The god (“God”) of Easy Answers, gEA for short, comes in two distinct forms for contemporary Catholics. The first version, what some might call with scorn the “traditional version,” ostensibly supplies his answers through dusty manuals, theological tomes untranslated from their original Latin, and, of course, an endless string of papal documents penned between the second-half of the first century and the mid-1950s. These easy answers appeal to a certain subclass of Catholics who cannot handle either (post)modernity or a casual conversation abut Major League Baseball. That’s how the story goes, at least. But like so many tales spun in the halls of the Vatican, the classrooms of “Catholic universities,” or innumerable online fora, the ring of truth to their gross generalizations is astonishingly faint. Manufacturing nonsense, even nonsense on stilts, comes easy in these environs because all three (though they are not the only three) are hallmark examples of in-group thinking or, rather, “thinking.” They dwell in ideological black holes where the light of truth stands not a chance.
When it comes to universalism there is a line of argument against it that goes something like this: If universalism is true, then Christianity is pointless. A slightly softer version of that claim can be stated as follows: If universalism is true, then Christianity is unnecessary. And the last, slightly weaker, variant that I will point to is this: If universalism is true, then Christianity amounts to an “option” (one of many), that is, a personal philosophy for living which may, or may not, be superior to the plethora of others available. This last line of argument comes packaged with a set of worries that if Christianity is about anything else than getting into Heaven, there’s not much more to it—at least not that much more than one might find in any number of other religions or philosophical disciplines. To be honest I am not a fan of these rather consequentialist arguments concerning Christianity and universalism; they cheapen the Faith right off the bat. At the same time, however, it is at least worth asking why someone would feel bound to profess Christianity as anything other than a preference if indeed universalism is true. For Christianity can be, and for a number of people often is, aesthetical, cultural, and/or psychological. And for a certain segment of the population who frets that their own adherence to Christianity falls into one of those (or several other) categories, universalism cuts off all hope of “elevating” that adherence, or so some fear it seems.
Fr. Al Kimmel, now going under the alias Aidan, is a universalist, or at least he flirts with it openly. The likely reason why he does so is somewhat a matter of public record, though I will not go into it here. I mention it only because his web-log contains this: “Readings in Universalism.” One who knows even a bit about the topic won’t be surprised at the list. What they may be surprised to find, however, is Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart’s comments which, inter alia, confirm what many of his readers have long suspected, namely his own universalist leanings.
Agree or disagree, he raises several interesting, even challenging, points which, I imagine, are difficult to refute by his lights. And by “his lights,”I mean the lights of contemporary Orthodoxy theology which, at its best, is Patristic-oriented, Christocentric, and deeply spiritual. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s free from certain pathologies, not the least of of which being its tilt toward the oracular. Perhaps it all points to something profound so many of us have long missed. Or maybe it’s not saying much at all. Either way, his remarks are worth a gander.
Still we wait, sometimes anxiously, for that moment when principles will be turned to practice, when muscle and flesh are applied to the bones, and men of good will realize that the last thing the world needs is another article, let alone a book, about how a few trivial points drawn from the three millennia history of Western thought might finally save us from ourselves. There are plenty of eager, well-scrubbed young minds of a certain orientation who will gladly settle if they can save themselves from adjuncting and a preceding generation of not-quite-old tenureds who have made a cottage industry of critiquing, by ostensibly Catholic lights, a liberal-bourgeois reality they participate in freely every single day. Consider, too, the liberals. They neither fret nor fuss over the times in which they live; they simply embrace it with nary a worry that they will be called to the carpet for doing so. They live wrong, albeit consistently wrong, lives behind a veil of glib ignorance. What do the rest of us have to say for ourselves?
My apologies. Life has been more hectic the past week than anticipated, hence the lack of posting. Hopefully stability and normalcy will return shortly, but for the time being I am still on unintended break. Expect a flurry of posts soon, however.
It was not as if I expected anything to happen during my time away from Opus Publicum, and apparently nothing has. The state of things, be it churchly things or things secular, remains static — the same complaints, the same worries, the same uncertainties surrounding this perpetually perplexing state of life affairs. Maybe the one thing that stands out to me, as I re-scan the blogs and other outlets of commentary, is how indignant certain individuals are over the so-called same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The fix is in. When the fix came in is a matter of some debate, but it is in and there’s nothing to be done for it. Instead of standing firm and resolute in the face of this dismal reality, people have opted instead to lament or, worse, find ways to square the inevitable with what they claim to believe. This is easier for Orthodox and Protestants to do than Catholics, though make no mistake about it: When it comes to capitulating to the Zeitgeist, faithful little Romans are difficult to beat.