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Jun 01, 2006

Comments

JACK

Stephen,

I understand what you are saying, but I think in some ways you are selling the Gospels a bit short. Yes, Christianity is an event, an encounter with a Person. But that person is the Word Incarnate. So there is a reason why the Church doesn't treat scripture as just some other book, and why in particular the Gospels are venerated (think of the kiss during the liturgy, or in the Byzantine, the proclamation "Be attentive! Wisdom!") It isn't because these are a collection of good sayings or principles, but because the Church recognizes scripture as in fact a place of encounter with Christ. Now the problem some have is that they fail to see that that isn't the only place where Christ is encountered. But we shouldn't make the opposite mistake.

The danger of Dan Brown's book is that it calls into question the very possibility of the encounter you so trust. Set aside all the contradictions and idiocies of the book, it fundamentally says that what you claim to have experienced is a delusion. Your encounter with Christ is dependent on the fact that He lives, that He rose, that He is God. Dan Brown's novel says that that is all just a lie.

Now we can ask ourselves all we want why people would take the word of a hack writer quoting phony documents on this subject, but the fact is many have. They are being told that you, Stephen, at best have deluded yourself into thinking that you encountered something, but you haven't. It reduces your experience to feeling and pure subjectivism. And it gives people then an easy way to close themselves off from the possibility of also encountering Him.

So the book doesn't trouble me from the perspective of my own Christian faith. But it does from the fact of what it creates in others whom I share that faith with.

Stephen

Jack,

I'm not so sure that I intended the devaluing of the gospels you suggest. However, the Gospels are not the point of encounter of Christ, period. The point of encounter is always the Church, even in the simple fact that the Gospels were written by the Church herself.

I don't think Dan Brown's book is suggesting that Christian's are deluding themselves about an encounter. I don't think he even has the capacity to begin to look at Christianity as such. I've read the book, and I don't see it. He is, however, suggesting that the scriptures are a false account of the life of Christ.

But my experience of the life of Christ isn't just the Gospels. It's my life. It's the fact that I have encountered someone, something, that completely corresponds to my heart's desire. I have evidence, in the faces of my friends, of those who have met him also.

There is evidence in my life of this encounter that does not depend on the Gospels, that can only be adequately explained by the Church's claim, that is, to be the continuation of Christ on earth. Even if the Gospels had never been written, the Church would continue to proclaim his life and be his enduring presence.

JACK

Stephen,

I agree with much that you wrote. And I will admit that I haven't read the book itself, just plenty that quoted and examined it and have been told about it from friends and colleagues who have read it.

I agree that one could conceive of how the Church could have carried out its mission in the absence of the Gospels being written. But not the facts that the Gospels relate about Jesus. That was my point that Brown undermines the encounter (although I agree I doubt he would express it that way). How could you encounter a dead man (versus the risen Christ), much less find that that encounter satisfies your heart's desire?

As for the Church being the point of encounter with Christ, not scripture, I think you are drawing too sharp a line. For I certainly would be acknowledging a link between the two just as you implicitly do when you say you recognize him in your friend's face. But I do think the fact that scripture is the inspired word and that Jesus is recognized as the Word Incarnate isn't without its importance.

Stephen

Jack,

Thanks again for commenting. I take issue when you say "I think you are drawing to sharp a line." In fact, I don't think I'm drawing a line at all. What I am trying to suggest is that the scriptures (and to qualify further, I mean precisely the Gospels and Letters, and the Apocalypse) emerge from the Church.

The Gospels are the account of a Memory of Christ which was written down in order to facilitate spreading the testimony that was being given by the apostles. This is why the Church sees no distinction between the "Tradition" and the "Scriptures", because the scriptures emerge from the Tradition. From the sharing of the good news of Christ, which was commanded to be done in person "Go to the ends of the earth and teach and preach baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Again, the scriptures are authortative, inerrant, and give a whole view of Christ, but this emerges from the Church as a locus of encounter and always points back to it. It is being "with Him" that generates faith in Christ. And it is in the people of God, the Church, the "mob" (ecclesia) that he is present. In order to "be with Him" you have to be with the Church.

Now, again, I am speaking here of my experience. My point is to say that although it is claimed that the Da Vinci Code attacks Christianity and threatens to destroy it, I'm not convinced. I think it attacks something other than Christianity. I do not think it has the capacity to destroy the event of Christ that I have experienced. I think it is powerless against the Presence that Christ continues to be because of the Church.

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