’ve often wondered why, if Christ is the “new Adam”, didn’t God make him out of clay instead of being born of a virgin? He’s not really a new Adam if he’s totally part of his mother’s side of the family – hence the doctrinal development of the Immaculate Conception. But then it occurred to me that in the past, people did not think that women contributed to child in a direct physical sense, but was only the incubator for the male seed. With that view of nature, a child born of a virgin, like the child mentioned in Virgil’s Ecologues, would be seen as a restart of humanity due to some miraculous, heavenly intervention.
    This doesn’t make me despair and think that our faith is bogus – I really don’t see how faith in God and his plan for mankind stands or falls on whether or not the Virgin Birth was factually true.
    As for the Resurrection, I don’t think that people, especially those living today in our scientific age, should be compelled to believe that Jesus’ corpse was reanimated. Those who believe that the Easter faith stands or falls on the reanimation of the corpse of Jesus are, ironically, hitching their wagon to scientism in order to ‘prove’ the faith. They present us with a deterministic faith, whose god MUST do things in a determined way given certain pre-existing conditions. If this, then that – if not this, then not that.
    The ironies continue: Mr. Shea scoffs at the possibility of knowledge without immediate sensory data that corresponds with every insight.
    I could go on, but my point is that people like Mr. Shea and many, many others, are struggling with a variety of paradigm shifts that have occurred within the Christian world in the last few centuries. They’re making use of the shards of eclipsed paradigms without much consistency, just whatever fits the momentary question. Regarding ethics, they’re firmly upholding not Christianity, but Aristotelian science, which has been eclipsed not once, but twice. Regarding the Easter faith of the Apostles, an extreme empirical(?) epistemology is proposed. The irony is that it is THEY who are “killing God by inches”, that is, that by identifying the faith with system of ontology or epistemology or cosmology, whenever a new paradigm replaces those former systems, they dig in their heels and lose credibility, losing numbers and entering a ghetto.

    Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of ours – we don’t worship an empty tomb, it’s a sign, like all miracles, that points to the truth of our life in God.

    I’ve known people who have died and their bodies weren’t revived after three days, yet just because their resurrection doesn’t look like the one in the Gospels doesn’t worry me.
    In short, believing that the Resurrection as told in the Gospels is a literary construction doesn’t make our faith bogus – I am convinced of this. Jesus’ friends had a great awakening, that their friend wasn’t dead, but alive in God, that death is no annihilation, but a new life, the cause for fearlessness in this one, the cause for love, the Kingdom of God.

    If I get to Heaven and Jesus greets me and says, “but you know, I actually did have my corpse reanimated and walked out of that tomb!”, I’ll smile and say,
    “wow, really? well that sure was a neat trick! But I wasn’t afraid that I would fail to meet you here.”

  3. Liam says:

    N.T. Wright has addressed this issue in a very popularly accessible way, for example in the opening chapters of Surprised By Hope. I won’t repeat him, other than to say he makes very clear that we are not talking about a reanimated corpse of Jesus but the first fruits of a new creation and he fairly demolishes the credibility of ideas that the Resurrection accounts are literary constructions or post-hoc gildings of a experience, et cet.

  4. Gavin says:

    “In short, believing that the Resurrection as told in the Gospels is a literary construction doesn’t make our faith bogus – I am convinced of this.”

    St. Paul disagrees with you. I Cor 15 is all about that particular error: (17) “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” And later on: (19) “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” In short, if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, we’re still only on our way to hell. He defeated death and won us life: this is the Easter good news!

    I don’t say this to start an argument or prove you wrong, but rather to communicate the Easter joy to you. What happened to Christ will happen to us. How worthless and meaningless our lives are if all He won for us was a smile on the face for 60-80 years! Rather, he won for us an eternity with God, and the resurrection of the dead (even in the flesh!) to eternal life. Join us Christians in our joy that Christ lives, and we therefore know that we will live!

    Christos anesti!

  5. Liam says:

    Alithos anesti!

  6. Dale Price says:

    The irony is that it is THEY who are “killing God by inches”, that is, that by identifying the faith with system of ontology or epistemology or cosmology, whenever a new paradigm replaces those former systems, they dig in their heels and lose credibility, losing numbers and entering a ghetto.

    There’s irony in that rather heated accusation, certainly. But it’s aimed right at your argument.

    Bluntly, you’ve sided with materialism and stacked the deck against the bodily Resurrection and are lashing out against those who hold to it. What is the source of your fear?

  7. Jim McK says:

    When I read 1 Cor 15, I discover that “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

    I have not got a clue what that means, but it suggests that the Resurrection is not a continuation of “this life only” by the reanimation of the flesh, but birth to another existence that is not bound by the constraints of “earthly” life.

    I believe that the resurrected life is with us now, during the 60-80 years God has given each of us on earth. Because it is a new life, it is not subject to a rational analysis that takes the old life as its standard. Meeting the Resurrected Jesus transformed people into witnesses of something more than another’s reanimation, and turning that witness into a statement about the physical body in history is almost sacrilegious.

    IOW, I think Todd did a great job answering the question.

  8. Liam says:

    Jim McK

    It’s a *supernaturally* glorified physical body – according to the nature of the new creation commenced in the Paschal Mystery. Christ eats, lest we forget…

  9. Dale Price says:

    It’s not a reanimation. It’s not a continuation. It’s not a resuscitation. Nor is it something out of the works of Romero.

    It’s a transformation. It’s the body transformed, but still manifestly a physical body. Yes, Jesus could mysteriously appear, but he also could stop and enjoy a little seafood with his friends.

    Failing to account for the physical (and not just in the Resurrection) is actually sacrilegious and poisonous to the venture of Christianity.

  10. Dale Price says:

    I hadn’t seen Liam’s comment as I was crafting mine. As always, he does more with less verbiage.

  11. Dale Price says:

    And I think your essay was fine, Todd. It works well as a salve to Catholics predisposed to overthink matters. But I think Mark’s is quite good at reaching those of a more empirical/skeptical mindset. In other words, you have different audiences.

  12. Todd says:

    Thanks for a really great discussion and your kind comments.

    “Christ eats, lest we forget…”

    I absolutely agree, and I would add another implication: that Christ also shared and intensified his relationship with the disciples. It’s not only about consuming food, but it also includes the personal aspects implicit with the act of sharing a meal.

    Perhaps Jesus eating wasn’t only a demonstration of being able to eat, but also of being able to share or continue sharing a personal intimacy. In other words, the Risen Lord still interacted in a human, social way.

  13. Liam says:

    Todd

    Yes, but a lot of people can imagine a “spirit” having a relationship whereas consuming food is quite distinctly an act of the physical dimension. Jesus’s humanity was not questioned here (though I’ve met some people who labor under the heresy that Jesus ceased to have his nature as a man after he ascended).

  14. Jim McK says:

    Liam,

    I think St Paul is pointing us away from an opposition between spirit and body. After all, he does use the term “spiritual body” and tells us explicitly that in the Resurrection, the last Adam became “a life-giving spirit”. There is plenty in 1 Cor 15 for all sides of this discussion, probably because St Paul was stretching to express something new, something for which language is not adequate.

    1 Cor is about the Body of Christ — the eucharistic body is 11, the ecclesial body in 12, the loving spirit in 13 whose gifts fill the body in 14, and the resurrected body in 15. Taking lines from one chapter to talk about an empirical, physical body is like talking about the consecrated Eucharist in terms of its visible and tactile properties. Sometimes needed, but not often useful.

    “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way…
    If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

  15. Liam says:

    I did not posit an opposition – I was reacting, in fact, to what inferred was your positing of that opposition.

  16. Pingback: What the Resurrection is Not « Catholic Sensibility

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