Monday, May 19, 2014

Physics is Happening. Also, Newman Review.

I am currently taking a Summer college physics course which requires a time commitment of approximately 96 hours per day. We're basically covering a semester's worth of material in three weeks, so I feel a little bit like this:


The bad news is, due to said physics cramming, I don't have a lot of time or mental bandwidth to devote to blogging for a bit, which is unfortunate seeing that I just started posting again. The good news is, I have another fascinating theological meditation to bless you all with, something I'm sure everyone is clamoring for due to the overwhelming response to the last post. This time it's a review of John Henry Newman's Fifteenth Sermon (read it), an extra credit assignment that never got handed in.
John Henry Newman’s Fifteenth Sermon is titled “The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine.” In it, he tackles the controversial topic of the teachings of the Catholic Church, and whether or not they can be squared with what are considered some sort of “primary sources,” such as the Scriptures. The Catholic Church, in relation to the Protestants, for instance, is known to hold true various beliefs that the Scriptures do not explicitly affirm. Newman attempts to show that this is not only acceptable, but necessary when considering the nature of Divine Revelation.
Newman gives us the idea that a truth will always lead to more truth, more doctrines and ideas will naturally spring from initial ones. This isn’t to say you can just make up whatever you please, or impose your own opinions on Scripture, but truth does not logically need to be limited to what is explicitly stated in the sacred text. Reason will not let you stay in one place for long, but always leads to a greater understanding and fulfillment. We also are responsible to finish the sacred work of understanding and disclosing the entirety of Truth. The Catholic Church claims to be the pinnacle of this idea. 
Heresies, fittingly, thus have the tendency to stagnate when reaching a certain logical conclusion. They tend to uphold one doctrine above others, even to the point of denying the rest of the belief system. Newman says this shows that, in denying part of doctrine, heretics do not even firmly believe what they do profess.
It is important to remember, the sermon says, that, on earth, we are only allowed to see a dim image of the fullness of God’s Truth. While we must attempt to realize it as well as we are able, we must also know that full understanding lies in the next life, not this one. The very nature of this beatific future should hint that the fullness of faith would cause the new development of doctrine.
Newman also presents the interesting idea that whenever we feel as if our faith, our religion, is imagined or foolish, and seems to make no sense at all, it is due to this dim approximation. We only ever doubt Truth because we cannot realize it fully in this life. The whole picture is obscured from us, thus we wonder if there is a whole picture at all. While the assurance that there is a whole picture is the essence of faith, we have confidence that our faith is reasonable, and that we have the means on earth to make it as clear as is necessary.
 I'm appreciating the thought that this post will probably never become popular enough to generate any sort of religious debate. Famous last words.