What is happening to the Church?

I am not today looking at the rights and wrongs of artificial contraception, but I would like us to consider the after effects as they have appeared in the Catholic community. You will recall that the Commission studying the issue at the request of the Pope decided in favour of artificial contraception. But this verdict was overturned in the Papal instruction Humane Vitae. Following this, several archbishops, while accepting the papal ruling, reminded their flocks that the ultimate arbiter would be their own consciences. This sounded – to me at least – to be a way of preventing Catholics leaving the Church in large numbers without contradicting the papal ruling.

I was reminded recently in a newly published book on demography that in the early 70’s the number of Catholic US women using artificial contraception increased from one third to two thirds. There was now little difference between the usage of Catholics and the usage of Protestants. But there are other, perhaps foreseeable, outcomes to consider.

One outcome which was certainly foreseen was a change in the characteristics of sexual intercourse. Thus, where intercourse had been locked into its nature as an act structured by its ability to effect conception, it was now an act of intimacy in its own right. That is, it became harder to demonstrate it as acceptable only in marriage. A common sequence for millennials appears to be: kissing. petting, contracepted intercourse, marriage. At the earlier stages an individual may have more than one partner – regarding contracepted intercourse as a day to day expression of intimacy. I know of several middle-class sequences which started at university, followed by a longish period of living together, and completed by marriage when the couple begin to think about children.

We might expect that such sequences would lead to a greater degree of future breakdown. But, so far, this does not appear to be so: ”Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the divorce rates for couples who have been married for 15 years has fallen from 31 per cent in 2005 to 28 per cent in 2017, and are predicted to fall to 23 per cent within the next decade. As 90 per cent of intact parents with teens are married, these statistics show a clear improvement in family stability.” On the other hand, “Our new finding reveals that we have crossed a watershed. Cohabiting parents, despite being only one fifth of couples, now account for the majority of family breakdown.” I am quoting from the Marriage Foundation website. I recommend anyone interested in modern marriage to visit the research on this site.

A second outcome, which may be more important in the long run, has been a change in the emphasis and effect of conscience. No longer are our consciences automatically restricted to the formal teaching of the Church. While we are required to respect and to be guided by traditional moral teaching, it is our conscience to which we must ultimately attend: https://www.premier.org.uk/News/World/Pope-Francis-Be-guided-by-conscience-not-rules is a brief summary .

One thing seems certain: the Church of the future will be different from the Church of the past. And the question is: will it be a better Church or not.?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Advocatus Diaboli, Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to What is happening to the Church?

  1. Catherine says:

    The church’s teaching has been the only voice that has helped me not get pregnant I’ve never wanted to marry so am grateful to the church for taking the stand that it does. Women like me see how destructive contraception has been for women i. e behave like men and have sex without commitment. You mention the middle class and the university educated there are so many others hurt by non commitment that live outside your parameters. You mention intimacy but not lust.

  2. Nektarios says:

    What the present is of the Church here on earth, that will be its immediate future.

    And Catherine, I have over the years known many parishioners who were spinsters, or men, as bachelors, it was natural for them. They could and did form deep friendships lasting a lifetime, the issue of sexual intimacy I doubt if such issues ever entered their heads.

  3. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // One thing seems certain: the Church of the future will be different from the Church of the past. And the question is: will it be a better Church or not.? //

    There has been a second Reformation. It began, probably, a little over fifty years ago with Vatican II, and it’s been intensifying ever since. It’s a silent Reformation, unacknowledged by either of the major participants. Rome has pretended it doesn’t exist and the reformers have pretended that they’re only wiping out a lot of superstitious nonsense.

    The Catholic Church I observe in my part of the US is a church of democratic individualist progressives. Most of the parishioners at my parish, it’s my guess, have simply rejected the bits of dogma and tradition that they don’t like and amplified those that they do. In other words, they’ve cobbled together their own religion and called it Catholic. For them, Rome is irrelevant, except insofar as it agrees with them. I doubt, for example, that most believe in most of the statements in the Apostles’ Creed. In changing what they’ve changed, they’ve set a precedent which bids fair to continue, unimpeded by the hierarchy. They’ve made of Catholicism what pleases them, and nothing I see poses the slightest impediment to the generations that follow them doing the same.

    The big unknown here is the non-Western Catholic world, which might take over the Church and return it to its roots and re-connect it with its millennial tradition, having seen its present Western custodians abandon those for a fundamentally materialist model. Of course, if the Asians and the Africans do start running things, they will change the Church in ways of their own.

    In any case, the current Western custodians of the Church seem to have abandoned for good the model of permanence and tradition, and replaced it with an ever-changing model of social relevance.

  4. Nektarios says:

    David Smith

    You write, ‘Most of the parishioners at my parish, it’s my guess, have simply rejected the bits of dogma and tradition that they don’t like and amplified those that they do. In other words, they’ve cobbled together their own religion and called it Catholic. For them, Rome is irrelevant, except insofar as it agrees with them. I doubt, for example, that most believe in most of the statements in the Apostles’ Creed. In changing what they’ve changed, they’ve set a precedent which bids fair to continue, unimpeded by the hierarchy. ‘

    I find myself agreeing with much of what you say. The scenario you outlined has happened many times over not only in the Roman Catholic Church but all the Churches down through the centuries to the sorry state much of it is in today.

    Rightly, you point out. ‘ I doubt, for example, that most believe in most of the statements in the Apostles’ Creed. In changing what they’ve changed, they’ve set a precedent which bids fair to continue, unimpeded by the hierarchy. ‘

    That has been one of the main problems in the Church. I have gone on over many months to show
    that so much of the problems for Christians in the Church is the departure from the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice. The tragedy is, it has also been a reoccurring theme throughout the long history of the Church.
    Of course, things change on the ground, wars, liberalism running rampant today, political upheaval and education with its Communistic, atheistic bent, all vying for the minds and hearts of mankind.

    If we don’t follow and live out the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice, poor sinful man has little or nothing to resist such temptation. Not for the first time, as Scripture teaches us, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray.’

    Like I said at the beginning of this topic, ‘What the present is of the Church here on earth, that will be its immediate future.

  5. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, the link you gave (a summary of AL which is both tendentious and inaccurate) does PF a disservice. I am by no means his greatest fan, and agree with those more eminent than myself who find parts of this document problematic.

    But there is a world of difference between informed conscience and private choice or judgement. Later this year Bl. John Henry Newman will be canonized. He is the greatest theologian of conscience in modern times. I hope people will take the trouble to acquaint themselves with what he actually wrote.

  6. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // One thing seems certain: the Church of the future will be different from the Church of the past. And the question is: will it be a better Church or not.? //

    If the change that began with Vatican II continues apace, there will be no Roman Catholic Church in two hundred years. Not a few of these changes, both formal, from Rome, and de facto, tolerated by Rome, from the regional Churches and from the laity, are radical, pushing hard at the boundaries of doctrine and then, when doctrine has given ground, into the empty spaces beyond. The Western Church, it seems to me, is already, at heart, de facto, largely post-Catholic. It won’t take long before what was understood only a hundred years ago as the immutable rock of doctrine will have been worn down into sand.

    The deadly problem with a culture of endless radical change, which is the culture of the West in our time, is that no principle is recognized as having value that transcends the moment. All principle is relative to the mood of the majority of the times. What was good yesterday is bad today, and so on, day after day, in saecula saeculorum.

  7. ignatius says:

    David,
    I like this analysis of yours particularly in relation to boundaries and empty spaces beyond.
    I’m not a cradle catholic myself or even a ‘cradle christian’ if such a thing exists. I have been following Jesus as best I can for maybe 40 years or so but have been deeply absorbed in catholicism, in its cultural, catechetical and mystical aspects, over the past 15 years or so. I joined the church then, quickly became a catechist and have now been ordained as Deacon for some 5 years.
    Here in England I am quite closely involved with several parishes and so have some understanding of the local situation. It seems to me that most catholics I meet/ teach/ have friendship with etc have a faith which has mystical, cultural and doctrinal aspects in varying mix according to personal history.
    The strange thing is that the great emphasis of catechesis in my experience focuses itself on mental preperation and ‘objective’ doctrine. Yet the truth is that isn’t where most catholics live.

    Again in my experience gained from moving among parishes is that most catholics live in a loose cultural catholic affiliation which lies deeply embedded within a peculiarly catholic kind of inchoate mysticism born out of barely comprehended, intellectually at least, personalised experience of rite and ritual. I rather like this condition but it does resonate with your thought about the ’empty spaces’ beyond doctrine.
    I struggle to articulate this feeling but my overall sense is that most Catholics are not very ‘catholic’ at all and could be given a new name without too much bother as long as no one told them- but if anyone suggested the idea they would defend their flag faithfully, to the last man -or most likely woman- standing.

    So I agree that we have in a sense become ‘Post catholic’ in accordance with cultural changes..but I’m not convinced it really matters because, at the very centre of the catholic faith is the beating heart of jesus, experienced as it is personally, and imaged, at eucharist and through the many religious /liturgical practices of our faith.

    My own sense is that the increased fluidity of catholic being is a good thing and one which may lead to a slimmer but more revitalised church in the West.; I think this is a process going on across the World in one form or another. Thanks for your carefully considered contribution which I have found helpful.

  8. Nektarios says:

    David Smith wrote: The deadly problem with a culture of endless radical change, which is the culture of the West in our time, is that no principle is recognized as having value that transcends the moment. All principle is relative to the mood of the majority of the times. What was good yesterday is bad today, and so on, day after day, in saecula saeculorum.”

    It is a bit depressing that all the principles in Doctrine, in Teaching and in Practice would have little or no meaning in a relative world, where everything is up for grabs, you pay your money and take your choice.

    But that is not the Gospel nor is it Biblical Christianity, more importantly, the end game that God has planned that will happen without fail. It is now a very Godless, secular, atheistic man-centred world flexing its puny little muscles.

    For too long, religious institutions many who started out well, they know they have failed Christ and
    denied the souls of man the message of the Gospel in large measure leaning to their own understanding and confusing the message with their liberal opinions.

    I think, there will be a lot of trouble and suffering ahead for mankind on account of arrogantly snubbing God thinking their modern ways are the only and right way.
    Many are praying God will have mercy on us especially when we sin in ignorance and see the need that God would revive us again. Lord have mercy!

  9. Alasdair says:

    I pray that in your deliberations, whatever your position is on changes which have occurred within the church, that you support ecumenism, at least insofar as it relates to the non-catholic christian churches.
    To quote from the CCC under the heading The Profession of Faith / The Church Is One:
    ” – many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church.
    Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesiastical communities as a means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth —“. etc etc.
    I understand this to be a core statement, coming from Vatican II.
    Within the churches of my neighbourhood we have a near-model level of inter-denominational cooperation and love. And yet, even here, on one occasion when the priest made a generously ecumenical statement, a lady ran out of the building in a highly emotional state saying that that is not what she had been taught.

    • Nektarios says:

      Alasdair
      Let me remind you for what ecumenism actually is. Ecumenism was an idea thought up by the Roman Catholic Church. It was to bring all other churches and religions it would seem under its ecclesiastic authority. For well over fifty years they have banged this drum, but they have not been successful, even when to a large extent they were financing the project.
      Ecumenism stems from a wrong view of what is actually meant by ‘ the Church is one’.
      There is a truth in that, but their ecclesiastic unity has escaped them, naturally, for the Unity they seek does not exist there, it never did. It was also a power grab to get all the other, Christian, and other churches under the one Pope, giving credence to a false view that the Church is one and that He was the sole leader or head of the all Churches of Christendom. The Orthodox Church jumped on the same bandwagon, and it too failed, it only showed the inherent divisions within that exist.

      • milliganp says:

        This is absolutely typical Nektarian drivel. During the interval between the first and second world wars, European theologians started addressing themselves to the question “how could two Christian nations go to war?”; after the second world war they added “how did Christian Germany let the Third Reich happen?” In trying to contemplate these questions they then asked “how did Christianity become divided?”
        Thus the primary thrust of the early ecumenical movements was to seek what was held in common and to seek to remove much of the polemic which often defined how particular positions were held. In this movement Catholics learned to appreciate scripture more and reformed churches re-evaluated attitudes towards tradition and sacramental theology.
        The project cannot be said to have been successful since almost all faiths have been more profoundly influenced by secularism than by theology but to stylise ecumenism as a power grab by Rome is arrant nonsense.

  10. ignatius says:

    Alistair,
    I work in a multi denominational and even multifaith chaplaincy setting. I share platforms with Baptist, Free Church and Anglican ministers on a frequent basis. But the key point is not to seek uniformity of doctrine or ritual but to respect difference, this is key to ecumenical ‘success’

    • G.D says:

      Agreed ignatius. ….. But, some in all ‘conclaves’ still hold an attitude of ‘if the difference doesn’t agree with my/our understanding then it’s anathema & not of God’ All the while maintaining an outward ‘christian acceptance’ of the other; but still with an intention of ‘proselytizing’ … often unconscious & denied. …. While these closed minds exist there can be no unity ‘within religious institutions’. ….. The ‘kingdom’ (real church) is united already by that very attitude of respecting differences, and accepting each other in Love. (Agape). Those who do so, whatever conclave they belong to, will know each other as ‘justified’. ………We just don’t ‘see’ it clearly enough yet, to fully let go of our misbegotten need be ‘justified’ by ‘(a) faith’ – as in my ‘conclaves’ doctrine – or by ‘works’ – as in my ‘conclaves’ social behaviour – being the only righteousness in the world! ……. Basically it’s pride & arrogance; rather than humility & equanimity.

      (I do hope that’s liberal enough for them locked into their own ‘conclaves’ to get a jolt of sense. Lol pigs might fly! It will remain Anathema to them. Shame.)

  11. Alan says:

    G.D.

    What is it that tells the guy talking to St Peter that he isn’t in his own walled off section of heaven of his own making? It doesn’t look like it from his perspective of course, but then it never would. St Peter tells him it isn’t, but then God requires that he not be told directly how things actually are. He may feel like he has moved on from a misconception about heaven that he once had, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t perhaps still trapped in another conclave. Even after an eternity … how will he ever know?

    • G.D says:

      Does he need too … does he take St Peter on faith … does he reject what St Peter is saying … has he posted on the wrong blog entry … it’s all a mystery to me

    • Alan says:

      Wrong blog – sorry. It felt as if you made a reference to the idea again on this week’s topic so I thought I’d ask the question here.

      Does he need to? Perhaps not. It just feels like heaven would be an odd (frustrating?) experience for someone curious and not overconfident in their own “truth”. You painted an interesting scene. I imagine the guy asking St Peter about this directly and St Peter only being able to reply “Well, what can I tell you?!”.

  12. David Smith says:

    Ignatius writes:

    // the key point is not to seek uniformity of doctrine or ritual but to respect difference, this is key to ecumenical ‘success’ //

    In respecting differences, don’t you first need to recognize similarities? That’s natural in the narrowing process, which is essential to how we think. We start with a generality, as wide as possible, and work down until we reach a comfortably small area to focus on, then look for differences and similarities among the discrete units there (the human intellect is binary, and it thinks of everything as divisible into discrete units). Applying this model to ecumenism, we start with all of humanity, then work down to all non-atheists, then finally to all Christians. I don’t know the history of ecumenism, but my sense is that it’s underlain by a desire to bring all Christians together, in one way or another. Nektarios identifies its origin as Roman Catholic. If it is, then I’d guess that he must be correct in saying that the motive is to put the RC Church at the head of it, in some vague way, at least as a mediator, trying to corral the hundreds or thousands of groups that call themselves Christian under one big umbrella, with Rome, at least at first, doing most of the mediating. It seems to me that “all Christians” must make up a very large assemblage, and a very disparate one. Presumably the target of ecumenism is formalized groups, not individual believers who don’t identify with formal groups, but even so, there must be an awful lot of organizations to somehow get to agree to identify themselves as one whole something or the other. And why? What’s in it for them? Why should they want to trade their independence for subsidiarity, of any kind?

  13. ignatius says:

    David,
    Yes of course you recognise similarities..sorry, I thought I didn’t need to state it. For example, in our prison, at certain religious festivals of the year ..say Ash wednesday, Pentecost Maundy Thursday, we will have shared services at which any of us, Pentecostal, Catholic, Anglican, Catholic will take part and all those who take part in the christian life of the prison will be free to attend The service will thus be a shared one in most aspects. There will be one or two bits that will not fit because they are simply not ‘fittable’ So for example if our Anglican Managing chaplain presides over communion then as a Catholic deacon I may go forward to receive a blessing but I will not take the bread and wine. In the catholic services we get many christians of different flavours and tribes, all are welcome but we will not share eucharist wit non catholic, they come for a blessing.
    The point about respecting difference is that whichever groupings we represent we will not niggle on or carp about the fault lines of doctrine but simply accept the integrity of the other and simply work out how closely we may legitimately celebrating another’s practice and what is non negotiable. It is the same for inter faith issues though the walls are a little less porous there.

    Ecumenism is simply defined:
    “Historically, the word was originally used in the context of large ecumenical councils that were organized under the auspices of Roman Emperors to clarify matters of Christian theology and doctrine. These “Ecumenical Councils” brought together bishops from around the inhabited world (that is, οἰκουμένη) as they knew it at the time. There were a total of seven ecumenical councils accepted by both Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism held before the Great Schism. Thus, the modern meaning of the words ecumenical and ecumenism derives from this pre-modern sense of Christian unity, and the impulse to recreate this unity again.” Wikipedia

    Ecumenisism from a contemporary Catholic perspective is not to do with legitimacy or power mongering so its not at heart a matter of subsidiarity but of a kid of mission statement of intent.

  14. Nektarios says:

    The history of Ecumenism, but only in the word, may refer back to the seven ecumenical councils
    agreeing on what the Christian doctrine and theology should be, and they did.
    But this, unfortunately, is a far cry from ecumenism today. They have developed theologies, which in many cases were departures from the Apostolic Doctrines, Teaching and Practice.

    It was the Roman Catholic Church over fifty years ago that tried to get Ecumenism off the ground and largely financed it as I have said earlier.

    It was indeed a matter of subsidiarity to Rome even extending to Buddhists, where the Dia Li Lama answered for them on ecumenism, saw through Rome’s plan and gave the memorable reply, ” Do not try to put a sheep’s head on a Yak, and we will not try to put a Yak’s head on a sheep”

    He in his own way got to the heart of the problem with Ecumenism, it is not possible to lump everybody into on group called Ecumenism. The Church was dispersed throughout the world eventually, with their own cultural take on things. When I looked at ecumenism initially, I came to see this world is a very big place with many cultures and nations and Christian Churches.
    The Church is One, but that is not some edifice erected by man’s devising, no matter what one calls it or schemes of men to make it so.

    Lastly, something our Roman Catholic Brethern need to take stock of. The reason Ecumenism did not take off as anticipated was the long history and experience of the Christian Church’s dealings with one another. Some hail it as a great success, but in over fifty years it has made little or no real impact, due to the distrust built up over centuries, not to mention the many departures they have all made from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice.
    Ignatius’ view which is widespread in some denominations concerning receiving Holy Communion
    in another Church, demonstrates that some Christian cannot break bread together. But whose table is the Communion table? Obviously, it is not our denomination’s table. but the Lord’s and whosoever He invites to it. Just another reason why the modern Ecumenism idea has not really gained much ground in over fifty years.

  15. milliganp says:

    Quentin, it’s interesting that your point of departure is always the issue of contraception but another major fracture occurred under Paul VI, the reform of the Liturgy; in it’s most positive presentation the laity changed from mere bystanders to active participants but there was also a significant loss of mystery. As humans we are often best a adhering to beliefs we don’t fully understand – we substitute wonder at mystery for intellectual engagement.
    Cardinal Heenan, in particular, felt that abandoning Latin would seriously damage the practice of faith – perhaps his concerns are as much to be considered as the impact of the sexual revolution.

    • David Smith says:

      milliganp writes:

      // As humans we are often best a adhering to beliefs we don’t fully understand //

      Admitting that our understanding of anything is always fatally flawed is simply coming to terms with our humanity. Yes, the killing off of Latin was a momentous stupidity. The Church hierarchy seems to be overflowing with loquacious idiots. Belief in the nonsensical notion that endless material change – “progress” – will make us gods is an awful affliction, and it’s the main support pillar of today’s Western establishment.

  16. Nektarios says:

    milliganp

    Your last posting where again you refer to what I said as drivel, ah well, we can disagree with each other without resorting to rudeness.
    I cannot see how a few theologians looking at a particular problem, have anything much to do with modern-day Ecumenism? You wrote: “how could two Christian nations go to war?”; after the second world war they added: “how did Christian Germany let the Third Reich happen?” In trying to contemplate these questions they then asked: “how did Christianity become divided?”

    Any well-taught Christian could give an answer to these simple questions, at least superficially.
    For example, We can all say it was a result of the Fall and sin working in the old nature of Man.
    With the working of sin in Man, Man became violent, murderous as we see in the Cain and Abel in Scripture. Multiply that between families, tribes, to nations then we see the full extent of the violence Man is capable of.

    When it comes to the question as to how did Christianity become divided that is not so straightforward.
    Personally, I do not think a true Apostolic Christianity is divided. On the surface of it with different
    theologies, doctrines, departures from that Apostolic Christianity in doctrine, teaching and practice, the fractures of externals of such Christianity soon appeared leading to divisions on external religious belief and other matters.

    But one will have to go deeper, much deeper to discover the root of division, its cause and its cure.
    I will give you a couple of clues: Man lives in conflict with Himself/Herself. With this conflict, man lives in duality.
    In his sin, Man has become a rebel against God and often an enemy to their own brothers and sisters of the faith and humanity at large. I will leave you to work out the rest, including the cure for yourself.

  17. ignatius says:

    Hmmm..I don’t think that saying a person speaks drivel is neccessarily rudeness. Especially where it is simply a vivid way of saying a person is speaking nonsense… especially when in this case it is very true..Of course the Pope would want to run the Buddhists as well as the catholics..why wouldn’t he.. obvious.. innit… .duh.

  18. G.D says:

    Milliganp say’s ….. “As humans we are often best adhering to beliefs we don’t fully understand – we substitute wonder at mystery for intellectual engagement.” …… yes and Yes … “Many people define their religion as a belief, …. but there isn’t much room for faith in a religion that is reduced to belief, and there isn’t any place for an open-minded appreciation for the world’s sacredness” Thomas More ‘The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life’. ……. We need to embrace again a sense of the Presence of God with us now. The mystery (soulfulness in/of the world?) is largely lost by relying on a.n.other ‘authority’ that dictates what is and what isn’t the ‘mystery’ of God. There is no personal experience acceptable to an objectified ‘belief system’ …. But look at the Celtic churches, and the inclusion of ‘mystery’ & ‘spirit’ in all aspects of life – before the imposition of ‘doctrine’ rule & rote as the only true ‘expression’ of God’s Presence ….

    Yes!! we need to come to KNOW & accept the mystery once again inherent in creation – that is where the soul of the world is – and the Spirit of God resides.

    But pigs might still fly before that is acceptable to some ‘conclaves’ ….

  19. G.D says:

    Necktarios says “Personally, I do not think a true Apostolic Christianity is divided. On the surface of it with different
    theologies, doctrines, departures from that Apostolic Christianity in doctrine, teaching and practice, the fractures of externals of such Christianity soon appeared leading to divisions on external religious belief and other matters.”

    What exactly is that supposed to mean? … Probably regret asking … but i have ..
    If …. ‘External divisions have no affect on Christianity’ … i agree. Anything else is a tautology and so much drivel.

  20. milliganp says:

    Nektarios, if the fall is the answer to every question, what’s the point of any discussion? We’re all fallen – sod it, let’s go home. You also have this strange idea of returning to Apostolic Doctrine without quoting any sources. Jehovah’s witnesses, Seventh day Adventists and Mormons all think they are returning to an earlier, purer faith – but without details it’s all just some sort of waffle.
    You like to talk of the Ecumenical councils but they were serious argument with strong positions taken- engaged on the basis that all would accept the outcome but do you accept any outcome not blurred by history?

    G.D – sorry, I think you put it better than I did.

    I’m reading a book about some of the discussions in the Church of England in the 1950’s where they tried to reconcile (aka fudge) their Anglo Catholic and Evangelical wings – the author of the paper states ‘ in matters of truth, ambiguity is never helpful’ sooner or later we have to decide what we believe and state it clearly in the language of creeds, articles, confessions and catechisms.

    • David Smith says:

      milliganp writes:

      // the author of the paper states ‘ in matters of truth, ambiguity is never helpful’ sooner or later we have to decide what we believe and state it clearly in the language of creeds, articles, confessions and catechisms //

      Truth is always multiple and fuzzy, because the human mind is incapable of defining it. It’s an imaginary good. We look for it, long for it, lust for it, but we cannot get to it. But, in good conscience, we must always *try* to get to it. If we stop trying, we’re headed for relativism. Today’s Christian churches – among them the RC Church – are filled with relativists. Relativists are intellectually and morally stunted creatures who understand that to the human mind truth is always fuzzy – true – but believe that this fact frees them to believe anything that makes them feel good, anything that *feels* true. False.

      Where does that leave dogma? Dogmatists, I’m afraid, are close kin to relativists in that they understand only half of the human dilemma.

      • ignatius says:

        ” As humans we are often best a adhering to beliefs we don’t fully understand – we substitute wonder at mystery for intellectual engagement.”

        I think we are somewhere along the line of Lex orandi, lex credendi
        “Lex orandi, lex credendi.(Latin loosely translated as “the law of what is to be prayed [is] the law of what is to be believed”) is a motto in Christian tradition, which means that prayer and belief are integral to each other and that liturgy is not distinct from theology.”
        I know for myself that close exposure to Catholic Liturgy..for example during Mass or Exposition profoundly impacts spiritual life in a way which 10,000 sermons could not.

      • G.D says:

        David,
        Does ‘Truth’ exist ‘independently’ of our, all too fuzzy, attempts/needs to grasp & own it? Letting go of our lust to possess it can allow it to be revealed it seems to me. Our dual way of seeing prevents it.

        if ‘dogma’ & creeds are seen as ‘guidelines’, rather than definitive statements, are they still akin to relativism? Realise that changes the ‘literal definition’ as you are using it, and most others ‘own’ their dogmas to be. …. But that’s a good thing i reckon.

        Just trying to put a liberal Joycean slant on the topic. Which in my experiences are just as valid as a revealer of (a little more) Truth as ‘dogmatic’ and literal functions can be. Both are needed by me to ‘validate truths’. Understanding & mystery go hand in hand for me.

        Where would we all be without those intuitive non-dual ‘surprised by joy’ moments?
        Imprisoned in doctrinal & literal ‘conclaves’ that need to ‘own Truth’. To justify insecure ‘faith’ maybe?

        (To my way of seeing as a christian, of course, Truth = God [whatever the Truth of that is!!] but doesn’t ‘need’ to be ‘grasped’ or ‘owned’ as such. And is, in fact, based on serious study of religious ‘dogma’ and creed, prayer, meditation, and discernment – just stating that to keep the ‘witch hunters’ at bay).

  21. John Nolan says:

    A question for Nektarios.

    In the early centuries of Christianity the Church was beset with numerous heresies. Most of these were Christological. I assume you are not an Arian, a monophysite, a monothelite, a Nestorian and so on. So on what authority are these positions regarded as heresy? Presumably the same authority which decided on what was to be held as orthodoxy, which is accepted by most Christians, whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.

    Yet you appear to believe that orthodoxy can be lumped with heresy and that both are corruptions of ‘pure’ Apostolic doctrine, which seems to imply that you are a greater authority than the Fathers and the Councils of the early Church, who under the guidance of the Holy Ghost had to decide what was true and what was not.

  22. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan,
    I am generally in agreement with you.
    The Authority regarded the likes of the Arians and many other as heresy was what was sent to the Churches and agreed upon by the Believers.
    You are right, the only Authority we have now is the same as it was in the early Christian Church.

    I do not lump together Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice. The Ecumenical Councils were all grounded and based on the received truth of the Apostles. The Early Christian Fathers, whom I have read, and they, unlike so much going on today, they under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, held fast to the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice.
    This to them was much more than a mere theological/ intellectual exercise, but the explanation
    of their soul, life in Christ and their Salvation.

    Can you honestly say, that so many Churches are holding fast to the things surely believed among us? Even in my lifetime, I have seen many departures from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice. We can think of liberal Churches. We can think of the health, wealth and prosperity Gospel. We can think of New age theology for a time rampant in the Churches and a whole host of other false teachings that have led many in various degrees departing from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice.
    I am most certainly not greater than the Apostles and Fathers of the Church, to my day and generation where I had faithful mentors who abided in the truth, as I do now.
    Let us be clear, in all this, even at best there is no perfect Church here on earth, but we are called to be faithful.

    I will skip answering G.D or milliganp who are just trying being provocative. Childish!

    • David Smith says:

      Nektarios writes:

      // Let us be clear, in all this, even at best there is no perfect Church here on earth, but we are called to be faithful. //

      Thank you. But faithful to what? It seems to me that Scripture is guidelines, not hermetically sealed truth. We can only see through a glass darkly. We are poor creatures.

      • Nektarios says:

        David Smith

        It is a truism to say we can only see through a glass darkly, but we also have the Spirit of God to enlighten us. However, it has to be said, we so little ahead spiritually or on the ordinary human mundane level.
        Now and again though, the Holy Spirit gives us a gentle nudge in the direction He wants us to go which is just a little enlightening of our hearts and minds.

        You mention that Scripture is guidelines, not hermetically sealed truth, but guidelines to what? What is Scripture speaking to in us? What are we supposed to do with it?

        I suppose it is a mere guideline for humanity who lives by other guidelines, but Scripture is really God’s good news for mankind, but it also God’s last word to mankind.

      • ignatius says:

        David,
        I wonder if you have read that marvellous account of the covenant between God and Abram in Genesis ch 15 v12-21
        It is a profound piece of scripture, taken just as it is and contemplated upon. Indeed human life is strange, but it is also wonderful beyond understanding. In the end , truth is a person and not doctrine and yes we understand only dimly but yet our hearts and minds are drawn to the great lover of our souls by a kind of knowing that we barely recognise..As Teresa of Avilla said:
        “All shall be well, and all shall be well”
        I have struggled intellectually, spiritually, physically and any other way that is possible with the scriptures- (and with the hound of heaven) for some 40 years now..and I have come down my life as along an uncharted path to find myself here in prison chaplaincy.. where it all, at last, begins to make sense. We may not know fully , but we are fully known. 🙂

      • Martha says:

        Thank you, Ignatius, that is a very inspiring description of your life’s journey.

  23. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    In conclusion, John, I think there may be some misunderstanding about my terminology.

    By the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice I am referring to the synergy that existed in the early church between the writings of the Apostles, and, also Spirit-led, the work of the early Church Fathers, who were the first commentators on that Canon, producing for the later Church the primary template for “the things that are surely believed among us”, that is the beginning of the Holy Tradition.

    • milliganp says:

      Thank you, Nektarios – a rare outburst of clarity.
      Your statement seems to reflect my understanding of theology in the Eastern Orthodox tradition – like the canon of scripture, theology is “set” at a point just after the Ecumenical Councils (the list of which is itself disputed).
      However the Western tradition includes an ongoing speculative element seeking to clarify (rather than change) the deposit of faith and in particular to allow for developments in scientific and critical methods.
      The very existence of this blog implies that speculation is valid. So, although an Orthodox perspective is welcome you do not have the right to override or criticise the speculative methods employed by others posting on the blog.
      Finally I do not feel it is childish to criticise posts which are patently absurd. You seem to endorse almost every right wing theory of world domination short of black helicopters and lizard people, though I can congratulate on the originality of your assertion that the ecumenical movement is funded by Rome with a view to taking over all world religions – if true, it’s the most incompetent conspiracy ever to have surfaced.

  24. G.D says:

    David,
    Does ‘Truth’ exist ‘independently’ of our, all too fuzzy, attempts/needs to grasp & own it? Letting go of our lust to possess it can allow it to be revealed it seems to me. Our dual way of seeing prevents it.

    if ‘dogma’ & creeds are seen as ‘guidelines’, rather than definitive statements, are they still akin to relativism? Realise that changes the ‘literal definition’ as you are using it, and most others ‘own’ their dogmas to be. …. But that’s a good thing i reckon.

    Just trying to put a liberal Joycean slant on the topic. Which in my experiences are just as valid as a revealer of (a little more) Truth as ‘dogmatic’ and literal functions can be. Both are needed by me to ‘validate truths’. Understanding & mystery go hand in hand for me.

    Where would we all be without those intuitive non-dual ‘surprised by joy’ moments?
    Imprisoned in doctrinal & literal ‘conclaves’ that need to ‘own Truth’. To justify insecure ‘faith’ maybe?

    (To my way of seeing as a christian, of course, Truth = God [whatever the Truth of that is!!] but doesn’t ‘need’ to be ‘grasped’ or ‘owned’ as such. And is, in fact, based on serious study of religious ‘dogma’ and creed, prayer, meditation, and discernment – just stating that to keep the ‘witch hunters’ at bay).

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