Monday, January 23, 2017

Engaging in advocacies

IT’S an understatement that the world today is sunk quite
deep in ignorance and confusion. This phenomenon is actually to be
expected. Given the way we are designed, we are prone to them.

            And yet, even if all these were so, we still can affirm
with certainty that truth has not disappeared from the face of the
earth, and our capacity to know it objectively, while handicapped, is
not totally destroyed.

            That’s why we have to continue to study and teach, learn
and transmit things, dialogue and others. It’s a never-ending duty of
ours. And this is even more so when we realize we have to purify and
clarify things in the face of creeping ignorance and confusion that
can envelope us.

            Nowadays, we cannot deny that there’s a battle of truth, a
battle between faith and ideologies. This a most tricky battle, since
the two share many things in common.

            Faith should not remain abstract. It has to be worked into
something operative, translating itself into a kind of practical
ideology that can result in a palpable culture. Ideologies need to be
inspired by faith. Ideally, the two should work in tandem.

            It’s when faith is not put into practice and ideologies
are developed contrary to faith that we get into trouble. And this is
what we are witnessing these days.

            Much of faith is kept in the realm of theories, and
ideologies are sprouting like weeds that grow not from the seed of
faith. And so we have all sorts of isms blighting our society now:
liberalism, modernism, relativism, exaggerated pragmatism, run-away
feminism, wild environmentalism, etc.

            What is important is that we make the truth of faith bear
on the many issues we have at hand. A big part of the problem is the
metastasizing mentality that Christian faith has nothing to say about
many of our questions.

            This is where we have to enter into advocacies to take
part of the action of infusing faith into our earthly concerns and
problems.    Everyone, as much as possible and in accordance to one’s
own possibilities, should try to participate to be able to reach all
levels of society, imbibing everything with a Christian spirit.

            Many things are needed here. First we have to know the
Church’s doctrine really well, especially its social doctrine. We have
to spread this doctrine as widely as possible.

            Then we need to know the skills and art of engaging in
meaningful and charitable dialogue, one done in a pro-active way but
full of charity. Nothing can be more repulsive than a zealot taking
off into a self-righteous and bitter barrage of attacks.

            In this task, we have to be wary with staying in the level
of justice alone. We need to meet the standards of charity, where we
would be quick to understand, ask forgiveness and give it to others
where the circumstances demand it.

            Most important is that everything should proceed from a
genuine source of sanctity. Otherwise, we would be indulging in
dangerous and even counter-productive moralism.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Newspeak is the devil’s sophistry

GEORGE Orwell invented the word Newspeak. It means “a
deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and
manipulate the people.”

            We have to be wary of its existence, because it is
actually present in today’s world. It’s a language that deftly mixes
truths and untruths, and cleverly exploits a window of acceptable
concepts and beliefs to introduce false and harmful ideas

            It must come from the devil, because our Christian faith
considers him as the “father of lies” (Jn 8,44), and newspeak in its
core is actually a lie, irrespective of the many beautiful and true
things it also emits.

            Its pedigree betrays a complicated mix of isms—atheism,
agnosticism, deism, relativism, socialism, etc. Common among them is
the element of making man, us, not God, as the ultimate source of
truth, the final arbiter of good and evil.

            In the first place, the agents of newspeak laugh at any
mention of a possibility of God’s existence or of his providence in
our affairs. They only believe in themselves and their brilliant
ideas.

            It can originate and thrive in an environment described in
St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

            “There will come a time when they will not endure the
sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves
teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their
hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.” (4,3-4)

            In this issue about reproductive health and distributing
free condoms to highschoolers, for example, I cannot help but think of
this tricky phenomenon of newspeak.

            We are regaled with many good and true things about them,
but we have to look closely at the fine print, because it’s there
where the lies and dangers are hidden.

            Whenever I read their statements, I find myself also
agreeing with many of what they say, and even praise them for some of
their views. It’s just that they do not say everything, and where they
think they would go against truth and faith, they become evasive and
sly.

            I have no quarrel with the need for everyone to attain
reproductive health and have sex ed. It’s in what is meant by these
ideals, and how they are to be implemented where I seriously beg to
disagree.

            One can readily see the remaking of the concepts of
morality, of faith and religion, of human progress and development,
etc. It’s a hideous activity.

            Sad to say, newspeak is now widely used by politicians and
pundits, social pacesetters and cultural gurus, and even religious
leaders who are actually referred to as false teachers in the gospel.

            They cleverly distort the concept of freedom. It’s an
understanding of freedom that simply floats according to the fashion
of the times. It speaks the language of what is politically correct at
the moment with no reference to a universal, absolute truth.

            This understanding of freedom confuses objectivity with
subjectivity, and divorces right to privacy from the common good and
universal truth.

            We need to be wary of the evils of newspeak.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sharpening our natural knowledge of God

OUR knowledge of God can either be natural or
supernatural. The former simply relies on our reason and human
capacity to know. The latter is the fruit of faith, of grace, of God’s
mercy.

            While there is distinction between the two, we have to
understand that we need to have both of them working organically.
While our natural power to know God would already give us a certain
knowledge of God, we have to understand that, due to our human
condition that is weakened by sin, we are in great need of the divine
gift of faith which God himself gives generously.

            We should avoid falling into the extremes of rationalism,
where we use reason alone in our relationship with God, and of
fideism, where we use what we call as faith alone. Reason and faith
should go together.

            This faith does not replace our natural powers to know
God. In fact, it requires the full play of our natural powers. What it
does is to purify, deepen and elevate our natural capacity to know God
to the supernatural order.

            We have to understand that our faith could go to waste if
our natural powers to know God fail to do their part. That is why we
have to realize that we need to develop our natural capacity to know
God as much as possible.

            We should see to it that these natural powers to know God
are not obstructed and entangled in some earthly values alone, but
should go all the way to acknowledge God’s presence and love
everywhere.

            This is where much of our problem in this area spring. We
fail to make our natural powers to know God to go all the way. And so
we fall into many inconsistencies in our Christian life.

            How does this natural knowledge of God work? And how
should we develop it?

            “The person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming
to know him. These are also called proofs of the existence of God” not
in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the
sense of converging and convincing arguments which allow us to attain
certainty about the truth. These ‘ways’ of approaching God from
creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and
the human person.” (Catechism 31)

            The Catechism continues: “The world—starting from
movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one
can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the
universe.” (Catechism 32)

            “The human person—with his openness to truth and beauty,
his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his
conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man
questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs
of his spiritual soul. The soul, the ‘seed of eternity we bear in
ourselves, irreducible to the merely material,’ can have its origin
only in God.” (Catechism 33)

            What we have to do to develop our natural knowledge of God
is to pursue to the last consequences the logic of these natural
approaches of knowing God. The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is
that we tend to get contented at a certain point of the development
process and refuse to go any further.

            We easily get contented with merely worldly values, like
practicability, ingenuity, profitability, etc., and refuse to
acknowledge the God who is behind all these values. As a consequence,
we make our own agenda and detach ourselves from the providence of God
in which we play a vital role. We little by little become secularized
and paganized, until we become insensitive to that basic longing of
ours to seek God.

            While it’s true that there is a certain autonomy we enjoy
in our earthly affairs, that autonomy is never meant to be a complete
disregard or separation from the ways of God’s providence. If anything
at all, that autonomy should stir even our desire to seek God.

            Seeking God, whether having the physical world or the
human person as points of departure, should be a wholistic effort that
involves all our faculties. It should not just be an intellectual
exercise without the feelings, or vice-versa, a matter of pure
feelings without the use of the intelligence.

            Christ himself said so: “Seek first the kingdom of God and
his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
(Mt 6,33) And, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your strength, and with all our mind.” (Lk
10,27)