Sunday, August 11, 2013

At the Corner of Reality and Faith

Today's second reading is one of those with an optional 'short version:' Hebrews 11:1-2; 8-19, or 8-12. Either way, it's about faith:
"Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested."
(Hebrews 11:1-2)
Hebrews 8-19 talks about Abraham and Moses, patriarchs who were 'ancient history' by the time Paul or someone else wrote Hebrews.

Patriarchs and Historical Depth Perception

For folks reading Hebrews when it was new(ish), a Roman-Parthian war was current events, and they might have wondered if the dynasty started by Nerva would last. In contrast, the heritage of Abraham and Moses had long since stood the test of time.

Abraham lived and died one and three quarters of a millenna or so before it was written, and Moses had been buried for more than a thousand years.

I think Americans, at least, tend to think of everything that happened before Christopher Columbus as 'long ago.'

We realize, intellectually, that the Battle of Hastings, Julius Caesar's assassination, and founding of the Platonic Academy weren't contemporary events.

But I suspect that many folks see history as if it's a museum diorama: current events near the glass and in three dimensions, 'long ago' painted on the back wall.

A Digression About Calendars

We're unsure about exactly where dates from ancient civilizations go in today's calendars. Folks like Abraham, Ramses, Moses, and Gungunum didn't have birth certificates. Even if they had, that sort of documentation occasionally gets lost when civilizations change hands.

Anyway, calendars weren't standardized until recently. Back when Isin and Aššur were major powers, folks tended to date things from significant events: like 'in the third year of Enmerkar's reign.'

If America's calendars worked that way, each state would have a different set of dates: starting with the start of their current governor's administration. Just to make things more interesting: many folks used lunar calendars. A 'standard' 365 day year wasn't standard, and that's another topic.

By the way, Aššur's correct spelling is , so we've got transliteration issues too. More topics.


Getting back to "faith," it's not "believing something that's not true." That's being crazy.

Faith is something God gives. It's also what I do when I decide that I'll believe what God says. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 26, 142, 150, 1814, 2087)


There's more to it than that, of course. Before I decide to believe what God says, I have to decide that reality is real, that I exist, and that God exists. Maybe some of that seems obvious, but the old question 'is reality real' got trotted out again recently.

It's hardly a new idea. Folks have been playing with variations of Plato's cave for upwards of two dozen centuries. In a way, we're living in a simulation: something God made; and will release in 'version 2.0' at some point. Genesis 1:1; Revelation 21:1; and all that.

Cultural quirks of my native culture being what they are, I'd better make this clear: I take God and last things very seriously; but I don't believe any of America's perennial 'end times Bible prophecy' fads.

I'd like to say I don't take them seriously, but they do too much damage for that:
Moving on


I agree with St. Augustine:
"If you understood him, it would not be God."
(St. Augustine, via Catechism of the Catholic Church, 230)
I'm fairly smart: but I'm a finite creature with a few pounds of neural circuitry, and a bit over six decades of time logged on firebase Earth. I don't expect to "understand" the Almighty, the way I understand why one and one always equal two. Unless you're dealing with rabbits, and that's yet another topic.

I'll settle for believing, based on the sort of everyday analysis that lets me believe that Passadumkeag or New York City exist: even though I've never seen them.

In a way, I've got an advantage over folks who knew my Lord when He was here. Two millennia later: kingdoms and empires grew and dissolved; civilizations flourished and faded; and successors of Peter still operate under standing orders recorded in Matthew 28:18-20.

Human institutions don't last that long. Even ancient Egypt's remarkably durable civilization went through many dynasties and two major gaps. Yet again more topics.

All Peter and the Apostles had to go on was a string of miracles, and God's help:
"Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

"We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
(John 6:67-69)
Since creation's endgame give me the options of being with my Lord, or not: I'll go along with "the words of eternal life."

Related posts:

"FAITH: Both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed. It is this revelation of God which the Church proposes for our belief, and which we profess in the Creed, celebrate in the sacraments, live by right conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity (as specified in the ten commandments), and respond to in our prayer of faith. Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 26, 142, 150, 1814, 2087))."

"OBEDIENCE: (1) The submission to the authority of God which requires everyone to obey the divine law. Obedience to the Church is required in those things which pertain to our salvation; and obedience is due to legitimate civil authority, which has its origin in God for the sake of the common good and the order of society (1897). The fourth commandment obliges children to obey their parents (2216). (2) Obedience of faith: The first obedience is that of faith: to listen and freely submit to the word of God (144). (3) Obedience of Christ: Jesus Christ substituted his obedience to the will of his Father, even unto death, for the disobedience of sin, in order to bring us the grace of justification and to satisfy for our sins (615). (4) Vow of obedience: In imitation of this obedience of Jesus, as an evangelical counsel, the faithful may profess a vow of obedience; a public vow of obedience, accepted by Church authority, is one element that characterizes the consecrated life (915)."
(Glossary, Catechism)

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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.