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Joan Chittester


jerryb
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One line in this book really struck me.." Religion ends where spirituality begins"....

Is that really true? Is it ALWAYS true? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

 

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister ,who felt so dominated and smothered by the male clergy of her church that she finally began to ask some of the hard spiritual questions many on this board have been forced to ask. If you are asking some of those questions at this point on your spiritual path...I believe you would enjoy this book.

 

 

 

 

Blessings,

 

 

Jerryb

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Define spirtuality.

 

 

Hi october....boy you really know how to ask the hard questions. Have you always been a trouble-maker? Just kidding. I'm going to work on that definition.

Meanwhile....how do you define spirituality?

 

 

Blessing to you,

 

 

Jerry

 

 

Actually, I have always been a trouble maker! Drove my teachers nuts with questions, still do :D

 

I don't have a definition, something I've been trying to understand myself.

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You are a troublemaker. B)

 

But you bring up a good point, of course, that the definitions of the words require taking the statement in context. It seems to me Sister Joan's observation is that a genuine encounter with God can begin when the canned mass-membership mentality of conventional religion ends. True enough. Not all spirituality is "a geniune encounter with God," and not all religion is a "canned mass-membership mentality," of course. But one doesn't have to pin down the words in any sort of final way to appreciate the observation she's trying to make. She's not writing philosophy, after all.

 

B)

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You are a troublemaker. B)

 

But you bring up a good point, of course, that the definitions of the words require taking the statement in context.  It seems to me Sister Joan's observation is that a genuine encounter with God can begin when the canned mass-membership mentality of conventional religion ends.  True enough.  Not all spirituality is "a geniune encounter with God," and not all religion is a "canned mass-membership mentality," of course.  But one doesn't have to pin down the words in any sort of final way to appreciate the observation she's trying to make.  She's not writing philosophy, after all.

 

B)

 

Well said Fred....I too believe that a genuine encounter with God can begin ONLY

when the "canned mass-membership mentality" of conventional religion ends.

Can I be a trouble maker now, and ask you to define "geniune"? Just kidding!

 

Blessings,

 

Jerry

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Laying aside the contradiction in Sister Chittister's actions given the vows of obediance she took when becoming a Sister and her, repeated calls, to disobediance vis a vis the Church.

 

It seems strange to me that so many people, especially on this board (but certainly not exclusively here), double-think their way into this mindset.

 

The double-think I'm referring to is the insistence on "the community" as a focus during worship and at the same time insisting on the absolute autonomy of religious belief. This autonomy is most often manifested in rejecting traditional religious practice and belief and creating syncretistic and personal ends of worship.

 

Ok, this has been all rambling and maybe hasn't made much sense. So at this point I'll abandon it until I get my thoughts clearer.

 

I have a question for jerry though. What makes spirituality superior to religion? Why should one prefer and seek it?

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You are a troublemaker. B)

 

But you bring up a good point, of course, that the definitions of the words require taking the statement in context.  It seems to me Sister Joan's observation is that a genuine encounter with God can begin when the canned mass-membership mentality of conventional religion ends.  True enough.  Not all spirituality is "a geniune encounter with God," and not all religion is a "canned mass-membership mentality," of course.  But one doesn't have to pin down the words in any sort of final way to appreciate the observation she's trying to make.  She's not writing philosophy, after all.

 

B)

 

Well said Fred....I too believe that a genuine encounter with God can begin ONLY

when the "canned mass-membership mentality" of conventional religion ends.

Can I be a trouble maker now, and ask you to define "geniune"? Just kidding!

 

Blessings,

 

Jerry

I am really enjoying this thread. Maybe it is because I enjoy reading J Chittister so much. I agree with the statement about the "canned mass membership mentality" and a "genuine encounter with God". I was wondering since I am always searcing for the "genuine encounter" and since I participate in a conventional worship service regularly and usually do not find a "genuine encounter with God" at these services. Does anyone have any ideas on how these "worship services" might be changed in order to contain more spirituality or "genuine encounters with God"
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  This autonomy is most often manifested in rejecting traditional religious practice and belief and creating syncretistic and personal ends of worship.

 

 

 

Very not true. The autonomy allows the individual to question everything and arrive at conclusions based on an intelligent decision. Some traditions are kept, others are tossed. That is versus those who follow tradition for tradition sake, never ask questions and do as they are told.

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Laying aside the contradiction in Sister Chittister's actions given the vows of obediance she took when becoming a Sister and her, repeated calls, to disobediance vis a vis the Church.

 

It seems strange to me that so many people, especially on this board (but certainly not exclusively here), double-think their way into this mindset.

 

The double-think I'm referring to is the insistence on "the community" as a focus during worship and at the same time insisting on the absolute autonomy of religious belief.  This autonomy is most often manifested in rejecting traditional religious practice and belief and creating syncretistic and personal ends of worship.

 

Ok, this has been all rambling and maybe hasn't made much sense.  So at this point I'll abandon it until I get my thoughts clearer.

 

I have a question for jerry though.  What makes spirituality superior to religion?  Why should one prefer and seek it?

 

 

Hi James....very good point that you make here. Maybe I'm just looking for a better word to define a personal experience of God. But the only answer I can muster to your question"What makes spirituality superior to religion" is...one definition of religion in the dictionary is"the service and worship of God". I believe that you could serve and worship God.in the physical sense, without ever reaching the definition of spirituality defined as "relating to or AFFECTING the spirit".

But like I said...I'm reaching here.....can you help me with this?

 

 

 

Blessings

 

Jerry

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Laying aside the contradiction in Sister Chittister's actions given the vows of obediance she took when becoming a Sister and her, repeated calls, to disobediance vis a vis the Church.

 

It seems strange to me that so many people, especially on this board (but certainly not exclusively here), double-think their way into this mindset.

 

The double-think I'm referring to is the insistence on "the community" as a focus during worship and at the same time insisting on the absolute autonomy of religious belief.  This autonomy is most often manifested in rejecting traditional religious practice and belief and creating syncretistic and personal ends of worship.

 

Ok, this has been all rambling and maybe hasn't made much sense.  So at this point I'll abandon it until I get my thoughts clearer.

 

I have a question for jerry though.  What makes spirituality superior to religion?  Why should one prefer and seek it?

 

 

Hi James....very good point that you make here. Maybe I'm just looking for a better word to define a personal experience of God. But the only answer I can muster to your question"What makes spirituality superior to religion" is...one definition of religion in the dictionary is"the service and worship of God". I believe that you could serve and worship God.in the physical sense, without ever reaching the definition of spirituality defined as "relating to or AFFECTING the spirit".

But like I said...I'm reaching here.....can you help me with this?

 

 

 

Blessings

 

Jerry

 

I'm not sure if I can help because I fundamentally disagree with your a priori position, as best as I can see it. It seems to me that you are assuming that a a traditional religious experience necessarily is less affective spiritually and that the relationship with God is on a lower plane. You haven't offered any reasons or proof why this would be so. To me it seems quite elitist as it assumes that most fo humanity has and continues to order thier lives according to religious faiths which, in this thread, have been dismissed by some as "canned mass-membership mentality".

 

That was why I asked how and why what you are advocating, or seem to be advocating (a personalised, I-made-it-my-way-faith) would be superior to traditional religious experience. After all, for any faith to survive for several millenia, there must have been something that was satsifying to the people who practised it. And in terms of traditional Christianity, there must be some reason that it was so attractive to so many people from so many cultures in so many times.

 

But you did ask for my definition of "spirituality". If it wasn't made clear in my earlier remarks I have little respect for people who think they can create their own religious faith. There are two reasons for this, firstly the elitism involved and secondly the way that they deny Truth and almost always advocate some form of relativism.

 

I believe in Truth. I believe that God is a perfect and unified Trinity of Three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). I believe that God has revealed Himself throughout history, first through the Covenant with the Jews and their descendants and finally through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. He founded the Catholic Church on Saint Peter and the Apostles and instituted the Seven Sacraments.

 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Liturgy fo the Hours, the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration and other traditional religous experiences are full incredibly meaningful to me. And not because I'm some angry octagenarian who wishes the Church would just "turn things back", I'm 24 years old and a convert (recieved into the Church in 2001)

 

This things are are open to debate (except my age and my conversion), a person can discuss how, why and whether these things are true. But what cannot be up for grabs is Truth itself and the ability of humans to know and to some degree proove it. It think the "spirituality" movement is dangerous to huamnity because it recasts us in the role of the playthings of the gods from pagan times, bits of whismy tossed about by powers we can never know or understand and fundamentally, meaningless.

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I don't think that autonamy in personal beliefs is necessarily anti-community. Perhaps it is within the beliefs of the Catholic church. But it isn't absolutely antagnostic. I don't need to have the person with me sharing EXACTLY the same beliefs and understands I do. In fact, they could hold fairly different views. OTOH, I do acknowledge you have to have similar enough views or you won't really make it together. It is one of the reasons for denominations I think.

 

--des

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Community vs. autonomy is a false dichotomy. Even you, James, were welcomed into the Catholic Church because you chose to be. Your embrace of specifically Catholic modes of worship, doctrine, practice, etc. is just as much an exercise of your spiritual autonomy as the embrace of more syncretistic modes by others here. In your case, I wouldn't necessarily call your acceptance a "mass-membership mentality."

 

As for believing in Truth, and in the existence of ways to know and demonstrate Truth to some degree, I stand right with you. However, the fact that many here do not share the specificities of your beliefs, does not constitute a rejection of Truth itself. Surely you did enough homework before being received into the Roman Catholic Church to realize that the formation of Christian doctrine was quite a syncretistic process in its own right. To claim Holy Spirit-guided inspiration for that process alone would be very myopic.

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Laying aside the contradiction in Sister Chittister's actions given the vows of obediance she took when becoming a Sister and her, repeated calls, to disobediance vis a vis the Church.

 

It seems strange to me that so many people, especially on this board (but certainly not exclusively here), double-think their way into this mindset.

 

The double-think I'm referring to is the insistence on "the community" as a focus during worship and at the same time insisting on the absolute autonomy of religious belief.  This autonomy is most often manifested in rejecting traditional religious practice and belief and creating syncretistic and personal ends of worship.

 

Ok, this has been all rambling and maybe hasn't made much sense.  So at this point I'll abandon it until I get my thoughts clearer.

 

I have a question for jerry though.  What makes spirituality superior to religion?  Why should one prefer and seek it?

 

 

Hi James....very good point that you make here. Maybe I'm just looking for a better word to define a personal experience of God. But the only answer I can muster to your question"What makes spirituality superior to religion" is...one definition of religion in the dictionary is"the service and worship of God". I believe that you could serve and worship God.in the physical sense, without ever reaching the definition of spirituality defined as "relating to or AFFECTING the spirit".

But like I said...I'm reaching here.....can you help me with this?

 

 

 

Blessings

 

Jerry

 

I'm not sure if I can help because I fundamentally disagree with your a priori position, as best as I can see it. It seems to me that you are assuming that a a traditional religious experience necessarily is less affective spiritually and that the relationship with God is on a lower plane. You haven't offered any reasons or proof why this would be so. To me it seems quite elitist as it assumes that most fo humanity has and continues to order thier lives according to religious faiths which, in this thread, have been dismissed by some as "canned mass-membership mentality".

 

That was why I asked how and why what you are advocating, or seem to be advocating (a personalised, I-made-it-my-way-faith) would be superior to traditional religious experience. After all, for any faith to survive for several millenia, there must have been something that was satsifying to the people who practised it. And in terms of traditional Christianity, there must be some reason that it was so attractive to so many people from so many cultures in so many times.

 

But you did ask for my definition of "spirituality". If it wasn't made clear in my earlier remarks I have little respect for people who think they can create their own religious faith. There are two reasons for this, firstly the elitism involved and secondly the way that they deny Truth and almost always advocate some form of relativism.

 

I believe in Truth. I believe that God is a perfect and unified Trinity of Three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). I believe that God has revealed Himself throughout history, first through the Covenant with the Jews and their descendants and finally through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. He founded the Catholic Church on Saint Peter and the Apostles and instituted the Seven Sacraments.

 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Liturgy fo the Hours, the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration and other traditional religous experiences are full incredibly meaningful to me. And not because I'm some angry octagenarian who wishes the Church would just "turn things back", I'm 24 years old and a convert (recieved into the Church in 2001)

 

This things are are open to debate (except my age and my conversion), a person can discuss how, why and whether these things are true. But what cannot be up for grabs is Truth itself and the ability of humans to know and to some degree proove it. It think the "spirituality" movement is dangerous to huamnity because it recasts us in the role of the playthings of the gods from pagan times, bits of whismy tossed about by powers we can never know or understand and fundamentally, meaningless.

 

Hi James,

 

 

You asked,"Why you are advocating a personal I-did-it-my-way- faith as superior to traditional religious experience". I'm not really saying that,what I am saying is that ALL religions are man-made. And just because some of them have endured for years, doesn't necessarily mean that they are the most personally fulfilling .

If it works for you...fine. But allow some of us to step out into unknown spiritual waters in search of a more meaningful faith for us personally.

I respect and honor your opinion on this subject...and I will give additional thought to your post.

 

Blessings

 

Jerry

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That's just it, from the conservative/traditional Catholic perspective, the Catholic Church is not man-made, but definitively initiated by Jesus Christ, and perfectly guided into its present form by the Holy Spirit. This is not incidental to the disagreement: it is the disagreement. Without understanding this, any discussion concerning personal preferences about spirituality, what "works" and what doesn't for whom, etc., is ultimately beside the point.

 

Having said that, I believe that this claim to unique initiation and guidance status for Catholic Christianity in particular is notoriously circular, and falls quite short of James' desire to maintain a notion of Truth, and of "the ability of humans to know and to some degree prove it." The Catholic Church's ecclesiology of apostolic succession, for example, is based primarily on an idiosyncratic reading of a word-play in the gospels -- "You are Petros, and on this petra I will build my church..." -- a very convenient interpretation which (any Catholic will admit) no other church in the world recognizes. In fact, the New Testament, ounce for ounce, seems to paint St. Paul in the clear position of leadership, both doctrinally and pastorally. Of course, Rome can always haul out its arsenal of proof texts, as it always does; but it remains highly curious to me how its own claims to unique authority in the spiritual landscape are based on interpretations of texts and traditions that even other Christian churches don't share. We're far from the realm of clear and demonstrable Truth here, even if we're taking the Bible literally and/or seriously.

 

Incidentally, I was received into the Catholic Church as an adult too, in 1999, when I was not much older than James. I know all the arguments for the primacy of Peter, the role of Mary, and everything else. But I just couldn't continue to hold onto such a vicious circularity as the Catholic defense of its own authority structure. It has nothing to do with a modern criticism of Truth or Authority per se, but with these particular, idiosyncratic, and circular claims to them. Who gets to say that the integration of the gospel with Greek philosophy was God's will, but the integration of it with eastern philosophy is syncretistic? Only whichever Pope or council authorized the synthesis, apparently.

 

As for the spirituality movement being "dangerous to humanity because it recasts us in the role of the playthings of the gods from pagan times," well, I've already conceded elsewhere that there's enough New Age quackery out there to constitute a spiritual danger to humanity. When Sylvia Browne is on the same shelf as Ken Wilber, "metaphysics" and "spirituality" cease to have much substantial public meaning in the marketplace. But I'm being just as critical of the "mass-membership mentality" of New Ageism as that of conventional religion. Spirituality doesn't necessarily mean leaving religion behind, and this is where my initial comment about pinning the terms down with finality comes back around. Religion does give people some of the best spiritual resources you can find, if only most people would bother to drop the power and authority fixation and actually look for them.

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Applause !  Applause !

 

It's hard for me to type when I'm clapping my hands.

I appreciate your satisfaction, Flow. :)

 

But of course you know I'm being quite serious, and genuinely hope that conservative and traditional brothers and sisters will take my reply for its content, and not as a cranky personal attack. If anybody can sympathize with the elegance of traditionalist view from the inside, believe me, I can.

 

But I do genuinely disagree with the observation that a constructive modern approach to faith and spirituality need be elitist or relativist. On the contrary, I think the people who are making the biggest strides in modern spirituality are doing so precisely because they're integrating the most universal and critical insights from the deep core of their traditions. The quacks who just kick all tradition onto the scrap heap and invent crazy theories and practices from scratch can't possibly compete with the enduring wisdom, truth, and beauty of the great religions. Anyone seeking this ultimate wisdom, truth, and beauty would be a fool to ignore the treasures found there. But to suppose that the final word has been handed down once and for all in one particular tradition -- and the authority to interpret it given to a political body conspicuously similar in form and structure to a Roman imperial council, and alone vouchsafed and protected from error for all time by the Holy Spirit? Wow, that takes a powerful lot of faith. And I'm not just beating up on Catholics here -- any Christian who looks to the early councils and creeds for theological finality has got a whole lot of human foible and face-saving to contend with.

 

I wonder, how many ordinary folks do you suppose considered Augustine and Aquinas "elitist" for couching their theologies in terms of the ancient Greek philosophical systems of Plato and Aristotle? Maybe the only people who could actually read didn't mind. The playing field is a whole lot different now, when far more people than ever before are taking an active role in the formation of their spiritual lives. I appreciate that this characterization may seem "elitist" to those of a more traditional bent. But it seems hard to deny that, over the last few centuries, people have been seeking to make their own what for most of human history has been merely mediated to them (for your safety and protection!) via a "divinely ordained" authority structure. If that's a bad thing, then we really do live in different worlds.

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You are correct about what's been going on the last few hundred years. I personally believe that the growth in personally accessed and applied knowledge since we inherited it from our Islamic brothers and sisters about the tenth century, and the rising of more free-form systems of belief since then based upon older traditions, are not accidental happenings. Of course things such as the banishing of Jews from Spain and the horrors of the Crusades and the Inquisitions are but a few examples of conservative reactions to the underlying progress of western civilization. But, things change, and stuff happens.

 

If it is indeed true that G-d is the author of history ( and I am convinced that Sh-He is), then it is equally true that the processes of evolution in knowledge and thought will naturally lead us to new and modified forms of belief based both upon traditional beliefs AND what we learn about our physical realities over time.

 

The Catholic church is to be admired for its universal participation in scientific discovery, and for its policy of adopting local customs and forms of worship all over the world into its basic beliefs and rituals, even though they may have had their roots in pagan practices. This is a subtle sign from the church ordained by Jesus both of what has come before, and what is new that is being applied to humanity's collective progress through time.

 

No, far from being an elitist view of civilization's progress, I view it as the eventual salvation of common people, which was the whole point of Jesus' visit among us. Hence did I originate my past rants elsewhere here regarding the monkey wrenches being thrown into the gears of scientific progress by certain sectors of the establishment.

 

An old proverb comes to mind when discussions arise whenever the stopping of progress is apparently chosen over the embracing of the new after it is proven,"He who hesitates is lost".

 

flow.... :)

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Leave for a few days and everything just piles up.

 

I'll try and respond in the order they were posted (for FredP at least this will result in my reponses to him being in more than one place)

 

FredP

 

As for believing in Truth, and in the existence of ways to know and demonstrate Truth to some degree, I stand right with you. However, the fact that many here do not share the specificities of your beliefs, does not constitute a rejection of Truth itself.

 

I'm not entirely sure if that's what I said. If it came accross that way I didn't mean it. I was trying to say that while I am willing to debate and defend my faith, what cannot be up for grabs is the notion of Truth itself. And I think that when "spirituality" enters into a discussion Truth is often the first casuality. My experience being that it usally devolves into "well thats true for you but not for me" kinds of stuff.

 

Surely you did enough homework before being received into the Roman Catholic Church to realize that the formation of Christian doctrine was quite a syncretistic process in its own right. To claim Holy Spirit-guided inspiration for that process alone would be very myopic.

 

To what syncretism are you referring?

 

jerryb

 

'm not really saying that,what I am saying is that ALL religions are man-made.  And just because some of them have endured for years, doesn't necessarily mean that they are the most personally fulfilling.

 

True, the ancientness of a religion doesn't point to its truth in an empirical way, but the endurance of any institution over millenia (Christianity being a fulfillment of Judaism) through wars, persecutions, geoncides etc. points to a foundation greater than human (doesn't prove it, but gives certain indicators). The Catholic Church is a prime example, throughout her history, the Church has been attacked, driven underground (still is in some places), held secualr power, and so on. Some of her members have lived scandalously unChristian lives, some popes come to mind who were so busy stealing and whoring they never got around to much poping. But through all this, the Faith and the Church endured precisely because God guides her and sustains her. Governments and nations routinly fall apart for far less serious problems than some of her sons have caused the Church.

 

As far as personaly fulfilling goes. There are two things that need to be said. The first is plain ignorance can interfere with our perceptions. When I was an atheist I couldn't believe that life in the Church could ever be fulfiling. I insulted and mocked those who found hapiness there, calling them sheep, etc. ad naseum. But I never knew the Faith. I had a caricature in my mind created by the media, my school and teachers and all the other usual suspects. The more I learned )and continue to learn about the Church) the more I am convinced that true hapiness (both on earth and in Heaven) cannot be separated from her and her service to God.

 

Secondly, humanity is fallen. Whether or not a person believes in Original Sin, I think that most can and should be able to see that humanity is in a pickle. If there is a God, how can our unfallen destiny be the greed, lust, violence and hatred that so many experience on earth. Things are not as they should be. Nearly all religions I know of teach this in some way. Because of the Fall we cannot always trust our feelings and emotions on first look. After all most sins come from our feelings that we don't examine before acting on. Given this handicap, it only makes sense that True things need to be examined and prayed about and lived before being rejected or hoping to find fulfillment. That being said, my fulfillment in the Church began almost immediately when I heard the call to convert (one of only a very few mystical experiences I've ever had).

 

FredP

 

I'm totally willing to get into a thread about papal authority if you want. But maybe we should start a different thread for it? If not I'm ready to "throw-down" in here (haha). I will say this little bit though, in interests of giving balance to flow's ovation, it's hard to type when I'm giving a rapsberry and mucking up my screen :)

 

and the authority to interpret it given to a political body conspicuously similar in form and structure to a Roman imperial council

 

While I'm sure you've heard this all before, the organization of the Church is eminantly biblical and takes into the needs of various times and places as it gives almost complete authority to the Bishop within his diocese. Whether it resembles the council's of Imperial Rome isn't really anything as far as I can tell. Authorities have always had advisors and the person who makes the final desicions has acted in concert with them or after listened to them. I'm not sure where you are going with this, are you suggesting for example that every congregatio should hirefire their own preacher and have no oversight? Because Protestanism has shown the disaster and disunity which such an approach causes.

 

I wonder, how many ordinary folks do you suppose considered Augustine and Aquinas "elitist" for couching their theologies in terms of the ancient Greek philosophical systems of Plato and Aristotle? Maybe the only people who could actually read didn't mind. The playing field is a whole lot different now, when far more people than ever before are taking an active role in the formation of their spiritual lives.

 

I actually don't think that most people care whether Aquinas and Augsutine used aspects of Greek philosophy, while rejecting others in formulating their theologies. Whether it was Greek or not has no bearing on classical philosophy's use of reason and the solligism for testing truth. It was, more than anything, the best system anyone had managed to put together up to that point when it came to reasoning argument, so naturally they used it.

 

flowperson

 

You are correct about what's been going on the last few hundred years. I personally believe that the growth in personally accessed and applied knowledge since we inherited it from our Islamic brothers and sisters about the tenth century,

 

Huh? Reason, as understood in the Western and contemporary sense doesn't come from Islam in the thenth century.

 

Of course things such as the banishing of Jews from Spain and the horrors of the Crusades and the Inquisitions are but a few examples of conservative reactions to the underlying progress of western civilization.

 

I can't defend the Jewish expulsion from Spain (but it should be noted was carried out by a secular power, not the Church proper), the Crusades were (or began) as a defensive war wagainst Muslim aggression against Christians in the East and the occupying of Christian lands throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East. The Inquisitions were matters of protecting the faithful from false prophets and false religions. Executions were carried out by civil authorties where it was a criminal offense to be a heretic (the Church didn't execute) and it was precisely the work of the moral theologians (many Spanish) and their work after the discovery of the New World that led to the formulations of international human rights.

 

The Catholic church is to be admired for its universal participation in scientific discovery, and for its policy of adopting local customs and forms of worship all over the world into its basic beliefs and rituals, even though they may have had their roots in pagan practices. This is a subtle sign from the church ordained by Jesus both of what has come before, and what is new that is being applied to humanity's collective progress through time.

 

Actually, this is a true form of inculcuration, that is using existing elements of Truth to make clear and relevant the eternal message of the Gospel. These things are not done at the expense of doctrine or dogma, but rather they sometimes deal with changeable things like the language of the Mass.

 

ok, I think that's all. Plus, I'm getting tired of working on this long post.

 

out.

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Huh?  Reason, as understood in the Western and contemporary sense doesn't come from Islam in the thenth century.

 

 

 

I can't defend the Jewish expulsion from Spain (but it should be noted was carried out by a secular power, not the Church proper), the Crusades were (or began) as a defensive war wagainst Muslim aggression against Christians in the East and the occupying of Christian lands throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East.  The Inquisitions were matters of protecting the faithful from false prophets and false religions.  Executions were carried out by civil authorties where it was a criminal offense to be a heretic (the Church didn't execute) and it was precisely the work of the moral theologians (many Spanish) and their work after the discovery of the New World that led to the formulations of international human rights.

 

 

 

Actually, this is a true form of inculcuration, that is using existing elements of Truth to make clear and relevant the eternal message of the Gospel.  These things are not done at the expense of doctrine or dogma, but rather they sometimes deal with changeable things like the language of the Mass.

 

 

 

One point at a time.

1

Ask any reputable historian of science and he/she will tell you that when monks were sitting around in their cells in Europe copying and illustrating religious tracts during the dark ages, Arab sages were composing compendiums discussing number theory and sharing astronomical charts to try and fathom understandings of the universe they existed in. In fact the prototype university (in the western sense) was in Timbuktu in the middle of the Sahara desert in what is now Mali, and operated there to teach mathematical and scientific principles to the next generations beginning in about the tenth (thenth?) century. The Persians did a fair amount of this knowledge transfer also about this same time.

The western correlates for this model were not started until a century or two later under the auspices of the church in France and Italy.

Of course one could argue that the Greeks beat them both to the punch education-wise, but their teaching was on more of a tutorial basis than on a classroom concept with elders teaching younger people collectively. One could make a point that Pythagoras was the true pioneer of higher education in science and mathematics as he did his thing in about the sixth century b.c., but most concurrence is that while conservative elements were trying to bury science and mathematics across Europe in the dark ages, the Arabs were nurturing and preserving what had come down to them from the preceeding classic periods.

Once this knowledge was introduced into Europe through the Islamic culture in Spain, it subsequently spread across the continent, and eventually triggered things like the renaissance and the enlightenment

 

2

I used these tragic moments and events in history only to illustrate what is one of the hallmarks of the halting progress of western intellectual development, not to focus any specific blame upon any entity for the specific actions and events. But the Catholic Church was the leading conservative element in those times; and , I believe that we have all heard apologies not too long ago for some of its actions in those days that are now regretted.. New concepts and ideas come into being; the conservative elements, fearing progress, do whatever is possible to slow down this progress or, better yet, kill it and bury it so that they can live comfortably in the past.

 

If you need to refresh your memory about the specifics of this phenomenon, I suggest that you read a biography of Galileo. If I remember correctly it took the church about four centuries to realize its mistakes and apologise thru John Paul II. A truly great man, and one who realized that "better late then never" has real meaning to some who care.

 

3

I looked and looked both in my paperback American Heritage Dictionary ( my favorite!), and in my recently acquired ten inch thick Webster's, but I could not find the word "inculcuration" or its meaning. Is it some specialty ecclesiastical term that you had in mind?

If you meant to use the word "inculcate" or "inculcation" I would argue that it connotes a treading down of structure in order to force the meaning of a concept upon those to be taught, through intense repetition. That may have been what you had in mind, but what I was really only trying to point out was the fact that the Catholic Church is to be commended for its embracing of the principles of science as secular truth in the recent past, and for its adoption of local and historical culture to facilitate its teaching mission in the world, particularly among native cultures.

 

 

I have noted that you like to capitalize the word "truth". I assume that you do that to connote that you are implying that G-d's truth is the only Truth. I'm certainly not going to dispute the conceptual veracity of that assumption. But, again, at the risk of repeating myself (I really hate having to do that, and it's not a good thing to hate!) the cover page for this website informs those of us who participate here that the questions asked in our explorations are more important to the reason-d-etre' for this site that any specific answers that any of us might conjure up to espouse our particular beliefs. Since you seem to not like spending your time refuting the questions that some of us ask with your specific beliefs, although I respect your right to hold them and to do so, you might find more benefit from these activities if you asked more questions and did not labor so much to give specific answers centering upon your personal beliefs.

 

I too do not enjoy writing long posts because I always have to edit a lot of grammatical errors and mispellings, but that's life I guess. Or as Scotty Peck once observed, "Life is difficult."

 

flow.... ;)

Edited by flowperson
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I read some interesting thoughts about "religion vs spirituality" yesterday as I was web surfing. The quotes below are one side of a conversation (so if the comments seem disjointed, that is why). It's a little long, but it has some interesting points. Opinions (for or against) appreciated.

 

 

I have nothing against spirituality in itself, but I am concerned with the way it is debasing language by (wittingly or not) turning religion into a bad word. My students during the last decade of my teaching are my population. Spirituality was invariably a good word for them; I never encountered a student who did not think that she had a spiritual side to her nature. Religion, by contrast, was not a good word for them; they equated it with dogmatism (we have the truth and everybody else is going to hell) and moralism (don’t do this, that, and the other thing). At first I attributed this to unfortunate brushes they had had with churches and synagogues, but toward the end I came to suspect that they were merely stereotypes they had picked up on campus, for as far as I could tell, most of them seemed never to have darkened a church door.

 

So with spiritual a good word and religion not, what’s the difference between them?

 

Religion is organized, institutionalized spirituality. Is the problem with religions religious or institutional? On balance the latter, I think. By their very nature, institutions are mixed bags — I don’t know a single one that doesn’t have a shadow side.

 

The same is true for religion. Even so they are (as I sometimes put it to my students) necessary evils — we have to take them on and try to minimize their defects because they are the only way that spiritual truths gain traction in history. Had Jesus not been followed by St. Paul who created the Christian church, the Sermon on the Mount would have evaporated in two generations. The Buddha knew that and created the sangha to prolong his dharma.

 

Religions are time-tested traditions filled with proven pointers on how to proceed through life. Of course you must cultivate self-responsibility within any tradition, but I certainly do not advocate throwing out whole traditions in order to create entirely new ones. That seems like a tremendous waste of some of humanity’s most glorious creations. Religions are not all-good, nor are they all-bad. Rama Krishna compared religion to a cow. “A cow kicks,” he said. “But it also gives milk.”

 

The problem with cafeteria-style spirituality is that Saint Ego is often the one making the choices at the salad bar. What tastes good is not always the same as what you need, and an undeveloped ego can make unwise choices. I believe that it is most helpful for people to choose one main meal, to commit and focus on that tradition, and then to add to it if the need arises. I am a firm believer in vitamin supplements. Christianity is my main meal to which I have added several supplements over the years.

 

In the public mind spirituality gets the good points, religion the bad marks. Of which there are, needless to say, many, but I find little effort to balance the account responsibly.

 

What demands and proscriptions does spirituality carry with it? When Barbara Walters interviewed Monica Lewinsky, she quoted Clinton as having confessed that he sinned and asked Monica if she felt that she had sinned. Monica squirmed uncomfortably, and then she said, “I’m not very religious. I’m more spiritual.” I admit that my relating this is a low blow in our discussion and in a way apologize for mentioning it. My intent is merely to balance the record and try to restore religion to even terms with spirituality.

 

As I have said before, certain aspects of religions are far from wise, especially their social patterns — their support of the mores of their times in regard to class distinctions and gender relations. But in their view of the nature of reality, there is nothing in history or in the modern world that rivals them.

 

Cafeteria-style spirituality (or New Age spirituality as it is sometimes called) is a mixed bag. Its optimism and liveliness appeal to me. But how deep does it go? Has it come to terms with evil? Where is its social conscience? Where are the New Age equivalents of a Mother Teresa or a Dalai Lama? So, at its best New Age spirituality is an energizing force, but at its worst, it can be a kind of private escapism, devoid of the power to do real good in the world.

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... I think that when "spirituality" enters into a discussion Truth is often the first casuality.  My experience being that it usally devolves into "well thats true for you but not for me" kinds of stuff.

Right. Like I said, there's plenty of that out there. When I say that all words and concepts ultimately fall short of capturing God (which I'm pretty sure you're not disagreeing with, or you wouldn't be a very good Catholic!), that doesn't imply that all words and concepts are equally valid, or useful, or up for grabs. We still have to debate and discuss the (relative) accuracy and usefulness of theological concepts -- but that accuracy and usefulness doesn't depend on how you or I personally feel about them. It does, however, depend on the social, personal, philosophical, etc. horizons of the tradition employing them, and what the relevant connotations and meanings of those images are.

 

To what syncretism are you referring? ... Whether it was Greek or not has no bearing on classical philosophy's use of reason and the solligism for testing truth.  It was, more than anything, the best system anyone had managed to put together up to that point when it came to reasoning argument, so naturally they used it.

Classical Christianity's adoption of Greek philosophy goes far beyond the use of the syllogism and the structures of formal logic, to an appropriation of the entire form/substance ontology of Plato. Even a dogma as central as the Trinity, for example, comes straight out of Platonism -- especially the second century Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus, whom both Origen and Augustine (cf. Confessions VII and City of God X) explicitly credit in their own hugely influential formulations of this doctrine. It's not that the persons of the Godhead don't show up in the New Testament; it's that the precise definition of their relationship is based entirely on Greek metaphysical concepts. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, mind you -- a cursory reading of any of my posts lately makes it pretty clear that I'm rather fond of Greek philosophical concepts myself. But to claim that the "deposit of faith" was given once and for all by Jesus Christ, and has never been added to, only elaborated and unpacked, by the teaching authority of the Church, simply has no basis in reality.

 

True, the ancientness of a religion doesn't point to its truth in an empirical way, but the endurance of any institution over millenia (Christianity being a fulfillment of Judaism) through wars, persecutions, geoncides etc. points to a foundation greater than human (doesn't prove it, but gives certain indicators). ... through all this, the Faith and the Church endured precisely because God guides her and sustains her.

Sure, God has sustained the Christian tradition, just as God has apparently sustained all the great religious traditions -- if endurance is, as you say, an indicator of divine sustenance. But we all know these traditions offer differing -- and often radically incompatible, on the face of it -- doctrinal and philosophical conceptions of God, so even divine sustenance doesn't imply immunity from error and the limitations of human horizons. As my good Reformed friend remarked years ago: "It is pure nonsense to argue that the Spirit has kept the Church doctrinally pure but let it make an ass of itself in every other way." God preserves us in spite of all the ways we go astray, and provides more than we need in Christianity to draw us to himself, without needing to claim doctrinal immunity.

 

I'm totally willing to get into a thread about papal authority if you want.  But maybe we should start a different thread for it?

Eh, not really. There's just not enough I really feel like saying on the topic to merit dedicating an entire thread to it.

 

... I'm not sure where you are going with this, are you suggesting for example that every congregatio should hirefire their own preacher and have no oversight? Because Protestanism has shown the disaster and disunity which such an approach causes.

I have no deep abiding problem with episcopal structure for the smooth functioning of the Church in its institutional dimension. I don't even have a problem per se with the church having a "teaching authority" for the purposes of debating and preserving the truth as it may be understood at any given point in time. But when it's used as a trump card to snuff out dissenting voices, rather than allowing ideas to stand or fall on the basis of their own authority, that's where I bow out. When I see every Catholic theologian who debates the validity of papal infallibility silenced prima facie for disobedience to the teaching authority of the Church, that's when my circularity-detector starts going off.

 

I do understand your reaction to the "disaster and disunity" of Protestanism. It's one of the factors that pulled me in the direction of Catholicism in the first place. But for every enduring Protestant tradition, there was an original doctrinal concensus that no longer exists. The fact that one "side" didn't break institutional unity doesn't mean that there wasn't genuine unreconciled disagreement in the Body of Christ. No, the concensus is already broken -- the "Church" no longer speaks with one voice. Calling one side off-sides by fiat only preserves the appearance of doctrinal unity, not the reality of it. But I agree with you that the current state of affairs in Protestant churches -- especially in Evangelicalism where personality is such a big factor in leadership -- is a mess. If doctrinal monolithicity (did I just make that word up?) is the problem for the Catholic and Orthodox communions, Evangelical Protestantism suffers from the opposite problem. (If anybody wants to make up a word for that, you're welcome to take a crack at it.)

 

I think the "new spirituality" in its best manifestations, despite its potential for Ego Buffets (per Aletheia's last post), is attempting to steer a path between these rocks -- to appropriate the deep wisdom of the enduring traditions, to find unity in the fractured mess that the modern deconstruction of monolothic religion seems to have left us with. And what's crazy is just how much unity is actually there.

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The same is true for religion. Even so they are (as I sometimes put it to my students) necessary evils — we have to take them on and try to minimize their defects because they are the only way that spiritual truths gain traction in history.

Yes.

 

The problem with cafeteria-style spirituality is that Saint Ego is often the one making the choices at the salad bar. What tastes good is not always the same as what you need, and an undeveloped ego can make unwise choices.

Absolutely. :D

 

Every worthwhile tradition on the planet teaches the cultivation of discernment. Our cultural obsession with fast food is a manifestation on the physical plane of this deeply spiritual problem. And discernment doesn't mean deferring our choices to the "experts" or "authorities" -- it means learning to make wise choices ourselves.

 

I believe that it is most helpful for people to choose one main meal, to commit and focus on that tradition, and then to add to it if the need arises. I am a firm believer in vitamin supplements. Christianity is my main meal to which I have added several supplements over the years.

That's a good way of putting it.

 

Cafeteria-style spirituality (or New Age spirituality as it is sometimes called) is a mixed bag. Its optimism and liveliness appeal to me. But how deep does it go? Has it come to terms with evil? Where is its social conscience? Where are the New Age equivalents of a Mother Teresa or a Dalai Lama? So, at its best New Age spirituality is an energizing force, but at its worst, it can be a kind of private escapism, devoid of the power to do real good in the world.

I think this really is where discernment comes into play. Taking existing traditions very seriously -- including spiritual practices of restraint and self-examination -- will develop the spiritual "pallette" (as it were), so that what we desire and what is good begin to converge more and more. You wouldn't take St. Augustine's dictum, "Love God, and do what you will" as a license to shed all customary forms of morality; and yet we intuitively understand that this statement must be right, because the highest form of morality is to do the good because we desire to.

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I think this really is where discernment comes into play. Taking existing traditions very seriously -- including spiritual practices of restraint and self-examination -- will develop the spiritual "pallette" (as it were), so that what we desire and what is good begin to converge more and more. You wouldn't take St. Augustine's dictum, "Love God, and do what you will" as a license to shed all customary forms of morality; and yet we intuitively understand that this statement must be right, because the highest form of morality is to do the good because we desire to.

 

Very true!

 

"Spirituality" rants against religion because many who are "spiritual" don't want an organization telling them what to do. And "religion" rants against spirituality because many who are "religious" think that those who are outside organized religion are in a relativistic, "sin-fest", free-for-all.

 

There are grounds for both points of view. Dogmatism and bibliolatry can be a turn off, causing many to avoid organized religion. But relativistic, feel-good spirituality often lacks depth and direction and can lead to escapism.

 

Many who are "religious" NEED to be more spiritual, and many who are "spiritual" NEED some organization and perhaps a kick in the pants.

 

Discernment is the challenge.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Alethia, realizing my many references to scripture, I guess I stand guilty of "bibliolatry." :)

 

This might be off point, but much of this deals with the question of AUTHORITY, I believe.

 

Many Christians have run from "authority" over the years....and sometimes rightly so, as the authority was terrible and evil. But I was reminded recently by a book that God did not expect the church (universal) to be a democracy, but a kingdom, with Jesus at the head. We are equal as believers, but God does put certain people in authority. As a protestant, I certainly believe in the "priesthood of the believer." But it is also clear in the Bible that there is structure, and, yes, authority, in the church. And those of us in the church (all believers) are to submit ourselves to the authority.

 

It's important that the Bible says to "submit ourselves." No one forces me to submit...I prayerfully put myself under submission. (after much investigation!!!) There is also a HUGE responsibility for those in authority. They will give an account to God for the souls under their care, for one. And they need to lead as Jesus did...by serving and washing feet. Not to lord their authority over the people, but to love them, serve them, encourage and exhort them.

 

This is probably one of the toughest things for a Christian (especially one who has been burned by church in the past) to do. But, in the end, I don't think God wanted us functioning as "spiritual lone rangers." Just my .02.

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