Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Do pagans dream of the Cath'lic deep?

Emmanuel College, Cambridge
"Nobody in the West can be wholly non-Christian. We cannot help continuing to be influenced by the old dreams, as for example Marxists, anarchists, utopians, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, and Jürgen Habermas were when they all continued to pursue some version of the old biblical vision of a fully reconciled, free and open future society, the messianic Kingdom here on this earth. Whether or not you personally think of yourself as being a Christian does not very much affect the extent to which Christianity goes on influencing your hopes and your dreams.  Hence the curious fact that although the modern EU seems to have largely repudiated its Christian past, it nevertheless continues to be deeply influenced by it.  You may call yourself a non-Christian, but the dreams you dream are still Christian dreams, and you continue to be part of the history of Christianity. That’s your fate. You may consider yourself secular, but the modern Western secular world is itself a Christian creation."

     Don Cupitt, The meaning of the West:  an apologia for secular Christianity (London:  SCM Press, 2008), 66-67.  I was put onto this by Matthew Rose, "Our secular theodicy," First things no. 278 (December 2017):  41 (37-42).
     Cupitt, I gather, would say that secular Christians such as himself are, however, the true heirs of the Christian tradition.

     As well as these non-religious examples, I have suggested a number of small indelible differences that Christianity has already made to us all, differences that we cannot give up.  As listed in Chapter 4 above, they were: 
1 Christianity's picture of the human being as chronically highly conscious and self-dissatisfied. 
2 Various ethical principles including
a the ethic of mutual love and forbearance; 
b the principle that no human being should be treated as simply expendable, because each human being is in principle unique and redeemable; and 
c the orientation of the ethic of love especially not towards the strong and beautiful, but towards the weakest and most vulnerable.
3 The principle of the uniformity of nature, interpreted simply as claiming that we can expect to be capable of building a coherent world-picture, and effective technologies. 
4 The belief that although there is no objective purposiveness out there at all, we can hope to be able to make some real progress by gradually accumulating a series of small, indelible gains such as these. 
Of these four indelibles, (1) is derived historically from the old Christian doctrine of man and ultimately from St Paul; (2) is derived from Christian ethics; (3) is derived from the old doctrine of creation; and (4) is derived f[rom] the old Christian idea of the working-out of our redemption within history.  A fifth indelible (5), the belief that human beings can be creative, is based precisely upon our coming to see our whole religious history as a progressive transfer of power from God to human beings [(65-66)].

Be a vessel, not a channel, a lake without an outlet

William Pye, Cathedral font, Salibury.
"The man who is wise . . . will see his life as more like a reservoir [(concham)] than a canal [(canalem)].  The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water until it is filled, then discharges the overflow [(quod superabundat)] without loss to itself.  He knows that a curse is on the man who allows his own property to degenerate. . . . Today there are many in the Church who acts like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare.  So urgent is the charity of those through whom streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves."

". . . si sapis, concham te exhibebis, et non canalem.  Hic siquidem pene simul et recipit, et refundit; illa vero donec impleatur exspectat, et sic quod superabundat sine suo damno communicat, sciens maledictum qui partem suam facit deteriorem. . . . Verum canales hodie in Ecclesia multos habemus, conchas vero perpaucas.  Tantae caritatis sunt per quos nobis fluenta caelestia manant, ut ante effundere quam infundi velint, loqui quam audire paratiores, et prompti docere quod non didicerunt, et aliis praeesse gestientes, qui seipsos regere nesciunt."

     Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon on the Song of songs 18.3 (1135/1136), trans. Walsh & Edmonds (On the Song of songs I =Works of Bernard of Clairvaux 2, =Cistercian Fathers series 4 (Spencer, MA:  Cistercian Publications, 1971), 134).  SC 431, 90, 92; Sämtliche Werke lateinisch/deutsch 5, 104.  I was put onto this by Jeff Van Duzer.