I ENJOYED Fr Kevin Ryan’s ‘Seeking the obvious’ (CL 25/4/04) despite the seriousness of the contents.
The cross-examination of the top brass at the White House made very interesting TV and one must admire a system that allows such frank and open discussion.
What if the Curia had such an open forum with the clergy and laity, or if our politicians were subjected to such questioning?
Fr Kevin asks a few pertinent questions: ‘What do so many Church statements and documents say? Has the man or the woman in the street the time or the inclination to try and work it out?’
Perhaps Tertullian (160-225) gives us the answer: ‘Authentic Christianity rests with a believing community reaching back to the apostles. It does not rest on philosophical speculation’.
Christianity is a way of life, a way of treating one another, not just a doctrinal system.
The apostles, apart from Paul, had little education. Philosophy has never attracted the ordinary man or woman, neither has theology. It is the Christian way of life that appealed to Christians and non-Christians throughout the ages. See how these Christians love one another.
Clement of Alexandria (150-215) set out to make Christianity intellectually and ethically acceptable to the cultured people of Alexandria, and ended up grading Christians.
Those who simply accept the illumination that Christ brings and live by faith without knowing, were known as ‘pistics’.
To be baptised is to enter into that grade. They follow Christ without really knowing why.
This would probably apply even today to a large number of churchgoers. The other, a much smaller group, were known as the ‘pneumatics’ and these were the intellectuals of Alexandria. Probably our theologians!
Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) insists that ‘icons are for the unlettered what the sacred Scriptures are for the lettered’.
Both St Thomas Aquinas and Suarez held that they were writing for the teachers of Christian doctrine and not for ordinary Christians. Philosophers and theologians tend to write for their peers, much as PhD students do for their examiners.
This is not an attack on philosophy or theology for those who are willing and able, but the Church has to speak to ordinary people in a language they understand, and language is a form of life not restricted to literacy. The faith is transmitted in and through the culture, neither of which is entirely self-conscious.
Theology should not be an academic subject tied to a particular philosophy using the data of faith as subjects of speculation without being involved in real life issues.
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