Monday, October 31, 2011

Angels, Demons, Theological Hooey, and Redemption

Last week's post about Christopher Marlowe's "...Faustus" featured the bit where Doctor Faustus asks for a wife, and gets "a DEVIL drest like a WOMAN, with fire-works."

Today, I'm picking up where Faustus almost changes his mind.

Return of the Bipolar Duo

Mephistopheles has just said that man must be niftier than Heaven, because Heaven was made for man. "Fairer" is the word Marlowe used, actually. Back to the play:
"...FAUSTUS. If it were made for man, 'twas made for me:
I will renounce this magic and repent.


"GOOD ANGEL. Faustus, repent; yet God will pity thee.

"EVIL ANGEL. Thou art a spirit; God cannot pity thee.

"FAUSTUS. Who buzzeth in mine ears I am a spirit?
Be I a devil, yet God may pity me;
Ay, God will pity me, if I repent.

"EVIL ANGEL. Ay, but Faustus never shall repent.
[Exeunt ANGELS.]...
("The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus")

Heaven, Hell, and Retirement Plans

First of all, just what is Heaven? And is it really better than Hell?

If Heaven is what's shown in some cartoons - all puffy clouds, pastel colors, and people holding radically under-stringed harps - it'd be awfully bland for my taste.

Then there's the disturbing notion that Heaven is infested with the sort of self-righteous pests most of us would cross the street to avoid:

(ArizonaLincoln (talk), via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)

If Heaven really is a sort of pastel wasteland inhabited by disciples of malignant virtue, the old quip might be true: "Heaven for climate, and hell for company."

Happily, that's not the case.

"Supreme and Definitive Happiness?" Sounds Good

The Catholic Church's discussions of Heaven and Hell lack the sort of vivid descriptions I've run into elsewhere: golden towers, flaming gorges, that sort of thing. What we do get is, I think, much more useful for planning purposes:
"HEAVEN: Eternal life with God; communion of life and love with the Trinity and all the blessed. Heaven is the state of supreme and definitive happiness, the goal of the deepest longings of humanity (1023).

"HELL: The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed, reserved for those who refuse by their own free choice to believe and be converted from sin, even to the end of their lives (1033). "
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary) (links added by me)
So: I've got a choice:
  • "Supreme and definitive happiness" with God
  • "Definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed"
In one way, it's a 'no-brainer.' Obviously I'd prefer an eternity of "supreme and definitive happiness" to any alternative. In a way, that's what the drug culture was about, a half-century back: desperate folks trying to find happiness in a world that made no sense to them.1 And I'm getting off-topic.

Prayer of the Tax Collector

Or, maybe not so much. Some of the folks I've known don't seem to be good candidates for Heaven. Like the one who killed herself.2

For that matter, when I look in a mirror, I see someone who had better pray like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. At the end of all things, I may find that "I have friends in both places."3

Do I have any right to say who is going to Heaven, or Hell? No. We're told to "stop judging" others. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38, 41-42; and see footnote 10 in Luke:6) On the other hand, we're expected to exercise 'good judgment.' I've been over that before:

Spirits, Faustus, and Theological Hooey

Last week I wrote that "EVIL ANGEL fed Faustus the sort of theological hooey that seems to resonate in that learned head." Here's what I was talking about:
"...EVIL ANGEL. [to Faustus] Thou art a spirit; God cannot pity thee.

"FAUSTUS. Who buzzeth in mine ears I am a spirit?
Be I a devil, yet God may pity me;
Ay, God will pity me, if I repent.

"EVIL ANGEL. Ay, but Faustus never shall repent.
[Exeunt ANGELS.]...
("The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus")
I'm no expert on Elizabethan English, but in this passage "spirit" probably means "any incorporeal supernatural being that can become visible (or audible) to human beings." (Princeton's WordNet) GOOD ANGEL and EVIL ANGEL are "spirits" in this sense. So is Mephistopheles.

Doctor John Faustus isn't.

Angels aren't Human

He can't be. He's a human being: albeit a fictional one. At this point in the play, Faustus has been making decisions that are bad: but he's no devil.

Despite what we've seen in some recent television series, human beings don't become angels when we die. We don't become demons, either. We're human beings.

Angels aren't human. They're "spiritual, non-corporeal beings." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 328-330) "Corporeal" means "having material or physical form or substance." (Princeton's WordNet) Angels are non-corporeal: they don't have bodies.

Demons or devils are angels who decided to rebel against God. (Catechism, 391-395.)

Humans aren't Angels

Human beings are animals. But not just animals.

I've been over this before.4 Humans are:
  • Animals
    • A special sort of animal
      • Endowed with reason
      • Capable of
        • Understanding
        • Discernment
      (Catechism, 1951)
  • People
    • Rational and therefore like God
      • Made in the image and likeness of God
      (Catechism, 1700-1706)
    • Created with free will
    • Master over our actions
      (Catechism, 1730)
    (Adapted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
    (first posted August 31, 2011)

Confusing the Already-Confused

Offhand, I'd say that EVIL ANGEL is trying to confuse Doctor Faustus: which doesn't seem like such a difficult job. Remember, John Faustus recently explained that their contract was null and void: because Hell didn't really exist.

Not believing that Hell exists isn't all that remarkable, by itself. For most of my life, one of the easy ways to appear sophisticated was to deny the existence of Hell, Heaven, or God. Or to claim that everything is god, and that's another topic.

Dealing with fallen angels isn't all that remarkable, either, sadly.5

Calling up a demon, negotiating a contract with the creature: and then telling the demon that Hell doesn't exist?! Now that's remarkable.

Sin, Redemption, and Doctor Faustus

The Catholic Church has a few things to say about sin, including this:
"Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as 'an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.'121"
(Catechism, 1869)
I am a sinner. There's nothing unusual about that. We live in a fallen world: and that's almost another topic.

My soul needs redemption. The alternative - is simply not acceptable.

Redemption is:
  • The act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
  • Repayment of the principal amount of a debt or security at or before maturity (as when a corporation repurchases its own stock
  • The act of purchasing back something previously sold
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Since I'm a practicing Catholic, I have to accept Jesus of Nazareth as my Redeemer. Actually, I don't have to: but again, the alternative simply isn't acceptable.

Here's a little of what the Church has to say about Jesus the Christ:
"Christ's death is the unique and definitive sacrifice

"Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,'439 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the 'blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'440

"This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.441 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.442

"Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience

" 'For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.'443 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who 'makes himself an offering for sin,' when 'he bore the sin of many,' and who 'shall make many to be accounted righteous,' for 'he shall bear their iniquities.'444 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.445"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 613-615)
There's more, of course. There always seems to be more.

Let's see what Faustus says after EVIL ANGEL says: "Ay, but Faustus never shall repent."
"FAUSTUS. My heart's so harden'd, I cannot repent:
Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven,
But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears,
'Faustus, thou art damn'd!' then swords, and knives,
Poison, guns, halters, and envenom'd steel
Are laid before me to despatch myself;
And long ere this I should have slain myself,
Had not sweet pleasure conquer'd deep despair.
Have not I made blind Homer sing to me
Of Alexander's love and Oenon's death?
And hath not he, that built the walls of Thebes
With ravishing sound of his melodious harp,
Made music with my Mephistophilis?
Why should I die, then, or basely despair?
I am resolv'd; Faustus shall ne'er repent.—
Come, Mephistophilis, let us dispute again,
And argue of divine astrology.100
Tell me, are there many heavens above the moon
Are all celestial bodies but one globe,
As is the substance of this centric earth?
("The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus")
That footnote is a bit interesting: to me, anyway:
"[ And argue of divine astrology, &c.— In THE HISTORY OF DR. FAUSTUS, there are several tedious pages on the subject; but our dramatist, in the dialogue which follows, has no particular obligations to them.]"
(Footnote 100, "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus")
Looks like Christopher Marlowe showed compassion for his audience - or didn't want them to walk out - and edited his source material. Even so, what follows seems a trifle long-winded. More about that, next week.

Other posts in this series:
Vaguely-related posts:
Background, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
  • Angels
  • Devils/demons
  • Heaven
  • Hell
  • Redemption
    • Christ's death as the sacrifice of,
      613, 616
    • The Church as the instrument for the redemption of all,
    • At the center of the Good News,
      571, 601
    • And the Eucharist,
    • Extension of redemptive work,
    • Life of Christ as a mystery of,
      517, 635, 1067
    • For many,
    • Mary serving in the mystery of,
      494, 508
    • Meaning of the redemption can be understood by faith alone,
    • Proclaiming and promising of,
      55, 64, 601
  • Repentence
    • 393 (repentance is possible before death, not after)
  • Sin
    (Not an exhaustive index)
"...Faustus" excerpts in these posts taken from:

1 I don't think what happened to Jimi Hendrix and others was a good thing. At all. But I was one of 'those crazy kids:' and understand that Timothy "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" Leary didn't sound so crazy at the time. Particularly compared to parents and others who demanded lockstep conformity to their dreary preferences. I've mentioned "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956) before.

Post-WWII America really was, I think, "Happy Days:" for someone like Howard Cunningham in that long-running television series. Between economic boom times, veteran benefits, and cultural leftovers from an earlier age, America was a great place for someone who was an adult, male, and white. I think being a tad unobservant helped, too.

I remember the 'good old days,' when "she's as smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment, and a clergyman named King was still alive. What happened after the '60s could have been better: but America was desperately overdue for cultural and legal upgrades. I've posted about conformity and getting a grip before:
By the way, about "veteran benefits:" I think they make sense, to an extent. And that's a topic for another blog:
2 Suicide is a difficult topic. I've discussed it a few time, including this post:
3 I found the anonymous "Heaven for climate, and hell for company" quotation on page 378 of Evan Esar's "20,000 quips & quotes" (1968). Back on page 377, near the start of the section of quotes on Heaven and Hell, I found ones that were attributed to specific individuals, like Ed Howe, Ben Johnson, Lincoln Steffens: and Mark Twain. Including these:
"I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places."

"When I think of the number of disagreeable people that I know who have gone to a better world, I am sure hell won't be so bad at all." (Mark Twain, 377, Evan Esar's "20,000 quips & quotes" (1968))
No rant, by the way: Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain was no theologian, and lived in a place and time that was at least as spiritually confused as today's America. Not in the same way, of course.

4 I've posted about angels - both kinds - and human beings before:
5 I've posted a few times about the reality of demons, and the screwball notions folks have:

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.