Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rethinking God VI

Blessed John Henry Newman
champion of listening to the
A major player in in the debate over the divinity of Christ was a priest from Alexandria in Egypt by the name of Arius. Arius lived at the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth.  Trying to preserve the traditional view on the Unity of God—that God is One—Arius would not ascribe full divinity of Christ.  As I posted yesterday, the received Tradition from Judaism: “ Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One,” the prayer known as the Shema Yisrael  taken from Deuteronomy 6:4, created a huge problem for Christians in the first six centuries as they tried to reconcile the Unity of God with the Divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  The idea of the Father being God, the Son being God and the Holy Spirit being God sounded too much like three gods to a lot of people.  Arianism acknowledged that Christ shares in Divinity but to a lesser degree than the Father.  While still an Anglican before his becoming a Catholic in 1845, Blessed John Henry Newman had written a study of Arius and history published under the title: The Arians of the Fourth Century.  Arius was opposed by Saint Athanasius, the secretary to Arius’ bishop, Alexander, but according to Newman the majority of bishops in the Church had accepted the Arian theology.  It was only at the Council of Nicea that the bishops—at the urging of Athanasius, defined that Christ is consubstantial (one in being) with the Father—that is, that Christ shares fully in the same Divine Nature as the Father.  Incidentally only 318 bishops out of the 1800 Constantine had invited came to the Council—a very small minority.)  While the majority of bishops had originally agreed with Arius, the laity and the lower clergy—the faithful—had held to faith in Christ’s divinity. Newman always remembered this and years later as a Catholic wrote his famous essay “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine.” Newman argued—with quite a bit of opposition in his day—that the magisterium needs to pay close attention to the faith of the People of God. The laity are not merely to be instructed by the pastors of the Church but the pastors must remember that the Faith of the Church is that which is held in the hearts of the Faithful and therefore those who teach need to be in tune with the faithful.  This is something to pay attention to today.  Too many think that it is up to the Bishops to teach and the faithful to listen but if the bishops are teaching something other than that which is in the faith held by the people, the bishops are not teaching the faith of the Church.  The faith of the Church is no more and no less than the faith put into the hearts of the People of God by the Holy Spirit.  There are those in the Church today who are upset that the faithful are not listening to the bishops when they teach but maybe we should be more concerned that the bishops have not been listening to the faithful before they teach.    

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