JOHN Counihan (CL 21/1/01) opens with a remark on uncharitableness in the letters. He states: “Dialogue is essential among Church members if we are to have any substantial dialogue with other members of the human race.”
Human beings have always fought over the ideas they believed were most important. Witness the religious wars and more recently the unparalleled conflicts and murderous oppression of the secular humanists’ ideologies and philosophies.
Attacks, intentionally and otherwise, on our fundamental understandings of the world naturally disturb us. Our usual reaction is to flare out, but given our present historical and social perspective on the devastation caused by this knee jerk response, we should be more inclined to impute good will if error to the other.
Anger may often be justified, but is not necessarily the better way in Jesus. James tell us: “Remember this, my dear brothers; everyone should be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to human anger; God’s saving justice is never served by human anger” (James 1:19,20).
But I feel I must take issue with John on the statement: “The object of faith is the Revelation, Christ himself, not the doctrines about him”. The doctrines of the Church are, as the dictionary describes them, principles of her belief. The Church has arrived at its doctrinal positions, most importantly, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and over extensive periods of time.
During these periods the people and teachers pondered Scripture and other relevant material. They meditated, prayed and debated the issues concerning a specific doctrine, which was subsequently affirmed by the apostolic authority. We may not, with fidelity to the Church, treat her doctrine as theological propositions subject to debate.
It is by the doctrines of the Church that we know Jesus more sharply. They tell us that Jesus is God incarnate, they tell us of the Triune God and that Jesus is the Second Person of that divine Trinity. By becoming a human being he irrevocably and substantially unites the Creator and creation, and by his redemptive passion overwhelms all creaturely sinfulness and disorder, thus restoring us to our loving, and otherwise bereft, Creator parent.
The doctrines do not merely point to Jesus, but specify his nature and character, thereby indicating why we should love him tenderly, absolutely and above all else. Aquinas’s statement cited by John, “the believer’s act of faith does not end in the propositions, but in the realities they express”, tells us not to be satisfied with a cognitive grasp of the theology they contain, because the only valid response to what they reveal in faith, is total love, which casts out fear (1 John 4:18), which in turn is the beginning of the knowledge of God (Proverbs 1:7).
J.K. CREEVEY Weest End, Qld