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Only with a love of Jesus can Christians transform the world

It is no longer enough, Bishop Egan says, to spread the faith by teaching it

By on Friday, 21 June 2013

Bishop Philip Egan

On Tuesday this week I had a rare day out and joined a friend for a “Day of Faith” at St Patrick’s, Soho Square. Some might think it is a bit lame to spend a day away from my usual caring duties in a church but hey, it was full of good company, excellent food and stimulating discussions. There was also Mass, Exposition, Benediction and an opportunity for Confession; these should really come at the top of the list.

Organised by the new papal dame, Joanna Bogle, and arranged by the Faith group of priests, the Day was a call to arms: how to live the remainder of the current Year of Faith in an evangelical way. The organisers and speakers took it as read that the participants would be committed Catholics rather than cafeteria ones – but still the question remains: if we have a living faith (rather than the private practice of piety), how do we share it effectively – “evangelically” – with others? The question, as speakers and listeners in St Patrick’s noted, is rather acute in our times. Christianity is fast becoming a minority faith among other minority groups in this country and Christians are increasingly regarded as a quaint or nasty species. We feel aggrieved, marginalised, embattled, defensive – hardly the right frame of mind for apostolic or Pentecostal endeavours.

The first talk, by Canon Luiz Ruscillo, Director of Education in the Lancaster diocese, focused on teaching and celebrating the Faith. He spoke of the pre-Vatican II Church, not with nostalgia but with a recognition that we “have to start from here”. We have to convince others that science and faith are not incompatible and reject the relativism that would assign Christianity to a merely personal morality. Looking at the purpose of Catholic education, the Canon emphasised that schools shared in the mission of Christ. They were meant to support parents in raising children in the Faith and parents should expect the staffroom to be loyal to Church teachings.

On catechetics, he said that we need to go beyond the assertion and assumption of the concept of “God”. We have to make it clear that “reasonableness is written into creation”. A new form of apologetics is needed to counter the widespread ignorance among Catholics today. There are signs of hope: the new movements in the Church (including the Faith movement, which includes many priests); the emergence of young and highly committed Catholics, including seminarians; the new Catechism as a tool to teach the Faith; and the new translation of the liturgy.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth followed Canon Ruscillo with a talk after lunch on the theme of “challenge and opportunity”. He spoke positively of the long-term fruits of the Second Vatican Council, saying that its key question, understood by Pope John XXIII who summoned it, was: what does it mean to be the Church of Christ in the modern world? Like the Canon, he was clear that the old, pre-Vatican II way of spreading the Faith by proclamation and catechesis was no longer effective in this secularist age in the Western world, where religious belief is seen as irrelevant. Catholics have to be “evangelical”, reaching out to others and showing them the personal love of Christ. Bishop Egan said he had met many good Catholics who had dutifully followed the norms of their Faith all their lives without ever coming to a personal relationship with Jesus. Without it, however, we can never hope to transform the world as the early Christians did.

The bishop told us that we have to shift from an “ecclesial” model of the Church to a more Christ-centred model. He said that Catholics who leave the Church to join evangelical Protestant churches do not feel that their spiritual needs are being met within the Church today. We have to put the Church’s resources at the service of helping people to learn to actually pray – as opposed to “saying prayers”. He suggested several ways this could be done: by Eucharistic adoration; by retreats and Bible study; by the Sacrament of Penance; by the study of our Faith in relation to the culture we are living in; and by practical ways of loving our neighbour. What we need, he joked, is SRT: spiritual radiation therapy.

US Catholic author George Weigel spoke later on the theme of his latest book title, “Evangelical Catholicism”. Unfortunately I could not stay for this talk but I did the next best thing and bought the book itself from the CTS book stall. Published by Basic Books, it is subtitled “Deep reform in the 21st-century Church”. I will blog about it as I read it. Stay tuned.

  • Peter

    Let me make it very clear, my argument if two pronged, out of necessity because it faces two different ways. First it is against Creationists and ID’ers, and as such presupposes an omnipotent divine Mind.

    Why would an omnipotent Intellect capable of creating the universe, precisely setting its laws, keeping those laws in operation at all times, and of entering the space and time at will, be so incompetent as to need to intervene periodically to rectify outcomes which are less than satisfactory in order to reach a desired end which was willed in the first place?

    My second argument is against atheists, and as such does not necessarily presuppose an omnipotent divine Intellect, but merely an intellect or group of intellects which are so advanced as to be able to construct a universe with specific laws leading inevitably to life intellectually similar to themselves.

    Because that is where the evidence leads, to a universe which is a put-up job, regardless of whether it is created by a divine Intellect or advanced intellects.

    Atheists reject the universe as a put-up job, they reject a designer universe, even by advanced alien minds in another universe, which is ironic since that would probably be the only evidence in favour of a multiverse.

    They reject it of course because it is far too close for comfort to a universe being created by a divine Intellect which must be avoided at all costs, Once they admit that the universe is designed, they open up the possibility that it could be designed by anyone, including God.

    This, then, is the contradiction at the heart of atheist cosmonogy. All the evidence points to a designed universe, and strongly suggests the existence of a multiverse which is their holy grail, yet they turn their backs on that rich picking for fear of letting God in through the back door.

  • Peter

    “Physics awaits its paradigm shift (to use a popular term) – i.e. its Darwinian-dropped-penny”

    As an afterthought, I have to add that it is this comment which proves my point more than most others.

    The sheer fact that the paradigm penny is droppable is in itself astounding. The expectation that in due course new deeper explanations of reality will reveal themselves to human understanding, demonstrates all too clearly that the human mind is uniquely capable of comprehending the mysteries of creation as they unfold.

    So we are not randomly-evolved species with intellects limited to a certain functional domain which they cannot breach. On the contrary, we are unique intellects capable of comprehending the entirety of creation once we develop the tools to do so.

    To us the universe is ultimately intelligible. Why it should be so is a mystery. The only answer is that the universe is the construct of a mind or minds similar to our own.

  • $24570317

    Me thinks you & I have perhaps too much free time (?).
    Just a quickie first, off the main point (or is it?): you do realise that evolution is a highly non-random process?

    “To us the universe is ultimately intelligible. Why it should be so is a mystery. The only answer is that the universe is the construct of a mind or minds similar to our own.” I agree with all of that, except the use of the word “mystery” (which might suggest that the problem is insoluble)..

    There has been good cause to wonder about this “mystery”, but we are possibly close to resolving it. Did you not understand the basic ideas of Wheeler et alia? (the participatory universe; the collapse of the wave function on observation; information being a function of entropy; the necessary increase of (total) ignorance with increasing knowledge; quantum coupling; the double slits…etc). The universe is not an enormous thing operating on predetermined laws or principles. If it were, we could never come close to understanding these laws/principles with our brains, which evolved to catch food etc on the African savannas.

    Did you understand the simile of the street of houses with cars in the driveway (this one was my own teaching idea)?
    I can’t do all this justice on the CH website – but the web is a good starting point.

  • $24570317

    Yes, it’s a “put-up” job (in a broad sense) – as they say in Yorkshire (but see reply to your other post above).

  • Peter

    Regarding your simile of the street of houses and cars, I am not claiming that the suitability of the universe is scientific evidence for the existence of God, as you suggest above.

    In my comment below I am claiming that the suitability of the universe is evidence that it is designed by an intelligence or intelligences, vastly superior to our own yet not dissimilar, but not necessarily an omnipotent divine Intelligence.

    Essentially I am claiming that the evidence leads us to conclude that the universe is a put up job, irrespective of who did it. The reason I am claiming that is because there is no evidence for any alternative.

    Of course there are alternatives, but they are all theoretical. No alternatives are backed up by hard evidence, as is the likelihood that the universe is designed. That’s as far as I can go.

  • $24570317

    ” That’s as far as I can go.”
    OK understood. I’m the one with endless time just now, unless asleep. But a parting comment or so:

    1. Remember the sum total of the universe’s mass/energy is zero (this was first suspected in the 1970s and is now known to be so to quite a high accuracy). This means that the sum total of everything in the universe is probably exactly nothing at all.
    2. The ” intelligence or intelligences,……..etc” are not necessarily superior and are, largely, and possibly only, our own (a real put-up job if ever there was one).

    3. Not sure if you grasp the street/houses/cars simile. It’s nothing to do with God maybe directly being (or not being) the source of a fine-tuned universe. Although, at the end of the day and in an unexpected way, He would be its source.
    4. These ideas are not purely theoretical – No.1 is the result of observation and the rest provide solutions, and potential solutions, to several “spooky” observed phenomena.

  • Peter

    “endless time”

    Just give up watching TV and you’ll be amazed how much time there is.

  • Peter

    There’s a book called the Quantum Enigma which says that all reality is observed, i.e. we create a quantum fabricated reality by our observations.

    But I don’t accept that because the universe exists independently of us. I do agree that at the quantum scale phenomena are “spooky” but we don’t live at the quantum scale but at the every day scale which is comprehensible.

    So what if the total energy of the universe is zero. A fabricated universe, just as an allegedly naturally occurring one, could begin from nothing in the manner described by Hawking or Krauss in their books.

    If so, it’s more evidence of God because the Church has always maintained that God drew creation out of nothingness by his word.

  • $24570317

    Time is possibly God’s way of preventing everything happening all at once.

  • $24570317

    We can by definition know nothing about objective reality (OR).
    OR is a metaphysical concept.

    If there was an OR which manifests itself in our subjective experience (there must always be a subject) it must be radically different from that experience.
    There are some dim-witted academic philosophers who simply can’t see this. They ask: why can’t OR be like our experience? (Can you believe it?)
    The only way around this (in the long run) I think is to demand much higher “A” level grades for admission to philosophy departments.