Just the Facts, Ma’am

Statue at La Salette in France, where Our Lady appeared weeping for the modern world ...

When I was a teenager in America, an evangelical Christian friend tried to convert me. He assured me that heaven would be made of gold. A city literally made of gold …

I pressed him. What would we be living in?

Golden houses came the reply. What would we travel in? Golden cars. Everything would be gold. I wonder if he would have said we would pump the fuel tanks full of liquid gold …?

Such materialistic travesties served to put me off Christianity for twenty years – which I then devoted to the New Age movement.

And after my wife converted to Catholic Christianity, her mother asked her, if this meant that she now believed in a crude Creationism …?!! A crude Creationism, in which “seven days” can mean nothing other than “seven 24 hour periods”.

My friends, I invite you to pause a moment, and feel the immense tragedy that all the above represents … This, this is what many people think it means to become a Christian!

Now, it is true that 2+2 means nothing other than 4. It is a mathematical fact. And nothing can contradict that.

There is a Realm of Facts, where nothing other than the fact is meant. Here in this realm, contradictions cannot be valid. But Christianity is nothing, if it is not rooted in a Realm of Profound Truth, that transcends the Realm of simple Facts.

But this Realm of Profound Truth Beyond Univocal Facts, has now become confused with literalism and facts.

For example, this is not only evident in fundamentalist Protestantism – but at the opposite end of the spectrum from my evangelical friend, where lies the acclaimed liberal Protestant, Rudolf Bultmann, who said that Christianity must demythologise or die.

For Bultmann wrote: “The New Testament … invites criticism because some of its representations are … contradictory … representing Jesus as born of a virgin contradicts the idea of his pre-existence. So, too, does faith in creation contradict the notion of the world rulers … and the view of the law as given by God contradicts the view that it comes from the angels (Emphasis mine).”

Again, transcendent Truth is confused with the Realm of Facts- which rightly permits no contradiction. Bultmann could not seem to see that contradictions no longer carry the same weight in the Realm of Profundity.

And it is only in the Realm of Facts, that contradictions have such importance.

Bultmann was also very concerned that Christianity not contradict the Realm of Facts represented by Science:

“The idea of the miracle has become almost impossible for us today because we understand … nature as governed by law … The miracle is … a violation of the conformity of law which governs all nature.”

Yes what is all important is that Christianity become purely rational, that is to say non-contradictory …

Ironically the very idol of non-contradiction became deposed within the Realm of Science, itself. This was for example, clearly evidenced by that pioneer of quantum physics, Neils Bohr, who stared into that profoundly contradictory world where sub-atomic entities could be possessed of mutually exclusive properties.

For example, the same subatomic entity could be either wave or particle, depending on how it was viewed. And so this quantum pioneer was led to remark that: ‘The opposite of a fact is surely a falsehood. But the opposite of one great truth may well be another great truth.”

And if one is a Christian, one may think here of the opposite great truths of faith that God is Three without contradicting that God is One and that God is One without contradicting that God is Three …

All of this is to say, that in the Realm of Facts, contradictions must be avoided. But in the Profound World, different conclusions are both possible and necessary.

Even if the demythologisers would say in effect, we must reduce the Profound Truths of Christianity to simple facts which cannot contradict each other.

My friends, the TRAGEDY of the world lies in the reduction of profundity to simply facts. Facts alone. “Just the facts, ma’am” as a certain Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on the American television screens of my youth …

Like Joe Friday we are caught up in the idea that nothing except the facts might be of value. Everything else is uncertain, possibly merely subjective, unreliable, uncertain, insecure …

And what then of Faith in a world that can only trust in Facts?

In a previous weblog entry, I followed the profound thought of John Paul II to this same effect, looking at how an epistemological trajectory, commencing in a certain sense with Descartes, had increasingly reduced our culture to pure rationalism, where contradictions cannot be permitted …

And this tragedy now penetrates everywhere, including Christianity. And may I be forgiven if I confess publicly here that this seems true to me, most of all in the secular countries of Protestant heritage wherein, for example, my mother-in-law grew up.

Yes, though I am prepared to be corrected, I believe this literalism is especially marked in both evangelical and liberal Protestantism. And I believe genuinely it is even today still not so marked in that other 60 -70% of global Christianity represented by Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

But the tragedy of reduction of Truth to literal facts alone, is found everywhere these days, working out in increasing sclerosis and calcification of the world.

My approach in this weblog is piecemeal and suggestive, rather than comprehensive and systematic. Nonetheless what I am trying to suggest is that our world cries out for that which is profound, that which is mystery. And to this hunger for Mystery, the New Age movement bears ample witness.

And that though tragically invisible to so very many, this hunger could be met by a Christianity that does not fall into into the literalist and materialist traps of the degraded forms above..

And that in this age of rationalism and materialism, of facts and facts alone, of statistics and the bottom line, in this age of functionalism and utilitarianism, the Catholic Church has been attempting for centuries to defend the Mystery of Christ …

Although more and more, Catholic Christianity is in danger of such falling, falling into the quagmire of demythologisation. For particularly since the post-conciliar period of the 1960´s, we now have Catholic demythologisers too, following the trail blazed by the like of Rudolf Bultmann.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, preserve us from this apostasy. Preserve us from reductionist, materialist, literalist “Christianity”. Preserve the Catholic Mystery and aid us in our efforts to defend and guard the Mystery of Your Holy Church …

From Amazon US:

These books can also be found in our Amazon UK store here. The following titles also have Reviews at these links: (Puritan’s Empire) (Meditations on the Tarot) (When Corporations Rule the World).

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  1. […] because such literalism was the only way to interpret the word “days”. And I have recounted here already, there was even one who tried to convince me of a heaven filled with literal gold – literal golden […]

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