Saturday, December 27, 2008

Catholic Culture: Worldview for Catholics?

Today I read an article, "Restoring a Catholic Culture: Where do We Start?." And, while it doesn't explicitly define "Catholic Culture," the definition used can be seen in the following question: "But what if some of us were conspicuously unified in our beliefs and in our behavior?" For the author, then, "Catholic Culture" means a unity in beliefs and behavior. I'm reminded of the evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer, who proposed an Evangelical Culture based on Biblical principles, which could be lived out coherently. Schaeffer normally used the term "worldview" for this approach, but both he and those influenced by him also use the term "Christian Culture," reducing the richness of culture to ideas and ethics.

Here's another perspective on Christian culture:
"What then do we mean by a Christian culture? In fact the word Christian is commonly used in two different senses. There is a sense in which it is identified with certain forms of moral behavior which are regarded as typically or essentially Christian, so that a Christian society may mean an altruistic and pacific society, and an unchristian society or form of behavior is taken to mean one that is aggressive and acquisitive.

[...]

The only true criterion of a Christian culture is the degree in which the social way of life is based on the Christian faith. However barbarous a society may be, however backward in the modern humanitarian sense, if its members possess a genuine Christian faith they will possess a Christian culture — and the more genuine the faith, the more Christian the culture."

"The Outlook for Christian Culture"
from The Historic Reality of Christian Culture
by Christopher Dawson

According to this definition — which Dawson characterizes as traditional — Christian culture is a social way of life, a life style, a life form if you will. It is based not on abstract principles but on faith.

So what is faith? For Schaeffer and those directly or indirectly influenced by him, faith is a set of core principles, presuppositions, a priori ideas which are used to systematically understand the world. This is a rationalistic understanding of faith (If these principles are received or confirmed through interior illumination, it's also fideistic).

Here's another perspective on faith:
"The other methods of reason use only a part of man. In contrast, this method of faith uses the whole man. Why? Because you have to trust the witness. To correctly and reasonably trust a person, you need to engage all the loyalty of your person, apply all the acumen of observation, involve a certain dialectic, a sincerity of heart. It takes a love of the truth that is stronger than, for example, the antipathy that might arise towards the witness. You have to love the truth. The whole person becomes engaged. Installing electricity in a room doesn't require the engagement of the entire person. That is why faith is a method of knowing that engages the totality of the person in its event. Hence, it's the most dignified, precious method. In fact, if it weren't for the use of this method, society — the development of living together as the existence of a society, a small society like the family or society in its totality — couldn't exist.

What is the method of knowledge [faith as knowledge]? Society comes about entirely through the method of faith. If none of us trusted each other, what would happen? In fact, where the naturalness of these things is lacking, people go about with knives and guns. No one can trust anything anymore.

So cohabitation, culture (culture is the development of knowledge, but you develop knowledge if, trusting in the discovery that's given you by those who precede you, you add your own discovery, and those who come after you, trusting your discovery, add their own), society (the existence of society), history (the development of society, the changing society) are all based on this method, the method of faith."

Is it Possible to Live this Way? An Unusual
Approach to Christian Existence
Vol 1: Faith
by Msgr. Luigi Giussani
p 21-22

I really love the openness of the above description of faith by Don Giussani. The problems of faith and culture are those which the Christian shares with everybody else. Like my neighbor, I want to live a happy life. Like my co-worker, I want to pass on the good things in life to my children. Culture is not so much a war of opposing principles, but instead the growth of a society. Evangelization is not a matter of convincing people to accept Christian presuppositions but instead the sharing of an extraordinary humanity. As I noted previously, we are already in a period of great spiritual and cultural renewal, which is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for our circumstances and times.

And what is the object of Christian faith? For the answer, go read the Socratic dialogue: "What is Christianity?"
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