Monday, January 07, 2013

Credo Ex Hoc Omnes

I have had a curious juxtaposition of two looks at the scriptural text. Earlier, Tobias Haller referred to this post of his on Facebook by talking about God violating "natural law", which was quickly taken to mean talk of God violating natural order, and various people immediately signed themselves up to cast aspersions on the gospel narrative and to deem the birth stories fictions. Then today, most of the Epiphany sermon was taken up with a deconstruction of the popular version of the Three Kings.

Now, filing the edges off the legends is not terribly difficult: it doesn't make a great deal of difference that they were μαγοι, that is, Zoroastrian priests from Persia, or that three gifts doesn't imply three givers, or that the star didn't hover over the Holy Family's dwelling like a helicopter with a searchlight. It is more relevant to the truly modern reader that Matthew, in his first two chapters, cites five passages of scripture as being fulfilled, for it is a settled principle that nobody ever prophesied anything.

And there are apparently still many who retain the old enlightenment certainty against the miraculous. Yes, the old Baconian principle works very well, but it is an axiom, not a deduced or revealed truth. It makes all the difference in the world whether those early chapters of Matthew and Luke are accounts, however flawed, of what happened, or are merely the "cleverly devised tales" spoken of in 2 Peter. A Jesus who is not God incarnate, who is simply an ordinary man who was used as the frame for various teachings, tales, and parables, and who indeed need not have existed at all, is nothing more than the irrelevant subject of mankind's religious sickness, that mental illness that demands explanations of the cosmos which are never forthcoming. Only the Truth Word Incarnate can give true revelation, and only the true Lamb of God, raised again, can give a salvation that is real, and not merely false comfort.

But we are doomed by our own chronological snobbery. We believe we are are beyond mythology, and that we are not gullible, at the same time we still speak of the Godhead like rebellious children. And yet we find that we cannot take our supposed inability to find meaning seriously, so we make stuff up, as if we have achieved the mastery we have deemed impossible. The truth is that our distaste for the gospel stories is as much a matter of aesthetics as anything; familiarity has bred contempt.

I choose to defy this. I believe it all, which is not to say that I demand a literalistic adherence to to every iota of scripture, but rather that I do not argue with it. Therefore I do not question that Mary received a supernatural visitation, or that Elizabeth bore her son well out of season. I do not deny that the shepherds were summoned to the manger-cradle by a holy apparition, or that the new family was visited by foreign sages. For I do not see how truth is to be found by pouring my own prejudices into scripture, nor can I believe that the evangelists and apostles intended something so close to the Gnostic version of Christian truth. I see that they intended to teach the real Jesus, born of the Virgin, who really suffered, really died, and really rose again, finally to return to heaven. As I see it, it is only true tradition, and the only one worth believing.


Tobias Haller said...


C. Wingate said...

How's my Latin?

Tobias Haller said...

Sad to say Latin is not my field. What little I picked up from exposure to pre-Vat II childhood and later adult ventures in choir motets is suspect. In seminary, Hebrew was my language focus...