Friday, February 08, 2008

The Soul and its Destiny

Sandro Magister provides the full text of two critical reviews of a widely popular Italian book, by lay theologian Victor Mancuso, the "Soul and its Destiny." The book has sold over 80,000 copies ("which is a very large number for a theology book") and is obviously quite popular. It also has an endorsement from the Archbishop emeritus of Milan, Cardinal Martini. The two critical articles basically say that the book has a perspective that is more akin to ancient gnosticism (and modern secular humanism0, rather than anything resembling traditional Christianity.

It's wide popularity perhaps, just underscores the reality that modern Western society has wandered far, far from its Christian roots.

It's good to see the Church respond with serious arguments and criticism: neither accommodation, nor condemnation, but a robust defense.

Focus - Dettaglio articolo | Chiesa

Tangential, but related, there's a piece at Christianity Today on living in a non-Christian world. The world around us (at least in the US) is not pagan, not Babylon, but Samaritan (as in, the strained relationship between Jews and Samaritans). Tim Stafford offers a very quick historical overview (like most evangelicals he finds nothing good in Constantine), leading up to the Enlightenment ideal of religious toleration and the postmodern suspicion of truth claims that has succeeded it (in many, though not all places). The surrounding culture -- Samaria -- begrudges Jerusalem and its Christian past. The way to live in a culture that treats Christianity with suspicion is not respond by keeping quiet, by assimilating, or by throwing down the gauntlet. All three options tend to shut down discussion and to limit our opportunity to be salt and light.
One should be creative, and not assert Christian truth claims too loudly, especially in contexts where this might be a turn off.
Jesus sidestepped the classic arguments, using creative language—"living water"—to provoke curiosity. He pointed ahead to a time when Samaritan and Jewish differences would be drowned in a newer, deeper reality. While we are living in Samaria, we need such skill in talking, neither disguising the radical views we hold, nor falling into the trap of stale disputes.

More than requiring skillful communication, living in Samaria requires patience and love for the long haul. No one can change a grudge by direct assault. You have to outlive it, and look for fresh opportunities to begin anew. You have to love the people on the other side of the grudge.
I have to agree that sometimes the doctrinal disputes and culture wars move very quickly away from charity. Charity must reign supreme. Always easier said than done.

In Europe, though, I wonder if it's even a grudge. I suspect it's more outright hostility, or, worse, clean ignorance and indifferences. That world is, perhaps, truly pagan. [But then, these are my own, American suspicions.]

The question, as always, is, what are the methods in the new evangelization? Creativity, charity, openness. And also a robust defense of the truth. Perhaps the former for friendly "outsiders." And the latter to bolster, encourage and form apostles and missionaries of believers ...

1 comment:

pritcher said...

Why is it that you always seem to post exactly what I need to read?

Just yesterday I was having a conversation with some classmates (one a convert to Christianity who's almost interested in becoming Catholic, and one vehement self-described ex-Catholic) about religion, and my response was pretty much to keep my mouth shut as issues came up.

Not the best response, but better, I'd argue, than defending religion in a forceful, off-putting way, which is something I'm constantly tempted to perhaps in this case it was best to keep quiet.

Anyways, my point is to ask for your prayers for me and the "Samaritans" I work with every day, that our hearts and minds remain open in charity, and that we find ways to engage in loving and creative evangelization.