Universalis, About this blog

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Making disciples of all: where do we start?

It wasn't too surprising to find that some fundamentalist out there would find something to gloat about during the recent tantrums thrown among Muslims to protest Papa Benedict's Regensburg lecture. When our Pope clarified his position with the Muslims, and expressed regrets over the disproportionate offense taken by those who misunderstood, brother fundamentalist -- ex-Catholic Rand -- called it hypocrisy. What I found alarming was not quite what he had to say about the Pope and the Catholic Church -- it was expected. It was what he professed about Muslims and non-born-again Christians in general. Perhaps his understanding of evil is not the same as mine, but he asserts that there is absolutely no good, only total evil, among non-born-agains. Of course, in his mind, that includes me, but that's not the point. The problem is how he expects the Church (his notion or mine, it doesn't matter) to reach out to non-Christians. Respect is not a starting point for him, nor is the acknowledgment of something good -- even a minute amount -- in human beings per se: even babies, children, youth. Ironically, this was the point of that Regensburg lecture: God and reason go together, and one cannot profess a God who is entirely unreasonable. The example Papa Benedict gave was the irreconcilability of a reasonable God and violent or forced conversions. Here with Rand is another example of something irreconcilable: that God had created evil beings. By evil, I do mean that which is COMPLETELY anti-God, a total antithesis of love.

Perhaps he equates "evil" with "sinfulness", which is not the same thing. For we are all sinful by nature, due to The Fall, and are prone to evil actions. But we are also capable of good actions, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, even when we are not aware of it and do not acknowledge it.

What I do fear is that such a concept will not yield much evangelical fruit. Isn't it reasonable to say that all human beings, regardless of their fallen nature, deserve respect? Even God shows us that much respect, by prompting us with the Holy Spirit into willfully embracing faith, rather than creating us incapable of free will, automatons programmed to do only what the Holy Spirit prompts. There is a pre-requisite of respect that must precede the dialogue of preaching the Gospel to non-believers. One may affirm, as the Magisterium does, that non-believers deserve respect, and may have pieces of the truth in what they believe. The problem is not that they have no truth at all, for God creates us in his image and likeness, and that which is his image is good. The problem is that non-believers do not have all the truth, having instead a mixture of truth and falsehood. It isn't unreasonable to use the truths they hold as a take-off point in a dialogue, a means to anchor the truths they have never heard nor understood before. Do they believe in a benevolent creator rather than the neo-Darwinist notion of life as pure accident? Then we affirm that they have, as Romans 1:19-20 suggests, perceived God in what can be observed from his creation. But we must take it a step further, and explain more truths that should supplant the falsehoods and half-truths.

I just find it shocking that the same notion of a creator who is unreasonable and whimsical, can be found among Christians. I'm not sure if it's Calvinism or Occam's influence on Luther (and Calvin?). Whatever it is, there is a peril among Christians of such bent which renders their Christianity too similar to Islam in theology -- but thankfully, not in violent aberrations.

No comments: