Tuesday, January 2, 2024

"Any serious and thoughtful Christian..."

Thomas Howard:
Any serious and thoughtful Christian is a dogmatist, not in the sense of being pig-headed or ostrichlike, but in the sense of having a lively awareness that he stands in a defined tradition of received teaching that has been articulated by the holy prophets and apostles and handed down through the centuries. It is spelled out in the Bible and guarded and proclaimed by the Church. The Christian vision is a vision of the eternal, that is, of majestic fixities and mysteries that stand in judgment upon our history and our existence. The Word that was Incarnate in the drama played out on the stage of our history was the Word that articulated order out of chaos in the beginning and that will utter the final summing up at the end. ....

The Christian will be forever asking how this idea or that one fits. Fits what? Fits the pattern, says the Christian, the solemn, blissful, austerely, and magnificently orchestrated pattern of glory that we call creation, or the Dance. The Christian will be forever testing things in the light of the bright fixities that Christian vision perceives and celebrates. This is the reason why Christians are not ordinarily found in the van of contemporaneity. The Palm Sunday mob is the same in every century, forever throwing down their garments and their palms at the feet of the new prophet, hailing and exulting in things simply because they seem new and promising. Innovative and creative and unstructured are their favorite words, but of course by Friday this crowd has gotten bored by the creatively unstructured innovations, so they crucify the prophet and chase after fresh ones. ....

.... You have heard people talking about self-affirmation, and self-discovery, and self-acceptance, and self-identity. The great idea is to discover who you are. Fine. But any Christian will listen to this vocabulary with some wariness, since the vision he is already committed to sees a drastic paradox in this matter of the self. The biblical notion seems to be that...we move toward authentic self-knowledge by abandoning the quest for self-knowledge. Self-knowledge seems to be more or less irrelevant in this vision. Or at least irrelevant while we are en route to where we are going. Then ah, then we get the white stone with our real name engraved on it. This is given to the men who overcome, whatever that means. It does not seem to be promised to those who have sought themselves all along the way. ..... 
Thomas Howard, "The Touchstone of Orthodoxy," collected in The Night is far Spent, Ignatius Press, 2007.

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