Image Hosted by

Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Coincidental review

I just visited Mere Comments for the first time in several weeks, read this post, and followed the link to this review of Joseph Pearce's book, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, by Touchstone Senior Editor S. M. Hutchens. I found the review to be meaningful and highly significant.

I would love to purchase and read Pearce's book but my house is already cluttered with piles of partially-read books that have turned our home into a fire hazard; meaning, I’d be insane to take on yet one more...

This is the part of the review I found especially noteworthy:

Accompanying this conviction [that “the Object of faith and hope is realized only beyond this world, where it must always be firmly kept not only by the tellers of tales, but the custodians of the life and faith of the Church”], as one might imagine, is deep suspicion of realized eschatology, precluding identification of the True Church (or the heavenly Narnia, or Britain) with any of its present, earthly forms. This conviction is also at the heart of Protestant ecclesiology, which in its purer form does not arise from mere anti-Catholicism, but from a positive vision of the nature of reality and our manner of comprehending it, a vision far older than the Reformation-era confessions on the nature and identity of the Church in which it came forward with such force. Lewis believed this vision of the nature of things is taught by ancient Wisdom itself.

To the Protestant Lewis was, the temptation to regard any ecclesiastical form, as faithful as it might be to its heavenly archetype, as the One, True, Church that comprehends heaven and earth, presenting itself as offering in the here and now, especially to disappointed seekers after certitude, the kind of supernal finalities the Catholic Church appears to offer her children, is something to be resisted in every one of the many forms it takes within that Church. What we find here, in the darkened glass of our present existence, are reflections—true reflections, but still only reflections—of glory that leads us on toward it, but cannot fully comprehend that glory or its joy in itself.

One cannot make a perfectly loyal church member, a wholly devoted convert, of any Christian who thinks this way, for he will never take his church, whichever church that might be, with the ultimate seriousness the accredited magisteriums (as they must to be what they are) require. He will always look beyond them for something higher and better, of which their communions are at best only worthy reflections. He will always be accused by the partisans of those churches with malignant individualism, and be classed with the truly malignant individualists, for doing it, even when his deepest love and firmest devotion is for the same City Father Abraham saw afar off, for the Kingdom that is not of this world, for the heavenly Jerusalem of which every earthly Jerusalem is only the barest reflection.”

These paragraphs describe the way I take and live my Christian faith, in words far more precise and eloquent than I could ever muster.

I am boggled by the serendipity of finding this review, which really came about only because I happened to notice my blogroll today and see “Mere Comments” there, which reminded me that I hadn’t visited recently. The timing of the review's appearance and my reading it is especially striking since recently I've had a very long and involved debate with Elena, a Catholic blogger. The discussion started on my blog and continued on hers (see first two paragraphs of this post). It began with her responses to my posts on the topic of contraception and centered mainly on its various aspects, but also led into Protestant vs. Catholic issues as well.

I had not been aware of certain beliefs and characteristics of Catholics and Catholicism, prior to this discussion and my own subsequent, personal quests. Some of these very beliefs and characteristics are articulated in Hutchens' review.

Also interesting is the timing of mention of another current book, The Clash of Orthodoxies... by Robert P. George, yesterday on Rusty's blog, New Covenant. Though I’ve seen the title before, this book and the thought it explores were brought back to my attention.

And of course then I realized that, duh, George is one of the writers included in another book I just purchased (mainly for one chapter specifically!): Common Truths: New Perspectives on Natural Law!

So here I am again: faced with much more to study than I, a stay-at-home, homeschooling, very-part-time musician/music teacher, heavily-involved-at-church mom of three; can possibly digest in the time I’ve got to pursue it!

Anyway, the coincidence of all this is remarkable to me...

Another portion of the review I found interesting and relevant:

Let us begin by admitting that we all assign Christians not of our communion to whatever purgatories we can muster—or at least, this Protestant reviewer will admit it for himself. We have our opinions on where they have gone wrong that can hardly be articulated in a sociable way, apart from what the other will perceive as patronizing and belittling of the kind that Pearce here visits upon Lewis. It is impossible, after all, from a purely Catholic point of view, to see non-Catholic Christianity as anything but systemically flawed and any non-Catholic as what he is apart from sins that blind him to the truth, particularly when it faces him full-on, as it did Lewis, in friends like Tolkien and writers like Dante, Newman, and Chesterton. For those who are interested in a well-researched, well written, and eminently Catholic solution to the riddle of Lewis the Protestant, this book will serve. I put forward here, however, another, non-Catholic, one.

Hutchens speaks of perceiving the opinions of a differently-striped Christian “as patronizing and belittling” when said Christian explains where one has gone wrong; this is exactly what I experienced in discussion with Elena. I felt that she viewed my opinions on contraception as "systemically flawed" and could not view me for who I am, nor my statements for what they were, apart from [my] "sins that blind [me] to the truth."

Personal reasons aside, I highly recommend Hutchens' review. It is a very important piece of writing.


  • It seems you have gone to extensive lengths to show the logical equivalence of artificial contraception and the rhythm method. In my opinion, you have succeeded. I don't see the difference between the two.

    How does this support your original premise that contraception is morally okay and is warranted? (if I have misstated that, please forgive me)

    Are you going to do more posting on the role/identity/calling of women? I would like to see your thinking about those kinds of questions (versus the exploration of Catholic teaching) ... just my preference tho :-)


    By Blogger The Dawn Treader, at 10:28 AM  

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment & questions.

    I would not say that I have gone to extensive lengths to show..., but rather have explored and examined an issue in some depth, both for my own personal understanding and because I think the issue warrants it. It goes far beyond just me & Elena. You may be convinced by my arguments, but there are many Protestants who think differently. There appears to be an awakening to results of abuses and misuses of AC, as well as a lack of a solid Protestant theology on the matter. This needs to be worked out, in a comprehensive sense.

    The issue is not merely a Catholic one – many Protestants are choosing NFP, and I am not convinced that they all are doing so for justifiable reasons. Some are discovering or rediscovering natural law arguments, and are using them against AC in favor of NFP, though so far, based on what I’ve read, I don’t believe this can be done. I also see a reaction against a “contraceptive mentality,” which to me throws the baby out with the bathwater and assumes certain attitudes to be universal though they are not characteristic of all men or all women. I haven’t seen this fact addressed.

    I also see some who view marital abstinence as a way to develop self-denial and discipline and to “spice up” their conjugal life, yet I am not convinced that these are proper justifications for practicing NFP, since I am fairly certain that practitioners would not abstain purposely, for 7-10 straight days each month for several months, unless they were also aiming to avoid conceiving a child.

    Others may make the decision based on personal preference within a moral framework, which is perfectly fine. I would like to hear from others besides Proverbial Wife who have made a decision to practice NFP not merely because of natural law, or of Humanae Vitae, or as a reaction against improper uses of AC, but for other reasons, because I am sure they are out there. I am interested to learn the thinking behind their decision (inasmuch as they feel comfortable sharing).

    Thus, I didn’t write the previous post with the intention of supporting the premise that contraception is morally OK; I merely wanted to show that NFP and AC are both methods of contraception.

    As to your second question, well...I don’t know :-) I think that answers to questions of role/identity/calling of women are hard to pin down. There are many variables, and the answer will differ from woman to woman depending on a myriad of factors. If you have some specific questions or topics, I will be glad to give them a shot.

    Right now, I’m following my thoughts & questions to where they lead while I explore & respond to material that comes my way. It will probably come full circle at some point, though, and I will certainly keep your question in mind. I am encouraged that you are interested in what I might have to say.

    Here’s the bottom line: any answer to your question (or to questions of family planning) must have a basis in solid moral thought, which must have a basis in a justifiable, fundamental theology. Even then, as Hutchens says, we see through a glass darkly; some questions are very, very hard, if not impossible, to answer conclusively. Yet I do believe in the rightness of C. S. Lewis’ basic theology (not because it is his, but because I believe it to be true) as articulated by Hutchens. And, as I consider difficult questions and decisions, I must aim to keep myself grounded in this, if not plumb it deeper.

    Hope that explains where I’m coming from.

    Blessings :-)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home