Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kreeft, and my private epiphany

The conference "unofficially" started on Friday evening with a series of free talks. First up was a talk by Peter Kreeft geared to the teens of the audience called Are All Religions Equal? He spent time using contradictory statements (God/ No God) to narrow down the differences between Christianity and the other major world religions. It wasn't anything really new to Will and me since we've listened to so many of his lectures, but it was still fascinating. What I love about Kreeft is his respect for other religions and his refusal to assign "unsaved" status to anyone. He firmly believes in heaven and hell, yet he also just as firmly believes God gives every man the choice, real choice, for salvation. And while all salvation is through Christ's work on the cross, how God applies that work isn't our business. Kreeft remided people several times throughout the weekend, "God is God, and you're not."

Even so, Kreeft obviously thinks Christianity is superior to other religions because it has the "fullness of Truth." And he believes Catholicism is the fullest expression of that truth. But while he is somewhat conservative and orthodox in his beleifs, he blends that belief with the real, honest practicing of love and acceptance of others. This juxtaposition of those two ways of living is exciting to me, and someplace I long to end up! I long to hold my faith in Christ dear to my heart while also loving others who differ, and not feeling threatened by them or self-protective. During a question/answer session, someone asked what Kreeft thought of the rash of books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. He just smiled and said he welcomed their hard questions and strong emotions. "They are closer to the faith than those who don't care." This is how I want to feel.

Kreeft gave two more talks during the weekend. One was a whirlwind trip through prevalent worldviews today, and the last was What Christ Calls Us to Be. Both talks were good, but the last one was perhaps the most practical for me. He talked about the five steps we needed to take toward becoming "little Christs."
  1. Christ calls us to be honest, with ourselves and others.
  2. Christ wants us to practice justice and moral honesty. We are moral agents and subject to natural law. We need to chose to act accordingly towards others.
  3. Charity- We rely solely on God's mercy for salvation, and we need to show that kind of love and mercy towards others. There is no room for pride.
  4. Sanctity- We are called to be saints, on the road to perfection.
  5. Christ calls us to share the divine nature- theosis. We are to be, as Christ says, "born again," truely transformed day-by-day into Chirst's body. Just as Christ has a dual nature, so do we from the moment of baptism. Although our divine nature is a small drop in an ocean of humanity, it is there, born again by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. (Kreeft refered us to C.S. Lewis' essay The Weight of Glory for a more thorough treatment of this topic.)
Where does faith come into this? Faith is needed to be honest with ourselves and God since we can't see what will happen each step of the way. We must have faith that honesty is the right way. So faith is needed for the start, and for every step afterwards.

Kreeft wasn't the only speaker, but I admit he was the one I came to see. There were other good speakers (Mark Shea and Steve Woods being two) and I enjoyed listening and learning. It was definitely different being a bit on the outside, not being Cahtolic or even officially in the process of becoming one at this point. The conference was aimed at strengthening the Catholic faith and witness within the larger Christian community as well as outside the Christian community. There was a great deal of emphasis on what the Catholic strengths were, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, for example. Since this is one sacrament I can't participate in, I was somehow unaware of how truely central this is to the Catholic experience. I heard some about saints and Mary, and I heard some about the Rite of Reconciliation, and about how important those all were in the Catholic walk. But what I heard most, or felt most, was how the Real Presence set Catholics (and a few Protestant traditions) apart, and gave them added strength and blessing. The emphasis was on Christ physically indwelling His church. And I realized something: I have to understand this or I will never know whether I belong there or not.

So what I came away with that is truely profound for me is that I have to seek an understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in order to ever make that step across the threshold into the Catholic church. This will answer my hesitations, or solidify them. If I come to accept the Real Presence, then no matter what other objections might still linger, I will know where I belong. If I can't accept it then I don't belong there, because this is central and, as far as I can see, all important for being part of the Church.

Carrie

10 comments:

Dancingirl365 said...

That is a big realization. I'll be interested to hear how it plays out for you. Thanks for the overview of the retreat. I would love to hear Kreeft someday myself.

my15minutes said...

>>>This juxtaposition of those two ways of living is exciting to me, and someplace I long to end up! I long to hold my faith in Christ dear to my heart while also loving others who differ, and not feeling threatened by them or self-protective.<<<

This is a great vision for your life!

I agree that you need to get the Real Presence thing figured out one way or the other, because it is THE thing that makes a Catholic a Catholic.

Ampersand said...

Carrie, I truly appreciate reading about the conference and the things you are pondering. It always helps me to see the nuances and vast diversity of the Christian faith.

What I love about Kreeft is his respect for other religions and his refusal to assign "unsaved" status to anyone. He firmly believes in heaven and hell, yet he also just as firmly believes God gives every man the choice, real choice, for salvation. And while all salvation is through Christ's work on the cross, how God applies that work isn't our business. Kreeft remided people several times throughout the weekend, "God is God, and you're not."

Amen. (said in a perfectly agnostic voice ;))

During a question/answer session, someone asked what Kreeft thought of the rash of books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. He just smiled and said he welcomed their hard questions and strong emotions. "They are closer to the faith than those who don't care." This is how I want to feel.

Wow, I just love that answer so much.

Kansas Bob said...

I would change this ...

Just as Christ has a dual nature, so do we from the moment of baptism.

... to this ...

Just as Christ has a dual nature, so do we from the moment of rebirth.

If Christ is our example then we need to affirm that what it takes us two births to acomplish he did in one birth.

---

Also I would probably take issue with the Real Presence perspective. Ordination (RC or otherwise) does not enable a person to cause Jesus to be present in communion - faith does.

---

To end on a positive note I liked this a lot:

"What I love about Kreeft is his respect for other religions and his refusal to assign "unsaved" status to anyone. He firmly believes in heaven and hell, yet he also just as firmly believes God gives every man the choice, real choice, for salvation. And while all salvation is through Christ's work on the cross, how God applies that work isn't our business. Kreeft remided people several times throughout the weekend, "God is God, and you're not."

carrie said...

Thanks for all the commnents. Sorry I've been neglecting things here. I will definitely share here as I continue the journey.

Kansas Bob.. the differences you noted are differences between the Prot and RC ways of thinking. I understand your points and have agreed with them for years, but I find my beliefs are changing. That's what this journey is all about. Do I accept the authority of the Catholic Church or not?

Thanks for the comments.
Carrie

Kansas Bob said...

Hi Carrie,

I wonder ... does one have to accept 100% of the teaching to be truly Roman Catholic? Can one be RC and not believe in the saying of the Rosary? Can one be RC and not accept the RC position on Mary? It seems that at some point in history you could.

In the same way I think many born-aginers put a lot of dogma around being protestant and having a 'personal relationship' with God.

I guess that I agree with this Philipp Melanchthon quote:

In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things, charity.

For me an assent to transubstantiation is not essential to the partaking of the Lord's supper. To refuse me access to this grace because I do assent to dogma promotes division and not unity.

Hope this doesn't offend.

Blessings, Bob

carrie said...

Your comments don't offend me at all, Bob. Please always feel free to comments and I don't mind you disagreeing with me at all. I welcome the chance to clarify my thougths and even to modify them if necessary.

There are doctrines and disciplines of the RC church and then there are dogmas. When you join the church, you are basically saying you are chosing to agree with the magisterium on the dogmas. I guess you could actually disagree, but you are putting yourself under their authority. Perhaps cradle Catholics have an advantage in this area! they are born in the church and perhaps feel freer to question the dogmas. But by choosing to join the church I am making a verbal commitment, and for my own integrity I need to be able to do that honestly.

Saying the rosary isn't a dogma, but belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary and in the Assumption of Mary are both dogmas. The Real Presence is part of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, so I don't see that as an opt-out issue, either.

To refuse me access to this grace because I do assent to dogma promotes division and not unity.

Many churches don't allow open communion...my reformed tradition certainly didn't. But the RCC doesn't see the Eucharist as the only means of grace in a Christians life. Pope John Paul II was clear on this. He cited prayer, Bible reading, worship, and service to others as all means of grace and ways to encounter Christ personally in our lives. Personally, I also think that God uses communion in non-transubstition churches as means of grace although possibly in a different way.

One thing I've noticed in the RCC (warning- over-generalization ahead!), people are not as willing to fence God in as many of my Protestant friends are. The Catholics are loath to say God can't work in and through anything.

Thanks!
Carrie

Kansas Bob said...

Ann and I attended a RC church for a few years after we married ... Ann was a practicing RC and I had attended a charismatic church for 18 years previous to our marriage. I found the experience to be an unusual one. Despite all the talk of Real Presence over half of those stepping on my toes on their way to communion did not partake of the wine ... and it seemed just fine with the priests ... I found it very unusual. On the plus side, sometimes the homilies were good and we ALWAYS got out in an hour :) The sad part was that I really could not be a part of the church unless I swallowed all of the dogma.

Thanks for listening Carrie. Maybe sometime I'll get a chance to hear your story in more detail. For now I'll just say good luck on the journey.

Blessings, Bob

1bread said...

Carrie - glad to hear you enjoyed the Ignited by Truth Conference - I have been participating since the first one five years ago. You can certainly learn a lot about Catholicism this way.

I run a Catholic Evangelization ministry on the Internet and can send you some information on the real presence and other topics about Catholicism if you're interested. Just visit my Website at http://1bread.catholic.org or e-mail me at 1bread@excite.com

Catholicism is a beautiful thing once you get to know it and love the Church as I do. I love the Church because I love Jesus.

carrie said...

1bread-

I'm sorry I somehow missed this comment. Thank you for the information. I'll take a look at the website.

Carrie