Commending faith

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Most of us find it challenging to engage with people whose philosophies of life differ from and are critical of our own. Christians faced it some years ago when responding the attack by Richard Dawkins and others on belief in God’s existence. Many Christian writers rallied in defence of theism, rebutting their opponents’ arguments and marshalling their own. The defence was appropriate. It reasserted the claim that theism is true as well as beneficial, and also helped reassure people whose belief in God was shaken. It was also, however, strangely dissatisfying. It was like achieving a scoreless draw in a soccer game – saved a necessary point but won no new followers to the team or the game.

Main image: Zinedine Zidane, FRA, and David Beckham, ENG (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Is that the only way to engage with people who hold a life view different to our own? Christians might seek advice from Peter’s first Letter on how to respond to opposed views: ‘Always be prepared to give an account to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’

The text suggests engaging in conversation rather than confrontation, but not unequivocally. Many translations suggest giving a ‘defence’, and not an ‘account’. ‘Giving a defence’ suggests a discussion that is adversarial and in which defendants focus on themselves and not on the inner world of their conversation partners. ‘Giving an account’, taken together with the commendation of gentleness and respect might suggest an exploratory conversation between equals, each of whom would speak of their personal and operative faith. It would go beyond the logical arguments for their beliefs to explore why they found those arguments persuasive. It would also commit them to an internal conversation which may lead theists to engage with their inner disbeliever.

From this perspective the starting point of such a conversation is not that a theistic view is the only coherent and benign view of the world, nor that it is superior to others. It is that belief in God, as distinct from the belief that God exists, is a gift that is worth exploring and sharing. It takes them beyond a general argument about the existence of God to a personal reflection on why they find their belief in God to be a gift. The conversation also invites their conversation partners to speak of their fundamental vision of the world at the same depth.

If this argument urges the importance of the personal in justifying faith, it must also be developed by a similarly personal account. If asked what I find the most persuasive reason for believing in God, I reply that it is our need for someone to whom we can say thank you. The argument is clearly quixotic, and if seen as a logical proof of God’s existence, it lies naked to dismissal as wish-fulfilment. It is a personal statement. Its merit is that it leads the conversation deeper into the reasons for belief in God and why it is a gift.

My argument that we need someone to say thank you to comes out of personal experience of the world and of all in it as a gift. It begins in wonder at the beauty and largeness of the natural world, at the complexity and goodness of human beings, the transforming power of loving and being loved, and the creativity of human shaping of the world.

Wonder at being part of this world leads naturally to a feeling of gratitude for being invited to exist and to celebrate it. Most human beings, I imagine, will have experienced that wonder and sense of gratitude sometimes in their lives, though they would articulate it in different ways. Some people will treasure it and find words to account for it; some might dismiss it as purely subjective or as a childish distraction from the real business of living.

 

"The purpose of conversation is to allow exploration of one another’s world views and of the experiences that underlie it. That allows both partners to be changed by the conversation."

 

Finding the world and my own sharing in it a gift for which I am thankful, I also find belief in a God who is responsible for the world and to whom I can respond in gratitude to be a gift. It underpins the ways in which I understand my relationship to the world, underpins my understanding of myself as a rational and ethical being, and gives purpose to my existence in the world.

Belief in God also provides the context in which I can explore such existential questions as why we and our world exist and what is distinctive in human consciousness. If beyond our universe lies a source of being that is reflected in the beauty, the love, the rationality, the energies and the destiny of the world, I can hope to find a coherent view of the world as rational and precious, though remaining a mystery.

I see such a belief in God a gift, one that is associated with my personal history and particularly with my Catholic background and belief in Christ in a Christian community. Because it is a gift, I would like others to share it but have no right to expect them to do so. I recognise that many friends who do not share my belief live more generously than and with greater integrity than I do. Our difference in the way we see our world makes me interested in what has contributed to their understanding.

Many are satisfied with accepting the world and human consciousness as given, needing no explanation, and see meaning as something we make, not a gift to be received. Some have had harsh experiences that have closed the door to wonder and to a beneficent God. Some are convinced by the arguments against theism. The purpose of conversation is to allow exploration of one another’s world views and of the experiences that underlie it. That allows both partners to be changed by the conversation and even to score.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Zinedine Zidane, FRA and David Beckham / ENG (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, conversation, confrontation, faith

 

 

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I looked up the words translated in my bible from 1 Peter and they are: "and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." My interpretation of this exhortation is to speak, if necessary, but rather to show by my life the questions others may ask about my faith. People ask all sorts of questions of us through our life and they don't necessarily articulate that enquiry in a straightforward way. I attended the funeral of a much-respected work colleague this morning. His three sisters each spoke of his love, his kindness, his interest in their lives, his gratitude for his nieces and nephews. We all loved him for who he was. And many of us found out only today that he was raised in a faith environment.


Pam | 11 February 2021  

Father Andrew, your writing is truly inspirational and makes me wonder why you are not a bishop. But then it is probably better you are NOT. You might not be able to express such empathy.


John Casey | 11 February 2021  

Dawkins debating with prominent Christians, these days, has almost become passé, as far as I am concerned. It's a barren seed, from which nothing flowers. Most of my closest friends, who I have known for years, are Christians. One is a lifelong Anglican, who, in these days of Liberal Christianity, holds true to Christian Orthodoxy on the grounds it makes sense. He puts it into life in his job as an educationalist. He does immense good. It is not atheists nor agnostics who worry me, but some New Age spirituality aficionados, who often believe in what is basically the Occult. The Occult, often combined with illicit drug use, can do really bad things to people who walk down that path. I have known several of them. Unlike Dawkins, they are inarticulate. All they can do is quote the incoherent tosh put out by their gurus. Christianity is coherent and the foundation of all that is good in Western Society. Christians abolished the vile Slave Trade. I am delighted to see, especially in the USA, the recent revival of that great Christian writer and controversialist, G K Chesterton. If we want to talk to unbelievers, we need to channel Chesterton. He makes eminent sense. There's not a lot of that around in many places.


Edward Fido | 11 February 2021  

As Andrew recognises, in the Catholic tradition subjective and objective discourse about God is more of a "both and" way of proceeding, rather than an "either/or". Both styles and methods are evident in the writings of philosophical and theological luminaries such as the saints Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, all of whom combined the intellectual life with an intense prayer life.


John RD | 12 February 2021  

The gift of belief in God you love and describe so well, Fr Andrew, is shared by many. A global survey published in 2005 by Encyclopaedia Britannica indicated that 3.3% of the world's population consists of individuals like Dawkin's who profess, "atheism, scepticism, disbelief or irreligion, including the militantly irreligious". Further, the incidence of Atheism had fallen from 4.5% in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 with a projection of continued decline towards 1.8 % by 2020. Alongside the fall in dedicated atheism, there existed a rise in agnosticism to 18%. Some 80% of human beings, however, believe in a supreme being , a God, while not necessarily practising a particular religious philosophy. Rather begs the question, "With such a captive audience where on Earth did formalised religion get it wrong?"


john frawley | 12 February 2021  

Andy does well to remind us, not just of the benefits of civil discourse, but that actions and intent speak louder than words. In reprising GKC, as US conservative columnists increasingly do, Edward does well to remind us of the pitfalls of locating inclusion as the hallmark of all exchange (or 'conversation', as Andy prefers). While admitting that there are off-shoots, more akin to ingrowing toenails, than tendrils to be fruitfully explored in many New Age variants, just as there are in some constructions of the Catholicism that unites us here, it is also the case that Chesterton is now employed, often out of the 1930s context in which he wrote and spoke, to pour a kind of delicious and even entertaining scorn upon his opponents' positions. This kind of dissembling and demolition, in addition to disagreeing with Andy's preferred mode, belongs to a canon that, while reaping enormous 'conviction-type, convert returns' in a earlier era, has, of course, passed its used-by date. For instance the New Cosmology, owing its origins to Eastern thought and whose most prominent contributor was Teilhard de Chardin, holds a seminal place in contemporary theology. A pity we didn't learn about it alongside Chesterton's essays!


Michael Furtado | 12 February 2021  

Fr Andrew, you said "I recognize that many friends who do not share my belief live more generously than and with greater integrity than I do." I too have had this experience and believe it or not, some of the best people I ever knew never set foot in a church. Some of the holiest educators, held up to us as icons of virtue in our youth later proved to be the biggest scoundrels. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" Matt 7.21.


Francis Armstrong | 12 February 2021  

John Casey, you hit the proverbial nail. Although undoubtedly 'episcopabile', Andy, like his brother Jesuits, Bill & Frank - they know who we mean! - would be a grave loss to the Church if 'kicked upstairs'. I give thanks everyday for the gift that they are to us. Perchance another example here of Edward's 'Chestertonian paradox'?


Michael Furtado | 12 February 2021  

In 1995, when the world contained 5 billion people, a US government-sponsored report estimated 105 billion to be how many people who have ever lived (107 billion now). If you’re in a post-WW2 cohort born into the First World or acquired residency there, the luck differential between you and iconic privilege like Donald Trump or Gina Rinehart is infinitesimal compared to you and, say, a past female slave. A philosopher could identify the normative social rights and privileges (eg., health systems) which a human deserves. A statistician could calculate the historical unlikelihood of your enjoying them. Each of us has surmounted a still lengthening odds of acquiring a soul (now at 1 to 107 billion but really 1 to infinity, God being under no obligation to create me). We can guess (holding egotistic assumptions) a 0.017% chance of, say, your soul born in 1995 to an Australia of 18 million (reducing further as the total historical human population grows), and, as the precise ways in which you are intersectionally lucky are uncovered, a lessening statistical probability of having been born and staying lucky. Gratitude is, provably, not quixotic. Believing that there is no one to whom to attribute gratitude is.


roy chen yee | 13 February 2021  

Michael Furtado appears to assume "contemporary theology" is authoritative. Teilhardian cosmology enjoys no official status as Catholic Church teaching. It has been criticised as Hegelian in inspiration rather than Christian, not least for its underestimation of evil such as that manifest in the Holocaust - an outrage that defies rationalising as a necessity of evolutionary progress.


John RD | 13 February 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘the pitfalls of locating inclusion as the hallmark of…'conversation'….’ Any security professional knows the greatest threat to an organisation is an insider. Insiders, like parasites, deplete the (social) organism of its vitality by distorting how it operates. The external environment can be ‘waited out’ and overcome if the organism is united, egs., catacomb Christians and Stonewall gays. When the insiders become Laodicean, going along to get along, out of a misplaced emotion of Christian inclusion (by breaking the intrinsic/prudential evil division as alluded to in Chesterton’s ‘Why I am a Catholic’, free to read on the Net) ----what Michael Voris of Church Militant calls the Church of Nice----that the organism loses identity and succumbs to the environment, commonly diagnosed, in the case of Church or Christian, as ‘the world, the flesh and the Devil.’ Recalling Pogo’s ‘the enemy is us’, atheists, agnostics, animists and foreign theists, dwelling outside the walls, are not as dangerous as the ‘in-grown toenail’ in the pew. In the perception of the conserver, the toenail is the dissenter who will bend the Church until it snaps; to the dissenter, it is the conserver whose rigidity will cause the Church to break.


roy chen yee | 14 February 2021  

In the spirit of Andy's plea that we converse with equanimity, I seek to avoid an intractable response. Roy & John's punctilious remarks on Teilhard appear, accordingly, to overlook +Benedict's himself, who commends Teilhard's vision of a liturgy through which 'the cosmos becomes a living host'. Sacramental theologians regard this as the profoundest contemporary cultural insight upon which the age-old and revered Catholic teaching on transubstantiation is based. To cast doubt on Teilhard, then, when every pope since Paul VI has cited him admiringly, is surely to risk parodising our Catholic faith, except for those who, in Roy's brilliantly colourful and classics-invoking Cassandraic allusion, construct the Church as a fortress, consumed by fear and fed upon hatred and suspicion of new insights, while committed to the gloom of an Armageddonesque Troy. While the saddening experience and theology of some have in certain instances drawn them towards the slide-rule, to arrogate decisions of worthiness to party-whips appointed by a merciless God, is surely to miss +Francis' recent words in Arabia: 'Each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes.'


Michael Furtado | 14 February 2021  

Oops! Apologies to those contacting me: there's 'many a slip' indeed; and, of course, I meant 'parodying'. Great Thanks!


Michael Furtado | 15 February 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘….Church as a fortress, consumed by fear and fed upon hatred and suspicion of new insights…. Fairness is acknowledging the fact that other people can hold stringent or even wild opinions with sincerity. Reconciliation is through testing the reasoning pathways that lead to a controversial opinion. The perceptions, depending on which side of a debate you occupy, is that the flexibility of dissenters may make what the Church says self-contradicting while the rigidity of traditionalists may make it irrelevant to solving practical problems. Test those fears with logic the scientific way. Science uses formulas to scope and simplify. There are two formulas for human action: the intrinsic evil where the answer is declared, from theological reasoning, by apostolic authority, to be known, and the prudential evil where apostolic reasoning says the answers are contestable according to the practical sciences. Within the spheres are the four areas of policy, represented by the four sins that call to heaven for vengeance, two of them (covering personal morality) bound within the sphere of intrinsic evil, the remainder (covering social morality) open to contingent best judgements. God’s purity cannot be partitioned; a sin against one area is an accountable sin against all.


roy chen yee | 15 February 2021  

Roy is that humility in disguise? I for one am grateful to God to be given the chance of having a soul so thats one answer to the quandaries you propose. Your stats are a bit lean given as the current population of Australia in 2021 is 25,788,215, a 1.13% increase from 2020. And why Roy isnt God capable of making the odd mistake?


Francis Armstrong | 15 February 2021  

It's true that the writings of Teilhard de Chardin have aroused renewed interest among some theologians, especially in the USA. However, Fr Paul Crowley SJ of Santa Clara University, a leading Teilhard scholar, emphasises that "dross" must be separated from "gold" in approaching this second-wave interest in Teilhard: for every serious Teilhard scholar, says Crowley, " . . . there are nine New Age types who invoke Teilhard's name." New Age syncretism is no basis for Catholic magisterium. The main commendations for Teilhard's work from popes since Paul VI are for his contribution to furthering dialogue between faith and reason, and religion and science. However, it would, I believe, be inaccurate to claim that Teilhard's views enjoy unqualified support among theologians. Part of the problem posed by Teilhard, as one of his staunchest advocates and Jesuit confreres, Henri de Lubac recognised, was Teilhard's lack of precision in expression: his ambiguities on key theological concepts and official Catholic teaching - a weakness identified in the CDF's official caution under the authority of Pope John XXIII about Teilhard's writings in 1962. Joseph Ratzinger in his work "The Spirit of the Liturgy" (Ignatius Press: 2,000), referring to Teilhard's "great vision", locates its sources in Pauline epistles - especially Romans, Ephesians and Colossians - and emphasises the cosmic transformation effected by Christ's incarnation and its redeeming efficacy, so that the whole universe becomes finally what pre-lapsarian existence was meant to be: in harmony with its Creator and a cosmic hymn for all eternity. With this understanding I have no argument since it is clearly distinguishable from New Age simulacra and obfuscations or downplaying of the doctrine of Original Sin in a way that underestimates moral evil and the need for grace.


John RD | 15 February 2021  

Perhaps we need to see pluralism in the context of the ‘Searchers of Truth’ within all individual hearts as all true seekers of Truth, work to the greater glory of God? What we presently need, is to see is a manifestation of true discipleship, not mere words (Conversation); we see this discipleship in St Mother Teresa who overcame hostility from Hinduism, etc. As initially, when she went out into the streets of Calcutta, she had to confront hostility in creating a center for the destitute, but the gentleness of her witness was accepted because her witness was authentic. She approached the goodness within men’s hearts, encouraging them, in words to the effect of ‘be good Hindus’, understanding that the Truth (The divine spark) resides in all men’s hearts, waiting to be nourished, in harmony with these gentle words given by Jesus Christ, in which we see the basis for the encouragement (Growth) of reciprocal love in action….“And whoever gives to one of these little (Humble) ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you he shall not lose his reward”… ‘Because he is a disciple’ one gives (Water) in humility, a sincere acknowledgment of goodness/Truth, reflecting the indwelling Divine spark within the heart/soul, of the giver of water, now ignited and waiting to be further enkindled by the Holy Spirit. As… “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice” …. Through the eyes of faith, we come to see, as God wants (Wills) us to see, that is, that every other, is made in the image of God. Mother Teresa-“The highest form of worship is to find the least among you and treat them like Jesus”. kevin your brother In Christ


Kevin Walters | 15 February 2021  

Francis Armstrong: ‘25,788,215’. There is no past or future with God. The probability of your soul being created (with the chance to enjoy eternal bliss), apart from the 1 chance in infinity because God had no obligation to create you, is 1 chance out of the total historical population when Christ returns. For convenience, for an Australian child born now, we’ll say the chance is, say, 25 million divided by, say, 107 billion, multiplied by 100, to give a percentage of 0.023%. Is the earlier statistic lean? If Christ had returned in 1995, 0.017% would have been it. Numbers fluctuate but the differences are insignificant. You could have improved your chances of eternal bliss to close to 1% by being born this year as an Uyghur in China or a female untouchable in India but these intersectional details lessen the probability of having a nicer life than in Mordialloc. Anyway, the real purpose of saying that the chance of a nice earthly time is less than 1 to infinity is that numbers remove the vain affectation from humility by making it provable that when you are effectively given ten thousand talents, to scrabble for a further hundred denarii is dubious.


roy chen yee | 16 February 2021  

I tend to take Teilhard de Chardin's work, such as The Mass on the World, as poetic visions rather than Theology. As Nigel Molesworth said, that is something 'any fule kno'. Chesterton can discuss Theology, but, as said previously, he is not a theologian, but I believe him to be completely orthodox and a wonderful simplifier of things. He does seem to speak to many in the USA, particularly ex-Evangelical Christians in the Midwest. Chesterton is not what I would consider 'extreme', but I can see him sometimes being used in ways he would not have wished. It is sometimes hard to balance being orthodox and yet tolerant, Michael. I think the problem with some of what are called 'cafeteria Catholics' is that what they choose is not what I would call Catholicism at its core. My great English Catholic hero, John Colet, who founded St Paul's School, London; a friend of Erasmus and a pioneer of the New Learning (reintroduction of Classical Greek and the Early Church Fathers) was not a Thomist, but perfectly orthodox. I think the Church urgently needs to speak to all people in language they can understand without watering down the message.


Edward Fido | 16 February 2021  

Edward Fido: ‘I tend to take Teilhard de Chardin's work, such as The Mass on the World, as poetic visions rather than Theology. As Nigel Molesworth said, that is something 'any fule kno'.’ If Molesworth is worth citing, he’d know that Joe Biden cannot behave unpresidentially while he is president because that disparages his highest function, his office. Even cartoon characters have to meet a standard to remain credible to their readers. The highest function of a theologian is to explain God. He has to be careful if anything else he does disparages that function. Having poetic visions that contradict his theological responsibilities would be one of them. He can have as many poetic visions as he wants but they have to be ‘Theology’. A uniform restricts what you can do and a theologian, or a president of the US, is always in uniform. And because Jesus is the model of how we do what we do, he had to remain hungry on the Sabbath while his followers ate corn from the fields because, in his uniform, his highest function was to remain faithful to the Law, not a jot or tittle of which could be changed.


roy chen yee | 17 February 2021  

I find your identification of Teilhard's "Mass on the World" as poetic vision apt, Edward - after all, the material elements of bread and wine are required for the celebration of the sacrament. It is largely for this tendency to vision that leans towards gnostic spiritualism that Teilhard's dogmatic status has been officially denied in the Catholic Church, though his writings were never placed on the Roman Index (an ecclesial censorship mechanism defunct since Vatican II). The highly respected Henri de Lubac SJ's advocacy on behalf of Teilhard has been a significant factor in what some theologians call his "rehabilitation" vis a vis the Vatican, and at least marginal recognition for some of his thinking in papal documents such as Francis' reference to him in "Laudato Si". According to the New Age Encyclopaedia, which, in the "free' spirit of the '60s and '70's, has none of Rome's reservations, Teilhard is hailed as the leading figure in the movement's "spiritual awakening." I recall one of my university professors in the swinging '70s enthusing that Teilhard's thinking had made the Catholic Church superfluous.


John RD | 17 February 2021  

Thank you for your perceptive comment on Teilhard de Chardin's being hijacked by the New Age Movement, John RD. Fortunately for me, unlike some of my friends, I was not in San Francisco when the Flower Power era was at its height. Nor did I do postgraduate study at UTS, the Yale Divinity School et sim. I think places like Woodstock and Nimbin represented a False Dawn. The late Blessed Seraphim Rose, an American by birth, saw Nihilism as being the Spirit of the Modern Age. He was right.


Edward Fido | 18 February 2021  

Caro Eduardo, why don't you confine your remarks to taking on Le Roy. For a brief but brilliant moment this correspondence was beginning to sparkle!


Michael Furtado | 19 February 2021  

You're right about nihilism, Edward. Dostoevsky saw it coming in his portrayal of Ivan Karamazov. Today the increasing side-lining of God and religious expression from public life, especially in the West - a phenomenon not consistent with millennia of human experience - is, I think, facilitated by affluence and the distractions, transient securities and false gods it gives rise to.


John RD | 19 February 2021  

It's sometimes a long way to Le Roi, Michel and as the original John Bunyan chronicled, many possible dangerous directions someone on The Way can take. We need to know them. Sometimes 'sparkle' is deceptive.


Edward Fido | 22 February 2021  

Point taken, Edward. But I still think that your sharper interventions distract Roy enough to bring out the best in him: abrasive, excoriating even, but enough to disengage him from his brilliantly dismal 'Gothic-dungeonesque' obsessions with angels on pinheads. Enough, that is, to endanger John Frawley's hitherto unchallenged position at the top of ES's rollicking, frolicking stakes!


Michael Furtado | 25 February 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘angels on pinheads.’ It is an established scientific fact that we are mainly empty space. When the space between and within atoms is removed, we humans can all be squeezed into the space of a sugar cube, and if all other matter is similarly treated, into the size of an orange. And, as God recycles and matter is neither created nor destroyed, the sum of almost every material to do with Earth and homo sapiens, except for the bits that left the planet, is both the size of an orange, but heavy. That God is omnipresent, immanent and omniscient doesn’t have to be a superstitious belief because the matter in you is timeless, has probably been to or come from places where you’ve never been and, under some circumstances, an electron seems to know what another electron across the continent is doing. Therefore, there is no necessary a priori assumption that angels and pinheads have nothing to do with each other. Being luckier than the medieval scholastics, our modern access to the paradoxes of science may help us in our speculations about the paradoxes of God. www vox.com/science-and-health/2018/5/29/17386112/all-life-on-earth-chart-weight-plants-animals-pnas https ://interestingengineering.com/due-to-the-space-inside-atoms-you-are-mostly-made-up-of-empty-space


roy chen yee | 25 February 2021  

You're absolutely incorrigible, Michael. ROFL. We all have our own idiosyncrasies. Humour has its place, but that needs to be the right one.


Edward Fido | 25 February 2021  

You are beginning to remind me of the Dean of my college, Michael. He was an Anglo-Catholic cleric of decided Modernist views, who used to damn his opponents with ridicule, often very clever and subtle. He passed on long ago. A tribute to him published a few years back credited him with leading that particular devotee to Zen Buddhism. You could say 'At least she's somewhere'. My contention would be that the 'where' is very important and 'somewhere' is not good enough.


Edward Fido | 26 February 2021  

I am, for all my weaknesses, certainly that, dear Ed! But what better way is there than through giving others the glad-eye, so to speak: entertaining them, salving them with comfort and sharing our hospitality unconditionally with them, can we invite others into the wonderful drawing-room of our faith? Condemnation, punishment, dire warnings and the whiff of sulphur certainly won't get us there. We are - the best and worst of us - nothing if not prostitutes of and for Christ!


Michael Furtado | 26 February 2021  

My last response, Ed, was to your post of Feb 25. Here's what I think of your latest observation (Feb 26). I am no Anglo-Catholic; though, naturally, my humour and writing are inflected by such modernist (by which I mean postcolonial) influences and, more pertinently, by my upbringing in Bengal, where, at one stage, both the English language and its application to local context, while often belittled but employed to express original and important ideas and meaning (and principally by eminent Bengalis and some others, like Teilhard), have, in my view, seldom been read, let alone understood. This brings me to Roy, who is, in my view, one of the most brilliant exponents of Euclidian logic that I have encountered, BOTH in these columns AND elsewhere. Indeed, his training and background, though I know nowt of it, would suggest from his writing a grounding in a kind of mathematical geometry that used to underpin all manner of Catholic apologetics that was the empirical foundation upon which an unassailable kind of fortress Catholicism used to depend. All I'm saying is that for some Catholics as well as others, undoubtedly risk-taking though always humanistic that we are, such proofs don't sustain anymore.


Michael Furtado | 27 February 2021  

Not 'can we', dear Editors, but 'than to'. Great Thanks!


Michael Furtado | 27 February 2021  

" . . . the 'where' is very important and 'somewhere ' is not good enough". How true, Edward - said with admirable clarity and traction.


John RD | 28 February 2021  

Fr Bob Maguire of Melbourne is a Post Vatican II Catholic, John Frawley, but, like you, he is extremely intelligent. He therefore realised that Vatican II and the Magisterium were not in conflict. The problem arises when those of less intelligence and insight turn their minds to the matter. The Mass, whether in Latin or the vernacular, is awesome and still the same. Degrading it by introducing so called 'liturgical dance' is a travesty. There is a yearly celebration of a Flamenco Mass at a cathedral in Spain, but that, like the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, is both awe inspiring and mind blowing in the right way. Religion, real religion, should indeed blow your mind and give you that slight glimpse of Heaven we all need. Theology is a field where many fools blunder in without the right training and attitude which confer protection. 'Liberal Christianity' aka Modernism is again doing the rounds amongst the glib and credulous. It leads nowhere. How right you are to see that!


Edward Fido | 11 March 2021  

'Missa Luba' is a Mass setting that's sung 'aux style Congolaise'. It was first recorded in 1958 by 'Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin' from the Congo and became the basis for a Congolese sub-rite of the Roman Rite Mass, called the Zaire Use. Mass at St Peter's on the First Sunday of Advent, 2019 was celebrated by +Francis and an African ensemble. 'The experience of the Congolese rite of celebrating the Mass,' the pope stated, 'can serve as an example and model for other cultures.' The rite is similar to several others now developed in Asia and Latin America, where inculturation, while unmentioned by Edward despite his association with India, has gathered enormous pace since Vatican II. My late cousin, Noel D'Souza SJ, when Rector of the Papal Seminary, Poona, commissioned such a Mass, based on cultural idioms that link the Scriptures with the Mahabarata, Hinduism's sacred text, which, corresponding with the Creation, Exodus and Nativity stories, precedes the Christian account by several centuries! At the Papal Mass held last week in Iraq local musicians sang the Mass in Aramaic employing Islamic musical idioms. While some wouldn't approve, Bob Maguire would, unreservedly! Without inculturation, the greater the cost to evangelisation.


Michael Furtado | 12 March 2021  

Interesting, your (hopefully not) last post of 12 March 2021, Michael. I knew the Missa Luba when first it came out. Part of it was played in the vital concluding section of that wonderful 1968 film "If". Ironic isn't it that African priests may now be taking the Catholic Faith back to Post-Christian Europe? A Faith that is not encultured is a dead faith. Hence Australia? We need something like the wonderful Book of Common Prayer, with which my ancestors led their congregations in worship. I must confess one of my favourite art forms is Bharatanatyam, danced by lovely Indian ladies in full costume, no Jesuits involved. For me, a good performance touches heaven. Look, I don't want to attract the censorious attention of that 'Latter Day Zealot', Roy Chen Yee. I have enough problems dealing with my wife's current sadly losing battle with Alzheimer's, without copping another shovel load of his mental faeces. I am unable, currently, to deal with that rubbish. I suspect Roy's erratic behaviour and bizarre prognostications are beginning to faze quite a few others here. Perhaps the editors need to look at his most recent outpourings and intervene proactively in this matter?


Edward Fido | 15 March 2021  

Edward Fido: ‘I am unable, currently, to deal with that rubbish.’ It seems I am living rent-free in your head. Is that your problem or mine? But, to be serious, this is a dandy post because it pertains to the Plenary Thread. Can we trust the laity to run the Church? No. Why? Because of posts like this, which have caught the current bug that one must never say anything which ‘triggers’ another or makes them feel ‘unsafe’. These days, you cannot in company with other Christians rise above the banal in joint thinking. You cannot even, without fear or favour, address the readings of the day in group meetings of, say, a St Vincent de Paul parish conference, lest you upset someone who is compromised because he or she is living with somebody, is gay, has been married once before and is now again, has children who have fallen from the faith, etc. So, we bee-line for the lowest common denominator, some pablum about ‘love’. Talk about sucking eggs. The Great Commission is not inclusive and we-are-stuck-with-that. Walking on eggshells around other lay Laodiceans makes us unfit to protect the purity of the inheritance, hence the unelected clerical aristocracy.


roy chen yee | 16 March 2021  

Dear Edward, Great thanks for sharing the pain you carry at this time in respect of your wife's Alzheimer's. I searched in vain for a marvelous piece of comfort once published by Peter Gagen when he headed Adult Religious Education Services at Brisbane Catholic Education (an inspired appointment!). It was an American reflection on some of the confusion that addles the minds of those suffering from AD. The beauty of the piece was in its unconscious and sparkling humour, sent to bolster those of us who recall the vibrancy and vitality of those we love and who are plunged into the deepest of sorrows about its loss. I hope that some of the absurdities surrounding the letting go of a vibrant life lived over many years to the full, brings for you moments of piece as you are able to dwell on our ultimate puniness and the funny helpless ways in which the most sophisticated of us are, as it were, returned to the vulnerabilities of childhood. There is, although we can't easily see it, a blessing in it for all of us. I pray that you & your wonderful lady, as well as Roy, find some succour in this.


Michael Furtado | 17 March 2021  

Roy, you are sounding more and more like you are genuinely 'off the planet'. The world of personal mental health is not something I would tend to raise in an open forum such as this. Michael Furtado is just gloriously eccentric. You strike me as possibly being more than just eccentric. These days, when I hear alarm bells ringing on the matter, I try to mention it to the person concerned. I am not 'offended' nor do I feel 'unsafe'. You are no threat, nor have you threatened me. I am just concerned for you as another human being. I hope, if you do need some mental health intervention, that you get it. Following up my gut feeling, I will refrain from engaging with you in these pages.


Edward Fido | 17 March 2021  

Edward Fido: ‘off the planet’ How interesting. You lob bombs which don’t explode; instead, they resonate. Not quite 'off the planet' but on Mars, Mars Hill that is, where Paul gave up on fancy philosophy to concentrate on basics: just issue these challenges: 1. believe someone rose from the dead. 2. by virtue of that odd fact, believe whatever he says. 3. believe what he left authorised others in his wake to say. A faith to be commended?


roy chen yee | 18 March 2021  

Dear Michael, thank you very much.


Edward Fido | 18 March 2021  

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  • Andrew Hamilton
  • 04 February 2021

The exchanges within churches echo trends in national life that heighten disagreements, lessen respect, and tend to confine conversation circles to people of similar views. People become annoyed if those opposing their views gatecrash their forums. This trend creates problems for Church sponsored publications.

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