Re: pendulum swings (was: Re: [asa] Gospel in the Stars WAS Star of Bethlehem presentation?)

From: <>
Date: Fri Nov 27 2009 - 23:25:14 EST

I have a reaction to this portion of Cameron's post. (My response is below this
excerpt of his post.) (actually the excerpt may be more of a reaction to
Murray's post on another thread... but I'm still interested in any thoughts...)

Quoting Cameron Wybrow <>:
> If you look, on the other hand, at Catholics or Anglicans or Greek Orthodox
> or mainstream Protestants who become atheists (with a few exceptions, such
> as Catholics who have been badly burned by immoral priests or by the
> hierarchy), they are rarely preoccupied with the religion in which they used
> to believe. They just drift away from it, going to church less and less
> often, until churchgoing stops altogether (except for weddings and
> funerals). And they don't run to bookstores to snap up the latest tomes
> which refute six-day literalism, and they don't join all kinds of internet
> groups where they can denounce the teachers they used to respect, and trash
> the beliefs they used to hold. They don't read books by Richard Dawkins or
> Sam Harris or Daniel Dennett, either. They just live secular lives, not
> thinking all that much about religion at all. It no longer has a hold on
> them.
> This is actually a much healthier way to leave a religion, because it is
> liberating. The religion is no longer present in one's life, even as
> something which must be consciously repudiated. It's just forgotten, as
> something outgrown, like one's teddy bear or one's first girlfriend or one's
> first pair of sneakers. This type of non-believer carries on without a bad
> conscience, not concerned to repeatedly justify his choice of abandoning his
> faith, to others or to himself.

I take issue with this "healtheir way to leave..." notion you raise above, not
because I have well-solidified answering arguments in my head yet, but just from
my intuition that this flies in the face how some Christian thinkers might react
to this. Specifically, I have Chesterton in mind right now as I am reading his
biography of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Dumb Ox). I would like to type below an
excerpt from Chesterton's book in which he describes Aquinas' response in a
debate to one Siger of Brabant who Chesterton describes as having a philosophy
dangerously close to that of Aquinas but with a poisonously dangerous difference
that provoked uncharacteristic ire from Thomas. Here is Chesterton:

"Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she
can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the
supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the
supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that
Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians,
we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words,
Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of
battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must
entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would
at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was the assassination of
Thomism. It was not two ways of finding the same truth; it was an untruthful
way of pretending that there are two truths. And it is extraordinarily
interesting to note that this is the one occasion when the Dumb Ox really came
out like a wild bull. When he stood up to answer Siger of Brabant, he was
altogether transfigured, and the very style of his sentences, which is a thing
like the tone of a man's voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry
with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted
the worst treachery: they had made him agree with them."

<End of excerpt>
Now, in the midst of absorbing Chesterton's thoughts (and Lewis' thoughts in
other readings), I am imagining them reacting rather strongly to your sentiment,
Cameron. I could be mistaken on my understandings, but I'm not so sure I would
say indifference is a better ground than fiery hostility. On the surface it
would seem so, and even now I'm not so sure I can craft an argument otherwise.
But I'll only suggest this as fodder for thought: better a man be passionate
about truth and yet be mistaken about what that truth is than to be indifferent
about it even in its presence. I'm not convinced that the former is a worse
state than the latter. (St. Paul in his continued zeal may be a good example
for this.)

I also now realize that the excerpt I quote from Chesterton doesn't bear
directly on your post, Cameron, but it does bear on topics dear to this list.
Chesterton expands on some of the many variations of Manichean heresies that
Thomas was reacting against. And while many on this list are well-read enough
to be aware of those dangers, it still bears reminding how closely TEs can come
to the very things that are "almost truth" but all the more dangerous for being
so. I think when pressed on it, all the TEs present here would affirm with St.
Thomas that all truth is God's truth --science or nature not one whit less so.
Yet how Chesterton reacted to the evolution controversy from his perspective
less than a century ago is still veiled to me. He affirms St. Thomas, being a
very Catholic of Catholics, and is eager to give the common sense observations
of nature their due as truths among all truth. And yet Chesterton would also do
you proud, Cameron, as he delights in expressing skepticism over the faddish
modern philosophies that themselves are so dismissive of ancient thought. My
reading is that Chesterton easily gives Science its due as Aquinas did, but that
doesn't mean Chesterton is impressed by every bit of thought that comes cloaked
as science, and that even impressive consensus may be faddish philosophy of the
age in disguise.

My take is that TEs are on the right track as long as they are asking "is this a
right way to read / interpret this passage?" and not "Well --all Bible passages
have only spiritual application and everything else about them is spurious". I
was impressed with Murray's story in another thread, and perhaps this is all
reacting more to him, Cameron, than to you. But reading this book along with my
son right now put this all in the forefront of my mind. I think your friends,
Murray, were right on in suggesting "let's get to the theology", because to
suggest that those passages in question are scientific commentary is, I think,
to read those particular passages falsely. As such I don't think they were
promoting a "two different" truths view. They were attempting to discern "THE
TRUTH" presented in that passage.

Sorry that I probably conflated subject lines here, in a late night ramble.

p.s. I love how Chesterton sees the real reformation happening with Aquinas,
relegating the protestant "reformation" to an inferior, if not illegitimate
variety. Coming (as an Anabaptist) from the extreme other end of that
"reformation" I am yet happy to get into Chesterton's perspective,
simultaneously differing and deferring for the moment. Right now I am convinced
I could predict how Aquinas would be approaching our debates today, but then
again, I haven't yet finished the book.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Nov 27 23:25:48 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Nov 27 2009 - 23:25:48 EST