Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Creed Revisited

Some time ago I decided that I would write Franklin's Creed. It was this:

My Creed

The world revealed to the senses is not the whole of the world. The self revealed to the senses is not the whole of the self. The world did not come to be from nothing. Rather it had a cause that stands outside it. The cause is single, not multiple. The cause is God. The self did not come from nothing. It did not come from blind physical processes unwatched and not chosen. Rather the self was made by another and greater self. It was made by God. God wishes that we love both him and one another for eternity. But in our present state this is impossible. We live in a state of spiritual infancy, and our purpose in this life and in the life after is to learn to love perfectly. All are immortal. All will fulfill their purpose. The opportunity for spiritual growth does not end when we die. Rather it persists for so long as we fall short of perfection. Perhaps I will be perfected in this life. Perhaps my perfection will require the life-age of the universe. But no matter how long it takes, it will happen. Christ was perfect love made flesh. He came not to pay a price, but rather to evince love, give hope, and form a body of followers in which love might grow. Scripture is a human record of God's relation to the world of his creation and as such is subject to the very errors that plague all human work. Scripture is not inerrant. Scripture answers in us a felt need for guidance in our moral quest. We know that its ethic of love answers to our most fundamental need. Its sole authority rests in this.

I would like now to make a pair of revisions. The first concerns my talk of spiritual infancy. I suspect that it is inadequate. A few months ago, I had a minor religious experience. In it I became convinced that the whole of creation was radically transformed - ruined I should say - by the Fall. While this does not contradict my prior view that we humans now exist in a state of spiritual infancy - a child, while still a child, may still rebel and do harm both to himself and to those around him - it yet transforms that prior view.

Here is my proposed revision:

We came into the world as spiritual children, and while still children rebelled against God and thus ruined both our perfect, albeit infant, nature and the world in which we live. Both we and the world now bear the unmistakable signs of our rebellion.

Moreover, this revision requires that we rethink the work of Christ. I think now that in my Creed I trivialized that work. Christ was no mere teacher. He was no mere founder of the Church. Rather in a way that as present I only dimly understand, he came so that he might put right the damage we did to ourselves and to the Fall. Christ's work is not merely pedagogical or organizational. It is rather ontological. By His life, and His death, he reaches into the innermost recesses of our being, and the being of the world, and thus effects a transformation that could not be effected in any other way. In the original creed, what I say suggests that Christ could carry out his purpose and yet only act upon us externally. That's wrong. Christ has to, as it were, cut into the soul, remove what's ruined so that what's good might flourish. Christ isn't so much a teacher as a surgeon, or perhaps we should say that he wasn't only a teacher but was a surgeon too.

So, then, a second correction to the Creed is needed.

Christ was perfect love made flesh. He came not to pay a price, but rather to evince love, give hope, and form a body of followers in which love might grow. By his work, and by that work alone, our ruined natures, and the ruined world around us, are made whole again.

9 comments:

C Grace said...

Franklin,

My own journey has been a bit interesting lately. I have found an intellectual 'home' in what I consider a most unlikely place. Orthodox theology. I have been hanging out on Monachos.net and find that there is very little of what the moderator Dr. MC Steenberg posts that I disagree with.

I thought you might be interested in some thoughts on scriptural inerrancy that I found.
Question of the authority of the Church Fathers

'Development' of doctrine & preserving Orthodoxy

There is an interesting discussion on hell and atonement here

And an interesting discussion of the church (make sure you read the links at the top too)here

What a wonderful Father we have who makes our growing up such a wonderful journey of discovery, yes?

Franklin Mason said...

It's good to hear from you again. I've been very busy recently - I've begun to transition to a new profession, and the preparation has consumed most of my time and all of my energy. But I should be able to get back to my blog soon. I've poked around yours a bit, too, and will likely post there soon.

I often think of things you've written. You've been a great help to me.

I've begun the RCIA process (Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults) at a Catholic church near my home. I find that I have deep agreements with the Catholic Church, and that the points of agreement are of much greater importance than the points of disagreement. I've even begun to pray. If you knew me, you'd know that that's a big deal, and I still find it difficult to do. I have moments where it seems ridiculous, and moments where it seems to me that I have little or no idea to whom I pray. But I do it anyway.

C Grace said...

I am glad to hear you are getting initiated. That's wonderful! The points of disagreement between the OC and the RC are really not so great either. Many of them are simply old debates that because of the changes in recent years are not so relevant as people tend to think they are.

Although my doctrine is probably more Orthodox then Protestant anymore, neither my pastor nor I see any problem with this. The differences are not enough for me to want to leave, so I am still attending my Baptist Church.

This kind of thing would have been almost an impossiblity not so long ago. The Church has made great strides toward unity in the last 50 years.

Franklin Mason said...

I should say that I've begun the Catholic RCIA not because I'm convinced that Catholocism has all the truth, or more of it than anyone else. Rather all I mean to say is that I believe that they're right about many, many of the most important thing, and that I very much like the particular church I've attended for the last few years. I'm a latitudinarian about these sorts of things. There are lots and lots of churches, and lots and lots of folks, who've got the essential truths. How they label themselves is of little importance.

Tom Gilson said...

This is very encouraging, Franklin--and I have seen the fruit of it over on TC. Thanks.

Thomas said...

Dear Franklin,

I have commented here once, perhaps a year ago - and recognized a lot. Now it seems I can recognize a lot once again: I am almost (not quite yet) on my way in the Dutch variant of RCIA - but with many of the doubts you seem to have had and probably still have. But I am, also, not too dogmatic in trying to agree with *all* the RC church teaches. But there are degrees of importance, indeed.

All the best, I wish you good luck in the coming time.

Franklin Mason said...

Thomas,

Thanks for the kinds words. I hope all goes well for you.

I'm a bit lucky. There's a theologian in residence at the church I attend (Thomas Ryba is his name), and he's offered to sit and talk me with this summer about church dogma, liturgy, the sacraments, etc. If all works as I hope it will, this will suffice for my initiation. I've begun to plow through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Big books both. But by inclination, and by education, I'm deeply interested in the minutae of doctrine and plan to enter the Church with eyes wide open (or as open as I can get them).

But from my point of view, there are, as you say, degrees of importance. The Trinity and the Incarnation are of the first importance. The doctrine of hell is, I think, of much lesser. At present, I have little idea what to think of transubstantiation and of Catholic doctrines to do with Mary. (These are the two that come to mind.) But even if I were to doubt the Church on these matters (and it might well be that I will), I don't think it too important, because, it seems to me, they aren't really at the heart of things.

Stephanie said...

As a CoC-Catholic convert myself, I've enjoyed perusing your blog! I did want to make one little comment...

At present, I have little idea what to think of transubstantiation and of Catholic doctrines to do with Mary. (These are the two that come to mind.) But even if I were to doubt the Church on these matters (and it might well be that I will), I don't think it too important, because, it seems to me, they aren't really at the heart of things.

I did have to set aside the Mary issues at the beginning of my own conversion, and in time, I actually came to understand and even accept them. (I think it was one of those "believe that you may understand" type things!)

But I do have to say that something that took me a while to learn (coming from the CoC where communion was merely one of the 5 acts of worship), the Eucharist is, actually, very much the heart of the Catholic faith. (By association, transubstantiation is a pretty important thing!)

But, from what I've read so far, I think you're being wise in taking things slowly and studying thoroughly, and I'm pretty confident that you'll come to understand it in time. ;-)

I'll look forward to reading more of your blog, in fact I may put a link to it on my own, as I like to keep track of the few CoC-Catholic converts ou there!

God Bless!

SteveK said...

Franklin:
I find that I have deep agreements with the Catholic Church, and that the points of agreement are of much greater importance than the points of disagreement.

and

Rather all I mean to say is that I believe that they're right about many, many of the most important thing

I refer to myself as a non-Catholic who is 80-90% Catholic because of those points of agreement that you speak of.

I'm sure there are Catholics sitting in the pews today who are less Catholic than I am. ;)