Sunday, April 18, 2010

Personal Difficulties

"Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." - Cardinal John Henry Newman
(this will be the guiding quote for my new 'series')

I've been rethinking some things in light of personal experiences (I knew I shouldn't have taken that Existentialism course), and I feel obliged to wrestle with the concepts and issues at hand. Since -as the existentialists say- I am embodied, I have emotions and personal struggles as well as intellectual ones, and so I want to re-examine this in light of the whole person.


I will explain by means of telling a story. In the last two days I heard two sermons. The first sermon was a Roman Catholic priest teaching the gospel. He taught that God grants us sanctifying grace in baptism and that as soon as we willfully sin we lose sanctifying grace, then we are obliged to go to confession to regain sanctifying grace, and that if we die without this, we are going to Hell. His pasage was St. Paul's discourse on our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. For him salvation simply meant, not sinning and receiving the sacraments. I felt guilty knowing that at that moment I was going to Hell, because I had lost my sanctifying grace on sunday, after having only gained it again the day previous. Despite all my pleading with God, I did not receive the grace again, and all the good things I did out of love for God had no merit, because I technically had no grace.

The second sermon was at an Anglican (network/southern cone) church (or ecclessial community if you like) and it was on the resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ. (just to allay fears, I didn't break communion, though it was probably a mortal sin to even enter the church and pray with them). Anyway, the sermon was on the free gift of salvation God offers to those who believe and repent, it was about personally encountering God in prayer and supporting his (and/or the Queen's) church by being a witness to the resurrection. This sermon left me in tears, it 'cut me to the heart' to use the biblical phrase. But I knew I wasn't allowed to believe it, even though it was quite simply exposited from Holy Writ. I was very confused and the priest prayed with me afterwards and didn't counsel me to leave Rome or anything and encouraged me on my journey.

Now the problem is, there are two ways of attacking what I've written.

The Attacks:

One I know from my anti-Pentecostal training as a Baptist is that personal experience is 'null and void', any Mormon or Muslim can have spiritual experiences and that doesn't make it true. We are to follow duty and logic (as Kant would say) and that is to whatever view presents the most logical approach should be accepted.

The second argument is that when the Anglican was preaching it was appealing to some sort of psychological bias I have from all my years as an Evangelical, or much worse, it is Satanic heresy encouraging and appealing to my sinful desire by allowing for moral laxity.

The third argument is that there was a whole web of theological presuppositions to the Anglican sermon that were not mentioned, but merely assumed to be the 'biblical' theology (grace as favor Dei, justification as an event, etc).

The fourth argument is a sort of ad hominem mixed with Catholic guilt: The CofE (church of england) is full of homosexuals, women, and liberals and your duty is to submit to the Bishop of Rome whether you like it or not, or you'll go to Hell. Deal with it!


These are the kind of things I could argue - heck I could argue with myself fairly well - but at the end of the day I'm starting to think, maybe personal experience is more important than I've made it. Maybe there is some validity to what Jaroslav Pelikan would label as "The Theology of the Heart".

I am completely at a loss as to why I felt the real presence in the Anglican church in the city (when I don't feel it in the Baptist church for instance), or why the 'protestant' gospel still brings me to tears. Or on the reverse, why every time I hear Catholics preach it just sounds like either secular humanism or universalism.
I don't know what to do anymore.

The easy answer would just be to keep going along with Rome (which is what I'm doing as of now). But I long for Christ. I am told that any attempted dichotemy between Christ and Rome is a Protestant error, and that may be. But I just "feel" (again with all the warnings of why we can't trust feelings) that God loves me, that Christ's Spirit lives in me, even though I'm a sinner. Even though I've broken the rules, I don't believe God is condemning me (and I could be COMPLETELY wrong). But I just need some way of finding a coherent God. A God that doesn't love me on Saturday and hate me the rest of the week. I can't live that way anymore.

Perhaps the solution lays within folks like Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and other Vatican 2 era theologians who promote a sort of pseudo-Protestant Catholicism. I just don't know... Soon to follow will be the intellectual/doctrinal difficulties that led me to question everything again.


So in the end I've provided no reasoned arguments for Anglicanism, I've just simply said that in my "heart" (I've been told I understand this term wrongly, which is probably the case), I "feel" that its the truth. And who really cares what a stupid Canadian college student feels one day and not the other.


I need to pray some more. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I'm praying for you Andrew. Seek the Lord in his word. And read others who've done the same.

    The theologian I've found to be most insightful and rigorously reasonable on the "heart" is Jonathan Edwards. If you have some time, check out his book Religious Affections. You can get the gist of his argument in the introduction, which is about 30 pages long. I think Edwards's work is remarkable because he so ably walks that fine line between rationalism and irrationalism, understanding that true religion engages both the intellect and the affections.