Monday, July 16, 2007

The Complicated Key vs. Dumbed-down Faith Alone

OCCASIONALLY, I am asked why the Catholic Church needs the Christian faith to be so confounded complex. It should be easy: just say (the magic words): "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior," and be done with it.

Please recall that these same folk are fairly responsible adults. They balance their checkbooks. They fill out their tax forms. They carry out careers that place a great loads of responsibility on their very capable minds and shoulders. And yet, when it comes to something like eternal salvation, they suddenly have the notion that it all should be dumbed down to something a 3rd grader might do quite handily. Why is that?

John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of my British Catholic convert heroes, of whom I solicit prayers each day, once said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." Now, I am not certainly not "deep in history," but I am blessed with a vision and understanding that if the Church was indeed going to be able to carry out the work of Our Lord throughout all of history and, potentially, for all the world's peoples, it would have to look from the outside, perhaps, rather ungainly. Not axiomatically comprehensible in "sound bites" or in "Four Spiritual Laws." Not aerodynamic or given to iPhone user-friendly straight-out-of-the-box "I-get-it" ease for everyone Christ came to save.

I mean, look at the Bible, for goodness' sake. The story of God's working in history is flabbergastingly complex, enormous, and overwhelming. Why now do we think things should become all Tinker-toys and Morning Recess in the age of Christ's Church, particularly when we are facing three great foes, secular atheism, neo-paganism, and Jihadists?

It takes some humility to become a member of the Catholic Church; a willingness to say that everybody is not "equal" (that Politically Correct ghost-light goal), but the ground at the foot of the Cross is level and all persons standing there are equally in need of the grace of God for salvation. It also takes a realization that in our dark world and culture of death, we need unity, visibility, and organization with the complexity that entails. Therefore, G. K. Chesterton could write about the necessary complexity of a key and the Catholic Church this way:
"The shape of a key is in itself a rather fantastic shape. A savage who did not know it was a key would have the greatest difficulty in guessing what it could possibly be. And it is fantastic because it is in a sense arbitrary. A key is not a matter of abstractions; in that sense a key is not a matter of argument. It either fits the lock or it does not ...
"A key is necessarily a thing with a pattern, so this was one having in some ways a rather elaborate pattern. When people complain of the religion being so early complicated with theology and things of the kind, they forget that the world had not only got into a hole, but had got into a whole maze of holes and corners ... If the faith had faced the world only with the platitudes about peace and simplicity some moralists would confine it to, it would not have had the faintest effect on that luxurious and labyrinthine lunatic asylum ... There was undoubtedly much about the key that seemed complex; indeed there was only one thing about it that was simple. It opened the door."

1 comment:

D'artagnan said...

The faith is easy, but only in comparing it to the fast food world does it become diificult.

thanks for another thought provoking post . . .posts that tend to open my eyes so wide, that I will soon be able to give up my morning java (O: