Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thanks Newt

The other day I happened to come across this article about Newt Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. It really isn't that informative and seems to try quite hard to show what a lukewarm Catholic Mr. Gingrich is. Now I don't know much about Newt or his conversion or how fervent he is, but it irritates me how the author was just out to prove that "Newt is still Newt." To discredit his embrace of Catholicism by any means possible.

Anyways, the reason I'm really posting is because of a quote by Newt that I agree with 100%:
Gingrich describes the appeal of Catholicism for him in just these terms. "When you have 2,000 years of intellectual depth surrounding you," he told me on a recent summer morning, "it's comforting."
Comforting. Bingo. To think of the great minds that have contributed to our understanding of the faith is not only humbling, but immensely reassuring - to feel as if my back will never be up against a wall. This is why evangelization shouldn't worry us! Too often we focus only on the personal dialogue between us and the other person; we worry about what we're going to say, and what questions they're going to ask and we worry about how little we really know about the faith. If we just took a step back and realized that though we might not have all the answers, they are there! As I mentioned in a previous post, you may just have to politely disagree with someone and tell them that you'll get back to them with a definitive answer. There is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Sure it helps if that knowledge is within us but what is so comforting (at least what should be so comforting) is that we have Truth on our side. And we have 2,000 years of geniuses answering the same questions that people are still asking.

2,000 years and numerous remarkable intellects is a force to be reckoned with. Is it pride that keeps people from the Church? Pride that keeps them from accepting authority and having the answers almost given to them? To me it is borderline (if not flat out) arrogant to think that we truly know better than the Church. How can you argue with a history such as Her's? I understand personal doubts and skepticism, those are good if they lead us to find answers, and I also understand that many people are just plain ignorant, that is, they aren't really seeking truth and understanding. But to be an intelligent person, or a person who "understands" the faith, and still to think that you know better than the Church, well to me that's just ludicrous. Many will disagree with me (well they would if they read my blog) on this. I might not even blame them because I don't feel as if I'm expressing myself just the way I'd like, but I stand by my words.

[The following is in red because it was added after the initial posting]
Thankfully when I can't find the right words, C.S. Lewis has my back.
A few hours after I published the post, I was reading Mere Christianity and came upon this very relevant passage. In it, Lewis is talking about Christian Theology, but I think it holds true even more so for Catholic Theology.
...if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun that looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.
This is what I was trying to say before. On our own, we only have our "single glimpses" but the Church as a whole is like a much more detailed map drawn from the "masses of experience." Only an arrogant person would shun a map in favor of using his glimpses when navigating the Atlantic. Thank God for C.S. Lewis.

The fact is, the Church is greater than you or me. If you're pride won't let you accept that, well you may just be missing out on eternal life.

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