Two Freelances: Wonder Woman and Pro-Life Feminism at CUA

Pop Culture and Theology: Wonder Woman: Facing the Darkness and Embracing her Gifts

“Nevertheless, our calling is precisely to join that inner fight. The Catechism continues, even taking up the analogy of battle: “Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity” (409). To see the evil outside in the world and the urges to it inside our own hearts, and to seek to counter that, as Diana’s friends do when they elect to continue their mission despite lack of payment and high likelihood of death, is the central focus on our life on this planet. They master their own selfishness, their inner temptations, and in so doing challenge evil in the great war itself.”

Wonder Woman: Facing the Darkness, Embracing Her Gifts

Truth and Charity Forum – How Abortion Divides the Feminist Movement

“Best, was both sides recognizing the structural factors lead to the demand for abortion and agree that those are problems. The demands of caring for young children can prevent hard-up women from from supporting themselves. As pro-life Catholics, glossing over these realities makes us lose our credibility.

Meanwhile, hearing the abortion supporters articulate the philosophical worthlessness of the person: whether born, developing, dying or suffering was the most tragic part. This mentality that easily permits physician-assisted suicide, abortion in general and abortion of the disabled, poses a rapidly-eroding threat to the value of life which must undergird a healthy society, one that values all its members.”

More here – http://truthandcharityforum.org/how-abortion-divides-the-feminist-movement/

How we use Words Mirrors the Trinity: Jesus as the Logos Brings Accessibility to God the Father

In the Bible and in theology, Jesus is the called the Logos, Greek for the divine Word, understood as ordering principle. I’ve always found the term “Word” applied to Jesus to be confusing, even incomprehensible. I accept it, but I didn’t really see the relation of “Word” to the person of Jesus, until recently

Lately, I’ve renewed my time spent on reading, writing and Latin and the uses and effects of language. Goodwriting, to me, puts names to concepts, feelings and experience we hadn’t been able to label accurately and so allows us to think about them more in depth and from the separation of wisdom. This can be fiction, philosophy, theology, psychology, history, any area even math. What the Word calls out accurately is truth. A truth experienced but not named. In a sense, the truth is uncreated by us humans–it was always there, and so we experienced it. But it wasn’t ordered for us to think about or understand until it was named. This naming, or Word, brings order to our minds that enables us to think about and understand the truth that was already there.

This is true in our day to day experience of reading and naming. It is also true of the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. Jesus is the logos, the Word, the naming of God, the unnamable. In his incarnation, Jesus makes the eternal experience of truth in God, that was however removed from our direct experience and inaccessble, accessible in a direct bodily way. As words make vague experiences of truth comprehensible (or orderly) through naming, The Word brings understanding and access to the transcendent Truth of the Father, the First person of the Trinity.

Both are transcendent and eternal and the Word draws its meaning from the Truth, so they do not and cannot exist in isolation, but are intrinsically interconnected. Jesus as the “Word” of the Father makes sense in this way. In the analogy of Truth and Word, perhaps the Holy Spirit would best be represented as communication itself.

-Further thoughts on the Trinity and the limits of Language

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Book Review: L’Engle’s Walking on Water – Overly Lofty

9780804189293In one sense, Madeleine L’Engle’s “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art,” was pleasant to read and stroked my ego as as a wanna-be writer. Parts of it were inspiring. Overall, however, I found it insipid and overly foofy; it talks of writing and art in the loftiest of idealistic prose, as the highest reaches of human meditation and striving.

In a sense, I agree with most of it. But an idealization of the writing vocation is only a tenth of the story. The other nine-tenths are work, the basic discipline of hitting the nail with the hammer every single day. In this sense, it’s like any other skill or job, one where talent and know-how deepen as experience progresses.

Here’s an example of what I didn’t like:

“The world of fairy tale, fantasy, myth, is inimical to the secular world, and in total opposition to it, for it is interested not in limited laboratory proofs but in truth.” (46)

I love fairy tales and fantasy far more than the average fellow, but science is not something to dismiss. I am not a scientist, but I suspect that a tech-minded reader might react defensively, “Hey that’s what my lab tests are all about–truth.” Of course scientific methodology excludes philosophy, meta-narrative claims, but the whole purpose is to learn true things about how the universe works in order to understand it better. This mentality oversteps when we view ourselves as masters of the universe, meant to tame it. But in general, I would say science and laboratory experiments are at the service to truth, a different approach to understanding our world. I think it throws the baby out with the bathwater to pit science in opposition to truth, as if creative types have some sort of lock on that.

Then there was this:

“In art, we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.” (47)

Bleck. I am an idealistic person, and I am sympathetic to what she is getting at, which I take to be that art or creativity is an attempt at knowing or expressing truth. Seeking the fullness of truth can be understood as a sort of prayer or connection with reality aka God. That striving to speak truth can bring the speaker to the heights of human calling.

But. I find L’Engle’s language so over-the-top as to discredit it. It’s as if she divinizes the artist himself rather than showing him as a mere human glimpsing at participation with the divine–which is really the intention. Much of life, and I suspect much of an artist’s life, is spent in murky misunderstanding, darkness and trials, and the prosaic daily activities of buying materials, preparing food and changing sheets. Even the highest peaks of sublimity in creation pass unnoticed because the artist is so absorbed in the act. Never is she really conscious of “moving unfettered among the stars.” Maybe L’Engle is, and that sounds amazing.

But the work of other writers and artists, such as Stephen King and Flannery O’Connor, who have explained their craft, spend more time focusing on the process, on the work, of being surprised by the product despite their best plans. So while the artist does do some amazing co-creation, it is rather unknowable. My concern is not that L’Engle is wrong, but that the tone is deceptive.

Artists are not really a breed set apart for transcendental experience, but rather fellow stumblers along the road. More accurate would be Oscar Wilde who said, “We are all lying the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Continue reading

Objections Series: Killing in the Old Testament: How Can It Be Just?

[This post appeared originally in my series on The Truth and Charity Forum]

One of the most troubling objections made to the Faith is regarding the instances in the Old Testament when God commands the killing of human beings who have committed no obvious wrong. There is the commandment that Abraham kill his son Isaac, though God ultimately rescues the young man (Gen. 22). There are also the commands to slaughter entire groups. In 1 Samuel, God commands King Saul as follows:

‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

abraham_sacrificing_isaacAdmittedly, this is one of the most difficult aspects of the Faith because it stems from a very natural proclivity towards valuing human life. And it bears mentioning that this is a secondary or even tertiary consideration after the question of the existence of God in general and the meaning of Scripture have been broached. To understand the Christian answer, both prior aspects are required. We believe in a loving God who is the source of all goodness and truth, even of all life and existence itself. The Catechism, drawing on the Old Testament and New, says:

“God, ‘HE WHO IS’, revealed himself to Israel as the one ‘abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’. These two terms express summarily the riches of the divine name. In all his works God displays, not only his kindness, goodness, grace and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness and truth. ‘I give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness.’ He is the Truth, for ‘God is light and in him there is no darkness’; ‘God is love’, as the apostle John teaches (1 John 1:5, 4:8).” (CCC 214)

Theologically, the answer to the question about the supposed murders lies in the application of natural law, “If murder is always wrong, how can God command it?” Natural law is man’s guide to goodness through reason, which St. Thomas Aquinas says is “promulgated by the very fact that God instilled it into man’s mind” (ST I-II, 90, 4). By it, we know that killing innocents is wrong; this is also the fifth of the ten commandments.

However, the Natural Law has both primary and secondary precepts, the latter of which God can rescind according to specific circumstances, the former of which He cannot as it would create a contradiction in His unity (Summa I-II, 94, 5). As God is the source of the bindingness of laws, it belongs to Him to make these laws valid. In the case of killing innocents, killing is forbidden because God both creates and destroys all human life; it does not belong to man to take this upon himself. Because God is the true author of life, He can delegate that authority, to beyond that.

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(new) Book Review: The Princess Guide

The Princess Guide uses fairy tales as jumping off points for theological reflection on various aspects of growing up and life for young women.

It is kind and wise, like a loving and well-versed older sister guiding a younger sister. The princess guide does not condescend to young women by pouring on flattery. Instead, it uses familiar stories to bid them hear their higher calling that comes from God alone.

I will say the author sometimes paints with broad brush strokes, perhaps overlooking some nuance, particularly in the section on the differences between men and women. Nevertheless, the heart is in the right place and the guidance offered to young readers is invaluable.

It discusses the value of work, fear, true beauty, and challenges cultural assumptions on artificial contraception and cohabitation. Terraccino addresses women as women in all their uniqueness and value while drawing on Scripture, the Church Fathers, the Catechism, and personal experience. Rare is the book that draws on such wide theological resources within the Church and presents them in so accessible a way, especially for this audience. Too often, the rich teachings and history of the Church lay buried. Terraccino wonderfully and practically brings them too light.

God gave all women and men a royal calling; all persons are called to imitate Christ in his three-fold office of priest, prophet and king. Read this book and let Terraccino show you how to live the royal vocation in the here and now.

Faith alone, but right Faith

On a pamphlet rack at a Baptist I visited recently, there were two of interest “Which Church Saves” and “The Gospel and Mormonism.”

“The Gospel and Mormonism” stated some of the lesser known, but theologically crucial beliefs of Mormons such as that God, the Father, started as a human being, who was Adam and who later became God, who is actually one of many gods. Further, Jesus Christ was conceived by this Adam-become-God having relations with Mary. The implication was that Mormon beliefs are clearly unacceptable, unchristian, not salvific and therefore to be avoided at all costs.

In contrast, the “Which Church Saves” pamphlet had a rather self-congratulatory tone as the dialogue within it explained to a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox believer that it wasn’t the church that mattered, but the personal act of Faith and encounter with Jesus Christ. It was a friendly version of the basic “Faith alone” Protestant tenet.

First off, I would like to agree that the act of Faith is indeed critical for salvation and in being a Christian.

Nonetheless, the act of Faith is one part, and the act itself must be in the right Faith, ie: the content of Faith matters.

And that even the Baptists and other “Faith alone” Protestants know that is evidenced by the pamphlet against Mormonism. Why would they bother to warn their members against an erroneous (dare I say heretical?) belief system unless they thought it endangered the salvation of their congregation? Traditional Protestants (and Catholics) condemn Mormon beliefs because they/we don’t believe that they fit with the Gospel as revealed and considered authoritative in their/our own tradition.

Thus, intrinsically, the act of Faith includes a certain content. This content is as critical as the act itself. The act of Faith for Mormons is manifestly different than that of orthodox Christians. And the difference matters because it is the difference between belief in the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the true Faith and something else.

The pivotal importance of the content of Faith (for both Protestants and Catholics, who agree on many or most theological truths) shows that more than “Faith alone” saves. Even for the Protestant, it must at least be the right Faith. Orthodoxy is about defining this “right faith,” and so it is really important too.

Orthodoxy is not about condemning people we don’t like; rather, orthodoxy is about protecting the revelation of Christ and protecting the believers who seek salvation through Him. There is nothing stuffy or restrictive about orthodox belief. The content of it was worked out through much trial and suffering in the early Church and it continued to develop as well. Orthodoxy is about seeking to believe as God truly taught. And believe it or not, there are TONS of issues orthodox believers can disagree about an debate. And all doctrines are intended to be pondered further as the believer seeks to truly understand them. That’s what theology is, at least according to St. Anselm, “Faith seeking understanding.”

The Catholic Church further teaches that the act of Faith (as in the right Faith) leads to a desire to also live rightly. Thus, faith and works matter. As the book of James teaches, “Faith without works is dead.” Now, we are not Pelagians, God’s grace still gets the credit for inspiring the will to live a moral life. Of course, Catholics always hold this in tension with the true value and role of human free will in cooperating with grace in living morally. And a huge part of right life for Catholics means receiving the sacraments: baptism, confirmation, eucharist, confession, marriage, holy orders, anointing of the sick.

Point is, “Faith alone” isn’t “Faith alone” because even that assumes a right Faith which assumes a canon, a tradition, a Body of believers aka a Church!, a moral/lifestyle practice and more.

MacIntyre Post #4: Know the universe, know God

Aquinas’s claim is not just that theology and philosophy must be consistent…but also that failure to understand the universe of finite created beings inevitably issues in a defective knowledge of God. Why so?      We understand God as creator in part through a study of the natural order of things and of the human place within that order. Errors about that order and about the human place within that order give rise to errors about God himself and our relationship to him(75).

This is why the problematic philosophy of science today gives so many people wrong ideas about God and his existence. Science is not a belief system, but a method of investigation. Observing natural phenomena needn’t exclude the philosophical claim or possibility that God exists.

We ignore philosophy, pretend that it doesn’t matter, when what that really means is that we unwittingly accept certain philosophical premises. One of the most popular is that the method of natural science–which is to just observe nature–somehow provides metaphysical grounding for all human meaning. By establishing a type of empiricism, it cuts out all possibility of spiritual matters simply by default. But examined closely, there is of course no empirical reason to be a strict empiricist. It is helpful for explaining natural events, but there is no reason to extend empiricism into an epistomology or metaphysics or anything else. Yet this is what we tend to do nowadays.

Thus a philosophically and theologically consistent view of the natural sciences could view nature with just as much accuracy but instead come away with an awe and reverence for the Creator.

Most importantly though, what I want to take from this quotation is the idea that an unquestioned philosophy can become a theology (or lack of theology) that isn’t based on anything.

In what ways do you see our understanding of the natural world affect our understanding of God?

Prometheus: Why Aliens Will Never Be Satisfying

There are lots of interpretations of the new Ridley Scott film Prometheus floating around on the web right now. And when my husband couldn’t wait to see it, I saw it with him, now I can contribute to the theories.

The film’s strongest thoughtful element is the android David and his interactions with the other characters as creature to creator. But as interesting as that is, the film remains utterly unsatisfying, not because it doesn’t answer its own questions, but because asking whether aliens created human life is really just a circular question.

As the two lead scientists discuss in the film, if aliens created humanity, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is no God, it just leads to the further question of who created the aliens.

The question of creation just goes back and back and back unless there is a necessary being, one who’s existence is what defines it, one who doesn’t depend on any contingency in order to exist.

Traditionally, this necessary being is how philosophers (since Aristotle) and theologians (since Thomas Aquinas) have described God. Thus the “Well, who created God?” question is answered. God is the one being that exists by definition. The non-contingent being who has the logical power to explain how all these other (temporal, temporary) creatures and things exist.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this metaphysical conception of God is given much thought nowadays, which is really too bad because greater minds than ours have pondered this and found it satisfying. To dismiss the understanding of God as necessary being simply doesn’t give enough credit to the weight of ideas in play.

Now, some people might come to deny such a conclusion, but I hope that before the denial there is more serious thought and effort to understand the metaphysical points than just a quick “well, who created God?”

Turning to aliens, while interesting, does not give the human characters the answers they seek. Dr. Shaw wants to understand why humanity was made. Dr. Holloway doesn’t think it would be sufficient for humans to be a result of “just because they could.”

The beautiful thing is, from the Christian point of view, God, the necessary being who explains existence itself, created all the world and all humanity out of love, not because he had to. Because God is a Trinity of Persons in loving relationship, his goodness overflows and creates. Humans and everything else are loved into existence.

Now isn’t that more satisfying than arbitrary fiat? Or us being the side effect of alien experiments?

We so desperately still desire to know our origin and why things are how they are, to find an explanatory reason. The answers of faith that have been around for millenniums are still really, really good, strong, satisfying answers.

It’s not that people shouldn’t be allowed to consider other possibilities, but I just wish more credit and thought were given to the old answers. If aliens aren’t patently absurd, why would it be absurd to theorize that we have been loved and willed into existence by the necessary being?

All this being said, who doesn’t enjoy a bunch of aliens, robots and slime in space? Thank you, Prometheus!