The frustration we feel when trying to explain or justify God, whether to ourselves or to others, is a symptom of knowledge untethered from innocence, of words in which no silence lives, of belief occurring wholly on a human plane. Innocence returns us to the first call of God, to any moment in our lives when we were rendered mute with awe, fear, wonder. Absent this, there is no sense in arguing for God in order to convince others, for we ourselves are not convinced.
I’m a little late to this, but you should all read this article in the Guardian:
No: the really painful message our daughter will receive is that we’re embarrassing. For most people who aren’t New Atheists, or old atheists, and have no passion invested in the subject, either negative or positive, believers aren’t weird because we’re wicked. We’re weird because we’re inexplicable; because, when there’s no necessity for it that anyone sensible can see, we’ve committed ourselves to a set of awkward and absurd attitudes that obtrude, that stick out against the background of modern life, and not in some important or respectworthy or principled way, either. Believers are people who try to insert Jee-zus into conversations at parties; who put themselves down, with writhings of unease, for perfectly normal human behaviour; who are constantly trying to create a solemn hush that invites a fart, a hiccup, a bit of subversion. Believers are people who, on the rare occasions when you have to listen to them, like at a funeral or a wedding, seize the opportunity to pour the liquidised content of a primary-school nativity play into your earhole, apparently not noticing that childhood is over. And as well as being childish, and abject, and solemn, and awkward, we voluntarily associate ourselves with an old-fashioned, mildewed orthodoxy, an Authority with all its authority gone. Nothing is so sad – sad from the style point of view – as the mainstream taste of the day before yesterday.
What goes on inside believers is mysterious. So far as it can be guessed at it appears to be a kind of anxious pretending, a kind of continual, nervous resistance to reality. We don’t seem to get it that the magic in Harry Potter, the rings and swords and elves in fantasy novels, the power-ups in video games, the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween, are all, like, just for fun. We try to take them seriously; or rather, we take our own particular subsection of them seriously. We commit the bizarre category error of claiming that our goblins, ghouls, Flying Spaghetti Monsters are really there, off the page and away from the CGI rendering programs. Star Trek fans and vampire wanabes have nothing on us. We actually get down and worship. We get down on our actual knees, bowing and scraping in front of the empty space where we insist our Spaghetti Monster can be found. No wonder that we work so hard to fend off common sense. Our fingers must be in our ears all the time – la la la, I can’t hear you – just to keep out the sound of the real world.
freyatlast replied to your post: What did you think of How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps? Helpful guide or an exercise in old school Catholic apologetics? I go back and forth; what was most off-putting was the Vader-esque “Search your feelings, you know it to be true” rhetoric that Smith seemed to employ more frequently as the book progressed. At the same time, it was a book that caused me to seek out a priest. Would love to hear your thoughts.
hmm… does ecclesiology not trouble you? or is it just his formulation of the solution was too simplistic? i haven’t read this, but i heard an interview with him. he sounded mostly on-point to me, but i remember thinking he was a bit glib at points
Oh, it bothers me a lot. But the book presented the Catholic Church as the solution without dealing with the issues that then arise. For example, look at any of the major situations happening with Catholics in the US that have been in the news recently: the opposition surrounding the healthcare mandate, the investigation of the LCWR, and the bishops’ strong support of Amendment 1 in North Carolina. That’s just off the top of my head. That’s not even considering the longer-term issues of how some conservative Catholics apparently see themselves as comfortably fitting within the Republican Party (which doesn’t toe the line on torture, the death penalty, just war, and social justice issues, for example), the ever-present discussion of abortion and the views on birth control and homosexuality.
While of course Catholics can disagree on a lot of these issues, there is a level of top-down control that is, while attractive to a lot of Protestants tired of the splintered nature of their churches, somewhat troubling to other Protestants who would like to convert but can’t bring themselves to join a church that would force them to dissent so strongly.
Smith is on-point in that becoming Catholic solves a lot of fundamental issues; I would say that the biggest gains are Tradition, support for the canon of Scripture, and the Magisterium. My Catholic professor this semester said that one of the biggest reasons he became Catholic was because Catholicism offered him a conversation partner. Thinking through major issues by yourself, with no framework or vocabulary, isn’t nearly as fun as being able to be in conversation with the sum total of Christian tradition for the past two thousand years.
But being in conversation with the Church is not enough for some people, and I think that Smith dismissed their concerns too quickly.
It wasn’t old school Catholic apologetics, I don’t think. I mean, I’ve tried reading people like Scott Hahn and I had to work really hard not to throw Hahn’s book across the room. Smith’s book didn’t infuriate me as much as apologetics tends to.
However, the book was quite frustrating. I’ve read Smith’s work before (The Bible Made Impossible was good, if overly broad) and How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical wasn’t nearly as good. It assumed that all intelligent Christians will be troubled by certain issues (ecclesiology foremost among them, from what I recall about the book) and that the obvious response would be to cross the Tiber. I know that he intended to write the book as a helpful guide for people who were already troubled by their Protestantism but he ended up insulting people who didn’t take the steps he did.
One particular issue, and the one that annoyed me the most, was that Smith and his wife became Catholic after they had already had children. I thought that the sections that dealt with Catholic teachings on sexuality and birth control in particular were overly glib. It’s easy for a couple who are already past their childbearing years to talk about not using birth control, but for the rest of us where sexuality and conception are still tied together, it’s a big deal. I would argue that Catholic teachings on sexuality and reproduction are the main stumbling blocks for people who are exploring joining the Catholic Church, maybe even more important than the issues of Mary, infallibility and purgatory.
Another issue that I would have liked to have seen addressed more seriously was the issue of women in the church. As I’ve said before, I currently enjoy the privilege of participating in a church body that encourages my participation regardless of my gender and sex. And while I have little desire to be ordained, I do think it’s important that I be part of a congregation or denomination where women can be ordained if they feel the calling of God to pursue that (if you read this, you will notice I’ve changed my mind in the last few months on this). As you said, Smith relied on the ‘you know in your heart the RCC is the One True Church’ rhetoric more and more as the book progressed, which allowed him to avoid having to actually confront the reasons serious Protestants don’t become Catholic.
I understand what it feels like to experience a pull towards the Catholic Church; I understand that the ecclesiology of the RCC is attractive to people who are tired of the splintered nature of Protestantism. I also think that there are legitimate reasons to not become Catholic, though (obviously, or I would probably be thinking more seriously about RCIA), and Smith’s treatment of those issues was not nearly serious enough.
I’m glad it made you seek out a priest though! If that is where God is calling you, then I support that wholeheartedly.
Theology had first to renounce all apologetics or external guarantees of its position within the environment of other sciences, for it will always stand on the firmest ground when it simply acts according to the law of its own being.
Why are you anonymous? We could be friends!
I personally can’t stand apologetics, and the Catholic apologetics stuff I’ve read (especially from converts) has a tone that I find infuriating. The type of Catholics that I like reading - some of the Church Fathers, Merton, Nouwen, writers like Flannery O’Connor - talk about and live in their faith in ways that I find a lot more attractive.
I just don’t think Christianity is something that a person can be talked into, and coming to the Roman Catholic church is not a process of logical consideration and debate about Mary or something. I am reading more Catholic theology right now though.
Thanks for messaging me! I always like talking to people. :)