Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tempest Toss’d

I’m weary of the game, “Let’s pretend there is a unified Church with a coherent doctrine,” but apparently most people are not tired of it. If you want to score some points by calling me a Protestant, that’s fine, but no Protestant sect would welcome me as a member, which is why I prefer the name, “unchurched Christian.” I don’t really think my confusion is so different from the state of those who criticize me for being confused, but let’s leave it at this: When every icon, every human prop of the civilization of your ancestors has turned topsy-turvy around and seems to exist only to plunge you into darkness, one must, or so it seems to me, cling to the vision of Le Fanu:

Next day was the funeral, that appalling necessity; smuggled away in whispers, by black familiars, unresisting, the beloved one leaves home, without a farewell, to darken those doors no more; henceforward to lie outside, far away, and forsaken, through the drowsy heats of summer, through days of snow and nights of tempest, without light or warmth, without a voice near. Oh, Death, king of terrors! The body quakes and the spirit faints before thee. It is vain, with hands clasped over our eyes, to scream our reclamation; the horrible image will not be excluded. We have just the word spoken eighteen hundred years ago, and our trembling faith. And through the broken vault the gleam of the Star of Bethlehem.

Everything else, while not necessarily wrong, is derivative. And when one is in the midst of a tempest, there is no time for derivatives. Of course being tempest tossed can turn out to be advantageous. Ferdinand never would have discovered that enchanted island and Miranda if the tempest had not forced him to perceive that his formerly comfortable ship was a ship of hell. “Hell is empty And all the devils are here.” My sentiments exactly. I would not be swimming in the ocean if my ship had not been full of devils.

Swimming in the ocean brine has turned some intuitions of mine into full-blown hardened opinions, the paramount opinion being, theology is death to faith. Why do the Old and New Testaments read like fairy tale books, and why does our Lord speak in parables if we were meant to theorize about God in the manner and style of the heathen Greeks? It seems that behind all theology is an attempt, done in the name of God, to place a force above God. That force is nature, not man’s nature, but raw, physical nature. Teilhard’s deification of the evolutionary process is a logical development of Catholic theology from Augustine to Aquinas; these theologians seek to put a natural, scientific process that only they understand at the center of the Faith. Therefore it is the mind of man that rules, not God. It is the oldest temptation. Adam and Eve were convinced by Satan that there was a power in nature itself that could make them gods. For all we know, Satan might actually believe that nature is more powerful than God. We are constantly encouraged, by our theological wizards, to keep munching on the apple. They play Satan to our Adam and Eve.

And by following the lead of the theologians, we acquiesce to the enthronement of Satan. When Augustine of Canterbury (as Bede informs us), following the theology of his illustrious namesake, instigates the massacre of thousands of British monks, and when Aquinas logically and maniacally takes a pro-choice position on ensoulment, we are enjoined to overlook such faults as aberrations. But they are not aberrations; they are the logical consequence of a hellish theology that places a natural, mathematical system above Christ.

There is a simple way of determining whether we are following the devil or Him with our theorizing: Does our thought lead to a furtherance of His reign of charity or does it lead away from His reign of charity and from Him? Prospero uses his mental powers to pray and to pardon the deceiver; not to advocate the slaughter of innocents. But of course to be like Prospero rather than Augustine or Aquinas or Calvin or Teilhard one must be willing to risk everything on mercy itself. We are all tempest tossed and in the salty brine; it is simply a matter of which lifeline we choose to grasp. The one leads to Him, and the other leads to those who are legion.

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