Skip to comments.The Gnostic Resurgence: Why Matter Matters
Posted on 06/19/2007 3:39:50 AM PDT by markomalley
David P. Lang
The tenor of certain contemporary controversies betrays some cogent evidence that the archaic worldview called "gnosticism" is once again attracting adherents, whether or not they are explicitly aware of its influence on their thinking. A central tenet of gnosticism is that salvation comes through esoteric knowledge, accessible only to the few who are privileged to enter into its secrets.
The original gnostics, equating spirit with goodness and light, deemed matter evil and fraught with darkness. Since persons are beings capable of intellectual illumination, it logically follows from this position that matter cannot pertain to the essence of a person's core identity. Therefore, any corporeality attached to a person becomes extraneous and incidental to the superior spiritual aspect of consciousness.
Even if modern neo-gnostics do not condemn matter per se as evil, nonetheless they (like their predecessors) persist in seeing various differences in the forms of matter as unimportant for an enlightened understanding of reality. For them, in other words, human consciousness must be raised to the level where it is liberated from a narrow-minded entrapment in the confining categories of merely material differences, which can even hinder the maximization of individual aggrandizement.
Although Protestantism (as can be shown) has long been infected with gnostic tendencies, the Catholic Church has battled the heresy since the first century A.D. Of course, Catholicism does admit a sharp distinction between purely spiritual entities (God, angels, the human soul) and those composed of matter (the human body, animals, plants, minerals); nevertheless, the Church refuses to erect a wall of separation between the spiritual and material realms. As any religiously literate student has learned, the Church affirms a sacramental perspective on the physical world: material substances reflect and signify supernatural realities, some doing so in a more fitting manner than others. The Creator endowed things with definite natures to fulfill certain purposes, and so it cannot be a matter of indifference to him what things are used as means to ends.1 Matter matters! It is thus ironic that the Church has been accused of being anti-scientific. The opposite charge of taking biology too seriously is closer to the truth, though not completely accurate either, since matter is not all-encompassing (contrary to Marxist or Communist ideology) and human beings are destined for existence beyond the grave.
In particular, disputes over matter lie at the bottom of such seemingly unrelated issues as: (1) valid ingredients for the Sacraments, (2) ordaining women priests, (3) homosexual unions, (4) artificial contraception, (5) artificial reproduction, (6) abortion, and (7) euthanasia/assisted suicide. Most of these topics have been amply treated by many authors; indeed, a bibliography of books and articles would itself consume numerous pages. Therefore, instead of attempting to rehearse detailed expositions better found elsewhere, our primary goal here is to elucidate how the theme of gnosticism has become a specter haunting the theater of discussion in each of these cases; that is, how the common thread of gnostic scorn for matter has wormed its way into the heart of each of these crucial areas. Hence, we will not linger over the majority of these items except for the first two on the above list, since the more complex and nuance elaborations mandated there have still failed to penetrate the public forum.
The first problem mentioned has recently disturbed some dioceses. As a result, many lay people have expressed bewilderment when bishops have rejected petitions to substitute, for instance, a gluten-free grain in place of wheat for the Eucharistic bread. To them, the Church's pastors seem arbitrary, rigid, and harsh for declining to grant any dispensations from the standard policies and practices. Why should it matter which grains are used in the bread? For that matter, what difference does it make whether bread or some other food is offered during the celebration of the liturgy?
In reply, let us at the outset make the disclaimer that unaided human reason cannot strictly prove the necessity of certain materials, while excluding others, for validly confecting the Sacraments. We depend ultimately on positive Divine revelation (as traditionally interpreted by the Church's Magisterial) for definitive resolutions to whatever difficulties may arise. Yet, on the other hand, rational arguments from suitability (or convenient), springing both from human experience with the physical world and from Scriptural antecedents, can be adduced. To borrow a simile from the opening line of Pope John Paul It's encyclical Fides et Ratio, the conjoined efforts of reason and faith furnish us with the wings to soar to the truth. In this context we recall the proverbial motto of St. Anselm: "Faith seeking to understand."
The Sacraments all employ material things as instruments for imparting grace, bringing about the very state of affairs that they signify. It is generally uncontested that only pure water can be used for Baptism, because more than any other liquid it is apt for symbolizing what it produces in the soul: cleansing from sin and regeneration unto new spiritual life.2 But it is a more abstruse enterprise to discern why only wheat flour may serve as the valid matter willed by Christ for transubstantiation into his sacred Body. In the final analysis the answer must remain mysterious to us during this life, since we have no direct insight into the unfathomable Divine Mind nor can we boast exhaustive comprehension of the properties of material substances (in this case the various species of grain).
Our poverty having been confessed, however, it does not follow that God has abandoned us like intellectual orphans so that we are left without reasonable clues in the matter. First, given that our Lord wanted us to eat his flesh under the appearances of some earthly food, it was fitting that he accomplish his desire with the simplest and purest form of nourishment. After all, a line has to be drawn somewhere; otherwise, the words of consecration could be pronounced over anything edible a grossly humidifying situation. Bread baked from an unadulterated grain makes perfect sense on account of its immemorial reputation for functioning virtually universally as mankind's staple food, the stuff of life. Wishing to be the pure and simple staff of our spiritual life, Christ chose bread as the most appropriate vehicle. Humanity, cursed in Adam to arduously till the soil and reap its yield, has been blessed in Jesus by the transformation of pain into a pledge of future glory.
Now among all grains wheat is the most conducive for the Holy Eucharist due to both its agricultural3 and its Scriptural4 connotations of being sown, fallen, crushed, buried, and then risen as life-giving bread to be broken and shared collectively symbols of Christ's passion, death, resurrection, and real presence to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No grain other than wheat bears all these meanings to such a high degree of intensity.
Similarly, grapes (instead of other fruits) are the most fitting source for the altar wine due to key biblical references associating them with oppressively laborious suffering to the point of an overflowing spilling of blood, in order both to satisfy God's justice in atonement for the offense of sin and to inaugurate an era of abundant refreshment.5 Moreover, grapes display some convenient attributes on the natural level.6 Yet again we are confronted with the relevance of the distinction between material substances for the Sacraments.
The next two debates would never have gained currency except for the widespread refusal to acknowledge or accept the deep supernatural significance of the natural differences between male and female. We first examine the controversy over ordination of women to the priesthood7 and then devote a less lengthy treatment to the topic of so-called homosexual "marriage."
Of the two irreducible types of human (hence embodied) persons, we must decide which one (male or female) is the more suitable vehicle for executing the priestly office. It would be inexcusably facile to dismiss the very question as unworthy, inconsequential, or even absurd on the grounds that men and women can perform the same social and occupational functions implying the apparently logical conclusion that both genders are equally adapted for serving in the role of priest. This sort of superficial and simplistic attitude permeates the secular gnostic mentality. Rather, adverting to the profound sacramental principle that the natural order of things reflects supernatural mysteries, we ought to contemplate some pertinent Divine attributes, since the God-Man Jesus Christ is the eternal High-Priest.
It can be philosophically demonstrated that God is pure actuality, free from any limiting passive potentially. It follows that in his creative activity God gives without needing to receive from anything outside himself. Thus, his being is utterly transcendent: infinitely beyond and wholly other than the domain of creation. Because the universe of both spiritual and material entities depends for its existence entirely on his sustaining efficient causality, his own substance cannot in any way be immersed in it. Otherwise, he would be producing his own reality out of nothing, as well a blatant violation of the law of non-contradiction. (God is simply self-sufficient, though not self-causing, subsistent Being.) In short, the Divine Essence in Itself is devoid of any trace of immanence. This complete lack of entitative involvement in the world is therefore a necessary corollary of God's absolutely total involvement in his transitive action upon the world.
Next, let us ponder the natural roles of the sexes in propagating the species. In the procreative event, the male supplies from his surplus without receiving anything substantive from the female, who remains initially passive in the sense of awaiting fertilization by the male. Although the analogy is not exact, but must be taken relatively on account of the disproportion between the finite and the infinite, we dare to assert (undoubtedly to the vexation of feminist gnostics and their sympathizers) that in his initiative action of begetting offspring the man mirrors God's transcendence, whereas in her incipiently receptive state of conceiving offspring the woman images cosmic immanence.
This deduction of the philosophy of biology is already an intuition at the heart of primeval metaphors (explaining their pervasive occurrence among ancient cultural myths) comparing the masculine element to Father-sky and the feminine factor to Mother-earth. Indeed, just as the heavens pour down vital waters upon the ground, awakening its potentiality to burgeon forth in vegetation, so also does the male qua paternal transmit living seed to stir up dormant forces issuing in the birth of progeny from the female qua maternal.
Of course, in the global scheme of things, males are also an inescapably receptive feature of cosmic immanence: their act of begetting is merely ephemeral. Yet this evanescence does not nullify the fact that males, unlike females, cannot conceive within their bodies, but produce solely outside themselves. Hence, male fertility participates, however dimly and feebly, in the transcendence of God's continuously active creativity more than the reproductive capability of females, who can conceive within themselves but never beget outside their bodies.
We finally pass to the supernatural realm, drawing parallel connections with the foregoing. When Holy Orders is conferred upon a person, that person's body assumes a sacramental condition (correlative to the character impressed upon the soul of the ordained). Since all the Sacraments effect what they signify, the body of the ordained person ought to be of a nature that has adequate symbolic value for the sacerdotal task. Now a priest serves as a conduit between Heaven and earth between God and humanity, begetting the new life of grace in the soul (via Baptism and Penance) and conveying an increase of spiritual vitality in the soul (via the other Sacraments). In this respect, then, the priest bestows without receiving, sharing in a lofty manner in the boundless generosity of the transcendent Divine agency. Therefore, such an individual must have the natural capacity (or obediential potency) to be elevated as a channel for work in the supernatural arena. Only a man, however, possesses the physical qualifications to fittingly represent the prototypical priesthood of the eternally begotten Son of the Father. A woman is not suited for priestly ordination precisely on account of her natural constitution manifesting the receptivity of cosmic immanence in its openness to conception not due to any inferiority of her individual person.
Here is a similar argument. One of the Pope's titles is Pontifex Maximus or "Supreme Pontiff"; however, every other priest subordinately shares in this office of pontifex (Latin for "bridge-builder"), because each priest mediates between God and humanity, functioning as a key link between Heaven and earth. The priest's gestures themselves at Mass emphasize this role, especially at the elevation of the consecrated Host and chalice. Now only an adult male possesses the intrinsic physical capacity corresponding to this spiritual service, as manifested by the carnal extension required for the procreative act, wherein the husband literally bridges the gap between his flesh and his wife's flesh.8 The incongruity of a purportedly ordained woman attempting to mimic the consecration at Mass, accompanied by the requisite bodily posture, borders on an absurd parody of the sacred the very negation and obscene inversion of the sacramental order. Consequently, only a man can participate in the ordained priesthood of Christ, performing papally (like a pope, since Papa means "father" in the familiar form of the term).
To deny the significant repercussions of the material differences between man and woman for this supernatural sphere risks blurring the distinction between Divine transcendence and created immanence, inevitably leading to Gaia-goddess worship.9 Paradoxically, neo-gnostic dualism can, by a circuitous route, unwittingly wind up in materialistic pantheism.
With regard to homosexual unions, it is self-evident to anyone who accepts the premise of the fundamental procreative meaning for the division of all animal species into two genders that same-sex "marriage" transgresses and subverts the natural order based on such material distinction. Human arrangements between two members of identical sex contrived to simulate the norm may yield various gratifications (e.g., filling a psychological vacuum through erotic pleasure), but obviously cannot of themselves (apart from the intervention of Tower-of-Babel technologies striving to supplant Divine sovereignty) generate the fruit of children. Anyone for whom all this does not constitute a patent platitude is afflicted with intellectual blindness emanating either from a falsely compassionate relativism or from a perversely stubborn will hardened by concupiscence. To any of these people we can only address some rhetorical questions. If the basic purpose of sexual congress is not procreation, why is it that the energies of the reproductive cells are always actually aroused in adult males and at least tendentially stimulated in adult females? Do not these physiological phenomena bespeak an inherent demand for bodily difference, since germ cells from the same sex of themselves possess no unitive dynamic?
Artificial means of preventing or causing fertilization commit the error of dismissing the relevance of material methods to our well-intentioned actions. To declare that any means whatsoever can be licitly employed to realize a noble objective is to propose a thesis that is not at all obvious; in fact, it is counter-intuitive. For instance, no one with a modicum of moral maturity would maintain the legitimacy of robbing banks to achieve the admittedly desirable aim of a comfortable lifestyle. Therefore, since the general maxim that "the end justifies the means" fails, it begs the question and amounts to special pleading to claim that it does hold in the cases of artificial contraception and reproduction. Granted that human procreation occurs normally in only one way, a presumption in favor of not altering the physical processes entailed ought to prevail. The burden of proof rests on an opponent to demonstrate why it is not morally degrading (i.e., treating human subjects as though they were objects for laboratory manipulation) to bypass these evidently normative human biological pathways. Indeed, scientists who arrogate unto themselves the prerogative of molding human constituents in any technically feasible fashion exhibit gnostic disdain (and even contempt) for matter in its most egregious (not to say monstrous) guise. Of course, affirmative arguments beyond this negative criticism should be, can be, and have been expertly advanced and defended, employing both the natural law approach10 and the integral personalist approach.11
Abortion and euthanasia intrinsically demean the human person by assailing the human body as a commodity for disposal in the name of exalting the freedom of choice of the autonomous individual will. These deeds are consonant with the gnostic aversion for imprisoning spirits in lowly burdensome matter: preferable to release the souls of unwanted pre-born children and other miserable people from potentially or actually agonizing enfleshment. Contrary to gnostic hubris, though, finite wills do not have unlimited dominion over matter when that matter is an integral part of our own or someone else's personhood.
The modern mind-set, spurning logic and submerged in relativistic emotionalism, interprets God's infinite love and mercy in an overly sentimental way, as if he were a non-judgmental politically-correct talk-show host (or audience) nodding sympathetic approval of a guest's justification for the latest infringement of a traditional taboo. But not every rule is a question of mere custom or arbitrary convention. God gives us absolute standards to root us in the nature of things, lest we lapse into gnostic indifferentism.
(All Scriptural quotations are taken from the 1970 translation of the New American Bible. I am tremendously grateful to apologist David L. Vise for locating many of these texts for me, as well as explicating some subtle, profound, and often startling interrelations among them.)
1. See 1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (esp. 39): "Not all bodily nature is the same . . . "
2. See John 3:5.
3. One facet open to human observation is the shimmering beauty of a field of standing wheat shining like gold in bright sunlight. But the gleam of untarnished gold symbolizes the pure glory of the Divine Majesty an effulgence that radiates toward God's royal subjects, transforming them and their surroundings (much as the worthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion transforms). Note that the Eucharistic Host is solemnly exposed in a golden monstrance. See the following Scriptural references: Exodus 25-26, 28; 1 Kings 6:19-22, 30-35; 1 Kings 7:48-51; 2 Chronicles 3:4-9; 2 Chronicles 4:7-8, 19-22; Psalm 45:10, 14; Psalm 72:15; Wisdom 3:6-7; Zechariah 4:1-2; Isaiah 60:6; Matthew 2:11; 1 Peter 1:7-8; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17; 2 Corinthians 4:4-7; Revelation 1:12-13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 21:15-21.
4. Of the following ten proof-texts, the first three from the New Testament are critical, whereas the last seven from the Old Testament lend auxiliary support.
(a) John 12:24: "I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit." Here Jesus compares his own body with wheat.
(b) Luke 22:31-32: "'Simon, Simon! Remember that Satan has asked for you to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may never fail. You in turn must strengthen your brothers."' Here our Lord compares his Apostles with wheat. These verses contain salient and far-reaching ramifications for the participation of the Church's hierarchy in Christ's redemptive suffering, as well as in his supreme authority to teach the Faith infallibly and to sanctify the faithful. Furthermore, there are applicable undercurrents suggesting assent to the Church's belief in the material composition (wheat bread) and formal effect (strengthening both the individual and the community) of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
(c) Matthew 13:24-30, ending with the injunction: "'[G]ather the wheat into my barn."' (Cf. also Mark 4:26-29.) In this parable, the elect, who eschatologically comprise the Mystical Body of Christ, are compared to wheat.
Throughout the previous three citations (a, b, c), we hear the Founder of the Church provide the unifying metaphor of wheat for himself, the Head of the body, along with his members (both clerical and lay). Hence, the Holy Eucharist, which is pre-eminently the Sacrament of unity, is most fittingly affiliated with wheat as its proper matte.
(d) 1 Chronicles 21:23: "I . . . give you . . . the wheat for the cereal offering." This verse, spoken deferentially to King David by Ornan the Jebusite, occurs in the context of David's making sacrificial atonement to God for his prideful distrust in taking a census of Israel. An interesting connection with gold emerges here, because David paid Ornan a fair sum of this costly metal in exchange for the wheat, some wood, and a threshing-floor, on which David erected an altar of holocausts. But much more is at stake in this narrative. According to 1 Chronicles 11:4, Jebus was the original site of Jerusalem. Moreover, 2 Chronicles 3:1 informs us that Solomon constructed the Jerusalem temple on Mount Moriah, covering (as David instructed) the very spot where Ornan's threshing-floor stood. Now Abraham intended to immolate his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (see Genesis 22:2). We thus witness an astonishing analogy of proportionality: just as Abraham spiritually sacrificed his son Isaac, so did David mystically offer up Jesus Christ (his Son, according to Matthew 1:1) in the form of threshed wheat, with both sacrifices taking place at Jerusalem, where our Lord actually delivered up the temple of his own bruised flesh as unblemished victim on the altar of the cross for our sins. Once again (discovered this time by an intricate chain of reasoning), Christ's body is compared with wheat, mystically valued as precious gold.
(e) Psalm 81:17: "Israel I would feed with the best of wheat . . . " This verse announces God's Eucharistic plan for the Church, the New Israel.
(f) Psalm 147:14: "[W]ith the best of wheat he fills you." This verse proclaims the fulfillment of the above intention.
(g) Exodus 29:2: "With fine wheat flour make unleavened cakes . . . " The Church obeys this command with respect to preparation for the Eucharist.
(h) Exodus 34:22: "You shall keep the feast of Weeks with the first of the wheat harvest . . . " This celebration consisted in a festival of thanksgiving for the harvest. It can, then, be considered a type of the gathering at Mass for the Eucharist, whose etymological derivation is Greek for "good gift" or "thanksgiving": namely, gratitude for the inexhaustible yield of grace gained by our Lord's redemptive merits. Reverting to citation (a) and recalling 1 Corinthians 15:20, we can appreciate that Christ is truly "the first of the wheat harvest". Hence, the verse may be construed along the lines of Malachi 1:11 as: "You shall offer the Holy Eucharist with the pure sacrifice of the Wheat of Life."
(i) Exodus 9:31-32: "Now the flax and the barley were ruined, because the barley was in ear and the flax in bud. But the wheat and spelt were not ruined, for they grow later." This passage is crucial for ruling out barley flour as valid matter for confecting the Blessed Sacrament, because someone might object that the multiplication of loaves prior to the Passover feast in John 6:1-13, a miracle immediately preceding Christ's Bread-of-Life discourse and which itself pre-figures the Eucharist, was accomplished using barley. Although barley has already been tacitly eliminated via citations (a-h) above, a more explicit exclusion rests on the fact that the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites at the original Passover meal (whose ritual is initially described in Exodus 12:1-20, but decreed again in both Leviticus 23:5-14, and Deuteronomy 16:1-6), anticipating the Last Supper and Good Friday, was quite probably not composed of barley, which had been destroyed during two earlier Egyptian plagues: by hail when nearly ripe for harvest and by locusts in all storage bins. At any rate, there are mystical anagogical overtones here, since the adverb "later" carries the deep significance of the division between the Old and New Covenants: barley the grain of the Old (unto earthly nourishment) and wheat the grain of the New (unto heavenly food). St. Thomas Aquinas concurs, writing in Summa Theologiae, P. III. q. 74, a. 3, ad 1 (with an allusion to a statement by St. Augustine) that barley indicates the "hardness of the Old Law".
To buttress this conclusion, we can glean additional agricultural-historical facts from Reese Dubin, Miracle Food Cures from the Bible (Paramus, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1999), p. 125: "Barley and wheat were the most important grains grown throughout the Holy Land ('a land of wheat and barley,' Deuteronomy 8:8). Barley was more popular because it could grow in poorer soil and survive heat and drought better. Wheat was for the rich. Barley, the tougher, chewier, and less durable of the two, was for the poor a universal symbol of poverty and humility." Furthermore, on p. 189, Dubin boldly claims: "Wheat symbolized eternal life." Thus, the Eucharist, which anticipates Christ's final coming in great power and His Mystical Body's assimilation into His glory, fittingly sheds the coarse, indigent garment-grain associated with His first advent in the lowly stable of Bethlehem (the "house of bread"), as well as with His public ministry before the culminating events of Passion-week. Instead, It dons the resplendent regal robe of the softest, finest wheat the grain of the new and everlasting covenant wherein the Church partakes of the prodigious wealth of Christ.
(j) Hosea 7:14: 'They have not cried to me from their hearts when they wailed upon their beds; for wheat and wine they lacerated themselves, while they rebelled against me." This should be read in a spiritual sense, in light of 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 (esp. 27-29).
5. Some proof-texts are listed below.
(a) Isaiah 62:9: "You who gather the grapes shall drink the wine in the courts of my sanctuary." This allegorical verse is a stunning prophecy about the celebration of the Mass in Catholic churches of the latter times.
(b) Matthew 26:28-29: "'[F]or this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father's reign."' This event at the first Mass begins the fulfillment of the above prophecy. Cf. also Mark 14:24-25 and Luke 22:17-18.
(c) Amos 9:13-14: "The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it . . . Plant vineyards and drink the wine . . . " The "mountains" or "hills" can be interpreted as the Catholic Church (see Psalm 48, Psalm 87, and Isaiah 2:2-3); hence, this prophecy can also be construed as referring to the Consecration and Communion at the Mass, where the Precious Blood of Christ flows prolifically.
(d) Zechariah 9:15: "They shall drink blood like wine, till they are filled with it like libation bowls, like the corners of the altar." This verse appears in a prophecy about the Messianic dominion and seems to resonate with the same satiating plenitude as the preceding passage.
(e) Deuteronomy 14:18-20: ". . . 'Use your sharp sickle and gather the grapes from the vines of the earth, for the clusters are ripe.' So the angel wielded his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes of the earth. He threw them into the winepress of God's wrath. The winepress was trodden outside the city, and so much blood poured out of the winepress . . . " Here occurs a glaring juxtaposition of the themes of grape-wine, bloody libation, and punishment for sin.
(g) Micah 6:13-15: "I will begin to strike you with devastation because of your sins. You shall . . . tread the grapes, yet drink no wine." Cf. again 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.
(h) Psalm 80:15-16: "Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted [the son of man whom you yourself made strong]," Cf. Isaiah 5:1-7
(i) John 15:1: "'I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower."' Cf. Matthew 21:33-42 and John 6:48-58.
6. R. Dubin, op. cit., pp. 209-225, discusses the therapeutic power of grapes, stemming in large measure from their high content of antibiotic and antioxidant chemical constituents (notably polyphenols and procyanidins). Although most edible fruits have purifying properties to some extent, among them all grapes excel at building strong blood as well (tantamount to a "blood transfusion").
7. I am indebted to both Louis Bouyer and Paul M. Quay for some pivotal insights. See Bouyer's Woman in the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1979) and Quay's The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality (Evanston, Ill.: Credo House Books, 1985).
8. The wife, of course, symbolizes the Church (the Bride of Christ) the Body to whom an ordained man (representing the Lord Jesus) ministers in a sacerdotal manner. See Revelation 21:2 and Ephesians 5:22-33.
9. See the essay by C.S. Lewis titled "Priestesses in the Church?" appended to Woman in the Church, op. cit., pp. 123-32.
10. See, for example, Martin D. O'Keefe, Known From The Things That Are (Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1987), pp. 222-223, 227-234.
11. See, for example, Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981), pp. 21-44, 224-248.
For an excellent article consolidating aspects of both approaches, see Joseph L. Doran, "Are contraception and artificial procreation sometimes permissible?", Homiletic and Pastoral Review (March, 1993), 48-57.
Dr. David P. Lang has earned Ph.D. degrees in both philosophy and mathematics. He has taught both subjects intermittently for about twenty-five years at various New England colleges. His last article in HPR appeared in the December 1995 issue.
Gnosticism = Mystery Religion = ancient egypt religion = masonic steps to elightenment = hooey.
An affirmation of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are necessary to answer the issues that have caused a crisis in churches. The rejections of these doctrines are at the heart of the heresies and change in moral standards with which we struggle.
Chief amongst these are the following:
Belief that Christ is just another way to God: rejecting the uniqueness of Christ is possible only if we are willing to say that He is not God, one in being with the Father. The second person of the Trinity who became flesh to dwell amongst us. Without the Incarnation. Jesus is indeed no more or less than a very sage teacher, wise and loving with a very personal and spiritual understanding of the will of God.. He is a prophet of no small consequence but only a human being. His resurrection then by logic must be no more than a emotional and psychological response of the Apostles to his death. A way for them to affirm the timelessness of His message and carry on His work.
Advocation for same sex relations and life damaging behaviors. The nature of man and woman and their union with one another begins in the story of Creation. This story is and always will be a reflection of the Trinity. As such this union is by its very nature ( barring illness or physical problems) both unitive and procreative. Its very love gives forth the most amazing gift of all- life. To defend why sex between one man and one woman in life long marriage is the only sexual expression blessed by God we have to be able to defend the Trintiy.
The incarnation tells us why we must reject all behaviors that corrupt the flesh not just sexual ones. Addictions, abuse, violence to others and to ourselves just name a few. It gives argument to the why of fighting diseases, poverty, hunger, injustice and evil in the world. It gives voice to why we must love one another as God as loved us.
Advocation for Abortion and euthanasia. Belief in the incarnation is a sharp rejection of Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that the flesh was evil and a hindrance to knowing God. But the incarnation says not only is human life , body and soul loved by God it has now been sanctified. By taking on flesh Jesus elevates our personhood. He not only shows us that God truly declares it good but that God loves that very flesh so much that He will share in its agonies out of that love. We believe God took on flesh from the very first moment of conception in the womb of Mary. Therefore we must conclude that the human person is seen as valuable and worthy from that very moment. God did not become incarnate at a certain stage of Fetal development. He cloaked Himself in humanity from the very words of the Angel to Mary announcing that she should conceive by the Holy Spirit.
Very true. There is sometimes a tendency to treat theological matters as being irrelevant to the "real heart of Christianity," and we have seen the results of that in 40 years of progressively diminishing faith and declining practice. Those are the central mysteries, and they can be understood by everyone, according to that person's capacity; you may be an Augustine or a Catherine, or you may be a villager in Spain setting up a Nativity scene complete with angels and adoring kings, but you both work from the same understanding of the Incarnation.
I think one point where this observation connects with the points above in the article about gnosticism is that one of the signs of the gnostic (and in fact of many heresies) is the rejection of religious imagery or icons. The physical projection and expression of mysteries offends the gnostic sense of anti-materialism and hiddenness. Heresies often first start with a surge of destruction of religious images and art; the Muslims did this, the Protestants did it, and Vatican II did it. The latter was not heretical in itself, but there were obviously many cleverly hidden gnostics in it, and one of the first things they zeroed in on for their project of making Catholicism an "immaterial" and non-theological religion was religious imagery in churches and on vestments and altar furnishings.
What a load.