The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all. So far as the kind of world we have is concerned, the atheist and the theist will expect to see exactly the same features. The only difference is that if the atheist were right the question would not arise—indeed, the atheist would not arise.
—Herbert McCabe (Faith Within Reason, 76)
I talked about this a bit in this post, but McCabe says it better. This point comes up in preaching and popular theology all the time, but its most egregious iteration is in worship music. I would be very happy to never again have to sing that God is better and bigger and stronger. I understand the sentiment, of course, but it begins to sound like a Kanye West song.
I’m ambivalent about Rod Dreher, his ‘Benedict Option,’ and this New Yorker profile, but I can enthusiastically endorse these two bits from the piece:
“Part of the problem with religion is that it can just be an aestheticization of life,” a young Orthodox priest from Yonkers said. “It’s still late-modern capitalism working its insidious tentacles. We need a vocabulary to get outside of that.”
Amen. I think that just about covers what’s missing from many BenOp discussions–and also what a great number of millenials (this one included!) are tempted to. And then there’s this sly repurposing of that MacIntyre quote that won’t go away:
Afterward, Dreher and the other panelists retreated to the club’s library. Bartenders served the Benedict Option (“another—doubtless very different—cocktail,” made with whiskey, amaro, St-Germain, lemon juice, and simple syrup).
So opens Herbert McCabe’s sermon ‘Forgiveness.’ The rest is just as measured and memorable as this first paragraph. It’s the best treatment of the parable of the prodigal son that I have read and, two months into this new year, the piece of writing that’s stuck with me most since reading it last year.
Perhaps I’ll write about it more later but for now an exhortation: Read the rest.
I spent half a day in Cleveland recently and I’m very glad part of the time was spent at the (free) Cleveland Museum of Art. The Italian Renaissance room, in particular, was wonderful. On one side were paintings in which the human form appeared bright and idealized. On the opposing were more naturalistic paintings and in the center was this one by Caravaggio.
It’s readily apparent that this is not a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion–the rope on the subject’s arms and his age suggest another crucifixion. I wasn’t familiar enough with Church tradition to identify this as St. Andrew but the description remedied my ignorance. Perhaps because I’m much more familiar with scenes of Christ’s crucifixion, as I looked at this painting I kept comparing it to those I’d seen before. Similarities and dissimilarities are evident at once. St. Andrew, like Christ, is the focus of the piece, and yet one senses that the true center lies outside the frame, as his eyes and the light on the right suggest. In both there is contorted flesh but blood is notably absent from this picture. One’s eyes are drawn immediately to St. Andrew’s right side–the spot where Christ was pierced–only to see that it is unharmed.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” As Lent begins I hope to carry this image with me as a reminder that discipleship is loving imitation, and not a replacement, of what Jesus did for us.