Monday, August 23, 2004

Where art thou, O liturgical beauty and holiness?

Back in February of 2003, a Catholic Long Islander who calls himself a "Generation X Revert" wrote a brilliant poem entitled "Catholic Howel," patterned after Allen Ginsberg's classic "Howl." The Catholic poem opens with the lines:
"I saw the best Catholics of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving,
hysterically naked
dragging themselves through the streets at dawn looking
for beautiful Liturgy ..."
The sentiment is one with which I'm sure many of us can identify. In any case, it got me thinking again about liturgy. I used to be rather indifferent to liturgy at one time. But I've come to see more clearly over the last decade of my life how liturgy impacts the practical lives of people and what they believe. In other words, I've come to a better understanding the law: lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief). That is to say, how we pray will have an impact on what we believe and ultimately on how we live.

It's funny how out liturgical sensibilities are conditioned by our experience. My immediate background before becoming a Catholic was in the Episcopal Church. I was familiar with the restrained decorum, reverence, and beauty of Anglican liturgy and hymnody before crossing over to Rome. Whatever one thinks of Thomas Cranmer and Miles Coverdale, I think all will agree that there is some truth in the remark of those who speak of their beautiful cadences and unsurpassable use of English in the Book of Common Prayer. So you may understand it when I say that it was with an aesthetic sense of having "married down" that I found myself as a new Catholic assaulted by a new liturgy of 1970 vintage, hastily cobbled together after the Second Vatican Council, ineptly translated, freighted with banalities, and serenaded by guitar-strumming song leaders crooning Marty Haugen ditties into staticky microphones. From our point of view in the American Catholic Church today, the Anglican liturgical legacy we experienced in the Episcopal Church compares quite favorably, to say the least. Many of us would probably jump at the opportunity to assist at Mass at an "Anglican Use" parish, where the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer has been slightly modified to bring its most basic points of doctrinal divergence into conformity with Catholic teaching.

The irony is that many of us forget the multitudes of English, Welsh, and Irish Catholics who laid down their lives rather than accept the imposition of the Book of Common Prayer by Cranmer (pictured right), the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury and apostate Catholic who fiercely hated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and by means of his liturgical revolution in England robbed generations of their Eurcharistic patrimony. The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, we may tend to forget, did not consider Anglicanism to be a slightly deficient form of Christianity, but, in fact, an entirely different religion. The Book of Common Prayer refers to the Sacrifice of the Mass as a blasphemy, denies five of the seven sacraments, denies the intercession of the saints and prayers for the dead, forbids any notion of reservation or adoration of "communion bread," and substitutes the authority of the English Crown for that of the Holy See.

Does this mean that the new Catholic Mass, even if its implementation is usually aesthetically deficient, is at least doctrinally better? Well, yes and no. Yes, it is better in that the Sacrifice of the Mass is not declared a blasphemy and there is no denial of the seven sacraments, intercession of the saints, prayers for the dead, reservation or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or denial of Rome's authority. Not, at least, in principle. But the ironies multiply when, upon examining the origin of the new Catholic Mass, we see that a committee of Protestants was given an advisory role in its composition, that many of the central and distinctive elements of Catholic Eucharistic theology are played down, such as the Sacrifice and Real Bodily Presence at the heart of the liturgy. Many of the other changes introduced in the new Catholic Mass have had the effect of undermining these traditional Catholic teachings, such as the elimination of the Communion Rail, the introduction of standing instead of kneeling to receive Communion, the reception of Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue, the use of altar girls and female lectors, and the regular use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, so that the altar looks like a common kitchen table being set for a covered dish dinner.

What the Second Vatican Council called for in its Constitution on Divine Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) was a "reform" of the traditional Roman Rite, not a replacement of it by the creation of a new Catholic Mass as a substitute for it. What we have now, however, is a hastily imposed substitute for the traditional Mass, a substitute that is quickly becoming a forum for seemingly perpetual experimentation, which in the experience of the younger generations is the only Mass that they have known. That the new Mass represents what Cardinal Ratzinger calls a "rupture" in liturgical tradition is clear even from the remarks of the most ardent defenders of the new Mass who were responsible for cobbling it together. Fr. Joseph Gelineau, S.J., for example, who was described by the architect of the new Mass, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, as one of the "great masters of the international liturgical world," declares with apparent satisfaction:
"Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can. Let them compare it with the Mass we now have. Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed."
On the other side of the fence, those who are most critical of the new Mass find themselves in complete agreement with this description of liturgical rupture and dislocation, but find the condition utterly devastating and lamentable. Monsignor Klaus Gamber, for example, sums up the result of the post-Vatican II liturgical innovations thus: "Today we are standing before the ruins of almost 2,000 years of Church tradition." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger likewise sums up the liturgical aftermath of the Council in close-to-apocalyptic terms: "The result has been not an animation but a devastation."

Since the liturgical reforms mandated by Vatican II have not yet even begun to be implemented, and since the widely available liturgical options are far from good, where is a Catholic to look? In his concluding address at a liturgical conference at the Abbey of Fontgombault in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger significantly declared that it is "indispensable to continue to offer the opportunity to celebrate according to the old Missal, as a sign of the enduring identity of the Church.... [T]his Missal of the Church should offer a point of reference, and should become a refuge for those faithful who, in their own parish, no longer find a liturgy genuinely celebrated in accordance with the texts authorized by the Church.... What we previously knew only in theory has become for us a practical experience: the Church stands and falls with the liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the Faith no longer appears in its fullness in the liturgy of the Church ... then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells."

[All quotations from Cardinal Ratzinger are from Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, edited by Alcuin Reid, OSB (Farnborough, Hampshire, UK: St. Michael's Abbey Press, 2003)]

Friday, August 20, 2004

On the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum and the institutionalization of abuses in the Novus Ordo Mass

On April 23, 2004, the Vatican released its latest Instruction on the Eucharist, Redemptionis Sacramentum, an instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist. The Adoremus Bulletin, which reprinted the entire Instruction in it's Special Documentary Edition of July-August, 2004, called it "unprecedented and highly important."

My question, however, is whether we have not reached the point of such gaping discrepancies between the word and deed that it must be seriously asked whether any such instruction from the Vatican can be taken seriously. Take the comparatively "small" matter of "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion," where members of the laity are permitted to assist in the distribution of Communion. Here is what the instruction states:
"[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers [priests and deacons] for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary inisters of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

"[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason....

"[160.] Let the diocesan Bishop give renewed consideration to the practice in recent years regarding this matter, and if circumstances call for it, let him correct it or define it more precisely...." [emphasis added]
My experience suggests that little will be done to bring the ordinary practice of most parishes in conformity with these norms. Certainly most individual priests lack the fortitude to carry out such reforms in the context of parishes and dioceses where the practice -- as in most parishes -- has been quite otherwise. Need I explain this to anyone? Is there any Catholic, even one who considers himself lucky enough to be in a generally "good" parish, who does not witness two or three or even half-a-dozen "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" (usually called "Eucharistic Ministers," and usually middle-aged women) gathering around the altar after the recitation or singing of the Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God ...")?

This practice is a comparatively minor abuse. It involves no priest preaching open heresy or trying to consecrate a Dominos Pizza. But it is still a serious abuse: it's effect is desacralizing -- that is, it detracts from the sacredness of the Sanctuary -- the Holy space around the altar that used to be separated from the congregation by the Communion Rail, or, before that, the Rood Screen. In fact, so much of our experience has been anomalous that the irregular has come to seem regular and one could speak of the institutionalization of abuse in the experience of Novus Ordo parishes. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments admitted as much in its official journal Notitiae (Oct. 1992), in which an editorial laments:
"Thirty years are too many for an incorrect praxis, which in and of itself tends to be already fixed in place. The malformations born in the first years of the application still endure, and gradually, as new generations follow one another, could almost become the rule."
The problem, of course, is that these abuses have "become the rule." Most Catholics today couldn't recognize a liturgical abuse if it slapped them in the face. All they have ever experienced in church, virtually, has been liturgical abuse.

The trouble with focusing on abuses in the Novus Ordo Mass is that it's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Here we've focused on abuse involved in the role of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. This may lead one to think that the problems with the Novus Ordo are therefore minor, since this isn't a truly grave abuse. But the problem is that the abuses are cumulative and epidemic. When you look into the history of the development of what constitutes current liturgical practice, what at first appear to be minor blemishes begin to take on a more serious cast.

Take Communion in the hand. Nobody considers that an "abuse" anymore. Even Cardinal Ratzinger has recently made light of it and suggested that people not make an issue of it. It is true that Communion had been given in the hand in the early Church. But as German liturgist Fr. Joseph Jungmann has explained, as reverance for the Blessed Sacrement deepened in the life of the Church over the centuries, the tradition developmed that only that which was consecrated could touch the Host, and this exceptional privilege as reserved for the consecrated hands of the priest, which had been anointed for this purpose at his ordination. There was a similar reverance for the Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle of the ancient Hebrews, and the privilege of entering its precincts was reserved to the High Priest alone on certain specified occasions. Today in many parishes all barriers have been seemingly removed, and unconsecrated laymen and laywomen can waltz up to the Altar or Tabernacle and handle the consecrated Hosts as though they were going to the kitchen for a common snack.

The practice of Communion in the hand was first resurrected by Protestants in the 16th century as an expression of their belief that the bread received at Communion is merely ordinary bread and that the person distributing it is an ordinary person. In our own time, the practice of Communion in the hand began shortly after the Second Vatican Council among "progressive" parishes in the Netherlands, whence it spread to neighboring countries. When Pope Paul VI subsequently polled the bishops of the world as to the acceptability of the practice, the overwhelming majority replied that it was not, and the Instruction Memoriale Domini, published in 1969, gave a clear exposition of the reasons for the traditional practice and the threat to reverance posed by the abuse of Communion in the hand. Pope Paul made the following direct appeal to the bishops of the world:
"The Supreme Pontiff judged that the long received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See therefore strongly urges bishops, priests and people to observe zealously this law, valid and again confirmed, according to the judgment of the majority of the Catholic episcopate, in the form which the present rite of the sacred liturgy employs, and out of concern for the common good of the Church." (Memoriale Domini, the Instruction on the Manner of Administering Holy Communion, The Congregation for Divine Worship, May 29, 1969)
This was the Church's instruction. Was it implimented by the bishops? On the contrary, in country after country, it was ignored by the very bishops who had voted to uphold the traditional practice, as the Holy See, following the lead of these bishops, yielded in abject surrender to the disobedience of the rebels.

The same is true with other practices, now commonplace, like Communion in the hand, that were originally proscribed by the Conciliar Church, then later legitimated under pressure -- practices such as the ordinary use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Communion under both kinds, altar girls, the regular use of female lectors, the ideologically tendentious mistranslations of the New Mass by the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) -- for example, translating pro multis ("for many") as "for all" -- liturgical dancing, balloons and clowns, slipshod or heretical catechesis, the promotion of heterodox literature as though it represented orthodox Catholicism, etc.

At present, there are few places in the world where one can find a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated without abuse, with dignity and reverance. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, is one example, as is the Brompton Oratory or Westminster Cathedral in London. But examples are few. The Church seems to have effectively abandoned the task of carrying out the reform of the traditional Roman Rite mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Fr. Joseph Fessio's Adoremus Society seems to be about the only organization devoted to carrying out the concerns of the Council Fathers, but its monthly Adoremus Bulletin seems almost wholly devoted to pointing out abuses in the Novus Ordo Mass and pointing out the instructions of the Vatican on how these abuses are to be corrected, rather than with any substantial concern on how the traditional Roman Rite might be reformed. This leaves Catholics who desire to be faithful in the worship in a pinch. The Novus Ordo is so far from being an established 'rite' that it constitutes what Msgr. Klaus Gamber described as a "liturgical destruction of startling proportions -- a debacle worsening with each passing year," a "dismantling of the traditinal values and piety," a "destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries" (The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, 1993, p. 5). Meanwhile, the only truly established Western 'rite' is one that comes with excellent credentials and has served the Church well for centuries: the traditional Roman Rite, the oldest Christian liturgical rite in the world, whose Roman Canon stems from the fourth century. The only problem is that nearly all bishops and priests seem so threatened by it that, as with so many other things, they are reluctant to implement the provisions for its continued use guaranteed by Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei adflicta. So what's a wanna-be-good Catholic to do?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

On divine right of kings & questioning authority

Foster: I've already tracked down some sources in my personal library and they back what you say. Here again, you must keep in mind that I was posing a question and doing so because of what I read in Hilary Putnam's book. Referring to his earlier study, Reason, Truth, and History, Putnam states:
"I also pointed out that even believing Catholics now concede that the Church's support for monarchy [in connection with the Divine Right of Kings] was based as much on political considerations as on revelation or sound theology. In short, the belief in the Divine Right of Kings lacks, and, I claim, always lacked, a rational justification" (Ethics without Ontology, p. 114-115).
Blosser: The "Divine right of Kings," as I've said, is not and never has been a Catholic doctrine, despite the fact that one may find individual Catholic writers who have, reasoning from St. Paul's injunction to submit to all governing authority as from God in Rom. 13, defended it. Not only that, but it may well be argued that the notion of the Divine Right of Kings is a Protestant invention, as does Hilaire Belloc in Characters of the Reformation, where he argues that James I of England was the first to inaugurate its full and undisputed practice. Belloc writes:
"Here it may be objected that the launching of this new doctrine (the first name of which was 'The Divine Right of Kings') and the attempt to practice it was much older. For we must always remember that whether it is called 'The Divine Right of Kings' or 'The Full Independence of the Nation' it comes, as we shall see in a moment, to exactly the same thing, expressing the same idea and having the same consequences.

"The first official and public statement of this sort was made by [Thomas] Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, at the coronation of little Edward VI, as early as 1547, fifty-six years before James I came to the English throne. The doctrine had been formally enunciated in a loud voice from the altar steps of Westminster Abbey, in the sermon which Cranmer addressed to the little boy-King on his enthronement. Cranmer reminded him that no power on earth could claim any rights over the King of England, and he said this, of course, as a direct challenge
to the Papacy.

"Hitherto, it had been admitted throughout Christendom that quarrels between Christian nations were subject to the general moral authority of the Church, and to ultimate appeal to the Papacy in cases of specific dispute. In other words, Christendom had been regarded as one realm, of which the particular nations were only provinces; and a certain moral law and a certain visible organization were accepted as having common authority throughout....

"At this point it is important to understand how this phrase, which souns to us so quaint, 'The Divine Right of Kings,' is really identical with our most modern nationalist doctrine.... The operative word in the sentence is not 'King' but 'Divine' -- and when people talked of 'Divine Right' they meant the
right to govern with private responsibility to God alone, and not to any general organizatin of Christendom here on earth." (Hilaire Belloc, Characters of the Reformation, ch. 15: "James I of England," pp. 135-137, emphasis added)
Foster: So if it is "defined dogma," then its veracity cannot be questioned. Defined dogmas cannot be "tested" or "examined" in order to make sure they really orobjectively *are* revealed truths or ecclesiastically binding for the faithful. We've talked about this point before, but I still think that Catholics have not provided a satisfactory answer to the question, "How do you [i.e. Catholics] know that the dogmas defined by the Church are objectively true and beyond being questioned or contested?" Maybe what you write below addresses this issue.

Blosser: Well, of course there is nothing wrong in, say, my puzzling over what the Church's dogma of the Holy Trinity means, or examining the historical sources to see whether the Church Fathers accepted the doctrine, etc. One can certainly do this. I suppose one is encouraged to do this, since it can only strengthen his faith.

But questioning the Church and her teachings from the standpoint of unfaith or bad faith is another mater. Perhaps an analogy may help. Once a Catholic trusts the Church as Mater et Magister, to question or test her teaching would be a little like growing up in a home where at dinner time every day you scrupulously interrogate your mother to make sure that what she's served up for the family meal isn't contaminated or tainted with poison.

You raise the question how Catholics can know that what their Church teaches is objectively true and beyond being questioned or contested. That's a fair question. But the thing to see is that there's nothing particularly unique about the position of the Church here, for one could ask the same question of a good JW's faith in God's existence and unicity. I would certainly imagine that you would say that you are free to "examine" or "test" these doctrines (which Catholics share with JWs), as we have done in some of our classes while reading the likes of St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas and the counter-arguments of Hume and Kant. But to seriously doubt these truths, or to cast them into the category of claims that are continually debatable, would make one a poor JW or Catholic, would they not? So how do we know that God exists and that He is one? Well, I suppose we'd say because we've come to trust the teaching of our religious instructors, or the veracity of the Bible, etc. Is our conviction that God exists and is one "beyond being questioned"? Well, it depends what that means. In one sense, we'd likely respond: yes, it's something we consider established, which we don't bother to seriously question. It's a conviction so basic it occupies the level of a properly basic assumption. But in another sense, we'd probably both admit that these convictions are not beyond question -- particularly in the sense that there are other people who seriously question them, and we recognize the existence of various arguments that might be mounted in support of their truth, etc. Catholic dogma, while not always derived directly from Scripture, are all of a similar order, I would argue.

Foster: No matter how much I trust another human being, I always reserve the right to question or contest propositions that are uttered or written by him/her. I believe that the same principle applies to those taking the lead in the Christian congregation. Seeing that all teachers in Christ's EKKLHSIA are fallible with respect to action and speech, I must always "make sure of all things" and test the "spirits" to determine whether they are from God (James 3:1-2; 1 Thess 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1).

Blosser: Starting with the latter assertions first, I would agree with most of what you say here. All things must be tested. Particularly the opinions of fallible human beings. However the case is complicated when we come to the opinions of those fallible human beings who, as Apostles, wrote the Gospels and Epistles that comprise the New Testament. For though they, as human beings, are properly described as fallible, we generally acknowledge that God somehow in His own miraculous way supernaturally guided them in their teaching and writing to express infallibly those truths that He wished us to know for our salvation. So should we question the opinions of the biblical writers? Well, in one sense, I think we'd agree that we ought to. We ought to examine, test, and scrutinize them so that we can know their veracity and be able to demonstrate this veracity as best we can. But in another sense, I think we would both agree that there would be something a trifle perverse about a religious believer who indefinitely continued to seriously question whether this verse or that chapter or this epistle is truly part of God's revelation to us. And, as you know, those of us who are Catholic would regard in the same light the declarations of our college of bishops in union with the Holy Father when these are directed to the universal Church, address a serious matter of faith and morals, and are expressly intended as an exercise of the Church's magisterial((or prophetic) office.

The matter can be further complicated by the fact that a defined dogma may itself come under disputation as to its proper interpretation over time. When this happens, it may require the Church once more to step in and offer a further clarification or refinement in her definition of the issue. This has happened on such issues as the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone, or the sinfulness of contraception, etc. So one could say there is an ongoing dialectical relationship between the Church's (1) dogmatic office of defining doctrine and (2) her members' questioning, puzzling over, and examining of those dogmas.

Friday, August 06, 2004

God & Gender language

Edgar Foster: I know you'll disagree, but I find instances in the OT especially, of God relating to us in ways that highlight His "feminine" side. In short, I believe that the metaphors in Scripture depicting God as feminine and/or masculine are just that. Terence Fretheim and George Caird have both produced excellent works dealing with the metaphorical imagery contained in Holy Writ. I think that is what we have going on when we read texts referring to God as Father or as a caring mother.

Philip Blosser: Perhaps one source of the difference between us on this score is that your [Jehovah's Witness] theology has no divine Incarnation in Jesus. If I were a unitarian, I might also feel inclined to say, with the contemporary feminists and others, that all of this in the Bible is mere "metaphor." But Jesus was/is a MAN, and that ain't no "metaphor." And while the OT says that God is LIKE a mother, I'm not sure it says that God IS a mother, in the way that it says that God IS a Father. But that's secondary. I think the whole scenario which describes our language of God as "anthropomorphic" is absolutely upside down. Who do we think WE are, anyway, making ourselves the "archetype" by which to describe God?! Rather, I think the human language of the Bible is "theomorphic," in that God is, as Calvin says, "lisping" to us as infants, using language that we may have some 'pale' understanding of, but that the "Fatherhood" of God in Himself is something that far exceeds our human capacity to fathom. But He IS certainly FATHER, despite the occasional feminine similie by which we say he may be "like" a mother (much in the way we describe some fathers a "gentle"); but he IS not a mother.

Foster: The incarnation is an issue that I have purposely tried to avoid in this discussion. Granted, if Christ was really God incarnate, then I think you would have a point about the masculine issue. However, I do not affirm the incarnation and, what is more, yours truly does not believe that Christ (the Messiah) had to be a man. If the Edenic Fall had transpired differently, it is quite plausible that Messiah could have been a woman. There certainly is no functional or ontological reason why God's anointed could not have been a woman. This is my opinion and does not represent the official view of the JW organization.

Blosser: I suppose it's hypothetically possible that God could have saved the world without an Incarnation or Messiah at all, or that he Messiah could have been a particularly intelligent frog. But in the order of divine Providence, the Almighty has chosen to mirror His own nature in His plan of redemption, so that the whole cosmic mystery of creation and redemption is mirrored in the pale echtype of our gendered relationship to one another as human men and women.

Foster: As for the holy spirit, I've always found it interesting that Scripture uses masculine, feminine and neuter pronouns to refer to "it."

Blosser: Even in English, one could refer to the Godhead as "it," though it wouldn't eviscerate God's "personal" nature.

Foster: I'll check out Leon Podles' book soon, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity. But I must confess that I do not understand what you mean when you say that religion is losing its "manly" nature. Why should religion be exclusively or primarily manly? What is wrong with a little muliebrity in religion?

Blosser: It's become soft and feminine in a disgusting, touchy-feely sort of way. It's not that the masculine cannot be compassionate or merciful. Rather, it's what many religious groups have been shying away from confrontational issues such as truth, sin, apologetics, asceticism, repentance, sanctification, etc., and concentrating, instead, on such things as "inclusiveness," "fellowship," "belonging," "self-esteem," "self-empowerment," "overcoming depression," "self-acceptance," etc. Kneeling on a hard marble floor has been replaced by sitting on soft padded pews, and gregorian chant has been replaced by guitar-strumming 'feel-good' ditties. This is the kind of thing I mean.

Foster: I am not comfortable with calling the Judaic or Christian account of God's dealings a "myth" or "fable." Yes, one could define MUQOS in a way that vitiates the pejorative connotations often associated with MUQOI. However, I feel much safer following the lead of the apostles, who went to great lengths showing that Christianity is neither a myth nor is it based on myths or fables. Story may be better, though NT Wright's NTPG illustrates difficulties, I think, that may result from this usage. There may be a place for mythology in the life of the Christian. I just do not think that a Christian should categorize the Christian account of Jesus Christ as a true myth. According to Mayhan and Campbell, myths are true anyway!

Blosser: I agree, as a matter of tactical prudence, that using "myth" or "fable" is fraught with hazards. But I think that part of your hesitation may also stem from what I mentioned before, namely an inclination to see
truth as conveyed only through raw empirical description, a preference for historiography over poetry, etc.

Foster: Granted, there are stories (myths) that serve as indirect testimony to the truth revealed through Christ Jesus and the OT prophets. But why spend a lot of time with imperfect images of the truth when one can have the real thing?

Blosser: Perhaps this was what I was trying to say about philosophy. Why spend a lot of time with Heidy and Hegelly when one can have Augustine, Thomas, the Bible, and the Magisterium? ;-) Don't get me wrong. You know I don't regret spending my life studying apostate philosophy!! Someone's got to take out the garbage. ;-)

Foster: . . . Besides, the Christian and Judaic God cannot die or rise again. He is incapable of dying, being the immortal and self-existent one (Hab 1:12).

Blosser: That's the SCANDALON of Christ crucified, ain't it!

Foster: Mutatis mutandis, I would say that you've hit the nail on the head. I do believe that prose (in general) more reliably and profoundly communicates truth. I am not so trusting of myths.

Blosser: This is where I disagree, and may seem to be more inclined towards K, thought that doesn't mean mere "subjectivism," as I've tried to make clear above. I think prose is good for communicating some things. But not others. Bringing your wife a bouquet of 12 red Roses surrounded by Baby's Breath says something than no number of repeated "I love you's" can communicate. Further, if what you said were true, there'd never be any need to make love to your wife. You could simply exchange "I love you's." In fact, if you've exchanged the words ONCE, there'd really be no need to ever repeat yourself. If your wife said to you tomorrow, "Edgar, I love you," you might reply, "What? You've already told me that back when we were first dating. Whazzamatta? You think I don't TRUST you or somethin'?" But such "prosaic truths" don't cut it. It's not that propositions aren't "true." They are. But what they communicate is something shadowy and etherial, confined to the tangle of abstractions we call ideas in our minds. Something far deeper than that is communicated by Jesus submitting to death on the tree ("He loved us and He gave Himself for us," we say; but our SAYING it only skims the surface), or by Jesus handing a bit of bread to us and saying, "Take, eat this is my Body, given for you."

The rationalistic positivist would doubtless see this as a potentially confusing gesture capable of being clarified and crystalized in a well-formed proposition; whereas, in fact, IMHO, he's just pinning a superficial label to something whose reality his intellect can't begin to fathom, though his soul, if opened to the reality, might "know" something here of the profundity in a way analogous to the manner after which Adam "knew" his wife Eve, fruitfully.

Foster: I don't find the "he or she" usage awkward at all. If one finds this usage awkward, just use "she."

Blosser: That's even more awkward, as anyone who stumbles across the Plantinga-type usage at first senses. It sounds 'affected.'

Besides, it soon creates other problems. I once tried to illustrate this by submitting an article in which I alternately used "he" and "she" in different
paragraphs, but pointed out that feminists would hardly be satisfied with this if I used "he" to refer to all those individuals who were virtuous and "she" to refer to all those who were vicious.

Foster: Traditionally, Bible translators including the NWTTC, have utilized the generic pronoun "he" without the faithful imputing chauvinism to the OT or NT writers.

Blosser: The English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church first was rendered by a 'pc' group in "inclusive" language, but rejected by the Vatican. The current translation uses the traditional "he." The Church's
reason for insisting upon this is that it claims that the change in gender language represents more often than not also an illicit change in theology.

Foster: Yes, some have accused the Bible of patriarchalism. But one does not necessary have to conclude that the Bible or Shakespeare are prime examples of male dominance literature. On the other hand, a bunch of literature that preceded us has been guilty of relegating women and other groups to the margins of society.

Blosser: I'm skeptical about this as a blanket assertion. I don't think that the literature has "relegated women" and "other groups" to the margins of society. I think it simply reflected the state of affairs at those times. And while you may not like this, I'm not willing to insist that everything about women's traditional roles as, say, "homemakers," as opposed to, say, "corporate executives," was a bad thing. I think some of the problems we have in society today may be due to confusions about roles of men and women in society, whch reflect, in turn, confusions about our 'being' as gendered creatures. I do not think that we're doing anyone a tremendous and praise-worthy favor by tossing a few more feminine pronouns into our language. In fact, I'd be willing to argue that we're confusing the order
of things.

Foster: JWs, whether they perfectly live by these words, often
talk about the importance of being "reasonable" or "yielding." See Phil 4:5; James 3:17. The point I wish to make here is that while the consequences that you are referring to COULD come about as a result of the "he or she" usage, it does not necessarily follow that one who employs "she or he" or "she" and those who are exposed to this usage, will become anti-traditional, anti-Christian or anti-Jewish.

Blosser: I agree. And a diet of violent TV won't necessarily
make one violent.

Foster: . . . What we need here is the JW notion of being "reasonable." Without reasonableness, a feminine entity would take offense at being called a "woman," "female" or "human being." And if you remember, even Heidegger avoids the term "human being." He only speaks of being-in-the-world sans the "human" part.

Blosser: Yeah, "Da-sein." "Being there." Which reminds me of the fantastic Peter Sellers movie by that name, "Being There." It's a wonderful parody of Heideggarianism gone to seed with Shirley McLaine.

Owen Thomas on "sin" & "neurosis"

A philosophical interlocutor writes:
Owen Thomas, in Theological Questions: Analysis and Argument, defines sin as "estrangement from God resulting in estrangement from neighbor, self, and the world." He defines neurosis as "an unconscious emotional conflict arising from repression which inhibits the functioning of the persona-lity" (page 63). Lastly, Thomas depicts complementarity as that logical relation which deals with two different aspects of a unitary reality (e. g., essence and existence). With these definitions in mind, it is not difficult to see how neurosis could be a complement (i.e., another aspect) of the phenomenon that Christians label "sin." It is logically possible to suffer from neurosis and sin simultaneously. They are possibly two aspects of one reality.
Reply: I see your point, and I think there's truth in it. I also see this as an area of hazardously subjective and speculative proposition. It's just as possible that neurosis exists apart from sin, as the blindness of the man in John 9, according to Jesus, had nothing to do with sin. And I've read enough psychology to see an extremely dangerous tendency to REDUCE sin to a psychological disorder. Remind me that I have a photocopy of an article by a Rogerian psychoanalyst for you, someone who was instrumental in destroying (through his therapeutic treatment) a whole religious order of nuns in California, as well as many individual Jesuits and others.

I do not think that neurosis vitiates human responsibility for "trangressions." As Owen Thomas expresses matters: "Since sin is a matter of the will, it cannot be caused by something else without ceasing to be sin. Something similar is usually asserted about neurosis, namely that it cannot be externally caused and still be neurosis, that a neurosis is always caused by repression which is in some sense an act of the person and not anyone else" (page 65).
Reply: But Freud himself wouldn't necessarily accept that, being the biopsychic determinist that he was. For him, as I think I said, "repression" is distinct from "suppression" in being an unwitting defense mechanism of the mind, something distinct from an "act" (in the Aristotelian sense) which one "performs."

In other words, neurosis is still compatible with a view that places the locus of control within the individual. Remember that we're also talking complementarity and not identicalness.
Reply: What you've been saying here about neurosis I have no quarrel with. But it's all been "cleaned up." It's not what you find in Freud. Freud would not accept the kind of characterization of neurosis you're giving here, at least if I've understood him correctly. He's a DETERMINIST, after all.

I think what brought this all up was your insistence that, like Heidegger and others, Freud had many profound insights from which we can stand to benefit. Maybe so. But I'm not sure I agree that these were "insights" simply as he stated them. I think they involve profound distortions and what Herman Dooyeweerd would call "antinomies."

If these thinkers are useful when "cleaned up," then we must have some other sets of criteria by reference to which we do the cleaning, which can't be found within their theories.