Responses to Gil Bailie’s TCF Posts For August-September 2013

Submitting a comment in response to Gil Bailie’s posts on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page is chancy. Unless you agree with Mr. Bailie’s worldview, you may find yourself “defriended.” All your thoughtful comments may suddenly vanish, because TCF is a place for genuflection, not robust dialog.

Those concerned about wasting their efforts at TCF may now submit their comments here. Every two months, TCF Samizdat will offer a  safe repository like this one, duly dated and permanently floating on the front page for easy access.

Please use this post’s comments feature for your remarks. Identify the TCF post you are responding to. I don’t mind your pasting TCF’s entire post into the comments field if you think it’s necessary. Just preface it with “Gil Bailie writes/cites… ” and then add your response.

Doughlas Remy / TCF Samizdat

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2 comments so far

  1. thebentangle on

    8/9/13: Gil Bailie quotes this passage from Hans Urs van Balthasar, which he discovered during Friday’s “theological research:”

    “We should not, then, be more curious than Scripture allows us to be. With Paul, we may say that grace is far more powerful than sin, that all die in Adam, but that all will also be raised to life in Christ, who will lay a perfected creation at the Father’s feet [Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 28]. But we must also stand with Christ himself, and with his gospel, at the edge of eternal destruction and gaze down into it. To want to overcome this final antinomy through a premature ‘synthesis’ is not appropriate for theology in this present age. The serious possibility of being lost must never be watered down, if the seriousness of Christian life is not to be transformed into a mere game.”

    Dean Hansen responds:

    Without fear, shame and the concept of hell, the church would pretty much be out of business. Or at least out of the business they’re presently in. Did you notice the bifurcated and tortured theology here? Paul essentially closes the circus tent to hell by declaring that grace is triumphant. Von Balthasar, never content to let sleeping dogs lie, has to massage some pathological agony out of it by declaring that there is still “the serious possibility of being lost”. This is like the Calvinists ruminating about being “soundly saved” which is the only way you can keep from being irretrievably “lost”. He seems to be saying, “how can you possibly win converts to Christ unless you hold out the “hope” of terrifying the living shit out of them?” Paul, on the other hand, says, “There is no condemnation in Christ.” Somewhere along the line, the very theology that won converts is now repelling them in disgust. I wonder if René Girard has a mechanism in place for describing that phenomenon, which doesn’t come across sounding contrived?  In any case, “today’s theological research” as Gil enthusiastically calls it, sucks.

    Tim Brock writes:

    When von Balthasar talks about “eternal destruction,” and “being lost,” what exactly does he mean? Is he talking about psychological states such as extreme terror and feelings of alienation? Or is he talking about some sort of cosmic tragedy in which individuals get caught up? His phrase, “the seriousness of Christian life” sounds ominous. What happens to people who do not take the Christian life seriously? When I read this sort of theology, I wonder what the Dalai Lama would make of it.

  2. thebentangle on

    I think Dean Hansen has it exactly right: “Without fear, shame, and the concept of Hell, the [Catholic] Church would pretty much be out of business.”

    Conservative Catholics writers and bloggers routinely use the threat of eternal damnation as their ultimate trump card when they feel cornered by demands for change. The threat is usually covert, thinly veiled by references to “judgment,” “pleasing God,” “consequences of sin,” and “being lost.” The avowed purpose of these allusions is to encourage sinners to secure their salvation while there is still time. Their real and obvious purpose, however, is to stoke feelings of existential Angst about death, guilt, and the Final Reckoning. Once believers are “primed” with such thoughts, the institutional Church is positioned to influence their behavior.

    However, these fear dynamics are no longer as effective as they were when the Church’s authority on matters of faith and morals went virtually unquestioned. Western Catholics are now, by and large, well-educated and cosmopolitan. They live in pluralistic societies where monotheisms co-mingle more or less comfortably precisely because the hard edges of absolutist faith have been progressively worn down by commerce, communications, and a worldview increasingly informed by science and reason.

    The threat of damnation has lost its sting. We are now all Universalists: the idea of an exclusionary heaven loses its appeal once we see people of other faiths—or of no faith—as “like us,” no better and no worse. None of us seriously believes that the Dalai Lama is an evil man deserving of eternal punishment, or that only a select few (i.e., those who espouse our own particular views) will enter that “strait” gate into Paradise. These archaic ideas have been seen for what they are: naive, tribalistic, solipsistic, and profoundly divisive. Their power to leverage Catholics’ behavior and unify the Church has waned. The old sheep dog has lost its teeth, and the sheep are scattering.

    Conservative Catholics—those who have held fast to the modalities of fear and shame—sometimes express their bewilderment and alarm about the pace of change in the actual beliefs and practices of Catholic laity, a laity that, in the U.S. and several predominantly Catholic countries, has supported same-sex marriage and access to contraception despite the fulminations of the bishops. What they seem not to understand is that the majority of Catholics in these countries have become “father-deaf,” so to speak. They simply ignore what they are instructed to do, without any fear of consequences. They have looked behind the curtain and seen who the wizard really is.


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